Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roger That, You Hypocrite

NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell has sunk to a new low, and it's a seriously disgusting one. As I've said here many times, hypocrisy is right up there with cheapness among the most ugly of all human traits to me, and Roger Gooddell has it in spades.

For those of you who didn't see it, this past Sunday afternoon saw the NFL's best wide receiver in Andre Johnson get into about as bad of a fight as you ever see on the football field with Titans' cornerback Cortland Finnegan:

Once this happened, of course both players were immediately ejected from the game, and I along with about 30 million other NFL fans immediately started asking the question "How long will these guys be suspended for?" Not if there will be a suspension, but how long will it be. Because, I mean, this is Roger Gooddell and all, and he's a hardass, badass, tough-love, crazy disciplining type. Since this guy took over a few years ago, he has left a whole mess of suspended players in his wake. Violate your parole? Get suspended two games. Get busted on a DUI? Two game suspension. Get in a fight at a strip club, with no charges filed? Four game suspension. Convicted of DUI manslaughter? Four game suspension. Get accused of sexual assault (no charges actually filed)? Six game suspension. Torture a bunch of dogs? 34 game suspension. Hit a guy in the head during a game? One game suspension. And the list just goes on and on. Gooddell has done everything in his power to come off as a hard-line disciplinarian who clearly has no bones whatsoever about taking you out of the league for a few weeks when you act in a way that is clearly detrimental to the league or the safety of its players. And, much to the chagrin of the players' union since they very day he took over, there are basically zero exceptions to Gooddell's pattern of handling such matters.

Until now.

Take another look at that video up there. Andre Johnson had this whole thing planned out, clearly. He reaches right up, with full intent, and grabs the facemask of Cortland Finnegan before yanking it willfully right off Finnegan's head. And then he starts swinging, going right for the head. He gets Finnegan on the ground -- the point at which even hockey referees will step in and stop the fight before someone gets really hurt -- and then while using his weight to keep Finnegan down, swings multiple times directly at Finnegan's head and face. He gets a major hit in right to the side of Finnegan's mug -- again, mind you, having deliberately and obviously planned this whole move out -- before the refs finally step in and separate the two players. It is nothing more than dumb old luck that Finnegan did not get bloodied and potentially seriously injured by Andre Johnson's deliberate and willfully violent actions. Nothing more, just plain old dumb luck.

And yes, Finnegan is known around the league as basically the dirtiest fuck on defense, and there are several highlights of him doing dick things to Johhson and other players during this game alone, let alone in previous games over previous seasons. He's a cock, he's an instigator, and there's really nothing good that can be said about his play. He's a dirty shit, and he pretty much got what he had coming to him. I will even say that I kind of cheered a little bit when I saw Johnson finally give Finnegan a taste or three of his own medicine. And lord knows Johnson was planning this for some time and was pleased to be doing exactly what he clearly set out to do on that play.

But just because I'm kind of glad Andre Johnson went all vigilante on Cortland Finnegan, doesn't mean for shit that he shouldn't have to pay the consequences. When a guy whose daughter got raped goes out and kills the three men responsible, everyone understands exactly where he's coming from, why he did it, and probably many people silently condone the behavior. But you'll be condoning it from the other side of steel bars, because that guy who took the law into his own hands is going to jail, quite possibly for life. You just can't do that sort of thing -- even if the culprit "deserves" it by his actions -- without having to pay the consequences, which of course is an opinion shared 100% over the history of the NFL as in all professional sports. I mean, when Roger Clemens, in a fit of roid rage, hits the same batter in the head three times in two games, the guy is eventually going to rush the mound and take matters into his own hands. You might cheer the batter when he does it, and you might hope he clocks that MFer right on his pitching arm like he surely deserves, but lord knows he's going to be suspended for at least a few games as a result. Throw in a Major League Commissioner who has spent the last few years taking every possible opportunity to throw the book at such offenders, and obviously this guy's going to be sitting down for at least a series or two. We've all seen it happen a million times. You physically attack someone during a game like this -- in any sport we know of -- you throw and connect with punches directly to an opposing player's face, and then follow that up by slapping away the referee's hand from your uniform like Andre Johnson did on Sunday, and it's never, ever even once in any sport been a matter of if you're getting suspended, but rather for how long.

Until now. And why has Gooddell, the king of hyposhits hypocrites, shocked everyone this week by unbelievably opting not to suspend Andre Johnson this time around? It's actually quite simple: Johnson's Texans are on the NFL Network in this week's Thursday night game against the Eagles. It really is, shockingly, that simple. Nobody watches the NFL Network's Thursday night games already, and with Andre Johnson not in the lineup at the Linc in Philly, that game might draw a 1 rating instead of the usual 3 or 4. And Gooddell just can't have that.

Roger Gooddell, you are officially a piece of steaming, smelly shit. Your league has unquestionably gone downhill in the time you've been in charge -- your officiating has gotten immeasurably worse, and you have lost total control of the referees and their influence over the games. Multiple games have been decided by clearly incorrect calls in the final seconds, let alone your league's complete and total inability to get almost any calls right even after taking three or four minutes to disrupt to flow of the game and stare repeatedly at the replays in slow motion. All the while, the NFL's play has gotten softer than ever due to your unbelievable rules regarding tackling and touching any players above the neck, below the knees, you name it. You heard it here first -- the NFL officially peaked in terms of popularity about two years ago, right around the beginning of Roger Gooddell's reign as commissioner, and has already begun its descent. It'll be a few more years before the general public really starts noticing this in the numbers, but if you read here then you'll already have seen it coming.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, nobody could ever have conceived back in 1993 of the NBA not being the sport in the U.S. and around the world for all times, but in just 15 short years, does anybody even follow the NBA anymore? These days, clearly football is all the rage, with baseball in second place, and only the incredibly lame NHL keeping the NBA from bumping along the bottom in terms of popularity of the major sports in this country. Just look at the similarities -- the NBA players have ruled the roost for years under David Stern, acting more and more in ways that alienate the very fans the commissioner was supposed to be taking care of for the past generation. Rules have been changed, re-changed, and changed again in an attempt to influence the direction the game is going. And the referees have been permitted to run amok so badly that eventually at least one longtime ref was busted for fixing games for years, a scandal I still can't believe did not completely ruin the NBA for years and years to come. But it all did its damage, and today the league is a shell of its former self, no doubt about it. Roger Gooddell is going right on this same path, and now with this level of hypocrisy thrown in for good measure, Gooddell is positioning himself as pretty much the biggest asshat in sports today.

Hey, Gooddell -- next time you're in New York, please come and find me. I'll bounce your ass off every wall in the room like you deserve. Then you can fine me an insignificant amount of money and we'll call it even.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Capitalism at its Worst

Well, now that this is really news to anyone, but we can officially add Thanksgiving to the list of holidays -- already including things like Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, Valentine's Day and several others -- that have simply been turned into overcommercialized pains in the ass by the American corporate machine. I mean, ever since I was a kid, Black Friday has always been the busiest shopping day of the year. Since before I was born it was already, and it makes sense -- the holidays are coming up, everyone is home from work for the most part, and people head out and hit the mall after a long day inside celebrating with family on Thanksgiving day. So it's always been the busiest shopping day of the year, since long before I entered the picture, and it probably always will be.

But opening stores at 3am, 4am and 5am? That's only really started happening in the past few years. Offering up these ludicrous "doorbuster" sales items -- at the BestBuy I frequented on Friday morning, it was $150 netbooks and $50 digital cameras. All four of them that the store actually had in stock. And you know what you had to do to get one of those four "doorbuster" items that of course BestBuy had been advertising all over the tv, radio and in newspapers and magazines for literally weeks heading into the Thanksgiving holiday? Nothing more than be there for the store's open at precisely 5am local time on Friday morning. Only, of course there were about 700,000 people who wanted in on these incredible deals -- mind you, which again the store only actually had four of in stock -- so you actually had to be there for the store's official lineup outside the store behind the police tape at 3am, because it was at 3am when the store handed out the "tickets" as they called them to the (very) few lucky people who would be eligible to purchase the $600 items for $150. Oh, and of course, even that 3am lineup was already packed by the time the handing out of the tickets went down, so the manager at the store told me on Friday night that you actually had to get there at 2am to actually be in the front of the line at 3am to get the tickets to make the best purchases for the store's open at 5am.

Is anybody else seeing something wrong with this picture?

I mean, I'm all for getting a good deal, be it on holiday gifts or otherwise. And I've been known to do quite a bit to get the best deal on something once I've zeroed in on making that purchase. I'll put off a purchase for a couple of weeks until the coupons come out that I know are on their way. I can search naughtycodes.com with the best of 'em. I'll spend a good long time scouring the internet for any kind of a bargain rate or coupon if the purchase price of the item in question is large enough to make it worth the effort.

