Monthly Archives: February 2012

Red Sox Storylines: Jason Varitek Retires, Bobby Valentine Gets Acquainted, Beer is Banned

My Favorite Part of this Picture: Jeff Weaver (I think) looking stoned in the background

On Thursday, Jason Varitek will announce his retirement. Varitek will likely be most remembered for shoving his glove into Alex Rodriguez’ face on July 24, 2004. That moment will forever be enshrined in myth as the moment when the Red Sox began their run to their first World Championship in 86 years. The problem is that like so much else with Varitek’s career, it’s just that, a myth, and that’s a disservice to the man who has been the Red Sox captain for the past six years.

That fight in Yankee Stadium will be remembered as a turning point for the Red Sox. The truth is they continued to scuffle after that game and didn’t really get hot until almost a month later. Varitek will be remembered as a great defensive catcher, the best “game caller” of his generation. The truth is that Varitek’s real calling card was his offense, he was a top-tier offensive catcher in his prime and never better than above average behind the plate. For those of us who loved watching Vartiek play, the mythologizing of him as a defensive whiz should be disturbing, as it will allow critics to chip away at his legacy in the coming years. Game calling is impossible to quantify and there’s some evidence that Varitek wasn’t better than anyone else at it –Clay Buchholz preferred to be caught by Victor Martinez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia; and Jonathan Papelbon seemed to throw an endless stream of fastballs with Varitek behind the plate — and his caught stealing numbers were never great. Far better to shed our misconceptions early and focus on the fact that while he may not have been the God of the Pitch Mix, Varitek was a valuable contributors to two championship teams, including the best Red Sox team of all time (2007).

Another, sadder truth about Varitek’s retirement is that he didn’t want this. Unlike Tim Wakefield who could have provided some value to the Sox (can’t have enough pitching) Varitek had no place on this roster and no other team was willing to offer him a major league deal. The Red Sox already have Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach on their major league roster — superior players on both sides of the ball — and prospect Ryan Lavarnway, who isn’t much of a catcher, but makes up for his shortcomings by carrying a huge stick, waiting in the wings. As for the prospect of another team signing on, Varitek has been on a very obvious decline since the 2007 season. The captain was never a fast-twitch athlete with tremendous bat speed, like Nomar Garciaparra for example, but for the last few years he’s looked as if he were swinging a telephone pole, especially from the left side. It was this declining bat speed that forced him to become a backup, first to Victor Martinez and then to Saltalamacchia. And although Varitek accepted the role with his usual professionalism, the writing has been on the wall for quite some time.

Varitek was acquired, along with Derek Lowe, on July 31, 1997 in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb. It will always be remembered as one of the best trades in Red Sox history. Over the next 15 years, Varitek provided us with a number of positive memories, the best of which are the two World Series that the team won with him behind the plate. Thanks captain.

Bobby V Gets Acquainted

Well, Bobby Valentine’s tenure as Red Sox manager is definitely beginning in true Bobby V fashion, with plenty of bombast and controversy. Valentine has some huge shoes to fill as he’s replacing the best manager in Red Sox history (a guy who happens to be a short drive away in Bristol, CT these days) and he’s not being shy about how he plans to go about his business. No one will confuse the animated Valentine with the stoic Terry Francona and perhaps that’s exactly what this team needs, but Valentine needs to be more careful in how he handles the Boston media.

Bobby may be honest when he talks about things like addressing residual clubhouse anger, and it certainly seems genuine when he says things like:

“Exactly what I told you. Saying ‘Forget it is like saying, ‘Relax,’ you know?’ Those words mean nothing,” Valentine said. “It takes breathing, confidence, all those wonderful things to relax. It takes time and apologies, but apologies come with actions. I don’t think you can say, ‘OK, we’re going to have a meeting. We’re turning the page, it’s over.’ No, thank you. I don’t particularly like it.”

There’s plenty of truth to that statement. Still, Valentine should be lying or not saying anything at all. Right now, Valentine has much more slack with the media than the Red Sox players do. However, let’s consider what may happen if the Red Sox being the season 0-6 like they did last year. It’s only a matter of time before someone at the Globe or Herald (even money on Shaughnessy) blames Valentine for airing the team’s dirty laundry in the media. Valentine is known for a couple things: wearing his emotions on his sleeves and getting the most out of his teams (take a look at the 2000 Mets’ roster). One thing that Bobby V isn’t known for is media savvy and he better start learning some quickly.

