Monday, December 31, 2007

Your 2007 Fantasy Football Champions

With an elated soul and exhausted typing fingers, I'm proud to be YOUR "Broken Dial League" Fantasy Football Champion for 2007. It was a long road to get here, so brew a pot of coffee and settle in for a few hours. Start the slide show, Shawn!

Quarterfinals: It was David v. Goliath as my Light-Skinned Bruthas (the 7th seed) took on the 2nd seed – who were also owned by the league commissioner. It was like "Good Taste" v. Vince McMahon, but I didn't flinch. QB Kurt Warner and RB Brian Westbrook put up matching 23 point weeks, while Packers K Mason Crosby (picked up earlier that week) had 19. Meanwhile, the commish's squad had a below-average week from everyone, but especially Peyton Manning, who threw just one TD pass vs. Oakland. Oakland!

Semi-Finals: On his first carry of a Thursday night game vs. the Rams, m'man Willie Parker went down with a season-ending injury. My opponents for the week featured RBs Classy Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson (the good one!) Thankfully, God and Allah were on my side. Kurt Warner was my QB and threw for 370 yards and 3 TDs. WR Anquan Boldin caught two of 'em for 162 yards (41 points!) My opponent only got a few series out of Tomlinson and six points each from Peterson and QB Carson Palmer. The Cinderella Story continues…

Finals: Things looked bleak on Sunday morn. My opponent put up a 51 point head start on me with WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Then, they added 29 from WR Marques Colston in the early game vs. the Bears. I countered with 32 points from Kurt Warner (who, I found out from Rotowire, entered this week just shy of a pair of $500K performance incentives – Jesus needs some tithe!) Meanwhile, the Chargers defense spent three hours lighting up my Raiders (yeah, I was real torn there) and I got anywhere from 10-19 points from all but two of my skill guys (including 17 from RB Thomas Jones, who hadn't started for me all year). My opponent would only get 10 from QB Derek Anderson and a combined 4 from their TE, K and DEF (thanks, Seahawks D!)

132-108…and your new champions were crowned!

And, yes, I am one of those guys who write posts like this.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #17

New England at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: The fact that this could look like an exhibition game by halftime, with all the starters resting, takes a lot of the "historic" luster off this one for me. But, since the NFL now controls the entirety of television, none of us will be able to escape. Let's hope no one important dies on Saturday. I'd hate for the networks to be torn between the game and "Jimmy Carter: A Life Remembered". Pick: New England

Joe: Now, I'm not normally a praying man. But we're talking about the prospect of a New England 16-0 season. Our grandchildren's grandchildren will never hear the end of it. We're looking right down the barrell of Mike Vrabel autobiographies, stadiums named after Belichick, and Tom Brady being allowed back to host SNL again. So if you're up there, Superman, please keep speeding around the Earth and reversing time until the Giants pull this one out. As many times as it takes. Pick: New England

Buffalo at Philadelphia

Aaron: How Donovan McNabb has parlayed two December wins into a 2008 starting job in Philly leads me to believe that affirmative action is alive and well. Looks like "Pros vs. Joes" will have to wait another year for him. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: How are these for stakes: both teams are 7-8, so the winner gets rewarded with a lower draft pick. Reverse psychology rules still apply. Pick: Buffalo

Carolina at Tampa Bay

Aaron: The Bucs rested their starters for the most part last week and lost to one of the worst teams in the league. We're officially in the part of these picks that could go either way, regardless of records. My shaky four game lead over Joe is officially "shakier". Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: Nice try, getting me to pick the Panthers on the road, Cam. Pick: Tampa Bay

Cincinnati at Miami

Aaron: And, it's a quick segue back into "sure things". I'm fairly certain that Dolphins coach Cam Cameron is going to pull a Nick Nolte at the end of "Blue Chips" here and give a quick press conference after the game, then walk out of the stadium forever. He'll send for his things. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: I really want to pick the Dolphins here -- the Bengals already played spoiler last week, and it would be just like Miami to start 0-14 and then win two in a row when it matters least. But Miami's really, really bad. Also, about this Parcells thing: the Bills are now the only AFC East team that's been untouched by the Tuna's fat fingers. Let's hope they stay that way. Pick: Cincinnati

Detroit at Green Bay

Aaron: Ugh...I hate Week #17 picks. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: The Pack are not going to want to back into the playoffs with two straight losses. That, plus the Lions playing in the cold. Pick: Green Bay

Jacksonville at Houston

Aaron: The Jags have already locked up a playoff berth next week, so they'll be playing at half-speed here. Plus, they're not playing the Raiders. Then, again, they are playing Houston. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Okay, now I'm the one who hates making Week 17 picks. My rationale last week -- that the Texans were playing for pride and the Colts were playing for nothing -- still applies here. But you see how well that worked for me last time. Still, I ain't gonna pass Cam'ron by playing it safe. Pick: Houston

New Orleans at Chicago

Aaron: Hey, remember when these teams played for the NFC Championship? All that'll be missing this time are backflips into the endzone from Reggie Bush and postgame questions to Lovie Smith like "Wouldn't it be neat if TWO black coaches got to the Super Bowl?" I'll miss 2007. Pick: Chicago

Joe: All logic says that the Bears got their big win of the season out of their systems last week. Of course, logic also said that the Saints could take care of the Eagles last week with the playoffs on the line. Also, another dome team playing in frigid weather. ...God damn it. Pick: New Orleans

Seattle at Atlanta

Aaron: Falcons owner Arthur Blank can take solace in knowing that he now places 2nd all time in "worst year by an Atlanta owner". And, yes, the number one spot DOES involve those owners affected by the Emancipation Proclamation. But, Blank came close. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Don't forget Andre Rison, man. Or was he just renting that mansion? (I've probably made this joke before. I honestly do not care.) Pick: Seattle

San Francisco at Cleveland

Aaron: Good to know I'll be geting at least one right, this week. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Amen, sir. Pick: Cleveland

Dallas at Washington

Aaron: Back when I was a kid, my family would roll the color Westinghouse TV into the dining room to enjoy a Saturday night filled with new episodes of "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Silver Spoons". In 1982, the Cowboys/Redskins were the overexposed "Yanks/Sox" rivalry of their era. Nothing lasts forever. Pick: Washington

Joe: When I was a kid, it was Cowboys/49ers. Old man. Pick: Washington

Kansas City at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: I wonder if Herm Edwards will be looking on from the Chiefs' sideline, twirling his sinister mustache and taking sick satisfaction in that he set the wheels in motion for the ruining of both teams on the field this day. (A quick Google Image search tells me you'll have to imagine the mustache.) Pick: N.Y. Jets

Joe: What, Roger Goodell? You couldn't simulcast this game across all television channels in prime time too? ...Is that because Herm Edwards is black or because Eric Mangini is fat? Pick: Kansas City

Minnesota at Denver

Aaron: The Vikings need a win here and a Redskins loss to make the playoffs. I like the motivation for the Vikes, but they looked awful last week in getting schooled by those same 'Skins at home. Great, now my head hurts. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Doesn't this seem like the week Mike Shanahan plucks some random cable repair man off the street, puts him into his backfield, and has him run for 180 yards? I think it does. Pick: Denver

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Aaron: The Ravens will be without several starters on offense and damned if none of us would've even noticed. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Seriously, save for Miami, the Ravens just might be the worst team in football. Lucky for Pittsburgh, too, because guess who's been playing like crap for a month? Pick: Pittsburgh

San Diego at Oakland

Aaron: I know that JaMarcus Russell missed all of training camp and has been forced to play behind a mediocre o-line, but he's looked skittish in the pocket, overaggressive when he throws and, frankly, not too smart. He's starting on Sunday. Pick: San Diego

Joe: Sorry, Cam. I know that had to hurt to type that. Pick: San Diego

St. Louis at Arizona

Aaron: Psst, Kurt Warner. I'm starting you in my fantasy championship game this week. If you kick ass, I'll commit to helping you and your ilk put the "Christ" back in "Christmas" next December. After all, it's the Godless heathens with the "agenda". Certainly, not the religious right. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Happy Holidays to you too, Cam. As for the game, I need to make up ground somewhere, and whenever Marc Bulger's been able to last a full game without his shoulder falling off, he's been pretty excellent. Now to check that injury report... Pick: St. Louis

Tennessee at Indianapolis

Aaron: The Titans always play the Colts tough and this time the game has actual meaning for Tennessee. Win and they're in the playoffs. I likes them odds. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Sure, this'll be the game the Colts lay down for, putting the goddamn Titans into the playoffs ahead of the Browns. Rot in hell, Jim Storgi. Pick: Tennessee

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mrs. Bootleg's (Christmas) Booty

Hope everyone had a nice holiday.