But lining up at 2am at BestBuy? Having to learn there was a 2-hour line at the checkout counter when I got there first at 7:20am on Friday morning, hoping to pick up a new laptop for myself as I was tired of working on a 3-year-old piece of trash with 800 meg of RAM, a 40 gig hard drive and a mere 1 gig Intel chip inside?

When I was a kid, sure people camped out overnight for things. Big events -- the release of Return of the Jedi. Those Guns n Roses tickets to their first Appetite for Destruction tour along with Aerosmith or Skid Row, stuff like that. But camping out overnight at the literal middle of the night just to get in to Best Buy for their 5am opening just to save a few bucks on a netbook that you don't really even need anyways?

Clearly, things have gone far too far.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

NFL -- Week 12 Picks

Hopefully you all have had as awesome of a Thanksgiving weekend so far as I have. I know I say this every time I get to spend some time with my family without my effing job getting in the way, but a big splotch of time like this with my wife and kids simply cannot be beat, regardless of where you go or what you do with the time. The truth of the matter is that I have been so focused over the past couple of years on excelling and proving my worth at my job that it has slowly but surely encroached to the point that it has completely taken over my life. Just to keep up with the incredible amount of work I have taken on -- and which the powers that be have willingly availed themselves of with me -- I am up at the crack of dawn (before that, actually) five days a week, I'm the first one in the office, and I still don't get to see my kids at all many nights on the other end of the work day. Plus, I check the PDA at every red light on my drive home every day, and many days I walk in the door and head right to my home pc to log right back in to the same email account I've been slaving over all day already at the office. To get some time like this where I've truly just disconnected is simply invaluable, and it does wonders every time to put back into perspective what is really, seriously important and awesome for me.

OK, enough with the sappy stuff. Back to football. I should mention that longtime asshead Marvin Lewis officially joined Mike Singletary among the ranks of the truly legally idiotic on Thanksgiving day this week when his player Reche Caldwell was adjuged to have touched the ball on a punt return in a crucial spot in a close game to lead to an alleged fumble recovery by the Jets, and even though Caldwell could not have been clearer that he did not believe he touched the ball, and even with the replay clearly showing how laughably far from him the ball was and how he could not possibly have touched it, and how there thus could not possibly have been a fumble on the play, and what does Marvin do? Stone cold nothing. What a piece of shit. I mean, I didn't play that game, I'm neither a Jets nor a Bengals fan -- if anything, I've thoroughly enjoyed this run the Jets have had as I spend my days in New York -- so I have no personal stake whatsoever. But there are a million people who are Bengals fans out there, and they don't care if the team is yet again mired in another hopelessly losing season. Giving up on the game like that should be grounds for immediate termination, and you can rest assured that I and a million Bengals fans out there would have done just that if given the chance at that moment. How the fuck dare that shitmonkey Marvin Lewis not even challenge an obviously wrong call that gave the Jets an unearned turnover and essentially put away a football game where the Bengals had been close to coming back against a team that hasn't played a good game against a bad team in over a month. I'll tell you what though -- the moment that Coach Marvin chose not to give a shit about the game like that, was the same moment that I stopped giving a shit about the game myself. I don't need to invest any time or interest in a game that the frigging head coach of one of the teams by definition doesn't give a shit about. It's obvious that Marvin Lewis -- pretty much the single worst coach in football today other than his alter ego Mike Singletary in San Francisco -- will be fired at season's end and with good reason. But if that owner had even the smallest twig in his pants he would have fired that horse's ass right there in the middle of the season. In the middle of the game. What a piece of shit.

But hey don't worry, the schmuckhole announcers didn't even say a thing about it when it happened. I call it "Collinsworth Syndrome" -- as much as the officials in the NFL are absolutely hell bent on taking over the game instead of just calling it, the announcers have absolutely zero interest in calling the game as they see it, instead preferring to merely do and say whatever they have to to protect the integrity of the job the referees are doing. It's gotten to the point where you know you saw it wrong if the announcers agree with you, and if Roger Gooddell thinks that's what's good for the game, then he's as wrong about that as he is about allowing his refs to take over the games. Like the NBA twenty-some years ago, nobody can even conceive of the NFL ever not being the behemoth in this country and around the world that it is today. But I can. By the time Gooddell figures it out, it will probably be too late for his sport, but I'll have seen it coming, what else is new.

OK so after a dominatory 3-0 performance last week, where I got all three games correct all the way down to the most minute details as if they were an opponent's holding at the river, the season record has swollen to 17-14-2. Having not liked any of the three Turkey Day games this week, I've got three more picks in some interesting situations heading into Week 14. So here they are, in no particular order as always:

1. Cleveland Browns pickem vs. Carolina Panthers. Here's another line that is almost too good to be true, but the truth of the matter is that the too good to be true lines this year have almost all paid off on the "obvious" side. The Panthers are pretty much the worst team in the NFL this year, and even with horrible Jake Delhomme being given a gift start against his old team this weekend, the Browns should be consistently better than the Panthers, in particular at home. As a pickem, the value on this one isn't even close to close.

2. Houston Texans pickem vs. Tennessee Titans. Here's another home team facing an opponent with all kinds of trouble, and once again I think the value is clearly weighted on their side. The Titans have no quarterback, Randy Moss has already proven beyond any doubt to be a total bust on his third team of this NFL season, and the Texans haven't played so well over their last few games despite having a formidable offense. This seems to me to be the week they break out and nab their next win, and at a pickem I'll take my chances with the home team on this one.

3. Washington Redskins -2 vs Minnesotaq Vikings. The Redskins obviously suck, so this pick has nothing to do with them. This is an anti-Vikings pick, plain and simple. Unlike Jerry Jones, who fired his horribad coach at the perfect time midseason to still get his players to play and to still leave them and his interim head coach with a reason to try, the Vikings owner -- who clearly thinks he's doing exactly the same thing as Dallas -- has actually made a completely boneheaded play in firing head man Brad Childress in Week 13. I mean, the Vikings are 100% totally and completely finished, and they literally probably will not win another game this year. Childress obviously had to go -- clearly he has been a moron for a loooong time and pretty much has always been in over his head as a head coach -- but I'm pretty sure the Vikes' owner is about to be treated to exactly why you almost never see teams change head men mid-season like this. The Redskins are pretty much an embarrassment to the sport, but they could win this weekend against the Vikings at home by double digits. If not triple.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Winning One-Against-Three

With all the (massive) problems the NFL has with its referees insisting on taking over the games of the biggest, best sport on the earth today, there is just something so satisfying about the Eagles going on national television on Sunday night and beating not just the Giants, but also beating the referees as well as NBC's color guy Chris Collinsworth.

Sure, the Eagles went out and did what they had to do on Sunday to beat their hated division rivals, taking the game 27-17 to nab a 7-3 record and sole possession of first place in the NFC East, which had been held almost the entire season previously by the Eli Manning and the Giants. One week after erupting for four passing touchdowns at another key divisional rival in the Redskins, Mike Vick did not throw a td pass on the day this weekend, but he ran for a crucial one and helped pace the team with 258 yards passing and, as usual, zero interceptions. Meanwhile, the Eagles defense was utterly stifling, as Eli Manning chipped in with a key fumble as well as three more interceptions, bringing his league-leading total to 17 picks on the year, if you throw out Brett Favre and his 886 interceptions so far in 2010, leaving the Giants for the most part completely unable to move the ball or do anything of any value offensively. At least until the refs stepped in, anyways.

With the Eagles leading the game 16-3 late in the third quarter and heading into the 4th, the game was such that it was clear that the Giants wouldn't find their way into the end zone no matter how much time they had to play on the day. The Eagles just shut the Giants' down, plain and simple, and every single time the Eagles needed a big play or a big stop on defense, they got it. The Eagles did what they've done a lot recently to the Giants -- won a huge game fairly late in the season, behind the power of multiple takeaways as they forced the Giants to make poor decision after poor decision in their undying quest to get at least somewhere near the end zone. And so the referees decided, in typical NFL fashion, to become the story of the game once again instead of just calling the game. They quickly awarded the Giants the ball back after overturning a pretty obvious fumble that would have effectively ended the game -- with Collinsworth all the while commenting on how genius it was of Tom Coughlin to challenge that play that every little league coach in the country would have challenged given the situation -- and then they reversed a call to give the Giants the ball after an Eagles player committed a dubious-at-best fumble, using their amazing powers of replay to get most calls wrong even on the slow-mo. What a joke. The Giants punched it in from the 10 two plays later, and then not four minutes later in gametime, there were the refs again, calling a pass interference call at the 1-yard line to bail out Eli Manning who had made a laughable heave down the field to avoid getting his head knocked off on a crucial third down play that -- once again -- would have and should have effectively ended the game. But those pesky refs were having none of it, and they did whatever they had to do over a 5-minute span or so to not just keep the New York team in it, but to quickly give them the fucking lead in a game that was a blowout to a degree that only someone who watched the entire game could understand.