Banning Beer is Stupid

I know that I’m probably in the minority among Red Sox fans, but I wholeheartedly agree with Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky that the Sox new beer ban is a victory for stupidity. The 2011 Red Sox didn’t collapse because some pitchers were having a beer on days when they didn’t pitch. They collapsed because of a roster with obvious holes and underperformance down the stretch from players such as JD Drew, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, and the entire bullpen, none of whom, as far as we know, were partaking in beer or Popeyes. Was the beer and chicken a bad idea? Sure. Did it do against good taste? Definitely. Is it a Red Herring? Absolutely.

A far more interesting storyline to this Red Sox offseason is Theo Epstein’s departure, a move that’s been brewing since 2005 as the relationship between Epstein and team CEO Larry Lucchino has grown more acrimonious (I highly recommend Seth Mnookin’s Feeding the Monster for an inside look at how Sox management works). Another more interesting story would have been new GM Ben Cherington’s uneven first offseason which included smart moves like dealing for Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey to shore up the bullpen and head-scratchers like trading Marco Scutaro for spare parts with no starting shortstop on the roster. Instead we’ve been talking about beer for four months.

And no matter what Bobby Valentine says, Terry Francona is absolutely right, the ban is a PR move and one so transparent that the Red Sox should just admit it.

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This Looks Interesting…

Larry Wilmore is hilarious on “The Daily Show.” Rob McElhenney created “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” one of the funniest shows on TV. The two are now collaborating on a new sitcom for Fox and if nothing else, the premise is delightful

Writer-actor-comedian Larry Wilmore is set to co-star opposite Mike Vogel in Living Loaded, Fox’s single-camera comedy pilot from theIt’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia duo of Rob McElhenney and Rob Rosell and FX Prods. Additionally, Wilmore is prepping a comedy special for Showtime. Based on the book of the same name by Dan Dunn,Living Loaded centers on Dan (Vogel), the loose partying blogger of the popular Living Loaded blog who is forced to change his career plans when he becomes an NPR radio host.

Loose partying blogger gets a job at NPR? How many tote bags do I need to buy to make this happen for me?

*drum roll, thank you I’ll be here all week*

But seriously, this at least looks worth a watch when it comes out. There is, however, already one glaring hole in the show’s plot. Everyone knows that NPR hosts party way harder than bloggers, because they have actual salaries. Seriously, it’s hard to drink when you make zero dollars.

Irrelevant Film Industry Circle Jerk Bans Sacha Baron Cohen

The Academy Awards are more or less irrelevant these days, as evidenced by the fact that Billy Crystal is hosting and War Horse is nominated for Best Picture. The King’s Speech basically proved last year that the Oscars have become so color by numbers that you can make a movie for the sole purpose of winning an Oscar — it doesn’t even have to be a good movie, The King’s Speech sucked — and so long as you stay within the lines you’ll win Best Picture. As far as I can tell, that’s the only reason War Horse exists, but I digress.

Apparently, the Academy has decided that they haven’t made their awards ceremony enough of a humorless circle jerk, so they’ve decided to bar Sacha Baron Cohen from the ceremony because he was planning to make a joke on the red carpet

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts &Sciences has pulled actor Sacha Baron Cohen‘s tickets from the 84th Academy Awards. This means he is banned from attending the Oscars even though he is an Academy member and one of the stars from Hugo, Paramount’s 11-nominated movie and Best Picture contender. “Unless they’re assured that nothing entertaining is going to happen on the Red Carpet, the Academy is not admitting Sacha Baron Cohen to the show,”  Paramount just told me. The reason is that a proposal reached the Academy for Baron Cohen to strut the Red Carpet in full costume as his title character in the upcoming Paramount comedy The Dictator.

–snip–

Deadline reported yesterday that Baron Cohen’s plan was to come dressed asThe Dictator and then change into a tuxedo and attend the Oscars as planned. He wasn’t scheduled to present an award, but he was arriving at Kodak Theatre as part of the Paramount contingent. Now he can’t do even that.