My Christmas season didn't really begin in earnest until Christmas Eve. Y'see, I'd spent the previous three weeks giving my last few paychecks directly to the Disney-Pixar Cars conglomerate. The movie came out 18 months ago, but the moi-chandising continues unabated.

How grotesque did it get?

I actually purchased not one, but two unauthorized bootleg(!) Cars toys from eBay depicting characters that aren't even out yet. Trust me…none of you really want to know how much we spent on the boy. Let's just say the amount of swag that Jalen had under the tree was directly proportional to the amount of attention he spent on the first…gift…he…opened.

Jalen's Parents: "Don't you want to open your other presents?"

Jalen: "No."

We thought it would be cool to have him first open the ONE car he wanted more than any other. With camcorder rolling and me handling the still photography, Jalen took his car and left the festive living room to race his toy around circular track of our dining room table.

So, with the knowledge that just $3.99 could've made our son's Christmas, the wife and I proceeded to exchange our own gifts. Here's her haul:

Victoria's Secret Gift Card: The gift card has become the longest-running in-joke of our relationship. I have friends and co-workers, male and female, who can't believe I buy them for anyone other than a casual acquaintance whose birthday I forgot. I buy gift cards now to spite these people. Anyways, Mrs. Bootleg is one of the few women on earth – outside of WWE Diva bra n' panty matches – who insists that her bra n' panty matches, so there ya go. (Hmm, was that clever bit of wordplay worth the revelation of my wife's underwear routine? YES!)

Ann Taylor's Loft Gift Card: See above. Oddly enough, I'd sooner buy draws for Mrs. Bootleg than a blouse (or whatever "shirts for girls" are called these days).

Digital Picture Frame: There was a recent issue of Consumer Reports that featured a story (and product rankings) of this newest gadget fad. Just take the memory card from your digital camera and insert it into the frame. Boom! Instant slideshow for your wall or nightstand. Let's hope this gift doesn't meet the same neglected fate of her 30GB iPod with all of 80 songs.

Ceramic Hair Curlers: Amazingly, this would only be the third most embarrassing gift that I purchased this Christmas. Read on.

Day Spa Gift Card: For years, I'd made the mistake of buying full day-long packages for the wife. In reality, all Mrs. Bootleg sees is a "get out of mothering for free" furlough. I could put $5 on it and she'd still use it as soon as possible, happy to pay the exorbitant difference.

San Diego State Apparel: The wife wanted an SDSU sweatshirt from the Aztec Shop – an official licenser, which means the consumer is paying anywhere from 2-4 times more than you'd expect for a regular ol' red sweatshirt. Why? Cuz it's got "SDSU" across the front in big block letters. Fortunately, I was able to save $42.95, since the only sweatshirts they had were hoodies (I'm barely able to still pull those off – figuratively and literally, while the wife at three years my senior is officially too old for them). She ended up with a SDSU warm-up suit, instead. For the soccer mom-in-training.

Winnie the Pooh Xmas Ornament: Among the items in an awesome holiday package from That Nick'a Family (which included the clear winner in "Aaron's Favorite Xmas Gift – 2007") were a pair of colorful ornaments. Mrs. Bootleg tried to guilt me by noting that they had bought more for our Christmas tree in one day than I ever had in 100 years of dating/marriage. So, since the wife opted to talk out of turn so brazenly, she sacrificed another gift from me with one for the tree. It could've been jewelry. I hope she's learned her lesson.

Stocking Stuffers: MORE gift cards from assorted vendors and some kind of coconut butter facial wash "sampler" that still cost me $10/container. Doesn't "sample" imply that it's free? When did this change? And, you had to be there when I axed the lady on the sales floor for this item as she tried to sell me the $50 "gift set". Second most embarrassing item I bought this Xmas.

All in all, I'd say she made out like a bandit. And, that's even considering that she made me buy a gift – on her behalf – for the daughter of one of her girlfriends. It was a frilly princess gown from the Enchanted movie that I held under my arm for almost 30 minutes while waiting in line at Toys R Us. Worse than all the tampons and panty liners I've picked up over the years, combined.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #16 (...and the rest)

Cleveland at Cincinnati

Aaron: So, with 12-24 months of hindsight, Bengals fans, would you rather have the lawless band of rogues on your roster and a division title or a slightly less arrested-at-2AM crew and the comfort of 10+ loss season? Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Jonathan Joseph isn't walking through that door, people. AJ Nicholson isn't walking through that door. Chris Henry isn't...oh no, wait, here he is. Regardless... Pick: Cleveland

Green Bay at Chicago

Aaron: So, which Star Wars quote best embodies Brett Favre: (1) "He is more machine now, than man...twisted and evil" or (2) "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine". Christ, I just scared myself. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Bears QB Kyle Orton gets his quote from Return of the Jedi: "I'm endangering the mission, I shouldn't have come." Pick: Green Bay

Houston at Indianapolis

Aaron: Has there been a more anonymous 12-2 season in recent league history? If not for the last 10 minutes of the Pats game and an inexplicable missed FG in the Chargers game, the Colts could be the team that America hates! With the Patriots (whom we hated already). Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: So the Colts have nothing to play for while the Texans are fighting for their first winning season in franchise history? This is how I talk myself into dumb picks. Pick: Houston

Kansas City at Detroit

Aaron: Watching the Chargers' practice squad mop the floor with the lifeless Lions in the 2nd half last week wasn't pretty. Good thing the Chiefs packed it in around Halloween. Pick: Detroit

Joe: This is the Lions' last chance to pick up a victory and fall short of Jon Kitna's pre-season prediction by three games rather than four. Pick: Detroit

N.Y. Giants at Buffalo

Aaron: I think fans and the media make WAY too much over the "inspirational" angles. But, after reading in last week's SI how Bills TE Kevin Everett went from certain paralysis to now walking...hell, even I wanted to stand up and cheer. He'll reportedly be in Buffalo for the Bills' final home game on Sunday. Pick: Buffalo

Joe: For the record, Everett gave a message of inspiration to the team before the Patriots game last month. 56-10, in case you forgot. Pick: NY Giants

Oakland at Jacksonville

Aaron: The Jags are my 2007 rooting interest for this year's playoffs. May their run be as successful as my 2006 rooting interest: "Anyone but the f*cking Chargers". Seriously, people, if you lived out here, you'd hate 'em, too. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Jeez, Cam. You talk about the Chargers in these picks almost as much as you desperately avoid talking about the Raiders. Pick: Jacksonville

Philadelphia at New Orleans

Aaron: I only made the playoffs in one of my fantasy leagues this year. Behind QB Kurt Warner and God's will, I won last week. This week, Willie Parker carries once and breaks his leg. So, umm, Mr. Westbrook...I need you to play like two guys here. K thx. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Here's where Pro Bowl snubbees Drew Brees and Marques Colston wreak havoc on their hapless opponents. Pick: New Orleans

Atlanta at Arizona

Aaron: Between the ruining of his franchise QB and the head coach who betrayed him and being left at the altar by Bill F'n Parcells, Falcons owner Arthur Blank should just embrace the 1940s sad-sack cartoon caricature that he's become. What's that theme music they all had? "Waa WAAAAH". It's funnier when you say it out loud. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Bill O'Reilly is blaming Atlanta's woes on karmic payback for Ludacris and his boastful vulgarity. Also the War On Christmas. Pick: Arizona

Tampa Bay at San Francisco

Aaron: Sorry, 49er fans...when you sold your collective souls to Satan just to be able to call yourselves "The Team of the Decade" (the '80s!...that was so long ago!) this was the inevitable consequence. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: As for the playoff-bound Bucs and their squinty-faced, looks like this Chucky has as many lives in him as his cinematic namesake. Look for assistant coach Jennifer Tilly on the sidelines next season. Pick: Tampa Bay

