Friday, October 30, 2009

"O, Birthday Boy!"

It's no secret: American/Canadian relations have been strained over the years.

And, if it's not my fellow countrymen booing the Canadian National Anthem, then it's Calgary's favorite son dissing the United States:

In the summer of 2006, That Bootleg Family spent a week in Vancouver. Next summer, we're going back for another week. I love that place:
Ketchup Lay's potato chips, the ubiquitous little Maple Leaf imbedded inside distinctly American Logos, Sportscentre and – OMG – these guys!

Speaking of which, since I began this little anonymous internet gig, I've been fortunate enough to pick up readers from north of border. And, one of them has a birthday today!

So, to m'man Scott from Vancouver – with love from your wife – happy birthday from the entire Bootleg Family. I hope the
poutine was plentiful. I wanted to get this up sooner, but today we scheduled "family portrait day" and Mrs. Bootleg nearly killed…

Nah, I'll save the write-up for later. Consider it a belated birthday gift.

(Spoiler Alert: Everyone survived the photo shoot.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Three Baseball Guys: World Series

You'll have to take my word for this: Tom and I got our picks in before the Series started on Wednesday. I never had time to post them while at work and it was pollo asado taco night at Stately Bootleg Manor when I got home. Two beers, a belly full of Mexican food and almost four hours of FOX's meandering American League-ization of the World Series' first game and, well…here we are. Belatedly. Seriously, though, check my Twitter account. I was on record. This lightly-read blog will maintain its integrity…at least until my next batch of football picks.

No sign of Eugene, so m'man Tom and I will go it alone…

Aaron: I'm going to invoke the spirit of Bill Simmons here and retroactively call my LCS picks (Dodgers, Angels) an intentional reverse-jinx. Eat it, Orange AND Los Angeles Counties! Balance has been restored to the baseball universe. There are way too many pundits telling me that this will be a "classic" World Series. The four biggest storylines of this postseason are, in no particular order: the terrible umpiring, the terrible defense, the terrible baserunning and Joe Girardi's binder. Not sure why two or three of those trends won't continue in the Arctic (to me, anyway) East Coast conditions. The Yankees are the better team, while the Phillies are the better team, I guess. Good enough for me. Pick: Phillies in 7

Tom: In fairness, when I picked the Angels I was unaware they all apparently had pressing matters elsewhere in early November. The Yankees fans are surprisingly dismissive of the May Interleague series in which the Phillies would have swept if not for a blown save by Brad Lidge. They argue that the Yankees aren't the same team as they were then... but the Phillies are? Even though they added an A+ starter and Brad Lidge looks to be no longer blowing saves? Interesting. Even though this is the worst possible World Series for my soul, I'm happy that, for the first time in recent memory, the clear-cut best two teams in baseball have made it all the way. These two teams are about as evenly matched as possible. The Phillies are better at catcher and the left side of the infield. The Yankees are better on the right side of the infield. The Phillies are probably a little better in the outfield. Most interesting questions in order: Will Joe Girardi play Hideki Matsui and the ghost of his knees in left field when they get to Philly as his best NL line-up has Damon and Matsui in the field and Swisher, Hinske, Molina, and Gardiner on the bench?

Will Charlie Manuel's decision to pitch Pedro Martinez in Yankee Stadium come back to haunt him when J.A. Happ pitched a 6-inning, 2-run gem there in May? Is Lidge back? Will I get my wish of a 6-hour, 9-inning, 25-22 baseball game with 30 total home runs? Will Joe Girardi's bizarre decisions like removing the best player in baseball for a pinch runner and leaving his 4/5 hitters as Freddy Guzman and Brett Gardiner or sacrificing his DH get him fired if they lose? How many different words will Buck and McCarver use other than "boneheaded" to describe those moves? On a side note, remember this series as the time you officially started getting sick of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State Of Mind". Then strap-in and realize you'll be hearing it any time New York is involved in a sporting event for the next 25 years. You had a good run, Frank. Pick: Phillies in 7

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

TBG Beats: Snoop Doggy Dogg – Death Row – The Lost Sessions Vol. 1

(Most of the links below are NSFW. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Me and Snoop go way back. In 1993, I copped his debut album (Doggystyle) during a midnight release at VIP Records in Long Beach, California. For those not impressed, I reiterate: midnight at VIP Records – on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and…Martin Luther King Boulevard! At midnight!

For the next 15 years, I bought every one of his albums. I remember half-heartedly defending 1996's Tha Doggfather to my boys in the dorms before eventually admitting how awful it was. I remember thinking Snoop would never, ever recover from 1998's Da Game is to Be Sold… abomination. I remember how excited I was over Snoop's reunion with his producer/sidekick Dr. Dre in 1999 and how it led to just a handful of so-so cameos on each other's albums.

I remember Snoop's last few releases and accept that 1993 was a long time ago

Snoop's old label – Death Row Records – is now owned and operated by an outfit in Canada. That's a story even longer than Snoop's, but the upside is that (1) gangsta lampoon Suge Knight is no longer involved with the company and (2) the new owners are determined to clear out the catalog by releasing obscure tracks, outtakes and never-before-heard cuts.

Last month, the label included seven previously unreleased tracks with their re-issuing of Dr. Dre's seminal LP The Chronic. A few weeks back, they dropped this CD from Snoop (Doggy) Dogg featuring material from his six years (1992-1997) on the Death Row.

Soldier Story (Intro) - A lonely horn wails in the distance as Snoop wistfully mumbles on about Dre's departure from Death Row Records and the passing of Tupac Shakur. It's funny to hear Snoop – in a cut from 1997 – proclaim himself as the label's savior. Especially, since his 1996 Doggfather album did as much to kill Death Row's momentum as anything other than…well, Dre leaving, Pac dying, etc.

Doggystyle - This one's been making the bootleg(!) circuits since 1993 and it's still a great track. Originally recorded for Snoop's first album, its pop-tinged funk – while catchy – would not have fit in there. The Funkadelic sample mixed with background vocals by George Clinton and Jewell holds up just fine today. 5/5

Fallin' Asleep on Death Row - Another "unauthorized" staple from assorted west coast mixtapes, this one's more notable for its Dr. Dre beat. I don't believe it was ever re-used with other material. Keep an ear out for The D.O.C. right at the beginning and lyrics from Snoop that eventually ended up in the third verse of Nate Dogg's Never Leave Me Alone. 2/5

Eat a D*** - There's all kinds of surreal going on here. Take the beat from Doggystyle's
Serial Killa – with, believe it or not, an even MORE annoying hook – and add some first draft lyrics from "Doggy Dogg World". Dre n' Snoop must've been smoking the same stuff as this guy when they thought up this track. 1/5

Hoez - Snoop released a bootleg album called Smokefest in 1998 which included this awful, unlistenable cut. Daz and Kurupt mail their verses in right along with Snoop. 1/5

Keep It Real Dogg - Slow, meandering beat that was used in a skit on Doggfather as well as on "Change Gone Come" from the Smokefest album. Priest Brooks was an underrated producer for years. These are not his finest five minutes. 1/5

O.G. (Original Version) - Love the bouncy, up-tempo beat by Daz, which was quite the departure from Death Row's flaccid 1996-97 sound. This one made it on to Daz's pretty solid solo album – 1998's Retaliation, Revenge and Get Back - but the original is just Snoop and Nate Dogg doing what they do. 4/5

One Life to Live - This track references 1994, but it sounds a lot like an early attempt at 1993's "Murder Was the Case". Parts of Snoop's verse ended up in the much, much better
Midnight Love song. Lady of Rage has a nice guest spot here. 2/5

The Genie - An otherwise forgettable effort that only merits mention for the appearance of Bo Roc from The Dove Shack rap group on the hook. C'mon, y'all…Dove Shack! The group that brought you
Summertime in the LBC and This is the Shack! Those guys! Hey, they were hot for two weeks in 1995. Dove Shack! 2/5

Funk with Ya Brain (Interlude) - Funky.