I know, God forbid something entertaining happen at an awards ceremony celebrating the entertainment industry. Whatever dudes, all the cool people only care about the BAFTAs anyways…

Brady Quinn is Totes Sorry For Being Bitter About Tim Tebow, Guys…

One of the more interesting sports pieces published this week was Michael Silver’s oral history of Tebowmania for GQ. The most interesting part of said piece — other than Terrell Suggs trolling so hard — was the surprisingly catty remarks from Brady Quinn (and to some extent Kurt Warner) regarding Tebow’s success. Here’s a taste:

BRADY QUINN (backup QB, Denver Broncos): Early in the season, there was a game when Kyle [Orton] got hurt and the coaches were calling for me to go in, but Kyle got up and finished the game out. So I was the second-string guy. Then, a few weeks later, they decided to put Tim in. I felt like the fans had a lot to do with that. Just ’cause they were chanting his name. There was a big calling for him. No, I didn’t have any billboards. That would have been nice.

Someone call the wahmbulance…

QUINN: We’ve had a lot of, I guess, luck, to put it simply

–snip–

QUINN: If you look at it as a whole, there’s a lot of things that just don’t seem very humble to me. When I get that opportunity, I’ll continue to lead not necessarily by trying to get in front of the camera and praying but by praying with my teammates, you know?

It’s funny because he thinks someone is going to give him a chance to start…

Lest his obvious bitterness be construed as such, Quinn (who is a free agent) has issued an apology:

Quinn took to Twitter after the article’s release Tuesday, saying the comments attributed to him did not reflect his opinion of Tebow.

Tebow “deserves a lot of credit for our success and I’m happy for him and what he accomplished. Most importantly, he is a great teammate,” Quinn wrote.

Quinn said he’s reached out to Tebow directly “to clear this up,” adding, “I apologize to anyone who feels I was trying to take anything away from our team’s or Tim’s success this season.”

Quinn also said on Twitter that “the resulting story was a completely inaccurate portrayal of my comments. I have addressed my disappointment with the writer and have reached out to Tim to clear this up.”

Dude, just own it. If anyone understands shitty quarterbacking it’s you. Maybe if you just keep on trolling, Terrell Suggs will let you enroll at Ball So Hard University and QB his intramural flag football team. That’s really the best case scenario for you at this point and it’s also probably the closest you’ll ever get to being a starting QB in the NFL.

Bonus Kurt Warner cattiness:

WARNER: I’m more of a purist, a drop-back passer, and there were times that it was almost difficult to watch. Like, this isn’t supposed to be happening, and I don’t know how to filter it through my brain.

Hey Tim! There’s only room for one Bible thumping Jesus freak in this sport. I’d like to see you draw our Lord this well:

If You Aren’t Watching ‘Justified’ You’re Doing TV Wrong

I’ve long lamented the current state of television, so I’ll spare you today by highlighting something that I actually do like. I actually never thought I’d write this about a show set in Kentucky (although it’s filmed in California), but Justified is the best show running outside of premium TV (still can’t put it ahead of Game of Thrones) and you need to be watching it.

The truth is, Justified has an exceedingly simple concept and should be fodder for the average viewer that I have so disparaged in this space. The story follows US Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) who has recently (three seasons ago) been reassigned from Miami back to his boyhood home in Eastern Kentucky. See, Raylan has a nasty habit of shooting suspects and he’s shot one too many in Florida. Once back in Kentucky Givens finds himself facing off with (and occasionally teaming up with) his best friend Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), an aspiring hillbilly crimelord who over the show’s three seasons has evolved from a loathsome neo-Nazi, into a “redeemed” back-woods preacher, into a strangely lovable anti-hero.

Each episode generally revolves around a procedural storyline, during which Raylan does Marshall stuff (tracking fugitives, protecting witnesses, shooting people) against the backdrop of a conflict between the larger, more malevolent forces in his life (usually Boyd and one or two other “big” bad guys). The larger, overarching storylines are allowed to simmer in the periphery before coming to a head in the final few episodes of the season. In this sense, there’s a little bit there for everyone. For fans of NCIS there’s a crime procedural, gun fights, Stetson hats, Southern accents, and very few big words. For people who appreciate good TV there’s actual story, human characters with plenty of flaws, and well written dialogue. And for people like me who enjoy staring at pretty ladies, there’s plenty of that too.

