Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes.

With the new Watchmen film looming large, I think it's a good time to introduce my readers to the source material.

Watchmen was originally published as a 12 episode series in 1986 and 1987. Written by the acclaimed Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. The accolades for this work say it all.

Kirby Awards: Best Finite Series, Best New Series, Best Writer, Best Writer/Artist

Eisner Awards: Best Finite Series, Best Graphic Album, Best Writer, Best Writer/Artist

The Hugo Award

Listed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 greatest English language novels

Listed by Entertainment Weekly as the 13th best novel in the past 25 years

The influence of this work permeates the entirety of modern comics. It, along with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, was the first of the dark, mature, style of comics. Eschewing the boy scouts in brightly colored spandex in favor of complex protagonists with very complex, and questionable, ways of doing things. However, no story does it so succinctly, and literally, than the Watchmen.

DC comics had obtained a the intellectual rights to a number of characters created by the failing Charlton Comics. Alan Moore was commissioned to create a series built around those characters. He took a concept called "Who killed the Peacemaker?" that Charlton decided against using. What he came up with was Watchmen. DC execs took a look at his ideas, and realized that if they let him use the Charlton characters for this storyline, they wouldn't be able to use them again. However, they also knew they had something special. So they gave Moore the greenlight to create Watchmen by using modified versions of the Charlton characters. So The Question became Rorschach, the Peacemaker became the comedian, Captain Atom became Doctor Manhattan, and Alan Moore became a legend.

In 1985, the world of Watchmen is not too dissimilar from the way history actually unfolded. The main difference is that America won the Vietnam War, and riding the endorsement of that victory, Nixon altered the constitution to allow him to remain as president.

Watchmen kicks off with a murder. Edward Blake is hurled through the window of his 20th story apartment. Masked vigilante Rorschach, sneaks in to investigate. Upon finding a switch that reveals a hidden costume, Rorschach realizes that Edward Blake was none other than the Comedian, one of two state sponsored masked heroes. As Rorschach begins to dredge up old problems in an effort to find the killer of the Comedian and bring him to justice, a dreadful plot begins to come together. The implications of these schemes are shocking, even in Watchmen's cold war world, which lives constantly under the Sword of Damocles that is the threat of Nuclear War.

The artwork for Watchmen is very clean, though the colors are a little on the drab side, with a lot of yellows and greens. However, there are layers within layers in the art. Look for the smiley face. The writing is masterful, and even deeper than the art. The characters are complex, and with one notable exception, are all normal people. Realism rules the majority of this novel. The masked heroes are exactly the sort of people who would don a costume and fight crime in the real world. By that, I mean mentally unstable. Megalomania, Apathy, Idealism, Absolutism, Nihilism, and pretty much any other neurosis you can think of make their appearance.

In the end, Watchmen is as fine a deconstruction of a comic as will ever be written. The expansive metafiction lends itself well to the medium. This is a work with every bit the weight of any notable written novels. As perfect a comic as one could find. I can only give it a 10/10.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What USC Needs to Fix.

PANIC! At least according to the media.

Mark Schlabach says that now other conference champions can afford to lose a game, because there's no way USC can leapfrog them.

Ted Miller says that even if the other conference champions lose two games, it guarantees nothing for the Trojans.

Dennis Dodd says that the loss is part of a disturbing trend.

Mike Ventre says that USC can forget about another national title.

These people are sensationalist idiots looking to attract readers through gloom and doom. One of the few respectable sports journalists in the world, Mark Bowden, readily admits that the sports media doesn't know a thing about sports. And it's true. It's amazing that the very people who vote in the AP poll don't know the twisted rules that they themselves cast their ballots by.

Unlike Ohio State, USC's problem is one of execution, not a systemic flaw in the very nature of their program. Undefeated seasons in a BCS conference are rare, because it's extremely difficult to go out and execute at a level needed to win each and every game. It's hard for USC, and it's hard for other teams too. Dodd said that it was part of a trend. No, it's part of the norm. In the last 36 years, USC has gone undefeated a whopping 1 time. Losing happens. It's not some disturbing trend that heralds the collapse of a team into the dark pits of mediocrity. Hell, LSU, last years champion, lost to not one, but two unranked teams. And this is assuming that when it's all said and done, Oregon State will still be unranked, which I honestly doubt.

That's important because it shows us exactly what USC needs to do to right the ship, and unlike Ohio State, they can do it this season. All they need to do is win. If USC wins out, it would take not one, but two BCS conference champions to go undefeated to bar them from the national title game. And it's simply because of the way the voters in the poll naturally cast their ballots. A team losses, and they drop. It doesn't matter who they lose to, that only governs how far you drop. At this point, there are still 18 undefeated BCS teams. They are spread amongst 5 conferences. That means at most 5 teams will go undefeated. If that happens, I will eat my hat. USC will probably drop to between 7 and 11 in the polls. Because this loss happened so early in the season, they'll have plenty of time to crawl back up the polls as the remaining undefeated teams kill each other off.

Remember, in 2006, USC lost to an unranked OSU team that had previously been blown out 42-14 on the road against a WAC team. They still managed to claw their way back up the polls to put them into a position to compete for the national championship. This is a very talented team, that can win any given game if they execute. They need to execute, they need to win. If they win out, they will more than likely be back in the title game. There's no need to panic. If they lose again though, then they're done.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Well, the Pac 10 just shot itself in the foot.

