October 11, 2008

Great Fake-Outs in History, Including Magic's AIDS

Two conservative talk radio hosts in Minneapolis have come under fire for an exchange in which they stated they were convinced that Magic Johnson "faked" AIDS. Magic retired from the NBA in 1991 at age 32 after being diagnosed with HIV. We'll leave aside that Magic does not now and never has had AIDS. He is HIV-positive. There's a difference.

Maybe those guys were right. Here are some other great fake-outs in history.

1) Bill Clinton and the Blue Dress - Most people take the Starr Report for granted and assume that the greatest advertisement for Shout wipes and Stain Stick was actually created by President Clinton. In fact, Clinton was known to be a master of faking orgasms, convincing even the most Gennifer Flowers of pigeonheads. The substance on the blue dress? Don't count on being able to clone the silver-haired charmer with it. You'd just end up with a tub of Papa Johns' Garlic Dipping Sauce.
bllahblahhblah Bill couldn't resist someone who would wear this dress?

2) Jim Abbott's Right Hand - This hoax took decades to develop. Using a little Hollywood make-up and sleight of hand, Abbott was able to convince the entire baseball world that he actually only had one hand. He even developed a showy procedure where he slid his pitching hand into a glove perched on his prosthetic stump as soon as he delivered each pitch. It was masterful deception and legerdemain matched only by whatever convinced critics that The Prestige isn't a steaming pile. The truth is that Abbott needed a gimmick to make himself more attractive to discerning California Angels and Yankees' fans. He stumbled upon the idea for the faked birth defect after watching The Elephant Man. The culmination (known as "the prestige" in the magic world, which explains why that movie was so confusingly titled) was his no-hitter in 1993. The entire Cleveland Indians team, in their last act before taking a break from sucking for the mid-1990's, let Jim put one over on the world.
blablablabbhhblahblah This is just low, Jim.

3) Greg Louganis' HIV/AIDS and Homosexuality - Some people really don't know how to respond to embarrassment. In the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Greg Louganis garned worldwide attention for smacking the back of his head on the diving board. Louganis, the last accomplished American diver, was devastated by the humilating blunder. For the rest of his life he did whatever he had to do to distract people. First he said he was HIV-positive, even back in 1988. This backfired, obviously, because then people wanted to know why he didn't tell anyone as his gaping board-wound was bleeding into the pool. He needed a new cover story, so he decided to tell people he was gay. Louganis, a noted poon connosieur, lived this lie for years before finally fake-dying of fake-AIDS.

blablahblahhblahblah This could possibly be a deduction.

4) The Streak - The people behind "Got Milk" needed a mascot people could relate to. They created 2500 Cal Ripken, Jr., (name chosen because it sounds like Cow Ruxpin when enunciated by a fat Wisconsinite with a mouthful of cheddar curds. Also, Wisconsinites really like Teddy Ruxpin and listen to all their Bob Seger tapes using Teddy) clones out of whey, hooves and piercing blue cow eyeballs.

blblahblaahblahblah Moustache not related to Bill Clinton entry.

5) Steelers Win Super Bowl XL - I still don't believe it happened. I still have nightmares where Ben Roethlisberger trips me by a shoelace going down the aisle to marry Scarlett, then parlays his sixth usher status into a lifetime of going to bed with her dirty little smile. Also, the game taught me that the plane of the goal line extends back to the one yard line as well. That was interesting. I just scratched my back and got called for clipping.

blahblblah This picture makes me die a little inside, and I hate the Colts too.

October 10, 2008

Week 6 NFL Picks Against the Spread

Brien (14-11-0):
There are two "stay away" games this week: Redskins/Rams, and Vikings/Lions. The Rams and Lions are both winless against the spread, but they're both getting around two touchdowns to teams I still have big questions about. Don't bet those games.

Chicago (-2.5) over ATLANTA - The Falcons' wins are over the Lions, the Chiefs, and the Packers.

Miami (+3) over HOUSTON - This time next week we'll be talking about whether or not the Dolphins are for real.

Green Bay (+2) over SEATTLE - Both of these teams are bad, but the Seahawks are worse.

TAMPA BAY (-1.5) over Carolina - This should be one of the better games this week, but I like the Bucs (4-1 ATS) at home.

NY JETS (-6) over Cincinnati - The Bengals will win a few games this year, but not in New Jersey against a Jets team coming off a bye week.

