Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top 10 Super NES games.

My memory tells me the SNES came out in the fall of 1991. I can't recall too much hype surrounding it, most people were still satisfied with Super Mario Bros 3. But the SNES stands out with a great depth of quality that put other 16 bit systems on the brink of failure. And (as you will see) it was a fantatastic system for RPG lovers like me. This system has a special place in my heart for being the system I played in the dorm room at college.

1. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: If the NES Zelda introduced the concept of world map/dungeon adventure games, A Link to the Past perfected it (in 2-D at least). First, this game was bigger with more ground to cover and more items which lead to more puzzles. Next, this game actually had a running plot complete with the light world/ dark world that this game is famous for. This game sunk its hooks in you, and before you knew it you were battling Ganon. I believe I beat this game as a kid and again in college.



2. Super Mario World: It was hard to imagine how Nintendo was gonna follow up the smash hit that was Super Mario 3. The answer: Yoshi. Yoshi saved my butt more than a few times with his enemy eating, fire spitting apetite for destruction! Also, this game had great depth by adding alternate routes to many levels giving you more than one path for Mario to follow. I completely beat this game.

3. Final Fantasy II: Most of the gaming world will say FF3 is the superior game. But FF2 has a special place in my heart. Games like Zelda and FF1 said they had a plot, but they pailed in comparison to Final Fantasy II. The betrayals, the sacrifices and the plot twists were captivating. So it is a little cheesy that you have to travel to the moon, but hey big games have to do big things. I also really enjoy that you have to play with the characters the plot gives you (no switching out party members) This added a challenge that made me a better RPG player for years to come. If I could only play 1 RPG on Nintendo, this would probably be it. I believe I beat this twice as a kid and twice in college.

4. Final Fantasy III: After declaring my love for FF2, I would like to state how big of a BEAST this game is and how groundbreaking it was. Female lead? Check. (Samus doesn't count, you didn't know she was a lady.) Bad guys betraying bad guys? Check. Opera scene? Check. Whole world collapsing? Check. I think the strength of this game is recollecting all your party members after the world destruction. This game allowed you to really tailor you characters abilities to their strengths.

Sadly, I never beat this game. I got to the final level....and my game was erased. (I think my sister did that one.) I then got all the way back again! And it was erased again. (accident I believe). I then got to the world destruction again and it erased again, this time because the game was getting old. So I never beat this game. Maybe if I had I would rank it higher.

5. Chrono Trigger: So this is one of the most under-appreciated games of all time. The fact that it is number 5 probably shows I under-appreciate it too. This game spans something like 6 eras of history to help defeat the same enemy. That in itself is pretty dang awesome. The other strength of this game is you could develop combo moves if you used characters enough with each other. Instead of single attacks you could use double (or even triple) attacks on enemies. If you've never played an RPG, that just sounded nerdy. But if you do love RPG's, that just sounded amazing. I, er....never beat this game either. I got to the last level and never got around to it. I think the N64 came out and I just forgot about it. Again, under-appreciated.

6. Secret of Mana: My last RPG entry is actually part Zelda part Chrono Trigger. 3 main characters roam an overworld much like Zelda. But each character has spells and abilities that grow as you gain expereince like all RPG's. This new approach was awesome, but the best part was your buddies could control the other characters. So instead of just playing this one by yourself you had a multi-player RPG! The plot was great, except I think your father turned out to be a tree. Oh well, still awesome. I beat this as a kid, in college and almost beat with my sister a couple summers ago. I also watched my roomate Robert beat this game one finals week. (Who needs to study?)

7. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island: This might be the most annoying game to be in the room with, but it was a blast to play. This story takes place when Mario is a baby and Yoshi has to take care of him through dangerous levels (for some reason, I think Bowser was kidnapping him again) Your goal was to make it through the level without losing Mario. If he fell off your back, Mario would cry (FOR 20 SECONDS!) until you reached him again. Despite that, the gameplay was really fun including the awesome egg-throwing mechanics. This game also introduced the checklist of things to collect to pass a level 100%. I beat this game once through the plot, then beat it 100% with the help of my buddy Robert. Again, who needs to study!

8. Street Fighter 2: I am terrible at fighter games. Aweful. But this game was too much fun not to play. 15 years later I could probably still recite the controller combos for most of the moves. The gameplay was quick, the characters were memorable, and the battles were epic. HADOUKEN!

9. Tecmo Super Bowl III: Although Madden had games on the Super NES, it was Tecmo Bowl that was my favorite sports games. It took simple/arcade gameplay and added real-life NFL teams and players and threw in recording stats. This game had it all, to the point where Robert and I played an entire season together. He was the Packers, I was the Bills. We met in the Super Bowl which we played at 3:25pm one Friday afternoon. I think I won 24-21 on an interception at the goalline that would have given Robert the victory. If that isn't a memorable video game moment, I don't know what is.

10. Super Tetris:I know that Tetris is on every system, but this is the one we had. If there was ever an argument or decision, we played Tetris over it. Who took out the trash? Loser. Will you put away the meat from the grocery store? I'll play you in Tetris for it. Plus, this game is just so easy to pick up it is a great party game. "This one is for the meat!"

Game I was so dominant at I got kicked out: Super BomberMan. This was a great 4 player game where each person starts in a corner and tries to blow each other up. The only problem was I was amazing. People wouldn't play with me amazing. So I said I would play with the controller upside down. I still won. Finally they said go play something in our room so we can win for once. I am good at alot of games, but this is probably the game I dominate the best. I wish it was Madden or Smash Bro or Halo, but alas it is Super Bomber Man.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

BCS Playoff Plan


I am of the opinion that the current BCS system is not a fair system. There will always be a handful of teams that deserve a chance to win the title, but for various reasons do not get a shot. I used to think that a 4 team or 8 team playoff would solve the problem. And it would. But it would still not be fair.

Every college sport outside football has the same format in essence: Every school has a chance to win when the season starts. In basketball if you win your conference you go to the big dance. You may not win, but you have a chance (Memphis). In football, unless you are a BCS conference you don't have a realistic chance unless you go undefeated two years in a row. THIS GOES AGAINST THE HEART OF COLLEGE ATHLETICS! My proposal is fair to everyone.

16 Team Playoff: Every Conference champion gets in, plus 5 wild cards to be determined by the current BCS format. Seed the tournament by their BCS rankings as well.

The teams that would get in this year by winning their conference would be Oklahoma, Florida, Penn St, Utah, USC, Troy, Boise St, Cincinatti, East Carolina, Virginia Tech and Buffalo. the 5 wild cards would be Texas, Alabama, Texas Tech, Ohio St, and TCU. I know that TCU might come as a surprise, but it is better than the next team Oklahoma St which would give the Big 12 South 4 entries.

Eliminate the "12 Team Rule" and make each conference play a championship game. First, I would do this for the fairness of the conferences without title games currently. It would give a clear winner on the field, which is what we are looking for. Also, it evens the field between teams who have extremely challenging games at the end of their calendar and the teams with easy games to finish the season (SEC, Big 12 versus the Pac 10) This also makes every conference championship game EXTREMELY exciting if it means going to the tourney.

We would see better non-conference games. This is probably debatable, and we wouldn't know for sure for a few years. But if a team could lose a non-conference game and still make the BCS tournament, you would have more incentive to play better teams to better prepare your team for the conference schedule.

Use current bowl games as playoff games. This is where things get hairy. There is too much money in bowl games to eliminate them, so I propose using them (like has been said many times before.) The biggest challenge to this in my mind is getting the fans of participating teams to each game, especially if they go deep into the playoff. Although I bet they work that one out just fine. The alternative is to scrap these bowl games altogether and have the higher seed host the game, but again I bet the bowl games commitees would veto that.

Play the games on Thursdays and Saturdays. One half of the bracket on Thursdays, one half on Saturdays with the semi-finals on new years.

Here is my playoff schedule for this year. I am picking winners just for scheduling/matchup purposes.

