Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 33: The Weather Pulls a Trick, Jimmie Johnson Gets the Treat

What more could Jimmie Johnson ask for other than to win the pole outright and have his contenders fail miserably?

Qualifying for tomorrow’s race celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Alabama superspeedway at Talladega was rained out so the starting field will be set by owners’ points putting three Hendricks cars and a Hendricks associate in the first four spots with Johnson, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart.

Clearly, any driver seeking to remain in the chase must make up substantial points over Jimmie Johnson to remain competitive with only Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead remaining. It’s almost to the point where nothing short of a major failure by the 48 team will open up the chase anew.

If the second round of practice is any indicator, the #48 team must be happy finishing with the 3rd fastest time with Jeff Gordon’s #24 team 6th fastest. Tony Stewart checked in at 12th while Mark Martin posted a 16th fastest time.

On other news, Lance McGrew will be Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief for the #88 team for 2010. In another more immediate crew move, Steve Addington is out while Kyle Busch’s Nationwide boss, Dave Rogers, is in to lead the #18 team. Hey, if Joe Gibbs could handle Dexter Manley in his wildest days, can he take care of the impetuous young NASCAR driver?

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Beatles Complete Remastered CD's: Timeless, Terrific, Tasty

Pictured above: The Mono collection and the Stereo collections
Okay, we’re a little late with this, but it took awhile to get The Beatles in Mono as the blog’s finance department assessed whether this investment was worth starvation before sending the requisition to procurement after a massive buying effort which led to the inventory of the entire catalog of stereo albums. The end result is Right Minded Fellow is not as financially solvent with another investment of the 40th Anniversary boxed set of the Rolling Stones, Get Yer Ya-Yas Out right around the corner, but these great albums are the pillars of our modern culture, right? In that spirit, there are no CD’s of the Dave Clark Five available, so we downloaded a comprehensive two disc collection from iTunes. While a few songs were great to hear again like “Glad all Over,” the DC5 is probably best left back in the 60’s unlike some of their peers like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Who, and we’d even suggest some of the Kinks.

This is no small deal, we’re talking about the complete works of the Beatles, every official song from all their albums as they were originally released in Great Britain. No complete works covers so much musical territory in so little space so beautifully. Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and the Rolling Stones might have released many more albums, but what the Beatles accomplished in just less than eight years releasing 13 albums (with a 14th album, a compilation of singles and other tunes not on original albums) showing such remarkable growth from their first single, “Love Me Do,” through the album Revolver where they finally came of age with several remarkable albums to follow, stands on its own as the single most spectacular accomplishment in popular music history. Other artists may have issued albums that stand up to the best Beatles’ albums, but nobody’s collective works hold up nearly as well.

For those still oriented to how the Beatles music was released on record, there was a huge difference between how the Fab Four’s work was presented in Great Britain and Europe and the New World up through the release of Revolver in 1966. Listeners who purchased the original 1988 CD releases finally heard the Beatles albums sequenced as the lads intended. The British albums generally had 14 songs, where the American albums had 11 songs. The British albums seldom had songs released as singles, where singles were included, usually with “B” sides too on the American albums. Thus the American albums worked out to roughly three albums for every two albums released in Great Britain, but the issues don’t stop there. Different masters for the American audience were prepared pumped up with reverb and more exaggerated equalization. Also, Capitol records did not see the Beatles marketable when the Beatles were first striking it rich in England so they passed on the first album and a few original singles which were mostly released on a rinky-dink label, Vee-Jay which was home to the Four Seasons. “She Loves You” was relegated to a small Philadelphia label, Swan! The American albums often had different titles. A Hard Days’ Night and Help! were released as movie soundtracks in the USA complete with incidental instrumental music from the films. Those accustomed to the American version of Rubber Soul were listening to two songs from the British release of Help! and only ten of the fourteen songs on the British release. Revolver was cut by three songs released on “Yesterday” and Today, “I’m Only Sleeping,” “And Your Birds Can Sing” and “Doctor Robert” all of which were only presented in fake stereo. The result was the American Revolver might give listeners the impression that John Lennon was checking out of the band left with only two of his performances with three songs by George, one sung by Ringo, and the rest by Paul.

Only the most dedicated Beatles fans were aware of the difference between American and British albums until 1988 when one standard, the British albums were adopted for the whole world. Hard core fans could find the British albums at specialty collector’s and audiophile record stores not the department stores, K-mart and shopping center stores where most fans got their records. Even so, when most fans were aware of the difference, the world had already standardized on stereo recordings, so the significance of the most recent CD release takes on even more meaning.

Now, let’s address the stereo/mono debate. Few listeners are probably old enough to remember their mono records, if they had any of the Beatles. These would be for folks who purchased the Beatles at the time of their records release from the beginning through Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but what we’re used to are the American alternatives which were mostly accounted for in the two sets of The Capitol Albums presenting the first eight albums as they were released in America with both stereo and mono recordings for each album.

Great Britain was slower to adopt stereo as a standard. Though some pressings of Magical Mystery Tour were issued stateside, the album was almost exclusively available in stereo. In Great Britain, only Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, and Let it Be were released exclusively in stereo.

The “purist” will argue that the mono recordings are the “official” release of the Beatles catalog. When their albums were first released, there was no FM stereo radio. Most listeners got their Beatles on little transistor radios or on booming 6x9” dashboard speakers in their parents’ cars. Listeners did not have stereos or systems, but instead mostly listened to record players. What little stereo listening there was would be on mom and dad’s console stereos more noted for their furniture than sound on which stereo or mono albums made little difference anyway.

As such, the Beatles attended to the entire recording process only for their mono recordings. Stereo albums were created for essentially audio snobs in Great Britain, but had a little more interest on the US versions. The stereo recordings in the UK were usually supervised by producer George Martin with the Abbey Road engineering staff weeks or even months after the original mono albums were finished with no input from the band. American albums were finalized by Capitol records who’d even create ghastly fake stereo versions of songs only released in mono on singles Great Britain the worst of which are “She’s a Woman” and “I Feel Fine” on Beatles 65.

For the American audience, Magical Mystery Tour, aside from the singles on side two, The Beatles (The “White” Album), and some songs on disc two of The Mono Masters including the Yellow Submarine tunes, the current releases are their first taste of this material in mono. Some material, most notably, “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Helter Skelter” are far different mixes than what folks would have heard on The “White” Album.

The difference between mono and stereo is at times dramatic. For their first two albums and Rubber Soul where the stereo recordings consisted of all the vocals pushed to the right channel and most of the instruments pushed to the left channel a rather jarring effect, the mono recordings sound much more natural. Through out the recordings, there are little elements left in or left out from one version to the other, but the real irony comes with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band thought to be the most advanced experimental album of its time. One would think it would also boast the best state-of-the-art stereo technology available in 1967.

Not so. First, though the Abbey Road recording equipment was superb at delivering clear beautiful sound, it was not set up to accomplish much studio mastery. The Beatles were working with only four tracks where many US studios were running eight tracks by then with sixteen tracks right around the corner. As such, the engineers under George Martin’s supervision had to improvise techniques so the Beatles could pile up layers of sound creating the album. As such, figuring out a scheme of how to locate voices and instruments in the stereo listening field was arbitrary at best. For a fully realized artistic endeavor, the mono recording of Sgt. Pepper is the presentation of record. To fully appreciate the full creative intent of the Beatles, it is the recording to enjoy. For those who listen on headphones and don’t like music coming from the middle of their heads or simply just can’t adjust to mono as being so primitive, it would be hard to give up the stereo recording, however stereo listeners miss out on some things.

First, the annoying movement from speaker to speaker for the lead vocals on the title track is eliminated. “With a Little Help from My Friends” has vocals pushed to one channel. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” has a much more ethereal spacey sound in mono where the phasing techniques and other studio tricks work much more effectively. “She’s Leaving Home” is a little faster making the song far prettier and less laborious and dragging as it is in stereo. The laughter at the end of “Within You, Without You” is longer and louder. Listen to the animals in “Good Morning, Good Morning.” They’re much more pronounced. “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (Reprise)” has more crowd noise at the beginning and Paul McCartney’s vocal rant at the end can be clearly heard in mono where there’s such the faint sound of Paul doing something at the end of the stereo version. Only “A Day in the Life” which concludes the album is perhaps better in stereo which is able to fully articulate the orchestral effects and captures the full drama of the song.

