Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Top Artists of the Decade

I waited a little too long to post this, and now every publication has posted their lists. So be it. But I've been working up to this since I posting my top artists of the last 20 and 30 years, and I am glad to post my top 10 artists of the decade.

1: U2 In retrospect, U2 ignited the music of this decade for me. Coming out of the 90's I was bogged down by Eminem, Britney Spears and the boy bands. Rock was looking for a new hero. What they got was an old one. The opening lines of "Beautiful Day" said it all for me: "The Heart is a bloom, shoots up from the stony ground." Rock wasn't dying, it was waiting to be reborn. Throughout the decade U2 provided that combination of spark and poetic lyrics that makes Rock the music that I love. A thank you to U2 for keeping it going 30 plus years after you started.



2: Cold Play It was really hard to choose between U2 and Cold Play. In the end, Cold Play is compared to U2, not the other way around. Chris Martin and company took a familiar sounds (guitar, piano, harmonies) and added their own passion to it. Their albums are great, and their singles are amazing as well. "Fix You" paints such a great picture you can really feel the emotion behind it. That will earn you a place in my music library any time.

3: Beyonce Talented. She can sing, dance, act, whatever you want. Yet what really sets her apart for me is that her songs are all wholesome in a way. When many artists are writing songs about how to score with the girls in the room, Beyonce comes with "Put a ring on it." She's never in controversies and is always smiling. And she has tons of great hits, and maybe the best video of the decade. Oh, and she was in a little group called Destiny's Child which had a pretty good career too. Pretty good decade. Here is her video for "Single Ladies" that Kayne West is such a fan of.



4: Justin Timberlake Justin is on here for all around talent. We found out from N'SYNC that he could sing and at least look good dancing. And between the boy band and his solo career he's had a good number of hits. But I've been most impressed with his work on Saturday Night Live. Seriously, he should be a permanent cast member. Not just the songs he sings, but how he has the comedic timing to pull each gag off is impressive. Remember, it's not common practice for pop star to poke fun of themselves on national TV! Here is a video of Justin on SNL with Beyonce none the less (ignore the first few seconds...and the end...)

5: The Killers I really thought they were a one hit wonder when I heard "Somebody Told Me." Turns out nobody told me how rocking these guys are. I love the passion Brandon Flowers puts into all his vocals on top of the driving music the band lays down. Every album is great loaded with powerful hits. In fact "Sam's Town" is for sure one of my favorite albums of the decade.

6: Snow Patrol I actually first heard Snow Patrol on a PS2 game. But when the hits of "Final Straw" started getting played on the radio I knew this group had something special. And as great as that album was, "Eyes Open" was special. It is the album from this decade I most enjoy listening start to finish with the way it ebbs and flows. A great band I hope to hear much more from.

7.: Green Day What I like the most about Green Day was their confidence to try new things in a big way. While their music sounded similar, their approach was different. "America Idiot" was supposed to be an album to show people Green Day's frustration with the Bush administration. Think about that, a punk group made a heavily political rock opera. AND it sounded pretty dang good. That's how I will remember Green Day.

8: John Mayer In a decade when songs started sounding predictable and trite, Mayer was able to raise the bar in my mind. His songs were a great blend of interesting chords and catchy melodies. And he has some skills on the guitar. The fact that I hear people complain that he rips off Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix tells me he's doing something right!

9: Radiohead As I have mentioned, I am still in the discovery phase as a fan of Radiohead. But what I can tell you is that I missed out on them, and I am making up for lost time. A great band full of outside-of-the-box songwriting.

10: The Strokes Why include a band that only had one great album? Because that album is a great example of alternative music of the decade. Gone were the riffs and screams of grunge, replaced by driving guitars and tactful guitar solos. I hear a lot of the influence of The Strokes in Snow Patrol and The Killers, so I must give props to a band that gave me hope for the decade. Ok, I wasn't thinking about the entire decade at the time, but it did give me hope!

Monday, December 7, 2009

BCS Playoff Plan - 2009 Edition (Updated)


The end of the college football season means another bowl season of questions. In previous seasons the question was "Which 1 loss team deserves to play for the championship?" This season we have FIVE undefeated teams, three of which cannot win the title. For shame.

Last year I wrote an extensive blog articulating a BCS playoff format. You can read it here. The goal of this model is to give every team a chance to win the championship every year via a playoff system. To summarize, it calls for a 16 team playoff including the 11 conference champions and 5 at-large bids based on the BCS rankings. Seed the tournament based on the BCS rankings as well. Use existing bowl games to play the tournament, half the bracket on Thursday nights and half on Saturdays. Play the semi-finals on New Years Day and the Championship a week later.

Since this is the second season I've been using this model, some interesting facts came forth putting this together. We have 11 returning participants with only five newcomers. I thought there would be much more turnover than that. The highest ranked newcomer is Oregon with the 7 seed. It just goes to show you how hard it is to win a NCAA Football Championship. I will also point out that in creating my fictional outcomes only three teams from last year returned to the Elite Eight with only one team (Alabama) returned to the Final Four. That seems very likely.

The teams who qualify by winning their conference championship are Alabama, Troy, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, TCU, Boise St, Cincinnati, Central Michigan, Oregon, Texas and East Carolina. Wild Cards are Florida, Penn St, Virginia Tech, Iowa and LSU.

Here is this season's playoff schedule. Results are chosen for scheduling purposes.

First Round:
(1)Alabama (SEC) v (16)Troy (Sun Belt)
in the St. Petersburg Bowl Thurs Dec. 17th

(8)Ohio St (Big 10) v (9)Georgia Tech( ACC)
in the Little Caesars Bowl Thurs Dec. 17th

(5)Florida (Wild Card) v (12)LSU (Wild Card) SEC Showdown!
in the Meineke Bowl Thurs Dec. 17th

(4)TCU (Mountain West) v (13)Penn St (Wild Card)
in the Las Vegas Bowl Thurs Dec. 17th

(6)Boise St. (WAC) v (11)Virginia Tech (Wild Card)
in the New Mexico Bowl Sat Dec. 19th

(3)Cincinnati (Big East) v (14)Central Michigan (MAC)
in the Music City Bowl Sat Dec. 19th

(7)Oregon (Pac 10) v (10)Iowa (Wild Card)
in the Poinsetta Bowl Sat Dec. 19th

(2)Texas (Big 12) v (15)East Carolina (C-USA) Rematch from last year.
in the New Orleans Bowl Sat Dec. 19th

Round of Eight:
(1)Alabama v (9) Georgia Tech
in the Sugar Bowl Wed Dec. 23rd

(5)Florida v (4)TCU
in the Emerald Bowl Wed Dec. 23rd

(11)Virginia Tech v (3)Cincinnati
in the EagleBank Bowl Sat Dec. 26th

(7)Oregon v (2)Texas
in the Rose Bowl Sat Dec. 26th

Semi-Final Round:
(1)Alabama v (4)TCU
in the Orange Bowl Friday Jan. 1st

(3)Cincinnati v (7)Oregon (the Cinderella Story)
in the Fiesta Bowl Friday Jan. 1st

National Championship:
(1)Alabama v (7)Oregon
BCS National Championship game Thursday Jan. 7th

Using these bowl games would eliminate 14 of the current 66 teams set to play bowl games this season. I have already stated that 6-6 teams should not qualify for a bowl game, so the following 6-6 teams would be bumped this year: Wyoming, Texas A&M, UCLA, Minnesota, Iowa St., Florida St., Michigan St., and Marshall.

This leaves us needing six 7-5 teams to be cut. Since the bowl committees love big schools that can travel, I would imagine the following teams would be cut as well: Southern Miss, SMU, Bowling Green, Idaho, Air Force, Northern Illinois. While losing these schools is sad, I think the end result of a true national champion is worth it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. As a parting note, I want your opinion on something. The only tweak I am considering is making it a 14 team tournament. This would eliminate two wild cards (this year would be Penn St. and LSU) and would give the 1 and 2 seed a first round bye. So I ask you, which would be better? 16 seeds with more wild cards or 14 teams and rewarding the top 2 seeds?