(1)Oklahoma(Big 12) vs. (16) Troy (Sun Belt)
in the Insight Bowl Thursday Dec. 18th

(8) Penn St. (Big 10) vs. (9) Boise St. (WAC)
in the Motor City Bowl Thursday Dec. 18th

(5) USC (Pac 10) vs. (12) Cincinatti (Big East)
in the Papajohns.com Bowl Thursday Dec. 18th

(4) Alabama (Wild Card) vs. (13)Virginia Tech (ACC)
in the Independence Bowl Thursday Dec. 18th

(6) Utah (Mountain West) vs (11)TCU (Wild Card)(also in the MWC, but too bad)
in the New Mexico Bowl Sat. Dec. 20th

(3) Texas (Wild Card) vs. (14) East Carolina (C-USA)
in the St. Petersburgh Bowl Sat. Dec. 20th

(7) Texas Tech (Wild Card) vs. Ohio St. (Wild Card)
in the New Orleans Bowl Sat. Dec. 20th

(2) Florida (SEC) vs (15) Buffalo (MAC)
in the Poinsetta Bowl Sat. Dec 20th

ROUND OF 8
(1) Oklahoma vs (9) Boise St
in the Fiesta Bowl Friday Dec. 26th

(5) USC vs (4) Alabama
in the International Bowl Friday Dec. 26th

(2) Florida vs (10) Ohio St
in the Orange Bowl Saturday Dec. 27th

(6) Utah vs (3) Texas
in the Liberty Bowl Saturday Dec. 27th

SEMI-FINALS
(1)Oklahoma vs (5) USC
in the Rose Bowl Thursday Jan 1

(2)Florida vs (3)Texas
in the Sugar Bowl Thursday Jan 1

FINAL
(1)Oklahoma vs (3) Texas (I know we've seen it before, but the hype would be amazing)

15 bowl games would be used in the playoff, which eliminates 14 teams (of the current 68) from having a bowl game. But do 6-6 teams really deserve a bowl game these days? Even some 7-5 teams don't deserve it with their cupcake non-conference schedule.

The following 6-6 teams would miss games this year: Vanderbilt, Kentucky, NC State, Northern Illinois, Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Southern Miss, Memphis, Colorado St. I would also pass on the following 7-5 teams: UConn, USF, Wisconsin, Minnesota and LSU.

And for those schools not in the tournament, we still have the following 19 bowl games still on the schedule: Cotton, Gator, Capital One, Outback, Chic-Fil-A, Music City, Sun Bowl, Armed Forces, Holiday, Texas, Alamo, Emerald, Champ Sports, Meineke, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Eagle Bank, Humanitarian, and GMAC Bowls.

So there it is. Thanks for reading it all, I got a little excited about this. But I really do think this is the most fair way to decide a championship on the field by student athletes.

Please add comments on what works, doesn't work. And if you like it and know anyone in sports broadcast, journalism or someone that works for the BCS be sure to pass it on. Because for real, once someone reads this you can't go back!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Best Senior Skip Day Ever

Senior skip day is a rite of passage. I don't know why everyone does it, but once during your senior year all the seniors don't show up when everyone else has to just to say "Hey, we are seniors. Pay attention." Like that is needed to be said.

Unless, of course, you participate in some sport/activity and have a game/performance that day and the rules state that you have to attend school to participate. I was in the backing band for our show choir of my school that happened to have a performance that night. So my buddies and I had to attend school. But nobody were in our classes. (They were all skipping)

So what did we do?

10 minutes of hilarity, trying to "discover" the Possible Theories as to why people weren't in our classes.

A thanks to Klick's Corner for posting the video. I recommend watching all of it (over 2 clips) just to watch me stab myself, hit myself with a pole (twice) and play the gong with my head.

As yes, I had really long hair in high school, no beard, and no gut. Good times.



Monday, December 1, 2008

Apple: Hero or Villain?

It is well know that I am a huge fan of the Simpsons. It provides witty humor that can be slapstick and crude one second and then very smart and intelligent the next. Last night the Simpsons episode began by mocking the popularity of Apple (or Mapple). Here is the clip. Simply brilliant.



My favorite part is at the 2:30 mark when the Comic Book Guy throws a sledgehammer into the wall in a DIRECT PARODY of the famous "1984" commercial. As an Advertising major I cannot tell you how impressed I was at the intellegence of this reference. But I will try.

Never heard of the "1984" Apple commercial? You know the effects. The ad itself was for the Apple "Macintosh". But in actuality this was THE Super Bowl Ad that created all the hype that surrounds the current Super Bowl commercials. Apple had ran ads stating "Don't miss the first break of the third quarter." The commercial was a "smash" and the hype lives on.

Here is the ad that made the Super Bowl a must see event for non-football fans.



Ok so the ad doesn't make sense if you haven't read the book 1984 and that woman clearly is not an Olympic athlete. But it was timely for that generation. My point is: The Simpsons Rule.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sing Alongs

After spending some time reflecting on the popularity of a certain song I have decided to rank my top 10 sing alongs.

My criteria: first a song gets major props for being singable without music. This would be the "long bus drive back from a float trip/retreat" scenario. Next is the participation of the guests when a song comes on at a wedding reception. Here is my verdict.

1. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen: Party on Wayne, Party on Garth. It changes tempo, the lyrics are simple, you can bust your falcetto out and even sing the guitar solo. Winner, hands down.

2. Don't Stop Believin' - Journey: I had to see it to believe it. You just have to mention a small town girl and watch the song burst forth from pretty much everyone in the room. Try it sometime.

3. Undone, the Sweater Song - Weezer: again, simple lyrics and a good melody do the trick. Everyone wants to sing River's descant part, nobody wants to sing melody. Everyone wants Superman Skivies.

4.Piano Man - Billy Joel: This is where the gap begins on my list. This song has a great chorus, but too many words for the average person to know all the verses. You can still pretend and still get half of them, which still counts. It also contains the misheard lyric "Making love to his tiny cat Jim" instead of "Tonic and Gin."

5. Hey Jude - The Beatles: We all know the first verse. After that....I'm pretty sure we only know the "Na-Na" part. Which is ok, because that vamp at the end makes up about 5 minutes of the 8 minute song.

6. Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison: This is a classic wedding song to which every guy has to sing to his girl. (Change the eye color in the song if your girl doesn't have brown eyes, it can score you more points) Again, lyrics like "Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-ti-da" help it be a sing along.

7. Grease Medley - John Travolta, Olivia Newton John: "Hey, lets make a medley of Grease songs that only includes the parts that everyone knows!" Brilliant. "Summer Lovin" and "You're the one that I want" are both guy/girl songs and that always helps.

8. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor: Girls know every lyric. Guys can fake it. We can all sing the strings part. Beauty. Plus, I am a fan of the Cake version as well.

9. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond: If this wasn't played at every Red Sox game would it still be as popular? Doesn't matter. The fact that everyone knows the added parts makes this song "So good, so good, so good." (hmmm....that was a little hokie.)

10. Wonderwall - Oasis: This might be more for my generation, but I think it will last. First, the chorus is very meaningful and often very true in a healthy relationship. Add on that it is very singable and you have a solid sing along.

There it is. My apologies to Meatloaf and the Village People. Let me know what I left out!

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Top 10 Old-school Nintendo games

The Virtual Console on the Wii has sparked an interest in all those old-school games of Nintendo systems of the past. And since I have fond memories of all those games I thought I would rank them just to create conversation.

A little background. My family purchased the NES in 1986, when I was six years old. It came with R.O.B and Gyromite, which means we had to buy Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers on our own. My parents were clearly the better players in the beginning, but by the time the NES was getting phased out in 1991 I was beating pretty much every game I owned. (which is no small feat since these games were incredibly tough).

So here are the top ten NES games according to my own nostalgia.

1. The Legend of Zelda: In the days well before online walkthroughs this game captured the imagination of all Nintendo fans. A giant map. 9 Dungeons. Bosses. New weapons and items. And when you finally thwarted Ganon...SECOND QUEST!!! This game caused friends to compare notes, otherwise you would never complete the game. Conversations like: "Did you try burning the third bush over?" "Try using arrows instead of your sword." "Yeah I beat level 7, and I even drew a map!"

My confession is that although I beat the first quest, I got stuck on Death Mountain of the second quest cause I could never find the master key on level 8. Bastards.

