Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's Bowl Season!!!

Welcome to Bowl Season

The news is that if your favorite school fields an NCAA Division I football team, and your school isn’t going to a bowl, you must from Duke. We’re expecting that next year the California Medicinal Marijuana Growers will announce their sponsorship of the Bong Bowl to be held somewhere around the San Francisco Bay. Yes, it’s almost getting that bad. While the argument remains that the means of selecting a National Championship is arbitrary and unfair no matter how the BCS gang tries to tweak its formulae, there will be plenty of whining even in seasons where there seem to be obvious contenders. Regardless, the final matchup between Florida and Oklahoma features two strong teams that could create an incredible matchup for the grand prize.

Barack Obama has thrown his weight behind a playoff system for college football. That is his number one sports issue. Watch ESPN or listen to sports pundits across the land, and it would appear the media favor a playoff system.

Here’s how the argument works and could play out. First, the argument about adding extra games is mute. Most players are used to playing more games at the high school level so the additional games would only bring NCAA football more in line with the pros and high school. Second, there is the lag time between the end of the season around Thanksgiving and New Years providing ample time to have a decent playoff bracket system play out.

Here’s what would appear to be the solution. The playoffs would likely consist of the nation’s top eight teams and follow the conventional bracket format where the seedings would be #1 vs. #8, #2 vs. #7, #3 vs. #6, #4 vs. #5. That would lead to a four game second round that would be roughly analogous to today’s big bowls, Orange, Sugar, Rose, and Fiesta Bowls, but at this point, these games would lack the gravitas and glamour those bowls have today and they would probably be played in mid-December. If this round could be deemed suitable for the traditional bowls, then that would place the championship game in Mid-January that would put it up against the NFL Playoffs and would compromise the college campus environment which would be in the heat of the college basketball season by then. How would the teams be selected? Just go with the appropriate top eight rated teams using the BCS type of system or poll and seed the top eight teams? Go with the champions of the power eight conferences? The arguments would persist. The second possibility would preclude independent schools like Notre Dame when and if they become a national powerhouse again and the less powerful conferences.

The old bowl system is full of tradition and while the format might not accurately present a true championship, the intrigue and debate itself was part of the appeal. Suppose the top Big 12 team played the ACC in the Orange Bowl, and the SEC played another conference in the Sugar Bowl this year. Mostly likely, Florida and Oklahoma would win. Who’d be the champ? Those situations played out in the past and created a lot of buzz on the sport even if it was not accurate.

The argument, like practically everything else in sports, comes down to money and the power of the television networks as the driving force. The sponsorship groups for each bowl have way too much at stake to give up the elite status they have now. The only thing that made the BCS Championship possible was the guarantee that it would rotate each year between the four big bowl facilities in Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Pasadena. The four traditional bowls then are essentially runner-up bowls allowing some semblance of the old traditions to be maintained such as the Pac-10 facing the Big-10 in the Rose Bowl.

So far, when the playoff concept is discussed, what is never accounted for is the operational side of making it work. Consider the logistics: selection, scheduling, location, and oversight, even something as simple as the traditional elimination bracket isn’t as simple as it appears to be.

Why not keep things the way they are or revert to something more like the good old days? It makes every bowl interesting and the debates are part of the fun too. Besides that, anything that can screw up the odds makers in Las Vegas is a good thing from our perspective.

Here are some interesting bowls to watch this year.

West Virginia (-2 ½) v. North Carolina (Meineke Car Care Bowl, Charlotte, NC, 12/27/08, 1:00 pm., ESPN)

This game represents a bit of disappointment for West Virginia but is the first step toward regaining respectability for North Carolina whose football program has been dormant for years. It’s hard not to like Carolina’s chances playing in their backyard in Charlotte.

Wisconsin v. Florida State (-6) (Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, FL, 12/27/08, 4:30 pm. ESPN)

The former ACC powerhouse has fallen on hard times as they attempt to regain national status in Bobby Bowden’s twilight years. They’ll win this game, but this is hardly a bowl that matters much.

Miami (FL) v. California (-10), (Emerald Bowl, San Francisco, CA, 12/27/08, 8:00 pm., ESPN)

So what happened to the great Miami Hurricanes? In the late 80's and early 90's, they represented the kind of dominant power many ascribe to USC today. Years later, they moved to the ACC where they were supposed to contend with Florida State for which team would go into the Bowl scene to contend for the National Championship. This year, Miami is just a middle of the pack ACC team. At least they're not banished to the "Smurf Turf" but they will be playing in AT&T Park in San Francisco where the short porch in right field would form one of the end zones. Today's baseball only stadia are not designed for football. Catch a little bit of this one on television and see for yourself. Miami will surely lose to their west coast rival.

Maryland v. Nevada (-2). (Humanitarian Bowl, Boise, ID, 12/30/08, 8:00 pm., ESPN)

This is the fate Maryland earned for falling apart in the last weeks of the regular season. The good news is they play in a Bowl. The bad news is they are banished to Boise, Idaho to play on the “Smurf Turf.” Who knows how this game will turn out. If the boys show up and mean to play, they could win this game. Given Maryland’s character recently, this looks like Nevada’s.

LSU v. Georgia Tech (-4), (Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Atlanta, GA, 12/31/08, 7:30 pm., ESPN)

LSU comes into this game feeling they’re not getting much success. Perhaps the most dominant team in the SEC since 2000, they are regrouping in 2008 but did beat Florida for the Gators’ only loss. This is a home game for Georgia Tech. We give the Yellow Jackets the nod.

Penn State v. USC (-9.5), (Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA, 1/1/09, 4:30 pm., ABC)

Surely, there are many football fans who’d dream of this game being the National Championship game. If there is an “Evil Empire” in college football, it’s Pete Carroll’s Trojans of USC. Meanwhile, good old Joe Paterno, is football history still guiding one of the nation’s top programs. Hearts were broken all around the country outside of Iowa when Penn State’s run at perfection was upset. The Rose Bowl is close to a home game for USC, and they probably should be the favorite, but how can we not pick Penn State, their ugly uniforms, and all their tradition?

Cincinnati (-2) v. Virginia Tech, (Orange Bowl, Miami, FL, 1/1/09, 8:30 pm., FOX)

Virginia Tech’s Beamer Ball proved to be the ACC’s best afterall in 2008 securing the ACC Championship in a year where several teams were running for top honors going into November. We feel they’ll have just enough extra power to beat Cincinnati, but we confess to knowing nothing about Big East football.

Mississippi v. Texas Tech (-4.5), Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX, 1/2/09, 5:00 pm., FOX)

Here’s more proof of how much the Big Twelve and SEC dominated the 2008 College Football season. Texas State has arrived as a major contender in the Big Twelve and has beaten some tough teams. Give them the edge over Mississippi.

Utah v. Alabama (-10), (Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, LA, 1/2/09, 8:00 pm., FOX)

Facing the top team in the PAC-12 this year, has to be a minor letdown for the Crimson Tide fans who maintained a perfect season going into the SEC Championship game against Florida where Florida proved the better team. This was a magical season aside from that for ‘Bama and they should win easily close to home in New Orleans.

Ohio State v. Texas (-8), (Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, AZ, 1/5/09, 8:00 pm., FOX)

This might have looked like the likely match up for a National Championship beginning the season, but it turned out to be the Bride’s Maid Bowl instead. Given the intense competition Texas faced in the Big Twelve and that many think them superior to Oklahoma who competes for the Championship and that Ohio State played a rather week Big Ten this year, the Fiesta Bowl looks like it belongs to Texas big time.

Ball State (-2.5) v. Tulsa, (GMAC Bowl, Mobile, AL, 1/6/09, 8:00 pm., ESPN)

Ball State’s Cinderella season was broken when they played for their conference championship and were wiped out in Detroit to Buffalo. Here’s a chance for their amazing team to take a curtain call playing in a minor bowl opposite the big game on another network.

Florida (-3) v. Oklahoma, (BCS Champtionship, Miami, FL, 1/6/09, 8:00 pm., FOX)

The way Florida handled its opponents looked far more convincing a look at this year’s possible champ than the big shootout in the Big Twelve southern conference. This could be one hard fought game, but given the proven leadership Gators’ QB, Tim Tebow, provides, the Gators should win this game and playing in their home state will help their cause too. This could be a close game or a Florida blowout. Watch the game and find out!

Friday, December 26, 2008

NFL Week 17: Lots to Be Decided

The Detroit Lions are poised to make history as the first 0-16 team!

The 2008 season actually concludes in 2008 this year and what a year it’s been! From just minutes into the season with the severe knee injury suffered by New England Quarterback, Tom Brady, NFL fans knew this year would play out very differently from last. On “Judgment Day” New England will probably find itself outside looking in unless they win and Baltimore loses for the final wildcard berth. However, they could win and the New York Jets could defeat Miami then New England would assume their customary spot atop the division regardless of what the Ravens do.