But MAN is it fun to be the one to pull the trigger! Oregon State has upset the number one ranked team in the nation, and suddenly restored hope to what looked to be a very looong season. The way that Riley pounded the running game out of the ace set seemed like he actually reads my blog.

But as I look back, I notice trends that begin to make me realize that my earlier concerns might have been ignorant in the face of the standard Oregon State modus operandi under Mike Riley. Since the beginning of Riley's second stint as head coach in 2003, Oregon State has been a collective 12-13 for the first 5 games of the season, 0-7 on the road in those games. The Beavers have then closed out a respectable 27-11 for the remainder of the season.

In the last two seasons in particular, this is evident. Both seasons began 2-3, and ended 10-4 and 9-4 respectively, with the Beavers winning a bowl game and finishing the season ranked. The strong finish in 06 was keyed by a win over then #3 USC. In 07, defeating #2 California started up OSU's push to the finish.

This season began 0-2, with both losses coming on the road. It remains to be seen if the upset of #1 USC will signal the start of a blazing run to the end of the season. I certainly hope so, and if it does, this loss will look a lot less damning on USC by the time the Bowls roll around.

The only problem this sort of system brings up is the fact that any seasonal ambitions are scuttled from the get go, and for a school like OSU, which doesn't usually have the luxury of a high preseason ranking, getting embarassed in an early road game on national TV also guts the opportunity for decent media coverage for most of the season.

But with next weeks game against Utah, and the eventual showdown with the Ducks at the end of the season, OSU has positioned itself nicely to begin to undo the damage of the slow start to it's image. Hopefully, the early upset means that the strong finish gets started early. If we could end the season 9-4 or 10-3, it'd do wonders for the program.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Drink of the Moment: Kamikaze

Ah, the Kamikaze, the signature drink of Corvallis' Crowbar. Great drink. Rumor has it that the drink was first poured on a US military base in occupied Japan. I doubt it, but it's a good story.

To make the Kamikaze, you'll need Vodka, Triple Sec, and lime juice. Mix them in equal parts in a shaker with ice. Shake it well, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of lime. Sit back, and imagine yourself in Tokyo, with the crazy lights, and hotel rooms reminiscent of Kramer's dresser.

Like any other cocktail, the Kamikaze has a lot of variations. If you add a half ounce of Maui Blue, you'll get a Nuclear Kamikaze. If you add an ounce of cranberry juice, you get a disturbingly named, Kamikaze on the Rag. Swap the vodka for gin, and you get a London Kamikaze.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What Ohio State Needs to Fix

I am by no means a Buckeyes fan, however, some people have written them off as a mediocre team buffeted by a weak conference. This is not the case. The Buckeyes are still one of the most talented teams in the nation. Ohio State has sent 11 players to the NFL on the first day of the draft the last three years. That's as many as LSU (9) and Georgia (2) combined. Talent is not the issue. The issue is positional talent and coaching doctrine.

In terms of positional talent, if you take a look at the three premier losses in the last three years, against USC, LSU, and Florida, you'll notice several trends. Against USC, they gave up 174 rushing yards on 30 carries, 5 sacks, and 2 INTs. Against LSU, they gave up 177 yards rushing on 45 carries, 5 sacks, and 2 INTs. Against Florida they gave up 156 rushing yards on 43 carries, 5 sacks, and 1 INT. This tells us 2 things. They cannot protect their QB, and they cannot stop the run. This creates two problems. Inability to stop the run allows the opponent to set the tempo of the game, it opens up the play action pass. Being unable to protect the quarterback makes your offense one dimensional. Ohio State is already pretty one dimensional as it stands. This adds up to an offense that can't score, and a defense that can't get off the field. That's a recipe for disaster.

You can get a feel for the level of athletes that a program has by looking at the level of players it puts into the NFL. To see if a program can compete on a high level in college, you need to look at how many high draft picks it puts out. From 2000-2008, Ohio State put 17 players into the NFL via the top 2 rounds of the draft. That throws the notion that they simply "lack speed" out the window. Ohio State has sent up 4 WRs, 5 DBs, 2 LBs, 2 Cs, 2 DEs, 1 DT, and 1 K.

Noticeably absent are QB, RB, and OL. The lack of high level O-line talent makes the Ohio State program systemically vulnerable to elite pass rushers. Florida had Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey, both NFL first round picks. LSU had Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson. USC had Everson Griffen and Kyle Moore. The lack of elite caliber QBs exacerbate this problem, as a mediocre QB tends to hold on to the ball longer.

Figuring out the problems with the run defense is a little more deceptive. Ohio State has had a proud tradition of linebackers, and that's been held up by the current team with Marcus Freeman and James Laurenitis. The defensive ends are also fairly recent, with Vernon Gholston on the teams that lost to Florida and LSU. The safeties aren't world beaters, but they're solid. the weakness has come at defensive tackle. The one defensive tackle drafted early for Ohio State was Ryan Pickett in 2001. Since then, they haven't had anyone special.

