Monday, November 30, 2009

More Jalen Speak

Actual conversations with my five-year-old son…

Last week, Jalen – while 99% asleep – came downstairs around 11:00 PM. I took him back upstairs, with a detour to the bathroom.

Me: "Are you finished?"

Jalen: [Unintelligible somnambulant mumbling.]

Me: "OK, let's get your pajama bottoms pulled up."

Jalen: [More mumbling.]

Me: "J, I can't understand you."

Jalen: [More mumbling, but with an obviously annoyed tint.]

Me: "J, what's the problem?"

Jalen: "I said, 'my underwear is pinching my penis!'"

Stopping off for a post-haircut ice cream…

Jalen: "Are you going to leave me in the car when you get the ice cream?"

Me: "What?! No, I'm not going to leave you in the car."

Jalen: "Mommy does."

Me: "WHAT?!"

(In the next beat, Jalen explained. Now, I COULD print his response – which fully exonerates Mrs. Bootleg – or I could cut it off right where I did. Decisions, decisions.)

Showing Jalen my 2nd grade class photo…

Me: "That's me when I was seven-years-old."

Jalen: "Wow. You used to be brown skinned, but now you're really light skinned."

Me: [Head explodes].

Sunday, November 29, 2009

2009 NFL Pickery - Week #12

Last Week:

Tom: 13-3
Joe: 12-4
Aaron: 9-7

Season to Date:

Tom: 108-52
Joe: 106-54
Aaron: 100-60

Green Bay at Detroit

Aaron: A few years ago, there were rumblings that the NFL was planning to take the Lions' annual Thanksgiving home game away. The city put up a big stink and the league backed down. "You can take away our auto industry, Motown and our spirit, but hands off our late November home blowout losses, America!" Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Hey, I'm just happy for my annual holiday bonanza of fantasy points. No, not you, Frequently Injured Calvin Johnson. Pick: Green Bay

Oakland at Dallas

Aaron: Worst thing about Thanksgiving = hack sportswriters and broadcasters using the holiday to dredge up "turkey of the year" columns and commentary. "Turkey" hasn't been an acceptable derogatory term since Jimmie Walker left the airwaves, white people. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Hey, let's keep up the meaningless wins in a lost season, Raiders. That first round pick can drop safely behind the Bills aaaaany time. Pick: Dallas

N.Y. Giants at Denver

Aaron: Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives and both teams haven't looked good in recent weeks. Especially, Denver. Huh...that was easy. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Man, this is gonna be a boring holiday with us picking the same teams. Perhaps I'll go with Denver... Pick: Denver (gulp)

Seattle at St. Louis

Aaron: Seattle's 28-0 shutout of the Rams earlier this season doesn't scare me off from picking St. Louis. Rams RB Steven Jackson missing most of this week's practices, though? Yikes! Pick: Seattle

Joe: Up through the first quarter of that Saints game, the Rams had been a fairly reliable pest -- good for keeping games close without exactly winning. I wouldn't be shocked if they won here -- but I also wouldn't be shocked if the Seahawks beat them by thirty. Pick: Seattle

Carolina at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: After 11 weeks worth of fantasy games, I think it's finally safe to g'head and release the NY Jets defense from my roster. Pick: Carolina

Joe: My faith in the Jets has not been rewarded this year. In similar news, Michael Jackson's faith in being alive has not been rewarded this year. Carolina's been hot lately. All signs point to a cooler game, right? (Note: This is why I don't gamble.) Pick: NY Jets

Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Aaron: I'll be honest: this rivalry has a lot less impact on me since erstwhile Buccaneer/Falcon RB Warrick Dunn returned to the forest moon of Endor after last season. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: As do-or-die games for the Falcons go, this one could be worse. Pick: Atlanta

Miami at Buffalo

Aaron: If I had known the Bills' new coach was Black, I'd have picked Buffalo last week on general principle. You know who else is Black? Ricky Williams. Pick: Miami

Joe: So Mike Shanahan met with the team for seven hours this past week regarding the head coaching vacancy. Now all we need is 1997 John Elway and Terrell Davis and we'll be in business! Pick: Miami

Washington at Philadelphia

Aaron: It's becoming obvious that the NFC East is planning to give us the league's first 7-9 division champion. Why can't us, Redskins fans! Answer - because your team is horrible. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: The NFC East is still waiting for a team to back into its division title. There's still time for a few more non-fatal losses, Eagles! Pick: Philadelphia

Cleveland at Cincinnati

Aaron: Didn't we all agree that no struggling QB could use a good game against a terrible team and call it a "breakout performance"? Seriously, I thought this was a societal rule like "Always shake hands with your right hand". I'm not dusting off my Brady Quinn rookie cards yet. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: Losing to the Raiders was bad, yes, but losing to the Raiders and THEN the Browns? That should be followed by a voluntary abdication of your playoff spot. Don't make us peer-pressure you into that, Bengals. Pick: Cincinnati

Indianapolis at Houston

Aaron: If I've learned nothing else from the increasing canyon between me and Joe's win-loss record, it's to stop picking against undefeated teams. Even though, I know it's gonna burn me here. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Well, I mocked the Texans' ability to keep it close with the Colts last time and they almost won. This time, they'll have the law of averages even more solidly on their side. Pick: Houston

Jacksonville at San Francisco

Aaron: Have I picked a 49ers game correctly this season? Those of you who bet the opposite of me should take heed. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: The Jaguars cannot make the playoffs. The Jaguars cannot make the playoffs. The Jaguars cannot make the playoffs. Damn it. Pick: Jacksonville

Kansas City at San Diego

Aaron: At this writing, the Chargers have until 1:00 PM on Saturday to sell 1,300 tickets in hopes of avoiding their first TV blackout in five years. C'mon, blackout. These are the things a fan of bad team must root for: ruining other fans' weekend. Pick: San Diego

Joe: Looks like the Chargers have a bead on that ill-fated playoff matchup Cam prophesied a few weeks ago. Pick: San Diego

Chicago at Minnesota

Aaron: I gotta say, I'm genuinely surprised by how much I'm enjoying the Jay Cutler backlash. 11 weeks into the season and NOW pundits are realizing how he might not have been a good fit for the Bears' grind-it-out offense? Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Rot in hell, Bears running game. Rot deep in the core of hell. Pick: Minnesota

Arizona at Tennessee

Aaron: We've gotta put a stop to this ridiculous "run the table" talk coming out of Tennessee. I can think of no other way to assure a Titans loss than... Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Sticking with the hot hand. Of course, Arizona's got a hot hand too. Pick: Arizona

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Aaron: Why do those in charge of picking prime time games think that a final score of 13-12 played on a soft bog is compelling television? Pick: Baltimore

Joe: As you all probably know, we've progressed from a Charlie Batch Watch to a Charlie Batch Warning. Please find a safe place to ride this out. Pick: Baltimore

New England at New Orleans

Aaron: Well, I've painted myself into quite the corner. I like the Patriots here, but in accordance with my new "undefeated" team rule... Pick: New Orleans

Joe: This time, when Belichick makes the a-hole call to go for it on 4th down in his own territory, it will be from the comfort of a 10-point lead. Pick: New England

Confidence Pickin' (with current scores)

Joe (32): RAVENS (+3) over Steelers; Dolphins (-3) over BILLS; VIKINGS (-10.5) over Bears

Aaron (30): RAVENS (+3) over Steelers; EAGLES (-9) over Redskins; Dolphins (-3) over BILLS

Tom (24): RAMS (+3) over Seahawks; Patriots (+2) over SAINTS; Jags (+3.5) over NINERS

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Anatomy of a Family Portrait

When Mrs. Bootleg and I jumped the broom in 2002, we hired someone to shoot the obligatory wedding video. The resultant DVD was off-the-charts on the unintentional comedy scale. Ten minutes into the ceremony, I was glistening like this guy.

The DVD actually includes a "bonus features" section that plays a slideshow of That Bootleg Couple "through the years". Mrs. Bootleg's photo montage runs about three times as long as mine. As near as I can tell, my parents stopped taking pictures of me as soon as I ceased being "cute".

For the record, I'm talking about the kind of "cute" that begins when one's fresh from the womb and runs through early elementary school. Right around my eighth birthday, all photographic evidence of my adolescence comes to a screeching halt. As someone who built a lightly-read blog around self-deprecation, this hurts my heart more than you could know.

My lack of Kodak moments means that the morbidly obese, pre-teen version of me is lost to history. Ditto for my corduroy nut-hugging '80s shorts, my ill-advised high-top fade and an especially embarrassing stretch when 80% of my wardrobe was purple.

My son Jalen will not have this problem.

In his 5 ½ years on earth, he's been photographed 50 million times. If the time/date stamp on our digital camera was accurate, in the 48 hours after his birth, we took 112 pictures of the boy – most from behind the restrictive confines of the neo-natal intensive care unit. Who takes that many shots of anyone from behind the equivalent of bulletproof gas station attendant glass?

Anyways, one of the many, many unwritten rules of parenthood is that a new baby makes family portraits mandatory. And, despite my enormous forehead and sunken, emaciated face, I'm OK with this. The camera does love my mug (and, to a lesser extent, Mrs. Bootleg's and the boy's, too).

Our family portraits almost always double as our Christmas cards. For the first few years, we did the cheesy studio shot with the imitation "wintry" backdrop. Last year, however, I exercised one of my rarely-used paternal vetoes and put the kibosh on the shots from "Santa's Workshop".

We did a beach photo session last fall and this year…well, we're doing a beach session again. But, it's a different beach! In the same city. Just a little bit up the coast. But, it's a different beach. I think. Let's do this thang:

Friday, October 23: OMG, I need an outfit! Here are my problems (in no particular order) – I want to wear jeans, but I don't ever wear anything but shorts outside of work. I hadn't bought a pair of jeans in years and that was when I weighed around 190 lbs. I'm 20 lbs. lighter these days. I also need a shirt and some shoes, but I've completely lost my feel for what's cool, trendy, fashionable and/or fabulous.