Caught Up - The producer is listed as "unknown", but the inclusion of Charlie Wilson's tired guttural tones puts this one squarely in 1996. Oddly enough, Snoop appeared on the soundtrack to the 1998 movie Caught Up on a song called Caught Up, but it wasn't this one. (The Caught Up soundtrack was actually pretty nice. Scoop it up if you can find it on the cheap.) 3/5

Put It In Ya Mouth - This one is without a production credit, too. The obnoxious drum machine beat could've come right out of 2009, though. Some of Snoop's lyrics here ended up in
Head Doctor. And, some of Snoop's lyrics should've stayed "lost": She wasn't from America, so she didn't speak English. I whipped out my **** and she spoke 'dinglish'. 2/5

Gravy Train - An obvious outtake from the recording of
Me and My Doggs (Tear 'Em Off) - one of the worst tracks from Doggfather. The beat's not as bad here, but the "growling" sound effect negates whatever marginal gains came from the production. 1/5

Life's Hard (Dedicated to 2Pac) - Wow. I'm legitimately torn on whether or not Snoop regurgitating Tupac's verses – word for word – from tracks like "Starin' Through My Rearview" and "Made N****z" is actually a tribute. Snoop's obviously sincere and the K-Ci & Jo-Jo hook ("Just to diiiiiiiiiie up on some stupid sh**") is unintentional comedy at its finest. 3/5

The Root of All Evil (Outro) - A Teena Marie cameo?! And, damned if she doesn't own this one with the few words she was given.

Quite Obvious - These last three tracks are "Best Buy exclusives". Nice beatwork by Soopafly Brooks, as Snoop test drives the hook he'd later use for
Pop Lockin'. Surprise MVP of this cut: Rappin' 4 Tay. Seriously! He kills it on this one. Seriously! 4/5

Once Again - Unpolished and probably unfinished, this one still works on the basis of an effective – albeit familiar – G-funk synth. Snoop is actually ahead of today's rap game here, as he teases a new dance ("The Paper") as the song fades out. If only we knew then how "introduce a new dance" rap would ruin the world 12 years later. 3/5

Got to Do Wrong - We wrap things up with more whispering Doggfather Snoop. I actually dug the whole "angel on one shoulder, devil on the other" concept – even if
Dr. Dre and Eminem did it a ka-bazillion times better. 3/5

Verdict: Lost Sessions actually grew on me after a few listens. Like every other Snoop Dogg album from the past ten years, it features a handful of solid tracks and a little too much filler, but considering the source material and the potential for dated concepts and sounds, this one's a solidly "alright" entry into Snoop's discography.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Tee-Ball Chronicles #9: Parental Advisory

The A's CRUSHED the Rays last Saturday – almost literally. In the second inning, one of our kids drilled a screaming liner up the middle that missed the second baseman's face by mere inches. For the rest of the game, the second baseman sat down while playing defense. None of his coaches seemed to think this was unusual…or considered the fact that he's even LESS likely to get out of the way of a ball careening towards his cranium while on his ass.

This season has really opened my eyes to parental involvement. In our first game, we played against a team coached by the patron saint of youth sports. He was enthusiastic without being condescending; encouraging yet constructively critical. More importantly, he seemed to "get it". These games are an hour long. This is a sport that doesn't have the inherent frenetic energy of football (or even fútbol). The adults have to care otherwise the kids sure as hell won't.

But, parents can care too much…

This week, the scorn of the tee-ball moms – whose wrath is a thousand times worse than the Yankee Wives – was reserved for two parents. Even from the dugout, I knew I'd be hearing an earful about both incidents from Mrs. Bootleg after the game.

I told y'all about Andrew last week. I also told y'all about Andrew's dad. Apparently, the current 3:1 ratio of players-to-coaches is tilted a bit too much towards the kids for his dad's liking. This past Saturday, he followed his son out on to the field and commenced with some unsolicited assistant coaching from three feet away. This grown man eclipsed an entire infield of four and five-year-olds, even boxing out my son to field a grounder which he handed to his own kid.

This was one of those shockingly ballsy moments that one never knows quite how to react towards. The remaining sane adults in attendance initially looked at each other with incredulity and then – silently AND simultaneously – we agreed to ignore him and avoid embarrassing his son any further.

Not surprisingly, our only player who was upset over this was Jalen. Andrew's dad learned two valuable lessons: (1) Don't get between Jalen and a groundball. (2) Don't upset Jalen…in front of Mrs. Bootleg. My wife swears up and down that she "wasn't really involved", but unnamed sources told me later that she had some…"persuasive" words with Andrew's mom after that half-inning. The next inning, Andrew took the field by himself. I mean, I was gonna say something…

The second parent run-in involved one of the moms from the other team. Now, for the record, I chatted with this woman a little bit during the game. I found her to be both personable and delightful. And, I'd be saying this if she wasn't wearing denim miniskirt, heels and a halter top that she must've mistakenly bought two sizes too small.

If I didn't know better, I'd say she was actually trolling for men…at a tee-ball game. Put it this way: Mrs. Bootleg loves her son as much as any mother could and even she doesn't effusively jump up and down – cleavage heaving – when Jalen makes contact. This opposing mom spent the hour in various angular states of "bent over" with her hands on her knees – intensely following the action, I'll wager – or sitting on a beach towel, knees up, as the color of her panties was no longer in dispute.

Watching all the dads in attendance pretend to ignore that…that jezebel was all kinds of comedy. Watching all the moms in attendance fold their arms while pursing their lips and squinting their eyes – especially the Rays' mom who get her act every week, it seems – was even funnier. As for me, I was too busy coaching to notice. After all, I'm entrusted with nine kids for 60 minutes each week. That's a responsibility I can't afford to ignore even for a moment.

They were red.

Monday, October 26, 2009

TBG Eats: The NEW Parmesan Chicken Sandwich from Carl's Jr.

Current Weight: 167.8 lbs.

This past weekend, Mrs. Bootleg and I were discussing my family's upcoming visit to Stately Bootleg Manor for Thanksgiving. My mother has graciously offered to come down to San Diego a day early…so that she can "help" with the cooking.

Back when I was a morbidly obese pre-teen, my mom's kitchen skills belonged in the pantheon alongside those 49% offensive – 51% delicious products hawked by the greatest African-American caricature chefs of our time like
Ida Mae Butterworth or Booker T. Creamofwheatguy.

Her innocuous hospitality means enormous portions even for the littlest person at the table. When I brought Mrs. Bootleg up to meet my parents for the first time, my mom handed her a plate of meat loaf that weighed more than our son Jalen on the day he was born. (And, keep in mind: he was a preemie who was barely three pounds. I'm only slightly exaggerating about the meat loaf, people.)

My mom also slathers everything on your plate in homemade gravy – whether you want it or not. Today, no one who sees my wee physique believes that I weighed more in seventh grade than I do now. But, when you're 13-years-old and eating three smothered pork chops in single sitting (before seconds!) that'll happen.

I'll always remember two of my mom's meals from my childhood. The first is her fried chicken. I've written about this before, but it was the one meal we'd have at least once a week, every week. Consequently, I eat traditional on-the-bone fried chicken about once a year these days.

The second is her lasagna. As my dad wasn't a fan of, umm…"ethnic foods", we only got lasagna on me and my brother's birthday. A few years after I moved out, I began using a lasagna recipe that put my mom's to shame. I made it for her once and after the first bite, she didn't say another word throughout the rest of the meal. The look on her face was heartbreaking. The child had surpassed the parent. Here's a
little-seen indie movie clip that better articulates these subtle complexities.

Fried chicken and marinara sauce? Now, that's what I call segue!

Our friends at Carl's Jr. debuted their Parmesan Chicken Sandwich last Thursday. It's described as a "crispy chicken fillet with melted cheese and marinara sauce on a seeded bun". I'm sure that all my east coast readers are cringing at the thought of a fast food chain (!) from the west coast (!!!) serving up such an obvious knock-off product. But, the version here surprisingly…well, "acceptable".

The marinara sauce has more tang than you'd expect, but the spices are muddled and only sporadically come through. The mildly seasoned chicken breast is decently sized and occasionally, I'd get a few bites that came close to bringing all the flavors together. Of course you know that whatever "crispy" qualities the chicken fillet once had aren't anywhere to be found after it's drowned in sauce and processed cheese. But, that's true of every fast food "crispy" chicken sandwich, regardless of condiments.

Honestly, the sandwich's most surprising quality is its nutritional data. Considering its size, 570 calories and 20 grams of fat is pretty damn impressive. A large order of fries from CJ's checks in at 500 calories and 24 grams of fat.

Yes…I had fries with mine.

But, only a medium order, so there.