Baltimore at Seattle

Aaron: Might be time to let go of that near miss against New England, Baltimore. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Not that it'll matter against a team that still hasn't stopped bitching about the Super Bowl two years ago. Of course, I'll be bitching about Shaun Alexander for at least that long, so... Pick: Seattle

Miami at New England

Aaron: Hmmm...douchebag Pats fans on the verge of an undefeated regular season or douchebag '72 Dolphins players - sure to be in attendance - on the verge of seeing their entire reason to live snuffed out in a few weeks. C'mon on, dirty bomb. Pick: New England

Joe: Seriously. No matter who wins, we all lose. Pick: New England

N.Y. Jets at Tennessee

Aaron: All Vince Young does is win football games, occasionally. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Can't top that. Won't try. Pick: Tennessee

Washington at Minnesota

Aaron: The Vikes are 1st in rushing and 30th in passing this year. Is it possible to play all eleven men on the defensive line against them? Is that against the rules? Pick: Minnesota

Joe: And underestimate the WR tandem of Chris and Anthony Carter? ...Those are still the Vikings wideouts, right? Pick: Minnesota

Denver at San Diego

Aaron: That's right, America...ESPN broadcasts Christmas Eve from San Diego. We promise to import all the snow, chestnuts and wind chill that makes your holiday season so much better than ours. It's gotta be gone by the 25th, though, cuz we're grilling ribeyes and eating dinner out on our deck on Xmas Day. But, no...your way of life is better. And that sweater looks great on you! Pick: San Diego

Joe: It's times like these, when the petty squabbling between the White-Christmasers and the Green-Christmasers really escalates, that I begin to wish for the speedy arrival of global climate change so that we can all celebrate Christmas the same way. Under water. God bless us, everyone! Pick: San Diego

Thursday, December 20, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #16

Pittsburgh at St. Louis (Thurs.)

Aaron: The Steelers are reeling, while the Rams are...whatever happens when there's no place left to reel. St. Louis is also an eight point dog at home. Steelers win, but it'll be a cockfight. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Here's how it works: it was too much to hope that the Steelers could fell the obnoxious Patriots juggernaut two weeks ago. Now it's too much to hope that the Browns can overtake the Steelers for first place in the Central. The rule is: nothing good ever happens. Pick: Pittsburgh

Dallas at Carolina (Sat.)

Aaron: The fact that Jessica Simpson was mentioned a million times on ESPN in the aftermath of the Cowboys loss last week hurts more than a billion "boo-yahs". And just one Sean Salisbury. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Okay, it's annoying but it really has become an epidemic. The woman is the ruination of everything she touches, from handsome guys to movies based on crappy '70s TV shows. She must be stopped...or fixed up with Tom Brady. Pick: Dallas

Bravo, Deadspin, Bravo!

Yeah, so content has been a little light in these parts lately and when I do bother to post, it's nothing but sports.

On that note, enjoy this white light reading from sportsblog emeritus, Deadspin. Normally, the cadre of commenters to each post is an annoying mash up of "not funny" and "not funny, either", but the readers bring their A-game on this 'un, son.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #19

A little over a week ago, there was a report in the San Francisco Chronicle that all but guaranteed Barry Bonds would be playing for the A's in 2008. During one of my occasional moments of self-importance, I began work on a lengthy blog post to determine if this would be a good or bad thing. Then, last Friday, the A's went and rendered the rumors moot.

(BTW…my final verdict regarding the possible signing of Bonds? A good thing.)

So, I'm driving Little Boy Bootleg home from preschool last Friday. Our usual musical accompaniment of ear-chafing children's songs had been replaced with XM Radio's never-ending dissection of The Mitchell Report, which had been released 24 hours earlier. Just before 3:30 PM, they announced that A's starter Dan Haren had been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for six players.

Jalen parroted both my elongated groan and the smattering of casual profanity that left my lips.

On the one hand, Haren pitched like a number one starter for most of last year, before slipping in the second half of the season (2.30 vs. 4.15 ERA before and after the ASB). He's young (26), durable (200+ innings in each of the last three years) and – most importantly – he's cheap (about $16.25M over the next three years) by today's standards.

On the other hand, Boy Genius GM Billy Beane has let the A's minor league system erode on his watch, while the team's abject absence of offense virtually assured a 2008 finish out of the playoffs.

According to Minor League guru Kevin Goldstein (formerly of Baseball America, now writing for Baseball Prospectus), four of the six players the A's got from Arizona instantly moved into Oakland's top seven prospects in their entire system. I'm not sure if that's a credit to the talent the A's received or an indictment of their current player development abilities.

The jewel of the deal is supposedly OF Carlos Gonzalez, but since Goldstein uses words like "highly questionable effort" alongside "tremendous upside", I won't get too excited until I see him play. LHP Brett Anderson also came over and Goldstein calls him "…arguably the most polished teenage pitcher in the minors". 1B Chris Carter – earlier this fall named the top power hitter in the White Sox Minor League system – was part of the deal, as well.

Sucks to see Haren go, as he seemed happy in Oakland and the A's were better with him in 2008 than they will be without him, but trading guys away for baskets of young talent and sacks of magic beans has been a franchise tradition for decades. Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and more were all swapped out at one point.

The verdict on this deal: Who the hell knows? We'll need a good two or three years to grade this one accurately.

And, if I survived the post-Rickey Henderson, pre-steroid laden mid-80s A's and the Ariel Prieto, Ruben Sierra, Troy Neel-led mid-90s A's…then, I can live through a few years of rebuilding.

On a related note, we're planning to take our son to his first A's game in Oakland next April. I hope there'll be tickets available.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #15

Denver at Houston

Aaron: I went agin' my own "Jay Cutler in road games" rule vs. Oakland a few weeks ago and it bit me in the ass. Never again, Jay Cutler. Never again will you bite my ass. Pick: Houston

Joe: Here's where I make my formal apology to Sage Rosenfels. Sorry, dude. How was I to know? It's not like you engineered a 20-point second half comeback against the Bills or anything. Ass. Pick: Houston

Cincinnati at San Francisco

Aaron: In researching my quip for this game, I discovered that former Bengal Ickey Woods is now the coach for the Cincinnati Sizzle in a women's football league. His salary = a warm place to sleep at night. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: Wow. Between women's football, "a warm place to sleep at night" and "Ickey," this blurb has gotten...well, icky. This game won't be any prettier, I'll tell you that. Pick: Cincinnati

Arizona at New Orleans

Aaron: The Cards begin what should be a three game cakewalk to 9-7. As for the Saints, I'm about 11 years too late for an effective "Dead Man Walking" reference. I loved that movie. Pick: Arizona

Joe: I don't like the Cards on the road, especially not with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitz banged up. The Saints, on the other hand, can get by without Reggie Bush a bit easier. Pick: New Orleans

Atlanta at Tampa Bay

Aaron: I can't help but think that the Falcons' 2007 season is some sort of karmic payback for the ATL unleashing Lil' Jon on an unsuspecting country. And, yes, I have no shame with being five years too late with my "bash Lil Jon" reference. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: My guess is that the Lil' John karma is being crowded out by the Michael Vick dogtrocution karma. Though I won't rule out a haunting by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. Pick: Tampa Bay

Baltimore at Miami

Aaron: F*ck it, why not? (That was rhetorical.) Pick: Miami

Joe: You just don't know how bad this Dolphins team is until you see them with your own eyes. Besides, my theory that the Ravens have quit on their coach was obviously wrong because they extended his contract. Because if they renewed the contract of a guy who has allowed his team to unravel around him, that'd be pretty stupid, huh? Pick: Baltimore

Buffalo at Cleveland

Aaron: They're talking playoff implications for BOTH the Browns and Bills here. No, really. I heard it on ESPN's PTI this week. If only the Bills were at home... Pick: Cleveland

Joe: The last time a Bills-Browns game mattered, it was 1989 (actually, January of 1990): Don Beebe got dropped on his head with no ill effects, Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar combined for seven touchdown passes, and Ronnie Harmon dropped the winning touchdown in the corner of the end zone. ...Yep, still hate him. Pick: Cleveland

Green Bay at St. Louis

Aaron: After no less than 200 concussions this season alone, Rams QB Marc Bulger is expected to start. Brett Favre scoffs at this infidel's shoddy Brett Favre impression. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: His Steve Young impression, however, should be coming along quite nicely. Pick: Green Bay

