Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 NFL Draft - 1st Round Grades

The 1st round of the 2011 draft can really be defined by two things:

1.) Teams overrate and overvalue QBs when there is no one great QB.
2.) Because of this, a lot of teams can get players they never imagined could fall to them.

Before I give out my grades, I'll admit that I don't know too much about a lot of these players. The endless line of 3-4 DEs and 4-3 DE/3-4 OLBs got confusing. My knowledge of this years first round is far from what it was last year. That said, let's get to the grades.

1.) Carolina selects Cam Newton, QB.

Grade: B

Here is the problem with the whole 2011 QB class. There was no one great QB. There was no Sam Bradford, no Matt Stafford. It was a lot like 2006 (Young, Leinart, Cutler) where all the QBs were overrated since they were judged against each other. Cam Newton got artificially hyped and overselected because of that. I considered giving the Panthers a far worse grade, but they need a QB. For a team that bad record-wise, they don't have that many areas of need. Their o-line is good. Their RBs are good. Their defense is pretty well set. Their major needs were QB and WR, so they could have picked AJ Green. Also, I like Cam Newton. He seems to be motivated and a smart guy, totally unlike JaMarcus Russell who some were comparing this selection to. I don't think he'll be a total success, but he won't be a bust.

2.) Denver selects Von Miller, OLB

Grade: B

I like the pick if the Broncos were staying with a 3-4. They could have used a defensive lineman, but with their transition back to a 4-3, he's a good guy to rush the passer. He'll need to bulk up a bit to play a 4-3 DE, but I think he can. He was great in college, and a great prospect, but the fact that he is not a pure positional fit gives me cause. That said, John Fox has done wonders with slenderer guys at the 4-3 DE with Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker.

3.) Buffalo selects Marcell Dareus, 3-4 DE

Grade: A

Nothing more to say other than that this is a great pick. Fills a big need up front for the Bills. He was the best d-lineman on the board. He's a consistent player week-to-week and he was at times dominant in the SEC. For a team that had one of the bigger head-scratchers in the NFL last season with selecting CJ Spiller, this is a safe, solid, good pick.

4.) Cincinnati selects AJ Green, WR

Grade: A

Again, there is not a lot to say. With the TO & Ocho Show being a disaster, they needed some help outside. Whether or not they intend to keep Carson Palmer, they got the consensus best skill position player in the draft, to go along with Jordan Shipley who quietly had a nice rookie season, and Jerome Simpson who came on late after TO & Ocho were injured. Throw in Gresham, and the weapons are there. They just need to make sure they have the right player throwing it.

5.) Arizona selects Patrick Peterson, CB

Grade: A

Along with AJ Green, Patrick Peterson was said to be the best and safest prospect in the draft, and kudos to the Cardinals to sticking to their board. They have bigger needs (namely QB), but didn't reach for those needs like quite a few of the upcoming teams. No, the Cardinals took the best player available, who can now be paired with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to make for a good CB tandem.

6.) Atlanta (from Cleveland) selects Julio Jones

Grade: B-

This is a two part grade. For the selection of the player itself, it is a B+. Jones is a good player, and the Falcons obviously needed another target to pair with Roddy White, as Matt Ryan was left useless in the playoffs without the other option. That said, the trade was a C-. That was a whole lot to give up. I applaud the Falcons for having giant balls for pulling off this deal and going out and getting the guy they wanted, but that was a lot to give up. Also, I find Julio Jones a little overrated. He was a really highly touted recruit and then prospect, but failed to dominate in college which is never a good sign. The great WRs usually dominate in college (Fitzgerald, Andre).

7.) San Francisco selects Aldon Smith, DE

Grade: B-

How long can the 49ers go on without actually adressing needs. They need a CB, and they have one out there waiting in Prince Amukamara (not the last on him). They need some skill position players (not really available here, but they could have traded back). Aldon Smith is also not a prototype 3-4 DE. The 49ers do need someone to rush the passer, but I'm just not sure Aldon Smith is that guy.

8.) Tennessee selects Jake Locker, QB

Grade: C

The Titans are basically taking a huge risk for a player they could have gotten later. I guess they really like Locker, but why? He was a 54% passer in college. Do they really expect that to rise in the NFL. One of his biggest positives is that he is a good athlete and leader. So was Vince Young. This was just a bizzarre pick this early, especially with Albert Haynesworth 2.0 (in the good sense) out there in Nick Fairley.

9.) Dallas selects Tyron Smith, OT

Grade: B+

Nice pick that fills a need and also gets a good player to Dallas. However, there were other needs (corner - again Prince?). Smith is also a guy who might not get any better, plus comes from USC. The USC offensive players in the Pete Carroll era (and Pete recruited him) have all for the most part been huge disappointments. In fact, even their defensive players haven't all been great. After a while that is a trend.

10.) Jacksonville (from Washington) selects Blaine Gabbert, QB

Grade: A-

I rarely do this, but good on the Jags. Good on them for being decisive, trading up and getting their guy. Despite hanging around division and wild card contention each of the last two years, GM Gene Smith correctly realizes that the David Garrard era has already peaked. They need a QB to compete, and Gabbert is, in my opinion, the most likely of any 2011 QB to make it. He needs some time, but they have that available as they can just play Garrard for a year. The minus comes from the fact that they do have other needs, and they gave up a lot to get this pick, and Gabbert could have been availabe at 16.

11.) Houston selects JJ Watt, 3-4 DE

Grade: B-

The Texans are transitioning to a 3-4 under Wade Phillips, and they have their DEs in Mario Williams and Antonio Smith, but productive and both good. What they need are OLBs to rush the passer, and more importantly, players in teh secondary (Prince Amu-fucking-kamara!!!). JJ Watt is a good player, and gives them more depth, but this pick could have been better.