But I think the most satisfying part of all for Eagles fans with the game on Sunday night had to be once again beating down Chris Collinsworth, unquestionably one of the biggest assheads in all of sports announcing. I've written about him before, because it is very difficult to measure whether his bias is greater than his stupidity, or vice versa, and Sunday night's performance out of Chrissy C. has got to rank right up there with his all-time bests. I mean, repeatedly pointing out that so many of Eli's interceptions this season have been on tips? Come on, Chris! You may want to suck Eli's wang, but the guy leads all under-40 quarterbacks in the NFL in interceptions this year! That doesn't happen because of tipped passes, even if you hate Philadelphia and would say anything good about their opponent in any game, even if it makes you look like a complete chucklehead. A real announcer of course would note that Eli is simply having an uncharacteristically sloppy year at the helm of his offense, as any monkey with half a brain who's actually watched the Giants' games this year would know, despite a few tips earlier in the season that probably could have been caught. But when Eli throws a ball two feet behind his receiver on a crossing route, and the guy spins around, leans back and gets a finger on the ball before it gets intercepted, that's not a great play by the quarterback that his receiver screwed him on. It's the opposite, Chrissy, which any non-ape in the booth with any modicum of impartiality already knows. Oh, and by the way, Chrissy, what about your unthinkable assertion during the timeout while Eagles' special teams man Ellis Hobbs was being tended to after a vicious helmet-to-helmet direct hit from Giants' dirty fuck Dave Tollefson, that the play was fully legal. Fully legal? You assyshit!! Hobbs is lucky as hell that he had movement in his extremities shortly after the injury caused by Tollefson -- the same dirty fuck who already knocked out at least one other quarterback already earlier in the season -- and Tollefson might as well crack out the checkbook now, cuz he'll be writing a nice $50k (at least) check within the next few days most likely. But it was a fully legal hit, right Chrissy? You heartless, thoughtless piece of shit.

Collinsworth, I know your head is already about 5 times taller than it is wide, and you're already one of the ugliest, stupidest bitches on television today in any capacity. But when I watch you, I and thousands of other intelligent viewers across the country literally mute the tv every time you open your big, fat, worthless yapper. If I could, I'd love to put your head in a vice like I assume your parents did when you were little to make you look like that and just squeeze it tighter and tighter and tighter until the air whooses right out of your ears. Lucky for you NBC is so clueless about football that they allow your stupid ass to be a part of the broadcast, along with other stellar commentators in the studio like Tony Dungy, Dan Patrick and Rodney Harrison. And even among those three fucking loser rejects, you're still far and away the bottom of the heap. Congratulations. Oh, and sorry about your team's loss of first place last night, too.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

NFL -- Week 11 Picks

So through 10 weeks of the NFL season, I'm basically once again right back to where I started, with my season record sitting at 14-14-2 after a 2-1 week with my predictions for Week 10. This week I see a bunch of big lines, but in general I find this week to be perhaps the most difficult week of the season in terms of finding games that look like easy wins. Here are my picks for the coming weekend, in no particular order as always.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5 at San Francisco 49ers. The Buccaneers are much better than expected this season, and they've done a great job beating the bad teams they've played all season long so far in 2010. It's always unsettling picking a team that has to travel all the way across the country, but in this case the far superior team is getting a field goal+ to play against a very bad 49ers team with a head coach with the intelligence of a below-average chimpanzee. I just can't pass up the better team and the points here, even with the cross-country travel, especially as the Bucs are 3-1 already on the road this season.

2. Buffalo Bills +6 at Cincinatti Bengals. The Bills are fresh off their first win of the 2010 NFL season, and they've been playing much better of late than earlier in the season. Meanwhile, the Bengals' season is all but over once again as that team continues to flounder in the midst of a 5-game losing streak under the "tutelage" of Marvin Lewis, another bozo who was a good coordinator some time ago but who could not be more obvious simply does not have what it takes to be a successful head coach in this league. Even though the Bengals can and should win this game, the team hasn't had a good outing in almost two months, and I just have a major problem with them giving six points to a tough young team who plays hard every week and doesn't give up to anybody. I like the Bills getting nearly a touchdown here in this one.

3. Baltimore Ravens -10 at Carolina Panthers. Here's a double-digit road favorite that I know a lot of people will scowl at, but this is about as good of a road matchup as I have seen this year. For starters, Matt Moore is out as Carolina's qb, and backup Jimmy Clausen is concussed and not likely to start as well on Sunday, leaving some guy named Tony Pike to take the helm at quarterback for perhaps the league's worst team. And just for fun, Pike will have to face the raucous Baltimore defense in his first start of the season, which sounds like a recipe for a bunch of incompletions and probably a few pick-6's to boot. And just to round out the analysis, the Panthers are 1-4 at home this year, and in those four home losses, they lost by 13 to the Bucs, by 13 to the 2-7 Bengals, by 17 to the Bears, and most recently by 31 to the Saints. They haven't had a single home loss yet by fewer than 10 points, and they're playing one of the best teams in the league in the Ravens, and they're starting some stiff at quarterback in his first significant minutes of the season. This one should be a bloodbath.

There's the Week 11 picks. There are a ton of too-big lines in my view in this week's games, but these are the ones I am most comfortable with given what I have seen about the teams involved. And the best game of the week? Giants at Eagles, on the Sunday night package, in a battle for NFC East supremacy as the Eagles look to follow up last Monday's silly beatdown of the Foreskins and their $3 million guaranteed contract to quarterback Donovan McNabb. Who signs a $3 million guaranteed contract in the NFL anyways?

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Latest in Government Propaganda

Other than a little more than two years ago when events in the stock market and the financial markets worldwide took over center stage of the attention of everyone in the free (and not-free) world, I have tried hard not to make this spot into a stock market blog. There's a lot of reasons for that, but basically it comes down to the fact that I've already been there and done that. I've mentioned this a couple of times before here on the blog, but a long time ago, back when the internet was truly in its infancy, I stated a stock market website that essentially met the exact definition of a "blog" even though nobody was using that word back then. This was the mid 1990s, when other than maybe by a couple of freaky guys wearing black nail polish and spiky hair while living in their mommy's basement hacking away on the newly-discovered internet (thank you, Al Gore), today's "blogs" were simply referred to as "websites", or maybe just "URLs" by the dorks of the world. But that's what I had -- a stock marker blog. I kept it going, updating daily, for several years. I even turned it into a nice little side business, selling some regular financial information and predictions for a monthly subscription. I had a credit card machine, a merchant account with a local bank in southern New Jersey, the whole kit and caboodle.

But that all ran its course. After maybe 6 or 7 years of regular updating and provision of financial information, the grind eventually took its toll. Sometime in 2004, I stopped updating that site, and I don't foresee myself reopening that part of my life anytime soon. Don't get me wrong -- I still love the stock market, I still follow it like a hawk every single day of my life, and I'm sure I always will just like I always have since I was a kid. But having to follow things closely every single day, having to make picks and predictions for paying customers day in and day out, and just generally being subject to accusations of being wrong, being an idiot, having my head up my ass, etc., it really turned into a serious drag after a while. Given that investing directly impacts people's money, I found after several years, after weathering the dot-com bust of the early 2000s, and everything else in between, that I just didn't want to subject myself to that kind of public scrutiny anymore, so I stopped it. And as I said, I haven't looked back on that decision at all, despite those couple of months in late 2008 when all I could think about was the market, the financial sector, and the Wall Street engine that completely and totally makes the city where I live go. And to this day, even though I have a lot to say in my personal life about the stock market almost all the time, I try generally to keep that out of what I write about here, preferring to limit my opportunities for public embarrassment for my predictions to areas like football games, baseball over-unders, things like that.

All that said, this story has really got me chuckling today. GM's new IPO has been expanded by 31%, huh? Due to extensive investor demand, you say? Oh, and this move just happens to decrease the U.S. Treasury's stake in the new GM from 61% to 26%, as most of the additional shares being offered will come straight out of the government's stake. That is just so convenient, isn't it?