Jason (12-13-0): I'm slowly crawling back to even.

INDIANAPOLIS (-4.5) over Baltimore - The Ravens have had two frustrating weeks, playing over their heads but losing by three points each to Pitt and Tenn. I think Indy breaks through and the frustration wears the Ravens down this weekend.

Dallas (-5) over ARIZONA - Arizona is hurting a little bit and Dallas is ready for a reestablish dominance game.

SAN DIEGO (-6) over New England - New England, obviously, has stopped SD from achieving much during the LDT era. I think they take out their frustrations on this cheap Patriots knock-off.

Cincinnati (+6) over NEW YORK JETS - Cincy is playing better and this is a good game for them to punch somebody back.

St. Louis (+14) over WASHINGTON - St. Louis seems energized over the firing of Scott Linehan. That won't make them better, but might help them keep it closer early.

Jeremy (13-12-0): A tough slate of games this week to pick from...

St. Louis (+14) over WASHINGTON - I love this 'Skins team, am ready to rev up the bandwagon, but I'm not getting the 1991-type vibe from this team in that they will absolutely destroy teams from the initial whistle who are not in their same league. This Rams team is infinitely weaker than this 'Skins team. But the 'Skins haven't shown me that same killer instinct yet.

ATLANTA (+2.5) over Chicago - This is definitely an interesting game and a tough one to pick. Color me impressed with Matt Ryan's performance on the road last week. A tougher Bears D this week, but I'll take the points.

Carolina (+1.5) over TAMPA - This line just seems a little strange to me. Carolina has four impressive wins this year and is an underdog to an erratic Tampa team.

Green Bay (+2) over SEATTLE - Wait, so let me get this straight... the Packers are underdogs to a team that lost by 38 points last week? The Packers aren't as good as the Giants and Qwest is a tough place to play, but this is another odd line.

Giants (-7.5) over CLEVELAND - Cleveland is certainly not an easy place to play on Monday Night, but the Giants are damn good and I'm seeing at least a ten-point win.

Magic 8 Ball (15-10-0):

WASHINGTON (-14) over St. Louis - "My source say yes." (Redskins will beat the spread)
Chicago (-2.5) over ATLANTA - "My answer is no." (Falcons won't beat the spread)
Carolina (+1.5) over TAMPA - "No." (Bucs won't beat the spread)
SEATTLE (-2) over Green Bay - "Yes." (Seahawks will beat the spread)
Giants (-7.5) over CLEVELAND - "No." (Browns won't beat the spread)

Russell (15-10-0):

Baltimore (+4.5) over INDIANAPOLIS - The Colts are not the same this year. They needed 21 pts in the last 5 minutes last week, and are 0-2 at home. Life won't get easier against the rejuvenated Ravens D.

Carolina (+1.5) over TAMPA BAY - The Panthers are remembering how to play with a passing game. Look out.

Chicago (-2.5) over ATLANTA - The Falcons have been good at home, but only because their opponents couldn't stop the run. The Bears can.

SAN FRANCISCO (+5) over Philadelphia - The Eagles have no offense without a healthy Westbrook, and the 49ers are respectable.

St. Louis (+14) over WASHINGTON - I'm just worried about this game, and I'm not sure why. Sure the Rams played Buffalo close, but they've looked terrible on the road all year. Let's hope I'm wrong.


Brien -CHI, MIA, GB, TB, NYJ
Jeremy - STL, ATL, CAR, GB, NYG

Magic 8 - WAS, CHI, CAR, SEA, NYG

October 8, 2008

College Football Picks - Week 7

After dominating the marquis evening matchups last week, let's get right down to the important games of this week.

Babyface Colt McCoy needs a huge game to keep the 'Horns in it.

OKLAHOMA (-6.5) over Texas
- It's hard for two teams to look as similar as these do at first glance. However, I give the Sooners more credit for beating TCU and having a balanced offense. Colt McCoy hasn't had to run the ball against a dominant defense yet, and could get his bell rung a few times. Oklahoma has already played a couple talented teams and still won easily. In spite of playing at the neutral Cotton Bowl, this game is rarely close, and I'll guess the Sooners by 17.

