November 1, 2008

Five Toughest Races in the World

Discovery has a new show called Iditarod: Toughest Race on Earth, which raises the obvious question - is it really? "Toughest Race on Earth" is quite a bold claim. What's really the toughest race on earth? Let's break down the contenders.

Honorable Mention - Le Mans 24 Hours

Sure, driving a car for 24 straight hours is tough, but this event doesn't really compare with some of the other races on the list. For one, the drivers operate on teams, so each driver may only race for a few hours in a stretch. Also, the race is only 1 day. There's some endurance involved, but nothing like the real toughest races on earth.

5 - Tour de France

Three weeks of cycling over the largest mountains in Europe is not an easy race at all. Around 180 riders start the race each year, but last year only 145 finished. It's a grueling race, but the setting means it can't be called the toughest in the world. The riders are crossing the French countryside and get to sleep in either a hotel or a tour bus every night. Not exactly "tough" living conditions.

4 - Marathon des Sables

I hadn't heard of this race before researching this post, but the Marathon des Sables (marathon of the sands) is definitely one of the toughest races on earth. The race is 156 miles on foot over six days through the Moroccan desert. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to run this race through some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world, carrying gear for 50 miles over sand dunes in 100 degree heat.

3 - Volvo Ocean Race

Nine months. 39,000 nautical miles. No motors. The Volvo Ocean Race is the greatest test of sailing skill and endurance on the planet. This year's race started in Spain on October 4, and isn't expected to finish until the end of June.

The boats sail through some of the most difficult stretches of open ocean in the world, all under wind power. Support boats trail them, but for the most part they're only their own for weeks at a time during the legs of the race.

2 - Iditarod

It may not be the "Toughest Race on Earth," but it's a close second. The Iditarod is a 1100 mile sled dog race across Alaska. It takes competitors over a week to complete, and is so tough on the mushers and their dogs that there is a mandatory 24-hour rest period that the teams must take at some point during the race.

Weather, terrain, and unpredictable dogs are some of the challenges teams must face to complete the race. It is definitely the most lonely race on the list, as mushers are alone with their dogs for the majority of the race.

1 - Dakar Rally

Although running through the desert for a week, sailing around the word, and piloting a dog sled across Alaska are all tough, I think it's more difficult to ride a motorcycle through the desert for 5000 miles over 2 weeks. Riders are essentially on their own for daily stages that stretch over hundreds of miles. If they have mechanical problems, it can be hours before they're found by someone who can give assistance.

The Dakar Rally wasn't held this year, but it's due to make a comeback next year in South America. The race was canceled because a family of tourists was killed along the route by an al-Qaeda sleeper cell. In 1982, Margaret Thatcher's son went missing for 6 days on the course before being found. Ummm, that's a tough race.

October 31, 2008

NFL Picks Week 9

Our NFL picks are now brought to you by BetUS sports betting.

Brien (22-18):

TENNESSEE (-5) over Green Bay - I'll keep betting the Titans until they fail to cover.

Baltimore (+1.5) over CLEVELAND - It just feels like the Ravens are starting to believe they're a good team.  Plus, this is one of their last chances to win before the schedule gets really rough.

New England (+6) over INDIANAPOLIS - The Patriots have a little too much pride to let this game get out of hand.

Tampa Bay (-9) over KANSAS CITY - I normally hate laying this many points on the road, but the Bucs are pretty good and the Chiefs are pretty awful. 

SEATTLE (+6.5) over Philadelphia - I don't really have a good reason for this one, except that it looks like a trap line to me.

Jason (19-21):

I'm still a big fat loser, but I feel like I can still piece this together.

Baltimore (+1.5) over CLEVELAND - I think I get the Ravens now. They beat bad teams, compete with good teams, and Flacco defecates himself when he sees Peyton Manning.

Green Bay (+5) over TENNESSEE - This feels like a letdown game AND an overlook game.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6) over New England - The reverse of the Titans. Both teams are bouncing in different directions.

WASHINGTON (-2) over Pittsburgh - I don't think the Skins are better, but I think they match up well against Pittsburgh.

BUFFALO (-5.5) over New York Jets - I really don't like the Jets this year. They've struggled with some bad teams.

Jeremy (21-19):

An interesting array of games to choose from, especially for somebody teetering on the edge of respectability.  As much as I'd love to bet on the Ravens-Browns game, based upon the Browns complete Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde persona this far in the season, there's no way I can do that.

BUFFALO (-5.5) over New York Jets
- This Jets team actually received a scare from the Chiefs.  And I think the Bills might be just a little pissed off after last week's debacle in Miami.  Let's face it... we now know this isn't 1996 Brett Favre.