UPDATE:
Turns out 14 of my 16 playoff teams played another playoff team in a bowl game. Although it wasn't a true tournament it gave a little insight as to who might be good enough to advance. Just for fun, using my seeds here would be the match-ups of those teams who won their bowl games.

(1)Alamaba v (14)Central Michigan

(8)Ohio St v (10)Iowa in a regular season rematch

(6)Boise St v (11)Virginia Tech....which was a first round match-up. whatever.

(5)Florida v (13)Penn St

So I'd say it was a good showing from the Big 10 who has three teams on this list. Also, only 2 non-BCS schools made it. But that is a misleading stat because of the 5 non-BCS schools in the tournament, four of them played each other in bowl games. Also, four of the five Wild Card teams won their games. Not much I can read out of these stats except that it seems the Wild Card teams showed their quality and gives me something to think about for next season.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Top 10 St. Louis Sports moments of the Decade

It has been a crazy decade for St. Louis sports. For the Blues and Rams it has been the best of times (2000) and the worst of times (2007). For the Cardinals it has been the decade of Pujols and La Russa and has been constantly great. Mizzou Football started as a floor mat to the Big 12 and has emerged as a consistent North contender. And Mizzou Basketball has survived Ricky Clemons and Coach Q to rebuild itself under Mike Anderson. With all that said, here are my top 10 "moments" of the last decade in St. Louis sports.


1. The Tackle '00: In the most exciting and probably most underrated Superbowl, the Rams defeated the Titans by 1 yard. When Mike Jones made the tackle, I was in disbelief. We didn't blow it. The clock struck midnight, but Cinderella still danced. This is my number one moment because of the excellence the Rams gave all season. The '99/2000 season was as special as we'll ever know, and it was all preserved by "The Tackle."


2. Wainwright wins the World Series 'o6: Wow. Clutch. Huge. Just some words of how great Adam Wainwright was in the '06 postseason. The Cardinals limped into the playoffs and when Izzy got injured we turned to a rookie starting pitcher as our closer. Not only did he buckle Carlos Beltran's knee, but he got the job done in the World Series. It is an image I will not forget.

3. Warner to Bruce '00: You know, watching the second half of the Superbowl in 2000 was REALLY distressing. The Rams weren't scoring touchdowns and Eddie George had rushed his way back into the game. Late in the 4th quarter the Rams needed some magic. And got it. Warner took a huge hit delivering the ball, and Isaac Bruce made the adjustment to make the winning score.

4. Yadi's home run '06: With the game tied 1-1 in the ninth I was getting nervous. I was really afraid the Met were gonna hit a walk-off home run. Especially because I didn't think the bottom of our lineup was gonna score. Then Yadi hit a long fly ball. My first reaction was "It's just a fly out." It turned into "I swear on everything Holy if Endy Chavez catches ANOTHER homer I will break a wall!!" When it cleared the wall it was jubilation. Out of the entire '06 playoff run this play made me yell the loudest.


5. Eat Turf Kansas '07: What turned out to be the height of Mizzou's football program this decade gave us a lasting image. In 2007 Mizzou came into the Border War the ranked #4 team with the Kansas Jayhawks ranked #2 on a nationally televised game (ESPN Gameday was there too!) It was a great game, but the defining moment was when KU's quarterback Todd Reesing was sacked for a safety, only to emerge with the turf still in his grill. Mizzou won the game and woke up on Monday the #1 team in the land.

6. Touchdown Rams: Ricky Proehl '00: The road to the Superbowl wasn't a total cakewalk. Although we demolished the Vikings, the Buccaneers and their dominant defense posed a great challenge. In fact, late in the 4th quarter the Rams found themselves trailing 6-5. A strange place for the greatest show on turf to be. Until Warner threw one up and Ricky Proehl came down with it. I was at that game, and it still is the greatest moment I have ever been in attendance.



7. Jim Edmonds walk-off '04: Despite how the '04 ended, the NLCS was classic. The Cardinals and Astros had battled often in previous years and this was the first meeting in the playoffs. After Jeff Kent hit a walk-off in Houston, it was easy to think the 'stros would finish the job in St. Louis. In extra innings game 6 remained tied until Jimmy Ballgame came up big. We all knew it when it came off his bat. A great moment in Cardinals history.

8. Pujols shocks Houston '05: It was looking depressing in game 5 of the '05 NLCS. The Cardinals were going to lose in Houston, losing a chance to give Old Busch one last game. 2 outs and Eckstein hits a gritty single. Ok. Edmonds works a great walk, to bring up Pujols. If only hit could hit one. CRACK. Silence. The best silence you will ever hear. I personally was running around the house about to explode because I was trying not to wake up my wife. It was a great moment, but it would be one of the greatest in baseball history if the Cards could have won the series. Turns out the mojo was lost and all Pujols gave St. Louis was a proper good bye to Busch. A great gift indeed.

9. Great 8 in '02 and '09: Ok, not so much a moment but an accomplishment. Mizzou basketball had two Elite 8 seasons this decade, but they couldn't have looked different. In '02 the Tigers were ranked high in the pre-season polls, but stumbled out of the gates and snuck into the tournament as a 12 seed. Well Kareem Rush and company put it together to make a run that nearly ended with a Final Four. In contrast, the '09 season was a "make it or break it" season for Mike Anderson in his third year. A team that got better as the season went on, nobody wanted to play the Tigers in the tournament. It took a tree in Thabeet and UCONN to take out the Tigers, but not after revitalizing a long historic program.

10. USA vs Mexico '02 World Cup: Alright, it's not technically a St. Louis team. But when US Soccer plays we should all be fans you know? US v Mexico is as great of a rivalry as there is. Cards/Cubs, MU/KU, it is just as passionate. Add to it that these two rivals met in the World Cup and extreme bragging rights were up for grabs. A great performance by the US put them into the quarter finals against Germany (and if it weren't for a non-call on a handball we might have made the semi's?) Here is a clip if you don't remember.



Honorable Mention: Presidents Trophy 2000: What a long, difficult decade for the Blues. It started with such great promise. Captained by Chris Pronger, the Blues had the best record in the NHL in 2000, only to be knocked out in the first round. It was a painful end to the season, and while the Blues did make the Conference Finals the next season it really wasn't the same after that. Hopefully the current management and roster will make this next decade more memorable!

Ok, those are my moments. Comment on the order or if I left any out! I will admit up front, I left out some of the more painful moments so I could include the success of the Blues and US Soccer. That's why you don't see anything about the '02 Superbowl. Still too painful.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My top 10 artists of the last 20 years

Continuing my reflections at the end of a decade, I now turn my attention to the top artists of the last 20 years. This was a particularly difficult list to put together. First, I really started getting into music in 1993, therefore grunge had a huge impact on my taste. On the other hand, most of the grunge bands didn't make it out of the 90's, making their lasting effect a little more difficult to judge. But still, I am happy with my list. My criteria again:

Quality: Obviously, you had to be good. Since quality is subjective, I will again proclaim my affection for Rock and Alternative music. I can recognize good pop acts and have little experience judging country and rap. My apologies upfront.
Longevity: For this list you pretty much need to have had success in both 90's and 2000's. Exceptions to artists who couldn't make it due to death.
Trailblazers: If you changed music, you score bonus points. If you were able to change your own style and remain successful you get points as well.

My choices:
1. Dave Matthews Band: One of those bands that the first time I heard them I knew they were special. The depth of their music can take in anyone. Dancers/partyers love them. Those who just want a catchy tune love them. If you love great solos and progressions you love them. And nobody sounds like them. Nobody has the guts to try. You can identify a Dave song pretty quickly and chances are by the end of the song you will enjoy it. In fact, the only reason people don't like DMB is because they are too popular. People used to say that about the Beatles. Didn't make sense then, doesn't make sense now. Here is a video of DMB playing Ants Marching live in Central Park.



2. Nirvana: Quite simply, Nirvana changed the rules of the game. They took powerful/distorted guitars and laid some great hooks to them. But instead of making it pretty, they went with the emotional ridden screeching vocals that caused a generation to realize that music was more than teeny bopper pop music. I am still sad that Kurt Cobain had to die so early. I understand he had troubled life and it would have been hard for him to survive. But he was a musical genious. Nobody has made the quality of grunge Nirvana did. And since bands have been trying to replicate that magical sounds for almost 20 years, that's saying something.

