Monday, February 28, 2011

Aaron Rodgers probably doesn't like Justin Timberlake?

It appears that eventually this blog is going to be nothing but Aaron Rodgers, as his hypothetical news is way more interesting than Brett Favre's hypothetical news. The latest probably-not-true-but-it-lets-me-post-pictures-of-someone-hot-news about A-Rodg is that he's been "seen flirting" with Mila Kunis, and since being in the same general vicinity as Mila Kunis means you're dating her, we can safetly say that "winning a Super Bowl" >"Dick in a Box." Or does it, since Mila went with Justin Timberlake to the Oscars only a short while after chatting up Aaron Rodgers at what sounds like a pizza party.

Still, it is hard to not assume A-Rodg and Mila are an item. The story is pretty hot stuff -- it's practically Black Swan II:

Mila Kunis was spotted flirting up a storm with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the Circa Hollywood Dominos Oscar party at the Sunset Tower Hotel on Thursday. Spies report they "were seen mingling and sipping on Moet & Chandon Champagne at an outdoor table and seemed to keep to themselves until friends arrived."

Another source said Kunis was "very keen" on talking with the Super Bowl MVP, and he loved the attention. "She doesn't know much about sports, but she talked about stuff that showed she knew football." Rodgers had been linked to "Gossip Girl" Jessica Szohr, and rumors of a flirtation between Kunis and "The Social Network" star Justin Timberlake also keep swirling -- despite his ongoing relationship with Jessica Biel.

Kunis and Timberlake were seen cozying up after the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 31. A source close to Timberlake said: "He's still with Jessica. He and Mila have been working together and are just friends."
This being a sports blog -- theoretically-- let's focus on some sports-related issues that arise out of that story, namely:

What do you suppose Mila said that "showed she knew football?"

More importantly, why would you care if she knows football? Let's review:

People who know football:

Mila Kunis:

I think, if you're talking to the latter, you just agree with whatever she says. "What? Oh, yeah, we definitely should've punted the horseshoe on 15th and North. You're absolutely right, Mila. I'm going to make that a play next year."

Friday, February 25, 2011

This is why we need more supermodels doubling as minor-league hockey coaches.

Have you ever gotten so mad that you just stripped off all your clothes and stormed off to the men's locker room?

Me, neither -- but this guy did:

That's Greg Pankewicz, coach of the Colorado Eagles, a "Central Hockey League" team, and Greg cares way more about his team than everyone else in the world combined, judging by the fact that nobody on the bench appears as upset as he was about the call that forced (?) him to strip to the waist before heading to the locker room.

The call that got Greg's goat (and coat?): A ref wouldn't let one of his players fight. Seriously. For that, he's been suspended for the rest of the 'regular' season in that league, a suspension that would be pretty serious except that I'm 100% sure that "Coach" of a "CHL" team can not be a full-time job. Right? He's doing it for fun and beer money on the weekends, isn't he? Has to be.

Also, guy filming it on his phone? Remember that you're filming before you start clapping.

Here's someone else Alex Van Pelt could have been talking about, plus some stuff about Cowherd's (and my) TV sitcoms.

Alex Van Pelt thinks that hot women get ahead faster at ESPN, which I'm sure makes him very popular in the lunchroom, and I previously thought that he was talking about Erin Andrews, but then I realized that there are other hot women at ESPN who get to be on shows with Colin Cowherd, which could be seen as "getting ahead," depending on your outlook:

Colin Cowherd, by the way, is going to be getting a TV show (or so the rumors have it), and with the cancellation of Two and A Half Men... and suddenly this is a TV/pop culture blog? ... will likely be going ahead with those plans faster, given that his producer is also the producer on Two And A Half Men, but, as with the prospect of working with Cowherd on a sports talk show, whether this is something to be happy about... or grimly sour about... remains to be seen, as Deadspin reports that they have the script for the pilot and it's awful.

I agree; it does seem pretty terrible. And totally not autobiographical, judging by the name and description of the main character:

Wow! No wonder Michelle Beadle wants to work with him!

If I seem jealous, it's because I am: It seems a bit unfair to me that Colin Cowherd gets to spend his day talking about sports, for pay, and gets his sitcom produced, while I spend my day talking about sports without pay, and my own sitcom pilot, For Richer... a hilarious series about a family that wins the lottery but has to hide it from their relatives, and so they pretend to be the servants at the mansion they move into, while the servants pretend to be their bosses... languishes without even a crummy basic cable offer.

It looks like my retirement from talking about Brett Favre was premature...

But what a streak I had! It was December 14 that I last wrote directly about Brett Favre, constituting the longest active streak of "not writing about Favre" any blogger had at the time... but now it's over, and all because, for some reason, people like ballroom dancing and ballroom dancing may like Brett Favre and most of all, people like Brett Favre, or at least people like talking about Brett Favre.

The Favre-on-Dancing With The Stars rumor started when Popeater quoted Kurt Warner as saying the show should get Favre on, and rumor quickly became fact in the exact same way that people became convinced Obama is not an American and we needed to cut taxes on the rich to curb the deficit, and even Brittany Favre tweeting couldn't stop the momentum -- Twitter can cause a riot in Egypt but can't quell a rumor about a show that appeals only to old people and Palin supporters? -- and now we're back to Favre being rumored to be on the show after all, all of which just goes to prove that it's terrible for the nation when football ends because it leaves us with nothing to do but talk about stuff like this and/or pretend that Blake Griffin is someone we care about.

Then again, you can see why Favre's an attractive contestant to ... um... dangle out there for the press. Look what he did for Wrangler jeans:

Not to mention Crocs.

Monday, February 21, 2011

This is about the most enthusiasm I can muster for the NBA:

I don't really follow basketball, and I was kind of busy over the weekend, so here's what I gathered from skimming the sports page this morning:

Over the weekend, President Obama was called in to coach the NBA All-Star game because Justin Bieber was proving that Kobe's career is over, and, in a surprise move, LeBron James held a 1-hour press conference at halftime to announce that he was joining the West All-Stars, but rescinded that about 30 minutes later, holding a second press conference to announce, instead, that he was joining Trevor Bayne's race team.