12.) Minnesota selects Christian Ponder, QB

Grade: C

The grade is more due to them picking him 12th overall. He's a west coast QB, and other than Cincinnati, there is no West Coast team that still needs a QB. That was a major, major reach. They could have traded down into the 20s and gotten him. Also, he's just not that good. Kevin Kolb was better and he was a 2nd round pick. Overall, this is an unimpressive set of QBs and they all went high. It is dumbfounding that four QBs could go in the first 12 picks and I could easily see none of them ever winning a Super Bowl.

13.) Detroit selects Nick Fairley, DT

Grade: A+ (tied for best in the draft)

Unbelievably good pick. Make a strength better. I've always loved that way of drafting, personified by the Giants selecting umpteen DEs from 2004-2007. Sure, they have a monster DT in Ndakukong Suh, but why not have two monster DTs. Nick Fairley is Albert Haynesworth 2.0 and Jim Schwartz knew how to motivate Big Al. This was an incredible steal for the Lions and makes them instantly have one of the best D-Lines in the NFL. Incredible.

14.) St. Louis selects Robert Quinn, DE

Grade: A

Robert Quinn's only year of college was when he was 19 and he was great then. A bad situation is different than a bad kid, and that he is not. Robert Quinn is the best 4-3 DE in the draft, and that works perfectly for Steve Spagnuolo who knows the importance of stockpiling great DEs. The Rams were quietly a great pass rushing D-Line last year, and now, that is only getting better.

15.) Miami selects Mike Pouncey, G

Grade: C+

First of all, Maurkice was overrated to begin with. If not for Peter King's incessant "Maurkice Pouncey for All-Pro" train, no one would think of Maurkice as a great player. Second of all, if Mike Pouncey was named Mike Jones, he's probably a second round pick. Because of their need at OG, the pick is at least defendable, but I have a feeling that the Pouncey twins are not the next Barber twins of the NFL.

16.) Washington selects Ryan Kerrigan, DE

Grade: B-

It is unknown whether Ryan Kerrigan can actually play big enough as a 3-4 DE. That's a tough position to play really well, and Kerrigan would be much better off suited as a 4-3 DE. He's a very good player though, so at least Washington is getting good value in that pick, if not great positional need and fit.

17.) New England selects Nate Solder, OT

Grade: B-

Just an odd pick for the Pats. OT isn't a real need, as Matt Light still has a year or two left and Sebastian Vollmer is a good young player. They have a major need at DE and OLB, and there were a bunch of talented guys to fill those roles. Solder is also regarded as the fourth best OT prospect in the draft, and as a technically good finnesse OT, something the Pats don't usually like. This pick makes their trade essentially Richard Seymour for Nate Solder. I think, and we don't say this often, the Raiders won.

18.) San Diego selects Corey Liuget, DT

Grade: B

As far as just a player, this is a great pick. Liuget is seen by many as the best pure 3-technique DT in the draft (if not Nick Fairley), and by just value this is a great pick. However, I'm not sure where he fits in San Diego. He doesn't have experience at 3-4 DE, and he's not ideally suited for that. However, San Diego stuck to their board, and more often than not, they are right. I really wanted him for teh Colts so it was a bit sad to see him go here.

19.) New York (n) selects Prince Amukamara, CB

Grade: A+ (tied for best in draft)

Amazing how far he fell for no real good reason. There are no character or injury concerns. There is no reason why he would fall this far, but the Giants got a great player at 19, and a player I am sure the Giants never thought would be here. The Giants really need a LB, but 4-3 LBs are undervalued and are readily available later on. The Giants now have a good corner to put in that rotation with Aaron Ross, Corey Webster and the rest.

20.) Tampa Bay selects Adrian Clayborn, DE

Grade: A

The Bucs needed pass rushing help, and Clayborn is just that. He's perfect value at this spot, a good fit as a 4-3 DE, and a player that can contribute immediately. Probably doesn't have the upside that some other players do, but he's really the definition of a solid, safe pick. The Bucs have a good defense outside of their lack of pass rush and he can help solve those problems.

21.) Cleveland (from Kansas City) selects Phil Taylor, NT

Grade: B

In the sense that he was the best NT in the draft, he's a good pick, but the Browns are moving back to a 4-3. He would have been better in Eric Mangini's system. Also, I don't understand why they moved up, as I don't think any team from 21-26 would have needed a NT. That said, he's the best at his position, so it's a fine pick.

22.) Indianapolis selects Anthony Castonzo, OT

Grade: A-

Safe and smart. Just like Adrian Clayborn earlier, Castonzo is a safe pick and a position of need. The Colts needed a true LT, as Charlie Johnson is better as a LG (although did commendably at LT). The reason why this isn't a great pick is because OT just isn't that important to the Colts, but without a great DT option on the board, the pick still makes sense.

23.) Philadelphia selects Danny Watkins, G

Grade: B

26 year old rookie? That doesn't sound like a recipe for success. That said, he fills a position of need a team with few true needs and should help shore up the interior of that line which will help Mike Vick. Also, the Eagles have a great track record with 1st round picks, so there is some benefit of the doubt grade inflation at work here.

24.) New Orleans selects Cameron Jordan, DE

Grade: A

He's one of the best 3-4 DEs in the draft, and one capable of moving inside in four man nickel situations. He's the guy the Patriots could and probably should have picked. Gregg Williams will love the versatility of Jordan who should be an immediate contributor. I'm sure the Saints are absolutely ecstatic that he fell this far.

25.) Seattle selects James Carpenter, OT/OG

Grade: B-

I'll be honest, I know little to nothing about Mr. Carpenter. From what I've read, he's really versatile and a low-risk lower-upside player, which is fine. He'll never play OT as that is Russell Okung's job, but his versatility makes him an okay pick. The big problem was that it was a reach, as he was rarely considered a first round pick.

26.) Kansas City selects Jonathan Baldwin, WR

Grade: B

There was really no first-round talent at WR, so this is a reach, however, the Chiefs need another WR to place oppisite the resurgent Dwayne Bowe. Jonathan Baldwin has his drops problems and doesn't have elite speed, but is a good route running possession receiver which makes him the perfect complement. They needed more weapons for Matt Cassel, who by the end of the year seemed to have been figured out.

