Sunday, November 30, 2008

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #13...and the rest

Last Week:
Aaron: 6-10 (0-1 vs. the spread)
Joe: 10-6 (1-0)
Tom: 12-4 (0-0-1)

Season to Date:

Joe: 114-61-1 (6-6 vs. the spread)
Aaron: 111-64-1 (5-7)
Tom: 99-76-1 (6-5-1)

New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Aaron: If the Saints were an NBA team from the late '80s, they'd be the all-offense, no-defense Denver Nuggets. Remember them? Fat Lever? Ah, to hell with you kids. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: I know you all can't get enough of my talking about my fantasy football team, so you'll be fascinated to know that I have both Drew Brees and the Tampa defense (and riding both of them to a late playoff charge), so I'm hoping for a very specific point dispersal today, wherein the Saints score three touchdowns, all passing, and the Bucs return two punts for touchdowns. That's all! Pick: Tampa Bay

Miami at St. Louis
Aaron: The Dolphins have had exactly one convincing, blow-out win all season – when they debuted the 'wildcat' in week #3. Miami is not a good team. St. Louis is worse. Pick: Miami

Joe: But the Rams are playing at home! ...Yeah, doesn't matter. Pick: Miami

NY Giants at Washington
Aaron: Thank Allah the Giants (and Jets) have returned New York to the center of ESPN's Nation of Bloviation. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: You'd think with all that perfect weather you're always bragging about you wouldn't have such an inferiority complex, San Diddy. Sad. Pick: NY Giants

Carolina at Green Bay
Aaron: That was some kind of ugly courtesy of the Packers' nonexistent Monday Night defense. Thankfully, Jake Delhomme is about 50% of Drew Brees. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: I'm not calling for a Carolina swoon, per se, but a second-straight loss here puts the NFC South completely up for grabs. As it should be. Pick: Green Bay

Indianapolis at Cleveland
Aaron: I think Derek Anderson is due for one last strong performance before his December ineptitude sinks the team for the 2nd straight year. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: I think I'm down with this Peyton Manning and the Juggheads team even more now that Anthony Gonzalez has made the leap as the Little White Wideout of '08. Pick: Indianapolis

San Francisco at Buffalo
Aaron: There's an old saying amongst us elitists: "Correlation does not equal causation". Yet, the moment Joe stops believing in his Bills, they put up 54 points and snap a four game losing streak. Pick: Buffalo

Joe: That's a nice bit of reverse psychology there, friend, but you're not getting me to pick the Niners on the road. Pick: Buffalo

Baltimore at Cincinnati
Aaron: Before the season, there was a schism in the Ravens' locker room over who should be the starting QB. Good thing the Ravens' defense never learned how to spell "schism". Pick: Baltimore

Joe: I'd almost like to take the Bengals here, if I didn't think Joe Flacco would easily outrush their entire team. Pick: Baltimore

Atlanta at San Diego
Aaron: As long as the Broncos continue to sleepwalk thru the season – while two games up on San Diego – the Chargers are ostensibly still "in it". As such, every San Diego loss is potentially the one that ends their season. It's like that Groundhog Day movie, but 100x more awesome. And, I loved that movie! Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Two ways this game goes: Michael Turner burns his old team en route to ending their season or the Chargers keep their longsuffering and maligned fanbase strung along for yet another week. I'm going with the option that would most please Cam. Pick: San Diego

Pittsburgh at New England
Aaron: Just so we're clear: Matt Cassel has not "arrived" until he beats a team with a decent defense. To quote a little-seen, 15-year-old movie, "Let's not start suckin' each others…", well, if you don't know the rest, go rent it. Not sure, but it might still be available on VHS. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Wow, stealing Bill Simmons's material? I thought I knew you. Pick: Pittsburgh

Kansas City at Oakland
Aaron: I don't believe in this Raiders team. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: That's not gonna work for both of us, dude. Pick: Kansas City

Denver at NY Jets
Aaron: We're almost there, America! The Jets have ascended to #2 on most every so-called "power rankings" system. Brett Favre's inevitable season-ending self-immolation is almost upon us. Just a few more weeks! Pick: NY Jets

Joe: Eeeeeee! It's gonna be better than Christmas! Pick: NY Jets

Chicago at Minnesota
Aaron: Does an 18-point road win against an underachieving Jaguars team mean anything for the Vikings in the grand scheme of a long season? I kind of think it does. Well, for this game, anyway. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Hmmm ... Gus Frerotte as a playoff QB? Can the Cowboys (or Bucs) be so lucky?? Pick: Minnesota

Jacksonville at Houston
Aaron: If we've learned nothing else this season, it's that Sage Rosenfels will find a way to lose football games. Last week, notwithstanding. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Jesus H, is this the Monday Night game? What did Mike Tirico ever do to deserve this? Oh, right.

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread

Aaron: Atlanta (+4 1/2) at San Diego
Joe: Denver at NY Jets (-7.5)

Friday, November 28, 2008

TBG Eats: Mrs. Bootleg's Thanksgiving Dinner

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Here at Stately Bootleg Manor in always-sunny San Diego, we sloshed through the first rainy turkey day since 2002 – three weeks after my rainy wedding day. Temperatures dipped into the low sixties and other unprecedented sh*t went down.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Bootleg was in control of the kitchen. On the rarest occasion, I've been known to mock my midget wife on this blog, but I'll tell y'all right now…when it comes to cooking…that b*tch can burn. Her meatloaf – much like me – single-handedly shatters every tired stereotype. She's the only Black woman in America who makes her own spaghetti sauce. And, her spinach n' shrimp enchiladas are a glorious fusion of San Diego and our southern suburb, Mexico.

So, as you can see, every Thanksgiving brings that much more pressure for my wife to not f*ck up. Here's how 2008 went down.

Turkey: I'm not bragging when I say that my wife just happens to be one of those people that everyone likes. Seriously, John McCain should've selected her. In November '02, she was standing in line at a Bed, Bath & Beyond – spending one of our wedding gift cards – when she struck up a conversation with another woman in line. A few minutes later, Mrs. Bootleg had gotten the woman's turkey recipe. Her bird calls for olive oil, rosemary and assorted Italian(?) seasonings. The end result beats the pants off of the usual boring Butterball. I'm not as big on turkey as I was during my obese adolescence, but this inhumanely mutilated and plucked 12 lb. piece of poultry died honorably and deliciously. Grade: 4 (out of 5)

Giblet Gravy: Mrs. Bootleg, for whatever reason, has never learned how to make good gravy. It always seemed simple enough when I watched my mother turn grease into goodness, but the end result for my wife always ended up as something similar to scorched spackle. So, I invited my mom (Jalen's "Grandma Bootleg"!) down for her culinary contribution. Of course, I forgot that my mom prefers her turkey gravy with the parts of the bird that the slaves had to settle for 200 years ago. Giblets?! That's the heart, liver and gizzards, kids. Us house Negroes don't eat those. Grade: 1 (Grandma Bootleg did set aside a saucepan of giblet-free gravy for me, but still…)

Dressing: If you're ever in the presence of Black people, don't you dare call it "stuffing". Just trust me on this one. This might've been the best batch Mrs. Bootleg has ever made as hers is a homemade blend of fresh-baked cornbread, croutons and chicken stock. Nowhere near as coarse and clumpy as the Stove Top in a box variety, this stuff could cure cancer. Grade: 5

White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes: Another side dish courtesy of Grandma Bootleg. My mom's been making mashed potatoes in the same scratched-up tin-foil-thin pot for twenty years. She uses a mix of mayo and sour cream to achieve the consistency of Heaven's clouds, then totally came out of left field by folding in shredded white cheddar cheese. If Idaho weren't such a racist cesspool, I'd think my mother's recipe could make that state known for its potatoes. Grade: 5

Collard Greens: White folk have their green bean casserole, while we have our greens. An acquired taste if ever there was one, it's hard to believe that one of the world's dirtiest vegetables can turn inexplicably delicious. About halfway through the preparation time, Mrs. Bootleg invariably complains about the meticulous cleaning and picking that collards require. This is a good sign. It means she's not about to half-ass her way to my dinner. My grandfather also came down on Thursday and, sadly, his 82-year-old innards can't take the chili pepper kick that usually accompanies my wife's greens. Consequently, Mrs. Bootleg went with a milder batch which has been duly demerited. Grade: 4