2. Super Mario Brothers 3:This game created video game hype. Between getting publicity in movies and retailers charging over $70 for the game everyone wanted this game. It didn't disappoint with 8 levels of creative platforming, flying and even the rare Tanooki Suit. Without a save feature this game posed a great challenge until the world discovered you could warp using the "Zelda Whistle." And yes, I beat this game.

3. Final Fantasy(1): I know, how can it be a Final Fantasy if they made 11 more? (think of it as the Ultimate Fantasy but with alliteration) Although Dragon Warrior was an important RPG series, Final Fantasy defined what RPG's would be in the future. What stands out from this game? IT IS THE FREAKING HARDEST GAME OF MY LIFE!!! Leveling up: tedious and deadly. Dungeons: Grueling and deadly. Bosses: Mean and deadly. Let's put it this way, if you died you couldn't be revived at a save point(if you didn't have a spell). We had to drag your dead, worthless body through battlefields to a freaking TOWN to get you revived. Imagine that your White Mage takes a hard knock deep in a dungeon....if I would have been older I would have cussed this game out. Alot. Still, thoroughly enjoyable and I challenge every RPG fan to give it a go. And Yes, I beat this game. (Chaos had nothing on me!)

4. Mike Tyson's Punch Out:Before Tyson became a punch line, he was the most feared boxer both in real life and in video games. The lead up to Tyson is alot of fun. Each of the colorful characters you face has a tell, once you figure it out you can win the bout. Except with Tyson. His tell was a split second, and if he hit you he knocked you down. Thanks for playing, see you later. It was so stressful playing Tyson I would have to do it alone so I could concentrate.

And yes, I beat Tyson. Twice. Once by decision as an 8-year-old. Once by TKO when I was 18 at the challenge of my buddies. (Robert, Pat and David were my witnesses). In the world of video gaming I still hold beating Tyson and beating Chaos as two of the greatest feats.

5. Super Mario Bros.: The platformer that changed gaming. This game is so good I could pick it up now and still enjoy the challenge of it. Do I wants to use 2 warps and go straight to world 8, or do I want to slow play it and enjoy all the other levels. Yes I beat this game, but the Hammer Bros are still jerks.

6. TMNT II the Arcade Game: This was such a good game, we would actually go to arcades to play it. When it came to the NES.....Oh buddy. Good times. First, this was like the best cartoon series of its day. I mean seriously, who wasn't a Ninja Turtle for Halloween at least once? (I was Leonardo) Besides that, this was an awesome side scrolling fighter, with nice levels and competent bosses. The challenge of the game was just surviving, which I did. (Cause I beat this one too.)

7. Metroid: One part platformer, one part adventure. 35 parts freaky Sci-fi. This game was long and challenging. There is nothing worse than reaching your destination only to realize you need the freeze ray or wave beam or something crazy like that. And the actual Metroids.....totally unnecessary to make that many of them that difficult. I remember getting to Mother Brain, and I don't imagine myself giving up so close to the end, so I imagine I beat this one too (although I have no specific memory of it.....)

8. Mega Man 2: This is the only game on my list I didn't own. But I had friends that did, friends I visited often. Again, with no save feature this game was hard. Getting through 8 bosses just to get to the end levels was quite and accomplishment.....one that I didn't do. But still, stealing bosses weaponry and using them on other bosses? That's like an American dream of sorts.

9. RBI Baseball: I know there were tons of great (and not so great) baseball games on the NES, but this one stands out. This game was easy to pick-up and easy to enjoy with a friend. So what that the infielders couldn't make a throw across the diamond without it bouncing. Who cares? All I know is pick the Cardinals and steal some bases. You can't beat this game, but I was always second best to my base running maniac of a cousin John, who is still a jerk for all those defeats.

10. Gradius: Ok, clearly this and RBI baseball aren't the greatest games of all time. But they were really fun for me. This is a side-scrolling space shooting that included lots of power ups. The levels were very cool, even if the boss at the end was...well the same each time. But it was so addicting my extended family would fight over who got to play next (Until the 8 year-olds became the best, then the adults quit.) I know I beat this one, cause I think we took a picture!

Worst Game I owned: 10 Yard Fight. This game is an abomination to all things considered gaming. I wanted a football game, what I got was what the Japanese thought was football. Here is how the game worked. Snap to the quarterback who has a running back on each side who mimics your every move. You can either a) lateral it to a RB b) run upfield c) or throw it to the one receiver streaking downfield. If you passed and even one defender was in the line of flight, he intercepted it. (ridiculous) If you got a safety, they gave the wrong team the points (ridiculous) If you were kicking a field goal you could run all the way to your own end zone, kick it, and it would fly most slowly through the uprights (flubber?) A mistake of a purchase, I made up for it by buying Zelda next go around. And yes, I beat this game.

I hope this starts some discussion. If not, at least you know that I am awesome at video games.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I can't stop believin'


I can't let go of the phenomenon that is "Don't Stop Believin.'" Growing up this song was a bit of a joke in my mind. This was a pop song written by an 80's hair band that featured the trite saying of "Don't Stop Believing." If he was singing about Civil Rights or Faith in God or something of depth I could have bought in. But all it speaks to is that someday my crappy life will turn around. Seriously? That's why the blues were invented, not 80's hair bands.

Fast forward. On at least three occasions I have witnessed hundreds of teenagers sing-along to this song. They know every word. I have since learned that it is the #1 downloaded song on iTunes. Huh? How did it come to this? How did "Don't stop believin'" become the ultimate sing along? Sure, it has a lethal combination of both catchy verses and chorus, but 25 year-old songs that only reached #9 on the Billboard charts don't get reborn without some help. Here are my theories.

2005 Chicago White Sox: In need of some inspiration during the playoffs catcher A.J. Pierzynski started playing this song in the clubhouse before games. I heard an interview with Pierzyski and Dan Patrick at this time. Pretty much Patrick wanted to know of all the songs in the world to inspire, you pick Journey? See, he thought it was a joke too, but it got some coverage.

The Sopranos Series Finale (2007) When the Sopranos called it quits, they did so controversally by leaving you wondering who was walking through the diner door. The background music was "Don't Stop Believin.'" I was surprised this was the final selection for such a tough guy show. I thought ESPN was joking when they played the final clip on the radio. But again, national exposure.

But nothing I found in my research goes back farther than one instance....

"My Journey" - Scrubs (2003) This is one of my very favorite shows, it is up there with the Simpsons and House. Zach Braff is responsible for the change in alot of people's taste in music over the years, both through his movie soundtracks and from the show. Here is the clip that I can't help but believe started the phenominon.



And, because I like that JD is nerdy like me sometimes:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Series Preview, Season Review




Cardinals: In my season preview I said the Cardinals would finish third, but fourth would be acceptable. Well, 86 wins is a successful season in my book. That is alot of wins for 4th place! (Toronto did it too). The Lineup was great all season, but the pitching couldn't hold any consistancy down the stretch. Still better than the 5th place finish I saw some people predict.

NEEDS: Bullpen!!!!!! A lefty reliever for sure, but the Cards need to decide if Chris Perez is our closer next season (I think he is) because if not we need a closer too, and those are expensive. I feel we should keep Felipe Lopez and Cesar Izturis in the middle infield. They were dependable and effective and the right price, leaving us money for other positions such as Starting Pitching. We know better than to count on Carpenter this year. Is Jake Peavy the answer? I don't think so, he only has two 15 win seasons in his career. I'm sure we can find a good, young arm for a lesser price. Unless we all forgot the name Mark Mulder. I think the outfield played very well, and maybe we should leave it alone. As much as I would want to see Matt Holiday in our lineup.....hmmmm.....Ok, I would take Holiday still. Just make sure we get another pitcher too, ok?

Pre-Season Picks: My preseason picks were an absolute joke. I got Philly, Milwakee and Boston correct. However, I picked Seattle, Detroit and San Diego all of whom finished in last place. At least the Cubs choked!

World Series Preview: History has shown that the team with the giant layoff (Philly) struggles mightily in the World Series. I give the hitting advantage to the Rays because hot bats can beat out big sluggers who are streaky. Bullpen I give to Philly for their consistancy, but TB has some good arms. Starting pitching I give to the Rays because after Cole Hamels the Phillies are outmatched.