27.) Baltimore select Jimmy Smith, CB

Grade: B+

He's a great player and fills a position of need, but his character concerns are just too much. I realize that the Ravens locker room is perfect for a guy with character and motivation issues, because Ray Lewis will basically force you to be prepared and play hard, but his alleged one-time addiction to Codeine is a major problem. The Sizzurp kills careers; just ask JaMarcus Russell.

28.) New Orleans (from New England) selects Mark Ingram, RB

Grade: B-

He doesn't really fill a need unless this is the end of the Pierre Thomas/Chris Ivory era. Sadly this looks like its the end of the Reggie Bush era, which makes no sense. Mark Ingram cannot replace the explosiveness of Reggie Bush, but rather he could replace the consistency of Pierre Thomas. I like the teh player, but I don't see the tandem working, and that is problem when they gave up a 2012 1st round pick. (BTW, I like that New England always acquires future 1st round picks, but its pointless acquiring them when you just trade one of them away each time).

29.) Chicago selects Gabe Carimi, OT

Grade: A-

Perfect pick in an area of dire need. Gabe Carimi is a physical player that should work well in the Windy City, and hopefully give Jay Cutler some much needed added protection. The reason why it is docked down to an A- is just a way of giving the Bears a slap on the wrist for their fault in the whole Baltimore/KC pick mess.

30.) New York (a) selects Muhammad Wilkerson, DE

Grade: B+

Again, I don't know much about Mr. Wilkerson. He seems like okay value, but not great need. The Jets have good DEs on their 3-4. They need pass rush help, and they could have selected an Akeem Ayers type player on the outside. Linebacker is the much bigger need than D-Line for the Jets going forward.

31.) Pittsburgh selects Cameron Heyward, DE

Grade: A

Pittsburgh is just amazing at doing this: drafting for future need. They did it with LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, and now with Heyward. They'll sit him for a year or two as he gets his degree in LeBeau-ology. Then, they'll release either Brett Keisel or Aaron Smith in two years, just to start Heyward. It's a beautiful proccess really. The Steelers could have used a corner, but there are always corners available.

32.) Green Bay selects Derrek Sherrod, OT

Grade: B

Good value, but not really need. I can't blame the Packers as there weren't many needs they had, but their OTs were quite good in 2010. Their interior was a different story, and Sherrod won't really contribute immediately. I'm probably being a bit harsh though.

That was fun. Look forward to some post-draft power rankings next week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Wedding in India

Family, Fun and a City That Does Sleep

(Part 3 of 4)

(Link to Part 1:
(Link to Part 2:

By the time I had to wake up early in the morning and start our day-long jaunt over to Mangalore, I was already feeling a longing for our days in Bangalore as a family, as a counsinhood. I was already nostalgic, feeling regret in my stomach. Or of course, all of those feelings could just be due to the lingering effects of seven straight days of partying, of imbibing, of just living life. That said, by the time we reached Mangalore, we were ready to go through the emotional part of the holiday. It didn't matter that the two days in Mangalore were "dry days" as declared by the government because of impending elections. My sister and I were in no state to complain, as our bodily governments had basically declared "dry days" as well. Mangalore was dry, but by the end, our faces were wet with tears, both sad and happy.

Mangalore was the city that really started everything. It was where both of my parents were born, and all four grandparents. It was where my mother lived for the first 20 years of her life. It was where I spent the Summers or Springs of my 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 11th and 13th years. Outside of my house in Plainsboro, I've probably spent more time in my grandmothers house atop Lighthouse Hill in Mangalore than any other. As someone who's permanent residence has been one home for all but 1.25 years of my life, Mangalore has really been by second hometown, the place where I first walked, and the place where I first ate a mango; both equally important. Mangalore is the Pinto family, it is our home, our origins. And it was a place I hadn't been to in nearly ten years.

Mangalore was a small port-town, home to many things, including the Pinto family tile factories, which my Grandfather, his brothers and parents, owned tile factories and set up camp. When last I visited Mangalore, it was still that, a small port town. I never understood how small it was (as until 2001, the last time I visited I was five and had little recollection of actually going there other than sleeping under mosquito nets) until my Mom told me, my sister and Andy that we had to be on good behavior because the local townies knew we were Harry Pinto's grandchildren. I scoffed at this idea, that us three kids who didn't know a word of Konkani (the local language) nor Kannada (the language of the state of Karnataka) would actually be recognized. However, little did we know that people actually knew that Harry Pinto's grandchildren were in town, and that we were those same people, and that my mother was Harry Pinto's daughter, and a person that every shop owner in the city seemed to know personally. Mangalore was a small town, and it was perfect.

Of course, those warnings from my Mom did little use, as we were joined by three of my cousins from my dad's side of the Family, and with them we basically had a spectacular summer together. The best prank was teh "Dick from Boston" where my two cousins Andy and Robin (my dad's brothers son) went over to a stranger in Mangalore's main Cafe Coffee Day (the Indian Starbucks, until there are actually Indian Starbucks). They pretended to know him as being "Dick from Boston" (where Robin used to live), and basically pretended to be long lost friends, meeting for the first time. The man was stunned, and repeatedly pleaded that he had no idea of Robin, of anyone, of Boston. It was great comedy. Later on in the trip, Robin went up to a metal-head on a date at the bowling alley (back in 2001-2003, Bowling Alleys were all the rage in India), and challenged him to a fight and got himself thrown out of the alley. Needless to say, the Pinto grandchildren were known. That summer was the perfect way for my Mangalore memories to end, and I thought it would, as my Grandmother moved the following year to live with my Uncle in Bangalore up until her death in 2007. Her house in Mangalore laid empty, standing tall on top of Lighthouse Hill. That is, until we all took a trip back, a trip that ended up ruining the memories that "Dick from Boston" was so instrumental in creating.

