Friday, October 1, 2010

Top (and bottom) 5 Gamecube Games

I am loyal to Nintendo.  I think they put forth great efforts to make great games and great experience for gamers.  So it pains me to say this:

The Gamecube was aweful.  Honestly, only 1 game was exceptional and that’s not good.  You name it, they screwed it up.

They took the best controller on the market (N64) and took away the underneath trigger but didn’t give it dual analog.  Mistake (sports games were aweful).  They used mini-DVD sized discs instead of full sized.  Mistake.  And they ventured off the beaten path with their biggest franchises.  Often, this was a mistake.

I was soooo disappointed with my first batch of games that I was extremely hestitant to try out new games.  Unfortunately for me, the best games on the Gamecube were new or games I hadn’t played before.  So my list will NOT look like mainstream Gamecube lists because I didn’t play the great games.  My apologies to the following games I didn’t play: Metroid Prime, Resident Evil 4, Super Smash Bros Melee, Pikmin, Animal Crossing,and Pikmin.

This is why I feel I was a classic consumer case for the Gamecube: loyal fan who couldn’t get past too many disappointments.  It also has lead me to create a top and bottom 5 list.  So keep reading for my bottom 5 games


1: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Ok, this goes against everything I just said.  But this is the exception.  Zelda took a huge risk by going to this new graphic style.  I enjoyed it enough, although it was really weird.  What WAS awesome was the gameplay.  I felt completely in control of Link at all times.  The dungeons were great, the side quests were interesting and the plot was pretty cool.  The end fight with Gannon was top notch, one of the best.  Traveling by boat sucked a bit, but in the end I completely enjoyed this experience.

monkey ball 2

2. Super Monkey Ball 2

I bought this game thinking it might be a good party multiplayer game.  Turns out it is one of the best overall games I’ve owned.  1 player story mode was challenging and strangely addictive.  Monkey racing was also fun by myself or with friends.  But the rest of the multiplayer was near perfect.  Pick a game and I had friends who wanted to play.  Monkey Fight, Monkey Target, Monkey Shot were all great party games and worth the price of admission.  Put them all together and you have a surprisingly quality game.  This is also the only game I’ve ever lost.  Whoever “borrowed” my copy I want it back!

3. Mario Kart Double Dash

I loved Mario Kart 64.  So again, this game was a disappointment.  The graphics weren’t much better and the play control was actually a little worse.  The double-kart feature was neat, but I rarely found anyone who wanted to play co-operative kart racing.  Either they were so bad they never wanted to steer or they were good enough to want to challenge me head to head.  Also, I'm not sure what this game contributed to the Mario Kart franchise except maybe a few good courses.  In the end, it was a fun game which is good enough to make this list.


4. Super Mario Sunshine

Point of reference: this game wouldn’t make my top 5 Mario games.  That’s how bad this system was.  I had problems with the whole water-cleaning-the-island bit, it didn’t help the game flow all that well (I felt like a janitor).  But this game’s biggest problem was Mario 64.  This game in no way improved the franchise.  Sure the worlds were still beautiful and some of the action was unique, but I never felt like I was playing something special.  The best contribution this game made was its gift to the Mario Kart world.  And for that we salute you.

5. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

I bought this one with my system, so it has a little nostalgia to it.  Looking back this game had everything I wanted.  It was a Star Wars game, and I am a huge fan.  The play control was actually pretty good.  It wasn’t Star Fox 64, but it was still a lot of fun.  The downfall is the same of all space fighter games: it’s repetitive.  But that’s ok, I enjoyed the game for what it was for and sometimes that’s all I can ask for.

My Bottom 5 games:

1. James Bond 007: Agent Under Fire

We all know that Golden Eye was the N64 standard.  And after the success of Perfect Dark I really had high hopes for the new Bond game.  Big enough hopes that I bought it with the system.

Utter failure.

This game didn’t improve on either of the aforementioned N64 games.  The 1 player was forgettable minus the car levels (which is not what I bought the game for).  The multiplayer was terribly bland and was barely recognizable compared to Golden Eye.  The game play was just lousy, which I think is partially because of the new controller.  In a world of Halo and Star Wars Battlefront this game was a complete waste of time.

2. FIFA World Cup 2002

“Hey, I’m a soccer fan and it’s the World Cup time.  I think I’ll buy a soccer game.  I assume that since the World Cup is the best tournament in the world that the game will be the best soccer experience.”


This was an arcade game.  It was meant to keep people interested in a soccer game that wouldn’t normally care.  Really hard shots had flames behind them.  Fast players had smoke behind them.  It was devoid of any actual soccer strategy and I learned nothing about the sport itself.  Opportunity wasted.

3. MVP Baseball 2004 (aka the lefty glitch)

Albert Pujols was on the cover.   I had to get this game, especially because I hadn’t owned a baseball game since the SNES.  I bought it, went home and looked up the new rosters online.

EGADS!  There was a glitch in the game that made it near impossible for left handed batters to hit homeruns.  Think about that!!  Jim Edmonds would go a whole season with 1 or 2 homeruns!  HE HIT 40 THAT YEAR!  What a ridiculous problem to deal with!