Also, I did see this on the highlights over the weekend:

And big freaking deal. I mean, I couldn't jump over a car, stationary or not, but pretty much any NBA player can make that jump, can't they? Not only that, but apparently guys who aren't even in the NBA can, too:

And other guys who aren't in the NBA can do that dunk, too:

And even foreigners can do it:

Or at least guys with foreigner sounding names.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Colts Follow The China Doll Rule; Brewers Do Not.

About a month ago, I first formulated what I'll now call "The China Doll Rule," after Matt Stafford, whose most lasting contribution to the NFL may well be the enhanced breasts he bought his girlfriend with the signing bonus Detroit wasted on him. I said, then, that:

Once a guy's been on IR for multiple weeks twice, he's done. He's too injured or too injury prone, and you're better off cutting ties and moving on.
Turns out Jim Irsay of the Indianapolis Colts reads this blog: The Colts announced yesterday that they're getting rid of pro bowl safety Bob Sanders. Sanders missed an average of 13 games a year -- 39 in 3 years -- and the NFL season is only 16 games long (for regular teams, that is. For the Colts, the NFL season has lasted at least 17 games for a long time.)

What are you keeping him around for? 3 games a year? Glad to see that Jim Irsay isn't afraid to take advice from a nonsports' blogger who still isn't sure why they call a "fake handoff" a "play action."

Meanwhile, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has money to burn, and he's given Ricky Weeks a match and some kerosene. (Do you get the picture with this post, now?) (And, do I get credit for going old-school with "kerosene," instead of using, say, molten phenol, the hazardous chemical in Unstoppable?) The Brewers threw $38 million at their often-injured (appearing in, on average, 80 games per season [out of 162] before making it into 160 last year) second baseman.

True, most of the contract is back-loaded and incentive laden, but you're using a roster spot on a guy who -- I'm betting -- will miss at least 30 games this season, and since when to athletes get less injury prone as they get older? If Weeks couldn't hold it together for the first six years of his career, why do you expect he'll be sturdier in the last 6?

And, more importantly, why did I spend my Saturday night, the only one I'll have this week, watching "Unstoppable?" Because Sweetie wanted to, that's why, so I occupied my time counting the plot holes and improbable physics.

SPOILER ALERT! Those kids on the railroad safety field trip... because that's a thing... live.

SPOILER ALERT!2: Captain Kirk may save the train, but he still pulled a gun on a cop for no reason. Watch the movie and you'll see what I mean. And, technically, at the end, he's totally violating that restraining order.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I wonder who he was talking about? (Quotent Quotables.)

"You don't make lots of money in this business up front unless you're superhot and you're a girl and you end up getting paid right away."

-- Alex Van Pelt, ESPN radio host, on his show on Thursday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Green Bay Packers, not surprisingly, side with the unions.

It was just a few weeks ago that Wisconsin Governor Patsy Walker invoked the Great and Glorious Green and Gold approximately 175 times a minute in his state of the state speech -- and then Governor Patsy went and watched A-Rodg and company play the first half of the Super Bowl (at least, that's the amount of work the Packers' offense put in.) So it's clear that Governor Patsy wasn't just intending to be a cheerleader for the State of Wisconsin, but for the teams in the state of Wisconsin, too.

Too bad for him it doesn't work the other way: the NFL's only publicly-owned franchise came out this week against Wisconsin's current plans to undo unions (something even the Pinkertons couldn't do):

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker may be engaged in a high-stakes political battle with Democrats and state workers, but he's playing with fire by clashing with the Green Bay Packers, warn two Democratic members of the state's delegation in the U.S. House. ... Seven current and former Packers signed a letter in support of the AFL-CIO's efforts to derail Walker's plans. Those who signed include: Curtis Fuller, Chris Jacke, Charles Jordan, Bob Long, Steve Okoniewski, Brady Poppinga and Jason Spitz.

(source.) That's the bad news for Governor Patsy. The good news? Nobody's ever heard of any of those Packers.

Read more about Governor Patsy here

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tiger Fined a Miniscule Sum Of Money, Will Make Miniscule Changes In Behavior.

Remember how Tiger Woods was going to earn our respect back and become a better person? Turns out that was a bunch of bunk. Who knew?

The European Tour has fined Tiger Woods for spitting on the green of the 12th hole on Sunday. Tournament director Mike Stewart reportedly said that "there has been a breach" of conduct. The amount of the fine has not been revealed.

Tiger apologized for the incident on twitter.

"The Euro Tour is right," he tweeted. "It was inconsiderate to spit like that and I know better. Just wasn't thinking and want to say I'm sorry."

Europeans thought Tiger was unsanitary? The continent that invented the Black Plague and typhus? That's saying something.

Before you go saying Well, it's just one time, get off his back, keep in mind that, first, Tiger would as soon have his bodyguard Steve threaten your life as spit on you, so why are you defending him, and second, it's not just one time, and it's not the first time he's been criticized for it:

Golf watchers have been on Woods’ case for a few years as well. "I blame Tiger for the trend. He has legitimized spitting just as he has legitimized workouts before you play," Michael Bamberger wrote in Sports Illustrated in 2008. "He fights allergies and is often congested, but his spitting seems connected to both the pollen count and his bogey count." And there was this admonition from the UK’s Sunday Times in 2009: "Stop swearing, spitting and throwing and banging golf clubs." How’s that crusade working out?

Clearly, Tiger Woods has not redefined victory so much as hawked a loogy at it -- which is about the closest he can expect to come to victory anytime soon.

I have no intention of taking it easy on A-Rodg... unless he gives me season tickets to the Packers.

Isn't that how Mel Kiper works? (Allegedly?)

The poll results are in, and the people have spoken -- and, as usual, the people make no sense.

In response to the poll question:

Should Clay Matthews have been the MVP of the Super Bowl,

the final results are:

Yes: 3
No: 5
Why don't you cut Aaron Rodgers some slack?: 5
Who's Clay Matthews? 2.

Lakers: "For some reason, the Bobcats insist on actually playing the games."