Lsu (+6.5) over FLORIDA - This could be the matchup of the two most exciting coaches in the game. Both love new formations and taking chances. We'll see the pistol, the spread, and the single wing. This pick is risky with the Tigers bringing an untested QB into the Swamp, but I think the Gators have really struggled to find their stride so far. The loss to Ole Miss didn't look like a fluke, and 21 late points shouldn't obscure how close their last game was at Arkansas. The Gators will have to prove they're better than what they've shown for two weeks, while LSU had an extra week to prepare.

Tommy's job rumors could be "up to here" again shortly.

Clemson (+2) over WAKE FOREST
- Over the last two seasons when Wake has been good, they're 0-2 vs Clemson, losing 27-17 and 44-10. Tommy Bowden has had two weeks to yell at his underperforming kids, and I think it's about time that Clemson remembers how talented they are. Granted, Wake has played better football against better opposition this year, but the Navy game was really, really bad. Between Navy and FSU, I think Wake had 10 turnovers, and they are definitely missing their offensive coordinator from last year. This offense just doesn't have the same deception and invention it did previously. Knowing full well that Clemson might not show up and then it'll be like last week with the Terps, I'm calling for a relatively easy Tiger victory.

And now the other games:
GEORGIA (-12) over Tennessee - The Dawgs have revenge on their minds, for the Alabama game and for the last time Tennessee came to town. The Vols aren't that good.

ILLINOIS (-12) over Minnesota - This really seems like a gift to bettors everywhere.

Kansas State (-3) over TEXAS A&M - I think it's going to be a long year for the Aggies.

Purdue (+18.5) over OHIO STATE - I'll believe the offensive firepower when I see it. Buckeyes should still win.

Arkansas (+19) over AUBURN - By how many points does the Auburn D/ST have to outscore the Razorbacks offense to cover this spread? Auburn's last 4 games have been decided by 1, 6, 2, and 1 point(s) respectively.

Last Week: 5-4
Season: 21-13-1

October 7, 2008

Ranking QBs by Likeability

Plenty of well-informed NFL experts put together lists of the best quarterbacks in the league, but to me these rankings are always flawed.  What happens if my favorite team signs one of these guys?  How happy will I be?  Will I have to stop making fun of Eli?  Will I have to retire my best Tom Brady jokes?  

With that in mind, this list ranks all the starting quarterbacks (and some backups) in the NFL based on how happy  I would be if my favorite team signed them.

If my team signs one of these guys, I'm buying a jersey right away.

David Garrard 
He's young, he's strong, he's fast.  Garrard isn't the flashiest or the best quarterback, but if my team signed him, I'd be really happy to cheer for him.

Ben Roethlisberger
This is slightly biased since he's already the quarterback for my favorite teams, but I couldn't be happier about that.  He's a proven winner and he always makes the team better.  This year he's partially hiding the team's glaring weakness at offensive line.  

The big knock against him is that all sportscasters annoyingly refer to him as "Ben" all the time.

Drew Brees
Brees is by all accounts a really nice guy, and he's doing some great things with the Saints.  Plus, I love a QB who can throw the long ball.

I'm happy, but I might have a few reservations about the signing.

Peyton Manning
Yeah, it's great, he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league.  But now you're subjected to years of the Manning face, and your team's offense will be limited to a boring, pocket-passing scheme.

Tom Brady
Well, for starters, he's injured.  Sure, he wins all the time, but can I really turn on a dime from hating his guts to cheering for him?  And do I really want my team quarterbacked by a deadbeat dad?

Tony Romo
I don't buy the choker label, but having every article about your team reference some Jessica-Simpson/Carrie Underwood feud would get annoying.  On the other hand, it's more excuses for websites to run pictures of Jessica and Carrie.  I guess that's a wash.  

These guys will make you worry, but there's plenty of upside there.

Eli Manning
Eli is the butt of a lot of jokes, but he led the Giants to a Super Bowl win.  He even looks pretty good to start this year, but lurking in the back of every fan's mind is the worry that he'll revert to form.

Joe Flacco
The best thing about Flacco is that we don't know just how good he is yet.  He looks like the type of guy who doesn't make many mistakes and he'll get your team out of a jam a few times a game.  But he's only played 4 games so far.

Aaron Rodgers
We don't have a lot to go on with Rodgers, but he handled the Favre situation with class, which counts for a lot in my book.  He's also looked good to start the season, so I think you'd be happy to have him.

Donovan McNabb
You're happy to have him on your team, but he's old and there are rumors that he chokes in big games.  I'd like to cheer for him, but I'd have a lot of reservations.