One thing people don't know is that the first step to being a smart, successful investor is always going to be using your common sense. I'm not saying that any untrained, inexperienced person can use their god-given brains and become a millionaire by speculating in metals, coffee beans and index futures -- far from it, of course -- but at the same time, I've always counseled anyone who has asked me that, if you don't understand what a company or an individual investment really is, how it makes its money, and certainly if you haven't even got a basic understanding of the financials and the relative valuation of a stock, then you have no business investing in it. This isn't the kind of thing that you need some kind of a finance degree to do either -- but I always have to chuckle when people complain about losing money in, say, some biotechnology stock, which they bought at $40 a share and now it's at $3 a share, when the company never had any earnings (or any real prospects for earnings) at any point during the time they've owned the stock. Only a fool puts his money into a company without having at least a basic knowledge of what the company does, how they make their money, and what level of sales the company has generally in comparison to its valuation in the market. I mean, if you invest in a company with $10 million a year in revenues, when that company is currently valued at $5 billion in the marketplace, without some very clear reason why you think the gap between those two numbers will narrow significantly in the near term, then you're just asking to be separated from your money.

So about GM. Remember, this is the company that lost market share for its cars basically every year from 1959 through their bankruptcy in 2009. Every. Single. Year. As a general statement, the company hasn't been responsive to the needs and desires of American car buyers -- for generations now, mind you -- and they still have the most bloated, overextended distribution network in the modern car-selling world. In the end they didn't close nearly as many of their dealerships as was originally reported they were going to have to close, and as such the new company will still have something like three times as many dealerships in their distribution, sales and service network as their profitable foreign competitors in the U.S. They were able to renegotiate some of their ridiculously over-fluffy benefits for current and past employees with the UAW, but again not nearly as much as was agreed they needed to renegotiate back when the bankruptcy was imminent a year ago. And most of all, what changes has the company made as far as the cars they are going to produce, both in terms of selection and quality? Have you heard of any substantive changes on this point? Me either.

The new company is basically a slightly-better-but-still-generally-all-the-same-problems General Motors. I couldn't help but break a smile when I even saw they were emerging from bankruptcy and heading for such a large IPO, and frankly I can't help but laugh every time I read anybody talking about what a good buy the new GM stock will be. As the company prepares for potentially the largest IPO in human history, the government now wants investors to believe that this thing is just so oversubscribed, that there is just so incredibly much demand for shares in the new General Motors, that they are having to increase the number of shares offered by a whopping 31%, something I'm not sure I can recall happening in any IPO in my memory. And this huge increase in shares will just happen to bail out the government to a significant degree of the absolutely, unprecedentedly massive share it recently took in the company in bailing them out a year ago?

Come on. You don't have to be trained or experienced in finance in order to see what is going on here. If you simply refuse to put your money into something whenever you do not have a clear sense of the value, of where the impetus is going to come from for a company to grow and a stock to move higher over time, you'll find yourself consistently not on the losing side of trades that never had a chance to make it in the first place.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Too Stupid to be Believed

As a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, Monday was a super fun day.

For starters, Mike Vick is hands down the best quarterback in the NFL. Nobody can even argue it, and even though the guy had six touchdowns yesterday and a passer rating of roughly infinity, he was already the league's best before yesterday's game. Vick came into the Eagles' Monday night romp over the Deadskins with a 125.4 passer rating, the highest in the league, and he's the closest thing to literally unstoppable of any player in the league today. And then he threw four touchdown passes in DC on Monday night. In like five minutes. And he ran for two more, in addition to countless first downs. Basically every time Vick touches the ball, he does whatever the hell he wants. And as I've written here before many times, Vick is for my money the single best feel-good story of the year in the NFL in 2010. Yes what he did to those dogs is truly sick and nothing will ever change that, but Mike Vick is the ultimate example of a guy who in my view more than paid his debt to society, he missed more games than anyone else has ever missed for committing lesser crimes than his, and ultimately the guy who never hurt another human being paid an incredible price compared to what other rich and famous dudes who actually hurt other actual people have paid. And now he's back, and the amazing thing is he is much better right now than he ever was even before being incarcerated for two years. Just incredible.

Secondly, I heard the Eagles just scored another touchdown this morning. I mean, 59 points? Really, Redskins? Really, Mike Shanahan? Any time we can beat the Mehskins, it's a good day, and when you do it in their house it is all the better. And when you run up a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, that's the best of all. For those not well-versed with the intricacies of the NFC East, over my lifetime, it's been the Redskins more than anyone else who have given the Eagles the most trouble. Even when the Eagles were so great under Buddy Ryan in the 1980s, and all through the '90s and the 2000s, we've had comparatively little trouble with the Giants, even as that franchise has had three superbowl winning teams in the past 20 years or so. Despite all that, we've fared well over time against the Giants, but the Redskins have always given us fits. I have more horrible memories of Skins games than any other team for sure, and to come out and roll this team that badly, there are no words to describe how good that feels as a longtime fan of the real Gang Green.

But lastly, by far the most highlarious and enjoyable for me part of Monday wasn't watching Mike Vick's coronation, and it wasn't seeing the Eagles destroy our hated franchise competitor. It was the news that came out just before the game that the Foreskins had signed former Eagles qb Donovan McNabb to a 5-year, $88 million extension, on the heels of far and away his worst season since his rookie year in 1999. I mean, Daniel Snyder, are you trying to embarrass yourself? Are you deliberately attempting to further your image of the spoiled rich kid who throws money at any old fool who somebody once thought might be good at this game? When I first saw this headline, I thought no big deal, this is the NFL, they can put whatever number they want on the contract like $88 million and in the end, as soon as McNabb continues sucking, they'll just cut him. I mean, it's not like they're guaranteeing him a lot of this money, obviously -- not literally less than one game after Mike Shanahan benched his ass heading into the 2-minute drill in a crucial game with his team down by 5 points and needing a touchdown to win, right? Right?

Wrong! $40 million is guaranteed to McNabb under this new contract. So let's see. Last year the team paid $100 million to sign Albert Haynesworth, who has started exactly zero games this season and who isn't even any longer in the team's starting defensive package since he "is just not good enough to play the 4-3 defense". Now this year, their division rivals obviously duped them in landing two draft picks in exchange for trading them an aged Donovan McNabb, while all along they had not one but two qb's on the staff who were already far and away better players at this point in their careers, including one who is hands down the best quarterback in the league, and McNabb is following through with the worst full season of his career, so bad that he needed to get benched for the crucial final drive of the game in the Skins' last outing. And then they guarantee McNabb $40 million over the next five years? This can't be serious, can it? I keep waiting for Daniel Snyder or Mike Shanahan to come out and yell "April Fools!" or something, and yet with every passing minute it just seems more and more likely that the Dreadskins are actually going to be paying this guy $40 million guaranteed, plus as much as another $43 million on top over the next five years, to keep throwing the ball into the ground, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns like this season, and giving his team no chance like he did on Monday after three more turnovers including two pick-6s to help the Eagles on their march towards 60 points on the night.

Could Monday have gone any better for Eagles fans, I ask you?

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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Student Has Become the Teacher

If you want to know what the hell has happened to the educational system in this country, you need to look no further than what is happening in my kids' public elementary school experiences over just the last few years. I simply cannot believe the complete and total abdication of personal responsibility by teachers today, as compared to just one generation ago. It's sick, really. When I was in elementary school in the 1970s, sure, my parents used to help me all the time with my homework, with studying, whatever. But to help me was their choice, or mine. It wasn't my parents' obligation to help me, but rather their choice -- back as recently as the 1970s, teachers understood that their fucking job was to teach my kid whatever that year's curriculum was, and that it was students' jobs to do whatever we had to do to learn it.

Nowadays, all that has changed. Do you know that my kids bring home their homework every night, and not only does it have to be signed by me as their parent, but many (as in, a good 50% or so if not more) their fucking homework assignments are actually addressed to me, the parent? I mean, my daughter's homework on a typical night will say in her homework log that she has to do, say, page 34 of her spelling workbook. Then you open up the workbook to page 34 -- mind you, this is the spelling practice book that is given to her by her school for her to learn how to spell -- and on the top, the instructions actually say "Walk your child through the following exercises, making sure that they practice pronouncing each word correctly and recognize the vowel blends in each word."

Walk my child through the exercises? Who the fuck is the student here?

It's an abomination, and unfortunately this is not an isolated incident, but rather the case in the majority of assignments my kids get today in school. And I have little doubt that this more or less total abdication of personal responsibility by teachers today is a huge contributor to the mess we have of an educational system today in this country. I mean, when the fuck did teachers start assigning homework to the student's parents, instead of to the students themselves? In the 1970s and 1980s, no teacher would have even dreamed of trying to do this, and they probably would have been inundated with complaints and eventually had their lazy shitasses fired if they even tried it.