Cranberry Sauce: Look, I'm a purist…so sue me. Throw a can of that jellied cranberry sauce in the fridge, open when ready to serve and slice it up. Grandma Bootleg – God bless her – has converted to real cranberries since I moved out of my parents' house. Real cranberries are bitter. Real cranberry sauce is akin to an unsweetened pie filling, but without the buttery pie crust or 10 quarts of corn syrup. Grade: -5

Bread: As I get older, I come painfully closer to one day realizing my mother's mortality. When she goes, it's safe to say that her homemade bread will crack the top three things I'll miss most about her. She's the last person alive who still buys yeast, people. I've previously traded her bread to co-workers for goods and services. It's currency you can eat! Grade: 500

Sweet Potato Pie: Fun fact – No self-respecting Negro uses sweet potatoes to make sweet potato pie. The next time y'all come across that other Black guy you know, try'n sway the conversation to soul food and let him know that you know our dirty little secret: yams. Anyways, remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer the Food Critic is nearly killed by a 10 billion-calorie éclair? Well, the process that the nefarious French chef uses to fatten up his confection is the same one my wife uses to turn harmless, healthy tubers into an artery-clogging pie. Each slice takes years off my life, but since they're the years that involve senility, incontinence and an ineffective term as unofficial mayor of a block in Brooklyn, New York, I'm OK with it. Grade: 5

Thursday, November 27, 2008

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #13

Tennessee at Detroit
Aaron: With news that the NFL is moving the Pro Bowl to Super Bowl week at the home of the host stadium, there’s a new leader in the clubhouse for "most irrelevant game at an annual site." Booyah, Detroit! Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Wait, they're doing WHAT with the Pro Bowl? Anyway, blame stupid Brett Favre and the stupid Jets for ruining an 11-0 Titans vs. 0-11 Lions matchup here. Have you no sense of symmetry?? Pick: Tennessee

Seattle at Dallas
Aaron: It’s a miracle that I won in my money league last week with Tony Romo on the bench and Jay F****n' Cutler as my QB (Michael Turner’s 4 TDs didn’t hurt). Anyways, I’m officially turning over the rest of my season to Romo. I think we all know how this will end. Pick: Dallas

Joe: This game has "3 TD effort from Marion Barber" written all over it. Pick: Dallas

Arizona at Philadelphia
Aaron: In the span of 48 hours, Eagles coach Andy Reid benched his starting QB, then his back-up. Lousy Phillies. This whole town could've been on suicide watch all winter. Thanks, Ryan Howard (eventually)! Pick: Arizona

Joe: Obvious joke, but: You think Donovan McNabb knew that QBs get benched in the NFL? And a side note -- sucks that the Thursday games are two no-brainers and the Eagles, who have burned Aaron and both enough times that we may never pick them again. Which adds up to three unanimous picks. I blame the media. Pick: Arizona

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Much Am I Worth?

Current Petty Cash Fund: $116.07

Between now and the end of 2009, I'll be taking trips to Utah to see my in-laws, Arizona for Spring Training and Cooperstown to see Rickey Henderson inducted in the Hall of Fame. My A's are also making a swing through Los Angeles and San Diego next year, so that's at least four more games to add to my annual trips up to Anaheim, to say nothing of the inevitable "Rickey Day" (weekend?) ceremony in Oakland.

Not all of these adventures will be enjoyable ("Ogden, hello!") but, they all require funding of some kind. To that end, I'm long overdue for my own liquidation sale.

My collection of DVDs is first on the chopping block. I came to this realization while thumbing through the vast number of never-opened, factory-sealed DVDs collecting dust on the shelves. Hey, I'm as shocked as you that Joy Ride didn't hold its repeat viewing value after the Bootleg's initial Blockbuster rental.

Now, I'm not naïve enough to think that re-selling my unwanted wares will make me rich. Still, if I can turn my trinkets into an on-travel beer n' food fund (and some infrequent blog fodder) then it's all good. And, I can think of no better way to start making fun of myself than to say…lookit all the rasslin' crap I'm sellin'!

I bought The Rock DVD with an old Best Buy gift card and never managed to watch the whole thing. I have no idea how I ended up with the other three. OK, I'm fairly sure I bought them, but it's not like I remember where and when!

Actually, I thought I had more sports-entertainment DVDs than this, but I could only find these four and the Bret Hart n' Ultimate Warrior mock documentaries. The Hart one is as depressing as the Warrior one is mean-spirited and vindictive, but damned if they're not the only ones that actually get repeat viewing.

Also, either DVD is guaranteed to elicit the following response from Mrs. Bootleg, "Is he the one whose brother died or the crazy one?" (In the case of Bret Hart, let's assume the two are mutually exclusive, mmm'kay?)

Monday, November 24, 2008

TBG Eats: The Big Country Breakfast Burrito from Carl's Jr.

Current Weight: 165.6 lbs.

About a year ago, Hardee's introduced the Country Breakfast Burrito. It was famously labeled "food porn" by The Center for Science in the Public Interest, checking in at 920 calories and 60 grams of fat.

Oh, GOD, how I wanted one.

Unfortunately, here in California, the Hardee's brand is known as Carl's Junior – which, for me, means an absence of any southern-style menu items such as biscuits for breakfast or enormous burritos laden with country gravy.

That is, until a month ago.

Carl's Jr. has belatedly brought the Big Country Breakfast Burrito to its West Coast and Southwest-based restaurants. I scored one this past Sunday morning, less than a week after ingesting one metric ton of Taco Bell nachos. My justification was twofold: (1) I would be "good" for the rest of the day and (2) I would NOT order the "combo meal" accompaniment of a small coffee and hash browns.

Truth be told, I'd already had my morning coffee and the Big Country Breakfast Burrito comes pre-packed with a good-sized handful of hash browns. Its other ingredients include scramby eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, cheese and (with obnoxiously exaggerated air quotes) "country gravy".

Even though I really don't need the calories, I was stunned that "Big Country" was so…uhh…well, let's pretend there's an antonym for the word "big". It sat peacefully – with plenty of room to spare – at the bottom of the bag and didn't require the two-man lift to get it from the drive-thru window into my car.

The various members of the cured breakfast meat family did their part to save space, too. The pig pieces were too finely diced and too sparsely populated to pass along any of their salty goodness to my tongue.

And, don't get me started on the water-thin jizz that Carl's Jr. calls country gravy. Our friends at IHOP have proven for decades that good-ass white gravy can come from an industrial-surplus steel drum. Carl's version tasted like nothing and appears to have been portioned out by the teaspoon.

There was no way this snack-sized early-morning appetizer carried 60 grams of fat within its flavorless filling. Sure enough, the Carl's Jr. version is roughly 75% of its Hardee's equivalent in fat and calories. For those of you who can only afford the occasional artery bomb, save your indulgence and your money.

Grade: 2 (out of 5)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #12

Last Week:
Aaron: 11-4-1 (0-1 vs. the spread)

Joe: 9-6-1 (0-1)
Tom: 11-4-1 (0-1)

Season to Date:
Aaron: 105-54-1 (5-6 vs. the spread)
Joe: 104-55-1 (5-6)
Tom: 87-72-1 (6-5)

Tampa Bay at Detroit

Aaron: F*ck it. This might be the Lions' best shot for a win thanks to the Bucs' ability to play down to their opponents. The euphoria should last until Detroit's annual Thanksgiving whippin'. Pick: Detroit

Joe: Quick 'n' Hungover picks this morning? You bet! Looks like now it's MY turn to gain some ground while AARON picks the Lions. Happy holidays to you to, sir! Pick: Tampa Bay

Philadelphia at Baltimore
Aaron: Donovan McNabb is the type of personality who could turn a week's worth of talk-radio mocking ("There are ties in the NFL?!") into motivation for a huge game. Assuming Ray Lewis doesn't rip his heart out. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: I had this whole thing planned about how I'm totally done with Donovan McNabb and the entire Eagles team after my faith in them was met by ... whatever it was they did last week. Which ... I guess I just said all that, so: yeah. Pick: Baltimore

Houston at Cleveland
Aaron: The Browns have put up 30 and 29 points, respectively, in Brady Quinn's first two starts at QB. "But, look who he was playing", you retort? "Applies here, too", I fire back. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Uh-oh, he's arguing with himself again. Pick: Cleveland