Prediction: Rays in 6 (Hamels will keep it closer than it should be). I would be happy for Philly if they win, they only have one World Championship ever. Like 100 years ever.

But I want the Rays to win because they represent what is right in baseball. A bunch of young guys going out and playing to win. It gives hope to all franchises, especially the Royals, the Pirates, and even those Cubbies.

UPDATE: Ok, so the experienced Phillies won out in the end. Congrats to Philly, an uber sports town that usually needs a chill pill. You now have as many Championships as the Marlins!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Coach Linehan, step into your office. And bring your playbook.

I think we can all safely say that this is a good move. I predicted we would fire Linehan before we won a game, and I was right. Linehan may end up with a great head coaching gig, but it wasn't here and now. He was just beat: by the opponents and by his own squad. I feel the team had quit on him.

Or at least Jim Haslett hopes so, cause now he wears the big head set. Which kind of worries me because he is in charge of the lifeless defense. My only hope is that Linehan played guys who lacked hustle and discipline, and Haslett can insert personel that will play 4 quarters of football.

Something else to mention. Chris Mortenson of ESPN mentioned today that despite what ownership is saying, the Rams are definitely for sale and are being shopped around. Lets hope Rams fans can rally behind these coaching moves, because I am still nervous that this team will be in LA in two years.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Top 10 Songs of the 90's

Last month 105.7 the Point did their top 500 songs of the 90's. I loved it. I heard many songs I had forgotten about. It also inspired me to give my own top 10 songs of the 90's.

A unique aspect of the 90's is everyone knows the number one song of the decade. Can you say that about any other decade? "Satisfaction" for the 60's? "Imagine" for the 70's? "Billy Jean" for the 80's? They are all debatable. The 90's is not.

Obviously, this is technically a Top 10 Alternative/Rock songs of the 90's. So my apologies to Alanis Morisette, Hootie and the Blowfish, Maria Carey and Boyz II Men for being left off the list.

#1 Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana The Anthem. This song not only changed the face of music, it ended many artists careers because their sound was made obsolete overnight by Nirvana. So many have tried to imitate the sound, but still there is only one Nirvana. I am still sad that Kurt had to leave the music scene so early.

#2 Alive - Pearl Jam My favorite song by my favorite band. This song is versitile. A catchy chorus. Lyrics that make you think, and have even inspired people to change their own lives because for one reason or another "I'm still alive." And the kickin' extended guitar solo at the end, something that is missing from today's scene.

#3 Under the Bridge - Red Hot Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis's poem to the city of Los Angeles, brought to life by Flea and the band. Melodic, creative and beautiful.

#4 Today - Smashing Pumpkins Before Billy Corgan was just a rat in a cage he penned a classic grunge song about seizing the day. The opening guitar riff is learned by most aspiring guitarists. It captured the grunge sound perfectly.

#5 Enter Sandman - Metallica The song that brought heavy metal to the masses(as is still evident in today's scene). It has hooks all over the place and still rocks as hard as any Metallica song. NOTE: Just because you like "Enter Sandman" doesn't mean you are a metal fan.

#6 Basket Case - Green Day The song that brought Punk to the masses. (as is still evident in today's scene) It was fast, it was catchy and it was about crazy people. You don't have to be a math major to figure this one out. You Win!

#7 Undone: The Sweater Song - Weezer The best sing along the 90's has to offer in my opinion. Bonus points for working the phrase "Superman Skivies" into a song. Nice.

#8 Interstate Love Song - Stone Temple Pilots STP had several hits in the early 90's, but this song is the most melodic. Which is a fancy way of saying you can understand what he's singing. My only regret is that there was no solo on this song. That guy can play.

#9 Everlong - Foo Fighters Dave Grohl is a remarkable musician. He not only drummed for Nirvana, he started his own rock band in Foo Fighters. If was tough choosing just one FF song, but this is the one I always end up singing hours after I hear it. Because if they don't fight Foo, then who will?!?

#10 One - U2 U2 had an interesting decade, but it all started with this song. Bono has told the story that they were thinking of breaking up until they wrote this song. Beautiful and simple.

That's it, let me know what I forgot. To close, here is a live performance of "Alive" by Pearl Jam from 1992. (I think)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lion on the Floor

After my little Weezer obsession over the summer I started thinking back to the first time I ever heard a song by Weezer. It was their video for "Undone - The Sweater Song." This video starts out normal and just gets stranger and funnier. I mean, why have your instruments plugged in while you are lip synching? And the drummer is just a little to into his drumming. And, as always, it poses one of life's great questions:

Why does he keep singing about a Lion on the Floor?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

NFL Preview

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO ST. LOUIS RAMS FANS: If we want to keep our team, the time to support them is now. Here is the deal. We all know that the dome is a dump. I know personally that the Rams have done nothing to improve the stadium experience.(They still use the same graphics from '95) But if we don't start supoprting our franchise they will be the LA Rams again. That means watching games even if we suck. That means going to games even if we will probably lose. Anything. Because if the city/NFL sees no reason to get a new dome built the Rams will be moved and we will never see the NFL again. I urge any and all Rams fans to find a way to make a difference. If you can't go to games, encourage those who can. I know STL is a baseball city, but we are smart enough to be great football fans too.

My picks for the season. I don't like how many teams I have returning to the playoffs, but this is what I got.

AFC: New England, Cleveland, Indianapolis, San Diego. Wild Cards: Jacksonville and New York Jets

NFC: Dallas, New Orleans, Green Bay, Seattle. Wild Cards: New York Giants, Minnesota

Superbowl: New England over New Orleans

In my mind New England can do 2 things. 1)Live in disbelief about how close they came to the perfect season and blow this one (eg 2002 Rams) or 2)Go out and show what kind of champions they are. I believe the Patriots are like any true champions that hate to lose and will destroy you to prove it. In the NFC I like Dallas alot but Romo looks like a choker to me, so i go with the talented Saints. We shall see how poorly these picks are come playoff time.

EDIT: What a difference a day makes. I forgot to blog that I think the Rams will finish 6-10 and finish third. Now I am predicting Linehan gets fired before the Rams win a game. Rams front office better start investing in the fans, cause even this die-hard is getting annoyed.

Tom Brady is out for the year. Not only my superbowl pick, but my #1 fantasy football pick. I still like the Pats to make the playoffs, but if I get a mulligan on my Super Bowl pick I would like to take San Diego now please.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beijing: Lasting Memories


Wow. What a great Olympics. Sets the bar pretty high for London in 2012.(I'm sure they will do awesome) So I give you my personal lasting images from the Beijing Games.

1. Michael Phelps 8 gold medals: I wrote an entire blog about this already, comparing Phelps' domination only to Tiger Woods. A performance for the ages.

2. Usain Bolt: Fastest man ever? It is a ridiculous question to ask, but as far as athletics goes it could be Bolt. He set world records in the two fastest sprint events in the 100m and 200m. And he made it look easy. A huge congrats to Bolt and the entire Jamaican track team. They put on a show.

3. Nastia Luikin and Shawn Johnson Although they didn't win team gold, Luikin and Johnson performed with precision. In fact, I feel every event could have been won by either gymnast (I don't follow the scoring, too inconsistant). They were clutch with style. Great to watch.

4.Kerry Walsh/Misty May-Treanor: Nobody had gone gold in back to back Olympics until they did. Watching them celebrate was like watching the Olympic spirit. You could tell they are ecstatic to start their families with Olympic gold. The entire US volleyball did amazing with 3 gold and 1 silver.

5. The Host Nation: The government may have tried to hide the poverty, but the people showed their pride. The opening and closing ceremonies were the best ever, and the athletes won an incredible amount of gold medals. A great perfomance, even if they do have athlete factories.

6. US Women win gold in soccer: without Abbey Wambauch I thought the US would still medal. Their complete team performance to win gold against Brazil ushered in a new era of US soccer.

7. The Redeem Team: Not only did they dominate, they represented themselves as great Olympians by attending a variety of other sports. Class.

8. Swimming success, Track tribulations: Even without Michael Phelps, our swimming team has great success. They won a fair share of gold and silver. The track team has some answering to do. I believe their training was very poor, and half our athletes looked flat. We won a fair amount of medals, but clearly we struggled in some strong events.

