Sunday, January 30, 2011

The NHL Guardians!

When the history of bad sports marketing ideas is written, the NHL's Guardian Project will cover more than a few pages. It's just really lame. It's one of those rare bad ideas that actually sounds worse the more you try and explain it --- in this interview with Yahoo Sports, I'm surprised the marketing exec didn't just break down in tears and admit the whole thing was fueled by an opium addiction.

The generalities: each NHL team has its own "guardian," or basically a superhero that "represents the spirit of the team." The idea is that these characters will attract the attention of comic book-loving kids who aren't interested in hockey, but will get hooked on the sport through their favourite guardian. Uh huh. It's sort of like how Captain Planet influenced an entire generation of kids to be more eco-friendly, which is why today, our planet has an absolutely perfect environment. Thanks, Captain Planet! You sure showed us the way!

Needless to say, this entire project will be forgotten minutes after it's officially unveiled at the NHL All-Star Game (itself a pointless enterprise), but the Guardian Project's lasting legacy will be the number of jokes created at the expense of the goofy superhero bios. The link at the top of the page provides a list of every Guardian revealed thus far, and the results are solid comic gold. My favourites....

* The Flyer. First of all, everyone knows Green Man is Philly's greatest hero. Secondly, even the good-natured Guardian Project can't resist taking a shot at Philadelphia sports fans: "Of course, like his fellow Philadelphians, [the Flyer] has the propensity to let his intensity get the better of him." His powers include mind control, which I presume was gleaned from Bobby Clarke convincing people to let him stay employed as a GM for so many years.

* The Blue Jacket. "A great military mind, the Blue Jacket lives to fight and he has the power of mediumship to communicate with the Union Civil War Generals that he idolizes." That's great. So in a tight spot against a dastardly supervillain, the Blue Jacket will have a seance with Ulysses S. Grant to get some tips. Of course, it'll take the BJ an hour to explain to General Grant exactly what a supervillain is, and what a superhero is, and what exactly the fuck is going on, etc. Time is not of the essence for the BJ. (Pun intended.) But hey, who needs advice from 150-year-old military men when "at his side hangs the state flag of Ohio made of astral plasma." So yeah, he's got that going for him.

* The Coyote. Don't mention Wolverine, don't mention Wolverine, don't mention Wolverine....

* The Lightning. Don't mention Jack Sparrow, don't mention Jack Sparrow, don't mention Jack Sparrow..."The Lightning is a man of action, he is brazen and cocky. Like the pirates who inhabited the Tampa area 200 years ago, he is impetuous and unpredictable. He's feisty and fun and he is a natural ladies man with an in-your-face bravado. He is determined to save the world from harm, and wants to look good doing it." Whew, that was close, almost mentioned Jack Sparrow!

* The Penguin. The boasting about the 'Penguin-like wings' on his costume is pretty great, but what really makes this guy stand out is his name. Truly, he will go down as the most famous comic book hero character called the Penguin of all, wait....

* The Avalanche. "The Avalanche has a problem with authority and hates being told what to do...He's willing to take chances that most of the other Guardians wouldn't dare, not because he actually believes that he can accomplish the act in question, but simply because he wants to see if it's possible." And now, your first edition of, Avalanche Comics!

Cop: Avalanche, come quickly! There's a school bus about to fall into a ravine, and you're the only one who can save those kids!"

Avalanche: Don't tell me what to do!

Cop: Uh, what?

Avalanche: Typical authority figure, trying to boss me around.

Cop: But what about saving those kids?

Avalanche: Forget it! I'm going to see if I can drink this litre of chocolate milk in ten minutes and see if I can keep from vomiting.

The Coyote: No way can you do that!

Avalanche: Oh don't worry, I'm pretty sure I can't. But I want to see if it's possible!

Cop: Wait, but if you can do it, then that means it is possible.

Avalanche: Shut up, authority figure!

* The Capital. It's a giant eagle. Stephen Colbert, get your lawyers on the phone. Or, hell, people at Giant Eagle grocery stores, get YOUR lawyers on the phone.

* The Hurricane. He's a "barometric nightmare!" The Hurricane's bio makes him sound like Frasier Crane: "At the same time, the Hurricane carries with him the calculating mind of an intellectual. As such, he fancies himself an inventor and entrepreneur. In short, the Hurricane is a thought-provoking intellectual who can be every bit as devastating as the force of nature from which he takes his name." Lord knows the "thought-provoking intellectuals" are far and away the most popular superheroes.