I opt for a pair of jeans from the back of my closet that kinda-sorta fit, a pair of three-year-old Timberland boots that I might've worn five times total and a new long-sleeve button-down shirt. I'm reasonably confident that my ensemble could've passed for timely fashion in 2000-2001. At my age, "anywhere within the current decade" is great.

Saturday, October 24: Using her God-given powers of "all up in my business", Mrs. Bootleg sniffs out the new clothes smell coming from my closet. I tell her I bought a shirt for our pictures next Friday. She explains that she's not going to get worked up over what everyone is wearing. Then, she sees my new shirt and asks me if I'm worried my broad, vertical stripes will clash with Jalen's horizontal stripes.

Friday, October 30 – 1:30 PM: We arrive at La Jolla Shores and attempt to coordinate with the photographer via cell phone. Mrs. Bootleg – who is universally known as the LAST person you want holding a map, compass or programming a GPS – is attempting to decipher the photographer's location. We get out of the car and cross the street to meet her.

1:40 PM: After a scenic walk down the shore, we realize two things: (1) we're at the wrong beach and (2) we've got no cell phone coverage. It's about 68 degrees under a cloudless sky. We have a finite amount of time before my jeans, long-sleeve shirt and boots combo drive up my body temperature to less than photogenic levels. Even worse, the clock is ticking on "Good Jalen". His hyperactive alter ego could erupt at any minute.

1:50 PM: We find the right beach, we find the photographer. All is well.

1:55 PM: The photographer wants a few solo shots of Jalen. For whatever reason, Jalen hams it up with a series of inappropriate…baseball poses? This leads to Jalen demanding the photographer capture him pretending to hit from the right side AND the left side. "I'm a switch hitter", he insisted. Can a dad be both proud and annoyed?

2:25 PM: It's been 30 minutes. The photographer is exceedingly patient and pleasant, but Jalen's starting to crack. He takes direction and appreciates structure just fine in the classroom, but on a postcard afternoon outdoors, Jalen would rather be…a five-year-old boy.

2:45 PM: The photographer attempts to get an increasingly disinterested Jalen to pose for one last set of shots. Seizing on his competitive fire, she "races" him to a large tree. As Mrs. Bootleg cheers Jalen on, I suddenly realize how this will end. "Oh, sh*t, he's gonna slide…", I say. "J! Don't…!" Too late. Jalen executes a textbook baseball slide across the grass. Oh, excuse me…across the grass that's covered in about half an inch of standing water.

2:50 PM: With one muddy leg, Jalen makes it through the final shots, but not before Mrs. Bootleg nearly killed him. With so many witnesses present, she had to bottle up her maternal rage over the baseball slide. But, when Jalen started complaining and refused to pose…an arm was grabbed, a voice was raised, a neck vein was popping…and I wasn't involved. I'd have lost that bet.

Can't wait until next year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TBG TV: FOX's Animation Domination – 11/22/2009

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

(1) The Simpsons ("Pranks & Greens") - See what can happen with a relatively Homer-free episode? This was the best Simpsons of the still-young season with Bart in the unfamiliar "voice of reason" role. The secondary story was even better as Marge's repeated attempts to win over the members of her "Mom's Club" with healthy infant snacks hit…a little close to home. The $830 faux Whole Foods bill and immediately decomposing produce was a brilliant bit o' business.

(2) The Cleveland Show ("A Brown Thanksgiving") - I'm kind of hoping the writers have gotten all the vomit and farts out of their system for the season. I expect scatological humor within the confines of unfunny urban comedies featuring real Negroes. Don't need it in sitcoms with make-believe Black people, thanks. This one had its moments: Rallo's profane "sack of sh*t" bit and the talented Kym Whitley killing it as "Auntie Momma".

(3) Family Guy ("Jerome is the New Black") - Alright, white people…help me out here. Are jokes about the size of a Black guy's junk, their insatiable sexual appetite and the threat they might rob you still funny in 2009? I appreciated the "I speak jive" nod to Airplane, but it only served as a 30-year-old reminder on how a satire of Black culture should be done. And, the Quagmire/Brian stuff was just…mean. Even worse, there was no payoff, which seemed like a cop-out considering how far out of character Quagmire was written.

(4) American Dad! ("My Morning Straitjacket") - Yeah…see, here's the thing. I've never seen Almost Famous. Sorry, kids…your ol' Uncle Aaron wasn't exactly in the film's "target demographic". Consequently, the assorted cinematic references fell flat to my unappreciative ears. And, My Morning Jacket does nothing for me as a band, so I wasn't connecting to…well, pretty much every g*ddam moment of this episode.

MVP: Marge Simpson's overnight attraction to organic produce – followed by her immediate conversion back to preservative-laden snack cakes – mirrors the peer pressured decision making of a certain midget wife of mine.

Quote of the Night: "If he lost that giant inhaler, he'd really be in trouble with his parents." – Milhouse (The Simpsons)

Current Standings

The Simpsons – 21
The Cleveland Show – 19
Family Guy – 18
American Dad! – 18

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 Final A'ssessment: Catcher & DH

Kurt Suzuki – C (.274/.313/.421)

2009 Grade: B

The Good: Everyone who writes about Suzuki is obligated to mention un-measureable, anecdotal attributes like "he calls a good game" and "he's good with Oakland's young pitchers". And, he IS fun to watch behind the plate as he's solid on defense without the shortcomings of recent A's catchers like Jason Kendall (threw like a girl) and Ramon Hernandez (the next time he blocks the plate and takes a home plate collision will be the first time). On offense, he doubled his HR output and added 50 points to his SLG.

The Not-So-Good: I didn't realize how mediocre Suzuki was at the plate for most of the season – especially considering that on May 1 he was hitting .352/.397/.463. For the next 4 ½ months (through September 15), he hit only .253/.285/.386. His OBP dropped more than 30 points from 2008, as he expanded the strike zone and swung at pretty much everything (just 28 walks in 614 PAs). For the second straight year, Suzuki led the AL in games started behind the plate and – following a maddening recent pattern – the A's seem perfectly fine with their starting catcher going two weeks without a day off.

Jack Cust – DH (.240/.356/.417)

2009 Grade: D+

The Good: Led the A's in home runs for the third straight season – and almost half of his 25 were with runners on base! Cust wisely ditched his more aggressive approach at the plate (he was hitting .224/.316/.407 on June 30) and posted a .256/.395/.428 line from July 1 through the end of the season. Graciously signed a ball for my son during Spring Training AND he lists Jay-Z as his favorite musician. You're OK by me, ya big lug.

The Not-So-Good: Cust's OPS in each of the past three seasons has dropped precipitously (.912, .857, .773). He's an ill fit for the 3-4-5 hole, but the A's simply don't have anyone better to put there. Cust's defense is the sports equivalent to the comedy with a sad ending…and when your team's best power hitter evokes a Terms of Endearment reference, it's time to reassess your roster. He pulled down $2.8M in 2009, with an arbitration raise for 2010 an absolute certainty. The early word is that our boy-genius GM wants him back.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 NFL Pickery - Week #11

Last Week:

Aaron: 10-5
Tom: 10-5
Joe: 9-6

Season to Date:

Tom: 95-49
Joe: 94-50
Aaron: 91-53

Miami at Carolina

Aaron: Can we all agree that the Panthers upset win over Atlanta last week carries slightly less weight than the whole "Dolphins lost their best player for the rest of the season" thing? Pick: Carolina

Joe: Everything seems to be pointing to Carolina here. Ronnie Brown's injury. The Panthers have been running the ball very effectively as of late. They're at home. Which kind of makes it exactly the kind of game Miami would win just to fuck with me. It's all about me. Pick: Miami

Indianapolis at Baltimore

Aaron: 4...3...1. Those are the margins of victory for the Colts over the past three weeks. The next number in this random pattern would be something like -2 and random patterns - while easy to manipulate - don't lie. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: While it's tough to argue with academia, I figure I'm gonna let this Colts thing ride until it doesn't. Pick: Indianapolis

Seattle at Minnesota

Aaron: Since Mike Holmgren is no longer coaching the Seahawks, what tired Brett Favre storyline will be overreported come Sunday? No fair saying "all of them". Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Oh, like they won't bring that up anyway. Minnesota's leisurely sleigh ride to the playoffs continues. Pick: Minnesota

New Orleans at Tampa Bay

Aaron: Are the Saints actually going to have to lose a game before anyone realizes their entire defense is nothing more than extremely vivid Pixar animation? Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Um...yes? They'll probably have to lose for the first time all season before we start picking them apart. Pick: New Orleans

Atlanta at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: Is it too late to make the "With all the RB injuries in Atlanta, has anyone checked on the availability of Ironhead Heyward?" joke? Too late or too soon? Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Aw. Jamal Anderson weeps at being excluded from your little joke there. In other news, the loser of this one is looking at a seriously uphill climb to the playoffs. I'd like to think the Giants are just, at base, a better team, but...are they? Pick: NY Giants

Washington at Dallas

Aaron: During a schizophrenic, unpredictable Cowboys season, we can all agree on one thing: they're going to win on Thanksgiving Day. Here, too. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Well, Washington got their one crazy win last week (it's taking everything I have not to mention that I totally called it, even if I pussed out of picking it that way). They can pack it in for the season now. Pick: Dallas

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Aaron: All that's missing from the Steelers' last few weeks of their lame-duck "defending" championship reign are Presidential pardons for past player transgressions. All is forgiven, Kordell Stewart. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: They lost one game in their last six. I wouldn't start building the Mike Tomlin Presidential Library yet. Pick: Pittsburgh