That house was so amazing. It was the home that my mom and her brothers and sisters grew up in, sure, but it was also the greatest gift to a curious child. There were tunnels and balconies, and spiral staircases, and bath houses, and coops. It was more like a castle to me when I was a child, a never ending series of rooms and alleys. There was everything except for the moat and the dragon. In 2001, I finally was consciously able to use all the house had to offer, with the upstairs reading room and the bath house. God, that bath house, where water was fire-heated in two giant couldrons used to hold bucket-fulls of water. Thankfully the room was really dark, as who knows what horrible creatures crawled the walls of that place (a dark, wet room? That is a recipe for a bug breeding ground), but even if there were cockroaches lining the walls, I would still probably use it. That said, I really had come along way too late, as I missed out on the balconies, the stables, the farms, the cots. I missed out on what that house used to be - a miniature world with chickens and cows and of course, people. In 2001 it was just a house, but an amazing house at that. A place where I played cricket with Andy in the verandah, and played cards in the study, and listened to Mummy (what we called our grandmother) tell stories on her bed. By 2011, I wish the house was just that.

I finally realized why my mom and her siblings were all so hesitant to go to the house (although other than my mom, they had all been there since my grandmother moved out). Having heard stories from Vikram that part of the wall dividing two bedrooms that at one point in time housed all of the sibling had fallen, and the roof in the room that was first occupied by their eldest brother Al had a whole it, none of them were waiting to see it. On the other hand, from the moment that Vinitha gave her wedding dates, I had decided I was making a trip to the house. Seeing what it had become, I might have stayed back. It was not as bad the picture Vik painted (although the walls between the two rooms had crumbled), but seeing that house in its dark state was as bad. The house that was once as lively as bright as any, the one that stood firm under the never-ending Summer monsoons was now broken and beaten.

Broken and beaten could have just as easily been used to describe my mom and her siblings at seeing their home in that state. They remembered the home as a miniature world, their world. I just remembered it as a house. However, just like it was when it was occupied, the house still held treasures behind, as it was mostly still full of furniture and curios. Mummies cabinet was still in her room, and after we unlocked it, what we saw left tears in my eye. Left where different things that mummy felt compelled to keep, all gifts from her grandchildren, my cousins. There was a picture of my sister as a kid. There was a stuffed Gund Bear from Marie. I finally got to my one, which was a leaflet about Leopards that I gave to her after Leopard's were spotted in the compound. In all, it was basically a whole time capsule of our family, of the very same people who I recently drank and partied with the week before. But it was a snapshot of a very different time, back when our grandmother was alive, back when Mangalore was a second home, and when this house was our house and not an abandoned museum of the Pinto family.

My sister and I were the only cousins who made the trip to Mangalore, as we were the only two in college, without the draw of an actual life and job to return to after the wedding in Bangalore, but with all these mementos from the lives of our cousins left in that house, we felt that we were all there together. All the living siblings were there, and that was truly amazing. They all came and went through Mangalore and the house through the years, but this was the first time that they all were in the house together since the 1980's. For the first time since then, the house in some ways was complete, even with the circle of life extending fully as Anthony's kids saw the house in some ways for the first time, as they were either 1 or not born when Mummy left the house behind for Bangalore. It was a moment to cherish, despite the fact that the walls were crumbling and the place was strewn with dust bunnies. Through it all, it was still are house. We all had different memories of the house, different reasons why it was so special, but in that moment, all those reasons came together to reveal the real one. It was a symbol of our family, of us being Pinto's. The only people who will carry on the Pinto name were the three young kids who had never the house as an occupied home. They finally saw the house, finally saw where it all began.

The rest of the trip to Mangalore was actually quite educational as well, in that it was a good look at the life cycle of a city. Mangalore now is where Bangalore was about 10 years ago. It is less crowded, less busy and more enjoyable from a purely aesthetic view. With the sea close by, it is more humid, but at that time of year, the weather was perfect. The infrastructure of the city itself has improved tremendously, and buildings taller than 100 feet are starting to pop up, which is something that would have been thought unimaginable ten years ago. Sadly, as my Mom often pointed out with depressed amazement, most of those tall buildings stand in the same ground that previously held homes of all the Manglorean families. Most of those homes were just like our family one on Lighthouse Hill, all beautiful, but all empty and finally sold to developers. That is the circle of life in Mangalore, and one day it will most likely happen to our house on Lighthouse Hill, the house my Mom grew up in, the house that in many ways all of us cousins grew up in. One day that house will be gone, but knowing that I was able to see it off, steal some momentos and say a family prayer to bless the house makes me at peace with the fact that that second home will one day be land or some tall building. But that is just the circle of life in Mangalore.

Next: Part 4, with the Wedding. (Yes, it will be more light and fun than this part).

Monday, April 18, 2011

The NFL's Arrested Development

The NFL Lockout. This is probably the biggest ongoing off-the-field issue is sports right now, and I've yet to really speak one word about it. Mainly this is due to the fact that I can't truly believe that the NFL and NFLPA* will be unable to split 9 billion dollars. I've rarely seen a lockout or strike at a time when the sport was at its healthiest, and that is what we have now. That said, with the NFL Draft fast approaching, and the realization that newly selected players won't be able to have a congratulatory phone call from their new boss due to rules governing player/team contact, I can't avoid it. However, instead of dwelling into the legalese of mediation and Brady et al vs. NFL et al, I'll just do a little rundown of the cast of characters we have that make up the people involved in the case, and I'll do this by comparing them to members of Arrested Develepment (aka, the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s if not ever). Let's get to the rundown.