San Francisco at Dallas
Aaron: 15 years ago, this was arguably the greatest rivalry in sports. Where have you gone Mark Tuinei and Merton Hanks? Pick: Dallas

Joe: Aw. Merton's freakishly long neck still occasionally haunts my nightmares. Pick: Dallas

N.Y. Jets at Tennessee
Aaron: Right on time, Brett Favre has suckered the sports-loving populace into thinking its 1997 again. A win here would only add to the ebb and flow of Favre's weekly legacy as texted by Favre to SI's Peter King. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: If the Jets do win, good luck hearing about anything else in the sports world this week. Pick: Tennessee

Minnesota at Jacksonville
Aaron: The Jags looked pretty good for the first 30 minutes of their loss to undefeated Tennessee last week. That's about twice as long as they'll need to dispatch a Vikings team that can't win on the road. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: I'm not sure the Jags can dispatch ANYONE quite that handily, but I agree with the general premise, yes. Pick: Jacksonville

Buffalo at Kansas City
Aaron: Joe and I disagreed whether or not ESPN went overboard with all the references to Scott Norwood after the Bills missed a 47-yard FG as time expired last Monday night. Pretty sure we'll disagree here, too. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: You'd think so, wouldn't you? Pick: Kansas City

New England at Miami
Aaron: This can't be right. The last time the Pats lost to the same team twice in the regular season was to Miami in 2000?! 2008's shaping up to the year that all kinds of crazy sh*t happened. Pick: Miami

Joe: Hmm ... Miami's been riding the razor's edge as of late, while New England, even in losing to the overrated Jets, have looked like the AFC East's best team. You know, again. Pick: New England

Chicago at St. Louis
Aaron: The Bears looked awful in last week's loss to the Packers. Combine a bruised ego with some postseason urgency and a cupcake for dessert…Bears score 200 here. Take it to the bank. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Here's where Devin Hester finally breaks one long, all while riding the bench on Joe's Underachieving Fantasy Team. Pick: Chicago

Oakland at Denver
Aaron: Once upon a time, there wasn't a greater Raiders fan on earth than me. Now, I'm just quietly ecstatic that I've got Jay Cutler in my money league. Psst, Jay. The key to beating the Raiders is to show up. Pick: Denver

Joe: Mike Shanahan himself rushes for 100 yards in this one. Pick: Denver

Carolina at Atlanta
Aaron: Has anyone else noticed that the Jake Delhomme I scooped up after his impressive showing in Week #1 has looked an awful lot like the Jake Delhomme who went undrafted in my fantasy league and was still available after Week #1? Anyone? Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Yeah, Carolina's been asking for it for a couple weeks now. Atlanta finally obliges. Pick: Atlanta

Washington at Seattle
Aaron: The Redskins have already had their NFC East-mandated "inexplicable loss to a terrible team" when the Rams beat 'em earlier this season. Pick: Washington

Joe:: While a single tear runs down Seneca Wallace's face, the Seahawks lose again. A high draft pick in April could be really beneficial for them (it won't take long to turn them around), so fans shouldn't despair too much. Pick: Washington

N.Y. Giants at Arizona
Aaron: Lots and lots of "upset" talk following this game, but Aaron ain't biting. As you know, I've been aboard the Giants' bandwagon since Week #10. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: And hanging off the side of it like one of those shoulder-padded freaks in Mad Max. Which, given your Raider Fan status, is pretty fitting. Pick: NY Giants

Indianapolis at San Diego
Aaron: Peyton Manning's 2008 is the greatest discrepancy between the talent level of a team's QB and the entirety of the roster around him. That said, I like the Chargers here. What? Pick: San Diego

Joe: Ugh, I have no idea. Home team default. Pick: San Diego

Green Bay at New Orleans
Aaron: Drew Brees throws for 400 yards…other team wins. Always pick what you know. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: I hope someone in New Orleans eventually tells them about what happens to your team once you indefinitely bench/trade Jeremy Shockey. You hate to see them floundering with him when they could flourish without him. Pick: New Orleans

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread:

Aaron: Tampa Bay at Detroit (+8)
Joe: Chicago (-7.5) at St. Louis

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Tee-Ball Photo Diary

One of the mothers from my son's tee-ball league put together this package from the last game of the season. Be on the lookout for me and my electric blue Nike Jordan shorts.

Mrs. Bootleg has ten times as many pictures (from each game) and in better quality. I've gotta get her to do one of these. And, I've got a better call for the background music, too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Artificial Intelligence has determined that my blog is 86% likely to have been written by a man.

Hey, it's right!

AI then determined that Daniels' site was 83% likely to be written by a man.

Finally, my partner-in-write, Joe Reid…? 71% man.

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #12

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Aaron: The media's awkward, passive-aggressive acknowledgement of NFL gambling in the immediate aftermath of last week's Steelers game has been a kick to watch. Me thinks the spread won't be in doubt in the 4th quarter here. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Hey! Total points is totally the 11th tiebreaker criteria! It could come into play! Now that Cincy's gotten their 1.5 wins for the season, it's Pittsburgh's time to shine. Pick: Pittsburgh

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Negro Elite Recommends…

Who says racial epithets can't be comedy? Surely, you came across this early morning article on Al-Qaida's second-in-command dropping the "House Negro" bomb on President-Elect Obama. I mean, I know I shouldn't be laughing, but come on. For me, this ranks right up there with "jigaboo" as one of the top two ineffective 19th century insults that the late Dave Chappelle could've turned into a helluva skit.

Question for the Day: Regarding the above, whose side is Sean Hannity on? Discuss.

Over at, there's an insanely entertaining interview with someone called John Ziegler. He's a former talk show host who's working on an anti-Obama, anti-media documentary. Oddly enough, one of the only things I remember from the myriad of marketing classes I took in college is the fundamental requirements of market research (surveys, polling, population, etc.) That an idiot like me was able to shoot holes in this kook's premise is pretty damn telling.

Finally, I gotta say that I'm alternately encouraged and disappointed by the aftermath of Proposition 8's defeat here in California. On the one hand, the door isn't yet closed. On the other hand, it sure would've been nice for the "No on 8" campaign to be this mobilized three months ago.

I hit up the "No on 8" website several weeks back, in search of swag, propaganda and other like products. Everything was either sold out or on back order. So, in the daily face of "Yes on 8" bumper stickers, yard signs and t-shirts, I made a monetary donation to the cause and went on my merry way.

Earlier this week – 14 days after the election – I received an email notifying me of all the exciting new merchandise NOW available at the "No on 8" website. Of course, the cause will continue to have the support of me and my family but, seriously…pencils down, dudes.

TBG Eats: Taco Bell's Fully Loaded Nachos

Current Weight: 166.2 lbs.

1,390 calories.

83 grams of fat.

17 grams of saturated fat.

2,190 milligrams of sodium.

Believe it or not, at this very moment, I weigh less than I did in seventh grade. At the apex of my adolescent appetite, I carried 175 lbs. and rocked a 38-inch waistline. Oddly enough, I was an incredibly active – albeit morbidly obese – child. It's just that all the baseball, football and basketball on earth couldn't cancel out my typical McDonald's meal of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, supersized fries, six-piece Chicken McNuggets and a strawberry shake.

In the eighth grade, I grew into my girth – dropping down to a 34-inch waist – but, never lost my love for occasional excess. Not counting holiday-related binges, the rest of my youthful food recollections involve one of my best friends, Smitty – who eventually was a starter on the offensive line at both the high school and collegiate levels. At a friend's house one evening, we split two large Little Caesars pizzas (he ate one, I ate the other) and a sack of Crazy Bread. Not a bite left between us. Good times.

Nearly 20 years later, the bottomless pit known as my belly has eased into semi-retirement. Gone are the days when I could order "whatever's the hottest" hot wings and not immediately regret it. Something as innocuous as milk on my morning cereal turns my butt into a dirty bomb for the next 12 hours.

And, it was with willful and abject ignorance that I ordered Taco Bell's new Fully Loaded Nachos last night.

Today, in a casual swing by Taco Bell's website to ensure I wasn't omitting any of the ingredients, I clicked on "nutritional information". Really…I'm not sure what I thought the calories and fat data would read, but I'm pretty sure I didn't expect the social security number above.