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

Aaron: The Steelers haven't looked good in the last four weeks, but I'll take the northeast (to me, anyway) home team in December over anyone from Florida. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: It's sound logic, especially after getting a look at that m-f'er of a nor'easter headed their way. Pick: Pittsburgh

N.Y. Jets at New England

Aaron: Of course the Pats are gonna win, but the last spread I saw was 21 points. I'm told something called a "nor'easter" (pfft, it's spelled "norTHeaster", idiots) could wreck havoc in the area. Three TD difference on, potentially, the planet Hoth? No chance. Pick: New England

Joe: Beat ya to the nor'easter reference, sucker. My questions is this: will Belichick be more pissed off that the weather will keep his asshole team from running up the score or that it'll force him to wear something warmer than his Flashdance cut-off sweatshirt? Pick: New England

Seattle at Carolina

Aaron: Still no clue as to what to make of the Seahawks team. But, as long as the Panthers continue their rotation of AARPQBs, me likey Seattle here. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Yeah, I guess the 'Hawks aren't as bad as I've been saying. Shaun Alexander is, how Matt Hasselbeck will end up carrying this team into the playoffs and getting no credit for it. Hot bald guys have it rough sometimes. Pick: Seattle

Tennessee at Kansas City

Aaron: I like how everyone has blamed Larry Johnson's lackluster season on the fact that he missed training camp and NOT the 4,000,000 times he ran the ball last year. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Has anybody blamed it on the delicious barbecue yet? Pick: Tennessee

Indianapolis at Oakland

Aaron: Moving on. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe:It's no fun to hate on your team when they're this bad, Cam. Hope they get better next season. Pick: Indianapolis

Detroit at San Diego

Aaron: All season long, when the Chargers have built up a game or two worth of momentum, they unexpectedly stink up the joint. Sooo, tempted here with the SD defense beat up. Can't do it. Pick: San Diego

Joe: That demoralizing defeat to the Cowboys last week has to have broken the Lions' will for good, don't you think? Pick: San Diego

Philadelphia at Dallas

Aaron: Anyone else think the Eagles will talk themselves into bringing back Donovan McNabb next year, chalking up '07 to "injuries n' stuff"? The "stuff" is that he's juuuust about through. Pick: Dallas

Joe: As are the Eagles this season. Pick: Dallas

Washington at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: The Redskins have dedicated this game to the memory of Coach Joe Gibbs' marbles. Pick: N.Y. Giants

Joe: Can't top that. Pick: NY Giants

Chicago at Minnesota

Aaron: Am I too late to make the obligatory "they both have an Adrian Peterson" joke? No? Good. Cuz my money's on the Black one! Pick: Minnesota

Joe: If only they both had a Kyle Orton, the Bears might have a shot. Pick: Minnesota

Say It Ain't So

Quick question: Which baseball player would you rather have?

Player A: .236 BA / .376 OBP / .347 SLG
Player B: .315 BA / .423 OBP / .466 SLG

Thursday's release of the "Mitchell Report" – baseball's independent (pfft) study into the steroid era – is expected to name names and will surely provide more grist for the vacuous talk radio mill.'s Howard Bryant wrote a lengthy piece on this ridiculous "wildgoosechasewitchhunt" and it's an excellent read.

99.9% of my concerns and criticisms are echoed by Bryant and his findings. Still, there's one angle that I haven't seen addressed by any of the media outlets.

Y'see, rightly or wrongly, my Oakland A's are considered "ground zero" for the so-called steroid era. Former A's outfielder Jose Canseco wrote a book detailing how he brought steroids to Major League Baseball in the mid-1980s. He implicated former A's first baseman and teammate Mark McGwire and I vividly remember newspaper and magazine articles from around the same time marveling at the sculpted physiques of lower-case A's like Lance Blankenship and Mike Gallego.

Those late '80s A's are still my favorite team – in any sport – of all time. As such, they earned a lifetime pass from me. Canseco's violent strikeouts were as fun to watch as his tape-measure testosterone bombs over the wall. Dave Stewart remains the single greatest "big game" pitcher I've ever seen. And, of course, Rickey Henderson is now and forever my all-time…whoops, I've digressed from the point I was trying to make.

So, that aforementioned angle that hasn't been addressed in all this is that after all these months of ersatz investigations, there are exactly two things that fans will be interested in: (1) what players will be named and (2) are any of them on their favorite team. Has anyone asked Red Sox Nation if they'll STFU should all that acromegaly in the middle of their order be outed today? Will Jeff Bagwell still be revered as pure Ivory Soap by Texas' moral absolutist kooks should his name be in the report?

Y'see, for the last few years, lots of baseball fans have called for the cranium of Barry Bonds (since, he was the only ballplayer to ever, ever, ever use 'roids). So, will they be equally as indignant when/if the axe falls on their favorite teams or players? We're waiting, media. Ask, already.

Oh, before I forget…

Player A and Player B are the same guy.

In 1998, Rickey Henderson joined the Oakland A's for his fourth tour of duty with the team. At 39, he appeared to be reaching the end of the line, despite leading the American League in stolen bases and putting up his usually excellent OBP. A year later, he signed with the New York Mets and found the fountain of youth at age 40. It was the last great year of his career and his best season since his peak in the mid '90s.

The New York Mets are expected to be prominently featured in The Mitchell Report later today. If you've read this far, you know all about the former Mets clubhouse attendant (Kirk Radomski) who became steroid distributor to the stars, before turning snitch for the feds. Radomski left the Mets, officially, in 1995, but he allegedly supplied members of the team with "what they needed" for years after that. Rickey's tenure with the Mets coincides with Radomski's entrepreneurial timeline.

Now, I don't believe for a minute that Rickey ever used steroids as he's always been sculpted, but small – if that makes any sense. And, if he's named in today's report, I'll still believe he never used steroids.

If that makes any sense.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Your Breakfast Burrito Three-For-All!

In Los Angeles, they eat at Tommy's. In Chicago, I'm told it's White Castle. And, when I was in New York last June, my meal-after-drinking came from a street vendor at 4:00 AM.

I don't know if copious amounts of grease actually assist in alcohol absorption, but, for me, I've sworn by the breakfast burritos found in any one of San Diego's dozens of hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants. The best ones are big, two-hand torpedoes and are served wrapped in a tortilla that practically shines from the abundance of saturated fat.

As I get older, I find myself actually eating these portable coronaries…for breakfast. And, even worse, I've been patronizing the mainstream fast food industry for my faux Mexican fix. I am not proud of this. However, the dirty looks I get from my wife when I bring one home at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning aren't nearly as piercing as the stink-eye she'd give me when I'd bring one home at 4:00 AM on a Sunday morning.

That's a miniscule six hour difference. Tsk…women.

McDonald's McSkillet Burrito

You've probably already been blitzed by the ad campaign. It was effective enough to get me to drive three exits south on the freeway and nearly 15 minutes in the opposite direction, while I was on my way to work last Saturday morning.

McDonald's take is a little unusual in that sausage is the featured ingredient (a patty is cut in half and laid end-to-end) while the amount of scramby egg is minimal. There are some thawed out n' heated red and green peppers mixed in with a three cheese blend that increases the grease factor, but don't really enhance the end product.

Points for the surprisingly smoky salsa and handful of fried potatoes within, but this one needed twice the amount of eggs. While it was perfectly edible, it still seemed more like a south-of-the-border sausage biscuit than a burrito.

Grade: 2.5 (out of 5)

Carl's Jr. Loaded Breakfast Burrito

Sorry, rest of the United States, but we're getting a wee regional here. "Loaded" isn't an empty exaggeration, as this one includes a mountain of eggs, along with diced sausage, bacon, ham, cheese, hash round/tater tot thingies, scallions and salsa. And, what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in girth. Cough.

The scallions are a subtle touch that brings out the rest of the flavors. Extra kudos for cramming in the crispy potatoes and three salted meats, which save the bland eggs from themselves, turning the whole thing into the earliest guilty pleasure around. And, for $4.00 you can get the burrito in a combo meal with (another) side of hash rounds. Giggedy.