Jay Cutler
I'm never sure how good Cutler is.  He's surrounded by a good team, and he looks decent most of the time.  In the NFL, that's high praise.

Jason Campbell
He didn't look very good last year, but Campbell looks like a legit good quarterback this year.  I think Redskins fans are very happy with him.

That's the best we could do?
He's good, but really?  There wasn't anyone better available?

Carson Palmer
Some day, people will stop putting Palmer in the discussion of the best quarterbacks in the league.  He's better than a lot of players, but he's definitely not in the elite group.

Derek Anderson
Had flashes of goodness last year, but hasn't shown much at all this year.  He's your replaceable, vanilla semi-decent QB.

Matt Hasselbeck
Probably underrated for years because he played in Seattle and no one saw him, Hasselbeck is now overrated because he plays in Seattle and no one sees him.

Phillip Rivers
He's probably a better player than a lot of the guys ranked above him, but do you really want to cheer for him?  Rivers comes across as a petulant whining asshole, and I wouldn't really want him on my team.

Jake Delhomme
You're just hoping that he'll regain his 2005 form.

Matt Ryan
There's some potential, but you're not sure at all what you're going to get.

Chad Pennington
He wasn't good enough for the Jets, which tells you something.  On the other hand, he's played well this year and seems to be a decent QB.

If your team signs one of these guys as your starter, it might drive you to drink.

Matt Schaub
Not only are you rooting for a UVA alum, he's not that good and he's been hit way too many times.

Brett Favre
It's amazing that he dropped from the top category to this one just by being a douchebag during the offseason.

Kerry Collins
I know his team's 5-0, but would you really be happy if your team signed him?

Jeff Garcia
He's had some decent successes in the past, but he's past his prime and his prime wasn't even all that good.

Matt Cassell
He's a career backup for a reason.

Kurt Warner
Had a couple good years, but he's headed for retirement.

Kyle Orton
Ummmm, he's just not very good.   There's a reason Chicago has a QB controversy every year in training camp.

Football isn't that fun to watch
Maybe you should just stop following football.

J.T. O'Sullivan
The butt of far too many Irish jokes before the season started, O'Sullivan hasn't done a lot to move the discussion forward.

Matt Leinart
When your picture is on thedirty.com more than espn.com, that's a problem.

Trent Green
Five years ago, you might have been happy with this pickup.

Trent Edwards
The only thing I know about him is that he isn't good enough for me to want him on my fantasy team.

Jamarcus Russell
I really thought he was a good pick coming out of college, but the Raiders are a soul-crushing organization.

Jon Kitna
Well, if your team signs him at least people will make stupid Jesus jokes at you all the time, so you have that going for you.

Gus Frerotte
It's never a good thing when you get a start and everyone says "I can't believe he's still in the league!"

October 5, 2008

Redskins 23 - Eagles 17: Instant Analysis

Too bad Kornheiser is gone from The Post. This town is ready to fire up the bandwagon again.