4. Mario Party 6

Mario Party 4 would actually be number 6 on my best games list (sad but true).  So when Mario Party 6 came out I thought I would try it out, since I still assumed that newer games improved on the old.  Fooled again! They changed everything that worked, most notably the game board.  The mini games were still fun, but when they barely counted towards the end result who really cares?

5. FIFA 2004

In truth, this is the game that helped me become a soccer fanatic.  The game play was good, they had all the players and teams and I spent most of my time falling in love with Arsenal.

But besides the gameplay, the actual mechanics were lousy.  No matter how much money your team spent during the season, it was all replaced next season.  Then, when you bought the best players in the world THEY NEVER GOT WORSE!  Players improved each season, but nobody got worse because of age or ability.  Let’s just say with a regenerating budget and stagnant talent pool I had a pretty sweet team by the end.

So there you have it!  Feel free to comment or disagree on my Top 5, bottom 5 or assessment of the Gamecube in general.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sam the Ram needs to take 5 this year.

I've never seen a franchise that needs to go 5-11 more. But that's how I feel about the 2010 St. Louis Rams. The last 3 years have been horrible. Unwatchable. Depressing. But....I trust GM Billy Devaney and Head Coach Steve Spagnolo. I believe in 39 Steven Jackson as he has matured into a leader of this team. And from the pre-season I believe that Sam Bradford will make enough plays to get yards and touchdowns from broken plays. That alone will get us into each game and at least make each game interesting. And maybe win some of those games.

I see the Rams going 5-11 with wins over the Cardinals, Seahawks, Lions, Buccaneers, and Browns. That would do enough to show me the Rams are moving in the right direction. It won't be pretty, but at least it is football.

Here are my lovely pre-season predictions:
AFC: New England, Baltimore, Indianapolis, San Diego, Cincinnati, NY Jets

NFC: Washington, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Fransico, Minnesota, Dallas

Superbowl: Indianapolis over Green Bay

Many of the picks I read online are raving about the Ravens. I disagree. All winter leading up to the draft we heard about how this is a quarterback league and how much of a passing league this is. Yet, the "trendy" picks of Baltimore, NY Jets, even Cincy and Atlanta were all running teams last year. Everyone naturally assumes that young quarterbacks get better each year. That is too large of an assumption for me.

Aaron Rodgers looks great. And since I feel the NFC is wide open I find it hard to believe the Saints will just march back to the Superbowl. I feel if Green Bay focuses on defense they will make up for the shootout in Arizona and let their offense shine in the playoffs.

Then there is my doomed pick of the Colts.

Historically, Superbowl losing teams fall apart. Losing the big game has an effect the next season. The team either falls apart mentally, or one injury breaks everything apart (Brady '08, Warner '02). What is different for me is Peyton Manning. All he does is win. He leads. He doesn't allow for a letup. And I've heard from several experts that with a healthy Bob Sanders and other improvements the defense is actually better.

Improved Defense and Peyton Manning equals a Superbowl for me. Hard for me to think anything otherwise, even with the Superbowl letdown.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jump up and touch the sky

One of my goals in life is to never become stagnant as a music fan. I don't want to be the guy that 20 years from now still only knows songs from the 90's and spends his days trying to tell people how underrated the band Live is. I feel like since I got out of college I've been able to do that through bands like Coldplay, The Killers, Snow Patrol, Ben Folds and U2. But as I look at these bands I've come to a conclusion: they represent myself as an "adult" music consumer. They bring melodies, harmonies and energy but not the raw energy and game changing music that I found with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden.

Which leads me to ask: what band would be 15-year-old me's favorite? What band might change the way I look at music? I might have an answer.

30 Seconds to Mars is a band that certainly caught my ear on the radio. But that's not what everyone sees first. Lead singer/song writer Jared Leto is an established actor. You might remember him as Angel Face in Fight Club. (I wanted to destroy something beautiful). Well, he should drop the acting gig, cause his music is electric for me.

The first thing I notice is that the music grabs me. It's not just 4 chords of distorted guitar or some riff in drop D tuning like you hear in all the anger rock. Alright, I can get into this music. Then the lyrics. Leto is on a mission to fight for the human spirit. His latest album is called "This is War" and has absolutely nothing to do with war, and everything for fighting for the voice of youth and the spirit and love they bring. Hmmm...I think I'm starting to buy in. Then I saw a video of their live performances.

It is clear that 30 Second to Mars and their fans have a spiritual experience at their shows. That's what sealed the deal for me. I believe music has a very spiritual element to it as well. (Although Leto and I differ as to the source of the spirituality) I want to be in a crowd that has a common purpose and that purpose is greater than "I need to let off all this anger." Yes, I think I would like a 30 Seconds to Mars crowd. (Coincidentally, when they came in concert this past May I was at a Pearl Jam concert. Got to wait your turn new guys)

Below is a video that shows it altogether. I encourage you to give it a watch (since I can't embed official videos) If you can get by the emo teens and the pink mohawk you will see a phenomenon. The type of phenomenon 15-year-old-me was looking for. The type of music current-me is thankful to have.

Monday, July 12, 2010

South Africa World Cup remembered

What a month! What started with 32 nations hopes of a World Cup championship comes down to only 1 victor. A congrats to Spain, a worthy World Cup champion. I am amazed at the composure it takes from a whole team to win that many games 1 - 0. Often, that goal came very late in the game. At any time one player could lose his concentration and make a mistake that leads to conceding a goal. Not Spain. I give tons of credit to captain Iker Casillas. Way to skipper the ship.

