Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Wanna Rock

Guns N' Roses released their first album in 15 years. The long awaited "Chinese Democracy" has been in production and at the fingers of GNR frontman Axl Rose since the original line-up disbanded after becoming one of the biggest and most influential rock bands of the 1980s. What GNR was able to do was cross musical borders with a sound that was appealing to fans of metal, rock, pop, and hair bands. Oh yes, the hair bands, one would argue the iconic image of the 80s with their high volume hair and make-up wearing, hair bands grew off of trees at the time because their music made record companies money and there was an easy formula to be successful. Mainly spandex, good looking frontman, musicianship that relied on flair not necessarily talent, and a rocking cheesy single followed by the popular power ballad.

Bands took note (see. Warrant, Poison, Cinderella, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Slaughter, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Winger, Tesla, Quite Riot, Twisted Sister, White Lion, Ratt). Although some hair bands did make a mark and survive the 80s scene, there are truckloads of completely forgettable bands who sold out to make a buck. So that's what this really is all about, me starting an 80 hair metal band. Now, adhering to the mentality of that 80s emptiness that accompanied the formation of these bands, I'm only worried about two things: the name of the band and our first album. My goal is to find a great 80s hair band name that ties into my debut album title (i.e. Ratt's debut album "Out of the Cellar"). Here are my top 5 band names I came up with.

5. Construction Crew, "Hard Hat"
4. Standardized Test, "Fill in the Circles"

Both funny, but not quite what I was looking for because I don't think any band would actually use these names.

3. Brown Bag, "Out to Lunch"

I get a very Bon Jovi feeling from this name. Kind of a playful group that didn't have the edge of, say, a Motley Crue. The name, Brown Bag, doesn't necessarily rock, but it's not terrible.

2. Shooting Star, "Make a Wish"

Now THAT is an 80s hair band name. Shooting Star is perfect, and the album title is a great tie in. We'd be at least a one hit wonder. Might have to come out like Extreme with the acoustic ballad, show a deep and sensitive side. If someone walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to be in a band called Shooting Star, no way I'm passing up on that.

1. Bareicade, "Halt! If UR Horny"

Ding! Ding! This is the winner, my friends. This has everything I could ask for. First, with a name like that, we're clearly selling at least 8 million albums. We have the sex appeal, probably a drug abusing guitarist to give us edge, and just pump out overly sexual songs with not so subtle innuendos. Being on the road as a member of Bareicade would blow away the life of a Shooting Star-er.

I even have the first two song titles ready to go. The pop single that puts us on the map is going to be called Strip Search. Think Cherry Pie in some sort of cop-themed video where the 1980s version of Scarlett Johansson is slamming the lead singer onto the hood of a cop care in a very sexual way, and the 1980s version of Megan Fox interrogating the lead guitarist, where the bassist and the drummer are on the run from two other girls. Splice in some ridiculous clips of the band playing music and you have a winner.

Then, after we've lived off of that single for a couple of months, we hit em with our power ballad, "A Wall (Be2ween U and My HRT)." This video would be shot in black and white and focus on one girl to show that even the wildest horses can be tamed by the right girl. Despite the overall identity of the band as being man-whores, this ballad will win over ladies and make them think we're sensitive.

The third song, which would be another rocking pop song, would be about drinking and fighting and probably being pleasured by random women frequently. The video would be of the band on tour with lots of live shots to show everyone how awesome our shows are.

Man, living in the 80s would have been awesome. Rock On!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


CHAMPS!!! FINALLY!!! So much has gone on, just need to let it all soak in. Let's get two!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

World Series Preview: Phillies v. Rays

Well here is something I never thought I'd write about, the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. It has been 15 long years since the Phillies were in the World Series, and I was there for two of the games. Needless to say the wait has been long overdue. Amazingly I can still fit into my '93 World Series shirt, which is no testament to my physical fitness, but more to the gigantic size of that original shirt when I was a mere 10 years old.

Joe Carter ended that World Series in one of the most famous, well from where I was standing infamous, moments ever. Although a big time fan at the time, I still did not fully understand the impact of that loss. Sure the Phils losing was a bummer, but at that age, I figured we'd dust ourselves off and see you in the World Series a year or two later. Instead it has taken the Phightens the seemingly full 15 years to overcome that Carter bomb off of Wild Thing. Signing the key components of that '93 team like Lenny Dykstra and Darren Daulton cost the Phils millions. A couple of poor free agent signings after wards like Danny Tartabull (see. 1997) and Gregg Jefferies left the ownership gun shy as attendance and dollars lagged. It was a long road back and the Phillies opted for drafting and being cheap.

Sure there were some rays of hope in those lost years. Scott Rolen came and went, Curt Schilling similarly was traded for nothing, Mike Lieberthal was never anything more than a slightly above average catcher, hell we even had high hopes for Ricky Otero. That's how bad things got. We wanted to win so badly we'd put our faith in Ricky Otero! In the process the team piled and piled up losses. I watched and watched wondering if it was normal to just not field a good baseball team for this long. Is this the way it always was? The Braves were always competitive, the Twins had won a couple of World Series, and there were always the teams with the history like the Red Sox or the Yankees waiting to break out. The Phils though, they just stayed stagnant. We were thinking Rico Brogna was underrated and hoping Tyler Green could stay healthy to become the ace we hoped he would be. All in all, our team could not come together enough to even grant us a playoff berth until a year ago, where they were steamrolled by the Colorado Rockies.

With each compounding year the frustration grew. Were the Phils always that bad or did our desperation to get back to the World Series just crush players like Rolen, like Oter...ok maybe not, but you catch my drift. For all the chagrin the Phillies were going through, there were small steps being taken to create the team we have today. Selecting Jimmy Rollins in 1996, Pat Burrell in 1998 (1st Overall), Brett Myers in 1999, Chase Utley in 2000, Ryan Howard in 2001, and Cole Hamels in 2002. Very rarely do a string of players work out so well, and players that were brash, cool under the collar and focused on winning as those 6 players. Rollins the unflappable leader, Burrell the man almost broken by Philly fans only to find the kind of player he is and on the brink of winning a World Series, Myers the controversial on and off the field player who has matured into a pitcher that can go a full 9 innings, Utley the contradictory hard-nosed/laid back Cali guy, Howard the large power hitter once dangled in front of teams for trading when Jim Thome was blocking his path, and Hamels, the ace the Phillies desperately needed but would never pay for.