Here is a video of Nirvana playing the 1992 MTV VMA's. They started playing "Rape Me" just to make MTV mad, then went on to play a classic version of "Litium." Watch the most epic fail of a bass toss at the end.



3. Red Hot Chili Peppers: I feel there are two categories of RHCP songs. Those that rock hard (Give it away Now) and those that rock soft (Under the Bridge, Scar Tissue). Both have a huge infusion of funk that is carried by the music of bassist Flea and guitarist John Frusciante. It is this use of funk and great melodies that makes the Chili Peppers a great band. They're one of those bands I always catch myself listening to on the radio. I never change it because they always brings quality. Again, nobody sounds like these guys because they do it so well.

4. Pearl Jam: My personal favorite band, these guys are still rocking almost 20 years later. How to describe why I love them? Their music is timeless to me. No matter how much I listen to an album the progressions and riffs still speak to me. Plus Eddie Vedder's lyrics are always heart felt and well thought out (even if you don't understand a word). Two things Pearl Jam did to last this long. First they make music for the music, not for sales. They write stuff they enjoy and hope others enjoy it, instead of trying to write hits. Second, they follow their hearts which leads them to be politically active. When Pearl Jam started most "hair bands" were singing about sex drugs and rock n roll. Pearl Jam didn't just write from the heart, but they followed it in their lives supporting their causes. It's something that didn't exist back then, and I'm glad they spoke their minds. It made me make up my own.

5. Green Day: Green Day made Punk popular. They took fast/sloppy music and put some great melodies and hooks to them. Later they showed their writing abilities with songs like "Time of your life" and "When September Ends." They too chose to become politically active late in their careers, which to me shows a sign of maturity. Who would have used the word maturity to describe Green Day when they released "Dookie?" Not me, but that's why they are successful. They allowed themselves to grow.

6. Jay Z: Poser alert: I do not listen to much rap. But I know talent. Jay Z is on a very short list of Rap artists I can listen to. Mostly because I hear music when I hear his songs, not just a rapper trying to draw attention to himself. Fun Fact: Jay Z has the most number 1 albums of the last 20 years.

7. Weezer: When Emo bands started becoming popular earlier this decade, I was unimpressed. Mostly because Weezer had already done it 10 years ago. Distorted guitars with downer lyrics? Please that was soooo 1996. Although Weezer is a little more hit and miss with their songs and albums, their hits are legendary. Sweater Song. Buddy Holly. Hash Pipe. Beverly Hills. Pork and Beans. All quality above and beyond what most bands reach. They have a special place in my heart, and every good alternative fan better have the Blue Album. Their video for Pork and Beans cleverly utilizes youtube and its popularity.

8. Radiohead: I admit, I am just now getting into these guys. And I am impressed. It's like a grunge time capsule I just got to open. Crazy good songwriting, crazy good vocals. Probably a little off-the-wall for the average fan. But if you want 15 years of solid gold grunge, Radiohead is a great place to turn.

9. Mariah Carey: I know she went crazy. But she has 18 number 1 hits. Eighteen! That's the most for any female artist, and second only to the Beatles. Some day, when they crazy fades away a new generation will discover her only to say "why doesn't anyone ever talk about her?" Well, crazy does that. Unless your Michael Jackson. Then we talk more.

10. Foo Fighters: They rock hard, and I love it. Another group that every time I hear them on the radio I never change the channel. Their hits are just that awesome. Their biggest knock: As much as their singles rock, the rest of each album sucks. Sorry guys, but just not enough quality all the way around. Still, Foo Fighters carry the banner of Hard Rock well. That's enough for my list.

Special Mention: Dave Grohl The man amazed me. He was the drummer for Nirvana (who changed music as I mentioned) then goes on to have an amazing career and a singer/songwriter. Not many people not named Ben Folds can do that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My top 10 artists of the last 30 years

As another decade comes to a close I like to reflect. And since I am a child of the 80's, I felt a recap of the artists of the last 30 years would be appropriate. My criteria:
Quality: Obviously, you had to be good. Since quality is subjective, I will say that I am a fan of rock and alternative. I can recognize good pop acts and have little experience judging country and rap. My apologies upfront.
Longevity: For this list you pretty much need to have had success in each decade. Exceptions to artists who couldn't make it due to death.
Trailblazers: If you changed music, you score bonus points. If you were able to change your own style and remain successful you get points as well.

Here is goes. Please feel free to argue in the comments. That's what top 10 lists are for!

1. U2: Is there any doubt? They've been the biggest band in the world twice! They made politically challenging music when nobody else was. They sneak Christianity into their music in a way that is meaningful for anyone. Oh, nobody sounds quite like them. In the 80's they created a fresh new sound. In the 90's they wrote music that will take us years still to understand. In the 2000's they came roaring back. I could go on. Here is a clip from their Superbowl halftime show in Feb 2002. I consider this the most meaningful live performance since the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.



2. Metallica: These guys have had 3 careers. In the 80's they defined metal. They played faster and harder than anyone, and most metal bands still can't compete. In the 90's they went more mainstream and managed to dominate in a way nobody thought metal could. In the 2000's I think they just started making music for themselves again with nothing to prove. If you want to dismiss them as just playing loud and fast, listen to some of their 80's stuff. They were totally into arpeggios and solos that are more musically interesting than any metal I've heard. This is the music video for their song "One." (of Guitar Hero fame) It tells the story of a man who loses his arms, legs, sight and hearing in war. And it has one of my favorite guitar solos ever.

3. Michael Jackson The King of Pop. Thriller is the highest selling album of all time by a lot. He could be the single most talented performer of the century. The only reason he's not at the top is because he went nuts somewhere in the 90's. Still, there's no denying he did what nobody did before and what only few dare to try now. This is the performance that put Moonwalk on the map and made Jackson a star above all the others.



4. Madonna: Before Madonna woman singers were talented, but usually stayed conservative with their music (outside of jazz, do some homework on that) Madonna pushed the envelope of what a female pop star could be, both musically and with her live performances. How good has she been? Well, most of the stars who have followed her have gone crazy from all the pressure of being so controversial. There have been better singers, but no better female performers. This is her famous performance of "Like a Virgin" at the 1984 MTV Awards (this is copied by Princess Fiona at the end of Shrek 1) (This also has the 2003 performance with Madonna, you can ignore that if you wish)



5. Bruce Springstein: The Boss. While his individual hits might not be as huge as some of these other artists, his body of work is pretty awesome. He was huge in the 80's, strayed away from the E Street Band in the 90's only to come charging back in the 2000's. His song "The Rising" was a great tribute to the spirit of America following 9-11-2001.

6. Weird Al: Why Weird Al? Not only was he the first to do the comedy parodies of songs, but he has been the best. So good that he owns the market all to himself. Quick, name another parody artist. No one. Weird Al created and perfected a genre in one fell swoop. Here is an example of his brilliance. In 1999 the whole country (world?) was super pumped about the release of the new Star Wars film The Phantom Menace. I mean crazy excited. So what did Weird Al do? He took "American Pie" by Don Mclean and sumarized the whole movie in "The Saga Begins." You can watch it here.

7. REM This band was pretty huge at the end of the 80's and beginning of the 90's. When hair bands and grunge were dominating the air waves REM took simple guitars and awesome melodies to make a variety of hits. Seriously, they had hits in "Shiny Happy People" and "Losing My Religion." Can't get much more different than that! Most alternative bands didn't survive the advent of grunge. REM did, and for that I salute you.

8. Queen: Ok, technically they were a 70's band. But they made some great tracks in the 80's and I feel their music still reaches us today. Bands will always be compared to Queen because Queen did it best. Freddie Mercury had a voice that is like no other. Seriously. I've only heard one that comes close. (Mika, duh) The rest of the band did their part too, providing great sounds to add to whatever bizarrely brilliant vocal tracks Freddie was working on. Freddie Mercury died of AIDS at the age of 45. Who knows what else he could have given to the world of music, but what he did give is still cherished today.