* The Bruin. "Although the Bruin gives off a blue collar vibe, he is one of the well-educated Guardians. This fact is attributable to the Boston area being home to over 100 institutions of higher learning including the oldest University in the United States." Oh good lord. I love how it's not "one of the MOST well-educated Guardians," just "well-educated." Meaning that some of the Guardians are apparently illiterate numbskulls.

* The Wild. "He is an intellectual and avid reader, taken from the fact that the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is one of the most highly literate in the Country." Double good lord. Hey NHL, I read a ton of books when I was a kid, and also really into superheroes and comics. At no goddamn point did I ever think, "Man, if only there was a superhero that was as into reading as I was!"

* The Blue. YOU'RE MY BOY, BLUE! Now, I've gotta say, the Blue seems like the most visually impressive of these Guardians. I mean, look at that picture. That's pretty bad-ass, admittedly. Maybe there's one actual interesting hero in this bunch. Let's see his bio -- "At his side is his trusty sax, and the music he plays has telepathic qualities, which allow him to control the minds of his weak-minded foes." Um...

Oh. Oh dear. That's...unfortunate.

* The Senator. It guess it makes sense that the superhero representative of one of the NHL's dumbest teams voluntarily "sold himself into slavery in order to join the ranks of the gladiators." Also, like Canadian senators, The Senator is irrelevant.

* The Star. Much like with the Flyer, this hero's description seems like an insult to his city's fanbase. "Like Texas itself, The Star's personality is BIG. Everything about him oozes with confidence. He's the horse everybody came to see and he relishes the opportunity to prove his greatness. You could say there is another side to him but there just isn't. His confidence is so severe that it could almost be considered a superpower all by itself." So yeah, he's an asshole, got it. He's not the most original asshole either, given his "There's a new Sheriff in town" catchphrase. In the NHL's eyes, Texas = boastful cliches.

* The Canadien. Easily the most fanboyishly-written of any entry. "The Canadien is a ladies' man, culturally refined and quite simply the best at everything he's ever attempted....Just as in the NHL, all the teams are excellent in their own unique way, but all of them are made a little more valuable by the presence of the Montreal Canadien." Groan. Habs fans are still upset by the entry because it isn't written in French.

* The Oiler. "He spends a majority of his time roaming the Northwest Territories. He's most happy when he's exploring the vast northern wilderness." Well, there's a big fuck-you to the people of Edmonton. Hey Edmontonians, your city is apparently so lousy that even your own hero would rather spend his time chilling in Yellowknife.

* The Predator. Presumably his arch-enemy is The Blackberry, who possesses magnetic powers and tries to drag people to Hamilton. This entry is even funnier if you pretend it's being written about not a Nashville Predator, but rather a sexual predator. For instance, he is forced to sit in the rafters of the Grand Ole Opry due to restraining orders. (Also, why would a beloved town hero be shunted up to the rafters? Shouldn't he get a front-row seat?) Another great passage..."In the face of insurmountable odds, many a Guardian has uttered the phrase 'What would Pred do?' " Yeah, no question, in the real NHL, most teams look to the Predators as a model franchise of the hockey world. Hopefully nothing ever happens to the Predator during a mission, otherwise many a Guardian will be uttering the phrase 'Pred's dead, baby. Pred's dead.'

* The Canuck. You knew at least one of these clowns would have a 'talk to the animals' power, and sure enough, the Canuck "has the power of summoning which he uses to call his whale friends to his aid when necessary." SAVE ME, BURLY AVENGERS! Hopefully the Canuck doesn't summon a whale to help him stop, like, a jewelry store robbery. I fail to see how the skillset applies. Also, apparently the Canuck is "the most contrarian of the Guardians." At first I thought this was an odd thing to highlight (Vancouverians are contrarian?) but it actually fits a team that claims to have a rich, proud history despite not winning anything in 40 years. This is the same fanbase that thinks Trevor Linden is a about contrarian.

* The Islander. "The Islander is the toughest man to ever set foot on the earth." Well, I guess that settles that.

* The Duck. I haven't talked a whole lot about the varying powers and strengths of these heroes but I think we can safely slot the Duck near the bottom of the pile. "He wears a futuristic bio suit and helmet that allow him to breathe underwater for short periods of time. He also has surf boots on his feet that give him the ability to glide on the surface of water at incredible speeds. He has wings, but they allow him to fly in short bursts and at low altitudes only. He's constantly developing new technology that allows him to take advantage of his aquatic abilities. He also has several surfboards for different conditions and adventures, including his ever-present 'Fish' board; a retro surfboard that allows him to cut through waves and at an incredible speed and make amazing maneuvers." So basically, if you're not near the water, the Duck won't be much of a threat to you. Even better, the Duck is described as being a "rebel with a trust fund." Oh shit, I know the Duck's secret identity! It's Adam Banks! CAKE-EATER, CAKE-EATER!