The Steelers won the AFC North just as most rational fans thought they would; however, the team that will likely finish one game behind them or could even their record but lose due to tiebreakers is not the Cleveland Browns, it’s the Baltimore Ravens who with rookie coach, Jim Harbaugh, rookie Quarterback, Joe Flacco, the usual defensive bully tactics lead by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and then supported by a cast of improbable with a huge number of players out for the year could face them again at Heinz field having played them close in two loses earlier in the season. Meanwhile, Cleveland will have to win and hope Cincinnati loses against a weaker Kansas City at home to stay out of last place. Whom does Cleveland play? Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh. There will be dawgs put to sleep from Cleveland’s “Dawg Pound” on Sunday for sure.

The AFC South looks different this year. Many would have seen Jacksonville, the team that dominated Pittsburgh last year as the team that could knock off the Colts for that division’s top spot. Instead, it was the Tennessee Titans under the leadership of veteran journeyman Quarterback Kerry Collins instead of Vince Young who freaked out early in the season. Jacksonville is nowhere to be found scrubbing up the bottom of the division while Houston struggles for a win on Sunday to break even. The Colts will head to the playoffs as the fifth seed. Early season chaos and Peyton Manning far from 100% found the Colts not doing well in September, but after obliterating the Ravens who had far from proven themselves yet, the Colts have been one of the most dominant teams in the league.

Out west, the AFC is a disgrace. Odds are this division will be won by a team with only a .500 record. How does that make teams in other divisions with better marks feel that don’t get a wild card berth. The bottom line is that Oakland and Kansas City, two horrible teams, played even worse than expected. The San Diego Chargers expected to run away with the division stated off horribly and never hit stride becoming more and more like just another mediocre Norv Turner team, while the Denver Broncos at 8-7 had one hell of a flimsy defense and offense that was madly erratic. San Diego wins today in San Diego, they win the division at 8-8!

In the NFC, the New York Giants have dominated everything in the east but have turned a little soft in the final month of the season. Could this be partially due to star receiver, Plaxico Burris’s misdeeds and banishment for the season or just getting soft from being on top all year? Meanwhile, Dallas, who looked given up for dead after a stunning defeat in their last game at Texas Stadium against Baltimore last Saturday night had everything turn in their direction in Sunday to restore them to the last wild card seed. However, they will have to face the other team that has had the wildest soap opera going this year, the Philadelphia Eagles to contend with in Philadelphia to secure that bid. Given how poor they looked last week at home with some obvious weaknesses on both sides to be exploited, Tony Romo’s December record, and the new life shown by the Eagles aside from a stupid loss against Washington since all seemed to be lost in Baltimore in late November, this game belongs to the Eagles as does the final playoff berth. Meanwhile, what to make of the Washington Redskins who must win to maintain a winning season? They started off like gangbusters with Jason Campbell looking brilliant but in the second half of the season, they looked like they couldn’t beat an egg.

The most exciting division in the AFC turned out to be the AFC South where all four teams were in hot competition for most of the season before New Orleans faded and Carolina seemed to take some measure of control. Many would have picked New Orleans to runaway with this division, but they must win to assure themselves a winning season. Meanwhile, Carolina needs a win to stay atop the division. The winner of the South will be the second seed in the playoffs, but who is that possible division winner or number one wild card team? The Atlanta Falcons are! Here’s another story like Baltimore where a rookie coach and rookie quarterback have proven to be successful from day one. So much for the Michael Vick saga. Playing the bridesmaid roll is Tampa Bay who could be the final Wild Card team if Philadelphia beats Dallas. If they lose, it’s Philadelphia’s game should they win.

The story in the NFL North is not about who will win the division as much as it is about who is losing. The Detroit Lions will probably become the first team since the league went to a sixteen game season to lose every game. The Lions have lived up to their reputation as the worst franchise in professional sports where they play in a parity crazed league where it’s almost impossible not to look good every once in awhile. Though they fired General Manager, Matt Millen, who was obviously not suited for the job, nothing has shown any sign of better things ahead since then. The theme of losing also crosses Lake Michigan to Green Bay where the most drama was in the preseason as to whether Brett Favre would be retained. Brett’s gone to be Brett the Jet, and Aaron Rodgers has had mixed results at best. Green Bay will have a losing record regardless of how the last game turns out. They have been particularly weak in the second half of the season. That leaves the winning to either Chicago or Minnesota looking like Chicago facing Houston has a better shot than Minnesota who must travel to face the Giants. If all the other wildcard contenders lose, and both teams win, Chicago goes to the Wild Card game as Minnesota has the tiebreaker.

The NFC West has belonged to Arizona practically all season long but they are limping into January requiring a win to maintain a winning season. San Francisco will finish with at best a 7-9 mark if they beat Washington. Seattle has turned into a sad embarrassment in Coach Mike Holmgren’s last year while the St. Louis Rams have been part of the pack of worst losers this year.

A sad reflection on the 2008 season might be a matter of how bad the bad teams were more than how good the best teams were. There is no clearly dominant team this year. Pittsburgh and Tennessee might be a bit stronger than the field in the AFC, but things look much wider open in the NFC unless the Giants return to the killer status they enjoyed earlier in the season. On the losing end, the late season boost in Cincinnati does not disguise what a miserable failure they’re franchise truly is. The Cleveland Browns have rejoined the bottom feeders showing an operation that seems to respond more to talk show abuse in Cleveland than sound football judgment. The Oakland Raiders have become so desperate fans can only hope for the day Al Davis relinquishes the team for better days while Kansas City has been rebuilding its organization since the death of founding owner, Lamar Hunt. They’re going nowhere until new proven leadership is in place. The Detroit Lions are beyond any kind of intelligent conversation for establishing a blueprint for what it will take for them to ever compete again. This organization needs to do better in every facet of the game and its operation. So much for their fancy new downtown home at Ford’s Field. Of the miserable, St. Louis is probably best poised to escape as their needs are more a matter of finding a new head coach and continuing to reassemble what was the “Greatest Show on Turf.” A team to keep an eye on who could fall into the abyss is Buffalo. Owner, Jack Wilson, is in his 90’s. His guidance for the team’s future is limited, but the plans for the future have not been well established. Ralph Wilson stadium is an obsolete dump that still attracts decent local crowds but lacks all the goodies like luxury suites that are a part of today’s football picture. That they played one game in Toronto earlier this month could be an omen for the future. There’s lots of money in Canada’s richest and largest city that could care less about loyalty to the CFL. The Rogers Center is the perfect spot for millionaires to rattle their jewelry. Meanwhile, what other teams might be in worn out stadiums with no team in Los Angeles?

Stories like the Los Angeles saga and many more keep NFL talk going year round. Meanwhile, the focus is on the field for this final week of the 2008 season with three divisions and two wild card spots up for grabs. Let’s look at the games and pick some winners and losers.

St. Louis at Atlanta (-14)
Atlanta will crush St. Louis requiring Carolina to win to stay atop the AFC South.

Oakland at Tampa Bay (-13)
Oakland will do its part folding to their former coach in Tampa. Now other teams must fall just right for Tampa to get the final Wild Card spot.

New England (-6.5) at Buffalo
New England will cream Buffalo and do its part to stay alive for a play off spot. The rest depends on Baltimore losing and the outcome of the Jets versus the Dolphins.

Kansas City at Cincinnati (-3)
Cincinnati will win to give them a three game winning streak to finish the season. Some will take comfort in that but given of the three teams beaten, only Washington was a sure pick to beat them, it means nothing. Both these teams suck.

Detroit at Green Bay (-10)
C’mon, does anybody think Detroit, regardless of how well they’ve played in the first half of some of their games could pull an upset. They are an accident waiting to happen and their rendezvous with football history is secure.

Chicago at Houston (-2.5)
That Houston is a slight favorite to win this game shows how little confidence football experts have in “Dah Bears.” They must play with all they’ve got to beat the Texans. We’ll pick Chicago to win, but it won’t be easy.

Tennessee (-3) at Indianapolis
Both teams have secured their post-season spots so it depends on which team still wants to win the most and which coach sticks with his starters the longest. We’ll go with Indy since Peyton Manning doesn’t know what “let up” means.

New York Giants at Minnesota (-7)
The experts pick the Vikings to cash in on home field advantage and that New York doesn’t have as much to play for. Don’t count on it. The Vikings need to continue to build momentum for January and the Vikings can’t be counted on when games count. We’re going with the Giants.

Carolina (-3) at New Orleans
Carolina needs this game to stay atop their division and the number two playoff spot. It won’t be easy as New Orleans is a tough home team, but Carolina has more at stake in this game. If they win, they’re resting pretty next week. They lose and Atlanta wins, they’re just another wild card.

Miami at New York Jets (-3)
The externals would support the Jets as the home team to win; however, the Jets have lost all momentum in the last few weeks of the season while Miami following Jets’ castoff, Chad Pennington, continues to develop as a franchise. Miami has more life left in them so they are the pick to host being clobbered by the Baltimore Ravens in round one of the playoffs.

Jacksonville at Baltimore (-12)
Doesn’t it feel good to see the Ravens a double-digit favorite for once? Jacksonville is so full of turmoil it will be remarkable to see if a full team reports to Baltimore on Sunday. As long as the Ravens don’t take this game too lightly which seems against the personalities of their leaders, Coach Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, and Joe Flacco, the hometown faithful will enjoy a love fest with their home team on Sunday.