OK, so there IS two times the ground beef as Taco Bell's previously largest member of la familia del nachos. Guacamole…sour cream (there was at least ½ a cup on mine)…creamy fiesta sauce. Hmmm, two "cream"-titled ingredients and we're barely halfway through the pieces to this gluttonous puzzle? Not a good sign.

The whole thang is topped with a three-cheese blend, TB's ubiquitous nacho cheese sauce and jalapenos which, inexplicably, cost extra. This mixture is heaped over several fistfuls of chips, then dumped inside the crispy crater of one of those taco salad shells, which is lined with a layer of refried beans.

Yes, Aaron ate it all. Not a bite left between, uh, me. Good times?

Well, if you like TB's Nachos Bell Grande, you'll like this engorged version. The lighter texture of the taco salad bowl/shell makes for a delicious finish after 10 minutes of piggery. The plentiful toppings don't quite guarantee an absence of empty chips as the commercial suggests, but I doubt you'll be sending yours back asking for more of anything.

Still, I was a little disappointed at how ordinary the Fully Loaded Nachos were. They weren't the game-changing taste of the Bacon Club Chalupa or the perfect reinvention of an existing menu item like the Volcano Taco. The Fully Loaded version is the exact same Taco Bell taste, but with a side order of shame.

83 grams of fat?!


Grade: 4 (out of 5)

Monday, November 17, 2008

TBG Eats: Rubio's Langostino Lobster Burrito

Current Weight: 165.8 lbs.

Fifteen years ago, I started working for a frozen yogurt/ice cream shop near the beach in the Belmont Shore section of the LBC. I was there for three years and the experience killed my taste for frozen dairy products. These days, I order the "kid's-sized" scoop for myself on the rare occasions that I eat ice cream, while my son Jalen can put away five times that amount in a single sitting.

Sadly, my son had a similar effect on my once-insatiable love for pizza. When I was his age, pizza was a very rare treat and in our house it came from a box – just add water to the dough mix, open the canned sauce and sparsely sprinkle the imitation mozzarella. "It's not delivery…it's welfare!"

As my family's disposable income increased over the years, pizza remained an infrequent meal (my dad's from Georgia and not a fan of "ethnic" foods one can't chicken-fry), but at least we started ordering from disreputable delivery brands like everyone else. When I got my own income, pizza became a staple of gluttony for me that would remain unchanged.

Then, my son showed up. I've noted before that he's a ridiculously picky eater and pizza just happens to be on the short list of things he'll eat without argument. As such, pizza is in our house at least once or twice a week. Been that way for over a year now.

And, I'm f*****g sick of pizza.

So, when we axed Jalen what he wanted for dinner to celebrate the end of his first tee ball season, guess what he picked? He and Mrs. Bootleg ordered in for themselves, while I drove a mile up the road for Rubio's Langostino Lobster Burrito. And, yes, I realize that wasn't nearly as far as the distance of filler in this food review.

There's an interesting little story involving this burrito and a class-action lawsuit from a few years ago. With that in mind, allow me to be the first to describe this burrito as "litigious AND delicious"!

First things first: $7.99 – while in line with the chain's usual "specialty" food pricing – is a wee bit steep for a burrito with a length and weight so much less than a newborn baby. But, Rubio's crams as much goodness as they can fit into a still-kinda-big grilled tortilla.

This ain't high-end lobster meat, but there's plenty of it – nicely seasoned and not overcooked. The rice and beans are used in moderation, while the guacamole and "creamy chipotle picante sauce" were slathered around in all the right places. Rubio's serves it with a scoop of their frustratingly low-salted chips.

Pound-for-pound, the Langostino Burrito probably isn't the best bang-for-your-buck option, but it's a delicious ersatz seafood experience from the franchise that turned ersatz seafood into a regional phenomenon.

Grade: 4 (out of 5)

2008 Final A'ssessment – Catcher n' Designated Hitter

Kurt Suzuki – C

.279 BA .346 OBP .370 SLG

The Good News: After the A's 50th game of the season, Suzuki's OPS bottomed out at .601. From there until the end of the season, he hit .298/.368/.404 – numbers that would've been better if Suzuki hadn't ran out of gas in September. As with most recent A's catchers, Suzuki caught a ton of games (141) and frequently showed off his solid arm, plate blocking and agility behind the plate. Not nearly the clutch hitter he's made out to be, but he did seem to get his share of timely hits.

The Bad News: Despite having a capable back-up in Rob Bowen on the roster, the A's opted to run the 24-year-old Suzuki day after day. There were two separate nearly two-week stretches when Suzuki caught every inning of every game. I love my A's, but this is f***** lunacy and he paid for it at the plate down the stretch. Suzuki continues to be Major League Baseball's answer to Vlade Divac, as he flops to the ground at pitches that aren't anywhere close to hitting him, each time rising with a look of shock and awe in his eyes.

2009 Outlook: Suzuki is close, kids. He won't ever be Jason Varitek or Jorge Posada at their respective peaks, but he's good enough to set up shop a couple of notches below Joe Mauer and Dionner Navarro. Suzuki may be super-two arbitration eligible after next season, but I'm betting ownership locks him up long-term before then.

Frank Thomas – DH

.263 BA .364 OBP .387 SLG (with Oakland only)

The Good News: Earlier this year, some broad famously quipped "Hope is not a strategy". Well, the signing of Thomas in late April, combined with a surprisingly strong start for the A's had some of us suckered into thinking the team would be scuttling the rebuilding project for a 2008 run. It took a handful of games for Thomas to get his groove back and from April 28 through May 27 he hit an astounding .346/.429/.577.

The Bad News: Thomas shredded his quad while sliding (picture an elephant falling over after suffering a stroke) into home plate. He missed two months and his absence arguably charted the team's direction as sellers at the All Star Break. Big Hurt returned on August 1 – hit .211/.312/.263(!) for the month – then mercifully went down for the season with the same injury on August 29.

2009 Outlook: No one amongst the apologist A's media who covered the team would come out and say it, but Thomas was pretty obviously in it for himself last season. Between his leg injury and an aging bat, Thomas spent '08 cheating a little early on every swing and looking like an overmatched rookie when he guessed wrong. The quad injury should've kept him out the rest of the year, but when the A's opted to just play out the string after the ASB, Thomas' self-described "30% tear" in his quad suddenly had healed enough for him to play every day – for next year's contract. Worth a 2009 Spring Training invitation, but it won't be with Oakland.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #11

Last Week:
Aaron: 10-4 (1-0 vs. the spread)
Joe: 10-4 (0-1)
Tom: 9-5 (1-0)

Season to Date:
Joe: 95-49 (5-5 vs. the spread)
Aaron: 94-50 (5-5)
Tom: 76-68 (6-4)

Denver at Atlanta
Aaron: It's only taken me eleven weeks to quit picking Denver on the road and believe the Falcons were really da bomb-diggity. I don't like to rush into these things. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: With Roddy White and Jerious Norwood on the ol' fantasy roster this week, let's hope the Broncs continue to be so friendly to opposing offenses. The good news for Denver fans is that a loss here won't really derail their plans for a 7-9 division title. Pick: Atlanta

Minnesota at Tampa Bay
Aaron: The Bucs' most impressive wins of the season have come at home and their three losses on the season were by a combined 11 points. They're the best team no one takes seriously. Stupid east coast bias. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: That's all well and good except that I'm not sure how they're able to run the ball in this game. Pick: Minnesota

Baltimore at N.Y. Giants
Aaron: Last week, even the referees joined the league's pro-Giants conspiracy. Damn it, Ravens, don't you even think about showing up when I'm finally picking the Giants. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: With four games upcoming against the old NFC East (Arizona included), this is the closest the Giants are gonna get to a trap game all year. Pick: Baltimore

Oakland at Miami
Aaron: With all of the Dolphins' trickeration, this has the makings of turning into the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals. "He's spinning the ball on his finger! Just take it!" Pick: Miami

Joe: When the entire AFC East finishes at .500 or better and then must watch helplessly while an AFC West division winner waltzes into the playoffs with a record that could qualify for a top-10 draft pick ... it's just gonna suck, is what I'm saying. Pick: Miami

New Orleans at Kansas City
Aaron: For all you Dolphins fans clamoring for the heyday of Dan Marino's gaudy numbers and his team's accompanying 8-8 record, I give you Drew Brees and his Jive Time Band! Pick: New Orleans

Joe: After a hard-fought loss to the Jets, comeback loss to the Bucs, and last week's 2-point conversion miss against San Diego, the last three weeks, for Chiefs fans, has to have been incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking. Or it would have been if the seven weeks before that hadn't driven all Chiefs fans away from the sport. Pick: Kansas City

Detroit at Carolina
Aaron: Despite the return of Tony Romo AND a monster game from m'man Jay Cutler last week, I'm going with Jake Delhomme in my money league on Sunday. It's kinda lonely out on this limb. Pick: Carolina

Joe: Against Detroit, it's not much of a limb. Pick: Carolina [Aaron sez: "Yeah, Joe, that was kind of my point. Keep those quips coming!"]