Detroit (+12.5) over CHICAGO
- This is a pretty damn big spread for the Bears to cover.  I see the Lions actually slowly edging towards keeping games close, especially with Calvin Johnson kind of waking up lately.

Green Bay (+5) over TENNESSEE - I actually think this is the weekend the 1972 Dolphins will be popping open champagne.

Dallas (+8.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS - The Giants are still the best team in the wicked NFC East as of right now, but no NFC East divisional game comes that easy for the Giants to cover this spread.

Pittsburgh (+2) over WASHINGTON
- I'll be at the game.  Which means that I have to bet Pittsburgh.  That way, if the 'Skins lose, at least I may be happy about a bet.  I actually give the nod to the Steelers with the 'Skins secondary so banged up and the lack of a great pass rush.

Magic 8 Ball (20-20):
BUFFALO (-5.5) over New York Jets - "My sources say yes." (Bills will beat the spread)
Detroit (+12.5) over CHICAGO - "No." (Bears will not beat the spread)
Green Bay (+5) over TENNESSEE - "My answer is no." (Titans won't beat the spread)
NEW YORK GIANTS (-8.5) over Dallas - "Signs point to yes." (Giants will beat the spread)
WASHINGTON (-2) over Pittsburgh - "Signs point to yes." (Redskins will beat the spread)

Russell (19-21):

TENNESSEE (-5) over Green Bay
- I have no idea why the spread is this small.  Is Vegas expected a Titans letdown?  I'm not.

Philadelphia (-6.5) over SEATTLE
- This looks like as much of a gimme as you can get in the NFL.  Just watch, the Seahawks will win...

Houston (+4.5) over MINNESOTA
- The Texans look like they've figured things out, and the Vikings still have no consistent passing offense.

CHICAGO (-12.5) over Detroit
- I have no fear of the Lions outside.

Tampa Bay (-9) over KANSAS CITY
- I will be shocked if the Chiefs break 10 points.


Brien: TEN, BAL, NE, TB, SEA
Jeremy: GB, DET, BUF, DAL, PIT
Russell: TEN, CHI, TB, PHI, HOU

For up to date lines, check out the BetUS football betting page.

October 29, 2008

College Football Picks - Week 10

Our college football picks are now brought to you by BetUS.

This week presents some huge exciting games, and a whole lot of nothing else. So I'll be picking the big games and only a couple others.

Motivational video for Florida? Will it be enough to get a win? What will Richt have them do this year?

GEORGIA (+5.5) over Florida - Last year, the Dawgs pulled out all the stops, and gang-celebrated their way to a victory. The problem for them this year is the injured list, where many of their top players, especially left tackles, are. After struggling early, Florida has found their stride offensively, as exhibited by the dismantling of LSU. Georgia did the same, but there were a couple defensive TD's thrown in there. Even though the Gators have looked a touch better lately, I like the offensive trio of Stafford, Moreno, and Green over Tebow and Harvin. Since the game is arguably too close to call and played on a neutral field, you have to like having a couple points to play with for the possibility of a close game.

Texas (-3.5) over TEXAS TECH - The Red Raiders' best victory this year was last week against Kansas on the road, a team that has 0 defense. The only other decent team they've played (Nebraska) took them to OT in Lubbock. Mike Leach's troops beat OU in Lubbock last year, but the Horns have earned the #1 ranking and will not overlook this game. I don't think Tech breaks 30 in this game, and the Horns win easily.

Does this sound like a coach smart enough to beat Texas?

And now the other games:
Kansas State (+11) over KANSAS - As mentioned, the Jayhawks have no defense, and K State is better than people think.

Florida State (+2) over GEORGIA TECH - The option offense has really struggled lately, and FSU's defense has the speed and strength to blow up the Jackets' incompetent (at times) offensive line. I would take FSU by a TD, as their offense seems to improve every week.

VIRGINIA (-2.5) over Miami - Suffice it to say that I was impressed with UVA after seeing them in person, at least enough to favor them at home against an average Canes team.

Updated lines for these and all the other games are available at BetUS.

Last Week: 5-3-0
Season: 33-21-2

October 28, 2008

Guest Stadium Review - Ford Field, Redskins-Lions 10/26/08

Background - We here at ECB understand that at least 1/3 of our loyal contingent of 7 readers resides in the wonderful battleground state of Michigan, home of a disgraced Mayor who says "Detroit done set me up for a comeback" (and we Washingtonians thought Mayor for Life Barry was bad), and home of a governor who is a Supreme Court possibility. And yes, home of the Lansing Lugnuts. Anyway, we believe it would be educational for the rest of us around the country to understand what life is like in Lions country these days, and for that, I turn it over to ECB guest commentator, loyal reader, and Wolverine for life, Ben, for his recap/review of the Lions-Redskins game, live from Ford Field...