Solving the defensive problem will require Ohio State to get out of the mold of the cheap interchangeable defensive tackle. Most of their defensive linemen are in the 280-290 lb range. You can get away with it if you have some LBs who specialize against the run, a Jeremiah Trotter or David Harris style thumper. However, Ohio State has done a good job of recruiting the high end sideline to sideline LBs. They've had good success with those style of linebackers, and I see no reason to mess with those. It would be much easier to try and put an emphasis on bringing in some 300-315 lb DTs who can plug up gaps and stuff the run. The loss of pass rush would be negligible, due to the minimal amount of sacks that actually come from tackles in Ohio State's system.

On offense, the inability to protect the QB really stems from the type of tackles that Ohio State has started. Players like Kirk Barton and Alex Boone, while possessing prototypical size, tend to lack athleticism and have shorter arms than their height would indicate. This causes real problems with speed rushers. The problem can really only be fixed by picking up better offensive line prospects.

Both these problems could be worked out by adopting a more aggressive coaching style, but one thing Jim Tressel is known for is his inflexibility. He runs the exact same game plan on a short week against Ohio as he does on a six week break before playing LSU. Chipping with TEs and double teaming with OGs would help dealing with speedy DEs. High risk/reward run blitz packages would help to deal with the weak run defense. But that's not Tresselball. In the end, you end up with a high percentage winning coach, yet a very predictable team. They win the games you think they're going to win, and lose the games you think they're going to lose. Contrast this to Les Miles, who's the opposite end of the spectrum.

Because of these problems, Ohio State will be a second tier team for years to come until such time as Tressel changes his recruiting tactics. I don't expect him to change his coaching style, because it works for him, but changing the recruiting pattern is easily doable. Jim Tressel has built a program that is designed to beat the Big 10, and Michigan in particular, but will struggle against teams with different philosophies. It's really a measure of the priorities at Ohio State.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thoughts on Week 3 of College Football

Forgot to post spread picks. I'm a bad blogger. I know.

Will the voters please cease shackling themselves to the nonsensical "poll rules", and keep Ohio State out of a third BCS game, as they clearly have little competition in the Big Ten? It was clear that Ohio State didn't belong on the same field as USC. The defensive line is woefully undersized, and gets bullied by a strong running game. The two QB just doesn't work, it never does, I don't know why people think it does.

Cal, you have embarassed the Pac 10. Arizona State, you too. Arizona, well, your whole state just sucks. The Pac 10 should have won every one of those games.

UCLA is a shattered shell of itself, so they get a pass. Wazzu's just so damn bad, that commenting on them makes me feel like I'm beating up on kids with Down Syndrome.

Oregon slept through the first half, and nearly paid for it.

Oregon State started slow, but turned things around. They might have stabilized their season. Riley got out the shotgun mentality and began to establish the run. However, opponents have begun to key in on the fly sweep. To reduce the fly sweep to background noise, Riley needs to move recievers to in motion every third play or so. Doing this will cause them to stop keying in on it, and can actually open up the passing game and conventional running game. Furthermore, Sammie Stroughter needs to be running more deep routes of 15 to 20 yards. Throwing those smoke screens aren't as effective as we'd hope. Also, the line needs to block a little bit.

Did Auburn really win a game 3-2? Or did they kick of baseball season early?

Missouri is making a strong case for the Big XII crown. That offense is the scariest in the conference.

Jake Locker must look at Mark Sanchez, and kick himself for picking Washington.

Did anyone see Texas Tech's flooded field? Raiders indeed...

Heisman Watch:

1. Mark Sanchez: Prime time exposure works wonders. Sports fans everywhere are in his debt for crushing USC.

2. Chase Daniels: Well, Nevada was a speed bump.

3. Knowshon Moreno: Need to step up. The game against South Carolina was not good enough.

4. Tim Tebow: Name recognition is keeping him alive until they hit the meat of their schedule.

5. Sam Bradford: Played well as of late. But Sophomore status will require a lot of people to screw up for him to win.

The Protomen

I'm a storytelling enthusiast. One of the most interesting ways to tell a story is the Concept Album. I guess that's why I'm one of the few people who think MACHINA was one of the Smashing Pumpkins' better albums.

In 2007, the metal band The Protomen released their eponymous debut album. It is a concept album that takes the form of a rock opera based on the Mega Man video game. The band is completely engrossed in their tale, touring the nation in their "protobus" and stopping in various cities to do shows, or "battles". The band wears masks to show the character they are singing as. Mega Man is known in Japan as "Rockman", and this band shows you why.

The album paints a picture of a dystopian future where the people are oppressed by Dr. Wiley's army of robot masters. The first track, "Hope Rides Alone" is a Prog Rock track that establishes the background to the current story. Dr. Light labored to build a machine that could over throw Dr. Wiley's regime. In the year 200X, he hits a breakthrough, and builds Proto Man. A powerful robot designed to cut through the robot army. An epic battle against Dr. Wiley's army ensues. Proto Man fights valiantly, but in the end, as the denizens of the city look on, Proto Man is overwhelmed. As Proto Man dies, humanity fails to attempt to save him, looking on as Dr. Wiley orders the coup de gras.

The next track is "Funeral for a Son". A slow instrumental track that represents Dr. Light burying Proto Man, whom he had invested 12 years in his creation.

"Unrest in the House of Light" has a kind of Johnny Cash feel to it. Dr. Light had gone on to build a new robot in the mold of Proto Man. His name was Mega Man. Now Dr. Light is faced with the difficult task of explaining to his new "son" what happened to his brother, and why he refuses to let Mega Man attempt to finish the fight of Proto Man. Dr. Light is bitter about the Kitty Genovese-esque actions of the people of the city.