Did I forget anything? I look forward now to Vancouver in 2010. And don't forget the World Baseball Classic next spring.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Michael Phelps: World Domination

We love sports for two reasons: for love of the game and to become a champion. I love watching championships being won. I watch any championship game that's on, which means I watch lacrosse only once a year. There are two types of champions: the surprise team/player who just seazed the moment and the heavy favorite that lives up to potential.

Michael Phelps redefined what it means to live up to potential. I've heard plenty of people say how difficult it is to win when everyone expects you to. That covers teams like The Patriots, The Spurs and the Yankees of the last 10 years. What Phelps did was different. He destroyed the competition. It was Phelps vs the field, and you gotta take Phelps. Only few athletes have done that in my lifetime. Here are the athletes I put Phelps with(from my lifetime).

Pete Sampras/Roger Federer: You knew what the Grand Slams looked like before the year started. They would win the Australian, Wimbeldon and US Open. It was all about the French Open. They dominated in an individual sport that had hundreds of professionals aiming at them.

Michael Jordan: It took a whole team, but we all know that Michael Jordan essentially single handedly won 6 NBA championships, and if he hadn't retired it would have been 8 straight. But he did it during an era when it was predominantly a US game, not the worldwide game we see now.

Michael Phelps: He didn't lose. He found that extra gear to get the clutch victory. He set a record for gold medals when literally the whole world is challenging him. And he did it in a competition held only once every 4 years. And he will swim again in 2012. The next 30 years will help us understand how remarkable this really is.

Tiger Woods: In tennis you play one man each match. Basketball is about 12 with subs. Phelps swam against 7 at a time. Tiger Woods faces over a hundred each tournament and has dominated. He blows people away. He wins the close call. He wins hurt. I remember saying to myself during his "Tiger Slam" you can't just say "I'm gonna win" and then go do it! Phelps really only compares to Tiger. Both are men who have changed their sports for a nation. You can't give a bigger compliment than that.

EDIT: Lance Armstrong: How could I forget the 7 time champion following cancer? Probably because it's cycling. Doesn't always come to mind. Still, it is hard for any athlete to dominate for 4 years, let alone 7.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The boys are back in town!

So, I am now the pround Papa of two boys! Now, let it be clear that boy or girl I have the same sports philosophy: start with baseball/softball and soccer and let the child choose other sports as they like. Or no sports if the child is more musical/artistic/smart. You get the idea.

As far as the sports go, you dream big for your child. US Men's National team player. Starting pitcher for the Cardinals. The next Tiger Tiger Woods y'all. But because this blog is all about fun, I have the following question: What is the most attainable/durable career you can have in sports. My choices are:

The left handed middle reliever: If you are left handed, can throw a fast ball in the high 80's and a curveball you can have a 15 years pro career getting one out a game. I'd take it.

NFL Place Kicker/Punter: Can you kick the ball really frickin' far? You're hired. Shoot, you could play for 15 years at this job also! Just don't blow the point spread or some drunk guy will push you into his hibatchi after the game.

Three Point Specialist: Too short to dunk and play defense? Just keep hitting the three-pointers once every three tries and you too can play for the Memphis Grizzlies.

For me I would go with the place-kicker. You don't even have to run. But I will put it up to a poll. Tell me what you think!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

US Men's Soccer: How to shoot yourself in the foot.

At least I didn't lose any sleep over this one. Wait, I was up at 4am watching. Crap.

Being a soccer enthusiast, I know the US Men's team is talented. I know we have great players and when we play together we can do great things. Which is why it sucks so bad when we don't advance in World Cup and now the Olympics. At the World Cup I thought we played hard but the refs could have been a little more lenient. Today....we have nobody to blame but ourselves. My (brief) recap.

US vs Japan: 1-0 The result we needed. Japan was the weakest team in the group and the US put in a scrappy goal. Otherwise all I wondered was if the ref would ever call a foul in favor of Freddy Adu. It was silly.

US vs Netherlands: 2-2 If you would have told me before the tourney that we would tie Holland, I would have been extatic. But its how we tied that was crushing. We were up 2-1 with 45 seconds to go. A win and we are through. Stuart Holden commits a silly foul in a bad location. The Dutch put in the free kick. 3 points melts to 1, and we have to play Nigeria without two stars in Freddy Adu and Michael Bradley. But we are still very alive.

US vs Nigeria: 1-2 Mike Orozco better hope he doesn't run into American soccer fans for a while, maybe years. His red card for throwing an elbow to the chest of a Nigerian in the THIRD FREAKING MINUTE all but eliminated us. We only needed a tie, so maybe we could hold on. After the first goal, I knew we were sunk and only have ourselves to blame.

So I maintain that the US is a good soccer nation. These tournaments are just tough (and the referees never give our players the benefit of the doubt). Although we dominate our continent, it will still be at least two more years until we gain some worldwide respect. I hate getting knocked out so fast. It hurts. We are better than that. In fact, I don't know if I will watch another match with all the other events. So I will wait for the World Cup in South Africa to hedge our Men's American Soccer hopes.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympics Junkie

The Olympics are a drug. A sweet sweet drug, and I am an addict. Think I am exagerating? Look at my symptoms. Whenever I watch the Olympics I immediately feel great and all warm inside. I want to watch more and more and it affects my daily schedule. And it may affect my marriage (being on 20 hours a day).

I love the Olympics because of 2 reasons. 1)I love the Olympic spirit and the fact that we talk about the competition and not contracts and agents. Everyone is on a level playing field, may the best athlete win. 2)I love watching the top competition of any sport. Which leads me to watch almost every sport. I've been known to watch everything from rowing to curling. (Curling is awesome btw. look it up). What I am watching this Olympics:

Men's and Women's Soccer: I know, I am a nerd but I love soccer. The women are looking to rebound from a poor World Cup. Well, they are without their top scorer and lost their first match. It would be a great accomplishment to make the gold medal match. The men's tourney is under-23 with 3 overage players, so it is not quite a World Cup. But a medal for the US would show our increase in quality and gain some well deserved respect.

Michael Phelps: He could destroy not only World records, but the record for most gold medals by any athlete. Ever. Gotta watch it.

Women's Gymnastics: Alright, not the most manly sport to follow. But the women's gymnastics often gives the best story lines. I watched Kerry Strug limp away from the vault victorious. Anything can happen, and I will try to watch it.

Men and Women's Basketball: I am interested if we can maintain and regain our dominance in this now world-wide sport.

Team Handball: Let's call this the Curling event of the summer Olympics. It looks awesome, and I totally want to play it but there is no place to play in Mid America. It intrigues me and I will learn what I can from the next two weeks.

Anyone else have an event they are embarassed to be caught watching?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

J-E-T-S Jet Favre!

The soap opera is over. The divorce is finalized. Brett Favre is a Jet. While I truly thought he would end up in Minnesota in the end the Jets get their superstar QB they have been looking for since Broadway Joe (sorry Boomer Esiason).

I feel for the Packer faithful: You lost your all-time great over.....well we're not sure why. I also feel for EA Sports, who probably never dreamed that their cover boy would be with another franchise!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pork and Beans

I want to get it out right now: I am grateful YouTube didn't exist when I was in school. No doubt I would have spent hours watching videos only to spend hours making videos. As much fun as that still sounds, I'm not sure my grades would have survived.

Anyways, I came across the latest video for Weezer called "Pork and Beans." To make the video Weezer flew in most of the top YouTube artists in the website's history. Brilliant idea and they pulled it off.

Here is YouTube star Tay Zonday singing an acoustic version of the song. It is a little freaky how that deep voice comes out of that skinny guy. I think Tay could have a long career doing voiceovers for animations or something.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The End of Mark Mulder.

Last night Mark Mulder injured his pitching shoulder in his first start of the '08 season. This was only his 6th appearance since the 2006 season in which he was injured as well. Barring a miraculous comeback I think Mark Mulder is done. In St. Louis anyways.

Which leads me to the question: When was the last time the Cards flopped so badly on a trade? While I'm thinking, let's look over the timeline that lead to this deal.