* * * * * * * * * *
Jeremy's invitation for me to guest blog a review of my experience at the Skins-Lions game included the following:

"I think it would be fun to read a review of an experience at a game with people who are totally resigned to at best seeing their team go 2-14."

My question is, where do you see two wins left on their schedule?
I defy anyone to find a worse franchise in the NFL than the Detroit Lions. The Matt Millen firing earlier this year is a great step forward, but will obviously have no immediate returns. Things are already looking up with the Roy Williams trade for 1st and 3rd rounders. The best part? Millen won't be there to use those draft picks. But again, this doesn't translate into wins this year.
No, the Lions fans (I count myself in that group, to an extent) are resigned to going 0-16. The game did not sell out. It was blacked out. The crowd was at least 50% Redskins fans, although I may be overestimating that number because all the Skins fans had on Skins stuff, and many of the Lions fans were there in generic t-shirts or Tiger gear they bought in October 2006. Also, the Jon Jansen family (raised in Michigan, UM grad) was out in full force. (Editor's Note by Jeremy - Jon Jansen showed his family how well he can commit holding penalties quite frequently on Sunday... but alas, he did open up some big holes for Sheriff Gonna Getcha)
I think there were a handful of Oriole fans, too. I saw a small number of Terps stuff and O's stuff, and I'm pretty sure I heard a faint "O's!" during the Star Spangled Banner.
The Redskins did their thing, where they kick field goals rather than score touchdowns. Normally, these wasted drives would have me beside myself. However, these were the Lions we were playing, and I had no fear. Not once during the entire game did I think for one second that the Lions would win.
Nevertheless, it's still a little embarrassing to be the first team to give up first quarter points to the Lions, and only the second to not lead by at least 21 points at some point during the game.
Meanwhile, the Lions fans got their cheering in while they could. They kind of got into it when the Skins were pinned back deep or when the Lions got a first down (it happened a couple times). But as soon as Santana Moss caught his first TD, that was pretty much the end of Detroit fans wasting their energy with cheering. When Moss ran back that awesome punt return (cruising into the end zone right in front of me) the rats started leaving the sinking ship. They did not even wait for the failed two-point conversion (why did we go for two? I hate the chart that early).
In case you've forgotten when that punt return occurred, there was 11:30 left in the 4th. The score was 22-10. In most football games, you would not consider that game over. But they did. Many of those who did not bother to leave decided to boo every Lions miscue, chant "We want Stanton!" or say the F-word a lot, as all the while the Lions marched down the field on 10 plays to cut the score to 22-17.
Oh, guess it's a ball game after all. We better start cheering again.
After Portis' big run that put the Skins in field goal range, another wave of Lions fans left. After Corey Redding tried to pick up the Campbell fumble rather than fall on it, as though he were going to run with it more than one yard, the Lions fans laughed, groaned, and the next wave walked out.
Finally, the real die hards and Redskins fans got to watch Detroit not threaten on a potential game-tying drive to end the game. Seriously, the outcome was never in doubt. Traffic was pretty good leaving the stadium.
There were a number of tailgaters. Something like 20 or so, I didn't bother counting. There were also a few scalpers, interestingly enough. My anonymous Detroit friend and I were early enough that they were still trying to acquire tickets, asking if we had extras. In a George Costanza moment, my anonymous Detroit friend realized "That's what I should have said!" as we were standing right next to the ticket windows when we were accosted. If you're looking for tickets, buddy, they're still available right over there.
Ford Field itself is very cool. When you enter, it's very open and you can immediately see the field, almost in full view. All throughout the concourse, you feel very connected to the field, which is great. There is a main walkway down the concourse that has a faux-cobblestone floor, and all the decent looking vendors have brick facades from top to bottom. It feels like a Disneyfied version of Eutaw Street. For an indoor football stadium, it's really nice. The rest of the concourse is utterly bland. But sitting in the seats themselves was also a good experience. Granted, I was in row 21 on the first level ($62 on sale, normally $84).
We also went inside the Roar and More (team store) where Roy Williams and Kevin Jones replica jerseys were on clearance for $30. WTF? Were those even worth $30 when they were on the team? We also found lots of racks with authentic game issued jerseys. My anonymous Detroit friend told me which of the names he recognized, including some former high draft picks gone bad. Mostly they were garbage names. I did find one C. Rogers #80 jersey. Even more exciting for me was the Bellamy jersey, as in Ron Bellamy, a former Wolverine who only Wolverine fans would know. He suited up for the Lions once upon a time. Who knew? I wanted to buy it, but $150 is a lot of money for a joke purchase. (Why are the jerseys of former backup defensive tackles and long snappers more than the tickets plus parking and beer?)
Also of note, while we were entertaining ourselves by browsing through these jerseys, a couple of girls, presumably working there, came up and said, "Can I help you find something?" I've become kind of bad at judging the age of kids as I get older, but I am positive neither of these girls were older than 14, and I would guess more like 12. I can't even begin to guess what was going on there (Editor's Note - Not to make light of the unemployment situation in Michigan, but I have a feeling maybe more than a few GM employees are available to take over once you've ratted out the Lions for illegal hiring practices).
In case you couldn't tell, I had a great time, and it was chicken soup for the football soul after the debacle Michigan had against MSU the day before. The stadium is so nice that I can't wait until Michigan is good enough to go to the Motor City Bowl so I can go back for a game.