"The Will of One" is a rock song that noticeably incorporates the old school Mega Man 8-bit theme. Mega Man explains to Dr. Light that he's going to go fight Wiley, against Light's wishes. Mega Man refuses to leave the humans who are unwilling to help themselves to their doom. He also wishes to avenge the death of his brother. As he contemplates the situation, he notices that someone has defaced Proto Man's gravestone with the phrase, "Hope Rides Alone".

"Vengeance" is another fast paced rock song, where Mega Man smashes through Dr. Wiley's forces with ease. As he cuts a swath towards Dr. Wiley, his last defender steps forward from the shadows to challenge Mega Man.

The pace slows down for "The Stand (Man or Machine)". Dr. Wiley's final defender steps foreword. Revealing himself to be Proto Man, thought dead. Proto Man explains why he chooses to stand against humanity. Like Dr. Light, Proto Man is bitter about the apathy of the people that he gave everything to fight for. No one is willing to fight for themselves, expecting a "hero" to step forward and save those who would not save themselves. Mega Man is forced to choose between fighting his brother, or forsaking mankind.

"The Sons of Fate" is probably the heaviest song on the album. Proto Man and Mega Man face off against each other. Proto Man castigates the people for their inaction, as they call for Mega Man to destroy his brother. As the music slows, Mega Man finishes off Proto Man, and defeats Wiley. As the crowds praise Mega Man as a hero, he looks down upon the remains of his brother, and distraught by his actions, turns his back on the people.

"Epilogue: Due Vendetta" is a fast, hard, and heavy track that doesn't really have any bearing on the story.

All in all, the album is an impressive showing for an indy band. The mastering could really use some tightening up, and the guitars and vocals have some harmony issues, but, for me at least, the audacious concept makes up for it. I'll give it an 8/10.

Really illustrating both the feel of the story The Protomen are telling, and the atmosphere of the band live, are the two music videos they've released.

The video for "Hope Rides Alone" really drives home the atmosphere they're trying to construct.

This is the video for "The Will of One", and it's a recording of a live concert. Complete with the Mega Man helmet.

Both Videos can be found in higher quality at the Protomen's website.

Silly Pats Fans...

Awww.... What's the league going to do without Tommy Fawkin' Brady? Suck it up boys. I'm an Eagles fan. These things happen. You better hope that Matt Cassell is a gamer.
Thanks to Kissing Suzy Kolber for pointing this shit out. They're downright clairvoyant...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Navigating the Cable Jungle

A few days ago my neighbors called and offered me $50 if I could come over and figure out how to rig up their DirectTV. What ensued was an ordeal of proportions far beyond what should be caused by a satellite box.

The end state set up was going to be totally sweet. 52" 1080i Toshiba flat screen, four speaker surround sound, DVD, CD, VCR, and DirectTV. great spot in the room, good acoustics, and good lighting, and a shelf set up with the back cut out so as to facilitate the running of cables. They even had all the manuals.

I kicked things off by looking at the manuals, and plugging everything into each other in the manner proscribed by the surround sound manual. CD, DVD, VCR, and satellite, all running into the surround sound, then being routed into the TV from there. Plugged it in and got nothing. So we tried various configurations, using component cables, S Video, and HDMI. Those yielded nil, nadda, and bumpkis, respectively. After an odd mixture of S Video and Components, we finally managed to get the Direct TV picture on the screen. No sound though. So I consulted the manual for the surround sound again.

It listed a system setup needed to optimize the speakers. Ok. So I began to go through the steps. Go through the menu. Check. Select system setup. Check. Verify speakers are attached. Check. Attach microphone and set it at ear level in the most likely to be occupied seat. Huh? Microphone?

Turns out the surround sound has a microphone attachment that you need to plug into the dash, and place at ear level, this starts up a test cycle that'll calibrate the speakers. The first problem was how to get the microphone at ear level without blocking it from some speakers. I feared I would have to hold it up, bearing their hopes for a decent entertainment system upon my shoulders like some relatively unimportant Atlas. Fortunately, their 10 year old daughter came out holding a camera tripod in her hands. Some electrical tape later, we had a working stand for the microphone.

I started the test. It puts out these sonar pings from each speaker. I kind of felt like Sean Connery in Hunt for the Red October. Then, we had to repeat it six more times, once at each place where people were likely to sit. After all these tests, the surround sound box shut itself down as it computed the optimal default volumes for the speakers. I thought we were golden.

Alas, it was not to be. As now, we knew the speakers worked, but there was still no sound, and in fact, the picture had been shut off too. Well... shit. I'm getting frustrated. So I continue reading through manuals, getting nowhere slowly. Finally, I throw in the towel, I call my dad up. He took a look at it, and began to work on the surround sound.

Suddenly, it came to me. We plugged the DirectTV into the Surround sound and the TV. We then plugged the DVD player into both the surround sound and the TV. Then we plugged the CD player in the surround sound. That dual link was a trick I cooked up when I had a Playstation, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 all at once. We fired it up, and tested the systems. All go. I took my money, and went home, immensely satisfied with myself.

The Beer is a Lie! Part Deux!