Unlike other teams, which see Lakers on their NBA schedule and forfeit, I assume. The Bobcats are one of those NBA teams that I've never really heard of, which makes me assume they're new; how new, I can't say, because I don't follow the NBA regularly, so my knowledge of pro basketball tends to be made up of things that I hear on The Dan Patrick Show before I change the station, or headlines I happen to glance at before moving on to more interesting stories.

This was the story below just one such headline:

For a day that started with one starter being declared out with a wrist injury and another starter oversleeping to miss shootaround, the Charlotte Bobcats sure know how to finish strong.

Or maybe it’s simply the sight of the Los Angeles Lakers purple and gold that brings out the best in them.

Whatever it was, an unexpected blowout 109-89 Bobcats’ victory over the two-time defending NBA champion was the franchise’s Valentine Day’s gift to a sellout crowd of 19,488 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

It improved Charlotte to 24-31 on the season and gives the Bobcats an all-time 8-5 series advantage over the Lakers that includes a staggering eight wins in their last 10 meetings.

After I read that story, all I could think was "When did the NBA get a team named the Bobcats?"

Then I thought "I wonder if they still have a team named the Raptors," and it turns out they do. Which then made me consider whether the team is embarrassed for having chosen the name "Raptors" when they were formed in 1995, back when it seemed like Raptors were (a) cool and (b) a real thing. Since we now know that neither (a) nor (b) is true, I'm going to assume that the 1995 management regrets the choice of names a lot more than I regret once owning a cassingle of Jesus Jones' hit song, but not as much as Jesus Jones' regrets licensing their song for this:

But, seriously, when did the Bobcats become a team?


Want further proof that velociraptors never existed?
Read the seminal essay "Velociraptors, My Butt" in the book Thinking The Lions, and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (*Give Or Take), available here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Aaron Rodgers Probably Doesn't Like Jessica Szohr.

"Aaron Rodgers... you've just won the Super Bowl, gotten a commemorative wrestling championship belt, and been named MVP. What are you going to do next?"

"I'm going to get dumped." has the story
-- asking Jessica Szohr's reps about rumors that The Anointed One was dating her after the two were spotted on what was described as "a double date" and taking in a Milwaukee Bucks' game.

So, is Szohr dating the Super Bowl’s winning quarterback? A rep for the “Gossip Girl” star says, “They are not dating,” adding that Szohr has met and hung out with Rodgers just a few times. As for why Szohr has been seen at a few Green Bay Packers games, simply the actress is from Wisconsin – and a fan of the Super Bowl champs.
It was only twenty days ago that word of the relationship first got out, which means Jessica didn't even last as long in Rodgers' esteem as his special teams players.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A comic recap of every Cleveland Cavaliers game this season:

From Buttersafe:
See what I did there? I didn't come up with the idea, or draw the comic, or do anything else creative. I just repurposed it and made fun of people using other people's ideas and creativity. I'm like Tosh.0. Only I don't wear V-necks and I don't have millions of dollars. And he's got more hair than me. So I guess I'm more like Chris Hardwick. Who also repurposed other people's ideas, spinning them into comedy gold:

And who also, like me, suffered the indignity of having other people take his ideas:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm not done with the Super Bowl yet, so neither are you.

I missed this BEFORE the Super Bowl -- but it's still funny:
That's Lulu Eightball, one of the funniest comics around; read it on the Baltimore City Paper website.

Chill out, Roethlisberger fans; the story doesn't say she was drunk, too.

But regardless of that, Eliza Kruger may end up being the reason we spend next year's run-up to Super Bowl XLVI talking about how Jets' QB Mark Sanchez is seeking redemption. The New York Post is reporting that Sanchez hooked up with a 17-year-old on New Year's Eve:

She's in high school and dating the star quarterback -- of the Jets!

Superstar Gang Green play caller Mark Sanchez "hooked up" in his New Jersey home last month with a striking 17-year-old Connecticut high-school girl -- whose preppy dad is a super-wealthy financier, a bombshell new report claims.

Sexy rich girl Eliza Kruger [Okay, am I the only one creeped out by the reporter describing a 17-year-old as "sexy?"] not only bragged on Facebook about "MARK F--ING SANCHEZ" texting her after they flirted at a hip Manhattan nightclub on New Year's Eve -- she also took photos of a mussed-up bed in his boudoir as "proof" of their huddle just days later.
.... "We went back to his place in Jersey after dinner. He lives on a golf course. There was a big storm," Eliza told, according to that website, which identified her only as E.K.

Asked if she "hooked up" with the 24-year-old Sanchez that night -- after they dined together at Midtown hotspot Nobu the first week of January -- the Greenwich high-school senior said, "Yeah," albeit somewhat reluctantly, according to Deadspin.
When a Deadspin editor told her he would research the legality, Eliza reportedly replied that the age of sexual consent in New Jersey is "16. I checked." "He's a really nice guy, you know," Eliza told the site. "He's one of the kindest people, and he's a genuine person."

The most surprising thing about that story is not that Sanchez lives in Jersey -- it's that a 16-year-old knows how to research things.

It doesn't seem like she's making the claim to get some money:
Eliza's dad is Konrad "Chip" Kruger, a partner in the Stamford, Conn., financial firm Five Mile Capital Partners, who court records show received a $48 million bonus, severance and a deferred-compensation package when he left the firm Greenwich Capital in 2000. He also was in a partnership that in 2005 bought 78 percent of the commercial real-estate subsidiary of General Motors Corp. -- at a cost of $500 million.

And it turns out Eliza was the more diligent of the pair -- hitting the books while Sanchez was interested in hitting the sheets:
Eliza told Deadspin that Sanchez continued contacting her after they went to his home. "He would send me a text at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday asking if I was out that night," she told Deadspin. "But I'd be, like, I have school tomorrow."

Being up until 2 a.m. texting teenagers may be one reason the Jets started so lethargically in the AFC Championship game -- but late nights and slow starts appear to be an AFC trend this year, right?

Can you handle just a little more creepiness?