9. Prince I admit, I don't know Prince as well as these other artists. But when you are dubbed the next Jimi Hendrix, you still get some respect from me. He was a talented guitarist and could have written some killer rock songs. But he thrived in pop. He took all his musical knowledge and made pop songs that were interesting, not redundant. He has slowed up on the creation of new music lately, but his music still stands tall. By the way, partying like it's 1999 is soooo 10 years ago.

10. The Police If only they could have stopped fighting. Again, a band whose sound is still unparalleled. Combine a jazz guitarist to a creative song writer and add a dynamic drummer and you get the Police. Although the lyrics don't seem to fit the music, Sting wrote tunes that we are still singing today. And if I ever have to send out an SOS, you know it's gonna be a message in a bottle.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 NFL Predictions

Last year I wrote a blog warning Rams fans that if we didn't support our team they would move.

I still stand by that statement, but this time for whole new reasons.

Last year was bad. I am a pretty die-hard fan and I didn't watch several games. It wasn't football. The Rams were taking up space on the field. I wasn't watching competition, I was wasting my time. So went the 2008 Rams to a 2-14 season. It was hard for me to convince people to care.

Start caring again. The Rams did everything right this off season. We promoted the right guy Billy Devaney as our GM. We hired the absolute best available head coaching candidate in Steve Spagnuolo. Together they have made tons of smart decisions for this franchise. We may not win this year, but it is time to pay attention. We will look like a different team.

I have the Rams going 5-11 this year. I feel our defense will be much improved and keep games close. I think our offensive line is improved and Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger will sneak out a couple games maybe we shouldn't win. It will be painful, but at least it will look better this year.

NFC picks: Philadephia, New Orleans, Minnesota and San Fransisco with Green Bay and the New York Giants as wild cards.

AFC picks: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, San Diego with Baltimore and Houston as wild cards.

New England over Philly in the Super Bowl. Wow, how original of me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Man and El Hombre


Can anyone under the age of 45 ever truly understand how great Stan Musial was? We all know the legend and the respect he commands. But can any of us rattle off the top of our heads why he was so good? Let's start with some general numbers.

3630 hits, 4th all time behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron.
7-time Batting Champ
3-time MVP
4-time World Champion
24-time All Star. (They played 2 a few years)
All this while missing the 1945 season in the Armed Forces.

Those numbers in themselves show great longevity and talent. Specifically, the 7 batting championships stand out. In comparison Ichiro, Albert Pujols and Todd Helton have the active highest batting averages in MLB today. They have a combined 4 batting titles. Musial has a .331 career mark and 475 homers to go with it. The only left handed batters with a .330 average and more home runs are Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

But there are two lesser know stats that make Stan "The Man". 475 home runs may not be all that many these days, but I'm sure Stan could have hit more if he wanted to. Stan retired with 725 doubles, THIRD all-time(Tris Speaker, Rose). If I were playing a video game, I would just push the up button more. Musial had the contact but played in an era where homers were not the phenomenon they are now.

This gave Musial 6134 total bases....second behind Hank Aaron. Think about it, nobody has touched the bases more than Stan Musial save one man. Not Ruth or Williams. Not Mays or Bonds. That my friends is an accomplishment worth remembering.

And then there is the man, the character that Stan Musial brings. It's hard to explain, but the quote that is engraved on his statue at Busch Stadium says it all:

"Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."



First, Albert hates being called "El Hombre." He says he has too much respect for Stan the Man to take the moniker given to him.

All the more reason to embrace it.

Albert (God willing) is probably only halfway through his career. And yet it is impossible to not dream of how the numbers will stack up when he's finished. Let's look at those.

First is the obvious 9 seasons with .300 average, 30 homers and 100 RBI's to start a career. Yeah...nobody. Nobody has done it. First. Holy Crap. Albert says he is a contact hitter who happens to hit for power(Much like Musial with all his doubles). For one, I believe him. His average is what sets him apart.

Pujols career average to date is .333. He also currently has 358 career home runs. We know the names with a higher batting average and more career home runs: Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig. Notice anything?

Pujols has the highest average and home run combination of any right handed batter. Period. There are four right handed batters that stick out. Rogers Hornsby with a .358 average (second all time) and 301 homers (he could have hit more). Joe Dimaggio and Jimmy Foxx both hit .325 with 361 and 532 homers respectively. I should also mention Hank Aaron had a .305 average with his 755 homers.

Now, the trick to this stat is that most career batting averages drop significantly at the end of a player's career when they don't quite have the skills they used to (Musial included). But who's to say Pujols won't hit for MORE average before its all said and done. My point is that Pujols already can legimately be in the conversation for best right handed hitter of all time.(since Manny and A-Rod wrote themselves off with their steroids use)

Then there is the man who is Albert Pujols. He is extremely charitable off the field. He is a deeply spiritual and faithful man but is not in your face about it. And he is a fiery competitor. The kind of guy everyone wants on their team because he makes everyone better. He will steal a base when needed, he will lay out on the infield for a ground ball. It is all about the team for Albert.

ESPN has dubbed Albert "The Machine." They are so wrong. It's Albert's heart that seperates him from the rest, both on and off the field. He is no machine to St. Louis. He is a man in every sense of the word. He is "El Hombre."

(This blog is inspired from several conversations with my Dad about the legacy of both Musial and Pujols.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Pardon me for a moment while I stand and applaud."


In the Summer of 1966 the All-Star game came to St. Louis and Busch Stadium. There, my father and grandfather watched Tim McCarver score the winning run as the National League won 2-1 in extra innings.

It took a while, but I was able to go to the All-Star game with my dad on July 14th. To say I looked forward to it would be an understatement. I was looking forward to celebrating baseball, honoring baseball, honoring St. Louis, honoring the way St. Louis celebrates baseball etc. And I was also going to be in the presence of President Obama who was close enough in the broadcast booth I could see him smile and wave...literally.

First, we saw the players drive by with their families in the red carpet parade. Pretty much we got pictures of the back of their heads but great pics of their families. We then got inside for batting practice which was actually really exciting. We were close enough to a couple homers that I got beers spilled on my pants at 5pm. Eh, whats a ballgame without the smell of beer? (I dislike beer fyi)

We got settled into our seats (middle deck one section off home plate). We had our hot dogs and I had my scorecard knowing it would be the most challenging scorecard of my life. When the Clydesdales came out we were ready.

The staring lineups were fun. First, to show some respect for the AL. Then to boo the only Cub. But mostly for Albert and Yadi. The applause given for Albert was incredible and he has said it even surprised him. That's saying a lot I think.



The biggest surprise came from the President himself. His video about serving America was pretty special. The living Presidents (Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush Carter) all joined together to support those who serve our communities and are All-Stars among us. A worthy cause and I'm glad it happened. I point that out because it took 10 minutes and pretty much used up all the time.

The one regret for all St. Louis fans was the lack of focus on our great hall-of-famers. When they walked out together I knew the ball was dropped. They should have been brought out individually. Ozzie Smith. Bruce Sutter. Lou Brock. Bob Gibson. Red Schoendienst. These men and ball players are as much the reason St. Louis is a great baseball town as any. Parents want to tell stories of these guys and want their children to play ball and live life in their image.

And finally there had to be more for Stan Musial. From the seat all you saw was him being carted out to applause. We didn't know Joe Buck was listing his credentials on the broadcast. There could have been a video montage before he came out or have all the All Stars greet him on the cart a la Ted Williams. Anything. The only thing I can say is it is hard to be top bill when the President is there. I think Stan, Lou, Red, Bob, Bruce and Ozzie know how much they mean to us, regardless of that one night.



The lineups were great. I enjoyed watching Ichiro, Jeter, Halladay, Buehrle, Papelbon and Rivera from the AL. I enjoyed Howard, Pujols, Buehrle, Molina and Franklin get the home town treatment. 20 years from now I will get to tell about all the Hall of Famers I saw play in one night. That is special.

The game itself was....a little dry. Good defense. Bad defense. A triple. Actually, they best be glad this particular game was played in St. Louis. I'm not sure other fans could have sat through it and loved it like we did.