Since I haven't had the pleasure of ingesting Hardee's Country Breakfast Burrito or the one that Sonic serves up down south, I can't call Carl's Jr's the best of the whole bunch, but it'll take a lot to top it.

Grade: 4

Jack in the Box's Sirloin Steak & Egg Burrito

For those that don't know – and, I'm not sure if they have franchises east of Rockies – JitB is arguably the third biggest burger brand out here in Cali. Lately, they've been trying to pass off "sirloin" as an impressive, high-class cut of meat in a new televised marketing plan.

As anyone who's ever eaten any part of the cow can tell you, sirloin isn't anything special. And, with that kind of lead in, the rest of this review could write itself. The steak in mine was chewy and bitter. Jack does its best to hide the microwave taste by slathering on the chipotle sauce, but that only makes the cow-flavored choking hazards within glide down your gullet.

Jack in the Box nearly went bankrupt in the early '90s after a highly-publicized series of E. coli deaths. They reinvented themselves in the aftermath with one of the most improbably successful ad campaigns in American history. That said…their "breakfast is the most important meal" spots are appropriately awful for this burrito.

Grade: 1

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Things That Sound Racist but Aren't

The Sunday funnies aren't so funny when you're a Black man. Bil Keane's long-running Family Circus strip echoes the 2008 Republican platform with today's red-state take on race relations.

Somewhat more encouraging was my recent discovery that legendary children's author Dr. Seuss was, at one time…well, don't let ME spoil the surprise.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #14 (Now with More Pickery!)

Chicago at Washington

Aaron: Things we learned from last week's Redskins loss: (1) It's stupid to assume that dozens of individuals will be equally "inspired" to win a football game when a teammate dies. (2) The 'Skins going with 10 men on defense on the first play was even more stupid. (3) Coach Joe Gibbs' gift-wrapped 15-yard penalty at the end of the game...stupidest of all. The Skins are d-o-n-e. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Yeah, even with the loss to the Giants, it still seems that the Bears are playing better on defense and are an improved team with The Other Adrian Peterson in the backfield, for the pass-catching ability alone. Pick: Chicago

Carolina at Jacksonville

Aaron: The Jags have one real test in their final four games (next week at Pittsburgh). A run to the AFC Championship Game would not surprise me at this point, even though they don't seem to suit up anyone over 5'9". Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Not sure if I would go that far, but they'll certainly mop the floor with the Panthers. Pick: Jacksonville

Dallas at Detroit

Aaron: Well, the Lions have sure made picking their games a lot easier lately. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Seriously, where's your God now, Kitna? Pick: Dallas

Miami at Buffalo

Aaron: Last week, the Dolphins proved that a sh*tty team's "plucky spunk" (even at home) will always be trumped by a team whose sole motivation is to avoid humiliation. Out on a limb here: the Dolphins are D-O-N-E. Pick: Buffalo

Joe: I'm petrified of jinxing my boys here, but Cameron's ideas are intriguing and I wish to subscribe to his newsletter. Pick: Buffalo

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia

Aaron: Why does every mention of these teams' first meeting include the 12 Giants sacks, but not a word about the absence of Eagles RB Brian Westbrook? Expect Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb to share a patented awkward hug for the cameras at game's end. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Again, your argument is compelling, and that's not even getting into the 95% probability that Jeremy Shockey will drop a 3rd-down pass during a crucial 4th quarter drive. Keep talking, fat face! Pick: Philadelphia

Oakland at Green Bay

Aaron: The week-old game recaps, pretentiously self-serving writers and embarassing attempts to blend pop culture with athletics has made Sports Illustrated increasingly irrelevant over the years. And, they just picked Brett Favre as their "Sportsman of the Year". Why? Cuz he plays hurt, mostly. Wonder where he'll finish in the voting 10 years from now when he's wheeled in to testify at congressional hearings for more handicapped access. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Now I'm picturing Brett Favre as wheel-boung with a blanket over his legs like Krusty in that one Simpsons episode that happened in the future. Thanks, Cam! Pick: Green Bay

San Diego at Tennessee

Aaron: Before last week's game, Chargers RB Classy Tomlinson called former coach Marty Schottenheimer for advice. This overt slap in the craggy mug of current coach Norv Turner was glossed over by most media outlets, since San Diego won. Are these "passes from the media" just randomly handed out or did Brett Favre have to vouch for the guy? Pick: San Diego

Joe: If the Chargers are headed for that 9-7 "division championship by default" that I think they are, they should be due for a loss right Pick: Tennessee

St. Louis at Cincinnati

Aaron: My picks have been longer than usual this week. For the sake of the readers, let's just say it'll be cold in Cincinnati. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: I probably shouldn't take such nasty satisfaction out of TJ Houshmandzedeh going in the tank the last few weeks, thus deep-sixing the fantasy seasons of teams that were lucky enough to have idiots like me pick Larry Fitzgerald instead. Not like I'm holding onto that or anything. Pick: Cincinnati

Tampa Bay at Houston

Aaron: With only highlights from those first two wins, it appears that the Texans' 2007 season DVD will be running a little short of its alloted 30 minutes this year. They might wanna include several of Reggie Bush's patented 2-yard gains for yuks, though. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: I've been fond of picking Houston this season (Cam's been fond of me picking Houston too, I suspect), but I just can't quite put my trust in Sage Rosenfels. Pick: Tampa Bay

Arizona at Seattle

Aaron: That the Seahawks went into Philly last week, fought bad weather and some of the worst fans on earth, yet still came away with a win is either a testiment to their talent or an indictment to how inconsistent and awful they've looked at other times this year. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Yeah, I've officially given up on figuring the Seahawks out. The Cardinals are easier: they ain't winning in cold weather. Pick: Seattle

Minnesota at San Francisco

Aaron: It appears my son will have a better Vikings RB to watch for the next decade than I was ever able to see on the ol' black n' white back in my day. Wither Robert Smith and Herschel Walker? Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Seriously. Where have you gone, Mewelde Moore? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Minny's making the playoffs, y'all. Pick: Minnesota

Cleveland at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: Loved how all the Jets were running their mouths last Sunday and talking about being "disrespected" by the oddsmakers who slotted them as underdogs vs. winless Miami. Let's hope Coach Mangini has saved some of that motivational fire for his exit interview this January. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: The Browns seriously let me down last week -- I was really not pleased. ...So this is how it must feel to be a Browns fan! Pick: Cleveland

Kansas City at Denver

Aaron: Fun in San Diego, THIS is our regional late game and not Steelers v. Patriots. The local CBS affiliate justifies this by calling Chiefs/Broncos "an important divisional game". I'd write more, but ESPN's Bill Simmons recently decreed only he's allowed to bitch about these things. Pick: Denver

Joe: Seeing as we've only differed once so far in this extremely predictable set of picks, I'd better zig while you zag here. Go Dwayne Bowe (whoever that is)! Pick: Kansas City

Pittsburgh at New England

Aaron: Seriously, where the hell is all this "Steelers can beat the Pats" talk coming from? Mike Tomlin has been outcoached in several games this year - even if his team still won some of them. The Pats haven't mauled anyone in almost three weeks. They're due. Pick: New England

Joe: Eh. I don't know. One shaky game is one thing, but two in a row makes me think maybe the Pats don't have the gumption to make this 16-0 thing happen. You can tell I'm mostly joking because I said "gumption," but seriously: if not now, when? Pick: Pittsburgh

Indianapolis at Baltimore

Aaron: That Ravens 4th quarter Monday night meltdown was a sight to behold. And I loved those crowd shots of Baltimore fans after the game. It was like watching close-ups of the losing team in the Little League World Series. I love those. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Yeah, it was tough to have to root for the Ravens last week, between Billick and that defense throwing a block party after every tackle. Also, regarding Ray Lewis and Willis McGahee, now that we've gotten the nationwide Sean Taylor period of mourning out of our collective system, can we stop referring to former Miami Hurricanes as if they all pledged the same business frat? Shut up so hard, "The U". Pick: Indianapolis

New Orleans at Atlanta

Aaron: It's over for the Saints, but it's over-er for the Falcons. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Yeah, last week marked the last time I'll be picking the Falcons this or any season. Pick: New Orleans

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Those Who Hate Rap Music Should Listen to More Rap Music (L-O-N-G)

I've got three or four partially started posts/columns about the rapper known as Nas sitting on my hard drive. I just can't figure this guy out. He's a prolific lyricist and his 1994 debut Illmatic is considered one of the most important albums of its time. Yet, an abject lack of charisma has kept his (commercial) star from ascending to the heights of several less talented peers. Consequently, he's made a few head-scratching self-promotional decisions in the last year that have made him an easy target for those too lazy to actually listen to the guy.