One more note on the Final: if that was the USA playing, there would have been 2-3 red cards coming our way. I keep hounding on the word respect. This is the example:

Only a yellow. WHAT!!! In 2006 the US got red cards for much less. And I'm not even arguing that we didn't deserve them, I'm just saying that perceived soccer ability and respect gives you calls that others won't get. Hopefully those days our over with our performance in this year's Cup.

So although I didn't want a European team to win, I am glad a team hoisted the trophy for the first time. Here are my other Break Out Moments.

Diego Forlan - Uruguay.

Even before winning the Golden Ball (player of the tournament) I was saying "He stood out above all others." (David Villa is my number 2 player). Where would Uruguay be without him? Above all others he made goals out of nothing. He will receive a huge payday, and personally I would love to see him at Arsenal.


I admit, I never have given Germany the respect they deserve. But following 2 third place finishes and a runners up finish, I am starting to believe. I am probably going to follow a German team in the fall (Schalke) that's how much they impressed. They played solid team defense, held possession of the ball, made solid passes and (most importantly) they put the ball in the net with precision. That is a rare combination. I credit the Bundesliga for their success, they really know how to develop talent and they how to play the game. The MLS could learn a lot from them.

Top 3 games of the World Cup:

Spain v The Netherlands: The Final
It was ugly. It was choppy. But in the end, it was exciting. All the chances in extra time were amazing, especially with any goal almost securing a WORLD TITLE! And then to have the latest World Cup winning goal in history? Amazing. Also, why didn't Spain start Cesc Fabregas? He was a creative beast when he entered the game.

Ghana v Uruguay: The Handball.
I was rooting hard for the last African hope. The game was exciting. The goals were exquisite. Then, with penalties looming the Ghananians threw a barage of shots at the goal. With time running out they gave one last effort only the have it batted off the line.

Listen, this is the truth. 90% of players would have done it too. I really thought "Nice effort, but Ghana wins." The rest is African history. Hitting that crossbar demoralized the whole team. Uruguay advanced, but not without some of the best drama I've ever seen.

USA v Algeria: The Goal.
Both teams could advance with a win. Yet, with England comfortably ahead of Slovenia, Algeria starts playing for a heartless draw. Do they know where they are and what's at stake??? Still the US carries on, creating chance after chance.

Then came the goal.

I admit, I ran around the house. Ran. My kids joined me. It was incredible. Overjoyed. And I wasn't alone. Anyone who witnessed that goal Live knows what I'm talking about. The tension up to that point was unbearable. The release.....will be remembered for generations.

This my favorite game not only because the US won. It is how we won. This is why I love soccer. Sure, you're never really sure the goal is coming. But when it does come.....

I seriously doubt anyone makes fun of how soccer players celebrate goals anymore. Because we've all been there ourselves.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"They can take our goals, but they can never take our freedom!"

I've had a week to think over the US performance in the World Cup. I wanted an African Nation to make a run in the World Cup, I just didn't want it to be at our expense! It took a great individual effort to take us down, and I applaud that. (I don't blame Bocanegra, he just got beat.) I consider our World Cup effort a success as we made the knock out round and fared better than France, Italy, Mexico and England. And while it was a thrilling run that ended in heartbreak, I think I'm ready for the positives and negatives.

Negatives: The first point is we lack depth at defender. Onyewu and Clark were directly responsible for 3 goals at my count, and we all saw how Clark made the mistake against Ghana. Demerit and Bocanegra played strong in the middle, they just got out run in extra time. More experience and depth could have allowed Bradley more options for replacements. What's more I expect that none of our starting defenders in this World Cup will start in 2014, with no specific replacements on the horizon.

Also, lack of depth at striker was huge. Ideally we would have put Dempsey and Donovan at wide midfield with Altidore and Davies at forward. Well, Davies was injured and Altidore was leveled ineffective without him. We had no answer to either create goals or allow Altidore more space. Hopefully we find some actual goal scorers in the near future.

Positives: Our midfield rocked my world. Michael Bradley was a stud. The ball seemed to be tethered to his foot and he always made timely runs to create chances. Donovan and Dempsey were amazing and the stars of our team. Edu showed great quality, and Feilhaber resurrected his career in spectacular fashion. What's more, I expect all of these players to appear in 2014.

Tim Howard proved he is a top 5 keeper in the World. He had one slight mistake on the early Ghana goal, but still that was a silly position to have to be in.

Finally, the US put on a show. After the first half of the Slovenia game we played great soccer as a team. I was watching a quality football team, not just a squad I hoped would scrap a victory together. I also felt with our performances against Slovenia and Algeria we really gave the World something to cheer about. Imagine that, we were actually gaining support around the world. This translates into an important quality.


I think the World saw us as a quality team, and that will translate into future respect. No more cheap fouls because it must be the American's fault. No more tough draws in the World Cup because Mexico undeserving received a number 1 seed. More Americans will get playing time in Europe. It will have an effect.

Soccer also gained respect in the US itself. Landon Donovan gave us a moment we will not soon forget. The goal and reactions across the nation gives us a talking point for not just this World Cup, but for the next 4 years and possibly the 4 after that.