Buffalo at Jacksonville

Aaron: Wait, so...Dick Jauron was the problem all along? Huh. Well, then...problem solved. I guess. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Dick Jauron was certainly A problem. The fact that we have a good dozen more doesn't mean he didn't need to get fired. Soon comes the fun part where any head coach worth a damn turns down the job because they're too pussy to deal with snow. Pick: Jacksonville

Cleveland at Detroit

Aaron: Are we going to be allowed to bet on "how soon after the regular season" that the Browns fire Eric Mangini? I assume bettors will lay action in 15 minute increments after Cleveland's last game. Pick: Detroit

Joe: Rather than make yet another "hasn't the city of Detroit been through enough?" joke, maybe we should all consider if Detroit had this coming. You can't just allow Andre the Giant to get bodyslammed in your city and have no consequences. Pick: Detroit

San Francisco at Green Bay

Aaron: Depending on the weather, this one has a chance to be uglier than last week's Niners-Bears game - which I didn't see because it was on the NFL Network. But, the highlights? Unwatchable. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: Green Bay needs to win a couple more games before the next time they let their fans down. Pick: Green Bay

Arizona at St. Louis

Aaron: Kurt Warner. Jesus. The Cardinals used to play in St. Louis. I stared at this game for 10 minutes and couldn't find a way to make those three things into a blurb. Pick: Arizona

Joe: And Kurt Warner used to play for St. Louis. And now all he does is PRAY to St. Louis. ...Wait, he's not Catholic, is he? DAMN IT, it's harder than I thought. Pick: Arizona

Cincinnati at Oakland

Aaron: On one hand, I'm pleased that JaMarcus Russell has been benched in favor of, well, anyone else. On the other hand, I'm pleased that JaMarcus Russell has been benched in favor of, well, anyone else. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: Cedric Benson picked an awfully cushy week to get hurt. Pick: Cincinnati

San Diego at Denver

Aaron: Before I recanted and hopped on the Broncos' bandwagon, I told you guys that they were frauds! Pick: San Diego

Joe: This feels like a "not so fast" game. Pick: Denver

N.Y. Jets at New England

Aaron: Not only will the Pats win - and win big - but, this game will kickstart the "Pats are pissed after the Colts debacle and taking it out on everyone in their path" season-ending storyline. Yawn. Pick: New England

Joe: Have you ever played video games against one of your really unbearably competitive friends who'd lose and totally sulk and overreact and flip out and throw the controller? And while you wish the controller wasn't broken, it was still pretty satisfying to see them all bent out of shape? Yeah, the Jets are that video game controller. Pick: New England

Philadelphia at Chicago

Aaron: Dear San Diego...the notion that NBC would "flex" out this game in favor of Chargers/Broncos is stupid. Eagles + Bears = national following. Chargers + Broncos = two teams I hate, hate, hate. Pick: Chicago

Joe: I hate both these teams. Pick: Philadelphia

Tennessee at Houston

Aaron: Vince Young is essentially running a four-play Tecmo Bowl offense right now, so let's all stop using words like "resurgent" to describe the Titans right now, K? Pick: Houston

Joe: At the very least, Vince Young has muted that "Jeff Fisher might get fired" crazy talk. Pick: Houston

Confidence Pickin' (with current scores)

Joe (31): Steelers (-10) CHIEFS; BUCS (+11) over Saints; Bills (+8.5) over JAGS

Aaron (27): Bengals (-9.5) over RAIDERS; Chargers (-3) over BRONCOS; VIKINGS (-10.5) over Seahawks

Tom (21): Titans +4.5 over TEXANS; Bengals (-9.5) over RAIDERS; Steelers (-10) over CHIEFS

Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 Final A'ssessment: Outfielders

Scott Hairston – LF (.236/.262/.391)

2009 Grade: D-

The Good: Well, let's see. SP Sean Gallagher – who'd done all he could to qualify for my
most hated A's list – was traded to the Padres as part of a package for Hairston. And, Hairston's presence gave me the first light-skinned African-American A's player to look up to since Darren Lewis' cup o' coffee in 1990.

The Not-So-Good: Scott Hairston is a fourth outfielder. This was the freakin'
title of the post I wrote on the night we traded for him. Was our boy-genius General Manager surprised when Hairston finished with a 230 point difference in OPS between LHPs (.920) and RHPs (.694)? On September 9, in the span of about 90 seconds, Hairston failed to hustle out of the box on an easy fly ball that was dropped and then was doubled off first, when Chicago's middle infielders suckered him on a popup. Do. Not. Want. (Back.)

Rajai Davis – CF (.305/.360/.423)

2009 Grade: B+

The Good: Lifting liberally from my season-ending
10 Thoughts post - Davis 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. After a miserable start in which all 800 remaining A's fans were calling for his release, Davis hit .323/.374/.459 with 34 stolen bases in his final 89 games.

The Not-So-Good: Davis posted an ungodly – and unlikely to be repeated – .366
BABIP. He only walked 29 times in 432 PAs and his SB% was a barely acceptable 77%. Davis also experienced several maddening, unfocused moments on the base paths and in the field that belied a player whose primary skill set is speed and defense.

Ryan Sweeney – RF (.293/.348/.407)

2009 Grade: B-

The Good: From June 27 through the end of the season, Sweeney hit .328/.378/.476. Perhaps more importantly, for the first time in his professional career, Sweeney hit LHPs at a perfectly respectable clip (.268/.344/.375). On defense, he made several highlight reel – and some home run-robbing – catches that generated the usual "he should've won a Gold Glove!" nonsense from people who either (1) take the meaningless GG award too seriously or (2) don't know that "merit" is the sixth or seventh most important qualifying criteria for the award. That said; he was pretty goddam good.

The Not-So-Good: Many fans and members of the media remain convinced that Sweeney's going to develop 20-home run power someday. He set a career-high with…six home runs last season. I remain skeptical. He missed 2 ½ weeks with a sprained MCL. In two seasons with the A's, he's accumulated an assortment of relatively minor injuries that could hasten his aging process.

And, the rest…: I can't lie…I take great pride in the fact that Eric Patterson's spindly build resembles my own. He caught fire at the tail end of the season and showed signs of finally figuring out his game is the same as Willie Mays Hayes': hit the ball on the ground, leg out hits, befriend Rick Vaughn. It was another lost season for Travis Buck, who
publicly contradicted the team over the severity of an injury in late May and was summarily banished to the minors. 27-year-old Matt Carson made his Major League debut. He hit his first MLB home run on September 21 in Oakland. The fan who caught it allegedly asked for $10,000 in exchange.

Oh, what a year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TBG TV: FOX's Animation Domination – 11/15/2009

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

(1) Family Guy ("Quagmire's Baby") - The Quagmire character is a one-note d**k joke ("Giggedy!") that's worn thin in recent seasons, so it was cool to see the writers do something with him other than…well, d**k jokes. OK, OK…fewer d**k jokes. Despite the clich├ęd "bachelor meets baby" premise, all the little things worked – especially, the strip club sequence where every dancer's actions reminded Quagmire of his daughter and the through-the-window adoption scene. Wasn't feeling the "Bitch Stewie/Brian" secondary story.

(2) American Dad! ("Shallow Vows") - Would've won the night with me if not for two things: (1) the unfunny "we left blind Stan behind" running gag and (2) the cop-out ending with both Stan and Francine agreeing to settle and remain shallow. The rest was mostly gold, though. Francine tabling her beauty regimen for two weeks to teach Stan a lesson is totally something Mrs. Bootleg would do. And, like Stan, I'd run out on her if she did so. And, hey, the Steve, Hayley and Klaus side stories didn't p*ss me off. Progress!

(3) The Cleveland Show ("Ladies' Night") - Probably not a good sign when this episode's recurring "Moon River!" gag was lifted from an episode of Family Guy which lifted it from Fletch. The assortment of sexist potshots – and the one jab at Grey's Anatomy – scored only lightly scattered laughter between me and Mrs. Bootleg. Ditto for the entire Rallo/Cleveland, Jr. student body president subplot. Was it wrong for me to laugh at the "Jew/nerd" bit? Yeah, I prolly shouldn't have brought it up.

(4) The Simpsons ("The Devil Wears Nada") - Instantly forgettable. Not an awful episode, just…forgettable. This was also one of those episodes where almost every scene and storyline has been done before in Simpsons years past. Homer's overworked and sleep-deprived? Just like the time he worked at the Kwik-E-Mart. Homer's working for a taskmaster boss NOT named Mr. Burns for one episode? Just like the time he worked for a taskmaster boss named Mr. Burns for 440-some episodes. Marge almost cheats on Homer, but doesn't? Yeah, you get the point.

MVP: I can't imagine I'll have too many more opportunities to hand out the night's honors to Glen Quagmire. Who knew that ass-jawed rapist actually had a heart?

Quote of the Night: "Tonight, we're doin' facials!" – Quagmire (Family Guy)

Current Standings

American Dad! – 17
The Simpsons – 16
The Cleveland Show – 16
Family Guy – 16

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2009 Final A'ssessment: Infielders

Daric Barton – 1B (.269/.372/.413)

2009 Grade: C+

The Good: He appeared to play above his assortment of earned labels (
bust, brain damaged) and right back into the team's favor. Despite spending April and May at Triple-A, then serving as Jason Giambi's defensive replacement during a brief call-up in June, the A's put him at first base – and left him alone – after Giambi was mercifully euthanized. Barton hit .287/.386/.434 after being recalled in July. In September (.871 OPS) I can't say I've ever seen him look better: working deep counts, going the other way.