Deadspin posted photos from Eliza that showed a room with a mussed-up bed, football helmets -- including a Jets one and one from Sanchez's alma mater of Southern Cal -- and a montage of photos on a picture titled, "I love you Tio [Uncle] Mark."
So he called himself her uncle? You know, every time I want to like the Jets, they just get that little... eccch factor going, don't they?

The family said they're trying to shut this down -- and Deadspin reports getting a letter from Eliza's lawyer, prior to publishing the story, attempting to put the kibosh on the whole thing.

And... somewhere, Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger are breathing sighs of relief. Spotlight's off, boys! Go party!

Aaron Rodgers Doesn't Like His Special Teams Players.

While the rest of the media were noting that A-Rodg successfully smiled his way through a trip to Walt Disney World for winning the Super Bowl MVP, a few wags like me were wondering why The Anointed (But Now Beardless) One seems intent on proving that he can do everything better than Favre... including alienating his teammates, as Rodgers might have done when he ripped on the Packers' special teams players during his recent appearance on David Letterman's show:

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good - especially in the final moments of the Super Bowl.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted he was holding his breath when the team kicked off late in the fourth quarter and that the team "lucked out" when the Steelers were penalized on the play.

He told Letterman that after the Packers were held to a field goal in their final drive, he was nervous.

"I'm a little worried about special teams. Every time we kick off, I kind of hold my breath," he said, citing "too many bad memories" of losing momentum with a long kickoff return by the opposing team.

(Source.) Youtube won't let the video be shown, but you can watch the appearance here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

This just seems like kicking someone when they're down. (Babies In Sports Gear!)

From Dan Patrick's website:

Maybe she shouldn't have spent the entire week before singing Billy Joel songs in a piano bar?

Click here for more posts like this one.

He showed up when it mattered. (Quotent Quotables.)

For most of the game, I was wondering where he was. But he came through with four catches and two touchdowns, and one of the better quotes I've heard after a championship:

My (CELEBRITY INCLUDING!) Super Bowl Round-Up.

You know, nobody really bats an eye when Hollywood types show up and hog the limelight at sporting events, which is weird, because imagine if it was the other way around: what if, at the Academy Awards, Derek Jeter was out on the red carpet getting interviewed and throughout the telecast the cameras showed Phil Mickelson or... I don't know, somebody from basketball.

Anyway, there were celebrities at the Super Bowl, celebrities who didn't just watch Aaron Rodgers cover up some terrible throws (and, admittedly, terrible drops by his receivers) with some good throws -- "up and down" or "uneven" being the best way to describe the way all the Packers, except for Clay Matthews, who should've gotten the MVP, played-- but also got involved by, say, having passes thrown to them by Hall of Fame quarterbacks before the game started (as Owen Wilson is shown doing here).

Jennifer Aniston was there modeling for the women's version of J. Crew

and, according to some sites, also discussing football, although I wasn't able to find a video. I imagine she just said something like "I'm very happy being independent and watching this football game alone." What kind of country is this, where Jennifer Aniston can't find a date for the Super Bowl, and why didn't she offer to pick one lucky person from that group of people Jerry Jones and the NFL screwed over by first trying to seat them in death traps, then banishing them to watch it outside.

Then again, if you'd promised me a return of 3 times my investment just for trying to attend the Super Bowl, I'd have taken you up on the offer. And those fans who did get turned away from the temporary seating were luckier than the ones who paid $200 to freeze outside while watching what turned out to be a laughably miniscule-looking screen.

Watching the game on TV turned out to be popular for even the players -- did you catch the shots of the Packers watching not the live game 10 feet in front of them, but the giant screen above them?

At least they were watching the game: Byron Leftwich wasn't even doing that. At least two shots of him on the sidelines appeared to show him listening to an iPod, and The Boy and I weren't the only ones who noticed that. Makes his comments about being ready to go in the game ironic, in retrospect.

The commercials continued to underwhelm, so it was lucky the game got close in the second half. The only ones I really liked were this one:

Which, I have to confess, I actually thought was an add for the iPad. It made me want to get an iPad, and I didn't realize that it wasn't selling iPads until this morning when I tried to find it.

In my defense, I only half-watch the game, too.

The Doritos Resurrection was okay, although I'm tired of twist-ending commercials:

Why is that one called house sitting? Would calling it resurrection have drawn protests?

At least that one wasn't totally predictable, unlike the stupid dog ad where, two seconds in, I said to Sweetie "The dog's going to knock down the door." Ad agencies: you forgot to make sure that people understood just how little the dog was before he knocked down the door; I thought it was a bigger dog. Also, you forgot to use a joke that wasn't stale back when Lucy did it the first time.

I liked this one: It got me to watch the whole thing, just to see what it was advertising:

(And the Volkswagen Star Wars reference was okay.)

As for the game itself, I'd say kudos to Pittsburgh for getting back into it once they were down 21-3; at that point I was worried the Packers would start to roll and the game would get boring, but it's not really to Pittsburgh's credit, is it? They didn't do all that much -- it was more the Packers screwing up (as you'd expect from Coach "Mike" McCarthy's teams.)

From the point where the Packers went up 21-3, the Steelers scored a touchdown on a 7-play, 77-yard drive. Green Bay then knelt to end the half -- I'd have tried to get some points on the board, with 39 seconds and a timeout available, especially because you're receiving the kick to start the second half and you've got a quarterback who's not likely to throw a stupid pick -- and then in the 3rd quarter, the opening drive started with two penalties by the Packers, giving the Steelers the ball at the 50 and a short-field touchdown.

After a 3-and-out featuring a sack and a nice stop by Green Bay's defense -- a critical stop, as it turned out, because a Pittsburgh score there changes the whole complexion of the game -- the vaunted Green Bay offense again went 3-and-out, keeping the Steelers alive (and keeping the fans rooting for the Steelers by that point, as Super Bowl crowds are notorious for shifting allegiances).

Another defensive stop, followed by another big penalty followed by another 3-and-out and another big penalty -- one I disagreed with -- and the defense came up big again with a fumble and recovery to save the offense from itself and set it up at the 45, giving Rodgers his third-touchdown of the game on a short field.

With the Steelers close again, the offense again couldn't push it into the end zone, and the game was in doubt until the defense stopped Pittsburgh on the final drive.