What truly sets Justified apart is the quality of its acting. The cast is across the board excellent, but the two standouts are Olyphant and Goggins. Olyphant is perhaps best known for playing another (former) Marshall, Sheriff Seth Bullock on HBO’s Deadwood. He plays Givens with a bit more swagger, where Bullock was very much the strong, silent type, Givens is often glib. He’s Clint Eastwood with a sense of humor.

The real treasure, though, is Goggins, a veteran of another great FX show: The Shield. Goggins’ performance lends Crowder an air of casual, menacing intelligence. When contrasted with the usual dumbassery of the backwoods criminals featured on the show it becomes clear that Boyd Crowder is an entirely different animal, a would be Michael Corleone in a flannel shirt. Justified‘s writers along with Goggins, have managed to turn Boyd Crowder into the most complex TV villain since Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen on Deadwood. 

Justified airs at 10 pm ET on FX and if you aren’t watching you’re doing TV wrong.

So Long, and Thanks for all the Knuckleballs

Tim Wakefield retired on Friday, as the third winningest pitcher in Red Sox history after 17 years with the team. Wakefield won’t be remembered as the greatest pitcher in team history (that honor belongs to Pedro Martinez), but for nearly two decades he’s been the greatest point of continuity for the team as it emerged from the dark days of the late 90’s and early aughts to become a perennial championship contender. For the average fan he will perhaps be best remembered for giving up a series-ending home run to Aaron Boone in the 2003 ALCS. Red Sox die-hards, however, will recall Wakefield forgoing a Game 4 start by volunteering for mop-up duty in a Game 3 blowout loss to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. That effort, along with Wake’s 3 inning appearance in Game 5, were critical to the Red Sox preserving their pitching staff to complete the greatest comeback in sports history. For that we’ll always be thankful.

The truth is that I’ve always had mixed feelings about Wakefield. He certainly brought a lot to the table, he was an effective innings eater, a respected teammate, and no one ever questioned his guts. However, he also took a lot off; Wakefield retires with a career ERA of 4.41 and a career FIP of 4.71, and Jason Varitek’s inability to catch his knuckleball required the Red Sox to carry deadweight Doug Mirabelli for years as Wake’s personal catcher.

Perhaps what was most unique about Wakefield was that his both his best and worst qualities as a pitcher seemed to be on display in every start. Wakefield could go from striking out two batters in a row to giving up back to back home runs in a span of 10 minutes. Although Red Sox fans have long adored him, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that his starts have always been heartburn inducing.

This is perhaps the point in this retrospective where I should make a hackneyed metaphor comparing Wakefield to the pitch that made him famous, the knuckleball. The truth is that Wake often belied the long-held baseball stereotype of knuckleballers as odd-ball, flighty,  personalities. In fact, what made Wakefield so easy to root for was how normal he seemed. Not only did he rely on a throwback pitch, he was a throwback to a time when baseball players weren’t freaks of nature. There’s no doubt that Wakefield was an exceptional athlete, but when compared to preternaturally gifted individuals like Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, Wakefield’s whole existence seemed proof that perhaps Major League Baseball wasn’t so hard to play. In a clubhouse often populated by crazy people (Ramirez, Carl Everett), outsized personalities (Martinez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia) and a town populated by the most neurotic fan base in the nation and a media best described as something just short of despicable — Boston’s two most likable print columnists are Bob Ryan and Tony Massarotti, one of whom (Ryan) once argued that Jason Kidd’s wife deserved to be verbally assaulted for sitting in the Garden stands with her kid and the other (Massarotti) of whom is just slightly less of a bridge troll than Dan Shaughnessy — Wakefield always felt like a breath of fresh air.

Like so much else in his career, Wakefield’s retirement seems somewhat understated for someone who was so much a part of the Red Sox culture for the past 17 years. In many ways, it comes as a surprise, I always thought that Wake could pitch well into his 50s if he wanted. At the same time, like so much else he did, it just seems like the right time, the normal time for him to hang it up.

Surprise, Surprise, People Don’t Like Crappy Movies

Does anyone know what Disney’s John Carter is supposed to be about? I’ve seen a couple trailers and I certainly have no idea. Semi-related question: does anyone care? Apparently not:

Hollywood is in a tizzy over the early tracking which just came online this morning for Walt Disney Studios‘ John Carter opening March 9th. “Not good. 2 unaided, 53 aware, 27 definitely interested, 3 first choice,” a senior exec at a rival studio emails me. Another writes me, ”It just came out. Women of all ages have flat out rejected the film. The tracking for John Carter is shocking for a film that cost over $250 million. This could be the biggest writeoff of all time.” I’m hearing figures in the neighborhood of $100 million. And the studio isn’t even trying to spin reports of the 3D pic’s bloated budget any more.