The Not-So-Good: Barton's career OPS in the three meaningless Septembers he's played is .944. His career OPS for every other month of his Major League career is .617. Without much power in the current lineup and only one legit home run-hitting prospect (1B Chris Carter) in the minor league pipeline, the A's can't have much patience with Barton if he scuffles out of the gate again. Carter KILLED pitching in the minors last season (.992 OPS in 650 plate appearances!) and it can't be a good omen that Barton's #2 age comp is…
this guy.

Mark Ellis – 2B (.263/.305/.403)

2009 Grade: C-

The Good: Ellis rescued his season with a lights-out seven-week stretch (July 26 – September 12) in which he batted .340 and slugged .525. It would seem he's all but cemented his Teflon status with A's beat writers as Ellis' overwhelmingly "not-so-good" season was ignored by the local media in favor of the usual "hustling clubhouse leader who plays the game the right way while getting the most out of his abilities" platitudes.

The Not-So-Good: When Ellis' aforementioned seven-week hot streak began, his OPS was .595 – positively Bobby Crosbian. After the "streak" ended, Ellis posted a .508 OPS for the rest of the season. With the exception of a decent 2007 season, Ellis has been consistently subpar at the plate since 2006. His once-stellar glove work dropped noticeably, too.

Cliff Pennington – SS (.279/.342/.418)

2009 Grade: B-

The Good: For the second straight season, the A's publicly declared that Pennington would be the starting shortstop down the stretch – and this year, the team didn't inexplicably change their minds 24 hours later! He's 25-years-old with a career .720 OPS in the minors. Though not a prospect, he was fun to watch when he ripped off an occasional hot week at the plate. And, listening to his Shawon Dunston-like hose pop the first baseman's glove – echoing throughout an empty ballpark – is one of my favorite memories of the season.

The Not-So-Good: When it comes to player development, the A's seem to form opinions and hang labels before they actually see a player develop. If the team had any real faith in Pennington, why'd they sign Orlando Cabrera last offseason AND tolerate Cabrera's unfocused, indifferent attitude during the season? Pennington's respectable small sample size should've earned him – at the very least – a legit look next spring. But, a larger sample size of precedence has the A's jerking him around.

Adam Kennedy – 3B (.289/.348/.410)

2009 Grade: C

The Good: Acquired in early May, Kennedy was hotter'n fish grease for a few weeks. On May 31, he was hitting .390/.462/.622 and had convinced some of the A's more slow-witted fans that he was NOT a declining presence at the plate or in the field. In all seriousness, though, Kennedy did seem to carry weight in the clubhouse – most notably during a pointed between innings chat with immature SP Gio Gonzalez after he gave up like 100 runs in two innings.

The Not-So-Good: From June 1 on, Kennedy's OPS was .697. We had Cristian Guzman batting in the top third of our order for four months. He still can't hit LHPs (.241/.303/.333) and his defense at third base – admittedly, not his natural position – was so bad that even the A's beat writers (who stick up for EVERY player) made one or two passive-aggressive mentions of it late in the season when no one was reading the game reports anymore.

And, the rest…: It took 15 seasons, but Nomar Garciaparra managed to supplant Steve Sax as the worst "former All-Star middle infielder" free agent signee in A's history. 26-year-old 1B Tommy Everidge finally made it to The Show for two dozen games.
Tommy Everidgethis guy. Hmmm… Hey, only 100 days remain until A's fans are inundated with "Eric Chavez is in the best shape of his LIFE" lies headlines! Well, I guess this is "goodbye", Bobby Crosby. Whenever an A's player is so comically fooled on a 2-0 change-up – and AFTER the pitcher has just walked the bases loaded – I'll think of you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TBG Eats: The Monster Breakfast Burrito from Los Primos

Current Weight: 168.0 lbs.

I used to be a big breakfast guy. B-I-G. In every sense of the word.

My mother sent us off to elementary school with bellies full of homemade French toast, waffles or omelets and a variety pack of cured breakfast meats. On weekends, she'd find time to add home fries.

As we moved on through middle school and into high school, my mom retired from daily desayuno duty. Undeterred, my brother and I satiated our enormous AM food fix by splitting one half-dozen donuts from Manna's -- cruelly located across the street from our apartment -- or with one of the recently-introduced microwavable Jimmy Dean biscuit sandwiches. 20 years ago, those cholesterol bombs were the size of a shoebox.

These days, my breakfast consists of an apple or strawberry cereal bar and two full travel-size cups of black coffee. Huge breakfasts now make me feel like I'm on the verge of childbirth, so I only indulge after one of my increasingly rare evenings of moderate-to-heavy drinking (Why hello there, Christmas party season! Has it been a year, already?")

Regular readers of this lightly-read blog might remember that I've had some infrequent, isolated sinus issues this year. Two weeks ago, I met with an ENT specialist who informed me that the single retention cyst in my sinus cavity has invited its girlfriend to move in -- the two of them living in sin within the spacious confines of my own skull.

The doctor wanted to be "aggressive" in prescribing a treatment. In his most serious voice, he told me about a steroid called prednisone. In MY most serious voice, I told him that I'd already been prescribed prednisone. Six months ago. It messed up my stomach, screwed up my sleep and left a chemical taste in my mouth for several hours after the initial ingestion.

His response: "Let's double the dosage!" He convinced me that the drugs were pretty much my last non-surgical option and strongly recommended I eat a huge breakfast every morning to better absorb the impact of the prednisone. For the most part, I've ignored the doctor's admonition. For the most part, I've paid for it. As I posted to
Twitter on the fifth day of my steroid regimen: If Barry Bonds' insides reacted the same way mine are then America should understand why he was so mean.

So, with my stomach in a state of surrender, I'm hitting it with some hole-in-the-wall Mexican food to make it feel better. Wait...what?

Los Primos is a San Diego-based mini-chain with 15 restaurants in California. They've got about 5% more polish than the hundreds of other less-established Mexican spots; which is to say their three-legged "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" pinball game in the corner actually works. On this 70-degree Sunday morning, they were doing brisk business.

I ordered the $4.49 "Monster" Breakfast Burrito. Ham, bacon, potatoes, scrambled eggs and cheese wrapped in a ginormous flour tortilla. I added four single-servings of their hot, smoky chipotle salsa. Unlike many breakfast burritos, Los Primos' "Monster" isn't 98% eggs. The saltiness of the bacon and ham hit you in the first bite, with just enough eggs to cut the sodium, somewhat. The potatoes are crisp and plentiful, increasing the black hole density of this bad boy. The salsa isn't just superfluous heat, either. It's plenty hot, but with a wonderful roasted flavor that compliments every ingredient within.

Through and through, in every bite, you're getting meat-eggs-potatoes. There's a "complete balanced breakfast" joke somewhere in here, but those of you who didn't grow up on Saturday morning sugar-coated cereal commercials wouldn't get it. Hours later, I still felt satisfied. Thanks, doctor.

I assume we'll deal with the eventual angioplasty at a later date.

Grade: 5 (out of 5)

Monday, November 16, 2009

30 A's in 30 Days – The Recap Show

A reader whose work I enjoy writes:

Hi Aaron. I found your blog through your link on Baseball Reference. This is a little late, but I loved your '30 A's 30 Days' feature. Now I have to ask how your over/under predictions turned out? You looked pretty good from the handful I knew from memory. Keep up the good work.

I'm pretty sure this lightly-read blog is exempt from accountability, as I was grandfathered in under the recently enacted "Deadspin Proviso". But, since I just finished punching the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet – and, liked the results – let's see how my statistical guesses from March stood up.

For those of you who inexplicably aren't reading my material from eight months ago, here's a quick refresher. Back in March, I lifted MLB Network's "30 Teams in 30 Days" concept and turned it into a
season preview of sorts for the 2009 Oakland A's. I profiled 30 players and included an "over/under" prediction based on their projected OPS (for the hitters) and ERA (for the, uh…throwing guys).

Of the 30 A's who were profiled, two (SP Justin Duchscherer and RP Joey Devine) missed the entire season due to injuries and another (17-year-old phenom Michael Ynoa) didn't have a projection to begin with. That leaves us with 12 pitchers and 15 hitters.

I guessed the correct over/under on eight of the 12 pitchers. Most of their individual preseason ERA projections were pure lunacy (a 3.66 ERA for RP Santiago Casilla and his batting practice catalog of crap?!), so I wasn't actually going out on any limb. I will, however, pat my own damn back for believing in SPs Brett Anderson (projected ERA: 4.71, actual ERA: 4.06), Trevor Cahill (P: 4.82, A: 4.63) and Dallas Braden (P: 4.15, A: 3.89) before any of 'em threw a pitch in 2009 and taking the under.

As for the hitters, I went 9 for 15. Eight months after the fact, I still can't believe I took the over on 3B/DL Eric Chavez's projected .758 OPS. I guessed the over on 1B Jason Giambi (P-OPS: .823) and DH Nomar Garciaparra (P-OPS: .749), but theirs was an expedited decomposing that hardly anyone saw. I took the under on Jack Cust and his actual OPS was more than 50 points less than his projection. Matt Holliday only saw a five point drop between projected and actual, but I took the under and I'm countin' it as a win.

And, shout outs to additional "overs" I nailed – CF Rajai Davis for your unexplainable breakout campaign and 1B Daric Barton for another one of your productive Septembers in a meaningless season. Much love to two of my accurate "unders" – 3B Jack Hannahan and UT Bobby Crosby.