An editorial page writer for the Palm Beach Post – Elisa Cramer – attempts to use one of these decisions as the foundation for an anti-rap rant that, in accordance with the usual media modus operandi, is ill-informed, unfocused and, oftentimes, outright untrue.

The old news: The rapper first known as Nasir Jones is planning to release an album titled N*gger.

The new news: Nas announced this week that instead of his planned December release, N*gger will debut during Black History Month.

Such shock value. So Imus-like.

To be fair, on this point, the esteemed Ms. Cramer and I agree. Like Nas' Hip Hop is Dead album released last year, the N*gger title is the marketing equivalent of a child's tantrum: full of flailing legs & arms, hot air and holding your breath until mommy and daddy give him an audience.

In the face of criticism from the Southern rap community, Nas softened his proclamation that Hip Hop was indeed "dead". He subsequently whored out his album title (with his full endorsement) as a punch line for a Los Angeles radio station's holiday promotion. Nas' values have always seemed to be available to the highest bidder, be it Columbia Records, former enemy Jay-Z and Def Jam…or Power 106FM ("Where Hip Hop isn't dead…it LIVES!")

The rapper's desperate plea for attention proves that the long-awaited death of gangsta rap, in all of its misogyny, materialism and violence, finally is imminent. Sales of rap albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan, are 43.6 percent lower than in 2000. Rap albums didn't even crack the Top 10 in 2006, the first time in five years. Even 50 Cent - whose second album, The Massacre, sold more than a million copies immediately upon its release - in September had his worst opening ever: 691,000 copies.

Now, one of the coolest compliments that I've received over the years was from readers who told me some variation of "I don't even like rap, but I read you, anyway". So, for any of you who are still around, let's tackle the preceding paragraph in reverse order of idiocy:

1.) The 691K units that 50 Cent moved during the first week release of Curtis still placed him in the top five of first week sales for 2007. Number one? Kanye West's Graduation. Of course, Kanye's not a "gangsta" rapper, but, as you'll read later, that won't matter to Elisa Cramer.

2.) Cramer's creamed-panty anticipation of "gangsta rap's" demise is couched in her own cherry-picked statistic. Thanks mostly to the internet, CD sales are down across the board in every genre – from country to rock to rap. And, her essential "exhibit A" is an album that went gold in seven days and is now already platinum?

3.) And, sweetheart…gangsta rap IS dead. This is not news, nor was it news 10 years ago when the industry wrote its epitaph after Death Row Records, for all intents and purposes, closed its doors in 1997. Y'know, not all rap is "gangsta" rap, despite what the media would have you believe.

Artists such as De La Soul warned: "You tried keeping it real, but you should try keeping it right." But efforts to restore hip-hop didn't prevent such rappers as Nas, whose lyrics in 1999 included: "Shoot 'em up, just shoot 'em up, what? Kill, kill, kill, murder, murder, murder."

More selective lyrical criticism. Y'see, with this approach, the writer makes it seem like ALL of Nas' material is this inane. The "shoot 'em up" lines are from the song of the same name. It's on his Nastradamus album, which most rap fans either kinda-sorta liked or hated, hated, hated.

The funny thing is that Nas devotes large chunks of this album to warning his listeners about the consequences of life on the streets, but, not surprisingly, Cramer can't be bothered to print any lyrics from "Life We Chose", "Project Windows" or "God Love Us". Nas is as much a gangsta rapper as me.

A poll released this month by the Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of blacks believe that rap is having a bad influence on society. And, no, that figure was not reflecting only those of us who rarely or never listen to rap. Nor was the rejection the typical generation gap between "art" and "noise." In fact, 63 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds agreed that rap is having a bad influence.

Most polled cited rap's offensive language, negative stereotypes of women and the promotion of violence or gangs. Much of the offensive language is about treating women violently, often through sexual abuse. So it was disappointing but not surprising that the survey found that more black women (74 percent) see a negative impact than black men (67 percent).

Wait…I'm confused. Is this one of those "Black polls" that I'm supposed to summarily dismiss like the ones that say Blacks (much more than whites) feel Barry Bonds is being mistreated? And, it never fails to amuse me how every editorial stance that criticizes Blacks or Black culture has to include supporting words (or stats) from Black people that agree with the author's position. It's the journalistic equivalent of "I'm not racist…I know LOTS of Black people!"

Of course there's not a lick of context in Cramer's discussion of these polls. How is rap negatively affecting society? Would there be no gangs without rap? Would Black women feel better about themselves without rap? For all we know, those who responded could be blaming rap for the proliferation of stupid new dances at the club. The "societal circle" of an 18-year-old is different from that of someone 25 or 35 or 55.

But I considered the results on rap promising from a survey on racial attitudes that also revealed some depressing views. The poll (is) titled "Optimism about Black Progress Declines." Among the findings:

"African-Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race."

Blacks are "less upbeat about the state of black progress now than at any time since 1983. Looking backward, just one-in-five blacks say things are better for blacks now than they were five years ago. Looking ahead, fewer than half of all blacks (44 percent) say they think life for blacks will get better in the future, down from the 57 percent who said so in a 1986 survey."

I fear that those views hint at a resurgence of the hopelessness and miseducation that drew too many young African-American boys to gangsta rap's hype of a fast money-sex-and-cars lifestyle.

So, that was "gangsta rap" that promised "fast money, sex and cars"? Not sports or drug dealing or numbers running or whatever else "they" do in the "ghetto". Good to know.

Help me out here: what do any of the above stats on the State of the Black Union have to do with music of any kind? If any other "conscious" Black author were to dredge up similar data, he/she would be dismissed with the right-wing's latest label for us: "self-pitying" (or is it "self-loathing" or "self-hating"? Obviously, I don't watch enough Fox News Channel.)

And, with Cramer's concern about the resurgence of hopelessness in the Black community, it's obvious that she doesn't watch enough Black people.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The 2008 Hall of Fame Ballot (Virgins Only Edition)

One of the writers from one of my previous places of online employment is putting the finishing touches on a big-ass baseball Hall of Fame feature. I know you all join me in hoping it's as awesome and all-encompassing as the one I did for the very same site a few years ago. If so, it'll be the sincerest form of flattery.

Now, by my count, there are 11 ballplayers making their HOF ballot debut, so I'll need someone to Mapquest "memory lane" for me:

Brady Anderson

What Aaron Remembers Most - His flukish 50 home run season in 1996 immediately springs to mind. His sideburns and assorted shirtless poses made him quite popular in both the gay and straight communities. In fact, he was one of the few athletes whom I remember being openly questioned on his sexuality in a national interview. Good to see the media acting more responsibly these days. In case you couldn't tell, I was being sarcastic. Well, duh.

Should be in the Hall of Fame of… - Sex symbols of the 1990s who were inspired by Fox Network nighttime dramas like The Heights, Party of Five and Models, Inc.. Oh, and Studs…it was syndicated, but it was on our Fox affiliate in Los Angeles back then.

Rod Beck

What Aaron Remembers Most - Beck's then-manager Dusty Baker setting the template for the ruining of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood's careers by pitching Beck into the ground. "Shooter" was also a San Diego Padre for a short time, filling in for an injured Trevor Hoffman to the tune of 20 saves in 2003. Also, the media's misguided romanticism of Beck's love for the bottle and nonexistent self-control was nowhere to be found in his eventual obituary.

Should be in the Hall of Fame of… - Fat guys, mullets and Miller Lite.

Shawon Dunston

What Aaron Remembers Most - In an age before "Moneyball" and OBP-obsession, this guy never, ever walked. Never. I also remember ESPN's Stuart Scott being the last sportscaster to pronounce his name "Shuh-JUAN". In the early '90s, everyone did this before Dunston went all "Chone Figgins" on us and expected the public to believe it was "SHAWN". Sellout.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Chicago Cubs who were overrated because they played for the Chicago Cubs. Alphabetically, we'll slot him right after Andre Dawson. Zing!