Who knew that showing a bunch of incoherent images from your movie wasn’t an effective marketing strategy? Maybe this will convince studios to stop spending millions of dollars making 3D poop-smears?

Now, to be fair, this very soft tracking has been expected. The studios’ private reports have shown for some time very soft awareness and very little wannasee. So what’s Disney’s explanation? “It’s the last leftover from the previous regime of Dick Cook,” an executive who works for successor Rich Ross reminds me. “We’re not running away from the movie. Our job is to sell it.”

“I’m not running away from this, but it’s totally someone else’s fault that it sucks.”

Here’s some helpful advice: instead of making and trying to sell the movies that your predecessor — who you clearly don’t think very highly of — left you with, just kill the project. That way you don’t have to take a $100 MM write-off.

Lin vs. Tebow: Because Someone Had to do it…

Linsanity has taken hold here in my light-less bog cave. Even though I’m a huge Celtics fan and long-time Knicks hater, I have to admit that I’m rooting for Jeremy Lin’s continued success. The honest truth is, I can’t think of another time that a player has come out of as much obscurity as Lin to post these types of numbers. Since being inserted into the Knicks’ starting lineup, Lin has filled up the stat sheet, he’s averaging 22.7 pts, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.8 assists in just over 30 minutes per game in February. And while the competition hasn’t exactly been the strongest out there (last 5 opponents: Minnesota, LA Lakers, Washington, Utah, New Jersey), he’s done this without the help of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire and there’s some reason to believe that this performance is sustainable (more on that later). One of the things that surprises me most about the Lin phenomenon is that I haven’t seen a rash of columns comparing Lin to Tim Tebow. You know it’s going to happen — sportswriters LOVE writing about Tim Tebow — so I figured I’d get out ahead of this and break down why Jeremy Lin is much easier to root for than Tim Tebow (leaving aside the respective popularity of their sports).

Personal Back Stories: Tim Tebow is the culture war personified and he makes no bones about it. His parents are fundamentalist missioaries and Tebow has appeared in a Super Bowl ad put together by James Dobson. While a lot of people view Tebow’s religious views as a quirk, and Christians tend to view them as inspiring, non-Christians (practitioners of other religions and atheists like your’s truly) tend to be uncomfortable with such aggressive Jesus-talk. Sportswriter laziness interprets this as people begrudging Tebow his religion, and fundamentalists view it as Christian hate, mostly because they like to get butthurt at any perceived slight. That’s not the case, I personally don’t mind the fact that Tebow’s a Christian. I just find it hard to personally root for a guy who believes I’m going to hell because I don’t subscribe to his religious worldview, and no amount of niceness on Tebow’s part is going to change that. Perhaps it’s an insecurity on my part, but while I won’t hate on Tebow for his successes, I won’t openly root for him to succeed either. In the end, I don’t care that much, and Tebow leading fourth quarter comebacks isn’t going to change my worldview any more than a fundamentalist would be swayed by this post. I’m just laying it out.

With Lin, there’s no such problem. He’s an Asian kid from the Bay Area, and while he’s been open about his Christianity, he doesn’t have to be viewed through the lens of the culture war. If you don’t see the nuance, let’s just leave it at the fact that Lin has never appeared in an anti-abortion advertisement with a guy who once said same sex marriage would lead  to men marrying farm animals. There’s been some talk of Linsanity being driven by race, but I really don’t see it. Most of my friends who love Lin are white, and while I realize that’s hardly a representative sample, I haven’t seen any evidence that Lin’s popularity is race-driven. Honestly, there simply aren’t enough Asians-Americans to create a buzz this big on their own. The fact is, Lin is just a good story, a guy who played in the D-league last year, and was cut by a number of teams before landing in a seemingly perfect situation in New York. He’s much less of a controversial figure than Tebow and as such he has appeal to a much wider audience.