Dallas at Philadelphia (-1.5)
Dallas had the life snuffed out of them on their home turf last Saturday night. They don’t seem like the kind of team that can pull itself together after a terrible embarrassment. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is a team that can bounce back from an unpredicted loss as they looked horrible in DC last week. The Philadelphia fans, those guys who once tossed snowballs at Santa, will be taunting Dallas from their warm-ups onward. The Eagles are a slight favorite but if they have the momentum early in the game, this could be a blowout.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-10.5)
The Steelers will treat their fans with a chance to get in fine cheering shape for the playoffs as they face their long time rivals, the Browns, in a game the Steelers should win with ease. Cleveland lost any life it had when Baltimore slaughtered them several weeks ago. They couldn’t even find the spark to beat their cross state rivals in Cincinnati.

Washington at San Francisco (-3)
Two teams that can only dream of what could have been square off in one of the few antique stadiums left in the NFL. To think, a post-season bowl will be held up the road in their baseball stadium! This game comes down to motivation and Mike Singletary probably can instill more in his boys than what’s left in the Redskins. Which team shows up to play wins this stinker. We’ll pick the home boys.

Seattle at Arizona (-6)
Arizona needs this game to secure a winning record. So what if they’ve had a lock on the playoffs since the end of the baseball season? Yes, it is a huge accomplishment for them to win their division, but from this point forward, every game counts again. They need to beat Seattle to show they will have any life in the playoffs.

Denver at San Diego (-8)
Here’s a grudge game if there ever was one. A blown call by an official gave their first game to Denver. San Diego has shown it can play well in the second half of the season. Both these teams are notorious choke artists. Still, San Diego has more to prove than Denver and it is in the Chargers’ house. Only some kind of insane moves by Norv Turner could ruin this game. However, Norv Turner is a bad coach for his lack of leadership and motivation not his play calling. Good-bye Denver.

Our choices lead to a post season that starts like this next week:

Baltimore at Miami
Indianapolis at San Diego
Pittsburgh, Tennessee stay home.

Tampa Bay at Arizona
Atlanta at Chicago
Carolina, New York stay home.

It looks like a good setup for all the visiting teams to win, more so in the AFC than NFC. The Divisional round could consist of three teams from the NFC South while the AFC would consist of three teams from the old AFC Central. Strange karma,…

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Apollo 8: America's Christmas Rendezvous With the Moon 40 Years Later

Forty years ago this Christmas, astronauts Commander, Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot, James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot, William Anders became the first men from earth to rendezvous on the moon as they orbited the moon for twenty hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas day of 1968. They were the first astronauts to ride atop the skyscraper sized Saturn IV booster whose third stage would reignite after achieving earth orbit to break from earth’s gravity and send the Apollo 8 Command Service Module (CSM) on a trajectory to the moon. Upon reaching the moon three days later, the CSM would fire its rocket engine to insert their spacecraft into lunar orbit. Soon humans would see terrestrial sights never viewed by mankind before as their space craft looped around the back side of the moon. While on the “dark” side of the moon, of course, radio signals could not reach earth creating a little bit of anxiety until all ground crew members were assured their mission had been executed properly.

While in orbit around the moon, Americans and people all around the world watched and listened in awe as the astronauts read the story of creation, the first ten verses of Genesis. For many, the spiritual experience was profound seeing the earth as never seen before while on the holiest day of the Christian faith our astronauts read the Biblical account of creation back to a world of anxious listeners.

As significant a landmark it was to see the far side of the moon for the first time, equally fascinating and far more stimulating was the sight of the earth getting smaller and smaller as the spacecraft approached the moon and then witnessing an “earth rise” with each orbit as the spacecraft came around from the dark side of the moon to the part of the moon visible to earth.

The mission was a huge success leading to two more test flights before Apollo 11 would land on the moon the following July. Many doubted if President John Kennedy’s mission to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade could ever be realized especially after three astronauts were incinerated atop a Saturn IB rocket their Apollo I spacecraft. The next 18 months, NASA scientists and engineers would work feverously to make up for lost time, correcting flaws in design eliminating the need for the astronauts to inhabit a 100% oxygen atmosphere in their space craft where the smallest spark, simply an electrical connection arcing over could cause a massive blaze.

Today, it’s hard to believe that it’s been four decades since man first rendezvoused with the moon and the last trip to the moon would be just four years later in December, 1972 with the launch of Apollo 17. The remaining CSM’s were used for Skylab missions and plans to build additional Saturn V boosters were cancelled. NASA’s budget was cut back to misery amounts as the manta as the Vietnam War wound down was that how could society spend money on space exploration when there are so many problems on earth. That led to the budget spacecraft which still flies today, the Space Shuttle, whose mission should conclude next year with hopes of Project Orion and possibly more moon missions after that.

While citizens criticize the space program for a variety of reasons, the benefits to society from our space missions are incalculable. Whether it’s powdered beverages like (yuck) Tang, Velcro, miniaturized television cameras and computers, and all kinds of technologies and electronics which would benefit everything from medical science to consumer products. The space program also had intangible benefits, giving the American people a chance to band together behind a common purpose continuing the pioneer spirit seeking to extend the known universe and knowledge base of humanity tremendously.

The memories of Christmas with Apollo 8 are hard to forget for baby boomers and their parents. It’s hard to believe two generations have largely passed since America’s missions to the moon. How hard it is to believe that children born on that fateful morning when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded are almost 23 years old.

America needs the space program. The benefits are overwhelming in so many areas. Those who weren’t born or old enough to remember the space race and Project Apollo would learn much by studying those missions. The commitment to excellence, the “can do” thinking, and the clear dominance of American “know how” all could use a little bit of a recharge as 2009 approaches.

Let us use this historical window, the 40th anniversaries of the various lunar missions to stimulate learning and understanding of the wonders and benefits of space exploration. We should never take such bold accomplishments for granted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas, 2008

For many, 2008 has been a terrible year. It’s hard to watch the news and not become depressed. Thousands of American soldiers will spend another season over seas. The economy is hurting and many have lost jobs or economic security. The ability to afford health care is out of reach for many. Schools are failing to accomplish their mission like never before but how quick some schools are to worry about things like who might be offended should a teacher display Christmas cards on his or her desk or God forbid any “holiday” song that mentions Christmas might be deemed inappropriate for fear someone might be offended. Many advertisers seem to treat mentioning the word Christmas in their barrage of advertising during the peak retail season more controversial than using one of those seven words George Carlin once cautioned could never be said on radio.

In Washington, the governor issued an edict that a placard harshly critical of traditional religion has every right to be displayed right next to a traditional Christmas display in the State House leading to a barrage of other attempts of seeking expression for off-the-wall beliefs and other expressions all mocking an event that the overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate. Christmas has been a Federal holiday since the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant as our society’s values are founded as much in the teachings of the Bible as they are in any legal scholar’s work. The very essence of what entitled the people of America to declare their independence from the British crown was the belief stated in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights by our creator.

It is from that recognition that our freedoms in the Bill of Rights derive their authority and provides the moral and ethical foundation for our sense of human rights. Yet some in our government use the First Amendment as the basis to ban reasonable religious expression from the public square interpreting that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” in ways never intended by the philosophical genius of our founding fathers. What is being forced upon us by judical activists, those representing the radical secular humanism of the extreme left in our society, the embrace of an extreme concept of separation of church and state that many such proponents use to mandate that all forms of religious expression be curtailed in any form in any government sponsored activity where when analyzed how it has been forced upon us essentially makes only those who have no religious beliefs what-so-ever empowered while others are coerced to carefully take care to say nothing referring to traditional customs such a small minority insists upon. In the world of the secular humanists, the extreme left, and paranoid corporate lackies and HR directors fearing legal action is the notion that the 1st amendment guarantees little more than freedom from religion.

Sure Christmas has become grotesquely commercialized over the years, but even most atheists exchange Christmas presents. The many messages of Christmas including giving to the less fortunate ring as true today as they ever have. If there was ever a time for Christians and all those who partake in Christmas traditions to band together and reflect on the transcendent messages the birth of Christ symbolizes, that time has come today. We must maintain our highest moral values while we cannot ignore we are engaged in a war we did not initiate against the forces of pure evil who would kill us for our freedom, our faith, our values, and our rights guaranteed to all citizens. When radical Islam which pretends to be a religion of the Children of Abraham stirs up mad fervor in the name of Jihad where the most extreme would kill themselves in the act of killing many more of us for those beliefs we hold dearest, we must stand united, embrace and celebrate the goodness and virtue of what our society aspires to be while never failing to be diligent against those blind servants of false prophets and their doctrine of hatred and death.

These are difficult times, but as we awake on Christmas morning, most Americans have slept in a comfortable bed, live in a secure home warm enough to combat the cold of winter, and have plenty of food to eat. While some might feel depressed and angry some of the lavish trappings of holidays gone by in years gone by might be out of reach this year, we can be thankful we live in a culture that still values our basic goodness and provides living conditions that even for those living the most modest life styles among us would be the envy of the vast majority of the overall population of the world.