Grade: 3 (out of 5) Calories: 570 Fat: 20g

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 NFL Pickery - Week #7

Last Week:
Joe: 9-5
Aaron: 8-6
Tom: 7-7

Season to Date:
Joe: 60-30
Tom: 58-32
Aaron: 57-33

Indianapolis at St. Louis

Aaron: More games like this one, Commissioner Goodell. Makes for easy pickin'. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: I have a feeling I'd enjoy watching this Colts team. Not that I'll have a prayer of getting to see them in this game. Pick: Indianapolis

New England at Tampa Bay

Aaron: I'm looking forward to this game only because it'll mean that a week's worth of bad sportscaster jokes about the Patriots "returning" to England will be behind us. Pick: New England

Joe: I'm curious about all the people picking this game as a guaranteed unholy blowout. Really? No chance the Pats blew their wad running up the score on Tennessee and the murky London weather grinds this game to an ugly halt? I'm not saying the Bucs will win (they, um, won't), but these England games are never that high-scoring. Pick: New England

San Francisco at Houston

Aaron: The 49ers sure looked like a team that packed it in early two weeks ago vs. Atlanta. Bringing the Michael Crabtree soap opera into their locker room can't help. Pick: Houston

Joe: Frank Gore back in the SF backfield helps. So does Houston's firm commitment to showing up every other week. Pick: San Francisco

Minnesota at Pittsburgh

Aaron: Against three of the league's bottom feeders (Tennessee, Cleveland and Detroit) the Steelers' average margin of victory is just eight points. Hey, if you don't use those grade school math skills, you lose 'em. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: I hate this Vikings team so, so, so much. That Ravens game was a total heartbreaker, and the second time this season I've been cut to the end of a Vikings game only to see them avert disaster. Jerks. Pick: Pittsburgh

San Diego at Kansas City

Aaron: Every year, the Chargers' inevitable implosion occurs earlier and earlier. And, can I say that watching LaDanian Tomlinson pout on the sidelines is only 10% less fun that watching it in the playoffs. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: If KC was any good, they'd have worked an awful Redskins team way worse than they did. Pick: San Diego

Green Bay at Cleveland

Aaron: Detroit last week, Cleveland this week. Way to prep for your rematch against Favre and the Vikings next week, guys. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: There's just not enough Polish sausage in the world for these two fanbases. Pick: Green Bay

N.Y. Jets at Oakland

Aaron: The Raiders need only do two things to win this game: (1) Play defense. (2) Receive a non-embarrassing performance from JaMarcus Russell for the second straight week. One of these things will not happen. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: Reasons the Raiders are not worse than the Bills #1: If Mark Sanchez throws five interceptions in the game, the Raiders will win by at least four. Pick: NY Jets

Buffalo at Carolina

Aaron: Did you know that Bills coach Dick Jauron has been a head coach for 10 years on three different teams yet has only one winning season to his credit? This...uh, this won't be the second. Pick: Carolina

Joe: Reasons the Raiders are not worse than the Bills #2: DeAngelo Williams is about to score 3 touchdowns on our asses. Pick: Carolina

Chicago at Cincinnati

Aaron: Both teams are coming off of disheartening losses after playing well for a few weeks. I still don't believe in Cincy, but they've played better - and against better competition - than the Bears. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: The Bears can't run the ball. The Bengals can. With the Bears old running back, who couldn't run the ball in Chicago. In related news, somebody punch me in the face the next time I try to draft a Bears running back in fantasy football. Pick: Cincinnati

New Orleans at Miami

Aaron: Those of you who've talked yourselves into thinking the Dolphins and their sandlot offense can take this one are f*cking high. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: No fair stealing my blurb. Though I would not have opted for that asterisk. Pick: New Orleans

Atlanta at Dallas

Aaron: I haven't enjoyed watching such a historic sports franchise roll out such a mediocre roster since Alvaro Espinoza roamed the middle infield for the late '80s Yankees. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: HEY! Your failure to recall the name of Pat Kelly is an insult. Pick: Atlanta

Arizona at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: Kurt Warner! Eli Manning! If Jeff Feagles were still in the league, we'd have been able to see a reunion of everyone who threw at least one pass for the 2004 Giants. Wait, Feagles is still kickin'? Figuratively or literally? Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Is this "Eli Manning can't throw in cold weather" business a thing or the result of sports writers and pundits having too much time to try to explain that Eagles playoff loss last year? Pick: NY Giants

Philadelphia at Washington

Aaron: Philly's loss to Appalachian State last week really should've been a bigger deal. How has Donovan McNabb gotten away with so many poor performances against lousy teams in his career? Rush Limbaugh tried to warn us. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: On the bright side for Eagles fans, it's better for them to lose to the crappy AFC team and beat the crappy team within their own division rather than the other way around. Pick: Philadelphia

Confidence Pickin' (with current scores)

Joe (25): Eagles (-7) over REDSKINS; GIANTS (-7) over Cardinals; Colts (-13) over RAMS

Aaron (17): Packers (-7) over BROWNS; Colts (-13) over RAMS; GIANTS (-7) over Cardinals

Tom (15): Colts (-13) over RAMS; PANTHERS (-7) over Bills; STEELERS (-4) over Vikings

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TBG TV: Thoughts on The Boondocks

TBG Reader Jag writes:

I'm curious what your thoughts are on The Boondocks (if you've ever seen it). I'm Canadian so a lot of the reaction from African-Americans doesn't always permeate past the border but the show is definitely one that could court controversy yet I never hear of any. In fact, if anything, the cartoon has accumulated cult-status. What are your thoughts?

I watched every episode of the show during its first-run on Adult Swim. Answering your second question first, the primary reason the show avoided mainstream controversy – for the most part – is because its creator (Aaron McGruder) is fairly well-regarded within the African-American community. And, it doesn't hurt that McGruder is, in fact, African-American.

"The Boondocks" also benefited from good timing. Barely five years after it went off the air, people have already forgotten how incredible Comedy Central's "Chappelle's Show" was. "The Boondocks" was cleverly marketed as a similar African-American satire – ultimately falling woefully short of the standard – at a time when the entertainment industry was falling over themselves in attempts to recreate Dave Chappelle.

Outside of a minor dust-up with Rev. Al Sharpton over "The Boondocks" episode that resurrected Dr. Martin Luther King, the show kind of came and went without much buzz – positive or negative.

As a whole, I thought the show was an enormous missed opportunity.

The premiere episode was brilliant. Just an unholy assault on sacred cows both black and white. But, it was followed by the infamous R. Kelly episode – a piñata I'd beaten to death in the first year (2003) of my old weekly internet column. And, I was already one of the last to arrive at that party.

The "missed opportunity" can be summed up in three shows from the first season. The Gangstalicious episode was an overt parody of 50 Cent, but the writers went way, WAY out of their way to distance themselves from offending Fiddy or his audience. Unfortunately, the ending's homophobic overtones would become more prevalent in the second season. The MLK and Oprah episodes could've also been written with significantly more substance, but the former turned into a weird preachy sermon and the latter focused on every character except Oprah.

During the second season, the introspective Huey character was pushed into the background and written more as a glorified narrator. Meanwhile, his brother Riley – tolerable in small doses as a supporting character, mostly unwatchable as the show's focus – was written into the primary story more often.

The show's supposedly planning for a third season to air sometime in 2010 and I'll probably watch. Hopefully, in its two years off the air, McGruder can fix what's wrong and do more than pay lip service to pushing the envelope.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This Last Week in TBG TV: October 12 – October 16, 2009

ESPN: 30 for 30 - "The Band That Wouldn't Die"

The story of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band was endearing enough, but had two fatal flaws: (1) I simply could not wrap my head around the premise that a marching band was anything more than a bit player in the city's pro football narrative. (2) The fact that Baltimore regained an NFL franchise in 1996 through even more reprehensible means than the chicanery that cost them the Colts in the first place was comically glossed over. Grade: C-

Green Lantern: First Flight

I've got a burgeoning DVR backlog this week, so it's time to shamelessly pad this feature with some superfluous filler. This one's part of comic book company DC's direct-to-DVD animation arm. Christopher Meloni ("Law & Order: SVU", "Oz", "The Fanelli Boys"(!)) is the voice of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Oddly enough, he's something of a second banana to the villain. Boring punchy/explode-y stuff for the first half, before an influx of awesome over the last 20 minutes. Dead Lanterns rings raining from the sky? Sweet. Grade: B

Community - "Advanced Criminal Law"

This show's settled into a predictable pattern: a primary story that I like, with each week's secondary and tertiary tales receiving a lot less love. How hard would it have been to give us 30 minutes of "trial by (the) swimming pool"? And, for the first time all season, I enjoyed the involvement of Ken Jeong, John Oliver and Jim Rash. Sue me. Grade: B