When the Cards got swept in the '04 series our weakness were a) we lacked a power pitcher and b) we lacked a lefty in the rotation. So when the Cards pulled the trigger on the Mulder deal I was extactic. Mulder had won 15 games or more the previous 4 seasons and was a dominant pitcher in the AL.

We gave up 3 players, but the one to focus on is Dan Haren. Haren was viewed as a mediocre pitcher although he was still young (24 when we dealt him). He had 6 career victories at the time. I actually thought we were giving away our future closer in Kiko Calero, but I still thought the trade was worth it.

Mulder gave us 1 good year. In 2005 he went 16 - 8 with a 3.64 ERA and pitched ok in the post-season. But that is it. Over the next 3 seasons Mark Mulder notched 6 victories. Six. Kip Wells won more than that many LAST SEASON! Now, it wasn't Mulder's fault, its not like he started pitching poorly and we had to bench him. But still, the Cards had bigger dreams than a pitcher getting 22 wins over 4 years. We wanted 20 wins in one season!

Dan Haren was placed in the A's starting rotation and figured things out pretty quickly. He has won 14 games each season since the trade and is looking like a Cy Young candidate with the Diamondbacks this season. He has won 51 games in the 3 plus seasons since the trade, and that number will only increase until the current season ends.

51 wins to 22 wins. And Haren gets paid half as much. That could be the flop of my generation.

But somehow the Cardinals are in the playoff hunt in July. La Russa just called out the Cards management asking for a boost through a trade. I couldn't agree more. The Cards would be World Series contenders if we pulled off the Holliday/Fuentes trade with Colorado. Holliday is a pure hitter and Fuentes is a left handed reliever with experience. I know we value our own prospects, but I value rewarding a hard working team with a chance to win it all even more.

I don't have extensive knowledge of the farm system, so I can't conjure up AA talent that would be included in a trade. I would include in any talk the names Ryan, Duncan, Ludwick and Reyes. I think the Cards would be extactic if any team took Reyes or Duncan off our hands, but I doubt that happens. I think Ludwick is having a career year and we should get good value for him. The Cards are loaded at middle infield right now, and Brendan Ryan has good hustle and average talent. Get the value now!

I would not include Rick Ankiel. Look what he has done this year. Good defense. Great arm strength. .270 average. On pace for 30 homers. All in his SECOND year full time outfield. This guy is only gonna get better, and frankly the Cardinals and the fans should really be the ones to reap the benefits.

The last name is Colby Rasmus. He was almost our starting centerfielder and is still our top prospect in our organization. I would try to create any deal that does not include this kid. I believe in protecting our top prospects. But, if the Rockies say "no Rasmus, no deal" I would make the deal. Sure he is talented, but there is no guarentee he will make it at the Big League level. If we want to make this team work we need to take a risk. And pray we don't have another flop.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Chopping Broccoli

Looks like I missed a month of blogging. Oops. Instead of apologizing I give you the reason why in high school I wanted to be a rock star and comedian.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Top 10 Christian CD's that will rock your socks.

I have a feeling blogs were born for top 10 lists just to get discussions started. This top 10 is about the Christian CD's that are amazing and have helped progress the Christian music scene. They "rock my socks" so to speak. Like all top tens I am ranking them on artistic merits, not whether I have listened to the CD in the last 5 years. Now clearly I don't listen to absolutely every Christian artist, so really you are learning more about me than about the music. But hey, it's fun!

I am rating them based on their musical presentation(can we sing along?), spirituality of the CD (powerful message?) and creativity of the music(not just the same 3 chords). Here is what I came to.

#1 Matt Maher - "Welcome to Life"
High Scores in: Music, Spirituality and Creativity.

I can hear someone saying "Big surprise, the Catholic picked the Catholic." Well, it's not my fault he's Catholic, but I sure am glad he is. I can't say enough about this CD. The depth of the lyrics are ridiculous. The versatility of each song makes each one a candidate to be sung at Church. The variety and creativity of the songs rivals the Beatles, and that's not an overstatement. This album reminds me of "Revolver" without Ringo singing a track. "Welcome to Life" starts the musical journey and takes you all the way to the cross with "Lead Me Home." It is a masterpiece.

>#2 David Crowder Band - "Illuminate"
High Scores in: Music, Creativity and Spirituality

When I started listening to Christian music I always had the same question, "Is this CD going to be all lyrics/boring music or creative music but lacking lyrics?" This album was a revelation to me. Right away this felt like the CD I had always been looking for. It sounded like an alternative album. I could sing to it like a pop album, and it certainly had lyrical depth. History might only remember it for "O Praise Him" but I know it to have been a milestone in Praise and Worship and Christian music as a whole.

#3 David Crowder Band - "A Collision"
High Scores in: Creativity, Spirituality, Music

If "Illuminate" opened my eyes, "A Collision" blew my mind. This album is also a journey, but like no journey a Christian CD had taken me on before. It has pop hooks, country, old Christian hymns and guitar riffs to fall in love with. For me, part of the spirituality of the album was to open myself to the variety of music it presented. "You Are My Joy" combines music and energy in such a way I haven't seen replicated. It is certainly a journey worth listening to all the way through.

#4 Jars of Clay - Self Titled
High Scores in: Spirituality, Music

The first Christian CD I bought and still one of the best. Before, I didn't know any Christian music outside of Church. This album taught me the power of Christian lyrics set to music I could identify with. "Flood" made secular radio, but to me this CD is epitimized by "Worlds Apart." To me this is a conversion moment caught on record and is one of my favorite songs for its emotion and honesty.

#5 DC Talk - "Jesus Freak"
High Scores in: Music, Spirituality

10 years ago this might have been #1. But it still stands the test of time for its variety and quality. "Jesus Freak" was the alternative album by DC Talk, but really only a handful of songs were truly rock. The rest of the songs were really pop songs that had killer lyrics. Songs like "What if I Stumble" and "In the Light" are songs that each Christian can relate to. Most of all, these were high quality songs and performers. In fact, if I could have one band get back together and cut an album it would be DC Talk. One of my top 5 concerts too.

#6 Chris Tomlin - "Arriving"
High Scores in: Spirituality, Music

Check out this song list: "Indescribable," "Holy is the Lord," "How Great is Our God," and "Your Grace is Enough." These are the first 4 tracks on this disc. Check out praise and worship binders across the country and most of them will have all 4. Now, Tomlin didn't write all these songs, but that's ok. He brought them to a wider audience, and for that I am thankful.

#7 Matt Maher - "Overflow"
High Scores in" Spirituality, Music

Maybe in a couple of years I will replace this with "Empty and Beautiful." But for now "Overflow" has its place on my list. When I first listened to this disc I wasn't thrilled. But over time the depth of its lyrics and the power of the melodies dug in. One of those CD's that "feels like home" when I listen to it. "Ressurection Day" could be the best Easter song. Ever.

#8 Third Day - "Offerings"
High Scores in: Spirituality

Praise and Worship music has a special place in my heart, as it does in the hearts of Christians all over. This was a landmark album in the sense that a major Christian Rock group took the time to cut an all worship album. Sure, they had been playing these songs for while, but putting these songs on an album showed the trend Christian music was moving towards. This album is more than a trend, it is qualtiy P&W rock up and down the song list. The first song "King of Glory" is all you need to hear to know the quality of the disc.

#9 Casting Crowns - "Lifesong"
High Scores in: Spirituality

By the time Casting Crowns hit the scene Christian Music and Praise and Worship had exploded. Everyone was making P&W albums, but it was starting to sound a little tired. Casting Crowns brought a simple, fresh view to the music scene. The songs sing of situations we can all relate to. The title track "Lifesong" simply sings of us each singing our praises to God through our lives.

#10 Relient K - "Two Lefts Don't Make a Right, But Three Do"
High Scores in: Creativity

This is my "say what?" choice. The lyrics aren't overly Christian, although the song "Getting Into You" is a great song of prayer. This CD is fun, creative and totally catchy. I find myself singing it hours after I listen to it. Great innocent fun and worthy of a mention.

There is my list. My regrets to influential artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W Smith and Mercy Me. Please comment and let me know how you agree/disagree!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ka-Ching!