Fans will debate the comparative merits of A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles for Sale, Help!, and Revolver. Any differences noted by purists will go in favor of the mono recordings since they’ll argue, “that’s what the Beatles intended.” For the casual listener, opening up the sound and presenting it in stereo might be a more pleasant experience, but that’s debatable. The mono recordings are so well done, have plenty of dynamic range, and don’t suffer from the technological compromises of the limited Abbey Road technology available at the time could still be the best listen.

By the time of The “White” Album, the ability to record quality stereo had been mastered and American listeners would be familiar with the stereo version exclusively thus the differences become more of a curiosity than an essential.

Forget about the debates about don’t the original albums really sound better and more authentic. Here’s the catch, if the listener is lucky enough to have British records in almost mint condition and can listen to them on a high quality stereo system, then the sound quality is almost pristine. However, the quality of Capitol records recordings in the 1960’s was downright terrible at times loaded with surface noise, ticks and pops, and overall crappy resolution. The 1988 CD’s were among the best of first generation CD’s, but they were just that, 1st generation CD’s. As such, regardless of what recordings the listener chooses from the recent remaster release, the results are most satisfying.

Here’s the bad news. If the Beatles fan wants to buy single albums not wanting the entire Beatles inventory, the only choice is stereo albums. This will be the first release of their first four albums in stereo on CD since Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, and Beatles for Sale were released in mono in 1988. Boxed set versions of the stereo albums are available containing the same packaging as the individual albums with the bonus of a DVD which includes the short video introductions included with each album assembled together – no big show stopper to be sure. The Mono box is very expensive listing at $299 but retailed more often down around $230. Each album is presented in a miniature facsimile of the original record sleeve right down to the dust sleeves inside the covers and enclosed in plastic protective covers. A nice booklet explaining the Beatles recording process with some great photos is also included. An additional bonus is that both Help! and Rubber Soul include both the mono recordings and the original stereo recordings. In 1988, those albums were re-engineered as ADD recordings by George Martin to pump up the sound. Honestly, there’s nothing in the original stereo recordings that would be revelations to anyone other than the most obsessive Beatles’ purists. For listeners who’d want to opt for the mono version, to complete the Beatles library, they would also need to purchase Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, and Let it Be.

The stereo recordings have nice booklets with more liner notes mostly dedicated to the recording geeks on the making of the albums not the creative process. There is one serious complaint, the CD’s have nothing to fasten on and must be pulled from the sleeve allowing for finger prints on the discs and higher likelihood of scratching the disc surface. This is a major price to pay for more attractive packaging avoiding those horrible jewel cases.

The mono box was supposed to be only a 10,000 copy release. Advance sales far exceeded that so a second production run boosted up the inventory but EMI is mum on how long these sets will be available. There are no plans to release the mono albums individually. The thinking is any fan compulsive enough to care about the differences between the two would probably want the entire inventory anyway. They’re probably right about that for most listeners, but we’d argue Sgt. Pepper fans might relish the chance to get a Sgt. Pepper disc in mono.

The stereo box is also a limited release. The stereo albums are supposedly special releases with the video included. At some point, they’ll revert to just the song selections and there’s no word on what packaging will be included.

Our recommendation to Beatles fans is to spring for their favorite albums from the new releases if sound quality matters in the least. Likewise, if the old LP’s are long gone, the new discs give a nice feel of those album jackets of old. Listeners who never enjoyed the British format of the albums are strongly encouraged to check out A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Rubber Soul, and Revolver. While A Hard Day’s Night is still at the height of their early Beatlemania sound, there’s so much going on beneath the surface of these bright, joyful songs. George Harrison influenced many with his brilliant 12 string electric lead guitar work enough so that Roger McGuinn was inspired to learn the craft and establish the Byrds. Help! is so much more pleasant without having soundtrack gibberish interspersed plus the songs left to show up on Beatles VI, Rubber Soul, and “Yesterday” and Today make more sense on their original albums. While some argue the American album of Rubber Soul starting each side with songs from Help! “I’ve Just Seen a Face” for side one and “It’s Only Love” for side two and eliminating “Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “What Goes On,” and “If I Needed Someone” accidentally became the definitive recording since it flows together with a remarkable folk-rock feel, the British album is a more thorough affair and there’s no CD alternative to “Yesterday” and Today. Revolver absolutely sounds castrated with three John Lennon songs removed. In its full glory, it’s easy to understand why as time passes, it is increasingly being recognized at the Beatles finest album.

With the holidays around the corner, this would be a good time to inspect friends’ and family members’ CD collections and find some good Beatles additions for their library; however, if that special someone is a real Beatles maniac and worthy of a $300 Christmas present, allow them to discover the joys of the stereo CD’s. That’s all that will be on the shelves at most music stores anyway. Spring for The Beatles in Mono. It’s the real deal for the real serious Beatles fan.

We are abandoning our plans, at least for now, to summarize the merits album by album, start to finish of all fourteen Beatles albums. We’ve come to realize anybody who loves the Beatles already knows their music and those who haven’t discovered the joys of their music is not old enough to appreciate this blog anyway. We do believe that if it came to just one album, Revolver is a far better choice than Sgt. Pepper which can sound dated and gimmicky after 42 years. Just about all Beatles fans have their personal favorites with Sgt. Pepper, The “White” Album, Abbey Road, Revolver, and Rubber Soul usually topping the list. Honestly, no one can go wrong with any of their albums though their first two are far from the creative power they’d show later in their career. While Beatles for Sale is considered by many a bit of a disappointment, more or less a transitional album, as such it has not gotten as much attention over the years. Surprise, surprise, there’s still some really good stuff on it and might be a nice surprise for those who’d only know the songs if they remember Beatles 65 and Beatles VI.

Finally, the Beatles, Stones, and Who all have wonderful remasters of all their classic albums. There’s still much music from that golden age demanding some good technological TLC for today’s listeners many of us aged lovers of the music when it exploded upon the airwaves all those years ago.

MLB: World Series, 2009: Game 2

Who’s your daddy?!?

The New York Yankees drew even with a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in game two of the World Series. Yankees starter A.J. Burnett gave up the first and only run in the second inning off a Matt Stairs base hit. In a classic pitchers’ duel, Pedro Martinez gave up two earned runs in six innings but in a cause just good enough to lose as the Yankees brought in Mariano Rivera in the 8th inning to pitch a two inning save.

It’s on to Philadelphia Saturday night for Halloween where Andy Pettitte will take on Cole Hamel for game three.

It’s perhaps too soon to make anything of this, but Alex Rodriguez who was so brilliant with the bat in the playoffs is hitless so far in the World Series.

California: Don't Mess with the "Govern-nator"

Those pesky democrats can drive a hard-working governor to extremes. Take a look at the letter above and note the first letter of each line. Supposedly this is just a coincidence? Yeah, and the Brooklyn Bridge has been reassembled in Los Angeles.
Kudos to Arnold. Surely this message was long overdue as the state representative in question has been heckling the Governor for a long time!!!
Hey Arnold, how do you really feel?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bird Poop

Bird Poop

The Baltimore Orioles began a series of off season moves that absolutely must culminate in vastly better performance for the 2010 team that President Andy McPhail indicated will be judged on wins and losses as they attempt to become competitive after an embarrassing season that was headed for 100 losses were it not for a four game winning streak to close the year.

First, it’s official, Melvin Mora is gone. The club did not pick up his option making him a free agent. Mora, the longest serving Oriole who braved most of the losing seasons, played a distinguished roll at third base as one of the best hitters in the lineup.

Catcher Chad Moeller was also cut but surely the team hopes he’ll clear and be able to be tendered a minor league contract and return for spring training as he served as a fine backup for Matt Wieters after Greg Zaun was dealt to Tampa.

Jeff Datz, a 19 year veteran of the Cleveland Indians organization, will serve as the Orioles’ bench coach while the remainder of the coaching staff remains the same. Datz served as bench coach for the Indians past two managers, Eric Wedge and Charlie Manuel, currently managing the Phillies in the World Series, after serving in other coaching positions and in the Indians’ minor league system. Manager Dave Trembley indicated that Datz’s background as a catcher is important in helping develop Matt Wieters so that catching instructor Don Werner can return to full-time duty with the minor league catchers.

Some additional moves were made to clean up the 40 man roster with four players out righted to the Norfolk Tides, Jeff Fiorentino, Chris Lambert, Guillermo Rodriguez, and Jim Miller.

More difficult decisions will be forthcoming when the team must decide which players will be offered arbitration.