And before you teachers and teacher-lovers out there go all ballistic on me, my mother was a teacher in the public school systems of Philadelphia and New Jersey for more than thirty years all while I was growing up, and I thus grew up with more than a healthy respect to what teachers do, and more than anything else, for how utterly underpaying and thankless those jobs really are. I love teachers, and nobody realizes how hard they work better than I do -- nobody. In fact, I grew up knowing I would never go into teaching because I didn't ever want to be in a job as thankless as what my mom used to go through every day, week after week after week, for as long as I can remember. But then, my mom busted her ass at her job every single day, and she I can assure you would never, ever have even considered sending homework assignments home every night that actively required the parent to participate. All through her career as a teacher, I'm proud to say that my mother never lost sight of the fact that it was the child's responsibility to do his or her homework, and of course to involve parents or other sources as needed to make sure that the child learned what needed to be learned.

And also please don't take what I'm writing here as any suggestion that I do not want to be involved in my kids' learning process. The only reason I know about this ridiculous abdication of responsibility of America's teachers is that I do choose to be involved, and I do choose to review what my kids are doing in school and how they are practicing what they need to learn while they're at home. I do believe that parents should choose to be involved as much as they can be. But you know what? The 1970s was a simpler time, most mothers were not actively in the workforce like they are today, the Dow had never yet crossed the 1000 mark, companies' focus on the almighty dollar hadn't yet experienced the explosion that began with Reagan in the 1980s and has lasted in full force until the present day, and as a result, at least one if not both parents were home at night with their kids in the vast majority of the families I knew, including my own. Today, all that shit is different. A good half of the families in my kids' school involve both the mom and the dad working in some capacity, and for that matter, most of the dads around where I live aren't home at 6pm every day like my father was luckily for me and my siblings. And that includes me. I could count the days I've been home from work by 6pm in 2010 on probably two hands, and the sad reality of the way the working world is today is that I don't get home in time to see my kids before bed on at least half the days of the work week. And I'm not even working in a law firm, consulting company, investment bank, you name it where many professionals routinely stay at the office well into the evening at night. My job's schedule is definitely not considered all that bad by today's standards, but it's still hard for me to be home every single night before my kids go to sleep.

So things were different back then, and if there ever was a time when you might have been able to get away with forcing parents to do the teaching of their kids at home, that basically went out along with parachute pants and hairspray and all that in the 1980s. Nowadays, as I said I strongly believe in parents being involved in making sure their children are learning at school, and that includes doing their part at home while they're not in the classroom to reinforce what they are learning at school at the time. But it's still the student doing their part -- it's not the parents' part. Obviously, any educational system that has any shot of creating the best students with the best habits of learning needs to keep the onus of learning -- both in and out of the classroom -- on the student, as managed by the teacher, not pass it off on someone else like a parent who is already working a 12-hour+ day in many cases. That is just as obvious as the day is long. A kid who really cares about learning will actively involve his or her parents all the time when they have questions on their homework, that day's lesson in school, whatever, and I am a big fan of teachers encouraging that kind of questioning and that kind of extra use of resources to get the kids the understanding they need or want.

But requiring parents to be involved? Assigning homework and handing out workbooks that are literally written to the parent, as if the student (and their teacher) is just along for the ride while the parent does the heavy lifting? That's just teachers being the same lazy, entitled shitheads that unfortunately this country seems to be filling up with more and more every day, everywhere I look.

30 years ago, no teacher would have dreamed of telling parents that they had homework every night with their children, and they would have known with a fair amount of certainty that a discussion with the principal and eventually a firing -- tenure or not -- was on the way if that's how they tried to run their job. Nowadays, it's the norm.

And you wonder why student's test scores have fallen basically every single year for more than a generation in this country? You wonder why so many students themselves seem to have abdicated responsibility themselves for their own learning? Look no further than their lazy, shitty teachers, who in large part behave today more like the workers you find in your average DMV office than the teachers of just one generation ago. Lazy, shitty teachers are going to produce lazy, shitty students in all but the cases of the best, most dedicated students. It is 10 times as hard to become a great student today when your own fucking teacher doesn't even think it's his job to teach you, but rather just tries to foist his job off on your parents. You get foisted in school, and you end up being a foister yourself when you grow up. It's a vicious cycle, and having the very teachers who are entrusted with helping our children grow up to be smart and hard working contributors to society, actually teaching them by their own fucking example to look to others to do their job, and what the hell else do you expect to be the result?

I realize by the way that I am not describing all teachers here, but sadly I am relating an experience through three public schools in two different states, all three of which schools score very highly on all the important measures today. Somewhere over the past generation or so, the quality of teaching and the level of effort that teachers believe is necessary and proper for their job has deteriorated well beyond the tipping point. Sadly, today our children are being taught by the same lazy abdicators that teachers themselves have been accusing their students of being since time immemorial.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

NFL -- Week 10 Picks

As I mentioned earlier in the week, through Week 9 of the 2010 NFL season, my weekly game picks against the spread sit at an uninspiring 12-13-2. While this certainly could be worse in the wild and wacky NFL, I'm definitely looking to improve these figures over the second half of the season, although in all honesty the second half of 2009 is where my picks really seemed to drop off, so I'm going to need to do much better in this year's second half or else the season is going to be a complete and total disaster in terms of my picks. Still, I'm going to stick with the recent policy of not forcing myself to pick any certain number of games in any given week as I do think that will help me over time to focus my predictions on the games I generally feel the most confident about. Just like last week's Giants-at-Seattle game. Heh heh.

OK so here are my picks for Week 10 of the NFL season:

1. Miami Dolphins +2 vs. Tennessee Titans. In a week chock full of tough games, I really like this pick as I think the better team is getting points, and playing at home to boot. It looks like the Fins will be starting Chad "All He Does Is Win" Pennington at qb this weekend for the first time all season, and the Dolphins are simply not going to 0-8 at home on the year. I know the Titans just added Randy Moss over the past week after the Vikings cut him after Week 8, but I just can't pass up the extra two points for the home team who I would have picked to win this game in any event.

2. Houston Texans +1 at Jacksonville Jaguars. This is a matchup of 4-4 teams, but I've made no bones here about the fact that I think the Texans are a good team, and the Jags are not, overall this season. This is a game where the Texans will find a way to win if they are actually going to try to make a playoff push in 2010. When I look at this objectively, I think the Texans throw the ball better than the Jaguars behind Matt Schaub, and Arian Foster and his nine touchdowns runs the ball better than Maurice Jones-Drew and his one touchdown scamper this season as well. Once again this is a game where I would probably take the Texans as a pickem, but with the added bonus of a push if the Jags win by one point, the value seems definitely tilted a bit on the Texans' side here in my book.

3. St. Louis Rams +6 at San Francisco 49ers. I don't even understand this line, which can often be a harbinger of one of those too-good-to-be-true lines that I love to get burned on, but with the 4-4 and first-place Rams heading to San Fran to play Mike Singletary and his no-math skills, I am surprised this is more than a pickem as it is. The chances of the 49ers scoring many points against the quietly very solid Rams' defense in this game are I think low to begin with, and the NFC West's best offense in the Rams should be able to move the ball against the hapless 49ers defense. Mike Singletary has lost all control of this team, he is a lame duck fool on the sidelines, and his team has got nothing to play for throughout the balance of this season. I'll take the Rams plus a touchdown and do so quickly.

While I do think the Giants' 14-point line at home against the Cowboys in Jason Garrett's first game as head coach is too high, I think even I might have to stay away from that game despite knowing that the Giants have consistently disappointed in games like this during the Tom Coughlin era. I can't believe the Eagles are favored by 3 at the Redskins in Monday night's game, but I do suspect the Eagles will win so I want to stay away from that one as well. And while I do think the Bills will nab their first win of the season at home this weekend against the Lions and their backup quarterback, having to lay three points to pick the only 0-8 team in the NFL is just a personal insult, and I won't do it. So there's your three official picks this week (bank it!), and best of luck to anyone playing this weekend's NFL games.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NFL Midseason Update

Ugh. This week has been a new low for my level of busy-ness and franticness at my job. And speaking of that, I want to extend a special thank-you to the biatch downstairs who was first assigned this horrifying deal that has utterly and completely ruined the last five days of my life, for waiting until the weekend and then responding that she was "too busy" to take on such a short-term assignment with such urgency and such difficult clients. Because of course, me and my five or six times as many deals as her, I was of course less busy than she was to take this monstrosity on, right? Whore. It's unbelievable, really. Anyways, some biatch on the 23rd floor is too lazy to do her effing job, and as a result you don't get any posts for several days. Funny how the chain reaction of things happens.