* The Ranger. Speaking of powers, the Ranger's bio doesn't even mention his actual abilities. It's all just a bunch of hooey about how the Ranger has "a multi-cultural feel to him" or some other focus group nonsense. It's not until you click on his picture that you discover the Ranger is "an innovative machinist, he controls a variety of destructive weapons." So let me get this straight...the bio goes out of its way to make the Ranger sound as culture-friendly as possible, and then his powerset is basically the same as, like, a terrorist? Smooth move, NHL.

* The Devil. Arguably the funniest one of the bunch. "He's aware that his appearance doesn't exactly scream 'one of the good guys' so he goes out of his way to make sure people, especially kids, understand he is one." Oh good, that's comforting, because when a guy called THE DEVIL tells you he's one of the good guys, you can surely trust him.

* The Maple Leaf. And finally, we have the Maple Leaf. He's a big fuckin' living tree. Between the fact that he's made of wood and is the largest of all the Guardians, I feel compelled to make a Kyle Wellwood joke here. Of note, the Maple Leaf "is one of the funniest of the Guardians" and has a secondary nickname of 'Trunk.' If I actually knew someone known as 'Trunk,' I would make so many Ralph Wiggum/Look in the tunk jokes that it literally wouldn't be funny. It's not comforting to know that my favourite NHL team has been reduced to the comic relief role of the Guardians, but on the other hand, living/growing wood. Hey ladies.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fun With Stairs

If more staircases were like this, then even I (The Laziest Man In Springfield) might think taking them more often. Note: not 'will take the stairs,' but 'might think about taking the stairs.' Like I said, laziest man in Springfield.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Penultimate (NFL picks, third round)

* Packers over Bears
I wouldn't be much of a Green Bay fan if I didn't make this pick, but I'm terrified of this game. I'm much more worried about this one than I was about the Eagles or Falcons matchups simply because the Packers and Bears know each other so well. Also, because Green Bay's offense will invariably be slowed by that godawful Solider Field turf and the sure-to-be lousy weather. Also, the Bears are just a weird team. I've accepted by this point that they're a team of destiny. Every break they've needed has gone their way this season --- odd calls in games (i.e. the Calvin Johnson non-TD in the first week), an astounding lack of injuries and a knack for catching opponents just when they're coming off a big injury or on a letdown. Of course it stands to reason that they'd a) get to face the worst team in the playoffs after Seattle upset New Orleans and b) they'd avoid going to Atlanta and now get to host the Packers, who, while dangerous, are very familiar to the Bears.

So yeah, this game worries me. Green Bay losing to Philly would've sucked, and it would've been unfortunate had the team lost to Atlanta, but getting knocked out by the goddamn Bears would be horrible. You've seen how unnecessarily boastful Bears fans are given how mediocre their team has been over the last four decades --- imagine how bad they'll get if they actually achieve something. ("Mark, are you writing this to incite the Bears fans you know will be reading this?" "Yes.") After all the ups and downs of Green Bay's incredible season, being eliminated by boring Chicago would be a real letdown.

However, I think the Packers have this one. I don't want to get too overboard about Aaron Rodgers --- after all, I'm the guy that rips on Peyton Manning for not achieving anything, and that guy has a Super Bowl ring --- but man, Aaron Rodgers. What a star. I think every team in the NFL (save New England, New Orleans and probably Indy, though they'd want to deep down) would want Rodgers as their quarterback. Any critics that might've still thought the Packers should've kept Brett Favre three years ago have been silenced. Moreso than what the Packers do on offense, I just don't see how Chicago can score enough points in this game. If the Bears' D gives up more than 10 points, this game could be over. You saw all those butterfly passes Cutler was throwing against the Seahawks last week. You don't think Williams or Woodson would've delivered a pick-six or two off of those?

Man, so much tension. I have a horrible feeling this will end up like the 2007-08 NFC Championship, when Green Bay looked awesome heading into a home game against the Giants, and then Mike McCarthy was thoroughly outcoached for over 60 minutes and the Pack lost. But, then again, maybe Mike Martz and Lovie Smith will get into a fistfight on the Chicago sidelines (my money is heavily on Lovie in that battle) and Jay Cutler will throw a bunch of picks and then write about it on his MySpace page.

* Jets over Steelers
Does this game ever feel anti-climactic. If the Packers lose the early game, I might be too distraught to watch this, just because the idea of a Jets/Bears Super Bowl is the shittiest thing ever. I've pretty much gotten sick of the Jets, but I've gotta admit, these guys deliver when it counts. It's interesting to note how quiet the Jets have been this week as compared to their nonstop trash talk the week before going into the Patriots game. Last week was personal, this week is basically just business.