Philadelphia at Cincinnati
Aaron: One thing about the Eagles: they've owned every awful team they've played this year. All of 'em. Look it up. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: The Eagles looked better losing to the Giants last week than most teams do winning. I'm back to thinking they're playoff-caliber. Pick: Philadelphia

Chicago at Green Bay
Aaron: Bears fans…you're pining for the return of Kyle Orton! Tell your team to draft a damn quarterback next spring! Pick: Green Bay

Joe: The Packers' last three losses have been by a combined 7 points. Does that mean this is a 7-2 team in a 4-5 team's clothing or can they just not win the close ones? ANSWER ME! Pick: Green Bay

Houston at Indianapolis
Aaron: The Texans always give the Colts a good game, but Peyton Manning has strapped this team on his back and is singularly willing them through one last hurrah. Fight on, you goofy rube. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: I kinda like Houston in this game, but I'll be damned if I go down with that ship again. Especially not on the road. Pick: Indianapolis

Tennessee at Jacksonville
Aaron: I refuse to play "guess when the undefeated team will lose". It's gonna happen. We all know it. I'm just not going to turn the next six weeks into "this is the week"! Pick: Tennessee

Joe: This ain't the week. Pick: Tennessee

Arizona at Seattle
Aaron: Nothing like the lack of bye weeks to make these picks more tedious than usual. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Matt Hasselbeck back under center makes a LOT of difference, and this is a team that's been getting closer and closer to winning lately. Pick: Seattle

St. Louis at San Francisco
Aaron: I love how the media continues to defend 49ers head coach Mike Singletary's me-first coaching/ranting and inept clock management with the "maybe he's TOO intense" explanation. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: I don't trust this spin that Singletary is a loose cannon. I mean, have you seen him? The man WEARS GLASSES! How can he not be mild-mannered? Pick: San Francisco

San Diego at Pittsburgh
Aaron: The city of San Diego has completely turned on the Chargers which can only mean that San Diego inexplicably shows up against Pittsburgh's banged-up offense. Snow is actually in the forecast, so I'll set my air conditioner to 68 and really accentuate the HD. Pick: San Diego

Joe: I'm nervous Pittsburgh's crappy pass protection has turned Ben Roethlisberger into Mr. Glass, but I still like them at home against San Diego's crappy defense. Pick: Pittsburgh

Dallas at Washington
Aaron: Tony Romo has to show he's healthy, while on the other side, Clinton Portis may be more hurt than he's letting on. Bet the under. Pick: Washington

Joe: The Redskins are at home, but with the names "Shaun Alexander" and "Rock Cartwright" prominently involved in their backfield this week, my money's on the rejuvenated Cowboys. Pick: Dallas

Cleveland at Buffalo
Aaron: Since Precocious Joe Reid declared in this very space "I do believe in this Bills team", Buffalo's gone 0-3. How 'bout one more syrupy proclamation for the road, Joe? Pick: Cleveland

Joe: For the record, I didn't give up on the Bills. The Bills gave up on me. Pick: Cleveland

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread
Aaron: Tennessee at Jacksonville (+7)
Joe: Philadelphia (-9) at Cincinnati

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Tee-Ball Chronicles #4

The Fall 2008 campaign came to a close as your Pirates faced the hated Dodgers at high noon. I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Mother Nature for keeping the rain away all season AND for the 90-degree mercury readings during each of the last three games. Nothing goes better together than easily-distracted kids and the inside of an oven.

Team MVP: Gavin – During today's game, he stepped to the plate and actually called his shot, gesturing to left field with the bases loaded. Naturally, he walloped a grand slam to left and nearly passed the runners who were standing on first and second base. In a few years, I look forward to being one of the irrational parents who petitions for Gavin to be moved to a more advanced league – for the safety of the other kids – and thereby laying the foundation for his eventual sense of athletic entitlement.

Team Opposite of MVP: Matthew – By the end, even I couldn't dredge up generic words of encouragement for this 100 lb. pansy (and I was giving high fives to the kids who walked to first base). Honestly, I'm not sure what took longer during our games: watching Matthew hit the tee 10 straight times, instead of the ball; his endless infantile tantrums when he didn't get to the ball before one of our nine other fielders or my favorite "Matt Moment" of the season – when he ran right through my stop sign and did this to the runner ahead of him:

Proudest Moment – Second Runner-Up: During a postgame pizza fracas at a Persian-run joint called "Uncle Vinnie's", Jalen ate his ever-loving weight in what had to be the worst pizza ever made with human hands. I'm talking worse than Sbarro's at the mall, people. This place even managed to screw up chicken wings – grilling them in a skillet with olive oil and parsley!

Proudest Moment – First Runner-Up: If I had to guess, I'd say that the Pirates recorded three - maybe - four legitimate put-outs all season. Jalen was in on almost all of them, including a sweet unassisted play at first base a few weeks ago. Did that one play cancel out his 28 errors? Yes.

Proudest Moment – Winner: So, in the months prior to the start of tee-ball, I might've let slip to Jalen that I was quite the sandlot ballplayer back in the day. Just like those anonymous New York playground legends in basketball, you'll just have to take my word for it. Anyways, I'd taught myself to switch hit and Jalen has been begging for an opportunity to hit from the left side of the plate in a game…wait, I'll get through this…just like his dad. Two weeks ago, he got his chance and put a half-way decent swing on the ball hitting one of those ubiquitous "tee-ball singles" between first and second.

No, no…he's hasn't surpassed his old man yet, but in another twenty years I'd better watch out!

2008 Final A'ssessment – Outfielders

Jack Cust – LF

.231 BA .375 OBP .476 SLG

The Good News: Led the A's in every single meaningful offensive category and all for the low, low price of $410,000. I was in attendance at a game in Anaheim when Cust went 4 for 6, kicking off a white-hot month of May (1.004 OPS) and after a mid-season slump, he finished strong (.947 OPS in August/September, combined). In an otherwise miserable season, his atrocious glovework in the outfield provided some much needed comic relief. Honestly, in more than 25 years of watching the game, I've never seen more balls clang off of someone's glove. Hilarious!

The Bad News: If someone were to create one of those newfangled eight-character alphanumeric stats showing the inverse proportion between the intelligence of a team's front office and that of its fanbase, my A's would lead the league. Cust is absolutely a flawed player. He struck out 197 times in 2008, his slumps lasted months, not weeks and he's an abysmal outfielder. Unfortunately, A's fans – by and large – pointed to Cust as THE problem, when he was our best player last year.

2009 Outlook: All indications point to Cust sticking around for at least one more season with a permanent move to DH. Look, I'll concede that Cust has no business playing on a deep-pocketed contender that can afford a more complete player, but that ain't the A's. Cust is what he is and the things he can do on the diamond are more important than the things he can't.

Carlos Gonzalez – CF

.242 BA .273 OBP .361 SLG

The Good News: Heavily-hyped rookie made his Major League debut on May 30. Of Gonzalez's first 24 hits, 15 of them were for extra bases – including his first home run in the bigs, which turned into quite the soap opera for those of us who had nothing better to watch this summer. His defense was the real deal, as Gonzalez has crazy range and a terrific arm.

The Bad News: After his first full month in the Majors, Gonzalez was all kinds of awful at the plate (.232/.266/.318) the rest of the way. He really scuffled against southpaws, putting up a .454 OPS in 88 plate appearance. On the season, he walked just 14 times and was actually demoted to AAA-Sacramento just before rosters expanded in September. He came back after a three-week run through the Minor League playoffs, but the move was most likely a message that's since been punctuated with a ticket out of town.