No matter how low we set that bar, you continually fail to reach it. Huzzah!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009 NFL Pickery - Week #10

Last Week:

Tom: 10-3
Aaron 8-5
Joe: 7-6

Season to Date:

Joe: 85-44
Tom: 85-44
Aaron: 81-48

Chicago at San Francisco (Thursday)

Aaron: After last week's embarassing home defeat to self-proclaimed future Hall of Famer Vince Young, I'm ready to subscribe to the theory that the 49ers can't beat anyone outside the NFC West. I don't suppose San Francsico plays the Raiders this year? Damn. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Watch your step as I attempt to drop some football knowledge, but it seems to me the Bears are suckiest against the pass, while the Niners' strength is in their running game. BUT this could also be one of those inexplicable Vernon Davis 3 TD games. I say this it's ugly and unwatchable (which: lucky for us Time Warner folks, then) either way. Pick: San Francisco

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Aaron: This is one of those games in which I'd pick the opposite of Joe just for the sake of picking the opposite of Joe. I could see either team winning by two points or two TDs. And, iiiiiit's..."tails". Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: I'd be happy to oblige you here, given my mental block on the Bengals going 4-0 against the other teams in their division. (No, I don't consider the Browns an NFL team.) Pick: Pittsburgh

Atlanta at Carolina

Aaron: It's been a few years since I received my degree in marketing from The San Diego State University, but I'm pretty sure it helps to have a discernable chin if you're going to do shirtless Gillette ads, Matt Ryan. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Stopping. Googling. Checking. ...Yeah, that's doing nothing for me. Certainly not like that Tony Gonzalez ad for PETA. Damn it, PETA! If only you didn't get so many celebrities naked, I'd be able to hate you more purely. Pick: Atlanta

Tampa Bay at Miami

Aaron: This week's SI details how the 2009 Bucs are headed in the right direction. They're on their third QB in as many months and fired their offensive coordinator before the season began. This isn't "direction". It's that leg-twitchy thing that happens to dead bodies in the movies. Pick: Miami

Joe: I'm still trying to get over the return of the tangerine uniforms last week. Sure, the color is fug, but I do kind of have a soft sport for that foppish Captain Morgan they had on their helmets. Pick: Miami

New Orleans at St. Louis

Aaron: We're ten weeks into the season. NO ONE is going to call Drew Brees on that Hulk Hogan haircut he's been rockin' all year? His receding-shag is the most underreported story of the year, people. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: I'm still fuming from the Rams defying my winless prediction for them from Week 1. Light 'em up, Saints. Light 'em up. Pick: New Orleans

Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: A long time ago, I remember reading that the Buccaneers had lost something like 300 games in a row when the temperature at kickoff was below some...specific temperature. I assume that applies to all Florida teams on the road. Still. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: This is nothing but pure hunch, but I'm feeling like this might be time for the Jags' monthly 30-point loss. Pick: NY Jets

Buffalo at Tennessee

Aaron: It hurts my heart to see Titan fans fall back in love with Vince Young. He's Chris Brown with a Wonderlic score of six, Tennessee. He will hurt you again. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Part of me wants to be contrarian here. And the Bills DO seem determined to deep-six their chances at a Top 10 draft pick. It's not out of the question that Vince Young could throw two INTs for touchdowns. Why not pick the Bills? Oh, right, because Chris Johnson is gonna run for 250 yards. Pick: Tennessee

Denver at Washington

Aaron: I'm enjoying the media-fueled notion that the league's "figured out" the Broncos. The Redskins chances here have increased from "none" to...what, exactly? Pick: Denver

Joe: Man, I was so close to picking the Redskins in one of those sense-defying upsets that tend to happen. Thanks for talking some sense into me, Cam. Pick: Denver

Detroit at Minnesota

Aaron: So did that whole "set the clocks back" thing push back Brett Favre's annual season-ending six-week self-immolation or are we all in agreement that it's just not happening this year? Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Remember, Favre didn't kill the Packers in his last season with them until the NFC championship game. Keep hope alive! Pick: Minnesota

Kansas City at Oakland

Aaron: In their Week #2 match-up, the Chiefs outgained the Raiders in total yards (409 to 166), while JaMarcus Russell completed less than 30% of his passes. And, the Raiders won! Ugh. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: I'd pledged to pick the opposite of you in this game no matter what. I'm sticking by that. while holding my nose. Pick: Oakland

Dallas at Green Bay

Aaron: Sure looks like Tony Romo has raised expectations again. Couple of good games, Cowboy fans have stopped calling for his head. I've seen this pattern before. Now, wet the bed, Romo. Wet it! Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Dallas's defense continues to look uncharacteristically strong. Green Bay's offensive line might as well be riding lawn mowers in Mississippi. This could get broken-bone-y for Aaron Rodgers. Pick: Dallas

Philadelphia at San Diego

Aaron: No team can turn a gift-wrapped, unimpressive win like last week's vs. the Giants into a season-turning burst of momentum like the Chargers. In January, you'll all be wondering why you believed in this team. Pick: San Diego

Joe: The two most "never as dead as you think they are" teams. Also the two most "never as dominant as you think they'll be" teams. Last time the Eagles came out west, they lost to Oakland. OAKLAND! Pick: San Diego

Seattle at Arizona

Aaron: Earlier this week, I stumbled across ESPN showing highlights of former Seahawk Shaun Alexander running roughshod over the league earlier this decade. Few things have made me feel older. It felt like 40 years ago. Pick: Arizona

Joe: How 'bout remembering that Alexander was drafted the same year Arizona drafted Thomas Jones. That stint almost seemed like it never happened. Pick: Arizona

New England at Indianapolis

Aaron: I don't know how much impact a head coach has in the NFL, but in their first head-to-head match-up, I'm leaning towards the hoodied curmudgeon over the Negro neophyte. Pick: New England

Joe: Damn it, Cam. All signs do seem to be pointing to New England here. The injuries for Indianapolis, the law of averages, my own personal Murphy's Law. And yet, I feel like I should be contrary here. Pick: Indianapolis

Baltimore at Cleveland

Aaron: Jesus, how long can the Browns milk national TV appearances off of their 10-6 season from a few years back? Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Oh, it's not like anybody watches Monday Night Football anymore. Pick: Baltimore

Confidence Pickin' (with current scores):

Joe (31): Falcons (-1.5) over PANTHERS; Ravens (-10.5) over BROWNS; VIKINGS (-16.5) over Lions

Aaron (27): Chiefs (+2) over RAIDERS; Falcons (-1.5) over PANTHERS; CHARGERS (-1.5) over Eagles

Tom (21): Falcons (-1.5) over PANTHERS; DOLPHINS (-10) over Bucs; Bengals (+7) over STEELERS

TBG TV: FOX's Animation Domination – 11/08/2009

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

(1) Family Guy ("Brian's Got a Brand New Bag") - On the increasingly rare occasions when this show maintains a semblance of focus for its 22 minutes of airtime, good things can happen. The rapid-fire old jokes ("Has anybody made a Jessica Tandy joke? I'll be right down!") consistently killed me. I especially dug the meandering final scene with its old-fashioned furniture names and Brian's expletive-filled finish. Not a fan of the show's occasional need to fill its first act with a ridiculous Peter story (Road House!) just to set the rest of the episode up, though.

(2) American Dad! ("Man in the Moonbounce") - Started slow, but finished strong. The set-up with Stan's "inner child" was essentially – and annoyingly – the same character as Family Guy's Peter Griffin, but things got rolling once the scene shifted to prison. Also liked Steve's ascension to the head of the household and loved Roger's sabotage of Stan's parole hearing.

(3) The Cleveland Show ("Cleveland Jr's Cherry Bomb") - Started strong, but finished abominable. Here's a shock: the minor league baseball stuff ("…guys I've never heard of, who don't play very well…") brought the funny. Nothing else worked. I mean, I'm old enough to have watched Flip Wilson (in syndication! in syndication!) and the church sequence smothered in dated Black catchphrases was awful. And, then there was Cleveland's rap solo. "Do the Bartman" it was not.

(4) Family Guy ("Hannah Banana") - Hey, it's the return of that Family Guy plot staple: the "real" celebrity who acts TOTALLY different from their "real" public persona! And, we can now officially proclaim all Miley Cyrus jokes are as old as Miley Cyrus. Even worse, in the secondary story, the writers finally closed the loop on the "evil monkey" running gag, but without any discernable payoff. The monkey's really just misunderstood? Boo!

Not Receiving Votes - I only caught about three minutes of Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show. Was the rest of the show as unwatchable as the 180 seconds I saw? I watched a bit of the Marlee Matlin thing and the "Cleveland" bleeping thing. Did it get worse? It couldn't have, right?

MVP: I lost count at the number of times I glanced towards Mrs. Bootleg whenever Rita (Brian's middle-aged love interest in the "Brand New Bag" episode) did or said something "old". Hit too close to home – wait, other men are sent out on superfluous prescription runs at odd hours? – for me not to acknowledge it.

Quote of the Night: "We'll put you in the '80s so you look hot. Now, get in the van with Kelly McGillis." – God to Ellen Barkin (Family Guy)

Current Standings

The Simpsons – 15
The Cleveland Show – 14
American Dad! – 14
Family Guy – 11

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Well Do You Remember My Wedding?

(1) Ten days BEFORE the wedding, Aaron infinitesimally increased his future wife's stress level when he:

(a) Harmlessly lost his soon-to-be wedding band for 24 or maybe 48 hours.
(b) Nonchalantly drove right into a pole while on his way to work.
(c) Innocently no-showed the final, mandatory "spiritual counseling" session for engaged couples.
(d) Respectfully invited an ex-girlfriend to the wedding.

(2) Two days BEFORE the wedding, who did Aaron meet for the very first time?

(a) Mrs. Bootleg's father.
(b) Mrs. Bootleg's mother.
(c) Mrs. Bootleg's little brother.
(d) All of the above.

(3) After driving 800 miles from Utah to San Diego, where did Aaron's future father-in-law want to go more than any place else after arriving at Stately Bootleg Manor?

(a) San Diego Zoo
(b) Historic Balboa Park
(c) Downtown San Diego
(d) Popeye's Chicken

(4) How was the weather in San Diego on the day before and the day of our wedding?