NFL Week 9: Not the Quiet Week It's Supposed to Be

NFL Week 8

The NFL takes a step back the week it is up against the beginning of the World Series, and that would be the scenario for week 8 for 2008 as Sunday night will feature game 4 in Philadelphia, but despite the high profile teams competing in the Fall Classic, the 8th week of the NFL season will not go away quietly.

How’s this for irony? The Yankees will be in Philadelphia to battle the Phillies Sunday night, but across the parking lot at 1:00, the New York Giants will play the Philadelphia Eagles in a battle for first place in the NFC East. The two Philadelphia sports venues share the same parking lots. Might there be some crazy tailgating and drunken fights between the Philadelphia boys defending their turf against guests from New York? Bring on the brotherly love baby!!!

Guess whose coming to dinner at Lambeau Field Sunday? Brett Favre, the prodigal son returns. Anybody wonder what the atmosphere will be like at Brett Favre’s steakhouse blocks away from the stadium?

Speaking of good timing, how fortunate are the Washington Redskins to enjoy the week off after their total meltdown last week? The Skins have lost all dignity as the 2009 season has played out. Jim Zorn tenuously holds on to his coaching position, and given the way upper management clipped his authority taking away his play calling, what is the sense of him hanging on? While Washington might not be able to hire his permanent successor during mid-season, the current situation puts both ownership and the coach in positions of ridicule. The entire Washington organization needs a full housecleaning top to bottom from team President to the coaching staff. They need an architect who can build a new team and turnover the roster. The Danny Snyder years have been an embarrassment for an organization that was the finest example of class and success during the first Joe Gibbs era. That Joe Gibbs had such limited success during his second tenure indicates how fractured the Redskins organization had become.

New England enjoys the bye week as a chance to enjoy their souvenirs from their visit to London last week while Tampa Bay fans likely hope some of their players got lost as excessive baggage on the flight home. Ravens’ fans should note that Cincinnati is enjoying their week off and will be well rested to face them on the banks of the Ohio River the following week making this must win match up even tougher for the Ravens. Upstream, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the week off, so do the Kansas City Chiefs who many would suggest have been off all season.

With six teams sitting out, let’s look at the games that start November.

Denver at Baltimore (-3 ½)
Believe it or not, the 3-3 Ravens are favored against the undefeated Broncos who have already beaten New England and Cincinnati, both teams have beaten the Ravens. They’ve also beaten Dallas and San Diego. Both teams are rested from the bye, but the Broncos look exceptionally healthy. We will count on the hostile environment in Baltimore and hopefully a recharged defense to bring home the win.

San Francisco at Indianapolis (-12)
San Francisco will be taking notes on how to fight a major powerhouse as the Colts will obliterate them in this showdown.

Miami at New York Jets (-3 ½)
Pity the Jets. They’ve played so well this year, but with the Yankees in the World Series and the Giants playing Philadelphia too, this game will be in the backseat even though they should play an exciting game against their division rival from Florida. The Jets should win.

Minnesota at Green Bay (-3)
Minnesota showed they can lose and let a commanding lead get away the week before against Baltimore only to squeeze out the win perhaps only on a Ravens’ missed field goal. While Green Bay gets the one field goal nod for home field advantage, we believe the Vikings have more ways to beat their opposition than Green Bay. All eyes will be on Brett Favre returning to the team that shunned him in soap opera fashion in the summer of 2008. Favre will be out to prove them wrong while the Packers will be trying to show, “We didn’t need you, chump.”

Houston (-3 ½) at Buffalo
Buffalo has been showing some life in recent games but still isn’t a team to start picking to beat much of anybody just yet.

Cleveland at Chicago (13 ½)
Chicago needs to gather forces and play a solid game after their embarrassing loss to the Bengals last week. Cleveland should provide them that chance. The fans will be jumping for joy and everybody will be happy in Chicago as they pound the Browns into the turf. Lots of love from the fans and a solid win will help make the horrible game last week fade into history.

St. Louis at Detroit (-4)
Motown will accomplish another milestone this week, their second win. Detroit is further along rebuilding than the pitiful Rams who have much to put together before they hop out of the cellar.

Seattle at Dallas (-9 ½)
This will be the kind of game Jerry Jones expected when Jerryland opened this fall, a packed stadium with joyful cheering fans watching “them Cowboys” kick ass.

Oakland at San Diego (-17)
San Diego will slaughter the Raiders. The big challenge for the Raiders is to avoid more negative press and more football analysts establishing Jamarcus Russell is not a NFL caliber quarterback. There are some awful teams this year, but there’s something about the Raiders and Redskins that look particularly ugly in their misery.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-3)
The odds makers are picking the winless Titans to beat the 3-3 Jaguars. Vince Young will start at quarterback for Tennessee. Perhaps the thinking is the Titans are just too good to remain winless this long. You know Jack Del Rio will attempt to use that as motivator for the big cats. With Georgia playing Florida in Jacksonville this weekend, how many northeast Floridians will even know this game is being played. Another loss will send Nashville into a mad frenzy.

Carolina at Arizona (-9)
Here’s a fascinating 2008 playoffs rematch where the Carolina Panthers difficulties suddenly became so visible. They’ll get scorched in the desert for sure.

New York Giants at Philadelphia (pick)
No odds on this game, wow. We’ll give the Giants a slight edge. They have less self-destruct in them that the Eagles.

Atlanta at New Orleans (-10)
Atlanta is an up and coming team for sure but reality is a little tougher this year after their breakthrough season last year. Meanwhile, New Orleans has arrived in 2009 and by now must be considered one of the NFC’s top teams. It would seem only injuries and over confidence could do in the Saints now.

MLB: World Series, 2009: Game 1

Game one was all about Cliff Lee's brilliant pitching. Pitch after pitch, batter after batter, his command was dead on keeping the powerful Yankee attack speechless. Only one ball was hit soundly to the outfield. Were it not for some sloppy fielding, Lee would have earned the complete game shutout. The secondary story is the Yankees middle relief letting the game get away. Phil Hughes was a valuable "bridge" pitcher who has not pitched well in post season.
Tonight puts Pedro Martinez for Philadelphia verus A.J. Burnett for the Yankees. Pedro has a reputation in New York after the infamous brawl when he was pitching for Boston in the Championship series and threw aged coach Don Zimmer to the ground in a classic meltdown. Back then, getting to Pedro with the bats was miraculous. He's not that pitcher any longer waiting on the sidelines until Philadelphia signed him mid-season. How much does the old veteran have left in him and can he rise to the big game situation? Meanwhile, A.J. Burnett is superb when he's on but is a player who struggles with inconsistency. He must be on top of his throwing tonight or the Yankees will face the daunting task of realistically needing to sweep their games in Philadelphia to win the series. Tonight's game has a higher sense of urgency for the Yankees.

NCAA '09 Football: Week 9

Hmm, do we include Georgia in our picks because they have such a cool looking cartoon logo?

Seeing nationally ranked teams go head-to-head and watching traditional rivals fight it out are the games each weekend that make college football worth watching and this week gives fans both. Meanwhile, for ACC fans, two teams that fell out of the top ten will be fighting for respectability and ranking positions as they contend against conference rivals they must beat.

Critics have been harsh on the ACC as not capable of putting a team in the National Championship fight, and while that may be true on the champion, it’s no patsy conference as some games played against other conferences has shown. Some of the weaker teams are quite capable of major upsets. From this writer’s perspective, what stands out the most is just how horrible Maryland and North Carolina have turned out to be. Maryland should be a minor bowl contender while North Carolina was supposed to be a top 25 team. Both have been embarrassing. Even though this column has a mid-Atlantic flavor to it, Maryland games are seldom worth following as one of our college picks. Each week they face games that are easy to write off.

Let’s look at this week’s games and see who should be celebrating Saturday night.

North Carolina at Virginia Tech #14 (-16 ½)
Virginia Tech should win handily. They must cover the spread and look good to move up the national rankings.

Miami #18 (-7) at Wake Forest
Same comments as above for Miami. Wake Forest is a stronger opponent than Virginia Tech faces.

Georgia at Florida #1 (-15 ½)
Traditionally billed as the world’s largest cocktail party held on neutral field in Jacksonville, here’s one of the nation’s great traditional rivalries playing red hot after some of the theatrics of their last two meetings. Whoa daddy, here are two teams that hate each other and it will show this weekend. Georgia is well motivated to put on a good show to have some bragging points for this season. While Florida dominates the match-ups, will win, and will not budge in their national rankings, Georgia can put a real scare into the Gators. We’ll pick Georgia to beat the spread and predict some fights between plays.