The Office - "Mafia"

I'm calling you out, Office apologists. You know who you are. Many of you congregate outside my own office every Friday morning. I want you sycophants to defend last week's episode. More Michael Scott comedic misunderstandings with a side story that kicked off with Kevin's farts? You didn't like this, did you? Did you?! Grade: D

Cougar Town - "Don't Do Me Like That"

Dammit. It sure seems like the writers are building towards a mid-season roll in the sheets between Jules and Grayson. They'll immediately regret it – most likely because they were drunk or something – and spend the rest of the series denying their true feelings. Don't go down that road, Cougar Town. Oh, yeah…I liked this episode. Y'know with the "sex" cards and stuff. Grade: B+

Modern Family - "The Incident"

With just one more appearance, Shelley Long will launch herself right into the recurring character Hall of Fame. That's how great she was last week in her series debut as Jay's ex-wife. I cringed just as the wedding toast began, but even an aging Long is still adorable enough to soften the most awkward and insulting dialogue. One HUGE beef: they really should've paid off with Gloria slugging Jay's ex at the end, instead of the other way around. Grade: B+

Still on the DVR: FlashFoward (3), Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order, Accidentally on Purpose

TBG TV: FOX's Animation Domination – 10/18/2009

Sunday's Rankings (5-3-2-1 scoring)

(1) American Dad! ("Brains, Brains & Automobiles") - Best episode of the season, so far, with a steady stream of Roger-centric gags. But, it was the smaller moments (the fish bowl filled with vodka and "famous 10-day period") that won the night. By the way, this show doesn't lie: in college, I made the permanent switch from briefs to boxers and a social life soon followed. Take heed, dweebs!

(2) The Cleveland Show ("Birth of a Salesman") - Fine. I'm willing to concede that this show is growing on me. And, I'd admit it even without the Rickey Henderson reference in this week's episode. I'm not crazy about yet another closeted gay caricature on a Seth MacFarlane show, but this one isn't likely to be featured as much as "Stewie" or "Roger" on their respective programs.

(3) The Simpsons ("Treehouse of Horror XX") - Not a good sign when the two-minute opening sequence is the highlight of the entire episode. Simpsons traditionalists might not know this, but the last few Halloween "Treehouse" shows were pretty good. This time around, it all felt like familiar turf. And, don't tell me I needed to see "Dial 'M' for Murder" or "Sweeney Todd" or "28 Days Later…" in order to "get" it. I haven't seen 'em and I still "got" it. It just wasn't funny.

(4) Family Guy - Repeat. No points.

MVP - Rallo's emcee act during the "Don Rickels imitator" segment get him some lightly-read blog honors.

Quote of the Night (tie) - "And, now…introducing the girl who gets to third base faster than Rickey Henderson!", Rallo ("The Cleveland Show") and "Aw, Cleveland…you know I'm your Ryde or Die Bitch!", Donna ("The Cleveland Show")

Current Standings

The Simpsons – 15
The Cleveland Show – 12
American Dad – 11
Family Guy – 5

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TBG Eats: Jack in the Box's REALLY Big Chicken Sandwich

Current Weight: 168.8 lbs.

Last Thursday, after another 10 hours of drudgery within the catacombs of the Unnamed Defense Contractor, I set off to forage for some new blog fodder food.

We're closing in on the three-year anniversary of this lightly-read blog and I can't determine what's sadder: (1) my genuine enthusiasm for the latest greasy fat bomb (2) the fact that I couldn't decide what I wanted to try or (3) coming to the realization that I've eaten everything that could be considered "new" and that the American fast food industry can't seem to keep up with me.

I hit up the ATM and then doubled back past a couple of famous chains just to see if their respective window signs teased the debut of something I could review. I've already eaten your
Teriyaki Burger, Carl's Jr. And, I don't care how "XT: X-tra Thick" your Steakhouse Burger is, Burger King. I've already eaten the original and don't desire more mediocrity. In fact, I…wait a minute. "Mediocrity"? "Meaty-ocrity?!" Still got it!

That left me with Jack in the Box. They've responded to the world's worst economic collapse since The Great Depression with a cycle of $3.99 value meals centered around the recycling of temporary menu items. For instance, last month, JitB brought back the
Bonus Jack. This month, it's the return of the REALLY Big Chicken Sandwich.

Now, I can't say I know a whole lot about "REALLY big". Mrs. Bootleg is 4'8". My arms and legs look like pipe cleaners covered in peanut butter. My chest is clinically concave. I am, however, the proud owner of an enormous head. Hat size: 7 ¾. Other kids mocked my profile with taunts of "E.T.". Later, I was compared to former Phoenix Suns PG
Kevin Johnson – which, by the way, hurt a helluva lot more than the Extra-Terrestrial insults.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying: your chicken sandwich can't hold a candle to my cranium, Jack. You would think that two grade-school lunch room quality chicken fillets, two slices of processed cheese food, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on a toasted bun would be eight shades of "hooray", but this ends up as barely more than a "meh".

The frozen perfect-circle of breaded (mostly) chicken is the same stuff my kid's Dino-Bites chicken nuggets are made of. There's a reason these things aren't marketed to grown folk. All of the toppings stack nicely, I suppose, but can't cover up the cardboard taste of the farm animal blend within. And, when mayonnaise AND bacon can't get'cha to a 2.5, JitB, you've got bigger problems than I can solve.

Or, should I say "REALLY bigger problems"? Eh?!

Still got it.

Grade: 1.5 (out of 5) Calories: 900 Fat: 56g

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Tee-Ball Chronicles #8: Fall 2009 Scouting Report

We're four weeks into Jalen's third tee-ball season – and my third go-round as coach – and I can honestly say that this is the most fun either of us has had. There are a few kids who'd obviously never even SEEN a baseball before the league began. Another kid – mine – pulled that "fake an injury so I don't have to play the outfield, then miraculously healed when it was time to hit again" bullsh**. And, this past Saturday, after 40 minutes of line-drives whizzing past their inattentive faces, most of my A's were flinching immediately before every swing of the opposing team. Let's meet the A's!

#1 – Ernie: One of Jalen's best friends and a teammate of my son for all three seasons. I love this kid. He's a kamikaze who aggressively seeks out rough physical contact on defense or on the basepaths. In hockey, he'd be called…well, I don't really watch hockey, but you can bet he'd spend a LOT of time in the penalty…uh, room? If they ever invent "Arena Baseball" or if Vince McMahon follows through with the "XLB", you're looking at a future superstar. TBG's Comp: The Man They Call Vader.

#2 – Camden: Another friend of Jalen's who was a teammate on last spring's team. He's come a LONG way in terms of understanding the fundamentals and sometimes he even runs towards the general direction of first base when he hits the ball. Played most of Saturday's game with his mother and grandfather on either side of him while on defense. I would've said something, but I couldn't run the risk of his family rescinding their "snack mom" commitment later this season. TBG's Comp: Starring in a remake of this.

#3 – Andrew: Someone really needs to sit his dad down and explain how tee-ball played by four and five-year-olds works. He needles his kid from the parents' area all game long. Late in last week's game, Andrew didn't want to take the field. I saw his old man getting up to unleash hell, so I asked the kid, "What if I raced you centerfield?" We sprinted out there together before he turned to me and said, "I want you to stay out here with me!" Sniff. TBG's Comp: Ray Kinsella from "Field of Dreams".

#4 – Nicholas: I freely admit that I overdo it with my son. Jalen rocks the superfluous eye-black, batting gloves, Nike cleats, etc. Nicholas, however, carries around his own personalized bat and won't let anyone else touch it. Thankfully, he doesn't take it out to the field when he's playing defense – although he'd probably use it a lot more than he uses his glove. Mrs. Bootleg told me that he was (gently) hitting his teammates in the head with ol' Wonderbat during our last game. I wish he'd have tried that sh** with Kimo. TBG's Comp: Giants P Juan Marichal.

#6 – Ian: This kid has a rather unique hitting style. He seems to know the particulars of a batting stance just fine – bends his knees a little and knows which end of the bat is up. Then, there's his swing. Here's a short video compilation of others with his identical approach at the plate. He throws the bat at the ball and once word gets around the league, no one will play infield when he's hitting. TBG's Comp: This chick.