When I first looked at the NFL Schedule when it came out in the spring, I wondered whose corn flakes Dan Snyder pissed in to draw the first five games that the Redskins drew. Three out of five divisional games on the road, opening up in the Meadowlands the same night the Giants got their Super Bowl rings, hosting the Cardinals and the Saints, two teams who aren't exactly pushovers. 2-3 was a distinct possibility in that stretch. 3-2 would've been more than acceptable.
Here we sit. 4-1, four straight wins. Wins on the road over Dallas and Philly. Zero turnovers (yes... ZERO) from Jason Campbell. Three points allowed in the fourth quarter all year long. Victories over the teams with the 3rd, 9th, 11th, and 27th-ranked defenses in the NFL show complete performances by our offense. More importantly and impressively, victories over the teams with the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th-ranked offenses in the NFL show dominating and punishing performances by our defense.
Today featured dominance over Philly for three quarters after falling behind 14-0. One of those scores was a bullshit punt return for a touchdown that should've been called back but the refs continued their 2008 run of incompetence in thinking that the Eagles #50 had been blocked in the back by the Redskins #50 (permissible) instead of vice-versa (impermissible). Zebras, I know it gets complicated when players wear the same numbers, so let's think in terms of pretty colors. Bright white jerseys = Philly, dark burgundy jerseys = Redskins. This was the same officiating crew that inexplicably called Randle El down by contact in the fourth quarter when Sheldon Brown dove for him and totally missed him. Hell, Randle El wouldn't have been down if it was two-hand touch football. Yet ten seconds later, the ref across the field from the alleged touch blew the play dead as Randle El was heading into the end zone. Nicely done, zebras.
What we're seeing is the result of streamlined play calling. No more Al Saunders communicating with Joe Gibbs communicating back to Saunders communicating to Campbell, getting the play into the huddle with eight seconds left on the play clock. Now, as soon as the play is dead, Zorn calls the play in, the 'Skins break the huddle with 15-20 seconds left on the play clock, enough time for Campbell to read the defense and figure out whether he needs to audible and who may be open. We're also seeing an incredibly balanced offensive attack, with our running and passing plays split almost 50-50.
Even more amazing was that today's defensive performance was rendered by a team without Jason Taylor, without Marcus Washington, and without Shawn Springs. Those aren't exactly bit players who were out. We relied upon Smoot, Landry, and Rogers heavily in the defensive backfield today, and all had huge games in man-to-man coverage, forcing the Eagles' hand into short yardage runs which were eaten up by our defensive line.
This team has proven that it cannot be counted out of a game, no matter how bleak the scenario. Campbell would kill you if you were his fantasy owner, but he manages to move the offense down the field, play smartly, and gain big yardage on first down, leaving the team in great position to not be facing second-and-long and third-and-long situations.
And Clinton Portis. Sheriff Gonna Getcha. Coach Janky Spanky. My oh my... he is putting the team on his back this year. I will eat some crow for saying that the 'Skins should've gotten their trade value for him and kept Betts around. Portis is the hardest-working 100+ yard carrier in the NFL.
Next four games before the bye...
Home vs. Rams
Home vs. Browns
Road vs. Lions
Home vs. Steelers (Monday night)
If the Redskins head into the bye at 7-2, with all three remaining divisional games at home, they'll be in great position for the playoffs. Their schedule after the bye is pretty brutal, but hey... at this point, who can doubt this team?

UVA Stomps Maryland Dopplegangers

Government investigators stormed Maryland's campus late last night, intent on finding the leak from a parallel dimension that is allowing a Bizarro Terps team to take the field twice already this season. There is concern that the Hadron Collider in France sent a microscopic black hole on an oblique angle through the crust, exiting somewhere near Byrd Stadium.

blahblahblah The exact opposite of what happened last night.

The stats are a bit misleading, as the Terps busted two big plays (60-yard run by DaRel Scott, 80-yard screen by Heyward-Bey) against MTSU, but they played the same game. The same defense that shut down Cal at home for a half and blanked Clemson on the road for a half looked totally asleep against Virginia and Middle Tennessee State. The offense that was efficient against Cal and Clemson has slept through a win over FBS Delaware, and losses to MTSU and Virginia.

I wish I could give you some kind of analysis. Here's what I remember from last night's 31-0 massacre in Charlottesville. Their third-string sophomore QB had an open receiver on every play, despite the fact we weren't blitzing. Terps safety Skinner was routinely burned and humiliated in pass coverage and run support. The DL looked absolutely incapable of providing any meaningful pressure. QB Chris Turner looked lost and, without that threat, Da'Rel Scott was held to a pedestrian day running the ball. Virginia chose not to join us in incompetence, and kept their foot on the gas for most of the game.

Proof of the existence of a genetic link between looking like an asshole and being an asshole.

Again, we appear to have a motivational problem. Do I blame the coaching staff for that? No, I can't. These are college kids. For 90% of them, they get fewer than 20 games on the field to play the last meaningful football of their lives. If they need fiery speeches to get inspired to play a cross-border rival they're in the wrong game.

I want to see the transcripts of the defensive players. Do they get D's in kinesiology and geography and A's in Organic Chemistry and Electrical Engineering? That would seem to fit their pattern.

blahblahblah This guy went to UVA and date-raped your sister. Allegedly.

I fear someone will be fired over this. Chris Cosh is the most likely victim, as the defensive coordinator. The Terps do have a bye week before hosting Wake Forest, which runs an interesting and complicated offense. Personally, I never see the point of changing coaches midseason, short of a full mutiny and a belief that the underling can instantly gain control and inspire the unit. I don't see that in College Park right now.

So we endure another disgusting effort and disgusting game. This season has been trying, with big wins over Clemson and Cal and big losses to Middle Tennessee and Virginia. Who knows which team will emerge down the stretch?