2009 Outlook: Gonzalez was the centerpiece of the A's acquisition of Matt Holliday from Colorado. He alternated between raw phenom, overmatched bust and could-be greatness on almost a nightly basis, so your guess is as good as mine regarding where he ends up.

Ryan Sweeney – LF

.286 BA .350 OBP .383 SLG

The Good News: For whatever it's worth, Sweeney was probably the team's most exciting player last year. After coming over from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade, he played with a chip on his shoulder all season after CWS anchored him in Triple-A for two straight seasons. He hit RHP to the tune of .307/.369/.429, looked solid in the #2 spot and ran the bases better than any young Athletic in a long time.

The Bad News: After just one season in green and gold, Sweeney might be the most overrated player on the team by A's fans. The knocks on him in Chicago were a lack of power and low offensive ceiling. In '08, he didn't swing for power (.383 SLG) and was otherwise just barely a league-average hitter. LHPs gave him fits (.517 OPS), as he's probably going to need to be platooned if he can't turn that around.

2009 Outlook: As long as fans don't set the bar too high for this kid, I think he'll be a solid outfield stopgap for a few years. He reminds me a lot of a young Mark Kotsay, who didn't really come into his own until his mid-to-late 20s. Sweeney's got limitations and he'll never be a superstar, but he's fun to watch.

And, the Rest… In my write up on the A's infielders, I mentioned how vindictive A's management can be towards players who mouth off publicly. Well, Emil Brown drove in an insanely fluky 33 RBI through early May, before his luck evened out. He blasted the club over lack of playing time in early September and barely played the rest of the year. Rajai Davis is nothing more than a fifth outfielder, but he did hit close to .300 over the final two months of the season. He's a pinch-runner and defensive sub, nothing more. Travis Buck is a clone of Ryan Sweeney, who slumped horribly to start the season and spent most of '08 at Sacramento.

More Beer-y Goodness

Through intense market research, I've learned that a certain percentage of my readership drinks beer. If you're in that group, I strongly suggest you get on board with m'man Tom Daniels and his Friday Beer Snob postings.

After you've gone through his half-dozen or so posts on oatmeal stouts and pumpkin suds, come back on back here and look for my review of Stone Brewing's Sawyer's Triple.*

*Just make sure you wait a day or three before coming back here to read my review, as it has not been written.

Farewell to "Fire Joe Morgan"

Well, allow me to be the one billionth blogger – lightly-read or otherwise – to pass along my sadness at the announcement that the Fire Joe Morgan blog had come to an end.

In the last year or two, I've heard numerous discussions on the death of traditional sports writing – usually between two or three traditional sports writers – and all of them hit on the same talking points: the proliferation of blogs and other electronic media; the 24/7 news cycle and my personal favorite: "the dumbing down of America".

None of these talking heads EVER considers that the lazy and unoriginal Mad Libs-style of day-to-day newspaper game reports has turned off a populace who's finally grown wise to bad writing or the over-the-top praise heaped upon a very, very average player like David Eckstein or a very, very, very awful one like Darin Erstad.

(Also, sportswriters, I'm not sure it would help your struggling profession, but you might not wanna call your readership "dumb". Just sayin'.)

Anyways…Godspeed you grit-hating bitches, you. On the plus side, the end of FJM opens the door for every blogger who might want to pay tribute by completely cribbing the FJM style and call it "paying tribute".


Thursday, November 13, 2008

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #11

N.Y. Jets at New England (Thurs)

Aaron: For all of the talk about Brett Favre's renaissance (such as it is) and Matt Cassel coming into his own (well, I'm sure they're saying it in the Boston papers) the bottom line here is that if there's ONE team the Pats get up for from now until the end of time, it'll be the one coached by Eric Mangini. Pick: New England

Joe: Time's a-wasting, so I'll just say: if they tie 0-0, does that mean they have to forfeit their seasons? I'm gonna root for that and hope I'm right. Pick: New England

The Negro Elite Recommends…

Do you remember how John McCain and Sarah Palin spent so much time railing against those of us who went to college, live near an ocean and prefer our animal meat already dead and wrapped in supermarket cellophane? I spent much of the Presidential Campaign ignoring everything about the Presidential Campaign, but when this "elitist" label started kicking around, I spent more time than I'd care to share trying to wrap my mind around it.

Yeah, yeah…it's all political gamesmanship – I get that. It's just that I don't understand what's inherently wrong with being an elitist, particularly when this derisive appellation is being used as a means of telling people that they're better than me.

Well, I'll be damned if anyone from rural Ohio or bum-f*ck West Virginia is better than me. I live in America's Paradise (non-island division). I married a woman with an MBA. My baby-soft hands have never done a hard day's work in their life. I am an elitist and, yes, I'm better than the residents of the GOP's "real" America.

Anyways, over the past few months I stumbled across and became hooked during the waning weeks of the campaign process. While ostensibly a site for statistically-based polling analysis and state-by-state campaigning updates, the writers tackled all of the big stories with a greater fact-to-opinion ratio than MSNBC, CNN or Fox News. And, that's quite a raised bar, no?

In the past week, they've addressed some of the myths relating to the passage of California's controversial Proposition 8. Their insight on the African-American angle is pretty good stuff. Find time, if you can, to read their thoughts on the recent evolution of certain swing states to a more clearly defined blue/red status and the ongoing vote counts in Minnesota and Alaska.

Over in the Los Angeles Times – or should I say "Left Angeles Times" ahahahahhaha "NObama"! – Norah Vincent writes a compelling piece on NOT voting in this past election and what can only be described as "voter's remorse".

Finally, Newsweek has a ginormous seven-part piece on the entire Democratic and Republican campaigns from beginning to end. The whole thing is about two years long (in both time and text) but, it's absolutely terrific.

Just like me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why Do I Still Watch Pardon the Interruption?

I've been DVRing PTI for the last few years. I don't watch it every day – in fact, if I don't watch it the same day it airs, I'll delete it – but, it's a fine simple-minded diversion for those of us who live in a town without a decent sports-talk radio presence.

Sadly, for sports fans, PTI lost its relevance a long time ago. Hard to believe that hosts Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser were once considered entertaining in that irreverent old-man kind of way. These days, they spend 30 minutes coddling their favorites (Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, any sports league in bed with ESPN); reveling in their ignorance (hockey) and ranting against anything invented after 1865 (blogs, newfangled baseball stats).

Yesterday, however, I couldn't turn away.

Y'see, anytime Kornheiser works a Monday Night Football outside of the Washington DC metro area, he takes Tuesday off. In recent weeks, this has meant a guest spot from Dan LeBatard – a polarizing personality, but one I find tremendously insightful. LeBatard doesn't buy into silliness of "grit" and "chemistry-leads-to-winning" and he's not afraid to challenge the lazy ways of today's sports journalism.

Instead of LeBatard, we got erstwhile Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly.

Reilly is probably a whole other post. Since coming over to ESPN last year, he's been given the "back page" gig with their branded magazine AND he's been eased into a recurring role on television.

Now, I know it's cliché for anonymous bloggers to bash broadcasters, but Reilly is simply all…kinds…of awful. Yesterday, he and Wilbon vomited nonsense on three baseball issues that I happen to know a little bit about:

On Tim Lincecum: The Giants phenom won the Cy Young Award in the National League. He was absolutely the best starting pitcher in the NL last year, but Reilly and Wilbon were practically apoplectic at the selection. Like most morons, they looked at Brandon Webb's 22 wins and stopped right there. After that, they threw out Brad Lidge and CC Sabathia as names that were also more deserving.

On Matt Holliday: Reilly's home base is Denver, so you'd think he'd have some special insight on the trade moving the slugging OF to Oakland. His lament that the Rockies were getting "nothing in return" isn't the least bit surprising in its stupidity. Now, I wouldn't expect any national sports columnist to know anyone on the A's, but come on. There are still a few hundred people out there who think journalists and sportscasters have credibility.

On the San Diego Padres: Wilbon mispronounced the surname of Padres' owner John Moores, while Reilly recycled the same lame stadium joke he used two minutes earlier about the Rockies to describe a reason why Padres fans should come watch the home team.