#7 – Enzo: Space considerations be damned…for benefit of my readers, I've transcribed my entire conversation with Enzo while he was playing first base for half an inning. "Enzo, remember, when you 'cover' first base, you have to [I exaggeratedly demonstrate] keep your foot on the bag, get your glove up and get ready for the throw. You're not doing any of those things", I said. "OK", Enzo replied. [Repeat exact same conversation 20 more times over next six minutes.] TBG's Comp: Willie Stargell - the statue, not the player.

#8 – Oliver: At least once a season, I unintentionally spook(!) one of the kids by yelling something innocuous like "run to second!" or "go! go! go!" a little too enthusiastically. This year, Oliver's the one whose first impression of African-Americans has been warped by my misplaced passion. It doesn't help that I'm about five feet taller than he is, either. TBG's Comp: Film critic Roger Ebert.

#9 – Zach: I didn't think there was another tee-ball player on earth who hammed it up as much as my son (for example, Jalen slides into EVERY base and sometimes takes ridiculously wide turns at first, just so he can dive back to the bag). But, last week, Zach and Jalen recorded a simple 4-3 putout…and then celebrated with 60 seconds of high-fives, man-hugs and mugging for applause. Thankfully, I cut them off just before the arm-in-arm victory lap around the infield began. TBG's Comp: Giants P Kenny, Johnny, Mitch, Nicky or Mikey.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2009 NFL Pickery - Week #6

Last Week:
Tom: 10-4

Aaron: 10-4
Joe: 9-5

Season to Date:
Joe: 51-25
Tom: 51-25

Aaron: 49-27

Carolina at Tampa Bay

Aaron: Fun Fact - Both teams have been beaten by a touchdown or more in all their losses this season except vs. Washington. The Bucs lost by a field goal and the Panthers won by the same margin. Your definition of "fun" probably differs from mine. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: That QB swap from Leftwich to the paper boy really went a long way towards turning the Bucs into lovable losers. That and the fact that we've given up on all Bucs for our fantasy teams and thus have no reason to be mad at them. Pick: Tampa Bay Carolina

Detroit at Green Bay

Aaron: With two weeks to stew over that loss to Brett Favre, look for Aaron Rodgers to exact his revenge on the poor defenseless Lions. They're the baby seal cubs of the NFL. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Ah, Detroit. The other lovable losers. And losers they shall remain, especially with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson laid up. Pick: Green Bay

St. Louis at Jacksonville

Aaron: How'd that "pick the best player on the field" methodology work out for you in last week's Seahawks (41) v. Jags (0) game, Joe? Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Oh, I'm sorry I didn't think to push all my chips to the center of the table on Nate Burleson. Back to the Jags, though -- shouldn't Jack Del Rio be banned from the NFL for life after suspending Mike Sims-Walker for extracurricular (i.e. lady-fucking) activities, thus ruining countless (i.e. my) fantasy football teams. Jerk. Pick: Jacksonville

Baltimore at Minnesota

Aaron: So,'re telling me that it was too early to anoint the Ravens as the league's best team after they beat the Chargers in Week #2? Why didn't you tell me?! Pick: Minnesota

Joe: It would figure that the Ravens' fortunes would sour as soon as I finally started buying into them. And yet...I shall continue to do so. Pick: Baltimore

Houston at Cincinnati

Aaron: Any room left on the Bengals bandwagon for a guy who never stopped believing in Carson Palmer and has enjoyed the glorious bojanglin' of Chad Ochocinco from day one? Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: I don't know how you can look at yourself in a mirror. Pick: Houston

Kansas City at Washington

Aaron: Chiefs have a chance to climb back to respectability over the next four weeks (Chargers at home, at J'ville, at Oakland after this). The Skins are counting down the days until the Mike Shanahan era begins. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: The Chiefs' big weakness this season has been poor play on defense. That's gonna hurt them next time they play a team with an offense. Pick: Kansas City

N.Y. Giants at New Orleans

Aaron: You're not playing JaMarcus Russell this week, Giants. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: In a coin-flip game like this, I'll go with the chance to pick up a game on you. Pick: NY Giants

Cleveland at Pittsburgh

Aaron: You're not playing Trent Edwards this week, Browns. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Seriously, that Cleveland win over the Bills last week was something else. There hasn't been anyone to look that bad while winning since Hillary Clinton at the Pennsylvania primary. I know, you were thinking the same thing, right? Pick: Pittsburgh

Philadelphia at Oakland

Aaron: Several Bay Area media outlets report Al Davis WANTS head coach Tom Cable to be formally charged with assaulting an assistant coach so that Cable can be fired "for cause" and his contract voided. As a fan, it's like falling down a bottomless pit, waiting to hit bottom - yet bottom never comes. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: On the bright side, at least you don't have a hockey team that will suck your soul away during the months between football and baseball seasons. Pick: Philadelphia

Arizona at Seattle

Aaron: Is Seattle's 5th ranked defense for real? Two shutouts vs. the Rams n' Jags has me leaning towards "no". Pick: Arizona

Joe: We haven't yet reached the point in the season where it matters, but at some point we're going to need to find out if the Cardinals are a good team underachieving or a bad team squeaking out some wins. Pick: Arizona

Tennessee at New England

Aaron: Junior Seau, 48, is returning to the Pats for his 28th NFL season. No one is questioning this and Seau credits a "strenuous workout regimen" for staying in football shape. All natural. Yessir. Pick: New England

Joe: Technically, voodoo does count as "all natural." Pick: New England

Buffalo at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: My team's STILL worse than your team, Joe. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: I won't even justify such a ludicrous statement with a response. Pick: NY Jets

Chicago at Atlanta

Aaron: Hey, it's two evenly matched teams. I always get these games wrong. More mismatches, please. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Hey, me too! We should start a club or something. Pick: Atlanta

Denver at San Diego

Aaron: Does this count as a "letdown" game for Denver after an emotional win vs. New England last week? Meh. Good enough excuse for me to pick against 'em, I s'pose. Pick: San Diego

Joe: I say "letdown game" too, but for the record, if Denver wins this game, they maybe become this season's '08 Tennessee Titans. Just don't let me pick them in the playoffs. Pick: San Diego

Confidence Pickin' (with current scores)

Joe (21): Chiefs (+6.5) over REDSKINS; Eagles (-14.5) over RAIDERS; Cardinals (+3) over SEAHAWKS

Tom (14): Eagles (-14.5) over RAIDERS; JETS (-9.5) over Bills; Chiefs (+6.5) over REDSKINS

Aaron (13): PACKERS (-13.5) over Lions; Eagles (-14.5) over RAIDERS; Chiefs (+6.5) over REDSKINS

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Three Baseball Guys: ALCS/NLCS Predictions

So, what did we learn from the AL and NL Division Series? (1) Karma caught up to Randy Moss Matt Holliday like a m***af***a. Too bad "karma" couldn't catch that ball, eh Matt? (2) The Red Sox, desperate to stave off their team's increasing age and irrelevance, are going to throw mad free agent money at Holliday this offseason. (3) They'll be sorry. Holliday makes JD Drew's heart look David Eckstein-ian, by comparison.

Your prognosticators-slash-mirth makers are, again, m'man Tom Daniels – a Mets fan from the excellent One New York Life blog. Check out his 2009 Mets postmortem and laugh along with the rest of America. We've also got Cards fan Eugene Tierney from Tailgate Crashers. Fortunately, Cardinals red goes nicely with all the black he's been wearing since St. Louis was eliminated. He's already writing about the 2010 free agent class.