Chuck Finley

What Aaron Remembers Most - During his prime with the California Angels (1986-96) my Oakland A's absolutely owned him as Finley was 8-20 vs. the green n' gold, lifetime. His bumpkin dialect and aw-shucks demeanor were always good for a laugh in post-game interviews. Oh, and his wife beat the sh*t out of him, pretty much ending his career.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Inexplicable spousal abuse victims who didn't duck and mullets (looking like a good '08 induction class for mullets).

Travis Fryman

What Aaron Remembers Most - One of Sparky Anderson's myriad of over-hyped (mostly by Anderson) prospects in the '80s and '90s, Fryman had one or two solid seasons on some awful Tigers teams. His spotlight was mostly eaten by teammate Cecil Fielder, so outside of this and few solid seasons in Cleveland, I don't remember much about the guy.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Ballplayers who didn't really return their early '90s rookie card investment. My class action suit is pending. (For those wondering, Todd Van Poppel has already been served).

David Justice

What Aaron Remembers Most - One of the last Black athletes who was referred to as "uppity" in an actual newspaper article. Uppity! That's what they called George Washington Carver! Reportedly had a falling out with then-teammate Deion Sanders when m'man Prime Time – aiming for broadcaster Tim McCarver – inadvertently hit Justice's girlfriend, Halle Berry, with a bucket of water. Finished his career in 2002 with the A's.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Light-skinned bruthas who wore bad mustaches for awhile – preferably in the Aaron Cameron Stoney Jackson Wing.

Chuck Knoblauch

What Aaron Remembers Most - He was the starting second baseman on the '91 World Champion Minnesota Twins and his fake-out of the Braves' Lonnie Jones probably won the Series for the Twinkies. Solid, occasionally spectacular player before a trade to the Yankees and some well-documented, uh, "throwing-to-first base challenges" turned him into a 5'2" bucket of goo.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Underappreciated Yankees who somehow ended up playing for Kansas City. Steve Balboni made this elite group about 10 years ago.

Robb Nen

What Aaron Remembers Most - Wait…he's been retired for five years? It seems like during every spring training since 2002, there's been one of those awkwardly-worded stories on with a headline of: "Nen – Robbed of Health – Finally Expects to Contribute". Seriously. He'd tell fans that he was feeling "better than ever" and he was always "excited" about his team's new acquisitions like Jose & Deivi Cruz.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Closers whose arms were mashed into pulp by Dusty Baker. Hey, it's Rod Beck! We've come full circle.

Tim Raines

What Aaron Remembers Most - Without even looking it up, I remember that he was the MVP of the 1987 All-Star Game. I am not proud of this knowledge. He also sought to cash in on the marketing opportunities of a name change, going from "Tim" to "Rock". Posed on a '91 Topps baseball card while sitting on a large rock. Oh, those wacky '90s. Went to the A's in 1999 and promptly contracted lupus.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Criminally underrated ballplayers. Raines was terrific up until his early 30s, when injuries – and more than a decade of losing – led him to accept a spot on the bench with the 1996-98 New York Yankees. Probably could've started on some teams a lot worse and padded his hit total closer to 3,000.

Jose Rijo

What Aaron Remembers Most - What the…? Didn't he already come up for a HOF vote before this year? Ah, and Wikipedia confirms this as Rijo got some votes in 2000 (he didn't play from 1996-2000 after a serious elbow injury). He then came back and won five games in 2002. I like that memory a lot better than the one where the A's trade him to Cincinnati in 1987 and he magically learns how to pitch as soon as he becomes a Red, then mows Oakland down in the 1990 World Series. Still burns, kids. Still burns.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Good players in the '90s who were once traded for the remains of Dave Parker. Hell, the Angels gave Milwaukee OF/DH Dante Bichette for him straight-up.

Todd Stottlemyre

What Aaron Remembers Most - I remember that no one seemed to like him very much, a la A.J. Pierzynski today. After Oakland brought back SP Dave Stewart for what would be his final year in the bigs in 1995, he and Stottlemyre got into a bar fight with patrons during spring training in Arizona. After a 14-win season, the A's gave him away to St. Louis (as they'd do with Dennis Eckersley and Mark McGwire, too). Oh, I've got a long memory.

Should Be in the Hall of Fame of… - Guys who sign a 4-year/$32M contract at the age of 34, then only pitch about 200 innings (in 39 starts) over the lifetime of the deal.

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #13 (...and the rest)

Joe and I differ on EIGHT games this week! Looks like I'll be begging him to join me in an NHL pool soon, so I can catch up. How're the Nordiques looking this year? Did they EVER sign that Lindros kid?

San Francisco at Carolina

Aaron: I hated the 49ers for most of their dynastic run in the '80s and '90s, but this current incarnation gives me hope that I'll be able to laugh at the 2-14 New England Patriots sometime in 2022. And, laugh I will. Pick: Carolina

Joe: How bittersweet must those early-'90s Raiders seasons have been for you, what with Al Davis signing every Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig he could find. Pick: Carolina

Jacksonville at Indianapolis

Aaron: If I weren't currently running a few meters behind Reid, I'd pick the Jags and QB David Garrard here. So very tempted by the current four points that Vegas is favoring the Colts by, though. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: You know what? After half a season mocking the Jags as overrated, I have to admit, David Garrard really impressed me. Solid, steady QB there. Their running game is too easily stifled, though. Pick: Indianapolis

San Diego at Kansas City

Aaron: Snow 'n' ice is in the forecast for Western Missouri on Sunday. Yes! And, the Chiefs are something like 40-5 at home in December dating back to the dawn of man. YES! Pick: Kansas City

Joe: Your overvaluing of the Chiefs and undervaluing of the Chargers both work in my favor this week, I think. Pick: San Diego

N.Y. Jets at Miami

Aaron: Miami's gonna be the darling pick for everyone who sympathized with the team's 3-0 loss on Monday night. Let's not let that pity blind us from the fact that the '07 Dolphins are one of the worst teams in the last 25 years of any professional sport. Pick: N.Y. Jets

Joe: I don't know. I've seen worse teams than this Dolphins team, and their last game against the Jets looked awfully winnable, and that was on the road. Sure, they still had Ronnie Brown then, but I say break out the sparkling apple juice, kids! Pick: Miami

Detroit at Minnesota

Aaron: So, last week, the Vikings go into East Rutherford and embarrass Eli Manning and the Giants. The Lions, meanwhile, played their biggest Thanksgiving Day game in forever and got killed by the Pack. Just layin' the groundwork for my nonsensical pick. Pick: Detroit

Joe: Still kicking myself for ignoring my gut and not picking the Vikes last week. Let's see how they do when I actually put my faith in them. The Lions look like they're finished. Pick: Minnesota

Seattle at Philadelphia

Aaron: Well, you gave the Pats a good scare, Philly. On the one hand, I'm loathe to pick another road team. On the other, there's no f*ckin' way A.J. Feeley has two straight games-of-his-life. Pick: Seattle

Joe: On the other, other hand, Seattle sucks so hard. Pick: Philadelphia

Atlanta at St. Louis

Aaron: That Rams Renaissance didn't last long, did it? And, now that Marc Bulger has torpedoed my fantasy team, he can go back to putting up those 300+ yard games. Like he did in the few games where I didn't play him. Pick: St. Louis

Joe: You didn't draft Shaun Alexander over Joseph Addai. You don't get to bitch. Pick: Atlanta

Houston at Tennessee

Aaron: Vince Young always seems able to get it up for the Texans. Those "revenge games" in response to Houston not drafting him are gonna look mighty good in later seasons when juxtaposed with 12-14 losses to everyone else if VY is still QB. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Call me crazy, but I think that Texans-Browns game last week represented a battle of the cream of the second-tier AFC crop. That's a lot of qualifying, but I stand by it. Pick: Houston

Buffalo at Washington

Aaron: One of the many detestable elements in the aftermath of Sean Taylor's murder are the fans who openly wonder if it'll motivate the Redskins to play harder and better via the element of "inspiration". Although, it worked for Charles Bronson in all those movies. Pick: Buffalo

Joe: I actually kind of liked what I saw of Bills third-string RB Fred Jackson, who gets the start this week because there's no one else. Not enough to pick the down-trending Bills on the road. Pick: Washington