In 2008, Christmas is a time to celebrate what we have and not dwell on what we don’t have. Economic conditions and the threat of war can never restrict the love and devotion we feel for others around us. We can collectively join together to provide for better times for all in the very near future.

Notre Dame hasn’t won a bowl since 1993. Eighty-nine teams have won bowls since Notre Dame’s last win! Does something seem fishy that the Mackerel Snappers would accept an invitation to play Hawaii in the Sheridan Hawaii bowl? Call it audacity. No one would question that this year was a disgrace for Notre Dame, so voyaging to the tropics for a Christmas Eve playing an absolutely non-contending team, this is supposed to make everything right? A win spares them from a losing season. It would break their long streak of failure in bowl competition. Let’s face it. These are all contrived solutions putting lipstick on the pig (as a popular 2008 expression would describe it) to conceal the obvious, what was once the team that defined college football success is a dysfunctional program sinking into irrelevance.

The world of college football has changed tremendously since Lou Holtz led the Fighting Irish into contention and quality bowl bids every season. The power conferences have become stronger where the battle for conference supremacy overtakes the significance of many of the legendary rivalries from through out the years. Being an independent was a badge of honor, a team good enough to line up games with the toughest competition nationwide and still have a near perfect record. However, another great legendary independent program, Penn State, saw the wisdom of conference play and joined the Big Ten where they would have to earn their reputation with teams already having a storied history like Ohio State and Michigan. Who could Penn State play that would create the prestige and rivalry of the Michigan/Ohio State game?

Perhaps it is time for Notre Dame to seek membership in one of the power conferences. It would make for sloppy math for them to become the eleventh team in the Big Ten, but they surely could add substantial gravitas to the Big East still reeling from being raided by the ACC for football powerhouses, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. The Big East will be the a lesser entity in the power conference scheme until they once again have ten committed teams fielding football programs in a world where the SEC and Big Ten, for instance, have negotitated very lucrative national television contracts.

It’s time for Notre Dame to step up and deal with the reality that they are playing in the 21st century and the rules for success have changed. How quickly conversation will become, "Notre Dame was one of those great teams before the turn of the century." Time marches on and South Bend, Indiana is no longer the incubator it once was for the NFL. Aside from Brady Quinn, what big name players have come to the pros since 2000? They have immediate needs that must be addressed before they can look at some of the bigger picture issues like conference play. Charley Weiss is a failure as a head coach. Still, the Notre Dame brass have decided to give Weiss one more year to get his house in order. Notre Dame also needs live bodies on the field who can play. That’s pretty much the head coach’s responsibility to sell the program.

The clock is ticking. Big improvements are long overdue. Realistically, the Fighting Irish might have two or three more years to get their program headed in the right direction before they become totally irrelevant and “win one for the Gipper,” “touchdown Jesus,” and all the other Notre Dame legends become ancient history with no relevant connection to modern times. Winning an irrelevant bowl on Christmas Eve is hardly a token gesture toward getting their football program headed in the right direction.

One more thing, Hawaii is no push over.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Texeiria HA-HA-HA - By the Time You Read This the So-Called Home Town Boy Could Be in Pinstripes!!!

Ten years, two hundred million!!! That's what the Washington Nationals supposedly have on the table, though that was never confirmed. Now Sports Illustrated has just reported the Yankees have put in a bid for his services. To picture the kid from Central Maryland remaining in the mid-Atlantic is getting dimmer by the moment.

Go up I-95 and cross the Hudson River. It's just a question of how far up I-95 beyond that his new home will be.

Baseball's salary structure is a joke. The clout the select few mega-market teams have over all the rest is absurd as is the refusal to compete in some small markets like Pittsburgh.

Baseball has been an embarassment for how to run a sport for decades, but the game itself is so good Bud Selig, the idiotic unions, and big ego owners haven't been able to destroy it even when trying to give the game lethal injections through the recent steroid era, but at what point do fans like us in Baltimore say enough is enough and not just stop going down to Camden Yards but tune out the sport all together?

Mark Teixeira: An Oriole?

Though he can’t toss a 90 mph fastball or help fill out a miserable starting rotation, so much of the Orioles’ future and credibility rests with signing hot free agent and local talent Mark Teixeira. Right now, it looks like Teixeira is destined to make something close to Alex Rodriquez money somewhere, but when teams like the California Angels have dropped out of the bidding and the Yankees, who surely could use an upgrade at first base, aren’t playing, that says something.

The current news is the Red Sox are hanging in there. The National press, read this as ESPN talking heads, say, it’s the Washington Nationals, go figure, but then what’s left are the Baltimore Orioles. Mark Teixeira, born in Annapolis, Maryland, grew up in Severna Park attending southwest Baltimore’s Catholic school perennial sports hot spot, St. Joseph’s High School, so his hometown lineage is darn near as pure as Cal Ripken’s assent to stardom from Harford County. In times past, the Baltimore/Annapolis corridor was Baltimore country plain and simple, but Annapolis and southwestern Anne Arundel County is becoming more and more in the orbit of Washington, DC.

Still, Mark Teixeira grew up an Orioles fan and went to a Baltimore school. There was no team in Washington until he was already in the major leagues so while playing for the Washington Nationals would put him less than an hour from his boyhood roots, if he truly yearns to be the hometown idol, Baltimore is the choice. Besides that, if one can ignore the last decade, Baltimore has a rich baseball tradition. Washington, no matter how you work in the history of the teams that would become the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers and the former Montreal Expos have almost nothing. For the years that the Senators that would become the Rangers played in RFK Stadium from its opening until 1971, the one historical feat most folks still talk about is a long Frank Howard home run to the upper decks that is nothing compared to the Frank Robinson blast that cleared the left field bleachers and landed in the parking lot of old Memorial Stadium.

Could Mark Teixeira be the first player to hit a home run that hits the B&O Warehouse at Camden Yards, why not?

How good is Mark Teixeira so far? He’d more or less be an upgrade over Boog Powell but fairly consistent with Eddie Murray or Raphael Palmeiro. He is almost a sure bet to play every day and finish the year with over 30 homeruns and 100 RBI’s. He’s the kind of hitter every team’s offense craves to have hitting in the #3 or #4 spot. For the Orioles, batting 4th after Nick Martakis with possibly Aubrey Huff batting 5th, makes for a scary fat part of the lineup especially with a leadoff hitter like Brian Roberts and a couple of good possibilities at #2 like Melvin Mora.

If the Orioles are going to ever become part of the AL East’s story with the Yankees and Red Sox, they must have those kinds of possibilities in their lineup. Even with the Nationals a short train ride from downtown Baltimore, there’s no reason Camden Yards can’t again be filled with fans if there’s a good team on the field wearing home jerseys.

No matter how exciting the prospects of Mark Teixeira being a possible Oriole might be, it does nothing to address the team’s greatest problem, only one major league quality starting pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie. Help is on the way down on the farm, but these players were just starting to prove themselves at the Double A level with the Bowie Baysox. The constant parade up the Chesapeake Bay from Triple A, Norfolk, provided a bunch of rag-tag might-have-been’s and castoffs who were marginal playing in the International League much less having to face contenders in the American League.

The Orioles do look like they have a competent though not superstar shortstop with acquiring Cesar Izturis. They sent Ramon Hernandez packing to make way for Matt Wieters behind the plate; however, the switch-hitting stellar catching prospect still has not played a single game at the Triple A level despite marching right through Single A at Fredrick en route to even greater fortunes in Bowie. To provide a little bit of backup, the Orioles selected C Lou Palmisano from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Rule 5 Draft.

Still, there are no rumbles of any starting pitchers on their way.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

For Cowboys’ Fans the Theme in Texas Stadium is “Nevermore”

The Baltimore Ravens turned out the lights early on Texas Stadium finale.

The Baltimore Ravens cast aside doubts about their ability to win against the dominant teams as they dominated the Dallas Cowboys after a fumble deep in their own territory on the 4 yard line led to an early Dallas touchdown. From that point forward, the game was clearly in the Ravens' hands despite two late Cowboy touchdowns that the Ravens promptly answered with explosive performance from their running game that stunned silent the Texas crowd where runners broke loose big plays for touchdowns. Willis McGahee ran 77 yards for a touchdown while Laron McClain bettered that for 83 yards.

Naturally, some of the Ravens’ usual formula for victory continued. Ray Lewis lead the likes of Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott to flatten any possible running scheme whileEd Reed interceptions lead to Baltimore scoring. Dallas could come within a score twice in the fourth quarter, but the Ravens still looked in control.

With tonight’s defeat, it’s surely “nevermore” for the Cowboys’ playoff hopes as they sink behind Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Philadelphia all of whom have one fewer loss than Dallas. Two of these teams would have to collapse for Dallas to be back in the picture. It’s also “nevermore” for Texas Stadium as the “’Boys” will be heading to Arlington to play in the Cowboys’ new billion dollar plus football palace for the 2009 season.

Now we await for the soap opera drama off field to play out in Dallas. Surely Terrell Owens will have something to say about tonight’s performance and how if someone was paying attention to him, the Cowboys would have won with ease.