Later during AT, with only the tune up for the Battalion FTX and the FTX itself to go, brigade decided to give us another break. They scheduled a concert for us in the remains of a quarry.

The remains of the quarry was a nice natural amphitheater. We were told beer would be for sale, and we bought it, again. The lie, that is, not the beer. Instead, all they had was energy drinks for sale. Real smart, it's 108 degrees at noon, and they want to trap us for several hours with no water and only pure caffeine to drink? Do they want us to die from heat stroke? Fucking idiots.

Anyways, the event kicked off with a comedy show. Each company got a shot at making people laugh. Alpha Company came out and bragged about how they smoke their joes, and provided a demonstration, involving a rucksack, rifle, and loincloth. Sadly, they weren't joking. We share a tent with Alpha company, we've seen them do this. It's like watching the monkeys at the zoo. That didn't engender laughter so much as nervous silence.

We were up next. We fell back on the old standard of mocking our superiors. We had the BC complaining about not meeting his salute quotient, the CSM bitching about the water not being ACU pattern, goose stepping OCs executing infantrymen with impunity, and the TOC, complete with spinning plates and circus music. Hilarity ensued.

Charlie Company tried a stand up act that actually got the hook. Delta company just fired their crew served weapons. No one was impressed. HHC has a 1st Sergeant Mishra. He's SF, Ranger, and Airborne. HHC then converted Chuck Norris Facts into 1st Sergeant Mishra facts. There was mild laughter.

Bravo Company won that competition. Then came a break dancing competition between the lieutenants. So that's what they learn in OBC. We had a flyby from an Apache. And then they kicked off the concert. After a rousing rendition of "America, Fuck Yeah!", a local Idaho Rock band, The Unread, kicked off. They were pretty good.

The Unread were followed by Miss Tammi, who I swear had to be here solely as a favor to her brother, Major Reese. She embarked on the worst lip syncing this side of Milli Vanilli. She went through the usual sex songs that are the standby of any female rapper. I wonder what Major Reese thinks of his sister now?

After Miss Tammi, the headliner kicked off. The Sammus Theory, a band from Arizona, named one of MTV's best upcoming bands. These guys were real good. I mean, REAL good. A mosh pit quickly forms. An Army mosh pit is the most violent mosh pit known to man. Rank goes out the window. I laid out Delta Company's CO, and had Bravo Company's 1SGT elbow me in the kidneys. I watched a 1LT and SSG go head to head like a pair of bighorn rams. It was awesome.

The band was great, despite some technical difficulties. Hard Rock. Loud, fast, and energetic. The mosh pit kicked up so much dust, we could barely breath, I can't imagine what it was like for the lead singer.

That night the band slept in our tent, and rode out on the convoy with us for the next mission. After the mission was over, we let them burn out some blanks on our weapons. It was kind of funny watching a band used to playing on top of blaring speakers plug their ears as someone fires a 240B. The guitarist compared it to sex, and lit up a cigarette.

They were great, autographed my CD, and regaled us of stories of some of the bands they've toured with. Apparently Everclear are a bunch of cunts.

Thoughts on Week 2 of College Football

9-10 against the spread last week and 8-10 over/under.

It seemed sagging offenses were the norm. Ohio State, West Virginia, Alabama, and Florida all looked a little weak on O.

I've already said my piece on BYU/UW.

If Oregon State wants to win, they need to get out of the shotgun offense, open up the running game, and teach their LBs to tackle.

Georgia looked real good.

East Carolina looked good. Finally, a team that the Carolina's can be proud of. Given the remainder of their schedule, and BYU's poor performance against UW, I think ECU is the new front runner for the Mid Major BCS Buster.

Penn State looked real good.

Wake Forest's struggles with Ole Miss, VT's dismal performance against Furman, Virginia struggling with Richmond, NC State letting William and Mary hang around, Duke's loss to Northwestern, Miami's Loss to Florida, and Maryland's loss to Middle Tennessee State, have solidified the ACC as the joke conference of the year.

Without Chris Wells, Ohio State will likely get crushed by USC, sparing us another dismal showing in the title game!

Heisman Ranking:

1. Chase Daniel: Another Strong showing puts him as a good statistical leader on a front running team. He needs to keep it up.

2. Knowshon Moreno: Looked real good, with a freakish highlight against an underated Central Michigan team.

3. Mark Sanchez: There's only so much you can do to maintain momentum in a bye week.

4. Tim Tebow: Still hasn't really had a wow game, but survives and advances. Such is life in college football.

5. Josh Freeman: Looked very impressive. We'll see if he can keep it up through the meat of Kansas State's schedule.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Why Conference Championship Games Fail

A question posed in a comment on an earlier post regarded why I was realigning the conferences based on a 10 team setup with a round robin as opposed to a 12 team setup with a conference championship game. The reason why is that the ultimate goal of my conference setup is to send the best team on to the post season. The round robin method is proven to do that, while the championship game method has failed to do so on many occasions.