The Unlikeliness Factor: On some level, Tim Tebow’s success has been unlikely, but hardly so much as people have made it out to be. Tebow played at one of the best college football programs in the nation at Florida, in the perfect system for his skill set. He had a large section of the press corps cheering for him to be drafted in the first round — Drew Magary made an art of mocking Peter King’s “draft Tebow and pop the bubbly” line — the Broncos traded up to draft him. Since he was drafted Broncos fans have been clamoring for him to be the team’s starting quarterback, even buying billboard space to express their desires. Sure, at the beginning of this season John Fox and John Elway clearly didn’t have much faith in Tebow, but they might have been the only people in Denver who felt that way.

Lin, on the other hand, came out of nowhere. Harvard grads are successful in a number of walks of life, professional basketball it not one of them. Lin was undrafted and bounced around the league before landing on the Knicks’ bench. It’s a bit unfair to compare fan reaction for Lin to Tebow, mostly because no one knew who Lin was, or what type of player he could be. That said, in terms of unlikeliness, it’s really no contest, there have been people expecting success from Tebow for a while, no one ever expected anything from Jeremy Lin except Lin himself.

Sustainability: At least on the surface, Lin doesn’t have a fatal flaw like Tebow’s inaccuracy. At 6’3” Lin isn’t undersized for an NBA point guard, he clearly has the footspeed and athleticism to get to the rim, he’s shown quite a few basketball moves, he’s shown some range, and he’s done a good job of facilitating for a sub-par supporting cast. I know that Derek Fisher is about 10,000 years old (ballpark estimate) but Lin absolutely abused him on Friday night, and Fisher has long been considered a solid defender at the point. Furthermore, Lin is in a system that works for him, which increases the likelihood that he’ll continue to be an effective player. The Broncos really simplified their playbook for Tebow, but at some point they’re going to have to throw the ball to win games and then Tebow becomes a real liability. Lin, on the other hand, can run the pick and roll all day long once Amar’e returns, just like Stoudemire and Steve Nash did for so many seasons in Phoenix. It’s not hard to envision Carmelo Anthony adjusting his game a bit to become a kind of super-Shawn Marion, and the Knicks becoming one of the most entertaining teams in the league. Even if he comes back down to Earth, which is likely, Lin should continue to be a productive player for New York.

I hate the Knicks, but I’ll be rooting for Jeremy Lin from here on out. Tim Tebow? Meh.

Uninformed Super Bowl Commentary

I waited four days to write this column for a few reasons: 1. I wanted to digest all the post- Super Bowl story-lines to get a better sense of how everyone felt, 2. I’m really lazy, and 3. you’re not the boss of me. In any case, here are my thoughts on the Super Bowl and the aftermath:

1. The Giants outplayed the Patriots, end of story: You can harp on drops, or blame Tom Brady (more on both of those later), but the fact is the Giants were simply better for most of the game. They held a 15-minute advantage in time of possession which is huge against the Pats, who unlike other prolific offenses lack a true deep threat. Much of the post-game coverage has made it seem as if the Patriots blew this game completely or that they were ever expected to win. New England was a 3 point favorite and it’s questionable if the line should have even been that high. Give the Giants some credit for seizing their opportunities.

2. If the Giants had lost, Kevin Boothe would surely have been the goat: Boothe committed two critical penalties almost killed New York. The more egregious of the two was a hold on Vince Wilfork on third and five, which erased a first down run across midfield by Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants were stuffed on the ensuing third and 15 and had to punt, leading to a 96 yard touchdown drive by the Patriots. To that point the game had been all Giants and had some blowout potential.

3. Blaming Tom Brady is idiotic: The trolls in the Boston media have been out in full force this week — I’m pretty sure that Dan Shaughnessy is a vampire who sustains himself on the sorrow of Massholes — and they’re all wrong. Brady threw a bad pick, true, but he was also brilliant, leading his team on one of the most impressive TD drives in NFL history before the half to take the lead, then followed it up with another touchdown drive to start the second half. Brady put his team in a position to win the game.

I also don’t have a problem with what Gisele Bundchen said after the game (and not just because I’m in love with her), it was the heat of the moment, as a wife she should want to defend her husband, and she didn’t say anything that was untrue. Brady could have made a better throw on the Welker drop, but that’s also a play that great receivers make. As my friend Ryan said after the game Brady was maybe 30% to blame on that play, the rest is on Welker. Aaron Hernandez’ drop on the other hand was entirely on the receiver, the ball hit him right on the hands at chest level. I’d go even further than Gisele did and note that Brady isn’t capable of covering the Giants’ receivers either. Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, and even Henry Hynoski (Henry Hynoski!) were able to make plays in critical situations. The Manningham catch was an un-defendable (I’m making that a word) play, but many of the plays that turned the game to the Giants were simple cases of receivers beating their defenders.