Anyways, here's the post I tried to start writing over this past weekend, and only now have had the chance to finish.

With every team in the league now having played at least eight games (and four teams having played nine games), here we are officially past the midpoint of the 2010 NFL season, and I thought I would take my usual halfway-point look back at my preseason predictions for the NFL teams. Back in early September, for the first time I made over-under predictions based on the Vegas lines for each of the teams in the NFL, and now I want to look back and see how those predictions are going so far in what is, by far, the most difficult of the major sports to make meaningful predictions in, be it preseason, or even week to week in the individual games. So here are my September predictions for each team in the NFL, along with a short commentary on how close or far off I am looking so far:

Arizona Cardinals: Under 7.5 wins. At 3-5, Arizona is worse than I even thought they would be, and they should end up under here. The quarterback situation in 'Zona following Kurt Warner's retirement has left this team with a total void at qb, and they're going to have a lot of trouble winning most of the games left on their schedule.

Atlanta Falcons: Over 9 wins. Right now Atlanta is one of the six teams in the NFL with just two losses, and at 6-2, nine wins sounds like an easy Over for probably the best team in the NFC so far through the halfway point of the season.

Baltimore Ravens: Over 10 wins. It is really hard to take the Over with a number like 10 wins, but taking the Over I did, and the Ravens are another of the small handful of teams with two losses who are looking like they might be the best team in all of football. As long as the team goes over .500 in their final 8 games, they will best the 10-win line for 2010 and be poised to make a deep run in the AFC postseason.

Buffalo Bills: Under 5.5 wins. Going under 5 wins for any team in the NFL can be tough, but the Bills are the league's last winless team in 2010 and have virtually no chance of reaching this number in 2010.

Carolina Panthers: Under 7.5 wins. This is another winner, as Carolina would need to go 7-1 to end the season (with no quarterback whatsoever to speak of, at that) after their 1-7 start. I love the coach, but John Fox will be moving on after season's end to bigger and better pastures as the Panthers will easily finish Under their number this season.

Chicago Bears: Under 8 wins. At 5-3 right now, the Bears are technically on pace to finish over .500 on the season, thanks largely to a surprise 3-0 start. However, if you've been watching the games this season, most people would probably consider this one to be a bit of a crapshoot by season's end, as the Bears have played pretty horrible football for the better part of a month here now, and I would expect a finish right around .500 as the most likely outcome by the end of the year, but right now this one goes down as a loss for my pick.

Cincinnati Bengals: Under 7.5 wins. This was one of my outlier picks in the preseason given all the hype surrounding this Bengals team heading into 2010 after they won the division last year for the first time in years. But here we are at the halfway point, and despite a surprisingly strong output from big baby Terrell Owens, the Bengals are 2-6, alone in last place in the AFC North, and they're highly unlikely to make it back to .500 on the season.

Cleveland Browns: Under 5.5 wins. Here's a team that has surprised pretty much everybody by not playing nearly as horribly as they were expected to play. The team is currently at 3-5 through 8 games, but my guess is that they will come in just over their number by season's end, making this pick another likely loser for me on the year.

Dallas Cowboys: Over 9.5 wins. Boy did I screw this one up. The 'Boys are currently 1-7, the head coach has been fired, and the team that I pegged as the easy winner of the NFC East and probably the NFC's best team is instead making a serious run for the conference's worst. Even if they somehow ran the table with Jon Kitna at quarterback in the second half, they still couldn't come close to the over here, and this team will be my biggest miss in the preseason pretty much no matter what happens with any team in the rest of the season.

Denver Broncos: Under 7.5 wins. A lot of people questioned this pick before the season began, but so far in 2010 we have seen exactly how Josh McDaniel's hubris has harmed his team's chances to play well this year. At 2-6, Denver sits alone in the basement in one of the worst divisions in football, and the scoring differential of -69 points also places the Broncos among the three or four worst teams in the league.

Detroit Lions: Over 5 wins. Here I made a "heart" pick in going over despite not really knowing where 6 wins would come from on this team's schedule, and after starting off 2-6 in the first half, and especially after watching the team's utterly inept coaching in last week's game against the Jets, they're just not going to make it in 2010. Long live the worst streak for the NFL's worst overall franchise.

Green Bay Packers: Over 9.5 wins. The Pack is 6-3 through 9 games this season, putting them on pace for 11-12 wins on the season. Even though I think most people would agree that this team in practice has underperformed many people's expectations on the season, the Over is still looking good at this point, due in no small part to a very, very weak NFC in 2010.

Houston Texans: Over 8 wins. Right now the Texans are sitting at 4-4 at the halfway point of their season, putting them right on pace to hit their number for the year if all stays as planned. The Texans have been a bit on the inconsistent side for my tastes so far in 2010, but looking at their schedule there's no reason not to believe they can muster another .500 performance in their final eight games of the year.

Indianapolis Colts: Over 11 wins. Indy is 5-3 through eight games, and it looks like a stretch for them to string together another 12-win season, so this one is most likely going to be a loss for my preseason prediction, despite the Colts quietly putting together yet another solid season under the watchful eye of quarterback Peyton Manning.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Under 7 wins. The Jags have been a bit of a pleasant surprise for a lot of NFL viewers out there, sitting at .500 here at the halfway point. Even though this is not a particularly strong team, the odds are clear that they will find a way to win three of their last eight games and manage to make the Over, giving me another wrong preseason prediction.

Kansas City Chiefs: Under 6.5 wins. Booom here's another one I really fucked up, along with the rest of the free world. I picked the Chiefs to finish with 6 or fewer wins on the year, and here at the midpoint they have already amassed 5 wins and amazingly sit in first place in the AFC West. As I told you here after Week 2 of the NFL season, there is no reason at this point that this team cannot outright win the division thanks to their horrible competition and their last-place schedule.

Miami Dolphins: Under 8.5 wins. I went off in the preseason about how much I like Tony Sparano and what this Dolphins franchise has done with seemingly very little to work with over the past couple of years, and they have not disappointed in posting some big wins already en route to a 4-4 record at the midpoint. Still, that keeps the team on pace for an 8-win season and an Under, and with the Jets and Cheatriots looking strong once again, it is difficult to imagine the team going 5-3 down the stretch.

Minnesota Vikings: Over 9.5 wins. Here I didn't just pick an Over, I picked an "easy Over" in the preseason, adding to the list of teams I simply utterly flubbed in making my preseason predictions. Although the team is coming on a bit of late and is currently 3-1 at home through 8 games, the team is 3-5 and would need to totally turn things around and run off a 7-1 record in the second half to threaten their number. It's not gonna happen.

New England Cheatriots: Over 9.5 wins. With a healthy Tom Brady and with Bill Bellicheat at the helm, the Cheatriots are an easy Over any time they're predicted to produce single-digit wins. Right now the team sits at 6-2 through eight games, and until last week's drubbing by the Browns were considered by most to be the NFL's best team in 2010.

New Orleans Saints: Over 10.5 wins. Even though the Saints have generally underperformed compared to most people's expectations through the first half of the 2010 NFL season, the team still sits at 6-3 after Week 10, putting it on pace for 11 wins and still barely an Over, for now. How well the defending champs play in the second half seems still fairly up in the air, but for now a win is a win.

New York Giants: Under 8.5 wins. Man did I eff up my predictions for the NFC East this year, which is especially interesting since this is my own hometown division since birth. Although I was very dubious about the Giants in a division with an improved Dallas and Redskins squad, in the end the team has already piled up 6 wins in the first half of the season, and it is very hard to imagine the team not winning another 3 of their final 8, so this one is going to end as an Over.

New York Jets: Under 9.5 wins. Although after just a few weeks into the 2010 season it was very obvious that the Jets were for real, I did not believe in the Jets heading into the season and as a result this is going to be another loss for me. At 6-2, the Jets are among the six NFL teams with six wins at the halfway point, and even though the team has not been playing well lately, again it is a virtual lock that Rex Ryan's squad will amass at least 10 wins for the Over by season's end.

Oakland Raiders: Under 6 wins. At 5-4 through their first 9 games, the Raiders are off to their best start in several years, and the team will make their Vegas number with their next win. This is another one that I just did not see coming by a long shot.