I counted 10 incompletions and a sack for Green Bay's offense in the second half -- so 2/3 of Rodgers' incompletions came when the game was on the line. And, again, while some of them were clearly drops on the part of the receivers, there were enough that weren't great throws that Rodgers was lucky to get MVP; as I said, I'd have given it to Clay Matthews, whose numbers weren't great but who made the plays that needed to be made when they were needed.

For the Steelers' part, they looked like what I'd called them all week: a team that was happy to be there and not at all excited about trying to win the game. Around about the second quarter, I noted that the Steelers had what I call Loser Face -- the expressions players get when they realize they're not going to win the game.

(When I made that observation, The Boy told me this joke:

Q: Did you hear what they're calling Jay Cutler?

A: Fifty-cent: because he's good for two quarters.

And in general, Pittsburgh looked like a team that hadn't really put in the work that week; Polamalu wasn't a factor at all -- other than getting credit for being instinctive when he went the wrong way on Jennings' touchdown catch: Embarrassment To The Business Joe Buck, rather than fault Polamalu for blowing the coverage, praised him for going with his instincts even though those instincts were wrong. (It just goes to show that when you like a player, he can do no wrong, as I've said before. And will say again. And if you don't like a player, the opposite is true.)

Maybe the players, too, should've taken a cue from Rodgers, who might've earned his MVP award simply by being the player smart enough to wear the right shoes; only Roethlisberger (who looked a little more lost than usual) had an excuse for how much they were slipping and sliding around out there. You get six hours of warm-up and nobody thought to check the field conditions? Owen Wilson was running around out there; you could've asked him what shoes he was wearing. (For the record, I bet it was flip-flops.)

I was reasonably close on my 29-21 Packers-win prediction. Of the "celebrities" who answered ABC's poll, four had Green Bay's final score exactly right:

DON RICKLES said Packers 31-21; he was closer than me. TED GIANNOULAS, aka the SAN DIEGO CHICKEN was close, too: he had Green Bay winning 31-26. Dan Lauria, who plays Lombardi on Broadway had Green Bay winning 31-14.

As for exact score predictors, Barry Willliams -- Greg, from The Brady Bunch-- got it almost exactly backwards, predicting Steelers 31-24, and going on to say "I am going with Roethlisberger, theladies' man." I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a joke, but it's in poor taste no matter how it was intended.

And BOB WEIR, the guitarist for Grateful Dead and a guy who in 2004 predicted the exact final score in the poll came super close again, predicting Green Bay, 31-24.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This is also what the team doc said after the (alleged) concussion in the NFC Championship. (So They Made A Song About Sports.)

Can you stand another song about sports? It's either that or more Star Wars, so choose your poison.

Packer fans are showing A-Rodg a lot of love these days, but that wasn't always the case. Back in the olden days, the Green & Gold lovers looked at their new QB and said, collectively, shrug-- but they did it in a melodic, Indie-pop kind of way that would make the guys who made Stacy's Mom jealous of the way these fellas handle a bland melody and harmonized lyrics:

Babies In Sports Gear, 1:

I don't think this feature needs any more explanation than that. Here's Steeler Baby:

Funny, he doesn't look evil.

And here's Packer Baby:

True story: Ted Thompson tried to cut Packer Baby and replace him with Packer Fetus.

The Steelers are evil? Didn't see THAT one coming.

I could spend my entire day posting Star Wars references over on The Best Of Everything, but why do that when I can share the magic with sports fans, too? Want to see what it'd be like if Darth Vader were a sports fan and wanted to have a Super Bowl party? Me, neither -- but I watched it, so you have to, too. It's actually from the Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl -- but the humor is timeless.

The humor kind of is timeless: I liked the flying monkeys jokes. That video hits on something, though, and that something is "The Steelers Are Evil."

It's not just me (and ESPN) saying that -- it's even Steelers fans, although they're only saying that they're saying it because everyone else is saying it. (Got that?) Howard Fineman, who I guess is somebody because he says in his piece he is, wrote on HuffPo thusly:

As a Pittsburgh native it pains me to say this but here goes: Even if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, they've already lost.
Fate, fashion and their own faults combine to put the Steelers in a no-win situation in Sunday's matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

The Steelers are the bad guys. There is nothing they can do about it. If they win, it's because they are rotten and brutal, or so it will be said. If they lose, they will have deserved it, because they are rotten and brutal, or so it will be said.

He goes on to make a bunch of points, all very valid, but let's be honest here, it's not like the Steelers and their fans are exactly trying to establish a nice guy image. Sure, they're wrapping babies in Terrible Towels, but they're probably making those babies work overtime tonight, then, and in the meantime, you don't see many Packer fans dressing up like Hot Buttered Clone Soldiers and shredding the symbols of the opposition:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

When I'm right, I'm REALLY Right. (And I'm Always Right.)

On this Super Bowl Eve, as snow gently falls in Dallas making fools out of the NFL for voting to give the game to Jerry Jones over Indianapolis... but also likely scotching any chance for future cold weather Super Bowls, as this'll go down as one of the worst in history (which makes me happy because I don't like Jerry Jones)(who doesn't care what I think because he has a billion dollars, if not more)(NOTE: It's more.)...

...where was I? Oh, yeah: how I was right. Now, sure, I predicted, way back when, that the Super Bowl would be Titans 31, Vikings 30 -- and that turned out to be a little off the mark -- but I don't have the luxury, a la Peter King, of repeatedly changing my prediction and then deciding to claim the one that turned out to be right. (That's also how Mel Kiper's draft picks work, except that he (allegedly) takes bribes to make people high first-rounders.)

But I was right about two things. First, I noted that the Jets would likely be in the AFC Championship game - -saying that way back in August -- and I also correctly predicted how this year's Steelers would be viewed when I previewed their season:

I said, in August, that

The Steelers organization, renowned for its values -- we held onto the same coach for years. We're like a family -- demonstrated in the offseason that it's values aren't so much values as a marketing scheme when they kept around Rusty Roethlisberger despite numerous reports of sexual misconduct, while trading Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes to the Jets-- a trade that occurred reportedly shortly before the Steelers simply waived Holmes.