I just don't know if I can watch this show anymore. This week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008 Final A'ssessment – Infielders

Daric Barton – 1B

.226 BA .327 OBP .348 SLG

The Good News: After bottoming out offensively with a .595 OPS on August 21, Barton hit .307/.418/.525 over his final 124 plate appearances (31 games). His defense noticeably improved throughout the year – in fact the relatively esoteric stat RZR ranked him as one of the top gloves at first base in all of baseball.

The Bad News: Though purely coincidental, the A's nosedive immediately after the All-Star break coincided with Barton's face-dive into the shallow end of a swimming pool during the All-Star Break. As a hitter, Barton spent long stretches of the season muscling up and trying to pull the ball. His ceiling is probably more Mark Grace than Mark McGwire, but the A's coaches either failed to convey this message to Barton or he ain't listening.

2009 Outlook: A's upper management can be gloriously vindictive when their players say/do stupid things. So, the fact that Barton wasn't punished beyond a mild reprimand for his dumb-ass Aquaman impression says that he's (1) still in the team's long-term plans or (2) was brought back (after a 15-day DL stint) to build up his trade value. He's only 23-years-old, so he'll at least be the starter on Opening Day.

Mark Ellis – 2B

.233 BA .321 OBP .373 SLG

The Good News: Pretty much every fielding metric – from basic to sophisticated – has Ellis as the best defensive second baseman in the Majors. That, combined with the memory of his fluke-tastic 2005 season (.316/.384/.477) has ensured that he'll be forever overrated to some extent by A's fans. Ellis was named to the A's 40th Anniversary team which, as a "highlight", sums up his season nicely.

The Bad News: From the middle of June until the end of Ellis' injury-shortened season in late August, he hit .196/.287/.289. He also was tremendously unlucky in 2008, as his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was under .250. The A's became a steaming heap of unwatchability down the stretch and Ellis often set the tone with his 325 mediocre plate appearances in the leadoff and #2 spot, combined.

2009 Outlook: Ellis re-signed with the A's for two years and $11 million after the season. The deal's been panned by a lot of A's fans, but I'm OK with it. He'll be perfectly league-average at the plate next season when his BABIP returns to a semblance of normalcy, while his defense remains ridiculously underrated. Likely to remain completely devoid of personality, though.

Bobby Crosby – SS

.237 BA .296 OBP .349 SLG

The Good News: Inexplicably named the A's MVP of the first half by the team's beat writer due to a hot three weeks to start the season (.312/.368/.475). Those 20 games bought him a season-long pass from uninformed fans and media who continue to couch their denial of his awfulness with clichés like "…if only he could stay healthy…".

The Bad News: 2008 was Crosby's healthiest season since his rookie campaign in 2004. After his first 20 games, he hit .225/.284/.328. He finished the year as the worst hitting shortstop (.645 OPS) in all of baseball and the third worst hitter – position be damned – in the Majors. Worse than Jeff Francoeur. Worse than Jason Kendall! Willy Taveras and Michael Bourn should forfeit their salaries for finishing behind Crosby.

2009 Outlook: For all of the accolades that have been heaped upon GM Billy Beane - Boy Genius, it's a damning indictment of the A's player development that they have NO ONE in the system whom they trust with the everyday shortstop job more than Crosby. No way my favorite frugal franchise eats the $5.25M he's due in the final year of his idiotic contract, so I'm hoping they give him away this winter.

Jack Hannahan – 3B

.218 BA .305 OBP .342 SLG

The Good News: Finished two points ahead of Bobby Crosby in OPS last season. A career minor-leaguer, Hannahan got his first everyday job in the Majors in 2008 at the age of 28. Consequently, his 501 plate appearances is about 250 more than he should ever, ever see in any single season for the rest of his career.

The Bad News: Meh. I can't be too snarky here. Hannahan is a quadruple-A talent who was forced into a regular role at a level that's too high for his softball-league swing. Once the league stopped throwing him fastballs, he was exposed on a nightly basis by even below-average breaking stuff.

2009 Outlook: Hannahan's ceiling is that of a spare part on an also-ran squad. He can play the infield corners and take the occasional walk in what should be one or two starts per week. If his '09 involves anything more than that, here's hoping it's with another team.

And, the Rest… Oakland's annual AARP roster spot went to 34-year-old DH/1B Mike Sweeney. He hit a little in April, missed most of the season due to injury and then caused a minor stink when he was released in September. Eric Patterson came over in the Rich Harden trade. His two claims to fame: he's Corey Patterson's brother and he weighs 86 lbs. Eric Chavez only played in 23 games and, for the first time in five years, we can't blame him for this sh*t.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A's Acquire Matt Holliday…and I'm Not Sure Why

After being quietly linked to Colorado Rockies OF Matt Holliday since the end of the season, the A's "surprised" the national media that generally ignores all things Oakland by (reportedly) agreeing to a deal.

Holliday for OF Carlos Gonzalez, SP Greg Smith and RP Huston Street

I'm way behind in my A's 2008 player post-mortems, but here's a quick synopsis of the talent in line to leave Oakland:

Carlos Gonzalez - Formerly the top prospect in the Diamondbacks' chain, he came over in the Dan Haren 6-for-2 blockbuster last winter. Racked up 302 at-bats for the A's in '08. Raw and undisciplined on offense (13 walks all season), dogged by questions about his attitude and absence of power.

Greg Smith - Also part of the Haren deal, Smith made 32 starts for the A's last year. His pickoff move is the one great skill he brings to the mound. Otherwise, his ceiling appears to be a number three or four starter. Supporters point to his abject lack of run support all season (3.12/start), but I point to his terrible BB/K ratio.

Huston Street - Lost the closer's job in Oakland in August. I don't normally buy into the seam-head notion that closer's are wired any differently than other relievers (the immortal Tim Worrell once saved 57 games over a two year stretch) but, Street's one of those guys who can't seem to shake off a blown save like the great ones.

Holliday is a very good player, but I just don't see how he fits on the A's

ESPN used a park-adjusted projection that states Holliday's 2008 OPS would've been just 26 points lower in Oakland. Now, I know this is uncharted territory for bloggers, but I'm calling bullsh*t on the World Wide Leader in Sports.

.357/.423/.645 – Career AT Coors Field
.280/.348/.455 – Career AWAY FROM Coors Field

Look, I get that Holliday would become the A's best player, but this team finished two dozen games behind the Angels in '08. He ain't making up that difference by himself. And, not to beat this to death, but last year was the first season since 2005 that Holliday's home/road slugging splits were within 100 points of each other. In 2007, the difference was 240 points and in 2006 it was 320 points.

On the surface, it seems like the trade equivalent of all those big-name free agent signings the Orioles were famous for this decade. The Miguel Tejadas, Rafael Palmeiros and Ramon Hernandez were all brought in to show the fans that Baltimore was competing…right to their annual fourth place finish.

Something else has got to be at work here. The A's may try to flip Holliday to St. Louis – where he was also rumored to go or maybe they'll see if the Dodgers have any interest if Los Angeles can't re-sign Manny. Regardless, there is no way on erf that Matt Holliday will be an Oakland A in 2010.

By itself, this is just a really weird deal. Gonzalez's perceived value as a top prospect has probably taken a bit of a hit, but "potential" is still value in this league. Street pitched better down the stretch and earned an opportunity to close again. Both of these guys and a young starter for a guy who won't get the A's any higher than second place?