Los Angeles Angels vs. New York Yankees

Aaron: Darryl Kile of the Cardinals was the last MLB player to die during the regular season before the Angels' Nick Adenhart passed away in April. In 2002, Kile's Cards swept Arizona in the NLDS before losing the pennant to the Giants. I have no doubt that the Angels are deriving inspiration from Adenhart's death, but we don't need to keep referencing the kid to explain the 2009 Halos. They beat Boston in the ALDS because they were better when they needed to be. Playing for the memory of a deceased teammate makes a quaint story, but in a short series - as the '02 Cards discovered - endings ain't always happy. That goes double for those of us who hate the Angels with every fiber of our being. Pick: Angels in 6

Tom: With the only perfect record in the opening round, I'm on top of the world. The reason why the Halos tend to own the Yankees isn't exactly mind-boggling. Get ready for the following two sequences because you're going to get real sick of seeing them. First: Single, hit to right, first to third on Nick Swisher's arm. Second: Single, stolen base on Jorge Posada's arm, hit to left, second to home on Johnny Damon's arm. The only question in this series is if they Yankees battering offense can keep up. Recent history says it can't. Pick: Angels in 6

Eugene: The Yankees are hot right now. Joe Girardi did the right thing by resting C.C. Sabathia, something that Eric Wedge and Ned Yost didn't do in the past. As a result, he's looked the sharpest he ever has in the playoffs. The team did everything right against the Twins. While the Angels have played well, the Yankees are playing better. Pick: Yankees in 6

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Aaron: It must be fate. I grew up equidistant from Dodger Stadium and the old Anaheim Stadium, yet I despised both teams. Still do. It doesn't have to make sense. Logic need not apply. The Dodgers and Angels are going to meet in the 2009 World Series. When Vincente Padilla - cast off by the always pitching-needy Rangers - shut down the Cardinals in the deciding game of the NLDS, I saw the light. When former A's farmhand Andre Ethier offered up a series-long exhibition of his limitless potential, I saw the light. But, the light was cold and dark. My two most hated teams will be fighting for the game's Holy Grail later this month. See y'all in 2010. Pick: Dodgers in 7

Tom: The Phillies starters are worlds better than the Dodgers. The Phillies line-up, top-to-bottom, is worlds better than the Dodgers. Postseason games with young pitchers are won in the bullpen. J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, and Cole Hamels are pretty much five inning starters. So if I pencil in two wins for Cliff Lee and one for Pedro Martinez, that leaves 48 outs for a bullpen that walked just around 4 per 9 IP with, conveniently, just around a 4 ERA. Pick: Phillies Dodgers in 7

Eugene: This should be a really good series. Both teams have good pitching and great hitting. The difference is the Dodgers' bullpen and Joe Torre. The Dodgers played their pitching perfect against the Cardinals and they will do the same thing with the Phillies, which is a testament to Torre and his ability to manage a game. Pick: Dodgers in 7

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TBG TV: FOX's Animation Domination – 10/11/2009

Sunday's Rankings (5-3-2-1 scoring)

(1) The Simpsons ("The Great Wife Hope") - Just as I realized that Marge's mixed martial arts dalliance was cribbed from the classic 1996 episode where Homer fights Drederick Tatum, who shows up but Drederick Tatum! They could've – and should've – had a LOT more fun at UFC's expense, but this was a solid 30 minutes.

(2) The Cleveland Show ("The One About Friends") - Loved the first act and the "finding Cleveland, Jr. a friend" bits. Things fell apart by the end, as I wasn't feeling any of the climactic over-the-top shootout. Second best quote of the night, "WE can dress as you all, but you all can't dress as US!"

(3) American Dad! ("Home Adrone") - I'm usually amused by the "Roger" character and his alien antics didn't disappoint. The way he gained access to booze on the airplane slayed me and just might've earned him MVP consideration. The primary story about a stolen drone and Steve's annoying schtick did nothing for me.

(4) Family Guy ("Spies Reminiscent of Us") - Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase guest voiced for a spoof of "Spies Like Us". Aykroyd seemed to be into it, but Chase read his lines – and he didn't have many – as if he were half-asleep. At what point do we stop saying this show is "suffering" from Seth MacFarlane getting spread too thin and actually declare it dead?

MVP - Roger's imitation of "American Dad!" patriarch Stan Smith – himself an amalgam of various caricatures – was pretty f'n awesome…right down to the lantern jaw.

Quote of the Night - "This is the first time I've ever hit a woman I didn't love.", Chett Englebrick ("The Simpsons")

Current Standings

The Simpsons – 13
The Cleveland Show – 9
American Dad – 6
Family Guy – 5

This Last Week in TBG TV: October 5 – October 9, 2009

ESPN: 30 for 30 - "Kings Ransom"

I'm a sucker for these unnecessarily serious, snack-sized sports documentaries. This was a very strong debut. I was living in Long Beach at the time the NHL's Los Angeles Kings acquired Wayne Gretzky and director Peter Berg captures the city's vibe from the summer of 1988. Points for giving a good amount of time to the rumored influence of Gretzky's wife – former actress ("Police Academy 5"!) Janet Jones – on the deal. Demerits for the amount of time Berg, himself, is in front of the camera. Grade: B+

Law & Order - "Great Satan"

I'm not sure how many times L&O has trotted about the "terrorist" storyline since 9/11, but this was one of the better ones. My only beef was the plot point that involved the NYPD indirectly supplying a terrorist group with a C-4 detonator. No one – not the cops, not the lawyers – are held accountable, even when the explosives are used in the bombing of a synagogue. Successfully! I want their bosses to write MY next performance review. Grade: B

Community - "Social Psychology"

The show is so close to awesome, but still hasn't found a way to make all of its narratives interesting (never mind "funny") from week-to-week. The Jeff and Shirley stuff was an unexpected display of effective chemistry and the payoff made me (almost) care about the Britta character for the first time. Hated, hated, hated everything about the psychology experiment, though. Hated it. Grade: B

The Office - "Niagara"

M'man Low Resolution Joe nipped by Pam/Jim bitching in the bud. By and large, though, I thought the "moment" was carried out about as well as it could. I thought the reflexive domino vomiting and lacerated nut sack stuff was way too over the top in the other direction, though. Almost as if the writers were saying, "See? We can still be 'The Office' even after we hotshot our biggest storyline!" And, am I only man on planet earth who'd never even heard of that Chris Brown wedding video thingie? Grade: B-

Law & Order: SVU - "Solitary"

This week's most absurd SVU moment: Heaven help us – we might have to award the "most absurd SVU moment of the year" award just three episodes into the season. Try'n follow along: Stabler sets his sights on an ex-con suspected in a brutal assault. Turns out Stabler was wrong about the guy. When he goes to apologize, the "innocent" ex-con throws Stabler off a roof. Stabler survives, but that's not the absurdity. The ex-con blames his behavior on the time he spent in solitary during his first bid. Stabler attempts to see things through the eyes of the guy who tried to kill him, I guess, so he "goes into the hole" for three days. The goofy camera zooms and stock "prison movie" background music were something out of Cinemax at 2:00 AM minus the boobs. Stabler emerges from solitary – naturally, he thinks he's been in for a LOT longer than three days – and pleads for leniency…for the guy who threw him off a roof.

Cougar Town - "Don't Do Me Like That"

I have no business finding simultaneous waxings, manicures and pedicures funny…but, here you go. This show has lost more than 30% of its viewers since it premiered three weeks ago and if I may offer up some free advice – dial down the caricature qualities of some of the supporting cast. Big ups to anyone who could forward this to Busy Phillips and Brian Van Holt. Grade: B

Modern Family - "Come Fly with Me"

The Costco scenes hit so close to home, Mrs. Bootleg and I mutually agreed that she is the "Cameron" character. We've had that exact same moment where she stumbles across some long-wanted gadget at Costco and simply can't hide her glee. I remain most impressed with this show's heart or, more specifically, its ability find its heart after intentionally flying an airplane into someone's face. Grade: B+

Accidentally on Purpose - "One Night Stand"

Wait, wait, wait…pregnant women experience an increase in sexual appetite? On what f****** planet?! We're in danger of experiencing the first DVR casualty of the new fall season, kids. This show is inoffensive fun, but its forgettable plots (Zach can't sleep with Billie because his hand is stained orange from sunless tanning lotion?) aren't worth my valuable DVR real estate. Grade: C+

Still on the DVR: FlashFoward (2)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

10 (Final) Thoughts: Oakland A's – 2009

The A's are DONE in Oakland: The Athletics drew 1.4 million fans to their decaying stadium this year – averaging about 17,300 per game. Of course, Major League Baseball counts "tickets sold" over actual attendance, but even then I'm calling bullsh**. During September, most unofficial estimates had the weeknight crowds totaling less than 3,000 cold souls. There are reasons both economic and sociological for the lack of local fan support, but the biggest hurdles continue to be the team's inept attempts at relocating the franchise and the inexplicable public bashing of the Coliseum by A's ownership. To summarize: the team doesn't want to be in Oakland and can't be bothered to come up with a reason for fans to come out either. The A's recovered from the near-miss move to Denver in 1980 and the five-year nadir from 1994-1998, but they ain't coming back from this.

Jack Cust had better be DONE in Oakland: I've beaten this drum more than once in this space during the 2009 season, so let's get down to brass tacks: .912, .857, .773. Those are Cust's OPS for the each of past three seasons. He's eligible for arbitration and made $2.8 million this past season. He turns 30 next year with
this guy as his most age-equivalent comp according to Cust was the A's best hitter for the past three seasons and – to put it succinctly – I'm sick and tired of being OK with faint praise.