Even though two weeks of New York hype and even more Jets trash-talking would be an annoyance to say the least, I think we're in for it. Pittsburgh is just flat-out too beaten up. They're running so low on offensive linemen that they gave my dad a call this week to see if he could suit up on Sunday. My father had to decline, not because he hasn't played organized football in 40 years, but because there's curling on that afternoon. It's a fair point. The bottom line is that the Steelers at full strength at home could beat New York, but not in their current state. It'll be another close matchup, but in the end, the Jets eke another one out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Random Nonsense

No, really, Nick Cage, YOU'RE the national treasure!

Who else would think these things on the way to a long-delayed dentist appointment? Or, who else would lose his shit on screen for the last 25 years, solely for our amusement? He is truly a man among hair-plugged men.


So for the second time in a little over a year, I find myself writing a post about Anne Hathaway being cast in a comic book movie, except unlike that 'Vulturess' nonsense, this one is actually happening. The news broke yesterday that Hathaway and Tom Hardy will play the villains in the upcoming Batman film --- Hardy is Bane, Hathaway is Selina Kyle. Now, interestingly, the news release specified Hathaway's role as just 'Selina Kyle,' not actually Catwoman, so it remains to be seen if Christopher Nolan is toning down the whole "cat-themed master thief in a costume" thing for his more realistic version of Batman, though Aaron Eckhart was cast just as 'Harvey Dent' in Dark Knight and we still got a proper Two-Face out of the deal.

Anyway, since I realize the film hinges entirely on my approval, thumbs up to the casting. I'm a well-established Hathaway fan, and it's very possible that Hardy steals the entire movie given Bane's potential as a character. You can go ahead and pencil these two in for supporting Oscar nominations come 2012 and hey, if they die, they might even win!


If you're Julius Caesar, which would you prefer to be named after you, a caesar salad, a caesar cocktail or a caesarean section?

I'd guess it's probably the salad. A Caesar cocktail is perhaps better known as a 'bloody Caesar,' which would no doubt bring back unpleasant memories for the ol' Roman dictator. And surely there's blood involved in a C-section....or wait, maybe there's not, if the doctor is doing it right. I really have no idea. I spent most of grade school health class passed out.

Now, fun fact, the caesar salad isn't actually named after Julius Caesar. It was allegedly invented by a San Diego restauranteur named Caesar Cardini, so I guess you could argue that it isn't a tribute to old orange Julius himself. Oh schisse, wait, is Orange Julius named after Julius Caesar?!?! Nope, never mind. All things being equal, he'd probably appreciate Shakespeare's play as the biggest existing tribute, once it was explained to him who Shakespeare was, and once Caesar got over his snobby 'well, Terence was better' attitude.


Speaking of ancient architecture, holy crap, Detroit. Will future North Americans regard the city in the same way that we look at Stonehenge? Will they think ancient Detroiters worshipped the octopus as a pagan god if they come across Red Wings memorabilia? Will 'Robocop' be considered a documentary?


There are random internet memes and then there are REALLY random internet memes. And then, in another category by itself, is this random internet meme --- type 241543903 into Google and see what happens. You will not be sorry. Hopefully someone informs Anthony Stewart Head about this and he posts a picture of himself in a walk-in meat freezer.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parks & Rec Is Back!

Noted funniest show on television Parks & Recreation is back on the air on Thursday! Joy! To get you in the mood, here's a couple of videos starring cast members Aziz Ansari and Rob Lowe. Of course, as with all of my linked videos, I wrote, directed and shot the films was a pleasure to work with the actors!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bye Bye Birdies (NFL picks, second round)

* Steelers over Ravens
I really think that if these two teams played each other 100 times, the overall victor would have no more than 52 wins, tops. They're two mirror images of each other...well, except for Pittsburgh's two Super Bowls over the last decade, and the fact that Pittsburgh's quarterback is actually capable of winning games on his own. (Though, to be fair, Joe Flacco's reputation with the ladies is apparently squeaky clean.) I have to use the bye week as the tie-breaker; the Steelers got a week to rest and heal up, whereas the aging Ravens played in K.C. last Sunday and now have a short week for another road game against their arch-rival. That simply could be the breaking point for a Ravens team that has already run out of gas late in games a few times this season.