And five months later, ESPN said the same thing. Then, I said:

If missing the playoffs last year led to excessive partying in Georgia this year, what would a third Super Bowl ring do? can hardly wait.

And, of course, TMZ didn't even have to wait until after the game to get the scoop, as Big Ben started partying early.

And I finished up with:

A steel-based hero created in the likeness of a forerunner, but who turns out to be a callow youth who's nothing more than a pale shadow of former greatness: I give you your 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Callow youth have spent their week partying, ripping on Roger Goodell, partying some more, and generally being a shadow of former greatness. I've spent the week being right.

I myself am somewhat fond of the Green and Gold. (So They Made A Song About Sports.)

Pat McCurdy is something of a Wisconsin mainstay, known to everyone in Wisconsin who regularly takes in one of our many festivals where you can drink overpriced beer and watch musical acts you've never heard of or long ago stopped caring about. If you ask me, Summerfest hasn't been cool since they took down the old, free rock stage where I went to see INXS play only to have the show canceled about midway through because torrential rains made it unsafe for Michael Hutchence & Co. to continue telling us how to Listen Like Thieves.

(What, you thought I was going to go all "I Send A Message" on you? Poser.)

Anyway, Pat McCurdy was asked to come up with a Packer song suitable for playing on their Jumbotron, and here's what he did:

For the record, I live in Wisconsin and have NEVER gone ice fishing. Or hunting, of any kind. Or snowmobiling. I don't drink beer. But my grandpa did used to say "Ain'a?" And I've gone bowling. So I guess I can relate to the song.

Roethlisberger: If you would like to make amends, here's your chance.

While the football Pittsburgh Steelers enjoy what is essentially a week off for them, the people they theoretically pay tribute to via their nickname won't get to enjoy the one thing that might make living in Pittsburgh bearable: watching the Super Bowl.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works has issued a notice to employees (below right) which states that missing work on Sunday or Monday without just cause will result in a Super Bowl-sized penalty.

Union officials responded to the news in a good-natured way. United Steel Workers International vice-president Tom Conway wrote an email that claimed the decision was only made because the employee relations manager hails from Philadelphia and, as such, has some sour grapes with Pittsburgh's presence in the game.

He suggests enlisting non-football fans to volunteer for the Super Bowl shift and to hold a postgame party for employees to watch the game on tape.

There's a lot of talk about how this season, and this Super Bowl, are "redemptive" for Ben Roethlisberger - -as though simply showing up and doing the job you're paid to do (for 3/4 of the year, in his case) somehow makes up for being a complete tool -- and alleged criminal -- for three decades prior to that. You know what would really redeem Big Ben? Taking a tiny portion of the money he's paid to play a game, and giving it to those steelworkers' company so they can shut the place down for a night and go enjoy the game.

Call me when that happens. I won't be holding my breath.

Been There, Done That: How much does it really matter if your quarterback has been to the Super Bowl before? (Answer: A lot, but not how you think.)

The total number of people expected to watch the Super Bowl tomorrow is equal to all the people who ever existed in human history. (Don't bother doing the math; that's the kind of statistic the media loves and it doesn't matter if it's completely illogical. Just repeat it and sit back and enjoy.)

Which means that at some point during the 32 hours the game will take, some 500 trillion people are going to hear one of the commentators say -- probably more than once -- this is where experience counts. This guy's been here before. That matters a lot.

But does it?

One of the storylines this week, in fact, has been that the Packers are going to the Super Bowl for the first time in 14 years, while the Steelers are their for their third time, and the Packers have only three players on their roster with any Super Bowl experience -- and one of those is fullback John Kuhn, who got a Super Bowl ring while he was on the Pittsburgh practice squad the last time around.

(Which last part was surprising to me: practice squad guys to the Super Bowl?)

That has led even homer commentators whose job is to work as de facto PR guys for the Packers to claim that Green Bay is at a disadvantage, because, they say, players with no Super Bowl experience are likely to be overwhelmed by the moment, the thrill, Christina Aguilera singing the anthem, nerves, whatever.

But is that the case? Or is this just another easy storyline for the sportswriters, who love to focus on things that don't matter?

Because sometimes the easy storylines turn out to be true -- Wisconsin really was slower than TCU and that hurt them in the Rose Bowl -- I decided to apply my brilliant analytic abilities to the question Does it matter if you've been to a Super Bowl before?

Here's my working hypothesis: no, it doesn't matter at all. Let's see if I'm right, first by looking at it logically, and then by actually checking the historical record to see if experience has actually counted in Super Bowls.

A logical test puts the hypothesis under scrutiny by looking at it in different ways -- asking where experience counts above all other factors, or even more than other factors.

Put another way: does it matter if a team has ever done a thing before when we look at it in other contexts outside the Super Bowl? After all -- the Super Bowl cannot be unique in the sports world, can it? It can't be the only area where having been there before adds that extra boost that guarantees, or almost guarantees, a win.

So does experience matter elsewhere in the NFL? Does having been there before make a difference in other games?

Generally, no. Look at recent NFL history to prove that. This year, the Seahawks and Saints played a playoff game -- the first ever in the NFL between a 7-9 team and another NFL playoff team. The Saints coach had been there before, having coached his team to the playoffs two recent times, including road trips. Pete Carroll was in his first year as a head coach at Seattle, but he won.

Still, you could quibble and say he'd been to the playoffs in his first go-round as a coach (although not since 1999), and that he had Matt Hasselsack, who had playoff experience, and some others from the Seahawks recent better past -- but what happened the next week, when Lovie Smith's Bears, with Jay Cutler making his first-ever start in the postseason, took apart the Seahawks? Did the rest of the Bears' experience overwhelm the fact that Cutler had never started a postseason game at any level?

And what about the week after that, when Colin Hanie came into the NFC Championship in the third quarter and soundly outplayed Green Bay's A-Rodg, even though A-Rodg had been there before -- not just to the playoffs (Rodgers was starting his fifth playoff game, but he'd been there before when he watched Favre lead the team to overtime in the NFC Championship a few years earlier.)