A new nation of fans: How can this one moment change a nation? Well, it was a World Cup that turned me into a soccer fan. In 2002 I watched a young Donovan and company defeat Mexico and controversially lose a chance at the semi-finals at the hands of the Germans. But they had captured my spirit. I started following US players in the MLS. I started watching Champions League and English Premier League games. I was hooked. I bought a FIFA video game. I picked a favorite team. (Arsenal) And I started watching every USA match played. I followed our players on their club teams.

Soccer is now a part of my sports world just like baseball, football and basketball. In 2002 I knew very little about world soccer. 8 years later I own 3 jerseys, countless soccer shirts and I have soccer regularly set on my DVR.

In 2018 the World Cup will probably be in Europe, but the US is trying to land it. Where will your game be in 8 years?

Friday, June 4, 2010

One Cup to rule them all: World Cup Cinderellas, favorites and predictions

If the NCAA Tournament took steroids and decided to conquer the world, it would look like the World Cup. Then play it once only 4 years. Could you imagine Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Michigan State going for the tourney title only once every 4 years? That's the best way I can explain it to American sports fans. Lots of big time countries will lose to less talented squads who play with a lot of hustle and heart. Yet the same super star nations end up in the semi finals (final four) every tournament. So if a team like Mexico, the US, England or France bows out early don't think of it as much how they screwed up but how these other nations rose to the occasion. Also, please feel free to bandwagon onto whatever Nation makes a surprise run. It's totally acceptable.

As for my overall preview, one things really sticks out to me.

Location, location location.

Host nations do really well in the Cup. While I personally expect South Africa to make some magic, I consider every African team a host nation and for them to do well because I feel they will be playing with the pride of the entire continent on their shoulder. More importantly European countries play poorly off their continent. It's a fact in my mind. Only two countries have ever won the Cup off their home continent: Brazil and Argentina. My picks reflect this. As much as I enjoy watching England and Spain play I foresee them heading home disappointed.

If the boot fits: Cinderellas in the crowd. These are teams that I feel have the chance to win it all if they catch a break or two. It is my hope that the USA can make a run, but I will use my space to feature other teams.

Ivory Coast: This is the most talented African nation in my mind. They have talented, experienced players all over the field. But they have maybe the most influential player in the Cup: Didier Drogba. Love him or hate him (I double hate him) he is a forward that always finds a way to score. He has carried Chelsea to huge success, and he can do it in South Africa as well. He broke his arm preparing for the Cup which leaves the question: Is the arm going to be the excuse for a bad World Cup, or the inspiration for a spectacular one?

The Netherlands: Consider them those old Roy Williams Kansas teams. All the talent, none of the big victories. The Dutch terrorize Europe during the regular season, but never seem to put it together for the big tournaments. Well, it only takes one tournament to change that perception. They have a top 3 offense and a good enough defense. If they can get their heads straight they could send some big countries home.

The Favorites:

Brazil: Brazil is looking to win its 6th World Cup on its 5th continent. What?? That's the kind of pedigree the Brazilians come from. Lots of people love their home country first, but Brazil is their second team. They have flash and style, but they have focused on defense recently. To the point where they left former world player of the year Ronaldihno at home. (despite the Nike commercial!) Fortunately, they have another former world player of the year in Kaka, and he will be their main creative force. If the defense can hold up and the forwards get some confidence it will be hard to stop the World Domination of Brazil.

Argentina: They boast the current world player of the year in Lionel Messi. How much can one player influence a team? Well, when he can literally dribble around the entire midfield, defense and goalie to score he is a rather important player. Not to say he is alone, there are many talented, experienced player around him. The question is whether their insane manager Maradona can not screw it up. As weird and temperamental as he is, I think he can hold it together for the big one.

Spain: They put on a show winning the European Championship in 2008. Much of that team is in tact for South Africa and they are ready for a World Championship. They have fierce forwards and brilliant midfielders and a top 5 keeper. Their downfall? They have played a ton of games. While those extra games from '08 may not matter now, all the games their talented players participate in the Champions League may take their toll. Also, Spain used to be known as the team that couldn't win the big one. Can they win the big one twice in a row?

And now for my doomed picks:
A1: Mexico
A2: South Africa
B1: Argentina
B2: Nigeria
C1: England
D1: Ghana
D2: Germany
E1: Netherlands
E2: Cameroon
F1: Italy
F2: Paraguay
G1: Brazil
G2: Ivory Coast
H1: Spain
H2: Chile

Nigeria V England
Netherlands V Brazil
Argentina V USA
Cameroon V Spain

Semi Finals
England V Brazil
Argentina V Cameroon

Argentina V Brazil

Champions: Argentina

Obviously I am very hopeful for the African continent. Think of North America, Asia and Africa as the mid-majors where a Final Four is like a championship. I also would like to see a non-European team not named Brazil win. As much as I would like Africa to do it, I see too much talent for Argentina. I see a classic final that is decided by a questionable call just so those two nations can hate each other more.

Enjoy The Cup!!!