Mark this blog up as "more creative/weird music I like." Last week I was introduced to the music of Mika, who has great popularity in Europe but hasn't caught on with Americans. Lots of things to be impressed with. Most of all his vocal range is amazing. Add on that he writes his own songs and its hard not to be a fan. He can be compared to a pop combination of Freddie Mercury and the Beatles but often with a dance groove.

This is the video for Mika's song "Grace Kelly." It is about how many artists change who they are for record companies. The video itself is nonsense, really. But the vocal range will impress you and the tune will be stuck in your head. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Man Utd vs Chelsea

Most Americans don't realize the sheer depth of soccer the world has to offer. So let me catch you up on a situation that I can't imagine ever happening again. (note: as an Arsenal fan this pains me to blog about)

First, the English Premier league. The standings read Man Utd and Chelsea tied at 81 points with 2 games to go. Last week they faced off with Chelsea pulling off a great victory scoring a PK in the waning minutes to even the standings. Both have lower table opponents remaining. It should be noted there is no playoff, this is a winner take all regular season. Prediction: both teams should win out, so Man Utd will be crowned champions on goal differential for the 9th time in 13 seasons.

Now to the big one: The UEFA Champions League. This is what drew me to European soccer. They take the top 2-4 teams from all the European leagues and play a tournament. You take all these styles of football and clash them together and greatness happens. In the 50+ year history there has never been an all English final...until May 21st when Man Utd and Chelsea face off. Man Utd is in their third final having last won the cup in '99. Chelsea is in their first final but has been on the doorstep the last few years. I encourage you to watch it at 1:30pm on Wed May 21st on ESPN, you will see a sporting event like no other.

Players to watch:
Man Utd: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)He is creative, he is explosive, and he knows how to finish and set up the assist. He makes other players better. He could be world footballer of the year. I hate his guts.

Chelsea: Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)He will do anything to get the ball in the net. He is strong, always in position and can finish when even given a half a chance. And if he doesn't score, well you can bet he is on the ground getting the PK call. He always rises to the occasion. I hate his guts.

Prediction: Pain. Seriously, as an Arsenal fan I just wish the stadium would blow up on gameday (game is being played in Moscow) This would be like the Yankees and Cubs playing in the world series for a Cards fan. It makes me sick. I think it will come down to 1 moment of brilliance where a superstar makes his pressence known. So I will choose Chelsea and will predict 2-1 victory with goals from Essien and the game winner from Drogba.

And because I can't stand Arsenal being out of it, here is a Nike ad that makes me proud to be a Gunner. One of these years Arsenal will mature together and we will win trophies for years to come.

Monday, April 21, 2008

5 against 1.

One of my passions and favorite topics to nerd out on is music. Mostly I am intrigued by music history and how one style of music has blended into another. If you want to know sometime how Country, Elvis and Grunge are related I would be glad to tell you. But that is not what this blog is all about.

See, I myself have had my own musical evolution. In Jr. High if a song didn't have a distorted guitar then it wasn't worth the CD it was recorded on (or tape in my case). The reason was grunge had turned me on to an entire universe of music I had never known. Growing up my parents listened to classic rock, but all my friends listened to pop. Shoot, what 10-12 year old doesn't listen to pop?

Eventually my cousin John desperately tried to get me to listen to rock and grunge. He got it. He saw the energy and effort put into the music. It wasn't about popularity, it was about a message. I listened along trying to understand the lyrics. But CD's alone weren't doing the trick.

Then Pearl Jam broke the doors wide open. I already enjoyed songs like Alive and Jeremy (still my two favorite songs). But it was a live performance on MTV that changed my musical taste forever. Seeing the energy and just sheer joy of playing the music is probably the reason I picked up a guitar.

The two youtube clips are from the same performance: MTV's '93 VMA's. The first is the song Animal from the at the time forthcoming "VS" album. Then, unknown to anyone but the band, Neil Young joined them for Rocking in the Free World. That's rock and roll baby.



Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mario Superstar, that is what you are.


Game: Super Mario Galaxy
Score: 10
Scale: 10 Everyone will enjoy this 1 Don't even Rent it

I should note that I didn't purchase Zelda: Twilight Princess when I got my Wii. So when I started playing Super Mario Galaxy I was blown away. Previous to that I had only played Wii Sports, Wii Play, Trauma Center, Wario Ware, Mario Party 8. Super Mario Galaxy was the first game that exploited the shortcomings of the Nintendo Gamecube. It is the best game I have played since Super Mario 64, hands down.

This game is imaginitive. The main attraction of this game is that it is played in "galaxies" and therefore the gravity changes on each level. Many levels are just a bunch of little planets grouped together. Some are entire worlds. Each level had a moment where I would stop and say: Wow, did that just happen? Seriously, I was in awe of some of the things Mario was required to do.

But a perfect 10? Absolutely. It is easy enough to beat, but very challenging to finish the entire game. There are 120 known stars in the game. You can finish "the plot" at 60. I'm pretty sure any gamer could get to this point. (In fact, I'm pretty sure my 10-year-old self could do it). Getting 120 Stars is a different story. I got to 95 without looking up any cheats, but the last 15 would have me pulling my hair out, which we all know I can't afford to do.

The only criticism I could come up with was that the individual galaxies were relatively small compared to 64 and Sunshine. But that was it. The play control was phenominal and not gimmicky (it wasn't overly motion based to fit the wiimote) But it was easily better than any Gamecube game, that is a fact.

I now turn my attention to Super Smash Bros Brawl. And Mario Kart Wii is due out in a couple of months. And something about a Star Wars game this year too. Add on the Zelda title I still need to get to and I am set for the rest of this year it seems!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've got Baseball Fever....

....and the only prescription is more Cowbell! If that video was made available by NBC it would so be on this blog. Instead you get my picks and insights for the upcoming season.

For the Cardinals I expect an exciting, well played season of baseball. I like that we have a youth movement on our hands and I look forward to Wainwright, Rasmus and Ankiel establishing themselves as the next generation of Cardinals greats (clearly Wainwright is well on his way). But I think injuries will keep us well short of the playoffs. You can't take Carpenter and Mulder out of a rotation and expect a team to excel. Plus I feel Pujols elbow problem will land him on the DL at least once, if not off/on all season. Therefore my optimistic prediction for the Redbirds is a third place finish, although I will accept a fourth place standing as well. It will be fun, but not always a victory.

As for the rest of the league here are my playoff predictions:
NL
Philadelphia, Milwakee, Arizona and San Diego as my suprise wild card.
AL
Boston, Detroit, Seattle and Cleveland as my non-Yankee wild card.

World Series:
Detroit over Arizona.

The NL is hard to pick, but I really like the pitching staff of Arizona regardless of Randy Johnson. I think that team can put it together for a full season and grow as a team.

In the AL it was a tough choice between Detroit and Boston. Both teams look fantastic this season. But I put Detroit because I like their pitching more and because it would be great for the game. It was about 5 years ago Detroit lost almost 120 games. If they can turn it around and win there is hope for the Washingtons, Pittsburghs, Kansas Citys and Tampa Bays of the world. I want to see it happen.

Also, the Cubs will choke and it will be glorious. Play Ball!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sheet of Futility


I love the first weekend of March Madness. If I could, I would watch 4 days of basketball. Usually I catch about 2 games a day, but with Holy Week and Easter this year I doubt I will get that many. But it's still one of the best sports weekends of the year.

For the first time ever I filled out two brackets (for an office pool). So I have my #1 bracket to share with you, or my Sheet of Integrity. I am really good at picking Final 4 teams, and not so great at picking the winner. Here it goes:

My Final 4 are North Carolina, Kansas, Texas and UCLA with North Carolina beating UCLA. Not very exciting, but I went with some solid picks. I can't show you my whole bracket, but some of my upset picks are Villanova in the sweet 16 and both Pitt and Purdue in the Great 8.

"Good Luck, to ME!"

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Green Day!

Today is the day when everybody is Irish. As someone with an entire side of a family that is Irish, let me tell you what it means to be Irish:
- You have several relatives with red hair. (Given)
- Family events involve consuming alcohol no later than 1pm (including big holidays)
- Funerals have more laughter than you would ever expect.
- You wear extra green on St. Patrick's day to prove your ethnicity.
- You own Notre Dame apparel because they are the Fighting Irish when in actuality you don't even know where the school is located.
- You have very pale skin and either turn red or orange in the sun.
- You are probably Catholic and therefore are probably related to a priest or a nun.
- You can't hold your alcohol, you just like to drink it.