(a) Sunny and 78 degrees.
(b) Sunny and 75 degrees.
(c) Sunny and 70 degrees.
(d) Monsoon.

(5) Who got the better end of the "wedding party" gifts?

(a) The Bridesmaids (bracelets from Tiffany's).
(b) The Groomsmen (engraved baseball bats).

(6) What happens when you hold an evening wedding on a rainy night in a hard-to-find location down winding and poorly lit roads?

(a) The photographers will be running "a little late", but they'll be there "in 10 minutes" (told to you 20 minutes ago).
(b) Slick-soled, rented groomsmen shoes will provide all kinds of comedy when used to show elderly Black aunts to their seats across a wet floor.
(c) Half of your invited guests will blow off the ceremony entirely in favor of an early start to the much easier-to-find open bar at the wedding reception.
(d) Several ethnic women passionately discussing the economics of the hair-care industry in relation to the inclement weather and its impact on the care of their hair.

(7) If you're REALLY going to rent a limousine, should the distance between the site of the ceremony and the site of the reception be more or less than the 1.6 miles between our locales?

(a) More.
(b) More.

(8) The first time I heard this Nate Dogg song, I turned to the then-future Mrs. Bootleg and said THIS is the song I want to introduce us at our wedding reception. And, it did. What was it?

Nobody Does It Better, featuring Warren G.
Never Leave Me Alone, featuring Snoop Dogg
Where I Wanna Be, featuring Shade Sheist & Kurupt
Dirty H*** Draws

(9) Which of the following did NOT occur during the best man's speech?

(a) Champagne spilled from his too-full glass as his unsteady, inebriated hands shook from nervousness. And, inebriation.
(b) He stopped his speech for a solid 10 seconds after uttering the words, "Y'know, there's an old saying…" before actually remember the "old saying".
(c) He inexplicably referenced The Fabulous Freebirds (Don't ask…just, don't.)
(d) He "inadvertently" palmed most of Mrs. Bootleg's breast while struggling through the always challenging "hugs the bride after the speech is over" part.

(10) Which of the following did NOT occur during the remainder of the best man's evening?

(a) He kissed the groom with his scratchy, never-could-quite-grow-in goatee.
(b) He stuffed a dollar bill down the pants of a married woman in attendance…who was innocently dancing on a chair at the time.
(c) He "inadvertently" palmed most of Mrs. Bootleg's breast while struggling to pin a dollar on Mrs. Bootleg's breast during the "money dance".
(d) "Just water for me, thanks!"

(11) Every table at our wedding was named after a baseball player. At the end of the night, which of the following items did our ten guests at the "Deion Sanders" table NOT steal from the "Deion Sanders" table?

(a) Ten blue cloth napkins which, early in the evening, ended up doo-ragged around their heads.
(b) The not-exactly inexpensive "Deion Sanders" table placard.
(c) Wait, Deion Sanders played baseball? When?
(d) …for what team?

(12) Which ONE of these life events actually outranks my wedding day?

(a) Oakland A's win the 1989 World Championship.
(b) Back-to-back "writer of the year" recognition for my work on the old Friday Music News Bootleg column.
(c) The birth of this lightly-read blog.
(d) Jalen Cameron: T-Ball A's.

Answers: 1(b); 2(d); 3(d); 4(d); 5(b); 6(c); 7(a) or (b); 8 (a); 9(d); 10(d); 11 (Yes, he DID play baseball, jerk. And, both (a) and (b) were stolen.); 12(!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

TBG (Finally) Sees: Paranormal Activity

Of all the "holidays" that married people "celebrate" – and, trust me on this – anniversaries are the first to go. The wedding anniversary is just Valentine's Day minus the toxic possibility of biting into a cherry cordial as you pick through the last remains of that heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Mrs. Bootleg and I celebrated 2,557 days (sigh) of marriage this past weekend. And, somewhere between our first wedding anniversary and the seventh, "celebrating our anniversary" turned into "going to the movies…and, then MAYBE getting a drink afterwards, if we're not too tired".

Much to my surprise, Mrs. Bootleg agreed to see "Paranormal Activity". Y'see, when it comes to movies, my wife requires four things: an easy-to-follow exposition, an uncomplicated conflict, a climax that ties up EVERY loose end and – most importantly – at least one actor she can recognize.

Just one peek at the previews and it was clear that Mrs. Bootleg would not be 4 for 4 on this night. So, why on earth would she be interested in something like this? My answer came as we settled into our seats, 20 minutes prior to the start of the movie, as she turned to me – in all sincerity – and asked:

"So, what's this movie about?"

Good: Hey, it's set in San Diego! 619, represent!
Booyaka! Booyaka!

Not-So-Good: The film opens with "thanks" to the families of the fictional characters and the San Diego Police Department. The whole "this is all real" conceit made sense – kind of – in a film like
Cloverfield. Considering where this movie ends up, I'm not sure it worked here.

Good: The final five – maybe ten – minutes are terrific. They serve as a satisfying sprint to the finish line and pay off on almost every plot point, including the subtle (an unaware Katie occasionally watching over Micah while he sleeps) and not-so-subtle (that damn camera).

Not-So-Good: I will grant that passable character development in a movie where the protagonists are as in-the-dark (see what I did there?) as the audience may be too much to ask. But, Katie and Micah were all over the map, sometimes. Why was Micah so loyal to Katie? Was it love? If so, why was he so quick to defy her at multiple points in the movie? Did he believe the "demon" theory? Then, why was he so dismissive of the ghost-chasing doctor or so nonchalant when the target of the unseen beast's ire became readily evident in the scene with the broken, defaced picture frame? And, why was Micah rushing to look behind shower curtains and climb into attics. What the hell was he going to do if he found this…"thing"?

Good: The entire scene involving the psychic's second visit to the house was phenomenal and in refreshing contrast to the nonsensical instinct to run towards the danger. Smart guy senses danger, smart guy gets the hell out. He even throws in some of the best-delivered, least comforting words of support he could muster on his way out the door. Brilliant.

Not-So-Good: This spirit has been following Katie around – off and on – since she was eight years old. 15(?) years later, she can't sleep, she can't eat and she's clearly losing her mind. After the psychic initially refers her to a demonologist, why does she wait two or three weeks to call the guy? Fine, this is explained in the movie, but it's a stupid explanation.

Not-So-Good: I liked "The Blair Witch Project" and aside from the similar camera-y aspects, I don't know that I agree with those who are quick to compare the two. The claustrophobic feel of "Blair Witch" was like a gradual reduction of the screen from vast expanse of forest to the final scene where the post-nasal drip chick gets it. From the get-go, it already feels like I'm staring through a shoebox in "Paranormal". It's a fine line between "tension" and "suffocation".

Not-So-Good: And, then there was Katie's sister. You remember Katie's sister? Halfway through the film, it's established that Katie's kid sister heard and saw everything that Katie went through as a child. Hell, they shared a room! Yet, somehow, this fairly significant plot point was never revisited. Not even in a "she died in the fire" cheap-out attempt to make the audience forget about her. Why mention her at all?

Verdict: I wanted to like "Paranormal Activity". Really, I did! Unfortunately, I found myself audibly at odds with the characters and the plot far too often to enjoy it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2009 NFL Pickery - Week #9

Last Week:
Joe: 9-4
Tom: 9-4
Aaron 8-5

Season to Date:
Joe: 78-38
Tom: 75-41
Aaron: 73-43

Green Bay at Tampa Bay

Aaron: So, wait. This is gonna be like Star Wars, right? Aaron Rodgers is Luke Skywalker, Brett Favre is Darth Vader, and after a return trip to Dagobah (Tampa Bay), Rodgers will come back and chop off Favre's hand in the playoffs. Right? Please? Pick: Green Bay

Joe: This scenario only works if Han Solo, Leia, and Chewie were really, really terrible offensive linemen. Pick: Green Bay

Arizona at Chicago

Aaron: The first of many games this week that I'll be picking with my patented, occasionally correct "who's the home team" strategy. "Well, folks, when you're right 52% of the time..." Pick: Chicago

Joe: Okay, 1) I knew -- KNEW -- I should've picked Arizona to get upset last week. They're not a bad team, but not to be trusted either. Which cuts both ways -- they'll also win when you think they won't. 2) Unseasonably warm in Chicago today. Pick: Arizona

Kansas City at Jacksonville

Aaron: With all due respect to the ladies, "You got beat by Vince Young" is the new "You got beat by a girl". Hang your heads, Jaguars. Hang your heads. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: I still have zero confidence picking Jags games. And they're certainly capable of making the KC offense look way better than they are. Oh, shit. I can feel it happening. I'm talking myself into it. Saaaaaave meeeeee, Jeeeeebuuuuuus! Pick: Kansas City

Miami at New England

Aaron: Why do so many prognosticators seem use the words "they match up well" for the Dolphins regardless who they're playing from week to week? In seven games, Miami's beaten the Jets (twice) and the Bills (who hasn't?) They match up well with those two teams. Two. That's it. Pick: New England

Joe: I love how we've ended up in a universe where you hate the Dolphins more than I do. Having grown up in the era of Crybaby Dan Marino and Jerky Grandpa Don Shula, I never thought it possible. Pick: New England

Washington at Atlanta

Aaron: My sincere thanks to the Falcons for a textbook "backdoor" cover against the Saints last week that I laid real money on...and won! I only need to make another $205 this year to break even on my online gambling account for 2009! Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Always a good sign when there's public infighting among your coach, players, owner, AND alumni. All that's left is for Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder to pick sides and it is ON. Pick: Atlanta

Baltimore at Cincinnati

Aaron: The next two weeks for Cincy: Ravens, Steelers. The next three weeks after that: Raiders, Browns, Lions. The Bengals just might win 10 games this year. Rooting for them only serves to keep Chad Ochosambo on the fringes of relevance, kids. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: OCHO! OCHO! OCHO! (Sadly, I do think the Ravens make enough adjustments to nip the Bengals this week.) Pick: Baltimore