One Nation: My USA World Cup Preview

No sporting event means more to the American sports landscape than the World Cup. That is not an exaggeration: for better or worse it's the truth. True, more Americans will talk about the Super Bowl or will fill out NCAA brackets or stop what they're doing to watch Albert Pujols than talk about soccer. But when it comes down to it, nothing compares to the effect the US Men's result in the World Cup has on the state of soccer in our nation. Lose and people think "wasn't that cute....Americans trying to play with the big boys." But defeat some of the big boys....and US Soccer gets some serious credibility in the eyes of a skeptic nation.

No pressure.

Actually that's more true than you would imagine. The expectations of the US team rides on the coat tails of their performance in the last World Cup. In 2002 the national team shocked the nation by making the quarterfinals. Expectations were high for 2006, some were predicting the semifinals. Well, we scored 2 goals and got knocked out early. This gives our team a "nothing left to lose" attitude. An attitude that fits Americans well. Here is a look at some key players you should know.

Consistent Stars: Great players who just seem to have the knack to rise to the occasion.
Tim Howard: He is an elite keeper, one of the top 5. He played over 40 games in England last year and he is sharp both in form and in decisions. He can clear out corners, get down for low shots and keep our back line organized. You don't have to worry about the keeper making a dumb decision with Howard in the goal. And that's saying a lot.

Landon Donovan: The all-time leading scorer for the US has moved from being a forward or attacking mid to play right wing. At first I was concerned about moving a playmaker to the wing, but Landon has proved my worries unnecessary. He is explosive in space, he makes great runs off the ball and has great touch. He knows how to weave in and out of the defense and that allows him to find his way into the action, often to create a chance on goal. Once a liability, he is clearly a strength now.

Clint Dempsey: His story is similar to Donovan's. A great striker and goal scorer, he now plays wing for the US. And like Donovan, that position suites him well. What he lacks in pace he makes up for in determination. He is always in the right place, always fighting for the ball. He knows when to use a flashy move and when to just muscle it through. And he always ends up in the action. The difference is Dempsey is more likely to get in a fight than Donovan. Not a bad thing mind you.

Need to perform to their abilities: Good players who have something to prove.

Jozy Altidore: He's been great for the national team over the last couple years, but he only played in about half his games this past season, and he didn't exactly perform well. Will we see the Jozy of last summer or last winter? As our most seasoned forward that is an important question for the team.

Michael Bradley: Honestly Bradley has played really consistently for the US. But even the slightest gaff and he could cost the US a game. He is our strongest defender in the midfield and often kick starts the offense. He connects the back to the front, we need him to be on his game.

Oguchu Onyewu: Gooch busted his knee last October and has shown a lot of heart getting to the World Cup at all. But he is still needed in the back. No offense to Clarence Goodson, but Onyewu (when healthy) is a rock on the back line. Can his knee hold up? Will there be rust? The answers will determine if Tim Howard makes comfortable saves or "hold your breath" saves.

Rise above it: Can these players make a difference?

Jose Torres: To be honest, I didn't know who this guy was before World Cup qualifying. I was surprised he made the team. But after the Turkey game I have really high hopes for him. He doesn't mind doing the dirty work in the midfield: Defending deep, bailing out the defense. This allows the rest of the midfield to focus on their offense a little more which greatly enhances our ball movement. I don't know how much he will play, but a good tournament from Torres could do wonders for the US.

Findley/Gomez/Buddle: Three forwards with little National team experience. Crazy? Crazy like a fox. These three are all playing great right now. They are literally too inexperienced to feel the pressure. All they know is the ball goes in the net. If any combination of these three can score 2 - 4 goals, the US is in great shape.

Success? After the poor performance in '06, the measure of success is hard to gauge. Think of the World Cup as the NCAA tournament, good teams lose and lesser teams make a run. Picking the World Cup is the same. For me, my expectation is for the US to get out of Group C and make the knock out round. I would call the tournament a definitive success. Make the Semifinals and the world will notice.

Win it all? Running around naked would be acceptable. I don't think it will happen, but that's why you play the games.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What are you on?

Today Floyd Landis came out and admitted he used performance enhancing drugs in his cycling career, including when he won the Tour De France in 2006. He has also implicated many other cyclists to using PED's, including Lance Armstrong.

Two things. First, when Jose Canseco wrote his book Juiced we all thought he was after attention. Turns out he was right, and in fact one of the most creditable sources on steroids in baseball. So Landis's claims deserve to be investigated. He certainly has the level of detail that makes you wonder if in fact Armstrong has been deceiving us. In the past several years when the public receives this level of detail, the information is more often than not true.

However, if it comes down to who to believe, I tend to believe Armstrong. He has been tested more than any athlete. He has never tested positive. He has always denied usage. Oh yeah, he survived death by beating cancer. Who would torment their body after getting a second chance?

Most of all, it reminded me of this Nike commercial. One of the best.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Finish the Job - 2010 Baseball Preview

Cardinals Preview:

I feel the motto for the 2010 St. Louis Cardinals will be a phrase we were uttering at the end of the 2009 season, "Just finish the job!" I fully expect the Cardinals to have a rip roaring time beating up on the NL Central this season. The only thing that can stop us is what hurt us down the stretch last year: finishing the game. How fragile is our bullpen? Will Franklin be able to hold it together through October? Will McClellan or Motte be able to pick up the slack if Franklin sucks. Shoot, will our current bullpen find its legs and hold on to the leads we have in general? My feeling is that we will trade for some bullpen help. It is easy to get a mid-level closer/set up man at the trade deadline for only a prospect or two. Think Pirates/Nationals.