Michigan at Illinois (-7)
Here are two decent teams looking for respectability. Michigan needs to win the rest of its games so it has a chance to finish the year in the national rankings after they get pummeled by Ohio State in their final game.

South Carolina (#21) at Tennessee
Here’s the matchup between two brash, ego-maniac coaches, almost the sorcerer and the apprentice with Steve Spurrier at South Carolina and Lane Kiffin, the brash rookie, at Tennessee whose bark makes ESPN highlights all too regularly. Unfortunately, for Kiffin, his experience so far gives him nothing to show for his bragging, and that experience consists of…..? He shouldn’t believe his tenure as a big NFL coach with the Oakland Raiders means anything in the SEC. Consider Butch Davis at UNC. He’s not a braggart, but what has his experience leading the Cleveland Browns done for the Tar Heels fortunes? South Carolina wins this one and Steve Spurrier will be “yip-yip, yap-yap” about the outcome.

Texas #3 (-9 ½) at Oklahoma State (#13)
Here’s a battle down in oil well country between two nationally ranked teams with lofty aspirations. An Oklahoma State upset puts them in great shape to demand more attention. Texas has a chip on its shoulder believing it is just as entitled to be ranked #1 as Florida. Texas is the tougher team and will win.

USC #4 (-3 ½) at Oregon #10
USC is fighting for a national championship bid and must win this game or their hopes are done. Further, they should win convincingly to enhance their chances so another team doesn’t move ahead of them in the rankings. They will win, but how convincing they will be remains to be seen. They can beat the spread but by how much?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

So You Think You've Got It Bad....

It could only be worse in Cleveland....

Pity the Cleveland sports fan watching Cliff Lee face off against C.C. Sabathia in the first game of the World Series. Weren't they the top of the Cleveland Indians' rotation starting the season last year?

The Cleveland Browns...well fans in Oakland and Washington, DC might know how you feel for having football teams that haven't a clue how to field a respectable team. Yes, Kansas City and St. Louis might have worse records, but they're "rebuilding."

So what does Cleveland have to show for its suffering? Bring in Eric Magini (aka Man-Genius) as head coach and who wasn't pissed off at him by the end of the last preseason game?

The NBA season is just getting under way. Can a city put its collective sports spirit on the backs of its basketball team with Lebrun James?

The World Series Starts Tonight

Weather at game time, 50^ and cloudy.
The Yankees host the Philadelphia Phillies to start the 2009 World Series promising two of the most exciting teams coming face to face that baseball has had to offer. For those who were hoping for an all Los Angeles World Series, get over it! If you wanted to see Joe Torre get a shot of redemption against the Yankees, the team that let him drift away after all he had accomplished for them, forget about it! You got the two big bad north east cities with the big attitudes to match. You got a problem with that?

Hey, if you can’t appreciate a Philly cheese steak or a New York strip steak, there’s something wrong with yah! It’s that kind of series, big, beefy, and full of attitude.

Look no further than the starters for game one, just two seasons ago, they were buddies on the Cleveland Indians. CC Sabathia starts for the Bronx Bombers while Cliff Lee takes the mound for the Phils. They represent the team with the most World Series appearances and victories against the team that’s the defending champ from 2008. New York and Philadelphia were major cities before Felipe de Neve first put LA-LA land on the map.

Who’s on first? Try Mark Texeira for the Yankees or Ryan Howard for the Phillies. They had 84 homers combined during the regular season, Texeira 39 and Howard 45. At second, the Yanks field Robinson Cano versus Chase Utley for the Phils. These guys are stable, dependable double trouble.

The Yankees start Derek Jeter at shortstop. His accomplishments in post season are legendary. Surely, the Phillies can’t offer much except their shortstop is Jimmy Rollins who hit 43 doubles and 21 homers with 31 stolen bases en route to scoring 100 runs.

At third base, doesn’t it seem weird that this will be Alex Rodriguez’s first World Series? For a fellow who has been snake-bitten in past post season appearances with the Yankees, he’s sure turned that around in 2009. Pedro Felix might find his work cut out for him to measure up to the well-known Yanks star.

The Yankees staff the outfield with Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher, all better than average hitters though Swisher has struggled so far in this post season and Damon struggles in the field. The Phillies counter with Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth. Victorino’s the Phils second best hitter for average with above average speed allowing him to stretch out 39 doubles with 25 stolen bases. Werth hits for power with 36 homers while Ibanez hit 34. If the Phils have a clear edge on offense, it’s from their outfield.

Behind the plate, the Yankees deploy Jorge Posada, their regular catcher since 1998 returning to career form after missing much of 2008 with injuries. Carlos Ruiz is a dependable stopper for Philadelphia.

Games played in the Bronx will feature DH’s with Hideki Matsui, still a major power threat ready to hit. The Phillies have a fine bench of hitters ready to add a 9th hitter to the lineup. Ben Francisco will be the likely Philadelphia DH unless he starts in left field and Raul Ibanez serves as a batter only.

A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte are likely game two and three starters for New York with Pedro Martinez, perhaps looking for post-season redemption from his last encounter with the Yankees and Cole Hamels who has not lived up to his 2008 performance countering for Philadelphia.

The Yankees would appear to have the deeper and more versatile bench. The Yankees would also appear to have the superior bullpen though the Phillies pen has been very effective in the post season so far.

Sum it all up, this writer would rather have a steak dinner than a steak sandwich, so it looks like the New York Yankees should win the 2009 World Series. They won ten more regular season games than their National League counterparts in a tougher division. While Philadelphia did beat the Yankees 2-1 games in interleague play, the Yankees were still getting their 2009 act pulled together before becoming the beast of the east during the long stretch of the season.

One sad note for Philadelphia, last year the aged wonder, Jaime Moyer, at 46 years old played a major roll in their 2009 championship. He started 12-10 for the Phils this year before suffering a career ending groin injury. For all the aging population, who would not have loved to have seen Moyer possibly take on the Bronx Boys at age 47. No one will be surprised, though, if he reports ready to play for Spring Training in 2010.

Play ball, and see who might be Mr. November when the series is over.

Meet Alan Grayson: Noted as "An Outstanding Member of Congress" by Barack Obama

Cozy with Acorn who blitzed the district doing what ACORN does best to help his election, Alan Grayson foams at the mouth with anger. The congressman from Florida’s 8th congressional district reeks of bitterness and hostility and isn’t afraid to let the world know about it in the most unfiltered terms.

The first term congressman was given the opportunity to address the House on health care for a five minute presentation complete with poster boards prepared. Part of his presentation was his opinion of the Republican plan. He indicated as he displayed a placard saying the same:

“Republicans want you to die quickly"

"If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly," he said.

See for yourself as YouTube clips of this are readily available.\

Grayson later had more outrageous comments on the health care issue: "I call upon all of us to do our jobs for the sake of America, for the sake of those dying people and their families. I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America."

Speaking to the MSNBC audience for Ed Schultz’s program, Grayson cranked up the heat on Republicans and an organization he sees as their closest allies suggesting, "Fox News and their Republican collaborators are the enemy of America," and went on to opine, "People come on the air, they insult them as they did me. ... Why would anybody think that Fox News is some sort of valid news organization?"
More recently, the dishonorable congressman turned his attention to the economy speaking of Ben Bernanke aid, Linda Robertson, a Federal Reserve advisor, "This lobbyist, this K street whore, is trying to teach me about economics.” Obama praised 10/27 “Outstanding member of congress.”

So who is this tight-fisted rube of a first term congressman representing Florida citizens in the Orlando area in parts of Marion, Lake, and Orange counties?

Like many Floridians, he’s a snowbird born in the Bronx, NY. Surely, an Ivy Leaguer would be noted for high standards of civility and high browed rhetoric? Some how that distinction eludes Grayson who graduated summa cum laude from Harvard where he later received his law degree. He served as a law clerk and served as an associate for a Washington DC law firm before going into business as the first President of IDT Corporation, a diversified telecommunications company ranking Grayson as the 12th wealthiest member of Congress. Losing in his first bid for congress in 2006, he succeeded in 2008 and serves on the Committee on Financial Services, chaired by Barney Frank and the Committee on Science and Technology.

Prior to joining Congress, Grayson became well known as a fanatic critic of the Iraq War taking on a one man crusade against contractors perceived as unfairly profiting from the war. His car was bedecked with bumper stickers against the war including the infamous, “Bush lied: People Died” placard.