The first conference to switch to a championship game was the SEC in 1992. In 1994, sixth ranked Florida edged out third ranked Alabama for the championship. Alabama went on to the Citrus Bowl, where they defeated Ohio State 24-17, and finished the season ranked 5th. Florida went on to the Sugar Bowl, where they lost to Florida State 23-17, and finished the season ranked 7th. In 2001, 21st ranked LSU knocked off 2nd ranked Tennessee. In the bowls, LSU defeated Illinois by 13 points, while Tennessee obliterated Michigan by 28. LSU finished ranked 13th, Tennessee finished 6th. In 2005 the tables were turned as 13th ranked Georgia slipped past 3rd ranked LSU. Georgia went on to lose to West Virginia while LSU blasted Miami 40-3.

The next conference to adopt a conference championship game was the Big XII in 1996. That very year, unranked Texas upset 3rd ranked Nebraska. While Nebraska crushed Virginia Tech, Texas got run over by Penn State. Nebraska finished the season ranked sixth, while "champion" Texas finished 23rd. In 1998, 10th ranked Texas A&M upset 2nd ranked Kansas State in overtime. Both teams went on to lose their bowls, and finished ranked 10th and 11th, Kansas State on top. In 2001, 9th ranked Colorado upset 3rd ranked Texas. Colorado went on to be murdered by Oregon, while Texas beat Washington. Washington and Oregon were co champs of the Pac 10 that season. In 2003, Kansas State upset 1st ranked Oklahoma. While most people remember Oklahoma rolling over for LSU, few remember that Kansas State got crushed by Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. 2007 featured Oklahoma knocking off top ranked Missouri. Oklahoma proceeded to get embarrassed by West Virginia, while Missouri blew out Arkansas.

The most recent conference to jump on the band wagon was the ACC in the wake of their rape of the Big East. They got things started quick, in the inaugural game in 2005, where the 22nd ranked Seminoles of Florida State upset the 5th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. FSU promptly lost to Penn State, while VT defeated Louisville. VT ended the season ranked 10th, FSU was still 22nd.

These are examples from every conference where an inferior team got hot for one game and walked off with the conference championship. Most of these cases ended with the "champion" badly embarrassing their conference, usually on national television. Imagine if the Big 10 had a better team in their conference, and still decided to send Ohio State to the slaughter in the last two BCS Title Games. That does not happen in the Pac 10, or even the Big 10. Almost always, their champion might not win, but they are the best team in the conference, without a doubt. In a playoff situation, not sending the best team would cost the conference millions, and look really bad too.

Why then, do the SEC, ACC, and Big XII, willfully risk such embarrassment? The answer is the almighty dollar. An extra game, particularly one that single handedly determines the champion of a major football conference, produces millions of dollars in income for the conferences. Merchandise, gate proceeds, television rights, it's all very lucrative. However, by limiting the competition from a ten team conference to a six team division, you increase the weight placed on each game. There's really only 5 games that matter in a 12 team conference, as opposed to 9 in a 10 team conference. Football, being a fairly unpredictable sport by nature, will wreak havoc on records due to this. One off game, one fluke play, and you're likely never to recover in a 12 team conference, even if you are the superior team in the long run. By maximizing the number of games that matter, in time, the cream will rise to the top. If you follow the example of the 12 team conferences, all you'll learn is that, in the short term, shit can float.

An Example of What's Wrong with the NCAA.

#15 BYU played unranked Washington Saturday. It was a thrilling game with back and forth scoring. Down 28-21 with 2 seconds left, Washington QB Jake Locker made a clutch scramble to score the TD that only left Washington down by one. Once he crossed the plane, he tossed the ball over his shoulder and lept with his teammates in joy. The referees assessed a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to be assessed on the game tying point after attempt. This turned a 19 yard field goal attempt into a 34 yarder. The kick was subsequently blocked, allowing BYU to escape with a victory.

I don't like excessive celebrations. They rankle me as the actions of primadonnas. They represent everything that is wrong with the game. However, this was not an excessive celebration. There were no cell phones, no sharpies, no dancing, and no planning. This was a kid and his teammates ecstatic about making the big play. Raw emotion and pure victory. It was everything that's right about football, and team sports in general. Without that emotion the game is lessened. It is everything for sports.

The referee who threw the flag was Larry Farina. Pac 10 coaches have the opportunity to "rest" a referee for a game, essentially blackballing them from the game. Mike Riley, head coach of Oregon State, and probably one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, has only used that authority once. He "rested" Farina from refing OSU in 2006. In 2007, he was not given the roster of referees to review before the game against Washington. He trotted onto the field, and found Larry Farina waiting for him. The ensuing game was one of the worst officiated games I have ever seen in my life. Three OSU players were ejected, and a blown fumble call that nearly cost OSU the game. Oregon State's athletic director, Bob DeCarolis, went on a rampage to get the officiating crew suspended.

The lack of oversight and standardization of the officiating of games is another problem. Pac 10 officials have been particularly bad, and Farina's been the worst of the bunch. The entire system needs to be overhauled, and Farina needs to be fired. "Rested permanently" if you'd like to use the NCAA's soft PC language. These games bring in millions of dollars and we're trusting them to part time workers? Hell no. You can throw the refs on the pile of things I'd fix with college football if I were king.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fixing College Football: The Southeastern Conference

Here's where I'm probably gonna hit the most friction. Retooling the SEC. We've already pulled out Kentucky and South Carolina and stuck them in the Big East and the ACC, respectively.