Of course there were a lot of other pieces that had to fall into place, but the Phillies finally found their bearings. They build up there core from the inside. The only big name free agent they ever signed post Danny Tartabull was Jim Thome. A new stadium got built, fans got excited, and those core players were given a couple of years to mature. Two of those players have been MVP's of the league, with Howard a possibility again this year and Utley an inevitability. Hamels will surely win at least one Cy Young in his career to go along with his NLCS MVP Award, Burrell is among the Phillies all-time leaders in home runs, and Brett Myers might have figured out how to be an effective top line pitcher. This is a team like teams are meant to be built. It might have taken a little bit longer than most have liked, but this is surely one of the most likable Phils teams since '93.

All skippered by Charlie Manuel. Who after many years has finally, almost won over the Phillie fans. His country slang and out of shape physique certainly did not demand respect, but admittedly after some rough times transitioning to the Philly lifestyle has become the kind of manager you want. The team loves him, and his moves have worked out as wonderful as anyone could have expected. Matt Stairs anyone?

In as unlikely a scenario they will be going up against the Tampa Bay Rays. A team that had their fair share of losses, but built this American League Championship team seemingly overnight. Coming out of nowhere and from the worst record in baseball last year, the Rays were one of the top teams in baseball all year long. They too hit a string of great draft picks: Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and David Price. Picking players like Carlos Pena off the garbage heap and building their entire bullpen off of people no one else wanted. That has to say something for the brain trust in TB.

It is great for the Rays as a team, but I will say that there are not a less deserving group of fans out there. Should the Rays win, do they deserve it more than Cubs fan? No. More than the Phillies? No. Sure the Rays were horrible, but the 'fans' were never there. Even through most of this year, until the playoffs started, no one showed up to these games. Next thing you know fans have a custom haircut and stole a line from one of the most overdone, yet funny, Saturday Night Live skits of all time. Real creative. Sure there might be some diehard fans that were there from the beginning, but 97% of them are complete bandwagon jumpers. It's the lone negative of this Rays season.

As for the Series itself, it's not going to be easy. Are the Rays a better team? Probably. They do everything a little bit better than the Phils minus closing games, which could be taken care of with David Price being promoted to that role. The Rays have a greater homefield advantage which could pose a problem, and their pitching depth could keep the Phils big bats quiet. The Phils are no pushovers but as much a team of destiny as the Phils seem to be, the Rays seem to match them +1. Although, as much of a roll as the Rays on, so were the Dodgers. The Phils wouldn't be able to beat CC Sabathia in the NLDS, they did. The Phils have come up in huge situations and gotten a lot of breaks along the way. Things just seem to be swinging the Phils way that some crazy moments are going to tell the tale of this World Series.

The Phillies have the experience and I think more grit. They know what it is to lose, to want a little more than the Rays. I know I do.

Phillies 4-2

Friday, October 10, 2008

Music Review: Metallica - Death Magnetic

Thank you Sarah Palin. As I was thinking of a way to start off this article, I was kind of stuck. Then Sarah Palin and the VP Debate rolled through. Leading up to this debate the folksy looker from Alaska had taken shots for some televised interviews and public opinion of her was falling dramatically. Essentially the expectations of her were so low that unless she dropped the N-bomb or vomited all over herself, then her first debate appearance would be considered a success (to paraphrase and reword a joke from SNL).

The point? Sarah Palin's expectation level for the debate are the same as the expectations on Metallica for their new album Death Magnetic. Basically, give us an album that sounds like Load and we'll get by, but for the love of God don't vomit all over yourself (aka St. Anger). Well, Metallica didn't vomit all over themselves. With St. Anger, the band was falling apart. Lead singer James Hetfield was in rehab, long time bassist Jason Newstead quit the group, and recording carried on and on and on...What was produced was a 'sonic abortion' of a band crumbling under the weight of their greatness.

The product was an attempt to veer the band in a new direction, but without the focus, drive, and balls to pull it off. Five years have passed, and Metallica seems to acknowledge the monumental mistake that St. Anger was. To atone, they finally got rid of Producer Bob Rock, who has worked with Metallica since the Black Album, and brought in Rick Rubin (Linkin Park, Beastie Boys) to lend his ear to the process. A sober (whether that is good or bad is debatable) and focused Metallica knew what their mission was. Saving their legacy.

Everything about Death Magnetic is an appeal to 'Tallica fans to show them the old guys still got it. The old logo is back, the classic CD look is in place, and we have our 6-9 minute songs and even an instrumental! Guitars and volume a plenty. There have even been complaints that when the album was mastered (...of puppets, heh) it was mixed in a way that the high volume levels do not allow for the finer impressions of the music to come through upon listening. Basically, people are saying it's too fucking loud. Isn't saying a Metallica album is too loud is like saying Megan Fox is too hot, a beer is too cold on a hot day, Brad Lidge is too dominant? This is the way things should be.

Anyway, Metallica did put there all into this album. The guitar rifts and solos will melt your face and the volume, oh it's there. Essentially, it's all you could have hoped for if you are a Metallica fan. Meaning it's solid, not embarrassing, and you can go on liking your favorite band a little longer because they're not washed up shells of their former self. It's not ...And Justice for All and they will never be like that again. This album is like Load and Kill 'Em All. Or as I like to put it, if Metallica were all 20 yrs old and coming out in today's music scene, this is what they'd sound like. Thrash and original to themselves, but not a part of any past, more of a present.

Musically, I think Death Magnetic is off the charts. Solos in The Day That Never Comes and my favorite song, End of the Line really make you happy to have stuck with Metallica.