It’s little wonder Alan Grayson is highly touted by radical groups who appreciate his hot-tempered confrontational style drawing tremendous support from the Orlando chapter of Code Pink, a group that routinely attacks some of the nation’s most liberal figures for not going far enough. Apparently Grayson goes far enough!!! His comments draw rave reviews from Daily KOS bloggers who note that he called “a whore a whore.”

Where does Alan Grayson stand on school campaigns to deal with bullyism? Hmm....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CNN Falls to Rock Bottom in Cable News Ratings

CNN: Cable’s First News Network Falls to Last Place

Times change. CNN was a revolution when it first broadcast over cable on June 1, 1980. During the first Gulf War in 1991, they provided a glimpse of the conflict in real time never before imagined in news coverage. They created the 24 hour news cycle. CNN also provided the template for many news programs still being recycled in many forms today. They gave us Crossfire, a debate program from opposite political perspectives. They expanded the news analysis program once only the domain of Sunday mornings. CNN created what amounted to a news network for the world.

So how is it that CNN is now dead last in a four network field in cable news? They trail Fox News, MSNBC, and even their own HN (Headline News).

First, especially in the case of Fox news, the other networks know how to connect with their audiences. While Fox is openly ridiculed by the White House and radical left as being a conservative mouthpiece, they attract viewers from all political perspectives by providing news programming in a variety of formats with personable anchors, on the scene reporting, then quick analysis usually finding perspectives on both sides of the issues. Their specialty programming would appear to tilt to the right with Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Their flagship program, the O’Reilly Factor, starring host, Bill O’Reilly does often deal with conservative issues but O’Reilly is a skillful journalist and showman who plays devil’s advocate to maximum benefit. On the Record with Greta VanSusterain, a former CNN legal anchor, hosts an interview driven program which also deals with legal issues hardly a conservative program.

MSNBC has sought to excel by being the “not Fox” network. Perceiving Fox as the right wing network, they’ve steered to the hard left providing a mouthpiece for the radical left, almost unfiltered, in their programming.

HN (Headline News) is the most curious competitor of CNN’s. They are a CNN spinoff originally designed to be constant news reportage highlighting the major stories in half hour programming blocks. Some cable channels would fill the second half hour with their own programming. It was supposed to be quick news all the time. CNN brass broke from that formula to drive up recognition and ratings adding personality-driven issues programming which included Glenn Beck kept under much tighter wraps than on his current Fox program. Crime stopper, Nancy Grace, is their most recognized prime time program examining hot crime cases and trials from the point of view of a feisty former prosecutor.

CNN still has Larry King at 9:00 pm, but many of their most recognized programs have either been dropped or have morphed into blandness. The network tries to position itself as the truly centrist voice in cable news while showing a clear liberal preference. Many of their recognized stars have either retired or moved on to other opportunities including many of their business correspondents moving to Fox of Fox Business network. Their prime time programming besides Larry King and CNN long-timer, Lou Dobbs, includes a general news program allowing time for discussion and perspective on the issues with anchor Campbell Brown, formerly a rising star at NBC. Brown is professional, smart, but bland. Their other key program is Anderson Cooper’s. Cooper is their glamour boy, a fellow of the most elite pedigree, Gloria Vanderbilt’s son. His program is designed to be a fast paced personality driven news program allowing Cooper to do on the scene reporting as much as possible. Though the program spans two hours, the second hour generally repeats the first. The format appears patterned after Shepherd Smith’s program on Fox at 7:00 pm, The Fox Report; however, much attention seems to be on the perceived charisma of host, Cooper.

Dobbs has become increasingly alienating to the CNN audience. Once providing a nightly financial program, Dobbs has attempted to be something of a Bill O’Reilly. His views on immigration and other issues have done more to turn off viewers to him than ginning up controversy that attracts viewers.

While CNN fell behind Fox News earlier in the decade, they maintained a strong voice based on their familiarity and reputation. Today, they are rock bottom. Their fall could be blamed on the strength of their competition but calling MSNBC strong is a long reach. CNN is truly a superior product to MSNBC. However, what MSNBC has accomplished that CNN has lost is the ability to define their audience and reel them in.

CNN quite simply has lost its vision as a news operation. Clearly, Ted Turner and the principles he brought together to launch the network had a clear mission defining CNN as a pioneer in the rising cable television industry. With Bernard Shaw, an African American, experienced network reporter, became their first major anchor giving them instant credibility. Turner’s idealism, while politically far-left, helped create the energy and enthusiasm that kept CNN on the move.

As Turner’s roll declined and his network merged with Time-Warner, the network became simply another Time-Warner product with entertainment industry big shots trying to manage a highly specialized, complicated product. Quickly, CNN lost its image and audience. Their commitment to quality vanished. There’s no getting around CNN just is not a quality product any longer.

Can three or four cable news operations co-exist and succeed?

Probably, but it won’t be easy. For CNN to rise up again, first they need to commit to quality in every thing they do. CNN needs a clear mission statement that defines, “This is who we are.” Beyond that before they can address anything else, they must do an excellent job reporting the news honestly, thoroughly, and objectively. With those factors as the foundation, they have to do something the other stations aren’t doing and must have appealing personalities who attract viewers. Defining themselves on the left/right, liberal/conservative continuum will not help. Fox and MSNBC have already done that. Could they have a shows hosted by conservative or liberal hosts, certainly, but they can’t simply come up with their versions of what someone else has already tried. What are some areas they could explore that the other networks haven’t? We really don’t need a third network on political and economic issues dominating the discussion unless there are some fresh unexplored possibilities. Some ideas to consider, though not sufficient to create prime time programs are: technology, medicine, the environment, education, and international news – a Ted Turner favorite. They can explore demographics not currently watching the other networks.

Advertising dollars are tight and viewers impatient. These are tough times for CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. On their present course, they will continue to become increasingly irrelevant. MSNBC could self-destruct, but there is a core audience they serve that would endanger CNN tremendously if they tried to capture by outflanking their rival. Short of signing Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin for prime time, they don’t have a chance against Fox on the other side. They must forge their own direction. The world of news and information is ripe with possibilities. How will CNN size up their position and will the Time-Warner empire give them the resources to put their house in order?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 32: Oh By The Way...

Oh by the way, Denny Hamlin gained two positions in the Chase winning at Martinsville. Hamlin, a Virginia native takes home the victory for his home state. "A win is a win is a win," folks like to say. However, this is championship season and all eyes are on the top of the standings where an arch rival from California gathers all the attention. Hamlin resides 352 points behind the leader.

The 2009 World Series: The Bronx Cheer versus the Fans Who Booed Santa Claus

Two teams separated by 100 miles and New Jersey, the Philadelphia Phillies play the New York Yankees for the 2009 World Series, the 105th playing of the great fall classic. This will be the New York Yankees 40th appearance in the World Series while the Phillies, last year’s champs, return for their 7th attempt. The American League has won 61 of the 104 series so far with the Yankees accounting for 26 of those wins, one out of four World Series! Their closest rival is the St. Louis Cardinals with 17 appearances and 10 wins. The Dodgers have 18 appearances but only six wins. It’s pretty nasty on the other side. Eight teams have never won a World Series and three have never made the trip at all.

The 2009 World Series should be an exciting event with two teams having relentless offensive power and tough starting pitching. We’ll highlight how the two teams compare later, but at first blush, the Yankees would appear to have a decided advantage even though the Phils beat the Yanks 2-1 in Interleague play earlier this year.

Look for the standout player to get the nickname “Mr. November!”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The United Nations at Work -- You Got to be Kidding!!!

While human rights are routinely violated around the world at the hands of ruthless dictators and Islamic regimes whose Sharia justifies the gross oppression of women and even defends honor killings, millions die of disease in Africa, hunger and starvation kill children in Asia and Africa, and human rights abuse is just a part of life in countries like communist China, the United Nations seeks to investigate housing conditions in NEW YORK CITY!!!

Remember our taxes finance this nonsense.


Demonizing Health Insurance Industry: Another Big Lie

Barack Obama is a serial liar. In the same order of nonsense that doctors perform unnecessary tonsil operations on children with soar throats and amputate the legs of diabetics whose legs are all right so they can make more money, Obama and his followers are likewise saying the health insurance industry's profits are way out of line. Remember, this is a cult that believes profit is a dirty word. The truth is, the industry as a whole averages only slightly over a 2% profit margin. They rank 35th overall in terms of the most profitable industries.

HealthSpring is the most profitable health insurance companay at 5.4%. That's less than Tupperware!