It’s not that simple T.O. It’s a team effort and the Ravens, as a team, beat the Cowboys, as a team. Yes, it is that simple.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NFL Week 16: Who's Left Standing?

Football fans in a few cities will face Christmas in their best holiday spirits as their teams are playoff bound. Others will be smarting as surely some teams’ hopes will be dashed this weekend. Almost certainly, some contests will be determined on the final Sunday. What a peculiar but exciting year this has been. Three cities are playoff contenders with rookie coaches: Baltimore, Atlanta, and Miami. Baltimore and Atlanta both have progressed with rookie quarterbacks. New England has remained competitive without their all-star quarterback injured in the first game of the season. The New York Jets have enjoyed new life from a fellow too old for his old team while their former QB is leading the once hapless Dolphins to a likely winning season. Meanwhile, pity sports fans in Ohio. First, the Cleveland Indians were considered the favorite to win the AL Central in baseball. They endured a miserable losing season casting off high priced salaries. However, hope was high for the Cleveland Browns, a team many of the media hipsters selected as the sexy pick for the NFL playoffs. As the football season went from bad to worse and the NBA season began, focus was on local superstar Lebron James chitter-chatter about leaving town for greater fortunes when his contract with the Cavaliers expires. It could be worse. One could travel to the far southwestern end of the state and look at Cincinnati. Not only did their baseball team suck but few expected much from the “Bungals” er ah Bengals. No team has looked uglier losing than the Bengals. Further, both Ohio teams lost their starting QB’s for the season while Cleveland also lost their chosen one for the future for the rest of the season. Few states have had a rougher time than Ohio in 2008 given their dependence on the automotive industry and that Ohio was ground zero for all the shouting and finger pointing of a high intensity Presidential sweepstakes. The escape value local sports can provide has been replaced by fumbles, foals, big mouths barking, and losing. Just a short drive north of Toledo is the capital of the United States auto industry. When has there ever been a more pathetic team than the Detroit Lions? Matt Millen might be gone, but a miserable team remains. How many years has this team had excellent draft picks and needed to start over? Here they go again as they have all but locked in the worst record in the NFL for this year. Meanwhile, Oakland is another franchise in shambles with faint hopes of quantum leaps. When it comes to NFL football the state of Missouri is really misery given the fortunes of the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams. Both teams have recent ownership changes necessitated by the deaths of their former owners. Their ability is uncertain for now.

Right now, life is good in Pittsburgh and Nashville as the Steelers and Titans have clinched first round byes. The New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals have locked playoff spots. Only a serious meltdown and all kinds of quirks could deny the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers from playoff spots. Life is livelier in Minnesota where they hold a one game advantage over Chicago. Craziness is the rule in the AL East where three teams are tied with 9-5 records, but in reality, one will win the division. One will lose to one of the others. The third team is dependent on Baltimore losing to get in as a Wild Card. Got that? If the Jets or the Dolphins win both remaining games, the winner is in and the loser is probably out. New England needs the Ravens to lose. That covers the wild card possibilities barring an unlikely collapse by Indianapolis who stand at 10-4.
In the NFC, the wild card picture is a little wider open, but if Dallas and Atlanta win their two remaining games, they are in as wild cards. Dallas faces Baltimore and Philadelphia while Atlanta faces Minnesota and St. Louis. Tampa Bay shares a 9-5 mark with Atlanta and Dallas but with tie-breakers needs one of them to lose. They play at home against San Diego and Oakland. Much has been made of west coast teams playing poorly when coming east. Philadelphia stands with 8-5-1. They need two slipups by two teams above them but face one of them. That leaves Chicago, perhaps in better position to win their division at 8-6. A lot of things have to happen above them to clinch a wild card, but catching Minnesota for the division might be the easier route. Other teams like the Redskins have the old snowball’s chance. Forget them.

Let’s look at this week’s games. We were 10-6 last week, our season average. That’s a lot better than the ESPN gang especially the “Swammi.” The hell with the point spreads. That’s to keep the Mafia happy. Aren’t those point spread, over/under conversations tedious? Fantasy football – lots of work, eh?

So kick back, relax, and enjoy some good football this weekend. Here’s our preview and expectations.

Indianapolis (-6 ½) at Jacksonville
A Florida vacation this is not in Florida’s northern most coastal city, but for Payton and the boys the results should be pretty!

Baltimore at Dallas (-4 ½)
How tough is the Dallas defense and are they ready for Baltimore’s growing efforts on offense? Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and the gang need to play hard, brutal defense and the win will be Baltimore’s.

Pittsburgh (1 ½) at Tennessee
This looks like the game of the week if it’s not Carolina visiting the New York Giants. The winner of this game stands to enjoy home field advantage through out the playoffs and Pittsburgh looks healthier than the Nashville Cats.

Arizona at New England (-8)
Eight points looks a little high for New England but Arizona, already in the playoffs, plays in a softer division and has less at stake than the Patriots. They have their playoff berth and can’t win a first round bye.

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-3)
The “Toilet Bowl” is in northern Ohio. Cincinnati perhaps a lousier team but Cincinnati seems to have a little more life left in them as witnessed by beating the Redskins last week while Cleveland is on a short week after getting slaughtered by Philadelphia.

New Orleans (-6 ½) at Detroit
Duh! New Orleans may be out of it, but they won’t let Detroit ruin their season.

San Francisco (-5 ½) at St. Louis
San Francisco has been pretty frisky since Coach Singletary’s tirade. They should have enough kick in them to conquer the down and out Rams.

Miami (-4) at Kansas City
It’s chaos in Kansas City so Miami is poised to win in their journey to the heart of the heartland.

Atlanta at Minnesota (-3 ½)
Atlanta is playing with a lot of heart and enthusiasm despite their lack of experience while Minnesota has some key injuries and appears to be running out of gas. This one goes to the Georgia Birds.

Philadelphia (-4.5) at Washington
If the Redskins had any history left to be written, they left it in Cincinnati last week. This is a team that is finished for the year. Things looked so good in the first half of the year, but Act 2 has been a tragedy.

Buffalo at Denver (-7)
Denver needs to sure up their playoff skills while Buffalo continues to fall apart. The Broncos can’t take this game for granted but should win.

Houston (-7) at Oakland
Houston is showing a lot of growth in the second half of the season. They should feast on the misery-laden Raiders.

New York Jets (-4 ½) at Seattle
Which Jets team will show up this week? They have the talent and track record to win this game but they must endure the cross country journey and play with all they’ve got. If so, they’ll come home with only Miami remaining for a division title.

San Diego at Tampa (-3 ½)
Tampa Bay must win this game and probably will following how west coast teams collapse when flying to the east coast. San Diego has players playing for jobs but Tampa has a shot at the post season. Their defense should be strong enough to hold off a battered Changers team.

Carolina at New York Giants (-3)
The Giants need this game to assure all they haven’t peaked too soon and looking Plaxico Burris has not weakened their competitive strength. Carolina needs this game to continue their lock on the playoffs. The winner gets the top seed. If both teams are on top of their game, give New York the slight edge.

Green Bay at Chicago (-4 ½)
Is Green Bay better off without Brett Favre? Last year, they were playoff bound seen by many as the pick to go all the way in the NFC. This year has shown a slow, steady decline. The Bears must win to keep their playoff dreams alive and should have the soldiers on Soldiers Field to do so.


Enough of the frothing at the mouth concerning Obama connection with Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich. Yes, almost certainly Obama folks had conversations with the disgraced, soon-to-be-ex-governor. Some chit-chat might have dealt with the Senate seat. However, whether there was any illegal deal making in process right now looks very unlikely. Overstating this issue will only backfire on Obama critics for being over anxious to find fault in the President-Elect and wreak of a sore loser's mentality.

Sit back and enjoy the trials and tribulations of Blagojevich for all its worth. There will be tons of embarrassment to be dealt as the charges develop and his case goes to trial. Transcripts of his conversations alone will have plenty of Illinois Democrats blushing.

We realize that Barack Obama's career has risen from the massive sewer Illinois politics and the Chicago machine represents. That Obama could be the odorless, squeaky clean fecal deposit in this cesspool begs the imagination. We're still looking for anyone in his background who is a good mainstream respectable political figure.

So many issues have arisen over Blagojevich's conduct, dozens of figures are surely involved. Await the sweet song of the stool pigeons who shall sing their sweet tune.

Caroline NO! (apologies to Brian Wilson!)

Maintaining the glamorous Kennedy image is not enough for Caroline now.
Sweet Caroline

Caroline Kennedy has long risen above the image many Americans have of the Kennedy clan personified by the output of Joseph Kennedy, Robert Kennedy Jr., Ted Kennedy, and his bumbling son turned congressmen. The Kennedy image is one of extreme wealth and privilege, a sense of entitlement and being above the restrictions regular Americans accept as part of their day-to-day lives in society. While many of them have adopted a wide variety of social causes, the way they present their message seems to be one of “do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy. While Robert Kennedy Jr. attempts to compete with Al Gore as the spokesman for a clean and proper environment, he never eschews the trappings of extreme wealth traveling via private jets and being transported about in limousines and posh upscale mega-sized SUV’s. How often have baby-boomer Kennedy’s been caught engaged in extreme hedonism, decadence, and immorality always knowing they have the resources to buy their way out of trouble.