October 27, 2008

Niners' Singletary Doesn't Hate Terps


Mike Singletary has named former Maryland Terrapins starting QB Shaun Hill the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.

Say what you want about the Vernon Davis sitution, at least Mike isn't anti-Terp.

Hey Mike Singletary... F**K YOU!!


Washed-up athlete who looks like a grown-up Steve Urkel

Warning... curse words below...

Fuck Mike Singletary. There, I said it. Fuck Mike Singletary. Big Mike, you want to come after me? I'm going to give you J-Red's address.

But seriously, you have the friggin balls to call out and embarrass Vernon Davis the way that you did? Did you not see Vernon Davis chase down (fellow Terp) Josh Wilson all the way into the end zone on Wilson's INT return? Did you not notice that the Cyborg (Terp fans nickname for him after Doc Walker took to calling him this) was the ONLY 49er player within 40 yards of Wilson when he traipsed across the end zone? Hmm... maybe you were too busy down on your hands and knees praying that your excuse of a QB J.T. O'Sullivan would actually play like an NFL QB.

And now from my East Coast Bias and Terrapin red-colored glasses... where the fuck do you get off treating a Terp like that? Let alone a guy like VD who has played his heart out for a sadsack loser of a franchise that has never incorporated him correctly into the offense and that has never given him anybody with a shred of talent to get him the ball. Seriously, good for you Mike. Make an example out of Vernon. In fact, if you don't want to play with him and you'd prefer to play with 10 guys,when you come to DC in September, we'll take you up on that. We'll also have Vernon's friends from Dunbar meet you in the parking lot after the game.

I can't wait for Vernon to get out of San Francisco. You hate him so much? Excellent. I'm sure that the Cyborg will have a really tough time landing someplace else. I don't know... someplace that might actually have an offense to utilize him with. Keep this in mind... Vernon Davis is not a bust of a draft pick. He's an athlete of the highest caliber who had the unfortunate luck of being drafted into a bust of a franchise.

Dear Jews: Marry in the Offseason

I was at a Jewish wedding this afternoon. Yes, SUNDAY AFTERNOON. Not just that, with the World Series in swing I was at a wedding THIS afternoon, when almost all the games were played between my drive time and the ceremony time.

That being said: PAY CAM CAMERON. The Ravens offense, considering the tools, is beautiful. Show him tape of the 15 losses last year and convince him that the old coaching staff is the only thing that saved him from 0-16 rather than 1-15.


October 26, 2008

NFL Twitter - Week 8

We're trying out something new here at ECB. Let us know what you think in the comments.

After a long Sunday, NFL personalities vent their frustrations on twitter.

briencDick Ebersol Do you have any f-ing idea how much money we're losing tonight? It's not like anyone actually watches the World Series, anyway.
briencVD Who does this asshole interim coach think he is?
briencBig Ben I don't want to go to sleep tonight. I'm afraid I'll have nightmares about Justin Tuck.
briencTubby Thank God. If I had to watch that Garrett kid eying my office for another week, I was going to kill someone.
briencTom Cable Does anyone know a D-III college looking for a head coach?
briencSantonio Feelin' goooooooooood :!
briencSoutheast Jerome What the fuck is Shaun Alexander doing here?
briencLightsOut I'm done with these snaggle-toothed English bitches.
briencSantonio Feelin' bummed. :(