Lyrics wise, their still weak. Hetfield is better than when he was going through rehab (there's not Fran-tick, tick, tick, tick tock). The issue has been the same since the Black Album where the lyrics are more internal. I'm going through this, I feel that, etc. The best albums of Metallica had observational lyrics, but you really felt the misery, anger, and struggle that they were telling you about.

A point on the album that absolutely pulls the whole theme together for me is in the last song My Apocalypse. A jam about half way through the song unleashes Metallica in all their musical force. It's at one time powerful and one time teetering on the brink of completely falling apart. They're playing so fast, so calculated, yet almost reckless. As if the slightest wavering of concentration could send limbs and instruments flying through the metal galaxy.

I'm glad to have a better and tolerable Metallica back in action.

Worth the Purchase: 4.0/5
Compared to Prior Works: 3.0/5
Progression: 3.5/5
Sound: 4.0/5
Production: 3.5/5

Final Score: 3.6/5

Friday, September 19, 2008

David Foster Wallace

With the recent and sudden passing of author David Foster Wallace, I decided to repost my review of his book, Consider the Lobster. I wrote this only a couple of months ago, but it is bizarre to think how much has changed. I was looking forward to reading the works of DFW for the rest of my life. Now I'll just have to re-explore his past works. Hopefully, this will motivate some people who never read DFW to go pick up one of this works.

Consider The Lobster by David Foster Wallace

One of the joys of my college experience was learning that I didn't have to take a math requirement. As a result I picked up a class titled Contemporary American Short Story. That class, ended up being one of my favorite during my time at college, and one of its lasting impressions was my introduction to David Foster Wallace. DFW has become one of my favorite authors and has the literary work to back it up.

His latest installment, Consider the Lobster, finds the always enlightening and entertaining DFW tackling everything from porn awards to John McCain on the campaign trail. He can write as intellectually and dramatically whether he is discussing double penetration shots or the lull of redundant speeches. The manner in which he, almost easily, transitions from a place of pure absurdity to the heights of intellectual prose is as impressive as it is depressing.

While the lyrical gymnastics DFW goes through makes you love to read his essays, at the same time, any one with any hope of ever publishing anything has to leave disheartened as DFW is certainly the foremost stylistic writer out there. You think he is just writing stream of thought through the way he presents himself, but when you take in the essays as a whole you realize that each piece of writing is incredibly intricate and imaginative that no human could spout out such words in such a format.

For people that aren't familiar with DFW, I probably wouldn't recommend starting with this book, but if you do, you'll know from the first story (the one about the porn awards) whether you're on board or not. The constant footnotes and long digressions could frustrate one that is not ready to commit fully to such a reading, and the reading only gets more difficult as the book progresses.

This book ranks up there with DFW finest works. If you are willing to commit to the reading and want to enjoy great essays on a wide variety of subjects, then give this book a go around.

For the ratings system I wanted to do something different than simple numbers. I want a symbol, like "Two Thumbs Up" like that. So I decided to flip the script. I'm using a symbol, but not a positive symbol. As a result of using a negative symbol instead of a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best, one is the best because more of a negative thing would be bad. Follow?

So, what's something bad, related to books that I can rate these things with? Papercuts. Done.

1.5/5 Papercuts

Saturday, September 6, 2008

NFL Preview: The East

Well, the season begins tomorrow, and I'm pumped. I missed football, and I'm glad it's back. Sure the Giants and Redskins "kicked off" the season on Thursday (if you wanted to call that game professional football), but the whole shebang gets going in 24 hours. Good times. Here are the final predictions for the divisions.

AFC East:

4. Miami Dolphins 3-13 (Last Year: 1-15)

The Dolphins narrowly avoided going winless last year, and will probably go through similar struggles this year. Their division is tougher, but the Phins have a head on their shoulders, so to speak, after bringing in The Big Tuna (ironic) Bill Parcells to revamp the team. #1 overall pick Jake Long will hopefully not be a bust at left tackle, and they plucked QB Chad Pennington from the waiver wire from the Jets. Sure Pennington isn't the long term answer, but he'll give the team some stability as they establish themselves.

Best Fantasy Player: Ronnie Brown, RB - Before going down by injury, Ronnie Brown was a very productive fantasy player. His injury history is a concern and apparently Ricky Williams is back in the mix, but this is Ronnie's year to prove himself not to be a bust.

3. Buffalo Bills 8-8 (Last Year: 7-9)

There is always a buzz around the Bills as an up and coming team. Now that J.P. Losman is thankfully removed at QB in favor of Senator Trent Edwards, the Bills may be turning a corner. As long as Marshawn Lynch can stay out of prison and Toronto brings the Bills north of the border, there are positives to be had.

Best Fantasy Player: Marshawn Lynch, RB - Marshawn had a rookie year of 1,000+ rushing yards and 7 TD's. I would look for those numbers to increase to close to 1,400 yards and 9 TD's. Enjoy it before he gets his new deal out of his rookie contract and subsequently becomes the new Pacman Jones.

2. New York Jets 9-7 (Last Year: 4-12)

Obviously the biggest story for the Jets was the acquisition of Brett Favre. This put the Jets on the map, and will be the move that everyone looks at for the Jets turn around. The real reason will be the Jets offensive line and the addition of All-Pro guard Alan Faneca. Look for Thomas Jones to have a big year. I think Favre will come out firing, but wear down as the season progresses. He'll throw his share of INT's and probably end up costing the Jets a playoff spot. However, if top pick Vernon Gholston turns out to be the beast a lot of people think he is, the Jets could bump up 2 wins.

Best Fantasy Player: Jerricho Cotchery, WR - Cotchery, not Coles will be the largest benefactor of Favre being the QB. Cotchery is a large receiver with good hands, and that is the kind of receiver Favre gravitates towards. Also, look out for TE Chris Baker to add some TD's to his solid receiving yard total.