While some practices of health insurance companies must be reformed, the notion that they are driving up health care costs is ridiculous. They are also more flexible and responsive dealing with changes in medicine than a bureaucracy run by the Federal Government.

As we look at the blame-game used to justify government seizure of the right to private health care, it's painfully obvious most of the arguments are false or grotesquely exaggerated.

Successful health care reform will identify the key issues which need to be fixed, study them, come up with the best solutions, and solve them one by one. A massive federally controlled program will not benefit the population at large and will hurt most of us in more ways than we can possibly imagine.

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 32: The Clock is Ticking for Two Contenders

Martinsville Aftermath
Though Jimmie Johnson did not win the race at Martinsville, by finishing second and ahead of all his Chase competitors, he did what he needed to do to move toward locking down the championship. Having finished second, Jeff Gordon in 5th, Mark Martin in 8th, and Tony Stewart in 10th, Johnson increased his margin over all three drivers gaining 15 points on Gordon, 28 points on Martin, and 41 points on Stewart, what is required of the contenders to make up serious ground is going to require near perfection and the only driver who has exhibited near perfection so far is Johnson. The only silver lining is that Talladega is one of Johnson’s toughest tracks, the site of his only DNF this year.

Here’s the competition for the championship:
1 – Jimmie Johnson
2 – Mark Martin (-118)
3 – Jeff Gordon (-150)
4 – Tony Stewart (-196)

With Stewart now more than a full race spread out of first, the karma in place would say only a Stewart victory and a Johnson last place DNF could put him back in the picture. With four races to go, Martin needs to make up about 30 points a race while Jeff Gordon would require 38 points. Those kinds of margins can only be achieved if these guys finish high in the top ten and Johnson finishes outside the top ten. Short of Johnson failing to consistently place in the top ten or a major catastrophe on his part, it’s a 4th consecutive title.

Talladega could be Martin’s and Gordon’s last stand. Once the field moves on to Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead, Johnson will be able to start sandbagging and racing to just avoid trouble, a strategy that is almost impossible at Talladega where just being a little out of line in one of the last big drafts can throw a driver back ten or more places. As the Sprint Cup drivers look ahead to next week, there’s one thought that all of them will consider, “the big one.”

The only driver who could be collected in a big one and still have his championship dreams alive would be Jimmie Johnson for at this stage, even a last place finish would put him still in strong contention for a championship. Jeff Gordon winning a race with Johnson finishing dead last could over take him in the standings. Mark Martin would have to win and Johnson finish in 32nd. If Mark Martin could average 5th and Johnson 15th for the rest of the year, Martin could win. Johnson would have to drop off at least another position for Gordon. This does not take into consideration laps led and it’s likely all three of these drivers would lead some laps in the remaining four races.

For Rick Hendrick, it’s looking like he could sweep the top three spots in this year’s chase and were Tony Stewart to hold on to fourth position, that’s essentially a Hendrick car too.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 32: The Chase for the Grandfather's Clock

Qualifying at Martinsburg gave some Chase for the Championship contenders the break they needed with some other drivers in need of some excitement doing well and Jimmie Johnson starting at 15th, a position generally too low to ascend to victory at Martnsville, but this is Jimmie Johnson and Martinsville is one of his most successful tracks.

The top 15 qualifiers are:
1- Ryan Newman *
2- Jeff Gordon *
3- Martin Truex
4- Mark Martin *
5- David Reutimann
6- Casey Mears
7- Joey Logano
8- Bobby Labonte
9- Reed Sorenson
10-Kevin Harvick
11-David Stremme
12-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
13-Tony Stewart *
14-David Ragan
15-Jimmie Johnson *

*indicates “Chase” driver.

Where the remainder of the “Chase” field qualified:

17-Denny Hamlin
20-Greg Biffle
21-Juan Montoya
24-Brian Vickers
26-Kasey Kahne
29-Carl Edwards
37-Kurt Busch

With Mark Martin 90 points behind Johnson, and Jeff Gordon, 135 points behind, such factors as choice of pit locations and the ability to get a jump on the field, these are advantages they must use to gain on Johnson as they must chop away at his lead each week if they are to remain contenders. We did not include Ryan Newman because at 288 points behind, he’s too far separated to be a genuine contender with just five more races and Tony Stewart is starting too close to Johnson to have a real advantage.

Each driver who still has a fighting chance in the chase must go for the win or finish comfortably in the top ten and hope racing karma takes care of Jimmie Johnson unless, of course, they find themselves battling Johnson for position where they have to do everything they can to gain an advantage while staying with in the rules. Yes, that means wrecking Johnson if they can get away with it. That’s what short track racing is all about so help me Dale Earnhardt Sr. Speaking of Earnhardt’s, it’s nice to see Junior starting 12th one of his best pole positions in some time and likewise other hard luck competitors Casey Mears, Bobby Labonte racing his last race for Hall of Fame and Kevin Harvick starting in the top 10.

Racing conditions should be ideal with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 60’s Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Their Music is Torture and They're not Happy

REM's Michael Stipe
Be honest. Should anyone take seriously
how this fellow would opine on any
political topic (or anything else for that matter)?
"We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice. To now learn that some of our friends' music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. It's anti-American, period."

xxxx-REM statement condemning pop music used to motivate detainees at Guantanamo Bay Detention

Reference article:
Whoa, cool!!! The Hollywood crowd, in this case pop musicians, has another cause to rally around and preach about in tones of overt self-righteousness eyes dripping with crocodile tears. They want the terrorist detention camp at Guantanamo Bay closed and have hair up they are angry as hell their music, Barney the dinosaur, and the Meow Mix cat have been used to help motivate terror suspects, some of the most dangerous and murderous thugs on earth, to cooperate. Look out, there’s another bleeding heart “cause” organization as a result “The National Campaign to Close Guantanamo.” Does this mean concerts, television specials, posters, buttons, web sites, FaceBook pages, and Twitter tweets are far behind?

Plug your ears and hold your nose.

The ironies in this are just too amusing to pass up. Most pop music is so darned awful it’s torture for most ordinary Americans despite massive air play and millions of units sold. There’s no accounting for taste and pop music has been in decline for years. Okay, this writer is 56 years old, but this is not a generational thing. It’s recognizing that the record companies, those great industrial Titans who take 9 year olds to court for multimillion dollar lawsuits for downloading a few tunes. Their business model for music is the same as McDonalds, product that is bland, consistent, and not very good for you.

Pop music airheads sound so silly when they talk politics. They are so naïve and ignorant yet they talk with such fervent faux sincerity. If what they were saying wasn’t intended to influence thousands or millions, it would be laughably dismissible.

Surely, they’ve pounded down gallons of Kool-Aid believing all the lies about “Gitmo” and the terrible things they contend our big bad government has done to those poor misunderstood terrorists. Oh, we just need to talk to them and swing “Kumbaya,” “Give Peace a Chance,” or “Puff the Magic Dragon” and we’ll all get along just fine.

While they have their Che Guevara posters and other such nonsense, what they fail to realize, if the totalitarians they defend were ever to take charge here, they’d be among the first to be shot as part of the inevitable cultural cleansing all dictatorships wage to indoctrinate society into being a bunch of mindless compliant zombies.

One has to wonder, as much as the pop music crowd tries to preach to the choir, how many people other than their most fawning groupies take any of their political garbage seriously and how many people have they ever persuaded to see things their way.

What a shame it is. For all the great things Bruce Springsteen has accomplished and his ability to work magic with his music, since he’s been on the political bandwagon, he’s rendered himself just another ignorant toad who is just as divorced from reality as the rest of that pack of music performing mutants.

Let’s send Ted Nugent with his crossbow down to “Gitmo” to entertain our servicemen and let him take target practice on any of the terrorists who don’t like it.

NFL 2009: Week 7 -- Vacation Time

Six teams take the week off while two others travel to jolly old England...
These are unhappy days for NFL fans on the shores of the Chesapeake as our beloved Ravens have the week off and no game for us this weekend to overcome that sore feeling of having lost three straight games any one of which were a play or two away from victories. Meanwhile, heading down I-95 closer to the Potomac, there’s no joy in Landover. Coach Jim Zorn twists in the breeze stripped of his play calling duties as mandated by upper management turning the duties over to Sherm Lewis. Players don’t know who is in charge. QB Jason Campbell looks hopelessly lost. Owner Danny Boy Snyder further outraged Washington fans going after in court season ticket holders who couldn’t afford to renew their seats because of the bad economy for what amounted to breach of contract. How’s that for warm, fuzzy public relations? Win or lose, the Ravens will not lose their integrity. Of course, that was once the hallmark of the Redskins organization back in the days of Joe Gibbs first reign as head coach before dastardly Dan arrived.