Michael Bluth = Roger Goodell

Just like Mr. Bluth, Goodell expresses the calm and cooperation necessary of a leader and a man with power. Michael was the president of the Bluth Co. overseeing it with ease, as Goodell has overseen the NFL with ease up until the lockout. However, what made Michael Bluth the amazing character that he was was not only was Bluth the straight man of the show, but, as said in creator Mithc Hurwitz's words, "he was the craziest of the bunch, as he couldn't see what was going on." That perfectly represents Goodell, who stands up on his podium and makes well-sounding claims like "the owners are looking out for the future of the game," and "the economics of the game don't work" and the best one, "a majority of fans want the 18 game schedule" (I have yet to meet five fans who want this). Like Michael, Goodell can't see the mess around him, the craziness he has to deal with, and although he's a smart, confident, straight-laced guy, he's coming off horribly by not reacting to the combustive nature of the situation.

Memorable Quotes:

"We care about the health of our players, the safety of our players" [cut to two weeks later] "The fans have spoken, and like us, they want more real games".

"What have I always said comes first? Family" [cut to next episode] "That is not a family. I don't care who takes care of them. The state, the police, maybe the Magician's Alliance will pick up some slack. We can't live with them anymore"

"No I know who Annabell is. Who is Anne?" [after being told her name is not Annabell] "I know her name is not Annabell. I just call her that because her body is shaped like..... she's the bell of the ball."

"Let me tell you something GOB. We're gonna track this 'Hermano' down and kick his ass. Because if anyone's going out with that girl its gonna be one of us"

George Bluth = Paul Tagliabue

This isn't a perfect comparison, since unlike Tagliabue, George Bluth was guilty of defrauding investors, however, as the show went on, the fraud become basically a forgotten charge in light of the treason in Iraq. In that case, George is just like Tags, both men who were set up, who did good work, and were then accused of screwing things up. The anti-Tagliabue argument is hilarious. The owners are basically accusing Tagliabue of screwing the owners in the last round of CBA negotiations, even though 30 of 32 owners agreed to the deal and the two who didn't were vilified and called "cheap." George Bluth was screwed over by "the Brits" a people who "all polite and the men all sound gay" who made him build homes in Iraq and then stayed silent when George was charged for those crimes. Paul Tagliabue was a real man, a man with great dignity and resolve and a man who oversaw a period in the NFL with no work stoppages. For these things, he's very un-George Bluth-ian, but then again, no one on Arrested Development is truly good.

Memorable Quotes

"Our focus continues to be on having the Saints in Louisiana... We're trying to develop what we would regard as a new model for the Saints to operate in a rebuilt Louisiana."

"You can argue the significance of the shank bone on the sedar plate, but we do NOT wag our genitals at one another to make the point..... Oh my GOD, Hanukkah can be spelled so many ways."

[after being told Cindi was a mole] "Well, God doesn't care how big your teeth are. Yes, you could go to a dentist and and you could, whoa, grind off about 30%. Maye more."

"Don't get involved. Believe me, when I thought your first wife was driving us apart, I didn't make a stink." [after Michael tells George she died] "See what I mean. Things have a way of working themselves out"

Lucille Bluth = Judge Susan Nelson

Just like the ever-amazing matriarch, Nelson secretly is the most important person in the whole thing. Nelson has the power to make the NFL open for duty tomorrow. She has the ability to make statements in her decision in the injunction case and possibly the antitrust case that forever change the NFL. She's the eyes and ears of the operation, much like Lucille was secretly the (wo)man running the Bluth company telling George everything to due. The person setting up deals with the Iraqis, and the Colombians. Judge Nelson also shares Lucille's witty banter, as she slammed the parties, stating, "splitting up 9 billion should not be that hard." Judge Nelson could end up being the biggest person in the NFL, just like Lucille quietly ended up possibly being the best person on the show.

Memorable Quotes

"I'm having a hard time understanding how this lockout is legal after the union decertified."

"If that's a veiled criticism about me, I won't hear it, and I won't respond to it"

"Take that plate back. If I wanted something your thumb touched I would eat the inside of your ear"

"Lupe's family has a bus, and they want to use the parking lot of this building as a meeting place. I mean, for God's sake, it is not a hardware store."

"Lucille 2's trying to prove that she's closer to my children than I am by getting with GOB, but the jokes on her because she doesn't know how little I care for GOB."

Lindsay Bluth Funke = DeMaurice Smith

Like both, they appear to be fighting for and reporting on a cuase. Lindsay always had her causes, whether it be HOOP ("Hands of our Penises" - an anti-circumcision movement) or "Neuter-Fest" (wanting to make cats and dogs a thing of the past). DeMaurice Smith has the ultimate cause, defending the players rights, but being a total hardass in negotiation and spinning loads of baseless rhetoric to the media isn't exactly getting the job done. Honestly, this isn't a great comparison, but I can't really get anyone good for Lindsay, also this is nice to compare a lesbian Australian woman to an African-American man, which is basically one of the weirder comparisons, especially since in sports people are always afraid to make interracial comparisons (i.e; any small white receiver and Wes Welker).

Memorable Quotes

"From May 18, 2009, the day I took office as NFLPA president, up until the day [the NFL] proposed the worst deal in history, did you offer any financial statements to justify the worst deal in sports history?"

"We're not the only ones destroying trees. What about beavers? If you call yourself an environmentalist, you should go out and club some beavers."

"I'm gonna try to get a wrench to strip my nuts.... damn, I just can't do it anymore"

[after being told she was lazy] "If you weren't standing on the other side of the room, I would come across and slap you right in the face"

Buster Bluth = Jerry Richardson

Both are the blubbering fools. Buster and Jerry Richardson are both pitiable, because they just don't have a chance. Buster is just screwed because he was raised with a totally insane, protective mother, and ended up with the social skills of a common wombat. Of course, that doesn't make Buster unlovable and unsympathetic. Jerry Richardson is the same, in a more pointed way. He's a sympathetic figure because he's just so outdated with the modern NFL, that he's now socially inept in the bargaining table. He's been labeled as a hatemonger against players in meetings, challenging the intellect of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and feeling that the players need to bow down to him because he was a past player. Buster and Jerry both just are misunderstood. Sadly, Buster's actions are more forgivable and less important.