1. New England Patriots 13-3 (Last Year: 16-0)

What a bizarre season for the Pats. The ultimate highs and the ULTIMATE low carried the Pats season. In the end, the mental strain of being undefeated was too much to handle. The Giants defensive line blew up the most prolific offense in the league, and it will be a challenge to see how the Pats rebound. Now, it's not the Pats goal to go undefeated again. It's their goal to win the Super Bowl. The Pats will almost be relieved when they lose their first game this year just to get that monkey off of their back. The looming cloud over this team is the possibility of QB Tom Brady's foot. Is it cracked? Is it broken? Is it bruised? Who knows? We're certainly not getting any info from Bill Belichick. On a side note, I read a Belichick biography this Summer, and the funniest part of the book was when the author mentioned Belichick's voice mail message. It was, "Sorry to have missed your call." That's it, and it's funny on about 12 levels if you know anything about Belichick.

Best Fantasy Player: Wes Welker, WR - He may not be the most prolific guy, but he's the best bet if Brady goes down to injury. He won't be hindered if back up Matt Cassell gets in the game, like Moss would, and the running game and Lawrence Maroney are a lost cause.

NFC East:

4. Washington Redskins 6-10 (Last Year: 9-7)

For all the good things the Skins did last year, having Joe Gibbs retire and bringing on inexperienced Mike Zorn and implementing the 4th new offense in QB Jason Campbell's career, they took a big step back. The only positive is that a new running approach could benefit Clinton Portis, who was run into the ground last year. Things are gonna get off to a slow start in the nation's capital.

Best Fantasy Player: Clinton Portis, RB - He is their go to guy. Someone has to score the TD's.

3. NY Giants 9-7 (Last Year: 10-6)

No matter how lucky the Giants were last year, no matter what they lost on defense, they are...the defending Super Bowl Champions, and they can't miss the playoffs. Can they? Anyway, I can't really talk much about the Giants. Them and Eli Manning winning the Super Bowl was an absolutely scarring sports experience. Let me also say, shame on all you Eagles fans that WANTED the Giants to beat the Pats. First off, you can never EVER root for the NY Giants unless they're playing an intergalactic football team for control of the planet Earth, and you know what, I'd have to wait and see what the aliens had to say before I made my choice. Secondly, and this is what bothered me the most...the only reason Eagles fans wanted the Giants to beat the Pats was because they hated the Pats because they were jealous of their success. As petty as that sounds, that was the reasoning. What bothers me about that is if the Eagles were in the Pats situation, these same people would be the most obnoxious annoying fans that have ever set foot on this planet. I hate you all. And here is the nail in the coffin for all you "I'm just rooting for the Giants in this game" fans. I hope this makes you sick.

Best Fantasy Player: Plaxico Burress, WR - Let's see, Plax had 1,025 receiving yards and 12 TD's with a bum shoulder, bum ankle, never practicing, and a non-Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning throwing him the ball. I see a better year ahead.

2. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6 (Last Year: 8-8)

This is the first year since I've been doing this that I haven't picked the Birds to win the division, and can you blame me? A couple of lackluster/borderline heartbreaking years have left my beloved Birds at a crossroads. This is it for Donovan McNabb. If he wants to QB in Philly next year, then he has to have an MVP quality year, which isn't totally out of the question. The Birds made some game changing moves by adding CB Asante Samuel and drafting potential Rookie of the Year candidate Desean Jackson. There is a lot to be excited about, and lately the Birds have been picked to go the the Super Bowl (by ESPN and Sports Illustrated)! To be honest, I was gonna pick the Birds to be 7-9 this year, but all this buzz has suckered me into a 10-6 year. I'm looking forward to the year. It could be something unexpected.

Best Fantasy Player: Brian Westbrook, RB - The NFL's leader in all-purpose yards last year will have an absolutely phenomenal year. This is his time to separate himself from every other RB on the planet. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will be taken to a whole new level, especially with new RB Lorenzo Booker in the backfield. The options are boundless.

1. Dallas Cowboys 11-5 (Last Year: 13-3)

At this point, expecting Tony Romo to perform in the playoffs is like expecting to have your dinner in Hell's Kitchen arrive on time. When you add in the fact this guy is STILL with Jessica Simpson and her idiot brain doesn't say much about his decision making. The Cowboys are going for it, and they have all the cards in place to make a legitimate run. Their defense is overrated by a ton, and Pacman Jones is going to have a minimal impact. Plus, the story line that is going unnoticed is that this team is a powder keg of people. Terrell Owens, Pacman, Tank Williams, I mean come on something has to give. I'm putting the Cowboys on notice, their window for winning a Super Bowl is now at 2 years. The team is getting older, and once TO is washed up Romo won't be as effective and it will be a whole domino effect. When you're entire team rests on the performance and mental stability of Terrell Owens, you have to count your blessings each year.

Best Fantasy Player: Marion Barber, RB - He's a TD machine. Felix Jones isn't a threat to his playing time. Look for a typical 80 yard 1 TD game from Barber. I think he'll make it to 20 TD's this season.

Monday, September 1, 2008

NFL Preview: The West

AFC West:

4. Oakland Raiders 2-14 (Last Year: 4-12)

The Raiders have been bad enough for long enough that there should be some signs of them turning it around. Unfortunately consistent bone-headed moves have left the Raiders in some muck and mire as opposed to a positive outlook. Certain top picks not developing as they should (Robert Gallery, Michael Huff, JaMarcus Russell) and meaningless high price signings (Javon Walker Gibril Wilson, and DeAngelo Hall) serve only to split apart a team identity. Half the players are veterans, half are inexperienced. The Raiders should back off going for the big names with zero returns and try to develop a young mature nucleus. Trading for an overrated player like DeAngelo Hall and signing him to a lucrative contract is a total waste. That money should be going towards Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the best young corners in the game. A lot of their hope is riding on the performance of new first round pick Darren McFadden. McFadden took a bit of a credibility dive in the draft, and his prospect as a #1 RB in the NFL is still something he needs to prove. JaMarcus Russell has clearly not shown the drive to be a top flight QB via his consistent weight gain. The team is a mess filled with overrated and under achieving players with questionable character. Not good.