Cleveland at Arizona

Aaron: The sight of Kurt Warner face down in his own end zone with the 49ers recovering his fumble for a game-winning overtime TD ranks slightly ahead of the imagery of that punt on Monday night that stuck into the mud like a lawn dart. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: You know this is a good and exciting Browns team when I end up rooting for them despite the presence of Kellen Winslow Jr. and the entire Cleveland fan base. Pick: Cleveland

Denver at Oakland Aaron: Arrgh. It's my "Jay Cutler on the road" bias against my "…but, they're playing the Raiders" bias. Something's gotta give. Forgive me, Mr. Davis. Pick: Denver

Joe: Last week, Cutler on the road passed for 300 yards, 2 TDs, and only 1 INT. He wasn't the one who decided to kick to Devin Hester twice. Anyway, I had my fun picking the Raiders. Now that it paid off, I know when to fold 'em. Pick: Denver

Tampa Bay at New Orleans

Aaron: No clue. Bucs QB Jeff Garcia is hurt, but may play and the Saints are dead, barely breathing, or dangerous. I hate this league. In my day, every team was either 9-2 or 2-9 by December 1st. Made for easy pickin'! Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Yeah, I'm similarly flummoxed. I've been underestimating the Bucs and overestimating the Saints. And why change things up now? Pick: New Orleans

N.Y. Giants at Chicago

Aaron: And, right behind the Kurt Warner and mud-ball images from last week…? M'man Eli Manning's mug (with Peyton on site in a luxury box!) after the third of his three returned INTs. But, he's gotta beat Rex Grossman, right? Right? Pick: N.Y. Giants

Joe: Wrong. As I semi-predicted, the Giants' second-half swoon has arrived right on schedule. Watch them get torched by The Other Adrian Peterson. Pick: Chicago

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Aaron: C'mon, monsoon! Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Seriously. Can we talk for a second about all the Tuesday-morning whining in the media about the field conditions in Pittsburgh and how it was unsafe for the players and made for an unsatisfying outcome and boo hoo hoo. I say more mudball! More foot-deep sinkholes! If Skip Bayless doesn't like it, he can go watch the NBA. Okay, maybe that's too harsh. But still. Pick: Pittsburgh

New England at Baltimore

Aaron: The Colts were the last team to give the Pats a fight before the Eagles last week and New England responded by hanging 56 on the Bills in their next game. I think the Pats cover here. Pick: New England

Joe: Because Baltimore is beyond shitty? That's right. Pick: New England

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nuthin' But A Nostalgia Thang

Earlier this month, we rightfully mocked Snoop Dogg's new single "Sexual Explosion". In it, the D-O-double G channels equal parts A-K-O-N and T-P-A-I-N for what is unquestionably his worst first single off a solo album. It's since been rechristened "Sensual Seduction", cuz everyone knows alliteration sells!

And, dig the sh*tty video

Anyways, since I'm probably one of the guy's last 500 fans left, I got to thinking about Snoop's other "first singles".

Album: The Chronic, 1992

First Single: "Nuthin' But A G Thang" - Video

TBG Sez: OK, so this was actually Dr. Dre's first solo album, but the ubiquitous first single pretty much made Snoop (Doggy) Dogg's career. The juxtaposition of Snoop's nasal twang and Dre's meandering Neanderthal flow works, while the beat actually does most of the heavy lifting. One of the most influential - if overplayed - cuts in Hip Hop history.

Best Single: Same

Album: Doggystyle, 1993

First Single: "Who Am I? (What's My Name?)" - Video

TBG Sez: This one's probably more remembered for its low-budget "morphing" video and accompanying "You don't love me, you just love my doggystyle" line. Folks in Long Beach were losing their minds when this dropped, though. The George Clinton "Atomic Dog" sample would be bled to death in subsequent years and this single would end up taking a back seat to "Gin & Juice", which is arguably Snoop's most identifiable song after "G Thang".

Best Single: "Gin & Juice"

Album: Tha Doggfather, 1996

First Single: "Snoop's Upside Your Head" - Video

TBG Sez: Marred by a three year layoff between solo albums, the departure of his mentor Dr. Dre and the terrible in-house label decision to release this one just a week after Death Row Records dropped Tupac's Makaveli CD, Snoop was fighting a losing battle out of the gate. Snoop answered critics who wondered if he could recapture the magic of his first album with a resounding "hell naw". The uninspired Gap Band sample (and an even more uninspired Snoop Dogg) makes this one of his more flaccid efforts.

Best Single: "Tha Doggfather"

Album: Da Game is to be Sold, Not to be Told, 1998

First Single: "Still a G Thang" - Video

TBG Sez: Produced by West Coast beatmaker Meech Wells, Snoop's first No Limit Records single wasn't as bad as you probably remember. Snoop ditched the mush mouthed flow from his Doggfather album and spit over a sound that was a little more up-tempo than most of his biggest hits to this point. It suckered enough of us into buying this "Master P & His No Talent Friends" compilation album disguised as a Snoop CD.

Best Single: Same

Album: No Limit Top Dogg, 1999

First Single: "G Bedtime Stories" - Video

TBG Sez: Contrary to popular belief, "Bitch Please" wasn't the first single off of this album. I vividly remember watching Snoop appear on The Daily Show and airing a clip of the video. And, the video might be the only thing worse than the song. Not sure if this is supposed to be a tribute to Slick Rick's classic "Children's Story" (probably, since Snoop had previously bitten Rick's "La Di Da Di" track) but it's bad enough to make you wanna put out your (good) eye.

Best Single: "Bitch Please"'s not often that one song saves not one, not two, but three careers. Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Xzibit would be resuscitated from it and, it could be argued, that even Nate Dogg got another 24 months from it for just an "Ayyyyyy-OOP, Ayy-OOP, Ayy-OOP" at the end.

Album: Tha Last Meal, 2000

First Single: "Snoop Dogg (What's My Name II)" - Video

TBG Sez: I still don't get the acclaim that this song got. Timbaland's high-gloss faux-techno production has never done it for me and Snoop seems stuck in neutral, but it picked up a Music Video of the Year nomination from what used to be MTV and sparked speculation out here that this would be the album that brought Snoop back. Meh. The "Double Dutch Bus" sample isn't the least bit effective, but points for the Nate Dogg/Lady of Rage(!) hook...such as it is.

Best Single: "Lay Low"...Dr. Dre's brief renaissance continued with a superb start-and-stop beat. Snoop's underrated Eastsidaz combo had terrific mic presence and the hilariously awful Master P verse at the end is so tacked-on, you can practically hear Percy begging Snoop to let him be on a Dre track.

Album: Paid Tha Cost to be Tha Boss, 2002

First Single: "From Tha Chuuuch to Da Palace" - Video

TBG Sez: And, again, my opinion differs from that of the general public as I loved this song. Nice beat by The Neptunes with random scratches thrown in all over the place. And, while it's light on lyrical substance, this single is one of Snoop's most fun tracks. Still, it really wasn't well received by listeners, who instead clamored for this album's second single, "Beautiful". The public was wrong on that one, too, but that's another post.

Best Single: Same

Album: R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta) The Masterpiece, 2004

First Single: "Drop It Like It's Hot" - Video

TBG Sez: Three years after it was first released, I'm still torn on this one. The minimalist beat (mostly tongue clicks and a drum machine) was refreshingly original, but this has always felt more like a Pharrell Williams track with Snoop as a bit player. The video was phenomenal, though, and probably had as much to do with the #1 Billboard status this song enjoyed (surprisingly, a first for Snoop) as anything.

Best Single: Same, I guess…but, it's a lukewarm endorsement. So there.

Album: The Blue Carpet Treatment, 2006

First Single: "Vato" - Video

TBG Sez: I like The Neptunes beat a little more than the paint-by-numbers lyricism from Snoop or the B-Real hook over it. These types of "positive" pro-unity songs (in this case, an attempt to cool So. Cal tensions between Blacks and Mexicans) never work as more than a novelty, though. Still one of the better songs on an otherwise hugely disappointing album.

Best Single: "Boss' Life", which I just heard the other day. I remember hating the album version, which features Akon on the hook, but the single/video trades up for Nate Dogg. Sure, it sounds like every other song they've done since 1992, but I knows what I likes.