Philadelphia Eagles: Under 8.5 wins. Another NFC East team, another miss for my preseason 2010 predictions. Of course nobody in America could foresee the incredible story of Mike Vick and how well the guy has played so far through the first half of the season, but in at the halfway point, the Eagles are 5-3 and should manage to best their number by at least a game or two.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Over 9 wins. Even with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missing the first four games of the season, the Steelers have posted an impressive 6-2 record to start the 2010 campaign. With potentially the best team in the NFL working now that Ben Roth has returned, Over 9 wins seems like a virtual certainty for the 2008 superbowl champions.

San Diego Chargers: Under 11 wins. Here is one surprise team that I actually predicted correctly in the preseason, although I certainly did not foresee how underwhelming Norv Turner's team would play in likely his final season in San Diego. At 4-5 through 9 games, the Chargers would have to rattle off seven straight wins to make their number, and that simply isn't going to happen despite Phillip Rivers continuing to kill it at quarterback out in the AFC West.

San Francisco 49ers: Under 8.5 wins. Here's another surprise team that I correctly predicted few months ago, although again I can't take credit for knowing just how much of a goddam idiot head coach Mike Singletary is. Ever since he incorrectly read the score as 20-14 when it was actually 24-10 in the 49ers' Week 5 game, the 9ers' 2-6 start has been no kind of a surprise, and that kind of a raging moron has no shot of leading his team to another 7 wins this year in what has got to be his final year in San Fran.

Seattle Seahawks: Under 7.5 wins. So far this is technically a loss for my pick with the Seahawks sitting at 4-4 through 8 games, but even though the NFC West is incredibly weak, I would still guess this team will end the season below the .500 mark, especially after this past weekend's utter and complete embarrassment and manhandling at the hands of the Giants in Seattle.

St. Louis Rams: Under 5 wins. At 4-4 at the midpoint, the Rams are one of the happiest stories in the NFL in 2010. I'm obviously going to lose this pick as soon as the first-place Rams win their next game, but I'm more than happy to take this loss in honor of Steve Spagnuolo, Sam Bradford et al who have seriously turned things around in St. Louis after a couple of years near the bottom of the heap in the NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Under 5.5 wins. I owe Rahim Morris an apology for calling him the single worst coach in the NFL during my preseason picks. Morris has led his team to a 5-3 record in the first half of the 2010 season, and he's easily getting his team to an Over in 2010.

Tennessee Titans: Over 8.5 wins. Although they've been a bit inconsistent for my tastes so far in the first half, the Titans are off to a 5-3 start in their first eight games in 2010. Unless the addition last week of Randy Moss eats this team away from the inside, they should reach 9 wins and make the Over before season's end.

Washington Redskins: Under 7.5 wins. The Skins currently sit at 4-4 after 8 games, but something tells me that this is going to end the year as an Under and a winner for my preseason prediction. With Donovan McNabb physically breaking down and flirting with benchings weekly by new head coach Mike Shanahan, this is gonna be a close one but we'll see if the Skins have enough to play the second half of the season at .500 like they have so far in the first. Hopefully a loss to the Eagles next Monday night would basically ice the Under in my book for Daniel Snyder's weakass franchise.

So, here I sit at the halfway point, basically with 15 winners and 15 losers so far through the midpoint of the season. Even though that is clearly not the kind of success I am looking for with any of my sports predictions, in the NFL of all leagues, I'll take it. I mean, in all seriousness, I cannot name a single person in the world of which I am aware who I would say is doing a good job making picks of the NFL games on the season when using the Vegas spreads. As I mentioned above, the NFL is just such a crazy league, there is just so much mediocrity and parity, and the system is just so set up to make the bad teams good the next year, and the good teams bad, that going .500 with preseason predictions is not as bad as I would view that in a league like baseball where there really is much more information available from previous seasons about how good a team is going to play the next year, and what kinds of numbers individual players are going to put up. I'm 15-15 with my predictions, and I believe I am a game under .500 in my individual game picks against the spread so far through nine weeks. I hope to improve upon both of these stats over the second half of what is shaping up to be another awesome NFL season.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

NFL -- Week 9 Picks

So last week was another round of Thursday picks, and another week where I did not force myself to find five games if I didn't see five that I liked, and it was another good week for me. I picked three road dogs, two of which won outright in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, and one of which lost in the Redskins despite sticking with the Lions until Mike Shanahan's brilliant benching of Donovan McNabb in the final minutes and then his replacement promptly fumbling the very first snap for a touchdown recovery and game over. So it was 2-1 in another week where I was basically right on with my Thursday intuitions of how the games would go, lifting my season record back over the .500 mark to 12-11-1, and so without further adieu here is more of Gut Feeling Thursday:

1. Buffalo Bills +3 vs. Chicago Bears. Yeah, Buffalo sucks. But they're not gonna go 0-8 at home this year either, and just like I've caught lightning in a bottle with a couple of other bad teams at home this season, I think this could be Buffalo's week. Shawne Merriman is a loser, but the team's offense has played noticeably better under Fitzpatrick at quarterback, and if there's one thing I've noticed about this Bills team under Cowboys reject Chan Gailey plays hard, every single week. The Bears are ripe for the taking, their offensive line is the worst in football, and they're heading on the road to a very difficult place to play. With the 3 points to boot, I like the Bills to put up a good fight and at least make this one close.

2. Houston Texans +3 vs. San Diego Chargers. This is one of those lines that almost seems to good to be true. The 3-5 Chargers are favored by 3 points on the road at the 4-3 Texans, despite San Diego being 0-4 on the road this season so far and despite Houston being a pretty decent team, in particular on offense. Try as I might to like the Chargers in this one, I just can't get over the fact that they have just about the literal worst head coach in the NFL today, they are a completely different team on the road than they are at home, and I really can't get over the fact Houston's potent running game behind Arian Foster will help to keep that busting Chargers offense off the field as much as they would like to be out there on Sunday. Just like my first pick, not sure I take this game as a pick'em, but the value is clear when you give the Texans a field goal to boot as well.

3. Seattle Seahawks +7 vs New York Giants. Man does this one seem like a slam-dunk. The Giants are probably the NFL's most overrated team at the moment, with everyone suddenly pegging the most consistently talented and yet inconsistent team over the past few seasons as the favorite in the NFC after last weekend's action, and this is painfully obvious in the line for this game, which is about as dumb of a line as you're going to find out there. Seattle is a 4-3 team -- this isn't the Panthers or the 49ers here -- and even though I don't think they are a great team by any means, the fact remains that the Giants have to fly clear across the country for this game, and the game is buried here in between consecutive outings against the divisional rival Dallas Cowboys. The Giants could and should beat Pete Carrol's Seahawks this weekend, but with all those factors to be giving a full touchdown as well is just an embarrassment. I take the 'Hawks and the points on this one.

In the past I would have stretched here and given you probably the Colts +3 at Philly and the Bengals +5 vs the Steelers on Monday night, but those three up there are the games I like the best so I'm just going to stick with those three games as my official picks of the week. Best of luck to everyone's teams out there and to everyone who is playing these games like I am.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Bring on the Rants

So the World Series is over. I will admit to feeling a slight twinge as I watched the San Francisco Giants climb all over each other, a feeling that someone else was celebrating something that wasn't theirs, that belonged to my team. But in the end, that's a good thing. I'm from Philadelphia, and to be honest, as sports fans we are incredibly demanding on the micro level, often known for booing our hometown heroes when they fail to come through in a big spot in a given game, but on a macro level, we Philadelphians just have low expectations when it comes to championships. It's not like it's in the water or anything, but it's just a reflection of the historical reality: we haven't won much. When you go 25 years and 100 seasons between the four major U.S. sports between 1983 and 2008 without a single championship for the city to celebrate, when your baseball franchise remains the first and only franchise in all of professional sports to lose 10,000 games, when your basketball team has basically been hanging out in the pooper since the mid 1980s save for a few good years a decade ago under Allen Iverson, you just start to accept it. So yeah, I know the Phillies had the talent to win another World Series this year, and believe me as a long-suffering Philly sports guy I very tangibly feel our failure to nab that elusive World Series title this year while we had the chance and when we had come so close, but I mean, come on. I'm not a New York sports fan. These aren't the Yankees here. My Phillies have just won their fourth consecutive NL East for the first time in franchise history, we went to back-to-back World Series before bowing out to the eventual WS champion in the NLCS this season, and we've got an incredible pitching staff and most of our powerful lineup locked up for at least another year heading into 2012, plus one of the best, most devoted young GMs in the game today.