Best Fantasy Player: Darren McFadden, RB - McFadden has a lot to prove, and he'll be given the keys from the get go. There won't be much help around him on the offensive side of the ball.

3. Denver Broncos 7-9 (Last Year: 7-9)

Jay Cutler is looking to step up and have a much more productive year. He can put his diabetes behind him and focus on winning football games. He finally has a go to receiver in Brandon Marshall, but the Broncos are finding it harder and harder to find a RB they can just plug into their offense. The offensive line is not what it was a couple of years ago, and they need to get more pressure on the defensive side of the ball in order for CB's Champ Bailey and Dre Bly to be effective. I don't see Cutler making the strides he should. It'll be another playoff miss in the Mile High City.

Best Fantasy Player: Brandon Marshall, WR - The plus is that his 4-game suspension has been reduced to 1 game, limiting the hit to his fantasy value. He is a big, athletic receiver and Cutler will not be afraid to throw the ball up for him.

2. Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 (Last Year: 4-12)

The Chiefs lost 9 straight games to end their year in 2007. In spite of Larry Johnson returning from a nagging foot injury, the Chiefs could not put things together. However, with LJ back on track and rested after missing time last year, QB Brodie Croyle developing, and WR Dwayne Bowe emerging as a big time threat the offense seems to be on track. The defense got a boost with 1st Round Pick DT Glenn Dorsey. The loss of Jared Allen to Minnesota is a tough pill to swallow, but if they can get even a little more out of their offense, the Chiefs may be able to surprise some teams this year.

Best Fantasy Player: Larry Johnson, RB - Only 2 years removed from being one of the most dominant fantasy backs in the league, LJ hit some injuries last year. His offensive line isn't good, but he has shown a great ability to find the end zone. His offensive line is suspect, but Head Coach Herman Edwards won't be afraid to feed LJ the ball.

1. San Diego Chargers 12-4 (Last Year: 11-5)

The Chargers have a lot to prove this year. After falling short of the Super Bowl the previous two years, the Chargers are a team right at their peak. QB Philip Rivers has earned the respect of his teammates through his gutsy performance in last year's playoffs, and RB LaDanian Tomlinson is running out of top performance years. The biggest issue for the Chargers are their injuries. TE Antonio Gates needs to come back in full strength from his toe injury, and star LB Shawne Merriman has made the decision to play this year with two torn knee ligaments. Brave? Sure. Should he do it? No. Obviously he thinks he can perform at his All-Pro level, but that remains to be seen. Plus he is at risk at doing severe damage to his knee. Any play this season, his knee could go.

Best Fantasy Player: LaDanian Tomlinson, RB - Just because I said LDT only had a couple years left does not mean he is slowing up any time soon. He's getting pushed by Adrian Peterson for top fantasy guy, LDT's consistency is what keeps him on top of a fantasy draft board.

NFC West:

4. St. Louis Rams 4-12 (Last Year: 3-13)

Injuries are what hurt the Rams last year. Everyone of their key offensive starters went down at one point or another, but it was their defense that leaves them in a rough situation. It also didn't help that RB Steven Jackson held out all of training camp. He is sure to be rusty when the season kicks off. This is a team that is going to need to light up the scoreboard in order to have a chance this year.

Best Fantasy Player: Steven Jackson, RB - The hold out will hurt him, enough to drop him behind Joe Addai on many fantasy big boards. What Jackson does have is the luxury of being able to catch out of the backfield as well. He'll get his touches, but his productivity may get off to a slow start.

3. Arizona Cardinals 6-10 (Last Year: 8-8)

With too many good receivers and too many QB's the Cardinals are a team in limbo. They can't quite decide whether they want to win now or develop young talent. The problem is that the NFC West is so terrible, any of these teams have a shot at winning it. Kurt Warner was recently named the starting QB after party boy Matt Leinert couldn't cut it on the field. Off season disputes with their top two receivers, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, are still a problem with Larry Fitz getting $30 million in guaranteed money and Boldin wanting more in return. If Boldin gets onboard, the offense could be good. A tough schedule may put the Cards on their back this year.

Best Fantasy Player: Larry Fitzgerald, WR - I have a football man crush on Larry Fitzgerald. The guy is just a beast, and he is the top young receiver in the NFL. He has all the tools and abilities he needs to be dominant for years to come. For whatever Warner is, he can get Fitz the ball. TD's aplenty will be coming.

2. Seattle Seahawks 9-7 (Last Year: 10-6)

In a transition, the Seahawks are moving from a running team to a pass happy team. They do have some of the pieces in place to make this work, but they don't have the receivers to make their passing attack truly effective. No one commands a double team, and that makes it difficult to stretch the field. Seattle has been steady, but I think it's about time they had a slip up.

Best Fantasy Player: Matt Hasselbeck, QB - Hasselbeck will benefit from this pass happy offense. He had a lot of passing yards, but still fell short on his TD totals...probably due to the lack of WR help.

1. San Francisco 49ers 10-6 (Last Year: 5-11)

No, this isn't a return to dominance, but the Niners have a shot to make some waves this year. They have invested heavily on their defense the past couple of off-seasons and their drafting has given them one of the top LB's in the league in Patrick Willis. The offense has been the hang up, and with Mike Martz making the play calls, the offense behind RB Frank Gore and new QB J.T. O'Sullivan have the potential to surprise some people. The defense is going to have to step up, but as long as former #1 pick Alex Smith doesn't see the field, it'll be a good thing. Oh, and as for that apology from last year Alex...I think it's safe to say you're not gonna get it.

Best Fantasy Player: Frank Gore, RB - Although Martz's pass happy MO may harm Gore's touches, Martz can't turn water into wine. Gore is his top offensive threat and will have no choice but to get him the ball. This may come in the form of a few more receptions, but so be it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NFL Preview: The South

AFC South:

4. Tennessee Titans 6-10 (Last Year: 10-6)

Well I had no idea the Titans were 10-6 last year. Nor did I know that they made the playoffs?!?!?! Vince Young took about 8 steps back as far as his progression goes, and the Titans have done nothing to address the needs of their superstar QB (signing a washed up Alge Crumpler does not count). The more I think about it the more I can't believe the Titans were that good. The only positives I can think about are the defense, lead by All-Pro DT Albert Haynesworth, and the Titans kicker Rob Bironas having a pretty good year. There is something to be said for winning tight games, but a lack of addressing key needs on offense will cause the Titans problems.