Is Rajai For Reals: Which player would YOU rather have?

Player A: 89 games (.323/.374/.459, 34 SB)
Player B: 89 games (.284/.353/.525, 16 SB)

"Player A" is A's CF Rajai Davis (from approximately mid-June to the end of the season) who enjoyed a career year at the age of 29 after spending his entire big league career as a 5th outfielder, defensive replacement and pinch-runner. "Player B" is Rockies CF Carlos Gonzalez (his entire season) who the A's traded away last offseason. He's only 23 and a legit five-tool prospect. Just sayin'.

I'll happily concede that in an otherwise depressing season, Davis' "breakout" was a refreshing change from the lumbering ball my A's usually play. But, let's not un-retire Rickey's number just yet. Davis posted an ungodly .366
BABIP. He only walked 29 times in 432 PAs. And, his SB% was a barely acceptable 77%. Alex Cole and Chuckie Carr were capable of putting together a few hot months, too. Just sayin'.

Enough with the old people: The offseason wasn't even a week old before's Buster Olney was speculating that the A's might have interest in free agents Jermaine Dye and Miguel Tejada. Stop it. STOP IT! If this season taught our boy-genius GM nothing else, it had better be that old ballplayers should be sent before those imaginary liberal death panels – not signed to "low risk" deals worth millions of dollars. 1999 John Jaha is not walking through that door, Mr. Beane. 2006 Frank Thomas is not walking through that door, Mr. Beane. And, that's it. You've hit on TWO of these acts in your 12-year tenure, Mr. Beane. TWO! STOP IT~!

The last word on THAT trade: The A's coaching staff has occasionally been criticized for being unable to "fix" pitchers who struggle after enjoying extended stretches of success. Former ROY Huston Street posted a 3.73 ERA including some EPIC blown saves in 2008 with Oakland, then had a career-year in Colorado after being traded for Matt Holliday. And, the aforementioned Carlos Gonzalez (also part of the package to Colorado for Holliday) dropped this quote after an interleague game between the Rockies and A's, "The [Rockies] always expect to win. I'm not saying Oakland was playing to lose, but it feels a little nicer [with the Rockies]. There's a lot more energy, the expectations are huge."

Wild Thing!: RP Henry Rodriguez was one of the A's many September call-ups. At AAA-Sacramento, he posted one of the most awesome AND awful lines I've ever seen:

43.2 IP 38 H 28 ER 38 BB 71(!) Ks

He made his Major League debut on September 21 in a blowout loss to Texas. His first pitch was clocked at 100 mph. After that, he gave up a single and then a force out followed by: wild pitch, wild pitch, walk, hit by pitch, error (given to the first baseman, when actually Rodriguez was late off the mound and failed to cover the bag in time), deep fly out and a strikeout. Like a 10-car pileup, I couldn't turn away.

Uh oh: In 2004, the A's traded SP Mark Mulder to St. Louis for a package that included super-prospect Daric Barton. Baseball Prospectus hailed Barton as a player who'd eventually "hit for average, draw walks by the bushel and hit for gap power". In 799 big league PAs, Barton's hit a disappointing .249/.348/.394. In 2009, the A's acquired super-prospect Brett Wallace from St. Louis. BP pegged Wallace's upside as "a number-three hitter who [will be] among the league leaders in batting average and on-base percentage, with 20-25 home runs annually". Fun fact: Barton's career OPS at Triple-A is .816. Wallace's is .815. Dammit.

#52 in your programs, #1 in your hearts…: Journeyman middle reliever Kevin Cameron pitched in 11 games for the A's. Not long enough to distinguish himself as anything more than a spare bullpen part, but just long enough for Mrs. Bootleg to score me his jersey-shirt for Father's Day. Look for it in an upcoming edition of the T-Ball Chronicles.

My 2nd favorite A's moment(s) of 2009: Yes, I know he's in it.
It's still awesome.

My favorite A's moment(s) of 2009: Everything Jalen-related from
here, here and here.

See you in 2010, Oakland A's.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Not FJM: Tim Sullivan, Kevin Towers & Scary Black People

We haven't gotten all racial 'round these parts in awhile.

About a week ago, the San Diego Padres fired their General Manager Kevin Towers. For you non-baseball fans who still remember 1996, the GM is the guy who would sit down with, say, "Jerry Maguire" on behalf of a pro sports team so that they could negotiate a player's contract. There's a "wheeler n' dealer" mythology associated with a GM's job that really isn't relevant anymore.

Also, not relevant is the underlying tone in the opening paragraph of this eulogy written by The San Diego Union-Tribune's Tim Sullivan:

Kevin Towers walked into a Waffle House in Texas late one night and soon surmised that he was the only Caucasian in the restaurant.

He would admit later to some awkwardness, but feeling out of place is a temporary condition where KT is concerned. Whatever you might think of his baseball decisions, no one in the game can work a room more charismatically.

Standing there in the restaurant, Towers swiftly weighed his alternatives. Too hungry to leave, too resourceful to be intimidated and much too proud to beg, he walked over to the juke box, dumped some change into the slot and began ordering from an all-Motown menu.

Soon, the restaurant was filled with music and with mirth. Towers attacked another defenseless plate that had been “scattered, smothered and covered,” left an oversized tip and caused his grateful waitress to inquire how soon he might be back.

Where to begin?!

Well, let's start at the top. Towers "surmised" that he was the only white guy in the restaurant. Was his "white guy sense" tingling? Or was it the same way Batman would surmise the Penguin was involved with the theft of a billion-dollar bejeweled statue of a blue jay simply because it was a bird-related crime? (That's right, TWO tired comic book references!)

Towers admitted to some awkwardness? I love this! He's walking into a Waffle House, not a Bloods n' Crips alumni picnic. I've been the "only Black guy" in the room for as far back as I can remember. I was bused out to a "better" school way back in 2nd grade. All the way through to high school, there was no missing my peanut butter-colored mug in any class picture. This continued through college and into a professional career all while living in a city that'll never be confused with Atlanta or Washington DC.

Hell, Mrs. Bootleg and I were the only Black people in our own wedding party! For those scoring at home, there were white folk, a guy from Thailand, one Filipino, a woman from Mexico and one from Puerto Rico. Oh, and spanakopita was one of our appetizers.

Here's my favorite part of the excerpt:

Too hungry to leave, too resourceful to be intimidated and much too proud to beg…

Doesn't this sound just a tad dramatic? It's the type of line I'd have expected to see written about Martin Luther King entering any Birmingham diner in 1959. A well-to-do white guy didn't turn around and walk out of that Waffle House? Free at last. (Also, what would he be begging for?)

Thankfully, Towers turned on the jukebox and the eatery was "…filled with music and mirth…". The morale of our story, as always: Jigaboos love them some soul music.

We sure do.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2009 NFL Pickery - Week #5

Last Week:
Tom: 11-3

Aaron: 9-5
Joe: 8-6

Season to Date:
Joe: 42-20
Tom: 41-21

Aaron: 39-23

Cincinnati at Baltimore

Aaron: Last week's Ravens/Pats Brady-biased officiating crew accomplished two things: (1) handing the Patriots a win and (2) pissing the Ravens off. And, we all know what Ray Lewis is (allegedly) capable of when he's pissed off. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: So look for Ray Lewis to watch his fellow defenders make plays while he rats them out to the officials? (Oh, go to Wikipedia if you don't get it.) Pick: Baltimore

Cleveland at Buffalo

Aaron: Good thing the Raiders are still in the league. Right, Joe! Joe? Pick: Buffalo

Joe: Clearly, I got greedy last week. Pick: Cleveland

Washington at Carolina

Aaron: Both teams are coming off a bye week, except the Redskins actually played a game vs. Tampa Bay. What? Oh, it's just as funny as those "Bye Week (-7) vs. Bad NFL Team" spreads that appear in Bill Simmons's column twice a year. Pick: Carolina

Joe: The 'Skins came far too close to losing to those Bye Week Bucs last week. Pick: Carolina

Pittsburgh at Detroit

Aaron: Two downtrodden industrial cities equally represented by a world champion team and a band of lovable losers. Is ESPN's NFL Countdown show planning on cloning Chris Connelly so that he can file soft-focus features on both locales? Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Pittsburgh is not a good enough team that they can afford to look past the Lions. This speaks as ill of the Steelers as it does of Detroit. Pick: Pittsburgh