And speaking of a few years earlier, keep in mind that a year ago, Drew Brees in his first Super Bowl got there by outplaying Brett Favre in the NFC Championship, and Kurt Warner in the playoffs -- both of whom had more postseason experience than Brees will likely ever garner -- and then Brees' Saints beat the more-experience Colts in the Super Bowl.

And a few years before that, Favre himself had been beaten by another first-timer, Eli Manning, playing in his first NFC Championship -- and Eli would go on to do it again 2 weeks later.

It's not just football -- all across sports, players who have never been there before, anecdotally, at least, win big in big positions; having been there before may, as often as not, be a liability rather than an asset. (It certainly is if having been there before you decide to spend your week drinking and belting out showtunes rather than practicing). First-timers won golf championships by the scads this year, beating more-experienced golfers easily, and look at the Olympics, where some athletes go multiple times to the world's biggest sporting stage.

The Olympics are possibly the only sporting event to rival the Super Bowl for attention -- since Americans don't watch the World Cup in large numbers -- and can be a good test of whether experience counts, since many Olympic events are individual efforts. So does having been to the Olympics before help later on? Maybe not. I didn't do a scientific survey of it, but I did look into some high-profile recent Olympians, like Lindsay Vonn.

Vonn was in the 2002 Winter Olympics and got a silver medal. She went back to the Olympics in 2006 and wiped out, eventually finishing 8th and getting the "Spirit Award" - -making her the only Olympian I know of who shared an award with Eric Cartman. Then she went back again in 2010, winning a gold and a bronze (but wiping out on two events and taking out her US team rival in the mix), and saying that she didn't ski as aggressively as she could have.

Meanwhile, Vonn's rival Julia Mancuso -- the one Vonn took out in 2010 by wiping out on the course -- won a gold in her first-ever Olympics, 2006-- but then only took silvers in 2010 at Vancouver. (My thoughts on silver medals are here. They're not kind.)

I mentioned the World Cup, so let's point out that in 2010, Spain, appearing in its first-ever World Cup final, defeated Netherlands 1-0 in extra time. The Netherlands were making their third appearance in the World Cup finals -- and even with that "advantage" (plus cheating) they couldn't win.

Logically -- or at least anecdotally, and anecdotal evidence was enough to support the Reagan Revolution, so let's go with it -- it would seem that having been there before has little, if any, impact on a bigtime sporting event.

But to really test it, I decided to actually look at past Super Bowls and see how many first-time teams won the game.

The Packers, of course, won Super Bowl 1 -- but people will scoff and say that they'd been in championships before and so were experienced, so let's throw that out. Of the 44 Super Bowls since that one, teams with a prior Super Bowl appearance of any kind won six of the first 7, with the first novice winner actually being the Steelers in Super Bowl IX, beating the Vikings, who'd been there the year before (and lost.)

Then, it's all "experienced" teams again until Super Bowl XVI - which paired two first-timers, the 49ers and Bengals, so we have to throw that out. But a first-timer, the Redskins, won it the next year, so through the first 17, it's

Novices: 3 Experience: 12 Uncounted games: 2

Experience goes on a run of wins then, with two first-timers through Super Bowl XXV -- but those teams would go on to win again in short order, so through 25 it's

Novices: 5 Experience: 18 Uncounted games: 2

Looks bad for me and good for "analysts," right? The trend continues through 37:

Novices: 9 Experience: 26 Uncounted games: 2

The final seven finish up with only 2 wins for first-timers, so the overall tally is

Novices: 11 Experience: 31 Uncounted games: 2

Which seems bad for my hypothesis, but remember, that tally counts any prior Super Bowl appearance as "experience," which isn't really the case: when Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers went to back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1990s, did Bart Starr's Green Bay Packers' experience in I and II matter at all? Did the Indianapolis Colts' victory under Peyton Manning rely on the 1970s' Colts' two Super Bowl experiences?

Recounting, but counting experience only for teams having been there in the previous five years (and including the two games thrown out previously) the new tally is this:

Novices: 18 Experience: 26
Even if I throw out the only Super Bowl to pair two first-time teams -- 49ers-Bengals-- it's still novices 17, experience 26. That hardly seems to weigh heavily in favor of experience, although it's something.

That analysis, I know, doesn't include players who have been there before, and coaches who have been there before. Frankly, I have no way of knowing how many players on the 49ers-Steve Young team that won were holdovers from the 80s' dynasty. But that bring up an interesting question: what about teams that were just there. How do teams do in back-to-back Super Bowls? Surely, that experience would help them the next year, having just been there, and presumably having the same (or almost the same) team.

There have been 8 back-to-back Super Bowl wins -- by six teams. There have, in the same time, been only 3 back-to-back losses -- including the 4 in a row by Buffalo in the 1990s, a strong argument that just having been there before isn't enough. (But sportscasters don't mean having been there before and won, because they never say that.) And only twice has a team gone to the Super Bowl, lost, and then gone back to win it the next year. (Dallas in V and VI, Miami in VI and VII. The Colts lost Super Bowl III and won V, so that may count, too, but it's never happened in the free agency era, for whatever reason you want to ascribe to that.

So just being there isn't enough; being there recently and winning counts for something, but not all that much, while having been there before historically seems to count for quite a lot -- oddly enough...

... or not oddly enough, since it's possible that historic wins in the Super Bowl actually indicate a lot more about the organization than the particular team playing. If individual experience in big events -- the Olympics-- doesn't matter, and collective experience in big events like the World Cup doesn't help, why does historic success seem to matter so much in the Super Bowl (and the World Series, and the NBA?)

Maybe because the team organization plays into how a team does at the next level. NFL teams (and all pro teams, outside of baseball) are largely the same in terms of talent: as the Seahawks-Saints and Bears-Packers games show, there's not that big a talent gap between "7-9" and "Defending Super Bowl champion," and not that big a gap between "Championship Belt Putting On Record Mogul" and "Who's That Guy?"

But at the playoff level -- and the Super Bowl is the biggest playoff, because teams that lose the Super Bowl are deemed to be not second place finishers, but awful teams (ask yourself what you think of Jim Kelly's Bills, who essentially won four straight silver medals) -- the talent levels are the same, so something else separates the winners from the losers, and that something may be the organization itself.