The University of Alabama
Auburn University
The University of Florida
The University of Georgia
The University of Mississippi
Mississippi State University
Vanderbilt University
The University of Tennessee
Louisiana State University
Georgia Tech University

The first eight were easy, traditional, rivalries. However, LSU doesn't have a traditional rival, neither does Arkansas. I decided to pull Arkansas because they are the most decentralized geographically. I threw in Georgia Tech from the ACC to centralize the SEC more in the south east.

Drink of the Moment: Tequila Sunrise

The Tequila Sunrise is another classic western drink. The drink is named for the color spectrum that comes out when the drink settles. It's also become synonymous with an early morning hangover. First made in Arizona, it was popularized in 1973 by the Eagles song, "Tequila Sunrise", again in 1988 after a Mel Gibson movie sharing the name, and again in 1998 after Cypress Hill wrote a song with the same name. The drink has about a 10 year cycle, and I'm bringing it back!

To make the tequila sunrise, you need orange juice, grenadine, and tequila. Take a highball glass, and fill it with ice. Add 3 parts tequila and 6 parts orange juice. Stir the drink, then add 1 part grenadine. Let the grenadine settle to the bottom of the glass, and do not stir. Garnish with a cherry or an orange wedge, I prefer the orange, but to each their own. Take a sip and picture yourself waking up bleary eyed... on second thought, picture yourself enjoying a beautiful sunrise after a night out with some good friends.

There are many variations to the Tequila Sunrise. The Caribbean Sunrise replaces the Tequila with rum, the Siberian Sunrise replaces it with vodka, the Kentucky Sunrise with bourbon, and the Malibu Sunrise uses Coconut rum. If you add 1/2 an ounce of lime juice to the drink, you get an Arizona Sunrise. Throw in a couple ounces of Peach Schnapps, and you'll get the Fuzzy Sunrise, a favorite of the ladies. Replace the Orange Juice with 7up to create a Bloody Hurricane. There is a drink called the Tequila Sunset, that uses blackberry brandy in the place of grenadine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

College Football: Against the Spread: Week 2

I'm 12-11 against the spread and 7-5 on Over/Under.

1: USC: Bye Week

2: Georgia: vs. CMU, -24, 56 ov, Look for Central Michigan to cover, and take the over. Enjoy the Dan LeFevour show.

3: Ohio State: vs. Ohio, -34, 45 ov, Ohio State will cover, but take the over.

4: Oklahoma: vs. Cincinatti, -21.5, 53.5 ov, Oklahoma will cover, take the under.

5: Florida: vs. Miami, -21.5, 51.5 ov, Take Florida and the Over. Tempers will flare.

6: Missouri: vs. Southeast Missouri State, No spread.

7: LSU: vs. Troy, -24.5, LSU will cover in another cupcake game. Please Les, grow some fucking balls.

8: West Virginia: @ East Carolina, -7.5, 50 ov, Take West Virginia and the Under.

9: Auburn: Vs. Southern Miss, -17.5, 41.5 ov, Take Auburn and the Under.

10: Texas: @ UTEP, -28, 58 ov, Take Texas and the Over. UTEP got lit up by Buffallo, I don't think the oddsmakers caught this one yet.

11: Wisconsin: vs. Marshall, -20.5, 51 ov, Take Wisconsin and the Under.

12: Texas Tech: @ Nevada, -10.5, 64.5 ov, Take Texas Tech and the Over.

13: Alabama: vs Tulane, -30, 43.5 ov, This being Tulane's first game, they've been gunning for Alabama all offseason, Tulane covers, take the Over.

14: Kansas: vs. Louisiana Tech, -20.5, 52 ov, Take Kansas and the Under.

15: Arizona State: vs. Stanford, -14, 53.5 ov, Take ASU and the Under.

16: BYU: @ Washington, -10, 55 ov, take BYU and the Under.

17: South Florida: @ UCF, -14, 53 ov, Take USF and the under.

18: Oregon: vs. Utah State, -35.5, 50 ov, take Oregon and the Over.

19: Penn State: vs. OSU, -16.5, 46 ov, OSU will cover, take the over.

20: Wake Forest: vs. Ole Miss, -8, 47 ov, Wake Forest and the Under.

21: Fresno State: Bye

22: Utah: vs. UNLV, -22, 40.5 ov, take Utah and the over.

23: UCLA: Bye

24: Illinois: vs. Eastern Illinois, no spread

25: South Carolina: @ Vanderbilt, -10, Take South Carolina in their traditional fast start.

Fixing College Football: The Atlantic Coast Conference

Well, the ACC is a mess right now. Let's rework that disaster.

The University of Miami (Florida)
Florida State University
Duke University
The University of North Carolina
North Carolina State University
Wake Forest University
Virginia Tech University
The University of Virginia
Clemson University
The University of South Carolina

Who the hell thought to put the Gamecocks into the SEC? Remember the brawl in 04 that Lou Holtz tried to break up? That's fucking HATE right there. Hate breeds drama, drama breeds interest, interest breeds cash. VT vs UVA, UM vs FSU, Duke vs UNC, NC State vs Wake Forest. This is a Gemini model in the vein of the Pac 10. Everyone has an in conference rival. Everyone has That Game to look foreword to.

Maryland and Boston College are too far north. BC is really a better rival with Notre Dame anyways, and Maryland's most hated foe is Johns Hopkins. Maryland will be a tough one to place. Georgia Tech is really more in SEC territory anyways.