Also, last summer I applauded the Derosa trade. Now that we crashed out of the playoffs, Derosa is in San Fransisco and Chris Perez is Cleveland's closer that deal doesn't look so hot. Honestly, if Derosa doesn't get hurt in his third at-bat he might be twice as productive and I wouldn't feel so bad seeing Perez in the box score for the Indians.

I am completely looking forward to the first 7 innings of every ball game. Our lineup puts on a clinic - literally. Schumaker, Ryan, Pujols, Holliday, Molina and even Rasmus all work the count and have great at-bats. This will not only wear down pitchers, but it will give each batter a good look at the oppositions pitch selection. By the 4th inning we will see some rallies game in and out. Our starting rotation looks awesome, even if Garcia doesn't work out. Carpenter and Wainwright are a treat to watch. Good season to look forward to.

Season Predictions:
Just for fun, here are my season predictions. I should point out I first made some really boring/obvious picks and actually changed two of them because you never know what's going to happen each season.

AL: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles Angels, Boston
NL: Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia

World Series: St. Louis over New York Yankees

First, if I'm going to pick the Cards to make the playoffs, you bet I'm going to pick them to go all the way. That's just how it goes.

I looked hard at the NL East and AL Central. I went with Atlanta because I feel their rotation is built for the regular season. They have 4 quality starters and a unproven Japanese import. Their lineup looks solid and their bullpen is anchored by Billy Wagner. The Phillies have Halladay but some inconsistency after that. And can anyone honestly trust Brad Lidge anymore? I go Atlanta.

It was really a toss up between Chicago and Minnesota. The White Sox have a better rotation, the Twins have a great looking lineup. In the end I went with pitching and variety with the White Sox. (That AL Central is hard to pick, I get it wrong every year).

One last prediction: Pujols will make me say "You can't just go out and do that!" at least 10 more times this season. For example: (Pujols hits homerun in first at bat) "You can't just hit a home run to start the season! Who does that!" (Pujols goes 4 for 5 with 2 homeruns) "You can't win and MVP and then go 4/5 right out of the gates! It's just obsurd!" Get the idea?

Monday, March 15, 2010

NCAA: Change you can scratch your head about.

The NCAA is starting down a path that I feel could be a very bad precedent for College athletics. Let's review the NCAA post season practices for my two favorite college sports: Football and Men's Basketball.

The BCS: NCAA Football currently uses the BCS to determine the 2 teams that can play in the National Championship game. To be one of the two teams you pretty much a) Have to be from one of the BCS Conferences and b) Have to be a "football powerhouse" to get the votes to get that high in the rankings. It is a flawed system that most coaches and media feels needs to change. Yet, the experts say that this will NOT happen.

NCAA Tournament: I consider this the crown jewel in college athletics where every single teams has a shot at winning the tournament and National Championship. Although it is usually won by a "BCS" Conference, the possibility for smaller conference teams (Memphis) exists. However, the idea that the tournament should expand to 96 teams is gaining momentum. I am against this because I think you should earn your way into the tournament and it's ok for good-not-great teams to be left out. From what I can tell all the media and most of the coaches feel this way too. Yet, the experts say that this expansion WILL happen.

Even though it is March, STOP THE MADNESS! Why would you take something that is not broken and fix it yet leave the broken system in place?

There's an answer. The same answer for almost every bizarre decision in life. Say it with me:


The BCS makes too much money to change, and the NCAA Tournament can make more money by changing their system to a 96 team field. This sickens me, and I feel it will set a terrible precedent for college athletics.

Why do college fans enjoy the college game more than the professional game? My answer has always been the integrity of the competition. The players are not professional athletes. Yes they receive scholarships and easier course loads, but in the end it makes their life comfortable, not luxurious. They still only have at most 4 years to live out their dreams on the playing surface or there will be no tomorrow. I love the NFL, but I dislike the NBA. Why? Because I feel the entire NBA comes down to only a couple players on every team. College basketball relies on the whole team, and that's what I love.

If the NCAA continues to make decisions based on money, not the product on the field they will start to lose fans. I can't tell you how or why, I just know it will happen. The NFL is possible the top league in the world because they emphasize protecting the product on the field. MLB started gaining respect again when they focused on eliminating steroids to help their integrity on the field.

If the NCAA keeps making decisions based on money, I just have a gut feeling they will lose the passion of the fans. Something nobody; fans, players, or coaches, wants. So please, stop the madness. Think of your fans and athletes, not your pocketbooks.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl Ads and other thoughts

Aint Nobody Better.

The Super Bowl is a special time for me. With an advertising background and a love of football I literally watch the entire game start to finish. Add on a great half-time show and thank God for DVR or I would never get to pee. So here are my thoughts on the ads, entertainment and the game.

The Ads:
First off, they were disappointing to me. I felt that most ads had a good idea that never got developed. Take the Griswold's checking into a hotel for Home Away. I would totally watch a whole movie of that, but the ad just didn't pack enough punch. Even the Clydesdale commercial was completely predictable. In the end my taste in ads vastly differed from what I consider the official rankings from USA Today. I thoughts Denny's did a great job promoting their free give-away. Who knew chickens screamed like girls? My favorite Doritos ad was the one where the boy tells his mom's date "Don't touch my mom, and don't touch my Doritos." That one made me laugh. Otherwise, two ads really left an impression.