* "Packers over Falcons"
Why the quotation marks? Because, in my heart of hearts, I know the Falcons will win this game. They've had an extra week of rest, they're nigh-unbeatable in the Georgia Dome and it's probably too much to ask for James Starks to channel Jim Brown for another week. People seem to have given up on Atlanta after their Monday Night Football loss to the Saints in Week 16, but I think that was an aberration against a divisional foe. The Falcons are a smart, well-coached team that won't make half the self-inflicted mistakes that the Eagles did last week. I just don't think Green Bay has enough to pull off another road upset.

But, then again, PACKERS OVER FALCONS. I believe in Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons can spend their offseason riding the bus with those Play 60 kids. Before that commercial, when was the last time you think Arthur Blank rode a bus? I vote for either 60 years ago or never.

* Bears over Seahawks
I actually flip-flopped quite a bit on this game. Sure, the Seahawks are still just 8-9 for the season and are now leaving the comfort zone of Qwest Field, but the Bears aren't that good a team, have Jay Cutler as a quarterback, and are primed for a big letdown just because they're the Bears. An upset could conceivably happen again, right? Well, I was curious about the Qwest Field effect so I looked up the Shawks' all-time road playoff record. Little did I realize that it's not just the Qwest Field effect, but also the Kingdome effect. Seattle's last road playoff win was in 1983! To put it in perspective, Seattle receiver Mike Williams wasn't alive the last time his team won on the road in the postseason. Now, granted, the Seahawks haven't exactly been a top franchise all this year, but even still, that's a long drought. I can't help but think that the Seahawks' upset over New Orleans was their Super Bowl and now they're due for an inevitable letdown. This opens the door for a potential Chicago/Green Bay NFC title game, which would be awesome....but not as awesome as a Green Bay/Seattle game. In short, I hate the Bears.

* Patriots over Jets
Jets players and coaches have been falling all over themselves to trash-talk the Patriots this week, but other than Wes Welker's amusing foot-related press conference, it's been pretty quiet in the New England camp. The fact is, every word the Jets say just digs them into a deeper hole. They sound like they're trying to convince themselves, rather than rattle the Pats. After all, the last time these two teams faced off in New England, the Patriots scored a mammoth, 45-3 ass-kicking.

Even though the Jets beat New England back in Week 2, that was a NE team that hadn't hit its stride yet. I just don't think New York (or, perhaps, any team) is capable of knocking off a Patriots team that is looking as good as any in the Brady/Belichick era. The Jets didn't win in Indianapolis last week so much as the Colts handed them the game; to beat the Pats, New York will have to take it, and I'm not sure Mark Sanchez is capable of seizing anything other than the phone number of whatever model he's dating this week. Let's just say that after this game, the Jets franchise will be putting its collective foot (puts on sunglasses) in its mouth. YEAHHHHHH

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Slap Bet #2 and Slap Bet #3

Holy crap, this happened two months ago but I forgot to blog about it until right now!

Ok, as long-time fans will remember, I lost a slap bet to my friend Kyle over three years ago over the outcome of an online poker tournament. Since that time, Kyle has quite famously used one slap on me, but four slaps (to be doled out at any time over the course of our lives) still remained on the ballot. That is, until a whopping two slaps were accounted for in a thoroughly unusual fashion!

So, not only am I a Slap Bet participant, I'm also an official. You see, for the last three years, I've been the Commissioner of a slap bet between none other than Kyle and his younger brother Taylor. This one also involves poker. You see, Kyle and Taylor made a slap bet in regards to the outcome of the World Series of Poker's Main Event tournament. The field for this tournament has become so large and so littered with unknowns and it's actually become quite rare for a well-known poker pro to make the final table, let alone actually win. It seems like there's one star or so per year that gets all the way to the end --- Mike Mizrachi did it last year, Phil Ivey the year prior, Allen Cunningham finished third a few years back, etc. --- but the last seven or eight actual winners have been relative unknowns.

So back in 2008, Kyle and Taylor made a slap bet about this trend. Taylor argued that a "well-known pro" would win at least one of the next seven Main Events (from 2008 to 2014). Kyle argued that there were simply too many unknowns in the field for a pro to beat the odds, and thus he favoured that the underdogs would keep their streak going through 2014. And thus, the wager was made. It wasn't the classic How I Met Your Mother-inspired 'five slaps over a lifetime' bet, but rather the loser would receive one mammoth, whale of a slap from the winner. Quite possibly in a public place. Or in front of family.