Memorable Quotes

"This is a profit chart" [to Peyton Manning] "do you need help reading it, with the math and all"

"My army training makes me think this is going to be a hot mission.... you go and grab the gypsy boy while I make a diversion. We need a name for this mission..... How about 'Operation Hot Mother.'"

[holding stuffed animals won from the crane machine] "These are my awards, Mother. From army. The seal is for marksmanship. The gorilla is for sandracing."

[to GOB at the start of a magic trick] "Silence, Slave! Now, I'm going to put a sword through my assistants tummy. Assistant, may I have the fake trick sword, please?"

George Michael Bluth = John Mara

This is probably the weirdest one, the one where the Arrested Development character is probably more known. That said, it fits, because these are the only two normal ones. John Mara is one of the few owners who really doesn't toe the company line, that doesn't align himself with the owners like Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft (more on them later). Mara is the person who gave back the season ticket money fans spent on the Giants for 2011. He's the one who first wrote a letter to the fans saying how sad he was, and he made it seem earnest. George Michael is the real straight man on the show, in that he's the only one who is really in touch with reality. He's the only one who can see everything for what it is, just like Mara.

Memorable Quotes

"We are not happy that there is no deal, and we appreciate the pain and frustration of all of our fans. It is my mission to return the focus to what is important: the New York Giants."

[after getting kicked out of R-rated French movie about the love of two cousins] "GOB, I need you to make two fake ID's for me and Maeby. Passports. Preferably French, I like the way they think"

"Sometimes, she'll take a pack of mayonnaise and squirt it in her mouth all over. And then she'll take an egg and kind of.... nom, nom, nom. She calls it a mayon-egg!"

GOB Bluth = Rich Eisen

Another comparison that may fall flat onto unknowing ears, but it works. Rich Eisen in the face of NFL Network, a man who left the douchebaggeric confines of Bristol CT, to work for a new network. He's really become quite likable, mixing a perfect brew of boss-ness/dickish-ness and hilariousness to his job as lead anchor of NFL Total Access. That brew, that perfect concoction, mirrors what makes GOB just that damn amazing and funny. GOB's the brash magician, who never ceases to just make us laugh, to make us entertained. That's what Eisen has done to NFL Network, and it was never more important than now. Being a paid employee of the league, it would be easy to be a schill for the owners, yet he's manned up and been unbiased, and just flat cool.

Memorable Quotes

"Lockout insurance for Hines Ward: He'll have Dancing with the Stars this spring. I guess its extra incentive to dance well for him."

"The zero hour Michael. I'm the first born. Sick of playing second fiddle. Always third in line for everything. Tired of finishing fourth. Being the fifth wheel.... uhmm... there are six things I'm mad about, and I'm taking over."

[When asked if he ever was awkward around girls] "You mean like when there was three of them and I didn't know when to start? No, I think I did pretty well, if you know what I mean. Not a lot of complaints. At least not from the girl."

"Tony Wonder baked himself into a bread and was eaten by the troops. I had that same idea three months ago. I was going to be boiled into a chowder and be ladelled into a cauldron to feed the firemen."

"And now you love the ten commandments Michael, and yet you're the one who so conveniently forgot "Thou shalt protect thy father and honor no one above him unless be it me, thy sweet lord"

(only one more..... I could go on for hours with GOB quotes)

"Hey maybe we should do to the Japanese what they did in their movies. Build a miniature city, put it outside the window. It'll look real if they squint. God knows they're squinters!"

Maeby Funke = Cam Newton

Yeah, he doesn't exactly have a real role in the lockout, but I'm making him a part representative of all rookies, and in that area, he does. Rookie's are basically the big losers, as they've done nothing wrong, but have been placed in a warzone, just like Maeby, who had the unfortunate circumstances of having two insane parents. However, just like Maeby, Cam's still here because he likes him some him. Already, the man has said he wants to be "a global icon and entertainer". Maeby had a similar brashness, a similar defiance of the normal boundaries for a child. Maeby's rebellious personality led her to pose as a disabled girl in a fake nose to get money. Cam's personality has already made him garner comparisons to someone with LeBron James' ego at perhaps Vince Young's skill level; not a good cocktail. Speaking of cocktails, Maebe would love another Virgin Margarita and if that doesn't have alcohol, a virgin Pina Colada.

Memorable Quotes

"I don't want to sound arrogant but I did something in one year people couldn't do in their whole collegiate careers."

"It all adds up. Pop-pop stole someone's hair, made a wig, knocked out a guard, tunneled his way through a sewer line, then stopped to get a candied apple on his way to Mexico!"

"Okay, so I printed the fake airline ticket to Portugal from my computer. If my parents miss this, then I really might go to South America"

Tobias Funke = Peter King

To cap this off might be my favorite one on the list (which is why Tobias comes well after Lindsay). For the first time, I had to do work in thinking who to pair with King, and Tobias is the best one. Both speak (or in King's case write) like enlightened men with a podim; Tobias being the worlds first analrapist (not what you think... as far as you know), and King the first media columnist to get an outlet on the internet. Yet, both are mocked all the time. Tobias is the king of the double entendre, being mocked by Michael to everyone else, while King is openly hated on by each week, as well as everyone else with a brain. King is also now the lackey of the owners, almost always writing unbiased reports on the lockout. He also has the horrible tendency to play favorites all the time. Tobias doesn't do any of that, but as just a bumbling idiot with too much of an ego, they fit perfectly.

Memorable Quotes

"From that day that Roger Goodell stepped in to break off a fight between a black and white man in a bar, Roger Goodell has been a peace-maker"

[Before 2010 season] "Carolina is my surprise pick to make the playoffs as a wild card"

[To Buster] "Why don't we pair up... and hit the town together. I'll be your wingman, and even if it means me taking a chubby, I will suck it up!"