Week Seven is loaded heavily with byes perhaps anticipating post season baseball conflicts, but guess what? The World Series doesn’t begin until Wednesday, and unless somehow the Angels hold off the Yankees to a game seven, the playoffs will be over. We guarantee two things, Denver will remain undefeated and Tennessee will remain winless. Fans also will note a real curiosity, a new annual event on the schedule, NFL action in London, England. Our friends across the big pond will adopt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their home team playing host to the New England Patriots. By half time, who knows how high the Pats will run up the score considering what they did to the miserable Tennessee Titans, who one might think better than Tampa Bay, last week. So grab a warm beer, some fish and chips, and let’s look at the 2009 season’s 7th week English style.

Chicago at Cincinnati (-2)
Here are two teams that have generally played good defense this year and might have some folks seeing both teams improved. Cincinnati was on a roll having already beaten both Pittsburgh and Baltimore but did last week’s loss to Houston prove them over-achievers coming back to earth or did they just take the game too lightly?

We’re giving “Da Bears” a slight edge.

Green Bay (-7) at Cleveland
This one belongs to Green Bay all the way as the Cleveland Browns found something that could make teammates feel even sicklier than working with their head coach, the swine flu. How many players might be impacted by this on Sunday?

San Francisco at Houston (-3)
The 49’ers must win games like this to prove they are once again contenders in the NFC. Coach Mike Singletary has these guys fired up, but they’re still a work in progress with Michael Crabtree ready to come on board. Give them a slight edge over Houston.

San Diego (-4 ½) at Kansas City
San Diego just can’t take this game for granted. Kansas City has a ways to go before they can beat top tier teams unless they show up sleeping.

Minnesota at Pittsburgh (-4)
How good are the Vikings? This game will show a lot. Going on the road to Pittsburgh will test just how effectively Brett Favre has mastered his new offense. The Steelers are getting health and mean. They’ll win this game at home much to the chagrin of Ravens fans.

Indianapolis (-13) at St. Louis
Memo to Payton Manning and the boys… head west 250 miles. Smack down the Rams, turnaround and come home. Mission accomplished.

New England (14 ½) versus Tampa Bay at Wembley Stadium, London
What a sick exhibition this will be for the British fans who will be watching the game with the broadest point spread of all this week’s game. The fans in London get to see the NFL’s best showcase team of the last decade. It’s too bad they won’t see a competitive game.

Buffalo at Carolina (-7)
Carolina will hardly look like a team that lost its first four games as they should have no trouble carving up Buffalo burgers for the Charlotte faithful on Sunday. Call it a picnic in the park for the Panthers.

New York Jets (-6) at Oakland
Oakland might stink but if a foe doesn’t take them seriously, they can rise up and hurt you. Ask the Philadelphia Eagles. With the game in memory, the Jets would be well-advised to take this game seriously especially after not being psyched up for Buffalo. That failure against the Bills should register with them to make them ready to slap to snot out of Oakland.

Atlanta at Dallas (-4)
Yes Dallas is supposed to win. Yes they still get lip service for being a good team. Still, they’ve fallen flat so many times in recent times. Atlanta is well-motivated and coached. They will see this game as a great forum to show themselves for the up and coming team they are. One has to wonder how long the Wade Phillips/Tony Romo show will last.

New Orleans (-6 ½) at Miami
Can we say New Orleans is the hot team for 2009? They sure look like it given their impressive victories, some tallying up viciously high scores en route to their undefeated mark so far. All the wildcats that can be cut lose in Land Shark Stadium won’t be hungry enough to upset that momentum.

Arizona at New York Giants (-7)
The Arizona Cardinals just don’t look like the opportunistic team that got to last year’s Super Bowl. The Giants win this nationally televised game handily.

Philadelphia (-7) at Washington
How bad can it get for the Redskins? Since facing the Giants to open the season, the Skins have faced St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Kansas City. They beat St. Louis and Tampa Bay, but looked horrible doing so. Between these five teams, they share a total of four wins. Philadelphia will have four wins for the season when they smack down the Redskins for the Monday Night matchup. If there’s any energy left to rally the Redskins, this would be the time for character to triumph, but let’s be real. Who knows where the Skins will be a week from now besides 2-4 while the media performs their autopsy on another miserable game.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MLB 2009: Post Season -- Getting a Wee Bit Ahead of Ourselves

Okay, we admit it, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves, but it sure looks like the 2009 World Series will be an all northeastern affair, the New York Yankees versus the Philadelphia Phillies. Did that loss against the Angels get the Yankees fired up for game 4 or what?
We point out the the Yanks played the Phils in interleague play in late May and lost two out of three to the Phillies. None of the Yankees prominent starters figured in the decisions; however, Brad Lidge was the losing pitcher in the Phillies loss.
It's not good for west coast teams to meet in the World Series. 1989 the Oakland A's played the San Francisco Giants and it caused an earthquake. Let's hope it doesn't snow in Philadelphia or New York.

NCAA '09 Football: Week 8

NCAA Week 8

In the years we’ve predicted football, never have we had a worse week than what we posted with our picks versus the spread but managed to go 4-3 straight up. We got a little carried away on wishing for upsets as in picking South Florida to knock off Cincinnati. Picking Maryland is lethal but we’re good Marylanders even if Virginia is the other Chesapeake state. At least we had lots of company in Virginia Tech losing to Georgia Tech. Oh those pesky Yellow Jackets. Who wouldn’t have expected the Hokies to win?

Week 8 appears devoid of classic matchups and there’s not much to chose from with top 25 teams going against one another, but the top teams need to stay the course and keep winning because one loss (or one more for some very elite teams as in USC) and it’s over for top honors when the National Championship is the goal. While the picks might be too obvious, we’ve found seven games that should be fun to follow for a number of reasons.

Florida State at North Carolina (-2 ½)
Both teams were rated in the Top 25 at the start of the season, Florida State, 18th and North Carolina, 21st. While such rankings are not the makings of BCS contenders, they do indicate substantial respectability. North Carolina’s program has been mired in mediocrity for years until Coach Butch Davis came along. Since his arrival, the Tar Heels moved toward respectability growing each year. While marching through some non-conference games including an impressive squeaker over Connecticut, when North Carolina hit ACC competition, they hit the wall against Georgia Tech, their 4th game, losing 24-7 looking sloppier than the rainy weather in Atlanta. Next it was hosting Virginia, a team they should have handled with ease but their 16-3 loss made them look feeble and confused. Now after a breather against Georgia Sothern they host Florida State and somehow manage to be a slight favorite, 2 ½ points, largely a concession for home field advantage.

Florida State’s turmoil is a national not just an ACC story. Things are so bad that a Florida State director publicly stated it was time for coaching legend, Bobby Bowden, to retire and perhaps that time has come. Florida State was the dominant program going into the new millennium and things looked lined up for a team that has not lived up to its reputation recently to be back on the move for 2009; however, after a tightly contested battle in their traditional opener against Miami losing 38-34, the season has been a full-fledged disaster apart from an impressive 54-28 win against top 10, Brigham Young at their house. Nobody’s going to give them any credit for a 19-9 win against Jacksonville State. Their losses have been embarrassing beyond belief perhaps best noted by a 17-7 loss to South Florida, a game no one would expect them to lose. They were surely supposed to top Boston College but lost 28-21 in Boston, but then came Georgia Tech, a 49-44 loss at home last week. Tallahassee is not a happy place as their proud Seminole legacy is in disarray.

What a game these two hapless teams face Saturday. A victory for either team could be the boost needed to salvage respectability for the remaining season. Losing will wreak havoc for the vanquished. Florida State would probably face a 2-3 record, four straight against ACC teams assuming they’d beat NC State and Maryland but lose to Clemson, Wake Forest, and then go down miserably against Florida who could be Championship Bowl bound by then.

North Carolina could go 2-3 also assuming wins versus Duke and NC State, though Duke is not the Duke of old. Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College should thump them.

Picking a winner in this game is murder. Florida State has performed better against tougher competition than Carolina, so this pick has to go to the Seminoles.

South Florida at Pittsburgh #20 (-6 ½)
South Florida is a team ready for its next upset. They’re a team hell bent on establishing their place in the Big East and a state with the big guys, Florida, Miami, and Florida State. Pittsburgh was picked to be the top team in the Big East this year but so far Cincinnati has trashed those plans. Still, playing at home at Heinz Field, Pitt’s going to win this one.