Houston at Indianapolis

Aaron: Where did this misconception come from that the Texans "always play the Colts hard"? Houston's 1-13 lifetime against Indy and hasn't' beaten them since 2006. Do, like, four close defeats equal one eventual win at some indeterminate future date? Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: You know, I had the same observation. Is this "Texans play though" impression coming from that Sage Rosenfels game last season? I really, really hope not, sports media. Pick: Indianapolis

Carolina at New Orleans

Aaron: Dude I work with is a hee-YUGE Saints fan. But, after a lifetime of heartbreak, he won't wholly commit to this undefeated Saints team. I predict he'll come around just in time to see the 13-3 Saints get bounced in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Shhh...that's what I'm rootin' for. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Good for the Saints the Panthers got all that pesky winning out of their systems last week. New Orleans will get their first lost eventually, but not this week. Pick: New Orleans

Detroit at Seattle
Aaron: After last week's loss to the lowly Rams, I think it's time to cordon off Detroit from the rest of the country and wait for Snake Plissken to try'n escape or something. What? Oh, is their current plan is working? Pick: Seattle

Joe: Fun fact: Seattle's only two wins this season were by scores of 28-0 (over the Rams) and 41-0 (over the Jags). So, good news, Lions! Score just once and you'll win! Pick: Seattle

San Diego at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: I can't be bothered to check the forecast, but if the conditions are favorable for Philip Rivers to throw the ball with impunity...ah, screw it, I'm five games behind Joe. I'm checking the conditions, hang on. Sunny and 64 degrees? Against the Giants' secondary?! It's clobberin' time. Pick: San Diego

Joe: This is basically two of the same team, right? Neither is as good as the media wants them to be when they're winning. The sky could not be falling harder when they're winning. Both hated by Cam for irrational reasons. Pick: NY Giants

Tennessee at San Francisco

Aaron: To paraphrase m'man Marsellus Wallace - a character from a little-seen 15-year-old indie movie - "I'm pretty f***ing far from taking Vince Young on the road". Good movie. Y'all should rent it. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: I still don't see how Tennessee's fortunes lie in any way with Vince Young. But I still like the Niners at home. Pick: San Francisco

Dallas at Philadelphia

Aaron: The stench from the Eagles' epic bed-crapping in Oakland is still pretty ripe. It'll be a few more weeks before Donovan McNabb lets his guard down against an inferior opponent, again. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: It's too bad; I was enjoying the Dallas resurgence and the added layer of ridiculousness it added to the Roy Williams breakdown. Pick: Philadelphia

Pittsburgh at Denver

Aaron: My Monday Night plans include watching this game, celebrating my 7th wedding anniversary and heading down to Mission Valley for the Bill Simmons book signing appearance. I am kidding about one of these things. Pick: Denver

Joe: It's too bad, because I'm sure Bill would have fresh and trenchant observations on the subject of marriage. Pick: Pittsburgh

Confidence Pickin' (with current scores):

Joe (30): NINERS (-4) over Titans; Packers (-9.5) over BUCS; FALCONS (-10) over Washington

Aaron (25): NINERS (-4) over Titans; FALCONS (-10) over Redskins; Packers (-9.5) over BUCS

Tom (19!): EAGLES (-3) over Cowboys; Titans (+4) over NINERS; Packers (-9.5) over BUCS

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The New & Improved Sirius XM Commute

During my last few months on the full-time music beat at Machine Gun Funk, I began an infrequent piece called "The XM Commute". Every morning, after dropping Jalen off at school, it's just me and my satellite radio. Roughly six-and-a-half miles of surface streets and stoplights allow me the opportunity to hear at least three songs in their entirety.

After a three-year absence, I thought it time to bring back the "Commute" since (1) it's convenient blog fodder; (2) it should kinda-sorta satisfy those of you who want me to do more music stuff and (3) I'll take "infrequent" over "
month-long baseball feature" any day of the week and twice on Fat Tuesday.

Sirius XM Channel: "Backspin" (Old school hip hop)

Some links may be NSFW, so click with caution…

Pharoahe Monch – Simon Says: Wow. I hadn't heard this cut for awhile. I remember loving it when it dropped ten years ago, but save for the Godzilla-lifted beat it's surprisingly, retroactively awful. Pharoahe's one of those acts whose skills were inversely proportional to the strength of the attempts to commercialize him (see also: Budden, Joe). I can't be mad at him, though. He's still the same artist who dropped
one of my favorite collabos of the decade.

Father MC – Everything's Gonna Be Alright: Lord, how I miss the early 1990s. Y'see, kids, back then we paid full price for rap albums with only ten tracks while the accompanying music videos could feature women in bandanas and shirtless dudes in suspenders. This one fits the 1992 rap template to a "T" with its obligatory harmonizing (Jodeci! All of them!) and forgettable party lyrics that are overwhelmed by the familiar sampling. Nearly 20 years later, no one remembers that Father MC indirectly brought Sean "Diddy" Combs and Mary J. Blige into the limelight. Or, we're still trying to forget.

Big Daddy Kane – RAW: This was the 1988 remix of his 12-inch version from a year earlier. Kane's one of those acts who gets much love as a hip hop pioneer of sorts, but still might be underrated to a degree. He stood out amongst the genre's first Golden Age (1986-1988); he
inexplicably assisted Patti LaBelle during her 15-minute renaissance in 1991; he killed it on one of my all time favorite unreleased Tupac tracks. And, did y'all see Posse? Kane's death scene moved me like no other…until Tyra Banks' unintentionally hilarious final moments in Higher Learning.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Forcible Nasal Penetration

March 2009May 2009August 2009

My five-year-old son Jalen and I were watching TV a few weeks ago when
this odd spot for Symbicort – coincidentally, one of my assorted asthma medications – aired. This led to the greatest conversation I'll ever have with my son.

Me: That's the medicine that I use, J. I need it because I have asthma.

Jalen: [exasperated] I know! You ALWAYS tell us you have asthma.

Mrs. Bootleg nearly peed her panties when she heard that. My son's insensitive retort confirmed, once and for all, that everyone I know is sick n' tired of my asthma-infused anecdotes. My friends and family are ready for me to move on, it would seem.

The events of 5/11 are too fresh in my mind to ever forget. Besides, yesterday's medical escapade was only tangentially related to my asthma, so enjoy the free read and quit complaining, Jalen!

7:30 AM - In one of the most surreal moments of my life, I'm actually reviewing old TBG posts and taking notes so that I'm prepared to discuss my recent medical history in detail with the ENT specialist. According to, uhh…myself, I asked my primary care physician for referral to an ENT way back in January 2009. He insisted that I needed a pulmonary specialist, instead. Ten months later, I had my ENT referral. How much longer will the medical industry's "jerk around their clientele at an insane mark-up" approach be legal? And, when will some local Prostitution Union sue on the grounds of "gimmick infringement"?

10:00 AM - I arrive at the health care facility 15 minutes early for my appointment. I attempt to check-in, but end up stuck behind an angry old lady who's complaining to the receptionist. Seems her appointment time was "15 minutes ago". Seems no one has bothered to tell her that the doctor was running late. And, when the receptionist asked which doctor she was there to see…seems her and I are seeing the same guy.

10:01 AM - We've been told the doctor is running 30 minutes behind schedule. Other than African-American hair stylists, who falls 30 minutes behind before lunchtime? Suddenly, however, I remember that my cell phone has full internet capabilities. The next 45 minutes should fly right by.

10:02 AM - Suddenly, I remember that no bars = no coverage = no internet.

10:45 AM - With the help of an old Entertainment Weekly - I'm very disappointed in you, David Letterman – enough time is killed to get me inside to see the doctor. I go over the major talking points in my head, fully expecting to be rushed right out of the room so that the doctor can keep his two-hour, three martini lunch get back on schedule.

10:50 AM - The doctor shows me my CAT scan. With the combined technology of freeze-frame and (possibly) strobe lights, I get a look – segment by segment – at my various sinus paths. My favorite medical revelation: "See these open areas in front, Aaron? They're supposed to be filled with air. In your case, they're completely filled with soft tissue and mucus." Even my diseases are more thorough at their jobs than me.

10:55 AM - The doctor asks if he can take a look inside my nose. I idiotically assumed there would only be some head-tilting and a flashlight involved. I do my part by nailing the head-tilt – not too far back, but far enough to see up in there. The doctor then says, "Let's numb you up." Wait, wha…? spissht…spissht… Both of my nostrils were sprayed with a moderate anesthetic.

10:57 AM - Now, I don't know how much time most of my doctor's patients need for the numbness to commence, but it's safe to say I needed more than 120 seconds. The doctor pulls out a thin metal rod with a teeny little light at the end and shoves it up my nose. WAY up my nose. And…I can feel it. WAY feel it. Like, under my skin in the space between my eyes, at the bottom of my forehead and over my eyes. "Excruciating" doesn't begin to describe it.
Here's a short film that sums up the experience.

11:00 AM - As the anesthetic drips from my nose down the back of my throat, the numbness finally kicks in big time – after the doctor is out of my nose, naturally. For a few minutes, I couldn't talk as the pins n' needles sensation spread into my esophagus. This was unlike anything I've ever experienced. The doctor must've picked up on my freaked-out expression subtle cues of concern and offered me some water…

11:00 AM - …which I promptly gagged right back up. "That happens sometimes", the doctor says after it happened.

11:05 AM - With my gift of gab returned to me, the doctor and I agree to one last-ditch attempt to heal my sinuses with steroids. My old friend prednisone didn't work when I was on it six months ago, but the next step would be surgery.