John F. Kennedy’s two children under Jacqueline’s parenting learned how to live their life of wealth responsibly not using their lineage as justification for any entitlement or privilege. They’ve been seen as clean, likeable people who generally do good work. Was there a part of the “throw caution to the wind” adventurism flying under the conditions that took John John’s life is subject to debate. His loss was truly tragic as was his father’s and two of his uncles where a couple of the pups from Ethyl’s litter certainly hastened their untimely demise.

Trying to probe the Kennedy psyche is probably a pursuit best taken with some detachment. Regardless, one can sympathize that given three of Rose Kennedy’s four sons met an untimely demise surely colors the mindset of the family in ways others will never understand. That perhaps there is a sense of “live for today for tomorrow we die” fatalism exists deserves some compassion. However, what deserves no consideration what-so-ever and is to be condemned in the clearest sense is that the Kennedy family has any special sense of entitlement or that the Kennedy name alone should in any way give any of the clan a leg up on anything. Some even talk of the Kennedys as if they are American royalty. Did we not fight a war in the late 18th century to show what our society’s use for the rites of primogeniture are?

Sure, politics is a family business. Look at the Bush family as an example and how many son’s of (_______) are serving on Capitol Hill or in state houses across the land. Names like Dodd, Bayh, Gore, and others all come to mind. Some are distinguished in their own right. Others are sickly opportunists who rode their elders’ coat tails to office.

So what of Caroline Kennedy’s quest to be appointed to serve the remainder of Hilary Clinton’s term? Were her last name Smith, Jones, or Goldstein, not to mention her married name, her desires would be immediately dismissed. Is she the best qualified person available to be appointed junior Senator? Absolutely not. Is she qualified at all? That’s where the debate stands right now. She has never paid her dues to hold political office, but in the 21st century a disturbing trend is developing where one’s experience doesn’t matter. What matters is a person’s ability to soak and manipulate the media. Look no further than Barack Obama with ZERO managerial experience and limited time in the Senate or Sarah Palin (aka “Buffy the Moose Slayer) having only limited time as governor of Alaska. That Obama was elected president and Sarah Palin stirred up a flock of faithful for the vice presidency shows how little demonstrated experience and accomplishment means today. Surely Palin’s experience is more substantial than Obama’s, but that was an issue the voters cast aside. We question, in hindsight, her intellectual gravity.

Caroline Kennedy does have an Ivy League law degree and has been involved with many foundations and causes using the Kennedy “brand” as much as possible to gain maximum clout. Never has she had to get down in the trenches and face the rigors or debate or been subjected to the rigors, hard work, and competition of a run for office. Up to this point, her name an image has been all she has ever needed to have the world bowing at her feet.

She could be a brilliant student of politics, but who’d know? She appears to have considerable integrity and has lived honorably not letting the slimy aspects of being a Kennedy color her persona. None of this reflects paying her dues to be a United States Senator.

We oppose Caroline Kennedy’s quest in the clearest terms. Leadership is supposed to be earned and elected in United States politics and not anointed. That she comes from a background of wealth and privilege and her last name is Kennedy does not entitle her to be Senator of the nation’s third largest state. That she could be appointed raises all kinds of disturbing political questions. Would such an appointment be seen as a payback for her support for Barack Obama? Patterson is New York’s first African American governor who fervently supported Barack Obama. There is no question that her support coinciding with her Uncle Teddy’s for Obama’s campaign gave the Obama effort tremendous credibility and momentum among the Democratic faithful and the loyal minions who have blindly jumped on anything supported or embraced by Rose Kennedy’s brood. It is also a puzzling appointment considering she is replacing Hilary Clinton, the rising star of the Democratic party from her adopted state of New York further enhancing the sense of rift between the Clintons’ and Kennedys’ as the big shots in the donkey party. About the only talent she has for certain is that her name and reputation translates into huge fund raising potential.

From this point forward, Caroline Kennedy will no longer enjoy the respect and reverence accorded her for her gracious manners and the dignity she has shown given her unique status in American society. All prestige is gone as she will be one of one hundred Senators, a rookie member, who will be held accountable for everything she says and every position she takes. The likelihood of her being subject to extra layers of scrutiny and questioning will be enormous. Like Hilary Clinton, whom she hopes to replace, she will be one of the most scrutinized and examined high-visibility Senators ever.

All things considered, this is a crappy way to choose a Senator. Hopefully, Governor Patterson who so far has come across as a uniquely spineless leader will resist the temptation to make the popular selection that the media is craving and chose a New Yorker best qualified for the job.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NFL Week 15: Some Fight For Playoffs; Others Fight For Jobs

Three Weeks to Go: The March to Post Season Play

For Ravens fans, this weekend’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers is as hot as a Baltimore sports contest can get. First, since the Ravens came to Baltimore, their most clearly defined rivalry has been the Steelers. They are the prime contender in the AFC North. Second, Sunday’s game could be decisive for each team’s January prospects. If the Steelers win visiting Tennessee who have already clinched a playoff berth and are close to locking down home field advantage through out then take care of the Cleveland Browns at home, pretty much no contest, the Steelers will not only secure the 2nd seed, a first round bye, but could take the number one seed if Tennessee loses to Indianapolis for the last game of the year. After facing Pittsburgh, Baltimore travels to Dallas who could be fighting for their season next week and then hosts Jacksonville, a floundering team that still has the teeth to bite back. Having lost to Tennessee earlier, were Tennessee to lose two out of three of its last games given they are playing Pittsburgh and Indy, the Ravens best hope is the 2nd seed since in head-to-head they have lost to the Titans.

The Ravens have more at stake since if the Steelers win, they’ve clinched the division and clinch the second seed, first round bye. A Ravens loss would throw them in the pool with the AFC East contenders. Three teams at 8-5 with the Jets having the tie-breakers right now to claim first place. The Ravens need to maintain an edge over two of these three teams, and they are in as a wild card. Of those contenders, New England visits Oakland, hosts Arizona, then visits the fading Buffalo/Toronto Bills. New England should run the table. The Miami Dolphins play their last home game against San Francisco on Sunday before travelling to Kansas City then face a game that could determine the AFC East’s outcome, visiting the New York Jets. Miami should win their next two games, but San Francisco is showing a little more life recently under Mike Singletary’s rule. Finally, the New York Brets (Ooops, Jets), host Buffalo and visit Seattle before their decisive match against Miami. Sizing up the Eastern Division, New England will finish at 11-5 as will the winner of the Jets/Dolphins contest. The Jets win three, they’re the division winner. The Ravens cannot get caught up in a struggle with the AFC East second place team. All this assumes the Indianapolis Colts win their last three games. Given the Colts host the Lions and visit Jacksonville before hosting Tennessee who could be in resting mode by their final game.

The Ravens clearly have the toughest road of all the AFC playoff contenders but only losing would knock them out of the playoffs. They played the Steelers well in Pittsburgh only a couple third quarter miscues away from victory. The team has matured substantially since then plus will benefit from the hometown support. Dallas is capable of being as tough as any foe in the NFL especially at home. Their reputation is one of being unable to win in December. Still, nothing will be easy about this game. Can this young, growing team conquer their more experienced (though not necessarily tougher) foes?

The NFC has two playoff spots spoken for with the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals clinching their divisions, the East and the West accordingly. Minnesota has a one game edge over Chicago in the North and Carolina holds the game edge over Tampa Bay in the South. Do you want to pick a wild card? The Tampa Bay Bucs have a 9-4 record. That’s the easy part, but for the second seed, the field is huge. Dallas and Atlanta sit at 8-5. Philadelphia with that tie against Cincinnati stands at 7-5-1. Chicago, New Orleans and Washington all have 7-6 recorded with an outside shot. For those who see the Cowboys as the best shot for the final spot – they still face the Giants and Baltimore at home and travel to Philadelphia. All three teams have murderous defenses and for all the offensive tricks Dallas has, they can also be rattled by tough defense.

Atlanta can improve its standing this Sunday visiting Tampa Bay. They conclude at home against San Diego then Oakland and how well have west coast teams done coming east this year? It looks like Atlanta has the edge over Dallas for the second Wild Card.

Though it won’t feel like it if the following teams don’t make it to the playoffs, the 2009 series is a huge success for the New York Jets, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Miami. The Ravens had the best record at 5-11, but that mark masked how the team was completely dissolving at the end of the season best shown by the final minutes of their loss against New England, but the Ravens went into the 2006 post season, just a year earlier as a strong shot to win the Super Bowl only to collapse against the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. The Jets looked like a franchise going nowhere at 4-12. However, down south in Atlanta and Miami, the story was much darker. Atlanta may have finished at 4-12, but they were mired in the shadow of Michael Vick’s evil crimes further complicated by their coach, Bobby Petrino bolted after thirteen games to accept the head coach job at Arkansas. Topping that, Miami was en route to an 0-16 season were it not for a win against the Ravens at the low point of their unraveling.