The ACC takes these changes very well, as most of the schools fall neatly into existing rivalries.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder is a stupid movie. However, a quote from the movie itself illustrates just what that means.

Downey: "Everybody knows you never do a full retard."

Stiller: "What do you mean?"

Downey: "Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Count toothpicks to your cards. Autistic, sure. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard."

When Tropic Thunder is stupid, it's a hilarious, farcical, deconstruction of the movie industry, and actors world wide. When Tropic Thunder goes completely stupid, it's just annoying. Unfortunately, it skews between the two often enough that it seems the film just isn't sure of what it wants to do.

The cast is star studded. Ben Stiller plays Tugg Speedman, an over the top action star on the downside of his career, similar to another actor on the film.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus. The ultimate method actor, the Australian has won five Oscars, and is so dedicated to his role that he underwent a surgical procedure to allow him to portray the Black Sgt. Lincoln Osiris. One part Russell Crowe, one part Robert De Niro.

Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy, a drug addled comic known for his low brow, multi role comedies. Think Eddie Murphy meets Mike Myers.

Brandon Jackson plays Alpa Chino, a rapper, turned business mogul, turned actor. Think P. Diddy meets Gangstaliscious.

Jay Baruchel plays Kevin Sandusky, a young actor whom no one really knows.

Nick Nolte plays "Four Leaf" Tayback, handless Vietnam vet, who wrote the book the film within the film is based on.

Matthew McConaughey plays Rick "Pecker" Peck, Speedman's agent. Basically Drew Rosenhaus on crack.

Tom Cruise plays Les Grossman, a foul mouthed, scheming producer. One part Donald Trump, one part Mark Cuban.

Tropic Thunder kicks off with some fake previews that set the tone for each primadonna actor, followed by a blown scene, in which a $4 million explosion is set off without the cameras rolling. The film is a month behind schedule, only five days into production. Speedman and Lazerus are fighting over creative control, Chino whores out his energy drink "booty sweat" every other line, and Portnoy is wired on heroin. The rookie director is unable to handle the massive egos of the primadonna actors, and with the producer breathing down his neck, he accepts an idea from the slightly unstable Tayback.

The proceed to fly the actors deep into the Vietnam jungle, where a setup of hidden cameras and the director's camcorder would empower them to film the scenes "Guerrilla style". However, the situation changes rapidly as they are found by drug smugglers, and despite their thoughts that it's still a movie, the situation becomes very real.

The film is well done thematically. Things are always satirical. The problem is that it tries to go too many places at once. Imagine The Naked Gun trying to be somewhat serious as a film, despite still being completely scatterbrained. It could really have done with some tightening up, removing some of the "fully retarded" sections.

The acting varies heavily. Stiller comes out a little stiff, and Jack Black has never been a serious actor, simply portraying the same speedball style of shock acting. Baruchel and Jackson are pretty good. Cruise and McConaughey have some scenes that push the stupidity quotient. Downey Jr. does the best. His ability to switch accents is impressive, and the ability to convincingly carry out a person who is convincingly carrying out another person is pretty damn impressive.

The soundtrack is excellent, and accentuates the movie very well.

Tropic Thunder is 107 minutes long, and brought in a 71 on metacritic. All in all, it's a decent comedy, but a little too much of a roller coaster ride. I'll give it a 5/10.

Thoughts on Week 1 of College Football

Well, I went 12-11 against the spread and 7-5 over/under last week. I'll have next weeks picks up by Wednesday.

Darryll Catchings, I'd just like to say that I hate you.

However, Sammie Stroughter is back. Hot Damn!

Coach Riley needs to run the ball more. He also needs to hire an assistant who's sole job is to constantly keep him appraised of the play clock and game clock.

The theory of SEC supremecy just took a blow, as the 18th ranked Tennessee Volunteers just fell to the unranked UCLA Bruins and their third string QB.

Speaking of Kevin Craft, is he schizo? There was a 180 degree difference between his first and second half performance.

The ACC is a joke this year. Their top 2 teams fall in upsets, and even their wins were pretty freaking ugly. 7 points over Delaware? 8 points over McNeese State?

USC is out to prove a point this season.

Jake Locker reminds me of Elway at Stanford. Great QB, with a garbage team around him.

I think Chris Well's injury is worse than they're letting on. If he's still in a boot during practice, it might be broken.

Michigan is in for a long, LONG season. And it makes me smile.

Between Georgia and Auburn, it looks like they gonna drop out of the race due solely to injuries.

Will someone tell Les Miles to grow some balls and schedule a real non conference schedule? Tell the rest of the SEC while you're at it.

Heisman Ranking:

Please note that I rank the Heisman Winners as in, and in order of liklyhood to win. You will not see Armanti Edwards or Vontae Davis on this list.

1. Mark Sanchez: Got off to the hottest start. 300+ yards, 70%+, and 3 TDs against a BCS defense. He's bolstered by the recent performance of Palmer and Leinart, establishing position of USC QB as one of national Prominence.

2. Pat White: He's provided a valuable cushion for his passing stats. 5 TDs through the air puts him well on his way.

3. Chris Wells: He underperformed, and the injury cost the preseason front runner.

4. Tim Tebow: Lackluster day cost him a chance to blow up his stats before Harvin comes back.

5. Chase Daniels: Great Performance in a shootout with a ranked team on prime time.