Ten of 32 NFL teams have multiple Super Bowl wins; 8 of those 10 are typically seen as having good management structures. (The 9th is the Redskins, who used to been seen that way and haven't won anything lately; the 10th is the Raiders. God only knows how they managed it, but they haven't been good lately, either.) Good management means good front-office executives, good talent scouts, good coaches, and good discipline at all levels of the team. It means that your players are less likely to get arrested and more likely to pay attention in meetings -- and a commitment to excellence such as that demonstrated by the Colts, who are regulars in the postseason and have two Super Bowl appearances in this decade.

The Colts were managed by Tony Dungy, and when they won the Super Bowl, the players were so fanatically devoted to winning -- and being organized -- that players stayed in a separate hotel from their wives during that year.

That can be the difference between winning and losing a Super Bowl -- maybe: teams that expect professionalism on the biggest stage of the game and get it, while teams that are just happy to be there or poorly run don't have as much hope. The Bengals are notorious for having poor management, and they lost the only two Super Bowls they lucked into, and haven't been back for decades. The Bills had good management, and went to four straight -- and their manager then jumped to Indy, who began winning regularly. The Cowboys had two legendary coaches and a commitment to discipline, and won Super Bowls as if it were easy. Then Jerry Jones took over and began meddling, and they have one win since that era.

Judging by that standard, what's the experience that counts in XLV? The Steelers have been to the big game 7 times, the Packers four -- with the Steelers having much more recent experience. That argues for an institutional edge -- a possibility that the Steelers' structure is such that its players can handle the rigors of this game because they were selected for just that by an organization that instills that kind of discipline in the players it selects. And notwithstanding this and this and this, that's the appearance the Steelers' organization has to most people... not that the Packers lack that, but they haven't shown as much institutional success as the Steelers have, which argues that as an organization, the Packers simply aren't set up to win as much as the Steelers are set up to win.

And that point holds up. Consider that the Patriots* were on a winning trend for many years under Belicheat, only to then have most of their postseason success fall away once it became widely known that not only had the Patriots* cheated, but that the organization was okay with that -- keeping Belicheat and most of the rest of the staff on. The Packers, after years of floundering, built up an organization that had a great deal of success in the 1990s, and then changed their structure and coaching, putting in first former GM/Head Coach Mike "Mike" Sherman and then Ted Thompson and Mike "Mike" McCarthy -- and getting caught up in personal politics with Brett Favre. While the Packers have been relatively scandal free -- consider how few people know who Johnny Jolly is compared to how many have heard about Ben Roethlisberger, who's never been charged -- the Packers have players like Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley, complaining about not getting their day in the spotlight even though they're injured, and causing controversy that the coaches and team leaders then keep going, while the worst scandal the Steelers have generated this year is PianoGate.

When the Bills lost all those Super Bowls, they had some personnel problems: they employed James Lofton, who'd had some problems in Green Bay, and Thurman Thomas was well-known for being a me-first kind of player. The 49ers, meanwhile, had a great organization during the 1980s and excelled -- but when ownership changed, they fell down, too.

It may not be the salary cap, or the coach, or the individual players per se who determine how many Super Bowls you win. It might be the organizational structure, the team's commitment not just to winning but to finding, training, and keeping players who want not just to win but to do it right -- to avoid distractions and focus on football and be professionals.

Which, if true, means that whichever team brings home the Lombardi Trophy tomorrow -- my prediction is Packers 29, Steelers 21 -- the true credit should go to the front office. So, Ted Thompson, get ready to Do The Raji.

Naked People? What does that have to do with sports?

Now that I've got your attention, how about checking out these books? Horror stories, literary short stories, essays about life and pop culture... something for everyone, really. Unless you were hoping for naked people. There's nobody naked in any of these books. Sorry about that.

Anyway, you should buy one of these great books: Or buy THREE, because if you buy any three of these, and email me proof of purchase at thetroublewithroy[at], I'll send you the other two, free.

The Scariest Things, You Can't Imagine

The Scariest Things, You Can't Imagine

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A shape-shifting demon torments children while their parents stand by. A widower haunted by the ghost of his wife tries to understand her requests. A baby stolen from his mother by gargoyles returns, full of hatred for the life he's led. A family of children raised by grave-robbing corpse stealers tries to discover a way out. An elderly man possesses the power of life and death in his retirement. These stories present images and people who will haunt your thoughts for a long time after you read them.

Just Exactly How Life Looks

Just Exactly How Life Looks

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In Just Exactly How Life Looks you'll be introduced to unforgettable people living remarkable lives. Cowboys wander in a timeless desert. Scientists meet in secret to plot a new way to get attention, and money, from people. A man and his would-be lover try to find lions on safari, and more. The people and places in this book spring to life fully-formed and full of anxiety and imagination. They worry about the time they have had and the time they have left. They bury their loved ones and look for new friends. They talk and laugh and hope and cry and die, while their friends and family and enemies and Gods watch them, seeing, in their faces and actions and fears, a portrait of just exactly how life looks.



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Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... and maybe he was. In a stunning psychological horror work, "Eclipse" unfolds slowly, beginning with Claudius drifting through space after something has gone wrong with his mission. As he stares at the only thing he can see, a tiny rock off in space, he mulls the events that led him here, reflecting on his childhood and the mission-turned-into-murder. Or did things go bad? As "Eclipse" unfolds, the reader is treated to a twisting, constantly changing landscape created by Claudius' own mind, as version after version of what-might-have-happened pile on. One thing is clear, though: Something has gone wrong, and Claudius may never reach the stars. Or will he?

Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?

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Thinking The Lions, and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take)

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Life, only funnier: Here's the book you've been waiting for, assuming you've been waiting for a book about a guy who spends his time trying to prove velociraptors didn't exist, who teaches his kids to gamble and helps them with their homework by wondering what would happen if you cut a superhero in half, whose own wife said he would get a crocodile for a babysitter, who finds squid chili romantic, and who generally makes the most -- or the least? - -of his life.

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