The Simpsons and Coca-Cola:
The Simpsons have been around 20 years and in my opinion represent Americana. They tackle all issues, they guest star sooooo many of the best pop figures of the last 20 years. I view them as a classic that has still got it going on. Which is why pairing them with Coke was genious, as they both have the same selling points. "Remember how we were awesome 20 years ago? Still Awesome!" Plus....Burns losing his money and the town not appreciating his collection was just funny. I think in time we will see the beauty of this ad.

Flo TV Ad:
I think this ad aired during half-time so it didn't "count" in the standings, but I loved it. This ad took the biggest TV moments of the last oh 50 years and put them into one ad to the tune of "My Generation" by The Who. I can't begin to describe how genius this is. But I will try. First, props for using The Who when they were playing half-time. Second, what better way to drive home the idea of a hand held TV then to remind people of the "Where were you when" moments of the last 2-3 generations??? Think about it. I mean, this was a history lesson in 1 minute!! It even carried all the way to the present with the Haiti earthquake. Total brilliance, and again the more we see this ad the more we will appreciate it.

The Winner: Snickers Tackles Betty White
I must say, I was surprised that a) Anheuser-Busch lost for the second straight year and b) this is what beat it. I know that seeing Betty White getting slammed was funny, but really that was it. I mean of course seeing old people getting tackled is funny! I guess I felt that ad was too easy of a joke. Maybe that's the beauty of it.

The Who at Halftime:
Ever since Justin killed Janet's career the halftime show has been aging artists who the networks need not worry about doing anything naughty. And while it's fun to sing along to great hits, some of these artists just don't pack the punch they used too. (cough Rolling Stones cough)

Not The Who. They brought it. Roger has his voice, Peter has his windmill. I was really entertained. I was more impressed by how loud the fans were singing along. I had never heard that before and it really added to the performance. Add on that amazing stage and it was definitely the best performance since U2 in '02 and in my opinion a top 5 halftime show up there with Michael Jackson and the Mo-Town tribute.

Special points for almost every song promoting the CSI series which just so happens to air on CBS. Clever.

The Game:
I loved this game. I picked the Saints and was rooting hard for them. I truly felt it was a perfect game up until the Manning interception. Sure there were some drops and a stopped 4th down, but honesly those plays happen. I really felt both teams went and executed their game plans and in the end the Saints made two big plays with the Pick-6 and the onside kick. Those plays literally made up for the difference on the score board.

I think Manning played great. Turns out the Saints defense is really good. Manning made a ton of top notch throws just to put points on the board. He had to be perfect, and most of his completions were perfect. Give credit to the Saint Defense who just made one big play at the right time. I think Drew Brees kept his head and made so many smart decisions. He made safe throws and let his receivers get the yards. That's great football.

How to build a franchise:
I think the St. Louis Rams can learn a lot about how to build a a championship team. Both the Colts and Saints built themselves in impressive manners and here is how I view them.

Indianapolis Colts "The Model" That roster is littered with players who have never played for another team other than the Colts. That means that the Colts have made a killing on great drafts after great drafts. It helps that they drafted future hall-of-famer Peyton Manning early in this development, but still they make the most of what they have in house year after year. This takes some time to build, but once you do you become the winning-est team of the decade. This is what every franchise tries to do.

New Orleans Saints "The Best of what's around" The Saints went out and signed great free agents at key positions and built around them in the draft. This is probably where the Rams are headed since we have drafted so poorly in recent years. I actually think the answer will be in between for the Rams. Find your "franchise" players in the draft and fill in need with quality free agents. At least we have two models to learn from.

The Future:
The Saints have a ton of free agents, and Super Bowl players tend to get money thrown at them. The good news for the Saints is they won, and other quality players will want to get in on this action while the Saints still have a core of great players.

The Colts have a different problem. Losing the Super Bowl hurts. A Lot. Like try forever. Who is the last team to lose a Super Bowl and return? (Answer: The Giants took 7 years to return, the Patriots took 5 and the Steelers took 10. The Bills....lets not talk about the Bills.) Even past Super Bowl winners have troubles recovering from a loss (New England and St. Louis). So keep your chin up, Indianapolis. Keep Peyton Manning protected in the pocket and I think you will be fine. I think he is durable enough that they won't suffer the same fate as the Patriots and Rams.

Finally, I believe I predicted 7 of the 10 Super Bowl winners last decade (before the game, not the season. I didn't get any of those). That's not a bad stat! I missed The Giants/Patriots, the Seahawks/Steelers and of course the Rams/Patriots.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

YouTube artist: Pomplamoose

One day when I pulled up YouTube I saw a suggested video by an artist named Pomplamoose. On this particular day that was enough for me to be interested and check it out. I mean, with a name like that you'd have to be good, right? Totally right. The lady (Nataly) has a relaxed, clear voice. (She also plays bass) All the other instruments (and a few vocals) are recorded by Jack, the gentleman in the video. In fact, they call these videosongs. What that means is that everything you see is what you hear. (No overdubbing) Each instrument or harmony is included in the video at some point, so you get the full picture of what it took to record this song. And given the massive creativity and energy they brought to this song I'm very glad they did. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

St. Louis Rams: 10 players to watch

This will prove to be a crucial off-season for the St. Louis Rams. While I don't expect the Rams to have a winning record in 2010, history has shown that if you make the right moves your team can drastically improve in one off-season. With so many needs the Rams could go in many directions. So here is my watch list for the Rams 2010 off-season.