Best Fantasy Player: Chris Johnson, RB: Chris Johnson should have no problem finding playing time with the Titans run heavy attack. Speaking of heavy, starter LenDale White might take some of Johnson's goal line attempts, but he is by no means a shoe-in when it comes to holding down his spot from the more explosive Johnson.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7 (Last Year: 11-5)

Jacksonville is just the team that will not die. Seemingly lacking in talent or star players, the Jags always put together a tough, physical team that contends in the AFC South. Last year they got a great year from new starting QB David Gerrard, and they look to capitalize on his newly found confidence. On offense, their main weapons are their tall receivers and the RB tandem of veteran Fred Taylor and diminutive Maurice Jones-Drew. There are a couple more years on these guys, and Jacksonville's physical style could start taking a toll on them this year.

Best Fantasy Player: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB: A potential bust last year, Jones-Drew finished with a solid 9 TD runs. Fred Taylor may be a little less effective this year, so look for Jones-Drew to up that total a little.

2. Houston Texans 11-5 (Last Year: 8-8)

Here is what I like about the Texans. They have an explosive offense in place and primed for a big year. First year starter QB Matt Schaub was having a solid year in Houston until his number one threat, WR Andre Johnson, went down with an injury limiting the potential of the Texans attack. Also, you have to love the young and explosive defense the Texans have. LB DeMarco Ryans has become one of the most fearsome playmakers in the league, and DE Mario Williams had a phenomenal second season coming off his much scrutinized #1 selection over Vince Young and Reggie Bush. Williams looked like he may be able to fulfill the Bruce Smith comparisons that headlined his selection by now NFL Analyst, former GM Charley Casserly. After losing his job over the pick, Casserly must surely be walking around in a Williams jersey and two middle fingers in the air. It's always good to be right.

Best Fantasy Player: Andre Johnson, WR: Andre Johnson is the best receiver you haven't heard of. Due to some injuries the last two years and being on a subpar team, Johnson has been one of the most productive players at the position. With another year of experience with Schaub, an increase in his numbers aren't out of the question.

1. Indianapolis Colts 12-4 (Last Year: 13-3)

The Colts are the same today as they've been for the past half dozen years. As long as Peyton Manning can recover fully from off-season knee surgery then things will be running on all cylinders. Keep an eye out for WR Marvin Harrison to lose a step with Reggie Wayne taking over as the top receiver and second year guy, Anthony Gonzalez, to have a TD happy year.

Best Fantasy Player: Peyton Manning, QB: Peyton is what makes this team go. He has a choice of any of his offensive weapons, and he knows how to get the most out of them. Right, Dallas Clark?

NFC South:

4. Carolina Panthers 0-16 (Last Year: 7-9)

WE DID IT!!! WHOOOOO!!! Eagles have the Panthers #1 pick this year so...there you have it. In all honesty though, the team is old and crappy. Steve Smith is punching out starting defensive backs. It is chaos over there. I look forward to rooting against Carolina intensely this year.

Best Fantasy Player: No one. Welcome to the team Tyson Jackson.

3. Atlanta Falcons 3-13 (Last Year: 4-12)

Uh-oh, I forgot about the Falcons. They could challenge Carolina for worst team. Then again this is the worst division in football. The Falcons are still in a regrouping stage. They have rookie QB Matt Ryan to try and be the new face of the franchise. WR Roddy White had a mild break out year, and the addition of highly regarded Michael Turner at RB could be the building blocks of something good.

Best Fantasy Player: Michael Turner, RB: LaDanian Tomlinson's understudy in San Diego, Turner made his name by essentially breaking off 50+ yard runs whenever LDT needed a breather. His speed and strength caught a lot of people's eyes, and as long as Atlanta limits his carries and gives him a year to acclimate to a starting position, Turner could be solid for years to come.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6 (Last Year: 9-7)

The Bucs were the surprise team last year. They had a resurgent Jeff Garcia passing to a resurgent Joey Galloway, which suited their needs, while RB Earnest Graham filled in for injured Cadillac Williams. The Bucs were in the middle of the Favre mess as a potential team, but Brett passed on the sun of Tampa for the hunting woods of North Jersey. It's not so much that the Bucs are good, as the rest of the division and much of the NFC stinks. Here's to one more decent year from all these old guys.

Best Fantasy Player: Earnest Graham, RB: This is a bit of a risky picks since incumbent starting RB Cadillac Williams is expected to have some kind of impact this year, but he really can't be counted on. At worst, Graham will be a solid goal line option in Tampa.

1. New Orleans Saints 11-5 (Last Year: 7-9)

The Saints are a better team than what they showed last year. They're not as good a team as they were two years ago. The difference is the Saints are riding high off a huge year as they did last year. Drew Brees has a new buddy in TE Jeremy Shockey's arrival from New York, and Deuce McAllister is once again healthy, only waiting for a couple of weeks until his next knee ligament injury. WR Marques Colston has proven himself as a top wide out and could emerge as an elite #1 with Brees behind him. The main question on the offensive side of the ball is RB Reggie Bush. The All-American from USC has had an on again off again start to his NFL career. What it appears Bush is, is an effective second RB. He can catch passes, return punts, and get about 15 carries a game, but due to his inability to get to the line quickly, Bush may not fulfill his superstar potential. Also, him spending all Summer with his girl friend, Kim Kardashian, can't be helping his football IQ at all.

Defense is where the Saints most glaring holes lie. They have acquired Jonathan Vilma from the Jets, but his shoddy knees keep him from being the player he was in New York. I can see the Saints making for an exciting regular season, but leaving the playoffs early.