In the end, it truly was the celebration of St. Louis Baseball I envisioned. I left that game thinking how glad I am to be a fan of the greatest game in the greatest town.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My trade for the Cardinals

A couple weeks ago the Cardinals made a good trade in my opinion. While Mark Derosa has never been an All-Star caliber third baseman, he is a certain upgrade at the position and a veteran with some playoff experience (even though it was with the Cubs the last two years!) And while it solves our weakness at third base, it may not solve the weakness in the four spot in our lineup.

I was looking at Pujols career stats and saw the usual awesomeness in homers and RBI's. But the stat that has had the biggest dropoff is runs scored. Back in the day s of Pujols/Edmonds/Rolen Albert would score 130+ runs a year. Now he is lucky to get just over the 100 mark. For as often as he gets on base he should be scoring 120 easy. We need an RBI guy in the four slot and I don't think we should rely on Rasmus this year.

Some names have floated around, mainly Matt Holliday. Heck, even Larussa has expressed an interest in Holliday. It's easy to see why. Last year he got hurt, but for the most part in Colorado he was a 30+ homer, 130 RBI and .320 average guy. Awesome. The question mark is how does he hit away from Coors Field? And for me the question is will the Cards pick up his 13 million dollar salary? Oakland is in last place and would probably deal Holliday, although their GM has a history of taking great players from teams in trades (Dan Haren anyone?)

Enter my solution: Adam Dunn of Washington. Dunn plays for a last place team. He is 29, the same age as Holliday. And he makes 8 mil, or 5 million less than Holliday. Adam Dunn is a production machine. He has hit 40 homers FIVE YEARS in a row, and looks to add a sixth this year. He walks a lot, but his RBI totals are down. (probably because he played in Cincinatti) His average this year is in the .260's which would be 6th on the team and a huge upgrade from Ludwick/Ankiel/Duncan. He has strikes out a lot, but only 160 which is down from his 195 SO days.

So Holliday has the average and RBI's but comes at a price both in trade value and salary. Dunn has the homerun factor and is cheaper both in salary and probably in asking price. Oh, and Holliday is right handed which the Cardinals want also. I really like Matt Holliday but he will cost some future prospects. If we could get Dunn for say Ankiel/Duncan and a minor league pitcher I would take it.

That would give us a lineup of say Schumaker-Rasmus-Pujols-Dunn-Derosa-Ludwick-Molina-Pitcher-Ryan. I would take that lineup into the post season. I think with a little more offense our pitching staff will settle down and we could start to put some streaks together. Thoughts? Comments?

UPDATED: I heard a few things on the radio today. First, the Cardinals have expressed interest in Roy Halladay at a price tag of 4 top prospects and like 20 million dollars to sign long term. In a word: NO. Second, one MLB GM told ESPN's Buster Olney that they think the Cardinals spent all their trading money on Mark Derosa. So looks like any further trades would take special owner approval. Third, it sounds like Mark Derosa is out 4-8 weeks and could require surgery. Seriously, we might only have gotten 3 games out of the guy.

My non-trade solution......is Brett Wallace. I know it's not good to rush a guy to the big leagues and if he doesn't get a call up I will trust Tony's and Mo's decisions. But if he can hit like everyone says he can....let him play.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Youtube star: Julia Nunes

June is a busy month for me, so I will do a simple blog of sharing other people's talents. This one's about Julia Nunes, a college student somewhere in NY I think who's simple videos has earned her 100,000 subscribers on youtube.

I came across one of Julia Nunes videos on youtube a couple months ago and it's a little embarrassing to say I think I've seen all her videos now. Her voice is pure, her harmonies are amazing and her creativity is entertaining. I mean, she uses a slinky for percussion on one of her songs! She is most known for covering songs on her ukulele, but she has written two CD's that I plan on purchasing at some point this year. She is also very quirky and weird in her video commentaries which again is something I enjoy.

This is her version of "You're My Best Friend" by Queen. The song is only about 3 minutes and the rest are her humorous promotions from whenever she made this video. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Free time must be nice.

This video brings up a few thoughts:

1) Usually playing guitar gets you a girlfriend, but this might lose you one.

2) Or if he didn't have one before he probably has one now because he is a "youtube star."

3) Free time like this must be nice. Of course he does have 3 million views and something like 80,000+ subscribers, so I'm sure it was worth it in some way.

Enjoy!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In the end, it's all about how much I love Scrubs.

I love Scrubs, and have for a while. But I am now going to venture out and say it is my all-time favorite show, over the Simpsons and Friends. It probably has been for a couple seasons, all the signs are there. I made the whole cast as Mii's on my Wii. I totally plan on naming my first dog Turk Turkleton. It all fits.

The "series" finale was last night and it was by far the best finale I've ever seen. I mean, JD's daydreaming lead to some great moments over the years, but nobody could have prepared me for the last 5 minutes. Seeing all the old faces was amazing and is a scene for the ages. In their final moments Scrubs did what it always did: it made you laugh at the ordinary all while showing the depth of reality. I am a sentimental guy, so it is no wonder that this episode (and series) always got me hooked. It was the perfect finale. Period.

I will miss the awkward bro-hugs, the super-slick floors, the fricks, the a capella band, the dancing, the high fives, the girls names, the free muffins, the interns, the sweater lawyer, the nurses manipulating to get their way and the comment coming out of a daydream. It was a great ride.

Not to say that Scrubs is totally over. There is a substantial rumor that Scrubs will return without JD and have as much of the current cast participate as possible. The idea of focusing on the new interns is the likely direction with Denise and Sunny being two engaging personalities. While my head tells me this was the perfect ending my heart tells me I will watch whatever show Bill Lawrence develops.

Let me ask you this: Could any Scrubs fan pass on a show with The Janitor, The Tod, Ted and Dr. Cox walking the halls? I will be there when the day comes ready to put the penny in the door all over again.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Top 10 PS1 games (Guest Blogger)

So I am ashamed to admit that I only played 3 or 4 games on the PS1. Mostly because my sister owned the system at home and I was too cheap to buy games in college. But I didn't want to leave the system out because I REALLY enjoyed the games I did play. So here to guest blog for me is my sister Maureen. I approve of her rankings, and I will add my own thoughts in parentheses at the end of each summary.



1. Final Fantasy VII

Anyone who doesn't think this game deserves first place probably didn't play it when it first came out and has since been jaded by the hype. It was the first game I ever played with cinemagraphic cut scenes, which was like, unheard of at the time, and also incredibly awesome. This is all without even taking into consideration the mind blowing plot (it blew my mind at least three times, for the record), the memorable characters and music, and the best magic/equipment system of all time: materia. If you didn't like materia, you don't have a soul. Period. (For me, this is the game that made Video Games an art form, not just a hobby. Probably my favorite game ever. Plus it had a dude with a gun for a hand. Sweet!)



2. Chrono Cross

If you didn't play Chrono Trigger, then you missed out. If you didn't play Chrono Cross, then I will cut you. 45 possible playable characters? Multiple endings? New game +? Are you serious? This game kicked so much butt I didn't know what to do with myself. As a sequel, I thought it was going more down the Final Fantasy road in that it didn't really have much to do with Chrono Trigger, but -- well, not to spoil anything, but it totally does. And it is awesome. (I did not play this game, but I watched my roommate play it a lot. I would like to get to this game in my lifetime. I anticipate having lots of free time when my kids go to college....)



3. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night


This was the first Castlevania game I really played, mostly because I sucked at all other previous versions. It opens by giving you a taste of Alucard's best equipment and abilities, and then Death pulls a totally jerk move and steals your powers. So not cool. You basically spend the game exploring this gigantic castle and building up equipment and abilities, and if you can get past the side-scrolling 2D style, it's a worthy investment. It even has multiple endings! PS, here's a protip that took me 22 years to figure out: ALUCARD IS DRACLUA BACKWARDS. (I played Castlevania 1...it was really hard! The last Castlevania game I ever played.....)