4. Brandon Jacobs needs to shut up: Brandon Jacobs is maybe the 10th most valuable player on the Giants offense at this point in his career, so I’m not entirely sure why anyone cares about his opinion. That said, there’s nothing that ruins a victory like spouting some misogynistic nonsense a couple days later. Jacobs shouldn’t have any concern about what’s going on with the Patriots, he should just be enjoying the celebration. Jacobs has since apologized, but he shouldn’t have said anything in the first place.

5. Eli Manning isn’t a Hall of Famer (yet), but Tom Coughlin is: Eli needs a couple more seasons with number like this one and he’s in, no doubt (another ring also makes it automatic). For the record, I think he will eventually be enshrined in Canton. Coughlin is already in. He has three Super Bowl rings now (one as an assistant on the 1990 Giants) and he’s turned two teams that no one expected to go anywhere into champions. Combine that with the job he did in Jacksonville, taking an expansion team to the AFC Championship game, and he’s a no-brainer.

6. Both Teams have bright futures: The Giants will be healthier to start next season and should be able to fill some holes as well. The Patriots have four draft picks in the first two rounds, and this might be the year that they decide to use them to reinforce their defense. The AFC is clearly the weaker conference right now and the Pats could put themselves head and shoulders above everyone else simply by getting a pass rusher. Passing on Clay Matthews may haunt New England for a decade, that type of premium pass rush threat is the one thing that they sorely lack.

Things to do on Sunday: I Admire This Network’s Devotion to Boobs

This is the first in a running series about things to do on Sunday now that football season is over:

I love boobs. Along with scotch, pizza, and puppies, they’re probably my favorite thing in the world. That’s why I’m thrilled with Showtime’s Sunday lineup of shows: Shameless, Californication, and House of Lies, all of which feature boobs as significant plot devices. With Sundays now devoid of football, I can think of worse things to do than stare at boobs for two hours. Here’s a breakdown of the shows themselves…

Shameless kicks things off at 9 pm ET and is actually quite good. The plot centers around alcoholic Frank Gallagher and his six children, living on the South Side of Chicago. Shameless is a remake of a British show and if you know anyone who watched the original they’re sure to be insufferable about the inferiority of the American version. Ignore those people, everything is better in America (USA! USA!) and alcoholics are gross enough without having British teeth. The show ostensibly stars William H. Macy as Frank, but the real headliner(s) are Emmy Rossum’s — who plays Fiona, Frank’s eldest daughter — boobs, which are featured prominently. Overall the show is consistently interesting, although some of the characters are irritating and plot devices are sometimes contrived. Shameless is billed as an hour-long comedy and in that sense it’s much more successful than other Showtime offerings like Nurse Jackie, Weeds, or The United States of Tara. Shameless is still more of a drama than a comedy, but it manages to be lighthearted without trying to lay on the schtick to thickly like Weeds. There’s a chance I’d be watching even if there weren’t so many boobs.

Next up on Sundays is House of Lies, an new half-hour black comedy that takes viewers inside the world of management consulting. The truth is, you don’t have to be interested in consulting, business jargon, or even money in general to enjoy this show, a simple interest in boobs will do. This is the rare Showtime comedy that is actually consistently funny, and that has a lot to do with a stellar cast that includes Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, and my personal favorite Ben Schwartz, best known as Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation. Did I mention there’s boobs? Unfortunately, one set of boobs that we won’t be seeing on House of Lies are Kristen Bell’s, as she has a no nudity clause in her contract. That aside, this is worth a watch.

Californication wore out it’s welcome with me some time ago. Sorry, but there’s only so many masturbation jokes that one man can endure. It’s hard to say that this show jumped the shark, because the whole thing has felt like one extended shark jump. Compared to the shows that precede it, this one is pretty bereft of boobs, which is pretty strange for a show that handles sex with as little tact as possible. Still, it’s not like you’ve got anything better to do at 10:30 on a Sunday, so you might as well have that 3rd scotch and watch.