Top Fantasy Player: Drew Brees, QB - Brees has become a really prolific player in New Orleans. His passing numbers are up and with a refocused team, Brees should produce around a Brady and Manning level.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NFL Preview: The North

Time to kick off the 2008 NFL Preview. I have to admit, this Training Camp has been one of the most loathsome in recent memory. Players in every camp are holding out, complaining about contracts, holding teams hostage and so forth. The NFL is really going down a slippery slope of maintaining the least likable athletes out of any major sport, but the sport itself is awesome and it's probably not going to stop any one from watching. It just leaves a sour taste in my mouth is all. Anyway, ONWARD!

AFC North:

4. Cincinnati Bengals 4-12 (Last Year: 7-9)

This Bengals team is a mess, and you have no one else to blame other than Marvin Lewis and the front office of this team. They finally have a nucleus of talent around Carson Palmer, Rudi Johnson, T.J. Houshmazadeh, and Chad Johnson and they go and ruin it by drafting players with a "rough" past to put it nicely. I guess they figure giving 21 year old kids with a criminal record a couple hundred thousand dollars wouldn't be a bad idea. Well, it has done nothing but bite them in the ass. Former top Linebacker Odell Thurman is out of the league, half the team has been arrested, and franchise QB Palmer and seemingly calm WR Housh have to be looking around the locker room and wondering what the hell is going on. Rudi Johnson's body has worn down after years of running and Chad Johnson is a viable lunatic. This team is on a bus ride to hell. It could get ugly.

Best Fantasy Player: Carson Palmer, QB - His star WR might be a olive short of a martini, but as long as he shows up and plays, Carson Palmer has plenty of weapons to pad some numbers.

3. Baltimore Ravens 5-11 (Last Year: 5-11)

The Ravens are running on fumes at this point. Two years removed from a 13-3 record, the Ravens are at the same time the Ravens you know and love, and a shell of their former selves. The defense is still the focal point with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Chris McAllister still in play but all (with the exception of Suggs) past their prime. The franchise as a whole hasn't been able to put together a productive offense for as long as they have been in Baltimore. Willis McGahee had a solid first year in B-more, but with Hall of Fame Tackle Jonathan Ogden recently retired, McGahee (already coming off a preseason injury) will have a rough go of it. Top pick Joe Flacco is a couple of years away, at best, and this aging team has some tough times ahead. The only shot the Ravens have are signing Omar to play Wide Receiver.

Best Fantasy Player: Todd Heap, TE - McGahee will be the focus of every defense every week, so the only shot for fantasy glory comes from *gulp* Kyle Boller's ability to dink and dunk some passes to Heap. You never know what Heap you'll get, the All-Pro or the Heap of shit. He's the safest bet though.

2. Cleveland Browns 9-7 (Last Year: 10-6)

The Browns were a nice story last year. After realizing the mistake they made trading for Brady Quinn, they found that they had their Number 1 QB all along in Derek Anderson. Along with a rejuvenated Jamal Lewis and Braylon Edwards finally becoming one of the top receivers in the league the Browns have a potent offensive attack. Head Coach Romeo Crennel is working on the defense, and there is a lot of potential for the maligned team in Cleveland. However with a tough schedule and more teams having some film on Derek Anderson, the Browns may have to take a step back before they can go forward.

Best Fantasy Player: Braylon Edwards, WR - After finding a QB he meshes with and realizing his natural talent, Braylon Edwards stayed healthy and developed into one of the top young WR's in the NFL.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4 (Last Year: 10-6)

I wish I knew how the Steelers keep doing it. They just always throw out a competitive team. Coaching changes, players moving on, their star quarterbacks face going through a all just works out for them in the end. At this point the Steelers are more of an idea than a football team. If you're a Pittsburgh Steeler then that means you play hard hitting and aggressive football. The boys in Steel Town only added to this persona by drafting RB Rashad Mendenhall in the 1st Round of the draft. They lucked out on that one, and the stocky and powerful Mendenhall will be an excellent compliment for Willie Parker and free up some options for Ben Roethlisberger, who is coming off a nice rebound year. The Steelers will be a dominant team this year.

Best Fantasy Player: Willie Parker, RB - Fast Willie finally got some touches in the red zone last year and that equated to more TD's. With no Jerome Bettis around, Willie shined. As long as he keeps Mendenhall from taking over goal line situations, then he should be due for another big year even with out the departed Alan Faneca at guard.

NFC North

4. Chicago Bears 6-10 (Last Year: 7-9)

(See. Baltimore Ravens) Replace the not yet washed up defensive star as Tommie Harris. Oh, and their top WR is their kick returner. I love Devin Hester as much as anyone, but comeon, that is sad.

Best Fantasy Player: Matt Forte, RB - The rookie RB will get the start when the season hits since former top overall pick Cedric Benson was released after being arrested twice in the off-season. I wouldn't get my hopes up though, the Bears and rookie RB's don't get along (Cedric Benson, Anthony Thomas, Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam).

3. Detroit Lions 8-8 (Last Year: 7-9)

The Lions had aspirations of a 10-win season and the playoffs. They started off well enough, but faded near the end of the year. Now, Mike Martz, whom you could pin the offensive turn around on, is in San Francisco and reliable RB Kevin Jones was released and signed with da Bears. The good news is Calvin Johnson is actually a player unlike Charles Rogers and Mike Williams before him. Another plus is that they have the nicest stadium in the league. So they have that going for them.

Best Fantasy Player: Calvin Johnson, WR - Johnson was able to capitalize on his freakish skills and in spite of a bone bruise on his ass, put together a successful rookie year.

2. Green Bay Packers 10-6 (Last Year: 13-3)

So, what have the Pack been up to this off-season? Hmmm...well here is what I have to say as far as the Packers side of things are concerned. They took Favre's retirement and ran with it. Last year with Favre was an aberration. The two years before, Favre threw 38 TD's and 47 INT's while the Packers fell in to disrepair. Aaron Rodgers waited on the sidelines, and after Favre retired the beginning half of this off-season, he realized the Pack had moved on and he wasn't ready to be forgotten. So, depending on what reports you believe, Favre either expected the Pack to welcome him back with open arms, or he just wanted to be traded to a team of his choosing (the Vikings or Bears). Truth of the matter is what makes the Packers a good team is their defense and RB Ryan Grant. Aaron Rodgers is more than capable of leading this team. He won't put up typical Favre numbers, but that is not what is going to help this team win. I look for the Pack to move on much better than Favre will.