4: Metal Gear Solid

Would you rather sneak around on your belly and hide in boxes than take on a room full of terrorists? Then this game is for you. It's pretty much the first and only series of "stealth action" video games I've ever played, but even if there were more, it would still probably be the best. It introduced voice acting in video games to me, and although Mei Ling's voice made me want to go on a shooting spree more than once, it was still great. The protagonist Snake is still popular enough to be included in games like Super Smash Bros., which is a freaking Nintendo game. Yeah, it's that good. (Note: Castlevania also had voice acting, but I didn't play that until I was 20 or so. Also, it sucked. The words "HAVE AT YOU!" were actually said.)(My note: I suck at stealth games. I am more of a "guns blazin'" gamer. I would make a terrible soldier in real life.)

5: Tekken 3

I'm not gonna lie: I call this the Street Fighter of the Playstation. Is it as good as Street Fighter II? Debatable. Is it still really freaking good? Yes. Completely worthy of having friends over to have epic tournaments. It's still a fan favorite online, too -- I believe you can download an emulator and battle with like, kids in Tokyo, if you're feeling particularly like getting your butt kicked. Definitely the best fighter game on the system. (How did I never play this game? Oh yeah, I sucked at fighter games and always conveniently convinced friends to play NFL 2k1 instead.)

6. Final Fantasy VIII

A lot of people take issue with the junction system in this, but you know what? Those people probably didn't read the tutorial, because it wasn't really that hard. Junctioning systems aside, this game tried to live up to FF7 in plot twists, and possibly went a little overboard. Time-traveling sorceresses and endless paradoxes? Eesh. Luckily, it made up for it with a love story that didn't end tragically in death, and also a gun-toting redhead in a cowboy hat. Other highlights include the Ragnarok, one of my favorite airships of all time, going into freakin' space, and traveling back in time to play as your dad. Yeah, you read that right. It was cool. (I am ashamed I didn't play this one either. Again, when you don't own the system in college, its hard to convince your buddies to let you play a 40 hour RPG on their system)

7. Final Fantasy IX

This game was basically a big bundle of references and tips of the hat to all its predecessors, but it still managed to keep its own plot interesting without being trite. I still take issue with the fact that the main character's limit break turns him pink and naked, but no game is perfect, I suppose. Because this game was a big homage to all the others, it had all the stuff I enjoyed: going to the moon, performing in a play/opera, and an older brother who wears a thong. ...Wait. Not that last one. That was still weird. (I liked this game, although the big drama moment was a haircut. For the record I would not and should not ever wear a thong)

8. Resident Evil 2

Worst voice acting of all time? Yes. First game that legitimately scared the crap out of me? Yes. This game had me so scared of zombies that I had to ask my friend to stand outside the door while I went to the bathroom after the first time I played it. It offered you a choice between two characters, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, and also gave you the chance to play the same scenario from the other character's point of view after you completed it. Lickers still scare the crap out of me. (I have also never played a survival/horror game. Honestly, I blame it on all the Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Perfect Dark, Madden and NCAA Football I have played in my life. I wished I hadn't played so much sports.)

9. Tomb Raider

Girls enjoyed having a female main character to kick butt with. Boys enjoyed the view. Duel-pistol wielding Lara Croft was pretty but deadly, and it was awesome to watch her backflip her way through a dungeon while shooting bears. Overall, the game had a good balance of general butt-kicking vs puzzles and stealth. Oddly enough, one of the things I enjoyed most was the various ways in which Lara could die. Falling, drowning, electrocution -- the whole game was a deathtrap. And I liked it. (....I saw the movie? Sounds like I would have liked this game, but I feared the repercussions of the "Lara factor" from both girls and guys alike.)

10. Dance Dance Revolution: Konamix

You know the crazy people on the DDR machines at the bowling alley and movie theatres? Yeah, there was a home version, too. The DDR mat was flimsy and I frequently had to adjust mid-song, but I still enjoyed it. DDR continues to be a unique experience that only jerkwads like Dave and Busters try to recreate. Also the only game I know to measure difficulty in feet. Also good for exercise! (I like this game, even though I am below average at it. It got gamers to say "Tonight, I just wanna dance!")

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Golden Compass review.

After thinking about my friend Robert's resolution to read 2 books a month, I noticed that I think I read 2-3 books a month. That's more than the movies and video games I go through combined. Although that's a little sad, it is parenthood. So...against every fiber in my soul that tells me this sounds like school...I am writing book reviews. It doesn't matter how old they are, I just like to share opinions.



The Golden Compass

I was drawn to this book mostly because the Catholic Church has issues with it, and I like to see for myself how bad it really is. For example, I rather enjoyed The Da Vinci Code because I felt that it was totally fiction, yet a good mystery. But I am glad I read it because now I have a good reference for all those who doubted their whole experience of faith because of it.

The Golden Compass received a similar warning, and personally I agree to an extent. The first book of His Dark Materials challenges the idea of soul, destiny and reason in a way that is meant to dispute Church teachings. I should note that although I think everyone who reads this blog already knows it, I come to this topic as a man of Catholic faith and therefore am biased in favor of the Church.

So I read the book with one thought in mind: how damaging could one book be? After only reading one book of three I can say that I believe the author Philip Pullman's goal is to attack the Church and therefore could be damaging depending on how it all ends. (This review is meant for those who have either already read or don't plan on reading this book.)

The story begins before it begins with a quote from Paradise Lost considered to be one of the finest piece of literature in the English language. A book that I surprisingly remember from College! Paradise Lost re-tells the tale from a different perspective of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden giving us a more detailed look into the interactions of God, Adam, Eve, and especially Satan. The themes of reason, knowledge, destiny and sin are certainly shared by each story.

The Golden Compass takes place in Europe, but not our Europe. More like an alternate universe how things could have turned out with some big differences. One such is the massive "unnamed" religion called The Magisterium who control pretty much everything and persecutes scientists. Listen, sure the Church made some mistakes in the field of science. Sorry. Has a few hundred years healed any wounds?

The biggest difference are Daemons. Daemons are a personal companion each human has. These daemons take the form of an animal and share a unique connection straight down to shared emotions. You can tell what kind of a person is if their daemon is a dog, weasel or even a snake. The daemon represents the soul. While I'm sure the Church objects to it, I don't really mind. I think people need to recognize what affects their souls a little more, and the presence of daemons sort of does that.

Then there is this mysterious Dust. (SPOILERS) Dust is likened to a proton or electron, but nobody knows what it does. What is known is that Dust is attracted to adults, yet does not settle on children until adolescence. Therefore, the Magisterium deduces that this Dust represents original sin and the loss of innocence and must be eliminated. Leading members of the Magisterium try to halt "puberty" by splitting children from their daemon. Essentially stating that the Church will do outrageous acts to prevent sin, even hurting children.

A third part of the story revolves around destiny and knowledge. It is clear to us and all characters that the little girl protagonist Lyra has a special and profound destiny....but we don't know what that is. Except that it is special and profound. But there is also this notion that there is power in knowledge...not the power we were taught in school. There is power in information that can be learned so great that the Magisterium will crush you from obtaining it. To the point that at the end of the book Lyra decides to go forth on her journey with the thought "if the everybody thinks it is bad, maybe it is really good!"

To recap: The Magisterium is controlling knowledge to support its theories to the point it will make unnatural sacrifices to obtain it. The fact that this Dust (ie sin) is deemed bad means it is probably good. And your soul is no more than a furry little companion on your journey. It is no wonder the Church opposes this book.

I am of the opinion that while the story is captivating, it is the attitude of the book that disturbs me. The way that knowledge is glorified and the soul and faith is minimilized really doesn't sit right with me. I plan on finishing the series, but right now my assessment is The Golden Compass is a one-sided story of how many Atheist view the Church and wisdom.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nintendo 64: Top 10 Games

If the SNES defined my dorm days of college, the N64 defined those college days (and beyond) after the dorms. This system had amazing solo-games and equally awesome multi-player games. Also, the N64 features the best games for many franchises (Mario, Zelda, Mario Kart) although the Wii might change all that. Still, the N64 was a great system that surpassed both predecessors and those that followed.