There is your cheat sheet for the day. Enjoy! Since Green is the color of the day, here is the best Green Screen bit from Whose Line is it Anyways?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Here it goes again

Spring Training is in full swing, and I am excited. My prediction is that the Cardinals will play hard and play well, but still fall short of the post-season. We just don't have the overall talent to win consistantly enough. Throw in the Pujols is already hurting and I think we are a 4th place team. Let's have those Cards prove me wrong!

Spring training makes me think of all those players getting in shape. Exercise leads to treadmills. Treadmills lead to OK GO. Somehow this song feels like an apropriate spring training song.

Monday, February 25, 2008

You get to play Plinko!

What does every good American do on a sick/snow day? The Price is Right baby. I know Bob is gone, but I think Drew is awesome and is getting better everyday. And for some reason he still asks America to spay and neuter your pets after every show. You know, that might have been a good cause in the 70's. Can't Drew find a little more modern cause than controlling the pet population?

Anyways, here is a great video of the new Price is Right with Drew Carey. I get excited when someone gets to play Plinko, but I never have this problem. She might need professional help!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's gotta be the shoes.

About 10 years ago Jamiroquai released the video for "Virtual Insanity." (before they were "that band from the Napolean Dynamite song") Well, it is still one of my favorite videos. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was this video that inspired me to wear indoor soccer shoes for casual wear. (In fact, I'm wearing my Pumas today).

When they won the VMA for Video of the Year Chris Rock said "How bout an award for the hat!" Ok, that's funnier if you say it with Chris Rock's voice. Here's the video. Don't be alarmed if you suddenly feel that your couch is gliding across the room.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Febtober!

These are not accurate impressions of anybody. But they are too much fun.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cheaters Proof?

I fully planned on blogging today about how the Patriots completed the Playstation season by going undeafeted and setting records on the way.

Now I bet they wish they could hit the reset button.

Going into the Superbowl I really thought the atmosphere was the same as the Rams/Pats game. One team was destined to win, the other had to play a perfect game to get the job done. Well, congrats to the Giants whose defense was amazing and offense got enough done. They won a Superbowl that will be remembered for all times.

So where does this leave the Pats? To be honest, before this weekend I really admired the Patriots. It's about the system, not the player. They take scrub players and make them better. They take superstars and make them one of the guys. They win without a lot of talk and flash. To me, they represented what was right in sports. They were a true team.

Until Spygate 2 broke this weekend. Now, it might all change.

I speak of the allegations of the Patriots video taping the Rams final walkthrough before the Superbowl in '02. I think it's fair to ask if they used illegal videos from the regular season game too. Either way, there is a question as to whether the Patriots had a illegal advantage before entering that Superbowl.

This should be a massive investigation. I'm talking Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens huge. Why? Because that game changed the shape of the NFL. The Rams and spiraled, and save one season haven't had a winning record in any one season since. The Patriots have become the crown jewel of the NFL, winning two more Superbowls. They set records on the way. If the result had been different......lets just say the league would be different.

Listen, I hope they are innocent. Just like I hope that Roger is innocent. (Barry admitted he took "the clear" but didn't know what it was. He may not be guilty in court, but he isn't innocent in my book either). But I want a thourough investigation of the Patriots, just like Roger is getting a full shake-down. This is too big to let go unturned.

I predict the Patriots will have evidence against them, but it will be left up to interpretation as to how much damage it caused. I also predict Roger will come up clean. But I tell you this, I am very skeptical and very troubled about all this until all the dust has settled in both cases.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Craptastic.

Review: The Simpsons Game
Score: 4.0
Scale 10 - everyone should own this. 1- Don't even rent it.

The Simpsons have had quite a history in video games, stemming from their debut on the NES all the way to today. As a rule of thumb, I only buy games that have the writing staff and voice actors of the Simpsons doing all the work. Well, The Simpsons game had all of this, so I was ready to play. Let's just say the Simpsons staff help up their end of the bargain.

This game is hilarious. The plot is ridiculous: The Simpsons discover they aren't living in real life but in a video game, giving them super powers they didn't know they had. The real gem of this game is the level design. In this game you will see: The French retreating over and over again, Sonic and Mario powering video games, Homer in an eating contest, Marge destroying violent video games, Moe as an Elf, Lisa saving the trees and God playing DDR. I'm telling you, I was constantly laughing while playing the game. Which wasn't very helpful because.....

THE GAME-PLAY SUCKED!!!!!!!! I cannot emphasize that enough. This was the hardest game I played (based on controls) in 15 years. Some puzzles were challenging. But most of the time I was pissed because I couldn't make a simple jump. This happened all the time. Levels that were supposed to take 15 minutes took 45 minutes. It was ridiculous.

My recommendation: If you are a Simpsons collector you should buy this game. Otherwise just rent it or borrow it from someone who has beaten it (like me). Instead, I recommend Simpsons: Hit and Run (for the PS2, XBOX I think). This game is hilarious as well, but it plays really well and is a lot of fun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Could I be so white and nerdy?

So, I had my birthday this weekend. Thank you to all that messaged and called me. We didn't have a party this year, so I got to work my schedule around all the stuff I wanted to do.

I watched lots of sports. I watched Arsenal beat Fulham and the US beat Sweden. I watched Mizzou lose to they-who-must-not-be-named. And I watched the 3 quarters of the Patriots game and the last quarter+ of the Giants game. Throw in some Wii action with my family, and it was a good weekend.

Which proves what we already know: I am white and nerdy.



Seriously, who knew Weird Al could rap so well? Unfortunately, I have participated in at least half of the references in this song. Donny Osmond is obvious in the video, but did you catch the Seth Green cameo?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The State of the Leagues









I should note that I was inspired to write about this after Mike and Mike in the Morning brought this point up on monday.

MLB and the NFL couldn't be in different situations this week. Football's greatest players are getting set to battle for a spot in the Superbowl. Baseball's greatest players are gearing up to testify in front of Congress. The NFL is clearly the most popular league in the nation. Howie Long put it best during his Hall-of-Fame speech "Baseball is the national pastime. But football is its passion."

It's like the fans were Baseball's date to the dance for years, but one year Baseball called in sick with the flu. No sooner did the fans hang up the phone when Football showed up at the door, dressed in a tux. The fans haven't been returning baseball's calls.

Both football and baseball have had stars busted for steroids and HGH, yet only baseaball is taking the heat. How did we get here? I believe it can be traced to 1994.

Baseball was clearly hurting. The players strike damaged the image of the sport. It seemed to be "all about the money." I think if they could have salvaged a World Series the pain would have been less, but that hole in baseball history will always exist.

Football was reaping the benefits of their frugalness. They were expanding for the first time in 20 years. They were moving franchises out of shaky markets and planning to keep teams in solid markets. They had branded themselves world-wide so that Europeans at least knew what American Football was. And, probably the biggest point, they became the No Fun League. They had rules. Lots of them. If you didn't follow them you were suspended or fined. If you were too much trouble, teams could cut you. This helped keep the focus on the game and not distractions. These eliments have lifted the NFL to one of the top 3 leagues in the world, if not number 1.

The results carry on today. Baseball's "dirty laundry" is out for all to see. Since the players and owners can't agree, every dispute is out in the open. Which means when the steroids/HGH stories break the media sees everything. There is no sympathy towards players, maybe because they have guarenteed contracts and don't fear getting cut. Still, even if a player wants to apologize they are persecuted.

The NFL's problems are veiled behind their rules. They have drug testing in place and players could lose their jobs at any moment. Does the NFL have an HGH problem? Who knows? Because the NFL has a steroid policy we assume they are hard on HGH. That makes it so when NFL players get busted and make an apology we are glad the system worked and can learn to forgive the player.

To me, it is all about the commishioner. Paul Tagliabu and Roger Goodell have been strong and proactive. Bud Selig looks like the type of guy that has troubles ordering his lunch. Is it fair the way we treat the NFL and MLB? I don't think so, but baseball has noone to blame but themselves.