As commissioner of said slap bet, I had a doubly important task. Firstly, I'm the one that has to keep track of this damn thing over seven years. But perhaps more critically, I'm the arbiter that determines who counts as a "well-known pro." Obviously, if some TV regular like Daniel Negreanu or Phil Hellmuth wins the Main Event, then it's a no-brainer. In this age of internet poker, however, someone could be a massively successful online player but a relative newbie in the world of live tournaments. It's a fine line I have to walk to determine if a guy is 'well-known' or not. To use a sports analogy, take last year's major golf championships. Had Kyle and Taylor had similar bets placed on those four tournaments, my job would've been to determine whether or not Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer counted as "well-known." To the layperson, Mickelson is the only standout, but to golf fans, McDowell and Kaymer were also pretty well-known and well-regarded from their Ryder Cup exploits, so I would've counted them both too.

Needless to say, this is a bit more added responsibility than your average slap bet commissioner usually wields. But still, imagine my surprise when, in gratitude for my services, Kyle chose to forgive TWO (!) of his remaining four slaps! Two of them! My entire debt was halved like Harvey Dent's face! Such a development was completely stunning to me, and while appreciated, I also have a bit of apprehension. It's possible that marriage and fatherhood are turning Kyle into a big ol' softie....or, he has two particularly hilarious scenarios concocted in his brain that will lead to my being slapped silly, and having two additional lesser scenarios would water down the whole project. If only the producers of the Superman movie franchise had shown the same restraint.

So yeah, that's two fewer slaps for me. I feel like a big weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. A two-pronged, hand-shaped weight. I owe a debt of gratitude to the big-name poker pros who choked it up in the last three WSOP Main Events; had your ineptitude not lasted this long, Kyle wouldn't have thought to half-release me from my debt. Thanks for blowing it, Phil Ivey!

(Oh, and as for the other bet update, you'll notice in the first link on the page that I also make mention of a $200,000 bet I made with my friend Sarah that Lindsay Lohan will win an Oscar between 2007-2017. Sarah bet on yes, I bet on no. As we approach the fourth set of Oscar nominations since we made this bet, my confidence is bordering on the cartoonish. Let's just say that I'm not exactly sweating the chance that Lohan's supporting turn in 'Machete' brings her Oscar gold. Sarah, I'll tell you what, in a nod to Kyle's magnanimous gesture, I'll release you from our bet for a mere $80,000. Really, you're saving money in the long run.)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Surely... (NFL picks, first round)

* Packers over Eagles
So years ago, I'm working at my old pizza delivery job and wouldn't you know it, I have a shift scheduled on the same Saturday night that my beloved Packers are facing the Falcons in a playoff game. No problem, I figure. I'll listen to the game on the radio, and for kicks, I'll even wear my Brett Favre jersey and cheesehead out on the road (my store had a lax dress code) and get a few laughs and hopefully bigger tips from the customers at the front door. The game itself would be no problem, since Green Bay had never lost a home playoff game in its history and they were only playing ol' overrated Michael Vick and the Falcons, and gee, the Pack would sure be in tough the next week against the Buccaneers, and...

Well, you can see where this went. Not only did Atlanta win, they kicked the Packers' asses and handed them their first playoff defeat in Lambeau Field history in embarrassing fashion. That damn Mike Vick showed me on that day that no matter what the circumstances, he can't be taken lightly. My cheesehead stayed in the car that evening, though my Favre jersey did probably earn me a few 'oh, that poor guy' tips. Ah, pity.

Fast-forward to today, and even though the Packers seem to be a trendy upset pick to take Philadelphia out on Sunday, I'm not letting my guard down for a minute when it comes to the ol' dog-killer. (What? If Favre can be the ol' gunslinger, then surely we can give Vick a nickname based on his actual crime.) Vick is even lulling everyone into a false sense of security by complaining of injury and suddenly worrying about an inability to pick up blitz packages. This is when that jerk breaks out for one of his insane three-TDs throwing, two-TDs running games and leaves Mike McCarthy standing on the sidelines with that same glazed-over look he always gets when he can't adjust his gameplan whatsoever. That's right, I'm still standing by this post completely in spite of the fact that Green Bay ended up in the playoffs. Mike McCarthy is a bad football coach. I figure since he won't be fired after getting the team to the playoffs, so while we're here, what the hell, we might as well win the Super Bowl.

So, why am I picking Green Bay? Well, they beat Philly back in the first week, and the GB defense is (theoretically) perfectly built to shut down the Eagles' offense. I'm not at all confident in this assessment, mind you, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that the D comes up big again and Vick is laid out with at least one bone-crunching sack.

(N.B. The most obnoxious part of this NFL season, bar none, is the media insistence that Michael Vick is this great story of redemption. Um, no. He's not a guy returning to stardom after rehabbing some major knee injury. He committed a thoroughly stupid and brutal crime over a long stretch of time. Vick isn't a victim in any way. I bite my thumb at him. At least the ridiculous MVP talk seems to have faded. That would've been the NFL's worst MVP vote since that year the kicker won.)