1: Mario 64

I vividly remember the first time I played this game. It changed gaming for me. The 3D worlds you explored were so vast, varying and just fun to hop around. Oh, and the play control of Mario is possibly the best of any game I've ever played. I really felt I was in control of Mario and could make him jump in ways even I didn't think possible. Add on the crazy puzzles of each world and you have a winner. I beat this game, and collected tons of star, although that fire world still intimidates me.



2. Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Considered by most the best game on the N64, maybe ever. I consider it of the highest quality, I just enjoyed Mario 64 more. This game made adventuring easy and battling fun. It took it up a notch so to speak. It is hard to find any faults in this game. I guess my problem is I never got past the Shadow Temple. Not because it was hard....my game got erased while I was in the Temple. Twice. I have never gotten the nerve to go back either. My loss.



3. Perfect Dark

This is the best multi-player game ever, period. (and I will punch you in the teeth if you start talking about GoldenEye) First, this game was a top notch First Person Shooter, much like 007. But the Co-op function was amazing, and it really helped having your buddies play with you (even if you shot your friend and the President with the sniper in the dark.....) Next, the multi-player had the absolute most options ever seen, and it hasn't been outdone since. You want to play every man for themself? Check. How about 2 players versus 20 Sims just to see who can mow the most sims down? Check. Then there were the challenges!!! I get excited thinking about how awesome it was to develop a strategy, assign roles and complete each challenge to various difficulties! Why oh why hasn't there been another game even close to these options???

4. Mario Kart 64
Dominant play control and great multi-player options made this a winner. You just never got tired of playing this game with friends. It also marked the advent of most of the items in the game you have seen in the Cube, DS and Wii versions. Classic.

5. GoldenEye: 007
Probably the most famous FPS this side of Halo. It was revolutionary for a home console to play 4 of your friends in such epic combats. The only place you would ever hear the phrase: "Stop shooting me, I don't have a weapon!" "Well, then don't slap me in the neck!"

6. Mario Golf
The best golf game if you just want to have fun. I have a special place for this game in my heart because I became dominant at this game. I was a superb putter and rarely ever missed inside of 30 feet. I lost maybe a handful of matches, so of course I love this game!

7. Zelda: Majora's Mask
This game gets tons of points for just being different. The premise of the game was that the moon was going to crash into the Earth and Link had 3 days to save it. If by the 3rd day you couldn't get it done, you just put on your mask and start again at day one. Each time you would learn a little more and figure out what to do next. A little bit like the movie Groundhog's Day, really.

8. Star Fox 64
A great space shooter, this took the game play of Star Fox and the graphics of the 64 and made such a great game. Add on the multi-player dog fight and this game had a lot to offer.

9. Mario Tennis
Strangely, my favorite tennis game of all-time. Great gameplay allowed most anyone to pick up and play. I believe I am undefeated in singles play still to this day.

10. Pokemon Snap
Again, props for creativity. In this game you were placed on a track and given the challenge of taking the best pictures of the passing Pokemon while you threw crap at them to make them do crazy stuff. It had great charm, and getting that perfect picture was so rewarding. Plus....come on, Pokemon are just fun, especially when they say their names. Bulbusaur. Psy....Psy.....geodude.

Lacking entries: Sports
If the N64 had a fault, it was the lack of quality for the sports games. I don't know if it was the new joystick or what but developers just couldn't make a sports game worth playing, leading most gamers to the PS1 for sports games. (and RPG's)

Again, please comment about the games I missed or just don't like as much as you! (Notable games I just didn't play include Smash Bros and Conker: Bad Fur Day.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Spirit in St. Louis

What a time to be a St. Louis sports fan. We've been through some tough times recently. The Rams went from the Greatest Show to "now selecting with the Number 2 pick in the Draft" territory. The Blues got screwed during the strike and haven't seen the playoffs since. The Cardinals have been solid, but aren't the dominating team they were for most of the decade. But things are looking up....way up for all of St. Louis sports.

St. Louis Cardinals: It has been only 2 seasons since we won it all, but it hasn't been all that great since. Although we won more games last season than in '06, watching the Cubs (briefly) in Oct. still hurts. But hope isn't just at the horizon, it's at the front door. Young pitching (Motte) and young hitting (Rasmus) is showing that we are in for a long term overhaul, not just patching up with free agents. And our minor leagues look great too (This Wallace guy sounds like a power hitting 3B...can't wait to see him.) If the kids learn on the job we could win this year. I think it will come down to who gets more injuries between the Cubs and Cards. But whether it is '09 or '10, Cardinal baseball will yet again be a joy to watch.

As for my predictions, I have the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians and Angels in the AL. The Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers and Mets in the NL. Give me the Red Sox over the Dodgers in the series. I know it isn't original, but it's not my fault the Sox are solid. As for the Cards, I will say a second place finish with 89 wins. 94 wins if Carp gets 30 starts and Motte is the real deal.

The St. Louis Blues: It is true. I have yet to recover from the strike. The Blues had made the playoffs every year of my life before the strike. We were a shell of ourselves when the NHL restarted, and I am still bitter. However, I hear about the Blues everyday on the radio. About the work ethic and smart drafting. Now, without our best defensemen the Blues are almost in the playoffs against all odds. Frankly, the Blues have been playing like it is the playoffs for the last month. So even though they might not make it, they have shown great integrity for a young team. A young team that will make some noise next season.

The St. Louis Rams: How craptastic was it to watch the Rams last year? I am a solid fan, and even I didn't bother to watch most games on TiVo. But then we promote Billy Devaney to GM and hire Steve Spagnuolo, and anything is possible. Think about it, our blundering Rams hired the number 1 head coach prospect. Huge. He then hires staff based on talent, not friendship. Huge. He then gathers players based on heart, not name. Huge. My only regret is we cut Holt and Pace. But I think that regret will be short lived. We will win 5-7 games this year, and compete for years to come. This will be a dynasty for the Rams. We may not win Superbowls, but we will make playoffs.


St. Louis Athletica: So the WPS started up this month with the St. Louis Athletica being an inaugural team in the 7 team league. While it is hard to judge one expansion team, let alone 7, I am excited for the Athletica. We have the best keeper in the world in Hope Solo, a world class defender in Lori Chalupny and 2 up and coming strikers. And then some Brazilians including the Brazilian coach. I expect the Athlectica to make the playoffs and truthfully they should be in the finals.

MLS? Yeah, I could tell a sad story about how St. Louis has been passed up for 4 expansion spots now since we passed a stadium plan in Collinsville. But here is why I am still hopeful: They are looking at using Soccer Park for the soccer stadium plan. This would be awesome, because most soccer fans think of 2 places in St. Louis to watch soccer: SLU and Soccer Park. If this happens we should get an expansion team for 2012. But even beyond that, St. Louis is coming up as a possible relocation destination for some troubled MLS squads, including the 4 time champs DC United. While I would hate to get a relocated team, it would be super awesome to watch the quality of DC United for years to come. It could happen!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bracketology? Where was this degree when I was in college?

What a season for my Mizzou Tigers. First, the football team followed up a great season with another 10-win season, something I really never thought I would see. Then our basketball team has exceeded all expectations (except my Dad, who predicted success)to earn a number 3 seed in the tourney. I will say it right now, I don't care how the Tigers finish. This has been one of my favorite seasons to watch Mizzou basketball, and I will remember this team for years.

As for the tourney, I picked Mizzou to reach the Elite 8, although if Lyons and Carroll find their shooting touch we could go all the way. Seriously. As for my final 4, I got North Carolina, Duke, Louisville and UConn, with LOUISVILLE beating UNC for the championship.

But I have a new question. Since Mizzou has had great success with both football and basketball, which do you think is harder: Making the Elite 8 (8 teams out of 347) or a BCS Bowl (10 out of 119). My answer is it is harder to make a BCS bowl because you have to be top 16 in the rankings and then have to woo the selection boards. In basketball all you have to do is make the field of 65 and win a few games. Let me put it this way, Mizzou has made the elite 8 a few times at least twice, but probably hasn't been BCS worthy since the 60's. Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Green Day

One of my very favorite videos by a band I really didn't expect to make more than one album, let alone be the featured rock band in "The Simpsons Movie". Rock on Billy Joe and company.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Spring Classic

The World Baseball Classic is in full swing, and for better or worse I love this event. As a soccer fan there is no greater event than watching the players compete for their nations in the World Cup. For those who participate in the WBC, it is clear they have the same passion. Here are my pros and cons of the WBC.