And, I'm really in no hurry to find out what's MORE invasive than the Total Recall moment I'd just went through.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tee-Ball Chronicles #10: Photo Day

One of the other tee-ball moms took this unofficial team picture as the professional photographer (douchebag ponytail – check, unintelligible accent – check) impatiently snapped away.

I love this pic.

I love this team.

After pictures, the A's pounded the Pirates. During the game, the other team's coaches made passive-aggressive accusations that some of my kids were older than the five-year-old limit.

Ringers. In a tee-ball league comprised of four and five-year-olds. I've never been more proud.

Just remember, 20 years ago another A's team clubbed every opponent placed in front of them on their way to a World Series championship. They were accused of chemical tomfoolery and played under a manager who – it's been alleged – looked the other way.

The 1989 A's were exonerated (I think…not really sure, but I think they were) and it's my fervent hope that their 2009 tee-ball doppelgangers follow the same righteous path.

Monday, November 2, 2009

10 Thoughts: Halloween 2009

Jalen went as an astronaut this year. His costume ranks as a solid second place behind 2006's Green Lantern (he will never, ever top that one) and just ahead of 2007's firefighter (unintentionally timely, insanely well-received).

At 5:38 AM on Halloween morning, Jalen frantically woke me up, repeating "It's Halloween! It's Halloween! It's Halloween!" over and over. In that moment, as Mrs. Bootleg pretended to be asleep and oblivious to J's exclamations, I realized why so many African-American fathers abandon their families. Oh, don't look at me that way. It was five thirty-eight in the morning! Some of you were JUST going to bed!

Stately Bootleg Manor sits on a lonely cul-de-sac and a few hundred yards from a moderately-trafficked thoroughfare. Translation: we don't live in a "neighborhood", as much as we live on a spoon-shaped street with some townhomes and apartments. You know those less fortunate minority families that drive to someone else's neighborhood for trick-or-treating? Well, now you know another.

We met up with the family of one of J's best friends. As The BootlegMobile pulled up to their house, we were greeted by the little boy's aunt who was dressed up as Sarah Palin. Twelve months too late? Perhaps. But, her skirt n' jacket combo was accessorized with a "Miss Alaska" sash and authentic – albeit unloaded – shotgun. She was entrusted with handing out candy to the kiddies. Hey, it was unloaded. She told us so.

The father of J's friend suggested we make the 'Ween less hallow by bringing along two super-sized stadium souvenir cups full of beer. As the holder of a top secret government clearance, so much as a misdemeanor could cost me my clearance and – subsequently – my livelihood. And, you can bet your a** that Mrs. Bootleg is always the first one to nag me about responsibili… Well, I assume she would be nagging me if she hadn't just left the house with a sports bottle filled with frozen daiquiri in one hand and Jalen's hand in the other.

Whatever San Diego may aesthetically lack when compared to the autumnal season in other parts of the country, we more than made up for as the outdoor temperature at sundown was 70 degrees. This also kept the assorted whore costumes from being covered up with coats. Keep this in mind if you're ever trying to figure out the best time to visit the west coast, y'all.

Jalen dutifully rang doorbells, accepted candy and – on several embarrassing occasions – walked right inside people's houses. None of us could figure out why until he started providing real-time updates from the living rooms that were watching the World Series. "The Yankees have zero and the Phillies have three!" And, for those wondering, I did scold the boy: "Jalen, the proper form is to first read off the score of the team that's winning."

As stated, J went as an astronaut. This led to several people fishing through their giant bowls of miniature candy to hand him a fistful of Milky Way. Each time, it was accompanied by some variation of, "Since you're an astronaut…" Cute the first two times, downright creepy by the fifth or sixth.

OK…can anyone pinpoint when the handout of full-sized candy bars began occurring in earnest? This was inconceivable when I was a kid. Back then, the Halloween highlight was hitting up the house that handed out quarters. You had an hour of Ms. Pac-Man if you went back often enough.

Lowlight of the evening: We passed a "haunted house" set-up towards the end of the night. Our adult accompaniment had warned us that the homeowners are demented sickos who derive genuine pleasure from scaring small children. Sure enough, we were within a few hundred feet when one of 'em came running out of the house in full-on "Jason" get-up with a prop chainsaw that sounded like a real chainsaw. The freaked-out screams from the kids he passed was genuinely disturbing. Thankfully, he ran in the opposite direction from us, so J didn't see a thing.

Thankfully for "Jason", that is. Or, as one, umm…unnamed parent in our group declared:

"If he had come near MY son, I'd have [expletive] killed him."

Best. Halloween. Ever.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

2009 NFL Pickery - Week #8

Last Week:
Joe: 9-4
Aaron: 8-5
Tom: 8-5

Season to Date:

Joe: 69-34
Tom: 66-37

Aaron: 65-38

Denver at Baltimore

Aaron: Here's the deal - instead of claiming that THIS is the week the Broncos are "exposed" (as I've done once - maybe twice - this season), I'll just say they're going to lose. It happens. They're still good. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: I said it two weeks ago, if Denver wins (they did), they'll be last year's Titans. I'll stick with that. Pick: Denver

Houston at Buffalo

Aaron: The Texans should put as much on the board as they can. After Sunday, two of their next three games are against the Colts. This week will be the equivalent of taking on Glass Joe before signing on to fight 1987 Mike Tyson. Pick: Houston

Joe: Silly Cam'ron. Glass Joe wasn't within three fights of Tyson. For shame. Pick: Piston Honda Houston

Cleveland at Chicago

Aaron: G'head and start that oft-predicted Super Bowl run whenever you're ready, Bears. We'll just ignore your upcoming schedule (two vs. Vikings; at Ravens) and keep swallowing that optimism from September. Pick: Chicago

Joe: The Browns continue their tour through America's sausage-iest cities. Unsurprisingly, Cleveland is fattening these teams up. Pick: Chicago

St. Louis at Detroit

Aaron: GAAH! Not since Hiroshima, has a city been...etc. Pick: Detroit

Joe: TWO wins this season? Pace yourselves, Lions. Pick: Detroit

Miami at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: I like a pissed off and embarrassed Dolphins team to do bad, bad things to Mark Sanchez in a game where the elements aren't expected to be a factor. Pick: Miami

Joe: These teams are too evenly-matched for there to be a season sweep. Also, glad to know that the universe has righted its axis and football fans can hate Mark Sanchez for being pretty throwing interceptions. Pick: NY Jets

San Francisco at Indianapolis

Aaron: So, this a trap game? The Colts play Houston next week - an in-division foe who always gives 'em fits. Or is the Houston game a trap game, since Indy has the Patriots on 11/15? Can we get a ruling on this? Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: This is a mismatch, Cam. A mismatch. Pick: Indianapolis

Seattle at Dallas

Aaron: How has Dallas WR Roy Williams gotten a pass from the national media despite being a me-first prima donna who half-asses it each and every time the ball's not thrown his way and 50% of the time when it is? If he were black...wait, what? Pick: Dallas

Joe: Wait, so you're saying Roy Williams is a wide receiver? In other news, Dallas seemed like a completely different team last week. At least on defense. Those guys wanted to hurt some people, each and every play. Keep it up and they might be able to save Wade Phillips's job! Uh...congratulations? Pick: Dallas

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia

Aaron: Hey, they're playing the same day as Game 4 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies! Why hasn't the national media picked up on this amusing coincidence? Pick: NY Giants

Joe: I can't expect a West Coaster like you to appreciate how important this convergence of space-time is. Pick: Philadelphia

Jacksonville at Tennessee

Aaron: Watching Titans coach Jeff Fisher look into the cameras and declare that the decision to start Vince Young was made by anyone other than ownership made for compelling TV. All that was missing were proclamations by Fisher that his captors were treating him well and America is the great satan. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Why even bother picking Jags games when I'm always wrong? I'm halfway to picking the Houston Oilers. Pick: Tennessee

Oakland at San Diego

Aaron: Let's see...on the one hand, the Raiders nearly beat San Diego in Week #1. On the other hand, the word "quit" was used one million times to describe Oakland's performance in their last two losses. Quite the prognostication conundrum, this one. Pick: San Diego

Joe: That plus the fact that the last time you picked a terrible team to beat San Diego based only on your ugly hatred it didn't turn out well for you. Also that. Pick: San Diego

Minnesota at Green Bay

Aaron: Aaaand, thanks to the NFL's rarely-if-ever bitched about broadcast policies, San Diego won't be getting this game on Sunday. Doesn't the league realize my only alternative is to spend time with my family? This is on your hands, commissioner. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Clearly the universe is against us Brett Favre nonbelievers. Look for him to throw six touchdowns and make the Lambeau grass turn purple with a wave of his crease-less hands. Pick: Minnesota

Carolina at Arizona

Aaron: There's something to be said for a team that's so damn willing to cling to the anchor that is Jake Delhomme. Enjoy the cold, briny deep, Panthers. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Part of me thinks this is one of those logic-defying games where we all remember the Cards can't be trusted. But I can't pick Carolina on the road. Pick: Arizona

Atlanta at New Orleans

Aaron: I love how the media painted last week's incredible Saints comeback as "Drew 'Jeter' Brees willed his team to victory". Sooner or later, the Saints are going to be on the wrong end of a shootout. Just not this week. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: I was wondering how long it would take people to start hating Brees for being too good. "Jeter" indeed. Pick: New Orleans

Confidence Pickin' (with current scores)

Joe (29): COLTS (-12.5) over Niners; Browns (+13) over BEARS; Panthers (+10) over CARDINALS

Aaron (22): COLTS (-12.5) over Niners; BEARS (-13) over Browns; Falcons (+11) over SAINTS

Tom (18): COLTS (-11) over Niners; SAINTS (-11) over Falcons; CARDINALS (-9) over Panthers