Dallas at Kansas City

Aaron: We've reached the point where this probably shouldn't even be considered an upset, anymore. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: Damn you, Cameron. This was supposed to be MY not-even-considered-and-upset special! Well...maybe. Pick: Dallas

Oakland at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: If JaMarcus Russell starts all 16 games at QB for the Raiders, I'm done. I took Randy Moss. I took the benching of Marcus Allen. I took Art Shell the Sequel. I'm not taking this. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Readers, this man's team was last in a Super Bowl in 2002. Temper your pity appropriately. Pick: NY Giants

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia

Aaron: The Eagles aren't really bringing back Donovan McNabb against a doormat like Tampa Bay are they? Why not next week, when they're playing...oh, Oakland. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Better to let him get healthy by feeding on the pre-chewed carcass of the Bucs. That's just nature at its grossest/finest. Pick: Philadelphia

Minnesota at St. Louis

Aaron: Brett Favre is going to play forever. It's time we just accept it. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: This would be such a no-brainer letdown game if Minnesota weren't playing a team of zombies. And not the fast, tough 28 Days Later zombies either. The "Thriller" zombies who just want to shuffle slowly and dance. Pick: Minnesota

Atlanta at San Francisco

Aaron: I've barely been following the now-resolved Michael Crabtree saga, so I need to know: has MC Hammer always been involved in this storyline? If not, I won't bother scouring the archives. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Wait, is MC Hammer taking up sides AGAINST the Atlanta Falcons? And a follow-up: When does the FOX NFL Sunday crew interview the Real Housewives of Atlanta about all their football-playing ex-husbands? Call me crazy, but Terry Bradshaw and Kim Zolciak would be a match made in heaven. Pick: Atlanta

New England at Denver

Aaron: Last week, I called Denver a fraud and thought the Ravens would disembowel the Patriots. Might as well keep the "I end up being wrong" streak alive. Pick: Denver

Joe: Just because Tony Romo's arm had a nervous breakdown last week doesn't mean Denver's not a fraud. Save for one big play, they could barely move the ball against a bad defense. Pick: New England

Jacksonville at Seattle

Aaron: The one constant with Jacksonville is that whatever happens, I'll pick the wrong week to start/bench David Garrard on my fantasy team. Pick: Seattle

Joe: I think this is one of those weird games where I just throw up my hands and go with the best player on the field. Make me look good, Maurice Jones-Drew. Pick: Jacksonville

Houston at Arizona

Aaron: Y'see, starting David Garrard IS an option when Houston's Matt Schaub is your other fantasy QB. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Wait, you've got Matt Schaub and you're tormented whether you should start David Garrard? I want those kinds of problems. Pick: Houston

Indianapolis at Tennessee

Aaron: How long before the Titans consider breaking Vince Young out of Arkham Asylum for one last chance? The fact that VY wouldn't be worse than JaMarcus Russell makes my heart sad. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Sometimes I think about what a sad-sack franchise the Colts were during the Bills Super Bowl years and I get sad. Then I get hopeful. Then I get sad again. Pick: Indianapolis

N.Y. Jets at Miami

Aaron: Miami's coming off a bye week, except they played an actual game against Buffa...whoa, wait. Already used that gag. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: JaMarcus Russell. JaMarcus Russell. JaMarcus Russell. Wait, the theme isn't "Gags Cam's Repeated"? Pick: NY Jets

Confidence Pickin' (w/current scores)

Joe (16): Colts (-3.5) over TITANS; CHIEFS (+8) over Cowboys; Jets (-1.5) over DOLPHINS

Tom (12): Patriots (-3.5) over BRONCOS; Bengals (+8.5) over RAVENS; PANTHERS (-3.5) over Redskins

Aaron (10): Vikings (-10) over RAMS; Steelers (-10.5) over LIONS; Falcons (+2.5) over NINERS

Friday, October 9, 2009

TBG Eats: Taco Bell's NEW Black Jack Taco

Current Weight: 169.2 lbs.

One of the infrequent running features on this lightly-read blog is my "TBG (Finally) Sees" series of movie reviews. Don't be fooled, my friends. I didn't know this five-and-a-half years ago, but the single biggest impact of bringing a child into this world is the inability to see first-run movies in the theater.

Mrs. Bootleg and I were a pair of opening weekend freaks back in the day ("the day" being 2002). Now, we get to the movies maybe four times a year and when we do, it's to see a film that's on its way out of theaters and coming soon to DVD/Blu-Ray.

That's not to say there aren't benefits to seeing a film in its 16th week of release: there are no crowds and passes are always accepted. Unfortunately, there's a flip side. It's admittedly rare, but sometimes movies are a wee bit overhyped. After weeks and weeks of effusive enthusiasm, it's impossible for these universally beloved films to live up to public opinion.

So, yes, I got around to seeing "Borat", "Wedding Crashers", "40 Year Old Virgin" and "The Hangover" right after the rest of America finished making sweet, sweet love to all four. My immediate reaction: overrated, overrated, overrated and overrated. I liked 'em all just fine – laughed out loud at times – but no one's gonna be putting "Wedding Crashers" in the pantheon with "Airplane" any time soon, y'know?

Now, we've covered Taco Bell's phenomenal 2009 new menu run in a few previous posts. Some of my fellow TB aficionados who've found this blog have been keeping me apprised of the chain's regional test marketing and upcoming promotional items. A few months ago, one of 'em mentioned the Black Jack Taco would be dropping nationwide after a successful trial run in one or two markets. From the Taco Bell website:

A crunchy black taco shell filled with seasoned beef, zesty pepper jack sauce, shredded lettuce and a blend of three cheeses – cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella.

The "Black Jack buzz" has been simmering on several other junk food blogs as the fraternity of clogged arteries was convinced that TB had struck (black) gold again. I'll say this much for the Black Jack Taco: that sh** is black, yo. Here it is juxtaposed with my lady-killing caramel skin tone.

And, that's about all it has going for it.

I'm not sure what TB was aiming for with the flavorless, forgettable "pepper jack sauce", but they missed spectacularly. A year ago, this would've been called "chipotle sauce". Ten years ago, it was probably "eXtreme sauce". All part of a long line of "spicy" condiments (probably from the same can) that taste nothing like its name(s). And, I couldn't quite place the gummy shredded cheese that was mixed in with the cheddar. I was as shocked as y'all to find out I'd eaten a taco topped with mozzarella.

Mrs. Bootleg makes a fresh mozzarella n' tomato-basil salad that'll make
this guy cry. I'm fine with processed stuff, too, as long as it's melted in an oven and delivered to my door in a cardboard box. But, shredded imitation mozzarella on a taco? We're just gonna pretend this never happened, Taco Bell.

Cool? Cool.

Grade: 1 (out of 5) Calories: 210, Fat: 17g

Thursday, October 8, 2009

TBG TV: FOX's Animation Domination – 10/04/2009

Sunday's Rankings (5-3-2-1 scoring)

(1) The Cleveland Show ("Da Doggone Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance") - FOX is not off to a strong start on Sunday nights, but the hits here (the Kurt Cobain bit, Cleveland Jr. as Prince) trumped the misses (the Halle Berry bit, the "ghost-ride" thing).

(2) The Simpsons ("Bart Gets a 'Z'") - One of Bart's wacky antics goes too far with dire consequences for a secondary character. Yes, again. And, was I the only one who got the "Edna's Edibles" reference? God, I hope not.

(3) American Dad! ("Moon Over Isla Island") - Holy crap, that WAS Ricardo Montalbán as the diminutive dictator! His posthumous cameo couldn't save another episode of "Stan & Roger's Conjoined Shenanigans", though.

(4) Family Guy ("Family Goy") - Not knowing what this episode would be about, I caught the "Superfriends" opening and thought I'd struck the DC Comics fanboy satirical mother load. Instead, I got 30 minutes of never-before-explored Jewish jokes (They have hairy chests! They're tight with a buck! Who knew?!)

MVP - Despite looking like "a racial stereotype in a Ron Howard movie", Cleveland Jr. pretty much slayed as an aspiring bathroom attendant.

Quote of the Night - "You're SUCH a Pollyanna! I bet you kiss prostitutes.", Avery Bullock ("American Dad!")

Current Standings

The Simpsons – 8
The Cleveland Show – 6
Family Guy – 4
American Dad – 4