But in short, yeah, I'm picking the Packers over Michael Vick again. What can possibly go wrong?

* Ravens over Chiefs
Two weeks ago I would've picked Kansas City without a bit of hesitation, but then the Chiefs played probably their worst game of the season in a stinker of a loss to Oakland. Suddenly, the previous 16 weeks of solid, Patriots-lite football just washed away and we were left with a young, inexperienced team whose offensive coordinator just bolted on them at the least-opportune time. Good thing they have a calm, laid-back coach in Todd Haley who can keep them on an even keel through these hard times....oh, wait, never mind.

So even though Baltimore is old, and tired, and increasingly unable to sit on leads late in games, I'm still picking them. Their latest late-game fade (last week against Cincinnati) can't be held against them since they still held on to win in the end and the Bengals always inexplicably play them tough. If the 2009 Ravens can go into New England and hammer the Pats in a playoff game, the 2010 unit can surely go into Arrowhead Stadium and beat back the upstart Chiefs. The only possible setback could be if some bizarre incident involving one of the star players' brothers breaks just days before the game, and what are the odds of that?

"Hey Mark, are you picking Baltimore just to give yourself some slight reprieve, since your obnoxious, Ravens-loving brother will be even more insufferable if they win this game?"

Er, next pick, please.

* Colts over Jets
I'm of two minds about this game. Firstly, it seems unlikely that the Colts are actually very good this year, and they made it into the playoffs largely thanks to a dysfunctional division and on the grit of Peyton Manning's arm. So theoretically, the hard-nosed Jets can rattle Indy and knock them off, right? Well, maybe, except....the Jets might not be very good. Sure, the Jets were 11-5 and everything, and beat the Steelers and Patriots this year, but this team has faltered too many times to let me believe in them. LaDainian Tomlinson has reverted back to the sucky form that sunk my fantasy team the previous two years. Mark Sanchez swings wildly from terrific to godawful on a quarterly basis. The vaunted defense is tough, but I'm not sure they're "beat Peyton Manning at home" tough. I've gotta say, I think that damn Manning squeaks another one out. On the bright side, Rex Ryan won't take the defeat all that hard. I've heard he loves da feet. (rim shot)

* Saints over Seahawks
Surely there's no way New Orleans can lose this game, right? I don't care if all their running backs and a good chunk of their defense is injured; they're the Super Bowl champs and they're playing the worst playoff team in NFL history. Surely that's too much to overcome the Seahawks' only advantage, which is their absurdly loud stadium. The sight of the 7-9 Seahawks parading around the field in their 'NFC West Division Champs' hats after their win over the equally sad St. Louis Rams last Sunday night was one of the funniest moments in recent football history. If I was a Seattle fan, I'd totally buy that hat as a novelty gag. Fun fact: the only way the Seahawks will finish with a record above .500 for the season is if they WIN THE SUPER BOWL. Even if they make it to the big game and lose, they'll still be just 10-10. Good lord. I'm not totally sure about the spread (I think New Orleans is favoured by 10.5 points the last time I checked) but the Saints cannot possibly lose to such a crappy team.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Out-Of-Context Texts In My Phone Inbox, Volume XI

It's an extra-large edition of the O-O-CT, as befitting the fact that with so many friends and family home for Christmas and New Year's, more plans needed to be made. And also the fact that a whole lotta wacky nonsense happened in the world of football that needed commenting upon. As always, identities of the texters will remain anonymous.

(Also, since like 76 texts were in regards to this, yes, I did indeed bring Apples To Apples to my New Year's party. It's a fun game, try it sometime.)


"She still alive?"

"Mark Dailey died! Holy fuck."

"Happy New Year, buddy."

"And the band(s) play on."


"Yes, I'd imagine so"

"Makes sense. Do you actually want to go bowling? There's always the option of going to Kool's. Apparently that's what T and some of her friends are doing."

"What's de good word, enh? We doing UFC tonight?"


"Why not go for the tie there? Inexplicable."

"And NOW they try it from the 59?? The HELL??"

"14 all."

"VIdeo chat this afternoon)"

"He was there for Christmas today."

"Uconn will also sell about 2k of their allotted 10k seats....and LOSE money on the whole venture."

"Where rtu?"

"Hmmm....unlikely. Have a bad feeling about this late game. Nice pick with JAX though you must have been sweating it."

"See you then. I'll be on Trev's porch."

"Just got the same message from Dave. Thanks."