[To a grief-less Michael] "Here he comes. Here comes John Wayne. "I'm not gonna cry about my pa. I'm gonna build an airport. Put my name on it. Supress it if you want, but it will come out Michael, sometimes in the most unexpected...." [opens fridge] "Hey. Where the FUCK are my hard boiled eggs?"

"I prematurely shot my wad, on what was supposed to be a dry run. So now, I have something of a mess on my hands."

That Ends Part 1, the major characters. Come back next for Part 2: the sideshows.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

2011 NBA Playoff Picks

Man, the sports season just does not end (I'll have to be reminded of me saying this statement come July, when it is just baseball and the NFL possibly still locked out). March Madness one weekend, becomes the Masters the next weekend, and then that becomes the NBA playoffs. Finally, we get to see basketball each night that is played with actual, you know, plays and sets. Good basketball. Basketball that doesn't rely on three point shooting and zone defenses and slap-the-floor gritiness. Basically, it is basketball worth watching. Anyway, before I start rambling too much (again), I'll get to my picks.

Eastern Conference

1st Round

(1) Bulls over (8) Pacers 4-1

I think the Bulls are just a whole lot better. The Pacers have nice players, and remind me of a less-than-good Eastern Conference version of the Portland Trail Blazers, with one top player (Danny Granger) but lots of nice pieces. The Bulls, on the other hand, are just really, really good.

(2) Heat over (7) 76ers 4-0

Miami lucked out. They did not want to see the Knicks, and good on them for closing out the two seed and avoiding them. The 76ers just don't have that level that they can reach to possible beat the Heat. This could actually be counter-productive for the Heat who may get a false sense of security after breezing through round 1.

(3) Celtics over (6) Knicks 4-2

I think this will be a close series, but the Knicks just aren't a good matchup for the Celtics. They suffer against big size, which the Celtics have. The Knicks aren't great against the three, which the Celtics are good at. The Knicks struggle against premier point guards, and the Celtics have Rondo. That said, the Celtics have been an absolute mess (relatively) since the Perkins trade (more on that later).

(4) Magic over (5) Hawks 4-2

The Hawks are actually a good matchup for the Magic. Other than Dwight Howard, who no team truly matches up well with, the Hawks have advantages all over the place. They played them very well in the regular season, and as the Warriors in 2007 proved, regular season results shouldn't be discounted. In the end, the Magic are just better, mainly because of the man-beast that is Dwight Howard.

2nd Round

(1) Bulls over (4) Magic 4-2

I think this will be a much tougher series than most do. Dwight has been good against the Bulls, and Noah really can't stop him. For once, the Bulls don't have the advantage at the center position. The Bulls do have the advantage at point guard, as ever since that injury in 2009, hasn't been quite the same. What should be interesting is both teams really like to use their bench, so the team that does better in that area could decide the series.

(3) Celtics over (2) Heat 4-2

I trust that Shaq will be healthy. Why do I trust this? Mainly because I hate the Heat. That said, are we really going to let one game late in the season (a time where the Celtics have notoriously coasted the past couple years). The Celtics dominated the big moments of the first three meetings, and the first two didn't include Perkins. Perkins wasn't the reason the Celtics beat the Heat. He's a stopper. The reason is the rest of the team. Rondo is key, and Rondo should destroy what ever point guard the Heat try to throw at him.

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Bulls over (3) Celtics 4-3

Good series. Good matchup. The Celtics have the experience, dominating the Eastern Conference the past three years. The Bulls are the young team, built in a deserving way, poised to own the East for years. Rondo vs. Rose should be spectacular. Noah vs Garnett should be as well. Just a great series, I really hope it happens. These are the two best defensive teams in the NBA, so this will essentially be the Ravens vs. Steelers of the NBA. Hopefully, like all those matchups in the NFL, this lives up to the billing.

Western Conference

1st Round

(1) Spurs over (8) Grizzlies 4-1

This is actually good news for Memphis, as they've never won a game in the NBA playoffs ever. The Grizzlies supposedly match up well with the Spurs, but that was with Rudy Gay, and two of the previous meetings (a Griz win and a close Spurs win) included Tim Duncan and then Tony Parker missing the games. Also, the Grizzlies tanked to play the Spurs. That shit won't work against the Spurs.

(2) Lakers over (7) Hornets 4-1

Not sure the Hornets win a game, but my guess is one time Chris Paul will just go Keyser Soze over Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. He's got one of those games in him. Other than that, without David West, the Hornets are hopeless. This is a one-sided series.

(3) Mavericks over (6) Blazers 4-3

I can't believe how many people love Portland, who always seems to be the stat-guys beloved team, a team that works a lot better in the statistical measures than on the actual court. The Mavericks also have Dirk, and historically have played the Blazers really, really well. Portland also scares me, because their best player is a post-player, and those usually don't work in crunch time. This will probably be a close series, but I trust the home team with the better closer (if not the best closer) in Dirk.

(5) Nuggets over (4) Thunder 4-2

This should be the best first round series, and as you can see, my only picked upset. Again, I think the Thunder are a team that looks a lot better on paper and in stat-guy's eyes then on the actual court. My biggest problem is that Russell Westbrook thinks he's as good as Kevin Durant, and is taking way too many shots these days. Also, the Nuggets can play defense now, and they love their coach and love each other. I know that sounds sappy, but this team has always been emotionally led, even in the Carmelo days. They also have the swagger and are virtually unbeatable in their current iteration at home.

2nd Round

(1) Spurs over (5) Nuggets 4-2

The Nuggets should bring out the best in the new Spurs. Both teams are extremely deep, both can run and hit threes, and both can play defense when necessary. I just feel that the Spurs have slightly better players, and they can play better defense when necessary. The Spurs also are more consistent day to day, so the Nuggets have the ability to play at level 10, but probably only for two games.