Best Fantasy Player: Ryan Grant, RB - The former NY Giant (heh, heh) blew up the scene last year, taking Brandon Jackson's starting RB role and pleasing fantasy owners across the country. He has had some contract squabbles, but the Pack need to meet his needs in order to succeed.

1. Minnesota Vikings 11-5 (Last Year: 8-8)

I suppose these guys are the sleeper pick of the year. Since everyone has them, I guess sleeper is the wrong word. I mentioned the potential of this team last year. They have the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFC, and they have the most explosive offensive player in the league (no, not Tavaris Jackson). The Vikings biggest concern is the ability of Jackson and newly signed WR Bernard Berrian to keep pressure off of the aforementioned most explosive player, Adrian Peterson. To say All Day burst onto the scene is borderline laughable. He slaughtered opposing teams and shattered rookie and NFL records in half a season. The injury bug will always follow him, perhaps more out of fear than reality, but that left side of the O-Line is in place which should render any 8,9,10 man boxes obsolete. He is worth the price of admission, as the saying goes.

Best Fantasy Player: Adrian Peterson, RB - He pretty much speaks for himself. He went from rookie to challenging LaDanian Tomlinson as the top pick in every fantasy draft. AD has unlimited potential, and I look forward to seeing him play this year.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reading Rainbow & A Comedy Show

August is almost upon us, and what that means is a month of my NFL Preview articles. I love doing it. I think it's fun to be right and funny how wrong I can be sometimes. So since that is on the horizon, I just wanted to pass along a couple of reviews for a limited assortment of items.


Consider The Lobster by David Foster Wallace

One of the joys of my college experience was learning that I didn't have to take a math requirement. As a result I picked up a class titled Contemporary American Short Story. That class, ended up being one of my favorite during my time at college, and one of its lasting impressions was my introduction to David Foster Wallace. DFW has become one of my favorite authors and has the literary work to back it up.

His latest installment, Consider the Lobster, finds the always enlightening and entertaining DFW tackling everything from porn awards to John McCain on the campaign trail. He can write as intellectually and dramatically whether he is discussing double penetration shots or the lull of redundant speeches. The manner in which he, almost easily, transitions from a place of pure absurdity to the heights of intellectual prose is as impressive as it is depressing.

While the lyrical gymnastics DFW goes through makes you love to read his essays, at the same time, any one with any hope of ever publishing anything has to leave disheartened as DFW is certainly the foremost stylistic writer out there. You think he is just writing stream of thought through the way he presents himself, but when you take in the essays as a whole you realize that each piece of writing is incredibly intricate and imaginative that no human could spout out such words in such a format.

For people that aren't familiar with DFW, I probably wouldn't recommend starting with this book, but if you do, you'll know from the first story (the one about the porn awards) whether you're on board or not. The constant footnotes and long digressions could frustrate one that is not ready to commit fully to such a reading, and the reading only gets more difficult as the book progresses.

This book ranks up there with DFW finest works. If you are willing to commit to the reading and want to enjoy great essays on a wide variety of subjects, then give this book a go around.

For the ratings system I wanted to do something different than simple numbers. I want a symbol, like "Two Thumbs Up" like that. So I decided to flip the script. I'm using a symbol, but not a positive symbol. As a result of using a negative symbol instead of a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best, one is the best because more of a negative thing would be bad. Follow?

So, what's something bad, related to books that I can rate these things with? Papercuts. Done.

1.5/5 Papercuts

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

I followed up Consider the Lobster with Klosterman's book of essays. Now, initially this was a mistake. Klosterman's style is different than DFW in that it is much more straight forward and, for lack of a better term 'simple.' Now, while no one would or should expect a bunch of DFWs running around, but Klosterman's essence is in his ability to universalize seemingly obscure Gen X topics. His seeming irreverence serves as an opening to topics and ideas that do ring true to all kinds of people.

He touches on Billy Joel, Saved By The Bell, and lots of other topics that only invite the reader to take Klosterman's deranged trip along with him. Even though some of the topics were a little before my time, I was able to enjoy myself much more after I moved past this whole, he's not DFW thing.

Klosterman is an interesting read, and his ability to use random facts (a personal favorite thing of mine) and to relate personal experiences of his to a more universal appeal that comments on society in general is a great thing to behold. This is the first Klosterman book I have read, and I will be sure to follow up with his work in the near future.

1/5 Papercuts


Ricky Gervais

Ever more famous actor/writer/director/comedian, Ricky Gervais, creator of "The Office" and "Extras" took some time out of his now busy movie schedule to do some shows in America for an HBO special.

I saw the opportunity to jump on these tickets months ago, and since Ricky is one of my favorite, I guess entertainers is the word, I couldn't miss one of his few New York City shows. I have seen some of Ricky's comedy before on Youtube, and what is unique about him is that he is not a comedian by trade. His background is more in writing and acting.

This lack of polish is evident as Ricky takes the stage. Granted he is in a crown and cape as his name lights up right behind him, so confidence is not the issue. He transfers from story to improvised rant back to material in a semi-awkward way, but charming and enjoyable the whole time. For every politically incorrect shot he takes, he is sure to deflect any feelings of ill will by mocking himself, and his new found celebrity.

It was great to see him live and in person, and while the worst thing I could do was try to recreate some of his jokes, I will say some of his funniest moments include a pamphlet and Humpty Dumpty. Sadly, I feel like people that tune into HBO to see Ricky's special as a means to "see what he is about," they may be disappointed as his stand up does not nearly equate to the hilarity on The Office and Extras. For a Ricky fan like myself it was a blast, and I hope he comes around again soon.