This is a really weird deal.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #10

Last Week:
Aaron: 11-3 (0-1 vs. the spread)
Joe: 9-5 (1-0)
Tom: 8-6 (1-0)

Season to Date:
Joe: 85-45 (5-4 vs. the spread)
Aaron: 84-46 (4-5)
Tom: 67-63 (5-4)

Denver at Cleveland (Thursday Night)
Aaron: Shout out to my local CBS affiliate for airing the Broncos/Dolphins game last week. That up close and personal look at Denver's horrific defense was a darn fine reference point for this pick. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Brady Quinn in his first NFL start in a primetime nationally sporadically-televised game would seem to be a buffet invitation for an NFL defense. Lucky for him, he's not facing an NFL defense. I want to pick the Broncos here, but I also want to stick to my one-on, one-off strategy for picking Browns games. Football is hard! Pick: Denver

Tennessee at Chicago
Aaron: One bandwagon insists the Titans are for reals. The other is calling for a Bears "upset" win this week. I say they're both wrong. Brain teaser! Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Yeah, I think I've finally turned the corner and am now pulling for the Titans to go 16-0, followed by a humiliating home loss in the AFC playoffs. At which point I will coin the phrase "Music City Mega-Choke" and I will laugh and laugh. Pick: Tennessee

Jacksonville at Detroit
Aaron: When a rusty Rex Grossman is able to come of the bench and lead a comeback win against the Lions last week, it's time to consider forfeiting next season. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: They're gonna get a win sometime. The question is, does Jacksonville drop two straight to winless teams? Not to Daunte Culpepper, they don't. Pick: Jacksonville

Seattle at Miami
Aaron: As a rule, teams from the west always lose road games when traveling to the east, especially when the team from the west is Seattle. Pick: Miami

Joe: Is Miami really about to go 5-4? One more win after that and they're bowl eligible! Pick: Miami

Green Bay at Minnesota
Aaron: After a long stretch of dormancy, that Vikings offense has looked quite spry lately. They're the NFL equivalent of McCain's concession speech. Eh? Eh? And, how 'bout Michelle Obama's "victory" dress? Did you see that big 'X' across the front? The first letter I thought of was "why"? The next four were "WNBA". Eh? Screw you guys. I'm still funnier than DL Hughley. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: The Packers always do well in the Metrodome, right? I have these images of long Brett Favre TD passes and such. Big day for Aaron Rodgers this week ... just in time for me to play against him in fantasy ball. Damn it! Pick: Green Bay

Baltimore at Houston
Aaron: Home or road, the Ravens have beaten every average-to-awful team they've played this year. I think it's safe to say the Texans fall within that realm. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Baltimore better hope they can win this one; their schedule gets retarded after this one. And honestly? I like the Houston offense here. Pick: Houston

St. Louis at N.Y. Jets
Aaron: Back in September, everyone predicted that Brett Favre would ultimately break the hearts of Jets fans. The script says he needs a little mid-season renaissance to set up the audience for his tragic third act. Can't wait! Pick: NY Jets

Joe: I can't tell whether it's my gut telling me to go with the Rams or my heart wanting to see the Jets get beat. I can tell that Marc Bulger had an awful game last week and Steven Jackson is once again not playing. Pick: NY Jets

New Orleans at Atlanta
Aaron: My theory here is that the Falcons had their life-force sucked out of them after playing Oakland's collection of corpses and zombies last week. Implausible? Prove me wrong. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: I agree the Saints probably win here, but the Falcons are for-realsies. Pick: New Orleans

Buffalo at New England
Aaron: The Bills have scored just 17 points or less in three of their last four games – a stretch that followed their 4-0 start and coronation as the new kings of the AFC East. "Who dares interrupt my coronation?!" "Coronation, Starscream? This is bad comedy." Pick: New England

Joe: NERD! Pick: Buffalo

Carolina at Oakland
Aaron: Lament of a Raiders fan – I forgot to swap out Jay Cutler (who started on Thursday) for Jake Delhomme in my money league this week. Trapped at work – where ALL things "fantasy" (trust me, ALL of her them) are blocked, I'll have to settle for nothing from this game. Pick: Carolina

Joe: Jay Cutler: 447 yards passing, 3 touchdowns. Who knew the Raiders made their FANS suck at talent evaluation too? Pick: Carolina [Ed. Note: In my defense, I wrote my piece BEFORE the Thurs. night game. Cough.]

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh
Aaron: The only way the Steelers lose this game is if their 11 defensive players fall victim to 11 separate misfortunes and are unable to play Sunday. Three misfortunes? That's possible. Seven misfortunes? There's an outside chance. But, 11 misfortunes? I'd like to see that! Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Considering Pittsburgh is starting the cast of George Romero's next "...of the Dead" movie on offense, I'm going to stick with the Colts here. Pick: Indianapolis

Kansas City at San Diego
Aaron: The Chargers are due for one of those blowout wins that signals their eighth or ninth resurgence this season. This is that game. Again. Pick: San Diego

Joe: Dear LaDanian Tomlinson's Toe: Please accept this gift of a soft, squishy Chiefs defense and let it nurse you back to health. Pick: San Diego

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia
Aaron: I'm beginning to think I've been wrong about the Giants. But, I'll need another week of convincing. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: And I continue to thank you for your doubt. Pick: NY Giants

San Francisco at Arizona
Aaron: So, when a player intentionally usurps the spotlight from his team = bad…when it's 49ers head coach Mike Singletary = good? Pick: Arizona

Joe: Please don't ruin the Mike Singletary Experience for me like you rained on El Carnivale de Ocho Cinco for three years. I don't ask for much. Pick: Arizona

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread

Aaron: San Francisco (+9 1/2) at Arizona
Joe: St. Louis (+9) at NY Jets

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Morning (and Evening) in Obama's America

7:45 AM, Jalen's Preschool - One of the oddest aspects of living in ultra-conservative San Diego is that, politically, everyone seems to think alike. Consequently, I've lost count of the number of times that friends, co-workers and random San Diegans simply assume I share their viewpoints by virtue of my zip code. I hadn't even taken my son out of his car seat when another parent went off on Obama's win with the usual local lament of those damn, dirty liberals in Los Angeles and San Francisco cancelling out the virtuous voters of San Diego. Hey, I was born in Long Beach (LA County). HEY!

8:15 AM, 7-11 - After a half-dozen stops before work, I've come to the conclusion that there's not one newspaper left in this town. I'm setting the over/under for the eBay "Buy it Now" price of the November 5th New York Times at $99.99.

11:30 AM, Unnamed Defense Contractor - Little tense around the office today! The conversations about last night's election results all came to a screeching halt whenever I walked past my co-workers in the file room, the break room or on my way to the double-wide handicapped stall in the men's room. (F*ck, no newspaper there, either.) Really, co-workers? Really? Now, you're assuming I voted for Obama even though – as a rule – I never talk politics at work? Did none of you read the first paragraph of this post?

8:00 PM, Stately Bootleg Manor - Mrs. Bootleg's hairdresser called and invited us to…an Obama victory party on Saturday night. Come on. Black people. Come on. I mean, 72 hours notice? Whatever shall I wear?! Oh, who am I kidding…Sunday is my sixth wedding anniversary. The wife and I already scheduled a date night for the 8th. Still, the party's only going to be a couple of miles from us. AND, the potential for blog fodder is off the freakin' charts. Stay tuned.

…and a forgotten anecdote from Election Night:

Mrs. Bootleg: "Be sure to save all the receipts from our donations to Obama's campaign."

Me: "Uhh…I'm pretty sure that campaign donations aren't tax-deductable."

Mrs. Bootleg: "Are you sure?"

Me: "Pretty sure."

Mrs. Bootleg: "…"

The Curious Case of Proposition 8

It's not hard to notice the irony.

California – my home state – propelled Barack Obama over the finish line and into history, while simultaneously spitting in the face of our gay and lesbian populace who rejoiced just as loudly as me when Obama won the presidency.

Make no mistake: the politics of uninformed fear and outright lies is alive and well in this country. Credit where it's due, as the supporters of Proposition 8 controlled the narrative from the get-go, while the opponents didn't even begin their blitz until polls showed the measure gaining ground at the end of summer.

Proposition 8 was distorted from its homespun, bible-toting bigoted roots and thrown further down the sewer until it became good ol' "won't somebody PLEASE think of the children?!" claptrap:

In response, the opposition floated this spineless spot that inexplicably targeted the minority of undecided voters, instead of attempting to sway soft or moderate supporters:

By the time Proposition 8 opponents finally found an effective context – correctly framing the measure in a historic civil rights context to win over the veritable goldmine of minorities in this state – it was too late:

And, wouldn't you know, that the same Blacks and Hispanics who've been so marginalized by the extremist right are the ones who helped push Proposition 8 over the top. Democracy!

There is a silver lining, I suppose. The defeat of this measure has only served to further galvanize the gay and lesbian communities, along with their friends and families. Lawsuits have already been filed and based on my close physical proximity with the legal department at the Unnamed Defense Contractor, I'm guaranteeing victory* at the end of the day.

* - Not a guarantee.

Seriously though, however this matter is ultimately decided – win or lose – it's not the end, either way. Just as the 13th Amendment fell a wee bit short of solving Black America's issues, the issue of gay rights has generations of chapters still to be written. I, for one, would love to read the ending. I'll probably skip the acknowledgements section at the very very end, though.

This is gonna be a long-ass book.