1: Michael Vick QB Philadelphia Eagles
One year ago it was a risky move to sign Michael Vick. Nobody knew how the public would view his return to football, and I'm sure people were wondering how Vick would conduct his own behavior. To me those questions have been answered. The Rams need a QB with some mobility, and there's nobody with more mobility that Vick. He would add a much needed playmaker to this offense. Sure he's not the greatest passer, but the Rams aren't going to sign a great passer. Vick might give the 2010 Rams the best chance to win.

Also, if the Rams were to acquire Vick we would instantly become a talking point and relevant to the NFL, something we were not in 2009. Now, he won't come free. The Rams would have to trade for Vick from the Eagles. And if I read between the lines correctly the Rams are interested. The only problem might emerge if other teams desire Vick's services as well. The Rams aren't exactly a desirable place to play right now.....

My prognosis: Make it happen. 60% chance.

2: Ndamukong Suh DT Nebraska
Suh is regarded as the best talent in the 2010 NFL draft. The St. Louis Rams have the first pick in said draft. The Rams had the 4th worst defense in the NFL and 6th worst rush defense. All signs point to drafting Suh. Two reasons why: one is that Suh is being touted as a "special" player that doesn't come around that often. After watching him in college, I agree. Second point is to win in the NFL you need to win the battles on the line both offense and defense. This would go a long way in securing our defense. Let's put it this way, only if the Rams trade down would I be happy if we don't draft Suh.

My prognosis: Please do this. 90% chance.

3: Jimmy Clausen QB Notre Dame
I really think the Rams need a new QB, and Clausen is the best QB in the draft. Drafting him would make the Rams relevant to the national media with everyone looking into his development. Also, the Rams would gain the attention of the loyal Notre Dame alumni which would help our attendance and overall interest.

However, is Clausen the right QB to draft number 1? I don't think so. Sure he's good, but he's no slam dunk. And great QB's don't have to be drafted in the first round, they often get drafted in 2nd and 3rd rounds. However, Clausen will gain lots of media attention especially with the Rams need at QB. In fact, I will say now that if Clausen gets drafted number 1 it's because another team trades up to get him!

My prognosis: Not my choice, but I could see it happening. 10% chance.

4/5/6/7: McCoy/Tebow/Bradford/Pike

As I mentioned before, the Rams need a QB. If we take Suh with the first pick I fully expect the Rams to pick up a QB in round 2 or 3. The real question is who will be available? I like Colt McCoy the best. I like his accuracy, mobility and leadership. Sam Bradford has much to prove, but if he is healthy again he has promise to be a great passer in the NFL. Tim Tebow may not be the prettiest passer available, but his heart and leadership and determination to improve makes him a viable candidate. Tony Pike could move up the boards with some good workouts, but so could other QB's. My point is that there will be some QB's available in this draft. The question is who will still be on the board?

My Prognosis: 90% chance a QB is taken. I rank them McCoy, Tebow, Bradford, Pike.

8. Reggie Bush RB New Orleans Saints
Bush is one of the most electric playmakers in the NFL. At least of the players who are free agents this off-season. Think about what Bush could offer to the Rams. He's a great compliment to Stephen Jackson. He's a playmaker both in the running game and the passing game. In fact, his pass catching ability would help make up for our lack at wide receiver. But I wonder if Reggie would choose to come to St. Louis if he receives multiple offers. (which I think he will) And how much would he cost? How much can the Rams afford for a number 2 back?

My prognosis: A boy can dream. 20% chance.

9. Osi Umenyiora DE New York Giants
Osi made it clear he is unhappy with the Giants. And the Rams just so happen to have his former Defensive Coordinator in our head coach Steve Spagnoulo. Plus think about if we have Umenyiora combined with Suh and Chris Long? Tell me our defense wouldn't be better! The problem is how much would it cost the Rams to trade for him? With all the needs the Rams have it would not be shrewd to give up too many picks on trades this off-season.

My prognosis: Osi will have a better chance to win in NY. 10% chance

10: Danario Alexander WR Missouri Tigers
Fans of Mizzou know about Danario. They know about his speed, his hands and his overall explosiveness. We've heard him compared to Randy Moss and know he could be a first round pick. What puzzles me is how the rest of the nation doesn't seem to get it. I've seen him listed as going in the 4th round! The Rams have great need at the WR position and really need a tall receiver to compliment Donnie Avery. The trick is if he is still on the board in the 3rd or 4th round. I'll say this right now, if Danario does fall to the 4th round the Rams take him with the first pick of the 4th.

My prognosis: Just the luck of the draft. 20% chance.

So there's my watch list. In the end I expect at least 3 of these 10 players to be on our team next year. And frankly, any combination of 3 players should lead to better play on the field next season.