In 2008, Baltimore has already clinched a winning record. The remaining teams need win one more game to do the same. The Ravens and Falcons share the distinction of being successful with both a rookie head coach and quarterback. The Jets benefit from the indestructible, Brett Favre at Quarterback. Miami enjoys the biggest turnaround of all. Could Bill Parcells move into the front office have something to do with that? Ironically, part of their success surely belongs to Quarterback Chad Pennington who was the odd man out with Favre’s arrival at New York.

Who are the strongest teams right now? How about the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants? It’s too soon to start hyping a brother against brother, Payton versus Eli Manning Super Bowl, but Archie’s finest dream could be a reality.

New Orleans at Chicago (-3)
Both teams are fighting for their post season life. Chicago still has a division championship in sight. This game belongs to “dah Bears.”

Washington (-6.5) at Cincinnati
The Bengals are destined for another ass whoopin’. ‘Nuff said.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-3)
Oh Atlanta!!! This game is a virtual draw. We like Atlanta.

Tennessee (-3) at Houston
The former Houston team looking proud and pretty visits their old home and will have nice steak dinners and a big win.

Detroit and Indianapolis (-17)
The auto industry isn’t the only institution in Detroit that sucks these days. Why shouldn’t Payton Manning have some fun running up the score? Here’s a blow out unless the Colts play nice.

Seattle (-3) at St. Louis
Two teams going nowhere, but we’ll give St. Louis the slight edge.

Green Bay (-2) at Jacksonville
Two teams that were supposed to be in the playoff picture this year are trying to rescue something from miserable seasons. Green Bay, being the more complete team, will win.

San Diego (-5) at Kansas City
Surely a lot of the Bolts are playing for their jobs. It’s hard to imagine Norv Turner returning next year after one of the strongest teams in the AFC has become a mediocre mess in 2008.

San Francisco at Miami (-6.5)
Though San Francisco is showing some late season life, Miami has much more to play for in this contest in front of their home fans. The Big Tuna’s Fish win.

Buffalo at New York Jets (-7)
It wasn’t that long ago, the Buffalo/Toronto Bills were one of the real surprise teams with many talking playoffs for the Niagara Falls area’s guys. Once the leaves started to fall and Lake Erie started to chill, so did the Bills. They’ve been terrible in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, the Jets don’t win pretty, but despite some stupid losses, they’re atop the AFC East poised to win this divisional conflict.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-2)
Baltimore hosts this week’s hottest conflict. The AFC North’s championship is on the line. Ray Lewis, Ed Reeve, and the rest of the Ravens’ defense is ready to rattle Big Ben and the boys. Go for Baltimore in this brawl.

Denver at Carolina (-7.5)
Denver has essentially clinched the NFL West not for their prowess but their competitors’ ineptness. Given Kansas City and Oakland play in their division, how can they not look good? This fortune is furthered by San Diego’s collapse. Carolina is the least publicized Division leader this year. Carolina will do their best to make the Elway days a distant memory.

Minnesota at Arizona (-3)
Minnesota needs this game but travelling to Arizona, already in the playoffs, the Vikings will come up short looking for a much needed win to stay ahead of “dah Bears.”

New England (-7) at Oakland
It will take the Patriots greater patience and fortitude putting up with the Raiders’ Nation freak show than the team they’ll line up against. Oakland seems to have already mailed in this season.

New York Giants at Dallas (-3)
If you’re an NFC fan, maybe this game tops the Baltimore/Pittsburgh conflict for the game of the week. Dallas needs this win badly to stay in the playoff hunt. Meanwhile, the Giants will be well motivated to put the Plaxico Burris episode behind them with a convincing win. The Giants will outlast the Cowboys.

Cleveland at Philadelphia (-14)
After both teams were slaughtered by the Ravens a few weeks ago, both teams looked like they were finished for the season, torn apart, humiliated, and looking for the trainer’s room. Quarterbacks were benched and coaches futures looked finished. Since then, the Eagles have bounced back while things have gotten uglier in Cleveland. Brady Quinn was brought in to rescue the Browns but quickly got hurt, out for the season, yielding the Quarterback’s job back to Derek Anderson. To help motivate Anderson, coach Romeo Crannell assured the media, Brady Quinn would be the QB in 2009. Distraught, Anderson then sustained a season ending injury leaving the Browns to be led by their third string dude. Remember the Browns were the pretty boys in September destined to win big in ’08. Who could be honest and not acknowledge that the Browns suck. They’re a terrible team getting worse. They more closely resemble the Bengals than the Ravens or Steelers, and could be a “Toilet Bowl” contender next year without serious changes in the off-season. Their trip to Philadelphia will be pure torture.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Crimson Tide No Match for Tim Tebow's Command of the Florida Gators

It’s not a good year for teams that run the table during their regular season. The year started with the New England Patriots beating everyone in sight only to travel to Phoenix, Arizona to play the New York Giants and lose the Super Bowl. In the Mid American Conference, we just saw the Ball State Cardinals leap into the national rankings from a lesser conference going undefeated until the MAC Championship losing to the Buffalo Bulls in Detroit.

It could only be worse for Alabama in the SEC. They’ve run the table and secured the national #1 ranking dominating their Western Division rivals beating in-state rival, Auburn, heading to a 12-0 record. Their only scare came against LSU having to go to overtime to win.

Meanwhile, trouble was brewing in the Florida swamp. The Florida Gators were upset in late September losing their 4th game of the season by one point to Mississippi. Heismann Trophy winning quarterback, Tim Tebow, took it on his back, addressed the media assuring the world that neither he nor his teammates would go down again. Since then, Tim Tebow has had the on-the-field presence and leadership as a college senior that Ray Lewis has with the Baltimore Ravens. The results, the Gators have run up scores as high as 63, 49, 56, and 70 points against opponents.

Despite Alabama being ranked the number one team in the nation and going undefeated, Urban Meyer’s team with Tim Tebow’s distinguished field general performance installed the Gators as a ten point favorite. They did that one better, defeating the Crimson Tide 31-20. Though the game appeared to go back and forth with four lead changes into the third quarter, Florida appeared to have the upper hand throughout.

Who knows how the BCS robots will react, but it’s almost a certainty that Florida will be the number one seed in the National Championship in January. Meanwhile, Alabama can join in the pity party with Ball State and New England.

It's a Cold Bitter Night in West Point: Navy Shutout Army,34-0

Whoa on West Point, the Army lost its seventh consecutive game (ten out of its last twelve) to the Midshipmen of Navy, this time being shut out 34-0 after a pasting in Baltimore last year, 38-3. This year, some of the ESPN yakkers were saying this could be Army’s year, but the boys from Annapolis, Maryland would have no part of it dominating the game thoroughly.

We salute both teams and the contributions to our country their young men are making for us, but the night belongs to Navy. Anchors away, mates!

Ball State: Shocking End to Glorious Season in Detroit

Pictured: Ball State legend, Frog Baby, How can you not love a school with a joyful artifact like her?

Benny’s wings are hanging a little lower and Frog Baby is sobbing as the Ball State Cardinal’s season of dreams was brought to an abrupt halt by the Buffalo Bulls losing the Mid-American championship and ruining their glorious undefeated season which took them to #12 in the national rankings. The Ball State led 10-7 at half time, Buffalo’s scoring 21 points in the 3rd quarter and 14 points in the 4th dominating the game en route to a 42-24 blowout. Regardless, the pride of Muncie, Indiana can take some measure of comfort what they attempted to do, go undefeated and win the championship is a tough challenge as the unstoppable New England Patriots showed losing to the New York Giants in the last Super Bowl.

Maybe it’s just Karma as the two teams’ records would hardly give Buffalo a chance, but it could have been about time a team wearing blue jerseys would win on Detroit’s Ford Field, home of the hapless Lions heading for a likely winless season.

Congratulations to coach Brady Hoke, his players, and the entire Ball State Community on a memorable season. As the days turn to weeks turn to months, the bitter memory of the Detroit disaster will fade as this will be a truly memorable season where all involved deserve to be proud.

IRONY: Medea, Then and Now: Mythological Bitch, Modern Day Burp

Here's a little cultural lesson, kiddies, enjoy!
How’s your memory of Greek Mythology? Remember Medea? Medea was the daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis, niece of Circe, and the granddaughter, of Helos, the sun god. She married Jason, of Golden Fleece fame, with whom they had two children, Memeros and Pheres.

Those Greek playwrights were great dramatists with plots that would baffle even the most sardonic Hollywood horror film writers with plots of infidelity and jealousy that would make today’s idiotic soap operas seem tame. In Eurpides’ play, Jason left his sweetie pie, Medea, when King Creon, one of the royal nasties of the era, offered Jason his daughter, Creusa or Glauce.

Medea was not happy with that arrangement. First her dude is sailing all around the Mediterranean gathering up sheep skins that document no academic achievement as they would later on in history, they were just literally, sheep skins. How many loving wives would put up with that? However, busting up her nest when her precious husband allowed the King to play matchmaker was too much for her to take. There’s much more to the story including Jason getting her all doped up on some wicked narcotics, but it was a crappy relationship. We encourage our readers to see the real myth as reproduced by Edith Hamilton or Thomas Bulfinch for more historical and literary accuracy. However, the end game of this story is pretty intense. There are all kinds of additional details and juicy subplots depending on the play or myth considered.