Try as I might, I just can't get crazy about the Phillies not winning the World Series again in 2010. I felt a twinge all right watching the celebration last night, but that's all it was. This Giants team clearly deserved to win the championship this year. As I wrote all about before the NLCS began, this Giants' staff posted the best team ERA in more than 60 years over the final 8 weeks of the 2010 season, and in the end it was their pitching that dominated, all through the playoffs really. Sure, it's easy for us Philly fans to get mad at Ryan Howard and his 12 strikeouts in the NLCS, or Chase Utley's and Shane Victorino's inability to get a big hit after coming through in the clutch so many times in postseasons past, but the rest of the sports-watching country sees the real reality: these Giants pitchers are fucking good. They made the Philly hitters look bad -- it's what they do. Matt Cain didn't give up a run in the entire postseason for the Giants. 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner pitched 7 shutout innings in a huge spot in the World Series. The Texas Rangers, who led all of MLB with a .276 batting average during the regular season, hit just .190 in the Series overall, with Giants ace Tim Lincecum beating superstar Cliff Lee not one but twice in the span of a week to clinch the championship in 5 games. This Giants team was the best team in the league when it came right down to it this year, and Bruce Bochy and those players deserve a hell of a lot of credit for coming together and peaking at the absolute best possible time, and playing their game despite consistently being picked to lose in the postseason along the way. Congratulations to the fans of the San Francisco Giants, who are celebrating like crazy today after the franchise's first championship in 57 years, and first ever while in the Bay Area.

But there is a lot of other crazy sports news going on out there today, isn't there?

For starters, this Randy Moss stuff is just craziness. Four games after the Minnesota Vikings actually trade away a third-round pick to the Cheatriots to acquire troubled wide receiver Randy Moss, Brad Childress up and cuts the guy after a bad loss to the Cheatriots in which Moss had just one catch for seven yards. Four games? For a third-round draft pick? I'm sorry, but is Brad Childress literally trying to force his owner to fire him? I mean, Chilly was already probably gone after this season -- after all, he is a stone cold jackass and has no control over this team -- but this move simply boggles the mind. Was Moss that much of a cancer in the locker room? Probably. Where hasn't he been? But how you simply cut a guy to waivers after four games when you gave up a 3rd round pick to get him, and when you will likely be on the hook for most of his $6 million salary now as well? That is some fucked up stuff right there. And meanwhile, Moss is quoted as saying he would like to go back to play for the Cheatriots again. Yeah right. For starters, the Cheatriots currently sit with 1 loss and the best record in all of the NFL, which means they are 32nd out of 32 teams on the waiver wire, and IMO Moss is not likely to slip through every other team in the league without being claimed by somebody desperate for some help on offensive in the ultimate win-now league. But even assuming Moss did manage to slip by without any other team in the league claiming him, I say no way he ends up back in a Cheats uniform. You're telling me that Bill Bellichik is going to take back the guy who nearly came to blows with the Cheatriots' offensive coordinator less than a month and a half ago about lack of focus on him on the offense? With his team sitting with the best record in all the league, he's going to welcome back a locker room cancer who's already caused trouble on this very team in this very season and who basically forced a trade after malcontenting his way through the preseason and five regular season games already in 2010? Fat chance, my man Randy. I don't think we'll be seeing you in a New England uni anytime soon, bro. Some bridges you just can't un-burn.

Another great NFL story from this past weekend, in particular for me personally -- is this whole saga with Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan in Washington. When the Skins took the ball with under two minutes to go in their game at Detroit on Sunday afternoon, Shanahan shocked the team by benching McNabb in favor of backup Rex Grossman to run the two-minute drill. Immediately following the game, Shanahan candidly told sideline reporters that he benched McNabb due to concerns over McNabb's "competence" with the two-minute offense, but then a day later after persistent questioning, Shanahan has now changed his story to the benching instead being about McNabb's conditioning more than his mental capacity to run the two-minute drill. For my money, it really doesn't matter a whole lot which one of Shanahan's totally different explanations is right, because either way we already know the true reason -- Shanahan doesn't think McNabb is good enough to be in there in that spot. That's it. With the game clearly on the line and his team down by less than 7 with 1:50 to go and needing a touchdown, the Redskins' head coach decided to bench McNabb in favor of a longtime shitty backup who hadn't really taken crucial game snaps in some two years. Whether McNabb's perceived failings were mental or physical doesn't really matter in the end. As I've been pointing out repeatedly during this season after the Eagles traded him away to the Skins -- within the division no less -- the Eagles obviously saw something (or many things) they didn't like in McNabb as the season wore down to a close, and it looks like they were right. And if Shanahan isn't careful (he usually isn't), he will soon get to experience firsthand what a pussywhining McNabb is like as well, another annual occurrence that the fans and the team management just got used to over time in Philadelphia, but which will likely be very poorly received in a new city, especially given McNabb's pace for his worst full season ever as a pro in 2010, including throwing more picks than interceptions and really failing to fully take the reins of the offense yet even through seven games of the regular season. I was always a big McNabb fan in Philly as I've written about here many times, but I won't lie -- I smiled a lil bit when I saw this story, and with every passing day as McNabb comes closer and closer to publicly griping about it, I am enjoying watching the Skins squirm more than little bit.

Oh, and here's another thing in the world of sports that I find utterly ridiculous right now: the BCS. I'm not going on a general rant here about how stupid the whole system is, the impossible to follow formulas, the computer ranking, or the lack of a playoff system or a true national champion which clearly keeps the sport from growing by probably several multiples with every passing year. No, I'm just talking right now about the unbelievable bias in this thing towards the big-conference teams. I mean, this shit is as close to a set-up for the big conference schools as it could ever be. This whole BCS thing, with each of the big conferences exerting some elements of shared control and manipulation, is one of the biggest scams I have ever seen accepted by the American sports-watching public. How many fucking teams have to lose before Boise State is given a chance to play for a national title? Just one chance is all I'm asking for here guys. If they play for a title, and some big-conference team with one loss during the regular season blows them out by 40 points, then I'll shut up. I'll stop complaining about it right away because then I'll know, then we'll all know. But instead, this team has been top-5 all season long. They were top 5 last year, and when given a chance during the regular season last year, they took down a top 10 team. They took down top-5 TCU in their bowl game last year. They started this year in the top 5 again, and they haven't even let anyone get close to them so far this season, including a solid beating of then-top 10 Virginia Tech this year as well. Boise State has played three top 10 teams in the last two seasons and beaten them all, so in the few chances they've been given at a fair shot at the top teams, they've risen to the challenge every single time. It's not their fault if none of the other big conference schools won't schedule a fair home-and-home series to play Boise State during the regular season -- these schools are scared to death of Boise State! They would rather play almost anyone than Boise, so Boise just takes their two shots a year at the big boys and dominates them all, and otherwise totally flattens everyone else in their path. Now this season was supposed to be all about Notre Dame, but they quickly proved that they suck by losing early. Perennial powerhouse Florida dropped a game in the earlygoing as well to lose their shot at a title. USC quickly lost as well to take their NCAA-embargoed self out of the realm of the unbeatens. Overlooking Boise State completely after three early favorites lost games, the BCS controlled solely by the big conferences lifted Ohio State to then the overwhelming favorite early on, until they too lost a shocker a few weeks back. Then it was Alabama leap-frogging Boise State, with all the talking heads on ESPN proclaiming that Nick Saban's team would never lose a game this year and roll on to another national title. Until they lost a couple of weeks ago to South Carolina. After Michigan State and Missouri both lost their undefeated records this past weekend, I figured the case for Boise State could no longer be ignored by the BCS, but then boom! Now it's Auburn -- another big conference school who had hardly been talked about at all until just a couple of weeks ago -- who is the new greatest team in the league this year. And when they lose the SEC championship game to Alabama in a few weeks, then you know what's gonna happen with the BCS, right? Then Alabama with one loss will be back to being ahead of Boise State again. With Ohio State right behind, how much you wanna bet.

Boise State is The Best Team in NCAA Football in 2010. Period. The big schools refuse to ever play them during the regular season except in unfair, highly favorable circumstances to the big school teams. The big conference-controlled BCS then promotes every single undefeated team over Boise State week after week, even switching it up over and over with every passing week as every single team without exception that the big schools have tried to inflate this year have done. This past weekend has now brought it all to a head as the BCS is now forced to start talking about promoting one-loss teams over Boise, who has beaten three top-10 squads in the last two seasons while dominating everyone. It's simple. Boise State is the best team in the league. Yes, they would beat Alabama if they played them right now on a neutral site, and yes they would beat Ohio State as well. Open your eyes and stop believing what the totally and laughably biased BCS is telling you and trying to change on you week after week after week after week. Congratulations to your Boise State Broncos, the real national champions of the 2010 NCAA football season.

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