"Ford Field on Monday night! Fucking finally! Wait, wha---"

"You organizing transpo tonight? What's the plan?"

"Wow, sorry about your Packers, buddy. Bad coaching there. Tough loss."

"And I'm guessing that he is very iffy as always."

"Going to Jack's and then Taphouse....maybe."

"Actually save me a seat. You guys getting there by 830 to BP North? I'll prolly just eat and not stay for the whole thing."

"Towards the back."

"You watching golf? I think McDowell is my new favorite player."

"Happy New Year!"

"Merry Christmas!"

"Tubing tonight. Meet here at 6:45. Let me know if you're in."


"At Jack's now."

"Thanks. I told Abby that she'd be two the next time I saw her, at which point my dad informed me that Abby was not, in fact, a thoroughbred."

"All good, see you soon."

"Er, '?'"

"Heyyy! D's home! Wanna come dt with us?? D wants you to come see her!"

"Any word on plans for tonight?"

"Bring lots of Boris' diet coke...and Apples To Apples."

"Can u bring Apples to Apples to Matthews house? p.s. come whenever, we have food out."

"You have been requested to bring Apples to Apples tonight."

"We're on the way. Is it packed?"

"Tim Burton marathon at lightbox @ TIFF"

"Well fuck, that was completely devastating."

"Movie is starting so be quick! The trials continue..."


"Bring snacks. Reimbursements will be made."

"Just sent an e-mail to you, Big Wreck tix sold out."

"You still at Kool's?"



"Yeah, no kidding. As a Lions fan I feel I'm distinctly qualified to say this does not bode well for the Packers' playoff chances."


"Potential Beaver brunch tomorrow. Interested?"

"Nobody is hungry enough yet. Jen says bring chips, dip, baked Lays, popcorn, etc."

"Hey man, I'm just at True Grit right now."


"At Matt and Trev's watching Kick-Ass. Come join!"

"That? Was FUCKING awesome. Please tell me you were watching."

"Damn it all. Congratulations."

"I am. I just called and your bro said you're at Swiss Chalet. What's up?"

"Just behind the dance floor"


"Eric is a no-show, when are you leaving?"

"Wanna take bets on whether or not the VA Tech-UConn Orange Bowl will be the lowest rated BCS game in history?"

"I might meet you guys there."

"Merry merry day babes! Hope you and yours eat, drink and play all day with your fams and friends! xo"

"Happy New Year, Mark!"

"Well...congrats, you dick."

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Demotivational Posters, Vol. 2, Part IV

Another year, another set of demotivational posters! It's a tough crop this week, but I think 'Distractions' wins the round.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Huckleberry F***

Alan Gribben should be bloody ashamed of himself. This so-called 'Twain scholar' is basically pissing all over his studies and all over the legacy of Mark Twain himself by getting involved in this bit of bullshit...

I single out Gribben just because his quotes in this Vancouver Sun article are so notably stupid. To wit...

"This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colour-blind," Gribben told Publishers Weekly. "Race matters in these books. It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century."

So in Gribben's world, expressing something means to slough it away completely or simply to distort it. Vegas is currently laying 4-1 odds on whether or not Gribben's kids still think a stork is heavily involved in childbirth.

"I'm hoping that people will welcome this new option, but I suspect that textual purists will be horrified," Gribben told Publishers Weekly. "Already, one professor told me that he is very disappointed that I was involved in this."

"I know I'm going to get raked over the coals for this," Gribben said. "I'm going to hide under a pile of coats and hope that everything turns out all right."

Look, the controversy over the use of racial stereotypes and language in "Huckleberry Finn" has existed almost since the day it was published. Reading the book myself as a kid, I was pretty taken aback by the number of N-bombs and the walking stereotype that is the Jim character. But still, I worked through these problems simply by acknowledging that the novel was written in 1884. Twain himself was by all accounts quite progressive when it came to equal rights, but he was still a product of his time. If I, as a 12-year-old, could properly understand context, I fail to see how grown adults like Gribben can't.

My point is, teach the controversy. "Huckleberry Finn" was not written in a vacuum. It would be impossible for any teacher to teach this book in a class without a follow-up discussion about race in 1880's America, so why bother sanitizing Twain's work to boot? Why can't "Huckleberry Finn" be treated like teachers and professors treat "The Merchant Of Venice" --- a similarly important piece of literature that also carries its share of prejudiced attitudes? Removing all references to Shylock being Jewish would completely alter both the play and Shakespeare's intentions, so I can't see why NewSouth Books thinks it's okay to commit a similar literary hitjob on Twain's work. Don't make "Huckleberry Finn" as whitewashed as Tom Sawyer's fence.