Maryland at Duke (-5 ½)
Talk about no respect, Duke is favored over Maryland? Considering how many times the Terps have shown up exhibiting lackadaisical play, it’s little wonder. There’s talent on the team for sure, but they don’t play effectively as a team. One has to wonder when a team appoints a “head coach in waiting” how that affects the team. With James Franklin serving yet another year in that roll with no retirement date established for Ralph Friedgen, how does that affect a college team? Where does that put the other coordinators, perhaps some of whom might have coveted that position? How do players perform towards the team’s authority knowing they could be answering to Franklin in the future? They were good enough to beat Clemson but not good enough to win against Virginia with so many turnovers. Duke is thankful just to win a game, but this year’s a little more intense probably just enough for the Blue Devils to beat Maryland.

Penn State #13 (-4 ½) at Michigan
Since Penn State is a fairly recent addition to the Big Ten in 1993, Penn State and Michigan have yet to be established as big time rivalry despite the tremendous history of both programs. Nothing could make this season look on the right track better than Michigan beating the legendary Penn State in their “big house.” While both teams have historic rivalries against Ohio State, this year they’re both cursing Iowa who for the second year in a row upset Penn State and then created agony for Michigan. Penn State will win this game. They’re too deep, the organized, and too talented. Michigan would have to get off to a hot start and keep it going for four quarters to pull the upstart.

Wake Forest at Navy (-3)
Wake Forest is no longer an ACC doormat becoming a respectable program capable of tangling with the big guys. Navy has shown some of its best teams in years recently pulling upsets and fighting powerhouses to the bitter end in other games. Navy has the edge in this one in Annapolis. It’s hard not to root for Navy unless your team is their adversary.

TCU #8 (-2 ½) at Brigham Young #16
Here’s a proud game for the Mountain West Conference that gets them notice back east. This is the only matchup between two top 25 teams and it’s a good one. The TCU Horned Frogs fight for recognition in the BCS rankings but surely will get ripped for not having the strength of schedule other contenders do. Brigham Young has one more conference win but one loss to Florida State. The game will surely be a hard fought battle with TCU having the slight edge over Brigham Young. This would make a great upset pick, but we’ve been so bad at that this year, we’ll go with the favorite.

Boise State #6 (-25) at Hawaii
Just how good can life get for the team that plays on that funky looking blue phony turf when they play at home? Having gone undefeated so far and making it to number four in the first BCS rankings now they get a weekend in Hawaii where they are a massive favorite to beat Hawaii even if those Hawaiians do that demonic dance before their games. A 25 point spread is hard to maintain but they’re good enough to do so. If they miss the spread, well that drives Vegas crazy, and that’s a good thing. When they arrive back in Idaho, the folks in Boise will see some blearied-eyed fellows with great big smiles.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

NCAA '09 Football: Week 7 Aftermath: Bring on the Big Machine -- How Will It Handle the Upsets?

Purdue Boilermakers: The Little Engine That Could?

Well, picking straight up, we were 4-3 on our college picks but against the spread, the bookies that is, 1-6!!! But wasn’t Week 7 the week of the upset? Wasn’t it upsetting when we thought we picked an upset and blew it?

We made the bold prediction that Cincinnati might be getting a little full of itself and Big East rival, South Florida, would pull the rug out on them. Cincinnati won 23-17.

Oklahoma lost to Texas but only by three points the spread for the game. The big loss was Sam Bradford who sustained another shoulder injury which could mark the end of his playing career as we’ve not heard any buzz of his NFL potential.

The USC Trojans beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish but it was a much harder fought battle than predicted. USC did not cover the spread.

Virginia Tech, the ACC’s great hope for a national championship was #4 in the country but lost to Georgia Tech rated 19th, 23-28. Georgia Tech is a pesky team and holds the fort well in Atlanta. Surely the yipping about the ACC being a lesser conference not having a powerhouse team will be amplified thanks to this game.

Virginia beat Maryland, no surprise. They were favored by four. This is turning into one grotesque season for the Maryland Terps. Their out-of-conference games pull them down either further. Virginia stands atop the ACC Coastal Division at 2-0, but for now they have bragging rights over Georgia Tech, 4-1, state rival, Virginia Tech, 3-1, and Miami, 2-1.

South Carolina lost as expected to Alabama, but since they were supposed to lose by 17 points but beat the spread in a 20-6 final score, was Steve Spurrier “yipping like a wet Chihuahua on crystal meth” as we were predicting?

The final game we picked was Oklahoma State to handle Missouri. We figured Missouri got the wind knocked out of it a week earlier losing to Nebraska, a game, had they won, that would have given them the respectability and reputation that seems to be just ever so slightly out of reach. Forget about that for the rest of this year. They’re just average chumps now.

In other action, who would believe what Purdue accomplished beating Ohio State 26-18? You’d think this was Purdue, the quality poultry company administering to preparing chickens for retail on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, eh? (Shameless plug for a Maryland product, but Purdue chicken is the best!)

Florida just barely hung on to beat Arkansas. (Maryland chicken is better than Arkansas’s!) Could this close game throw a nut in the gears of the big BCS machine? We’ll see real soon.

Some other notes, looking at the ACC, Florida State is 0-3 and 2-4 overall, tied for last in Atlantic Division play. Does anybody think Bobby Bowden will be around next year? What a sad ending for a glorious career. North Carolina is 0-2 in the ACC Coastal Division. What happened to their rebuilding program?

In the Big East, Pittsburgh is 3-0, 6-1 overall. Could they be a well kept secret?

We’re keeping an eye on Iowa in the Big Ten. Not only did they embarrass Penn State at State College the Nittany Lions lair but they are 3-0 in their conference including a win against Michigan. They’re 7-0 overall. Hmm, what say you big old groaning and moaning BCS computer-machine?

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 31: All Time Lowes???

“It’s not over ‘til it’s over.”

“If it happened to them, it can happen to him.”

“After all, there are still five races to go, anything can happen.”

Sprint Cup Fans surely try to find some rhyme or reason in these notions as they let out a collective sigh of frustration unless they are die-hard Jimmie Johnson fans, because the quirks and quakes of what happened in Charlotte would appear to have put Jimmie Johnson in the driver’s seat to capture his fourth championship lengthening his points lead from easily in reach over Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya to the kind of lead where it would almost surely require something to go wrong with the #48 car for the competition to tighten up. Other top chase contenders can run their best races but few teams are capable of producing the kind of consistency the Lowes Chevrolet achieves.

Here’s how the standings look now with the points each chaser needs to make up on Johnson and how much they lost after completing the NASCAR Banking 500.

1- Jimmie Johnson, 5923 points
2- Mark Martin, 5833 points, (-90) lost 78 points
3- Jeff Gordon, 5788 points, (-135) lost 20 points
4- Tony Stewart, 5768 points, (-155) lost 71 points
5- Kurt Busch, 5746 points, (-177) lost 56 points
6- Juan Pablo Montoya, 5728, (-195) lost 137 points

Cruel, Jeff Gordon did what chasers need to do and finished in the top 5, but a 4th position put him 20 points further behind. Finishing outside the top 10 is lethal. Mark Martin finished in 17th going from easy striking distance to needing to gain some substantial margin over Johnson to get back in the fight. Could Mark Martin gain more than 18 points a race in the last five races? Winning races cures a lot of ills.

Coming up are two tracks notorious for scrambling teams’ fortunes, Martinsville and Talladega; however, who owns Martinsville? Jimmie Johnson won five out the last six races at Martinsville. What does he do with all those grandfather clocks? Teams almost need Johnson to slip as much as they need their drivers to do well for the last five races. Bigger margins have been overcome, but who dominates October and November the way Jimmie Johnson does. While much many have focused on the initial NASCAR Hall-of-Fame induction, think of where a 4th consecutive championship would put Johnson in the history of the sport. Only two drivers would have more championships, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. Only one driver would be his equal, Jeff Gordon, but no one has won four in a row. As Dale Earnhardt was known as the “Intimidator” one has to ask, who’s intimidated now?

With five out of the last six victories at Martinsville belonging to him plus an earlier victory there from October, 2004, DOES HE REALLY NEED ANOTHER GRANDFATHER CLOCK? The rest of the field would be happy if he’d just settle for a couple Martinsville big bright red hot dogs dripping with coleslaw.