Out of her passion for revenge, she killed her children but beat the rap. Today, modern psychologists often speak of a “Medea Complex,” for parents who would murder or harm their children.

Today, we have Medea Benjamin. What a work of art she is, she took the name “Medea” during her freshman year at Tufts University. The 21st century version of Medea also has contempt for authority, kings, soldiers, and strong male figures as she is the co-founder and leader, Code Pink, a group of extreme left wing, west coast style, head cases who take great pleasure at performing their little theater of the absurd displays of what they consider civil disobedience which would be blasphemy when compared to the efforts of the Vietnam anti-war movement, Dr. Martin Luther King’s efforts, or the nonviolent revolution of Mahatma Gandhi.

Modern Medea is a sniveler and whiner. Boo-hoo, boo-hoo. Military – bad. Corporations – bad. This unapologetic twerp and her gang of social misfits have an uncanny knack for finding ways to sneak into major activities, often on Capitol Hill, and during key speeches or hearings, creating quite a ruckus by screaming moronic slogans, chants, or just acting like a four year old having a tantrum because nobody would pay attention to his attempts to hold his breath until he turned blue. He could turn royal blue for all we care if the behavior is in support of Code Pink.

Not surprisingly, esteemed journalistic sources like the Los Angeles Times have identified Moping Medea as “one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement” and was even once considered on the San Francisco Magazine’s list of “80 Players who Rule the Bay Area.” Yes, the “Bay Area,” go figure!!!

Naturally, Modern Moping Medea loves Cuba and Venezuela. In 2002, she interrupted testimony by the Secretary of Defense in a Congressional Committee room with a barrage of insane chants with her posse of other deranged dingbats. Later in August of that same year, she interrupted a speech by President George W. Bush in Stockton, California. She raised the roof at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston dressed as Lady Liberty and then was hauled from the Republican Convention in New York for unfurling a banner “Pro-Life: Stop the killing in Iraq.” She and her mob of twits somehow finagled VIP access to the second Bush inauguration to display more banners. The bold little mosquito turd also interrupted a speech by Condoleezza Rice in San Francisco in May of 2005. Becoming increasingly more emboldened, in July 26, 2006, Benjamin interrupted an address to both houses of Congress when Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki screaming at him from the balcony.

Whether it’s defense and national security, free trade, or a host of other ultra-left positions, New Millennium Modern Moping Mad Medea is there to be found.

Now apparently she’s not too happy with Barrack Obama. Go figure. On this date, December 5, 2008, she and her nuts interrupted testimony while the “Big Three” automakers came to Capitol Hill to beg for booty. So how does Medea Benjamin get around? Who propels her chariot?

Though some comparisons to the ancient Greek, Medea, might be a little far-fetched, we can certainly think of Medea as the personification of an idiotic, mean-spirited woman then and now.

She has her enablers as did the her wicked mythological namesake had in the Olympians who supported her cause in the national press who gladly gives her plenty of time to speak her nonsense on talking head programs.

Only in America and Greek Mythology, eh?

Friday, December 5, 2008

O.J. Simpson Headed to Jail

What Goes Around Finally Came Around

Were you delighted when the news hit today that O.J. Simpson received a xxx to life sentence for his thuggish behavior commanding his henchmen to conduct a hotel room robbery of sports memorabilia some of which were once O.J.’s loot he was forced to sell off.

In what has come to be called “O.J. III,” Simpson was found guilty amidst some controversy that this trial was staged as an attempt to impose “justice” on Simpson for beating his murder rap where he brutally sliced up Ron Goldman and almost beheaded his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.

His subsequent trial became one of the most outrageous media spectacles of the age where an ineffective judge and poorly organized prosecutors clearly outmatched by the all-star legal team Simpson had assembled knew all the right buttons to push to ignite the passions of the mostly African American jury where the justice system itself was put on trial and O.J.’s situation was but a sidebar.
All of us remember as the news broke on Simpson's possible connection with the double murder. How could this be? Not "The Juice" the fellow football fans saw run freely through defenses as one of the sport's most successful runners of all-time. After that, the media spotlight beckoned as he played in an assortment of comic movies including the Naked Gun series and was a charismatic football analyst even surving on Monday Night Football. Where was the racism in any of that? O.J.s greatest fan base was mostly white males from their teens to middle age. He simply radiated a sense of cool. How could he be a killer.
Then there was the Bronco chase and the rest is history.

Folks far from the urban realities of Los Angeles, essentially all white members of the population were outraged at Simpson’s acquittal. The evidence against him, no matter how poorly presented, was overwhelming. How could any rational person not weigh the evidence and not find this monster guilty?

Well for starters, two words, “Rodney King.”

The nation’s second largest city had a long history of racism, incompetence, and plenty of episodes that would not only destroy any confidence the African American community in Los Angeles, in fact, it would be logical to assume law enforcement was biased against them.

No matter how much things have changed even with the euphoria felt by many Blacks, there are many hard realities that thirteen years after Simpson’s arrest have not been resolved. White America will never accept that there are some aspects of being a minority that will always be beyond their grasp to understand.

The O.J. Simpson trial, rightly or wrongly, was a message to the ruling class. Injustice is alive and well in the nation’s second largest city. Sadly, one injustice, acquitting Simpson of double murder, stood as a statement against other injustice. A murderous monster, an absolute narcissist and sociopath was set free. Simpson was given a chance to prove himself a worthy citizen given this unusual chance but his conduct since then has proven his true inner nature living hedonistic, self-indulgent behavior ever since having many embarrassing episodes which further demonstrated his demonic character.

So finally, Simpson will do hard time and the world is a better place for it. What goes around comes around. Still, as much as this writer delights in seeing Simpson “get his,” how much of our joy in seeing Simpson finally face what he has escaped justice could be an exercise in our own schadenfreude?

75 Years Later: Prohibition, Then and Now

Seventy five years ago today, The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified repealing prohibition mandated by the Volstead Act and 18th Amendment. This noble experiment in social engineering caused far more harm than good ushering the golden days of organized crime where gangsters like Al Capone ran their campaigns of terror running their illegal alcohol market while literally blowing away their competition.

Are there lessons from history to be learned here?

You bet there are. There is no question about the war on drugs is a miserable failure. Every night in some cities in America, young men will be shot dead in gang warfare largely fueled by the illegal drug market. While law enforcement spends millions to attempt to eradicate unsuccessfully the marijuana trade, lives are ruined and families destroyed by addiction to cocaine, heroin, as well as other illegal drugs not to mention the abuse of legally prescribed drugs.

For decades, misinformation has been the official policy on marijuana alleging it is a gateway drug that once a user starts there, it’s just a matter of time before one goes on to bigger and more dangerous drugs. Well, don’t all those who consume alcohol consume milk previously? Hmm, maybe we need to crack down on milk. Let’s be real, once one smokes marijuana one quickly realizes all the hoopla that marijuana isn’t that horrible after all. Thus, if reefer isn’t so bad, maybe the other drugs aren’t either. It’s the laws against marijuana and inability to discuss the situation rationally that leads to the use of more potent and dangerous drugs!

There is one argument that is somewhat valid, folks don’t usually consume alcohol to get drunk. Even the most casual pot use is in search of that pleasurable “buzz.” However, that “buzz” might be little more than the calming effect of a nice mug of beer or glass of wine.

The bottom line is hard drug addiction remains one of our most nagging domestic problems and nothing, absolutely nothing, in the last fifty years has had any influence on reducing the problem. Meanwhile, the drug violence is so intense, there are urban areas through out the country whether in Baltimore, Newark, Philadelphia, Detroit, Compton, Miami, or even the nation’s capitol where entire neighborhoods are absolutely lawless where residents not caught up in the drug business are prisoners within their own homes.

It is time to legalize marijuana. Legalize it and allow it to be sold commercially while the production costs are so low, the government can put a huge tax on the substance that will not only provide major funding for drug treatment programs but can also help contribute to the general revenue without imposing any regressive taxes that take money out of the economy. Furthermore, border agents will be able to devote their jobs to more effect pursuits, and all drug treatment and enforcement efforts can be devoted to those drugs that absolutely destroy lives.

This does not suggest that marijuana is safe. It isn’t. One consuming marijuana is consuming some of the same ingredients that are harmful in cigarette smoke such as tar and carbon monoxide. Marijuana smoking also can cause elevated blood pressure and chronic use causes severe lethargy and other behavioral problems. These cannot be ignored. Likewise, like alcohol, marijuana is an intoxicant that can impair judgment and motor function where folks engaged in jobs of public safety or using dangerous equipment must abstain and probably be subject to routine testing.

Much more is needed to be known about the effects of marijuana, but enough is known that it is not the kind of danger that justifies the harsh legal restrictions against it. Any college kid who wants to blow a joint knows where to get one. It’s not like there would be a huge surge in marijuana use. There are communities in this country where marijuana laws are essentially ingnored or altered to permit for "medical" use.

Let’s look back to the horrors of the 1920’s and learn the lessons of the past. It’s time to cut out the hypocrisy and denial and do the right thing.