Pros:

The Concept: I love this competition just for the fact it exists. It just shows how widespread baseball has grown while the US has been focused on the "World Series." South Africa? Australia? Crowning a true world champion is such a great concept, and I will watch as much as I can.
The atmosphere: You want to know how much this event means? Check out the crowds in Tokyo or Puerto Rico. These fans are desperate for their country to win and I think that passion feeds the players.
The underdogs: This year has already treated us to 3 rather impressive upsets with the Netherlands, Australia and Italy all winning games against some good competition. I really hope just one of these teams advance, proving that passion can often offset talent.

The Cons:

The timing: Everyone and their mother has commented on how spring training is a bad time for this event. While some writers suggest playing the final four play over the All-Star break, I have a different option: do it like soccer. Play it in November after the season (in the same warm weather locations) Seriously, instead of players worrying about ruining their upcoming MLB season, they can redeem themselves for the season that was. The only teams that might not be available are the World Series teams, and they will be happy enough as it is. Also, playing in November would avoid the NCAA bowl season and the NFL playoffs.
Missing Athletes: This would go away with my November idea, but it is still ridiculous how many player opted out of this event. What happened to playing for the love of the game?
Switching Nationalities: It bothered me a little when some players who have lived their whole lives in the US played for the Dominican Republic. That's fine. But you should absolutely have to stay with a nationality when you choose one. Who let Alex Rodriguez switch from the US to the Dominicans? Seriously, every international competition from soccer to the Olympics ties you to a nationality once you perform on the world-wide level. Get it together WBC.

Predictions:Well, these are kind of suspect since we are a week into the Classic, but I expect the US, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Japan to make the final 4 this year.(Leaving the Dominican Republic to pick up the pieces) I wouldn't be surprised if Japan repeats, but I will pick Puerto Rico to win because of their national pride and because they have a secret weapon in manager Jose Oquendo.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Poll: The Killers or Snow Patrol

Your choices are a) The Killers b) Snow Patrol c) I don't care for either d) Coldplay rules! e) U2 called and wants their sound back.

I am going with Snow Patrol. Although the Killers have incredibly explosive and entertaining singles, Snow Patrol gives me a better depth of quality music. I know when I queue up a Snow Patrol album I will enjoy the entire experience. When I hear the first chords of pretty much any song it takes me someplace new. I can't explain it, except that it is an exceptional experience that few bands offer me.

But those are my thoughts. Let me know what you think of the Killers and Snow Patrol, or if you think we will even think of them 20 years from now.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"All these places feel like home."

Snow Patrol

Sounds like: If Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz got a kickin' band and became Scottish, they might sound like this.

Why I like them: Snow Patrol has great lyrics, great music and great melodies. The lyrics are like poetry using great vocabulary and imagery to really paint a picture. But unlike Johnson or Mraz, the lyrics do more than sit on top of the music. The band is a driving force, making each song bigger and better than the lyrics alone.

Dislikes: Because of the emphasis on lyrics and music it sometimes takes 3 minutes to get to a chorus. (most radio songs are 3 minutes long total). Also, because Snow Patrol has a distinctive sound the songs each sound similar.

Final Straw (2004)
4.5 out of 5

This album establishes the Snow Patrol sound right away. The first 5 songs have that mix of drive and lyrics that I love. However, "Chocolate" is the best song for sure. The line "All these places feel like home" is how I feel about this album. Anytime I put it on I know it will make me happy.

Favorite songs: Chocolate, Run, How To Be Dead.

Eyes Open (2006)
5 out of 5

This is a complete album, this is Snow Patrol at their very best. The album is a story of a relationship that starts great, falls apart and looks to be reconciled. The lyrics are more poetic, the music is bolder and the result is remarkable. One of those albums I listen to every time I have a long drive because it makes the time go by faster. And probably one of my 5 favorite albums all-time.

Favorite songs: Hands open, You're All I Have, Open Your Eyes.

A Hundred Million Suns (2008)

3 out of 5

I think the best way to describe this album is solid, but not spectacular. There are a couple of outstanding songs, but otherwise the songs are just each good in there own way. Which makes for a good album, but maybe not one you rave about to your friends. I think this album showcases Snow Patrol's musical abilities more than other albums. The lyrics are....well they exist, but I can't tell you what the songs are about. It happens a lot to me actually.

Favorite Songs: Crack the Shutters, If There is a Rocket Tie Me To It, Take Back the City.

Top 5 Songs by Snow Patrol
Hands Open
Chocolate
Run
Open Your Eyes
Crack the Shutters

Monday, February 9, 2009

Are we human, or are we 80's?

I've been listening to the most recent albums by both the Killers and Snow Patrol, and have decided these are by far my favorite bands to come out of the 2000's. (I never caught fire with Coldplay. I like them, just don't buy their stuff.) So I've decided to review their careers up to this point, both as a whole and album by album. Starting with the Killers.

The Killers

Comparison: If U2 added a synthesizer and became American, they might sound like this.
Why I like them: The first thing that stood out about the Killers was the diversity they get out of just the 4(or 5 counting the synth) instruments they have. Much like U2 all parts (guitar bass drums and vocals) play something rather interesting, yet it all comes together beautifully. But in the end, I love this band for the vocals of Brandon Flowers. Although he doesn't have the best voice, the way he just puts his voice out there song in and song out captivates me. Explosive is probably the best word.
Dislikes: While their best songs are amazing and powerful, there are always a few "throw away" tracks on each album. Songs that just don't measure up the rest. I usually skip these tracks which is a huge let down for me as I usually listen to albums straight through.

Hot Fuss (2004)
Rating: 4 out of 5

To be honest, the first time I heard "Somebody Told Me" I really thought they would be a one hit wonder. The whole "I may have dated a man....who you are now dating" seemed too much like a novelty song than actual talent. Then I heard "Mr. Brightside" on the radio. Whoa buddy. Now there is a hit. I think this album does a fantastic job of mixing a little bit of synth with a whole lot of rock. Not alot of depth, I lose interest towards the end of the album.
Favorite tracks: Mr. Brightside, All these things that I have done, Smile Like You Mean It.

Sam's Town (2006)
5 out of 5

This is a complete album. It has killer hits and continuity throughout. The fact that it has an Enterlude that says "We hope you enjoy your stay" makes me say "Yeah, I can sit down and enjoy this one. There are still a couple of tracks that don't measure up, but in the end each song has powerful music and Flowers driving the vocals home track after track.
Favorite Tracks: When You Were Young, For Reasons Unknown, Sam's Town, Read My Mind, Bones

Sawdust (2007)
2.5 out of 5

This is actually the first Killers CD I owned (Christmas Present in 2007). It was over a year later when I learned this was actually a CD of B-sides, covers and previously unreleased tracks. That explains alot, because this album lacks continuity like a mofo. However, there are several amazing tracks in this mix of 17 songs. Flowers sings the daylights out of several of these songs, making decent tracks great ones. In the end, I'm glad they released it.
Favorite tracks: Glamorous Indie Rock n Roll, Tranquilize, Romeo and Juliet, Sam's Town(Abbey Road Version).

Day and Age (2008)
3.5 out of 5

This is the studio follow up to "Sam's Town." After listening to it several times it begs the question "Are we human, or are we 80's?" The synthesizer has taken over! "Losing Touch" sounds like Robert Palmer to start. "This Is Your Life" reeks of Talking Heads. Call this album the anti-grunge of Rock. But in the end, The Killers still rely on their strengths to create a quality album. Call this their "experimental album." A great sound as a band backed by great vocals. Just lacks the energy of the previous albums leading to more mellow singles like "Human". A track that gets stuck in my head CONSTANTLY!
Favorite Tracks: Human, Spaceman, This is Your Life, The World We Live In.

Top 5 Tracks by The Killers

1. When You Were Young
2. Mr. Brightside
3. Reasons Unknown
4. Human
5. The Things That I Have Done