(3) Mavericks over (2) Lakers 4-2

Yup, you read it. Yup, I mean it. The Lakers are a weird team. They have the length, but the big lineup isn't their best at crunch time (no Artest on defense). The Mavs also have some things that work really well. First, no one on LA can guard Dirk at all. Secondly, the Mavs have enough bigs to throw at the Lakers, in Haywood and Stevenson off the bench to join Chandler. Also, they have the Beaboius factor, as his speed can give Fisher nightmares. Should be a fun series, and I just think that the Lakers think they can just push the "on" button, but sadly for them, the West is a lot better in 2011 than it was in 2010. The Lakers runs to the Finals have really been unimpressive over the years. They got a 8-5-3 seeds last year, and a Yoa-less Rockets team two years ago. The Mavs are the best second round opponent they've had.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Spurs over (3) Mavericks 4-2

Man, this should be a great series. These two teams always bring out the best in each other. The Spurs would die to see the Mavs again. They can run so much speed at that team, and the Mavs don't really defend the perimeter very well. The biggest problem can still be stopping Dirk, but Duncan has always done a good job, even in his advanced age. Both teams are deep and use their bench a lot, which helps the Spurs as their bench is just a bit better. Overall, the Spurs still owe the Mavs for the 2006 Second round, where the Mavs basically ended the Spurs run for two straight titles.

NBA Finals

(1) Spurs over (1) Bulls 4-2

Man, this would be a great series. Both games between these two teams were close, and the Bulls were at full strength each time. The Spurs have the experience. The Spurs also have no way of stopping Rose. However, the Bulls also aren't nearly as good stopping perimeter teams as they are at stopping post-up teams, and the new Spurs don't rely on Duncan and post-ups any more. About Timmay, he's prone for a great finals. His per-minute numbers have basically been as good as ever, and he is fully rested and ready.

Another reason I love the Spurs: no one loves them. It is strange. Here's a team that basically led the tough West wire-to-wire. Their record actually should be better, as a 6-game losing streak skews things. Of course, Duncan missed most of those games, and still, against four eventual playoff teams, the Spurs lost each game by less than 10 points. They played good even when they weren't playing good. Also, they didn't pad their record against all bad teams and struggle against good teams (like the 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers). They were 2-1 against the Lakers (throwing away the game where they rested everyone). 1-1 against Chicago and Miami, 2-1 against Boston, 4-2 against the Mavs. They've been the best team all year, and also the most under the radar. I say that's just when the Spurs strike, just like when everyone slept on them the whole of 2005 and 2007. That's just how the Spurs roll.

'Till Next Time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Community Problems

I've been looking for the next Arrested Development on TV for years; and for years, I have been left disappointed. I probably should give up hope, because there probably will never be a show that brilliant, that amazing. There will be shows as funny, as creative, but never as genius. That was a show for the comedy savants. Never a bad episode, never a bad scene, never a dull moment. That said, when I set out on a little voyage to start watching Community like it was a drug, I was amazed. Here was a show almost as brilliant; almost as referential; almost as layered; almost as funny. It was almost Arrested Development, and it was even a show in a similar style, with a large cavalcade of main characters all with different personality traits and quirks. However, the fact that it almost adds up to Arrested Development 2.0 but falls a bit short makes it hurt that much more.

Let me start with saying that I thoroughly enjoy almost every episode in Communities run (granted, I've only gone halfway through Season 2). It is a fabulous show, with great writing, better acting and a unique quirk that sets it apart from any other show I've ever seen (the uber-meta-ness of the show, especially the Abed character). It is, to me, the best comedy out on television right now.

*Sidebar: That doesn't mean it is the funniest. That's a different category, and I think it is a tie between Community and Its Always Sunny of Philadelphia, with Sunny having higher highs and lower lows in the laugh department. Best is about the show as a work of art. Arrested Development was that. Community is that*

It does an amazing job splitting screen-time between seven main characters (although Chevy Chase's is basically comic relief, with few actual storylines for him, and Shirley is underused). Very few shows can pull off having this many characters and not make it feel like too many. I know this sounds like I'm having a full hard-on for Arrested Development (and I am), but it did it better than anyone, with 9 main characters. Community comes close. Also, I love the incestuous dynamic of the whole group, with Jeff having slept with Britta, hooked up with Annie, and Pierce having sexual tension with Shirley, and of course the odd quasi-homosexual relationship between Troy and Abed. The gang in Community is really perfect. Everyone has their place. Everyone has their moments, their jokes, their gags. It all fits, like an intricate puzzle. The writers to an amazing job overall. It really is a great show; the best comedy on television right now.

That said, its biggest unique quality is its only failing. The meta-humor is just too much for a show that is so redeeming as just a show. The idea of Abed relaying to the group - as well as the audience - the state of the show at large, just comes across as odd. Community tries to toe the line between sitcom and reality, and in that, it really is not served well. For a show that has no third-party narration, or no Office-like draw as in a documentary, the show would be better served to stay a show, and not have the meta-humor in the interactive portal that is Abed. I enjoy the other meta-humor jokes that are laid into the dialogue of the show, the jokes that are layered in meta-humor. That's where the show becomes brilliant, and what makes it so much like Arrested Development.

Also, the reliance of pop culture references that are mainly confined to entertainment art like movies, games, etc. are a little too narrow in scope. Again, Abed's continual reference of the show scenarios in comparison to their similarities in other movies and shows are just too much, especially since most of the references aren't mainstream enough to be thoroughly enjoyed. The use of referential humor in the show itself is great, from the Glee-club in the paintball episode, or the entire Goodfellas homage in Abed's chicken-finger mafia. The show itself is great at portraying it as a satire of the entertainment industry. However, despite my love of the mafia chicken -finger scheme as an episode, the use of a famous film or genre as a framework for an episode takes away from the show in general. The show seems to get lost too much in answering the question "How much is too much?" The small, funny inserts of references to events and arts are great. The giant use of the entertainment industry, despite being funny, is sometimes a crutch that a show like Community does not need.

The reason why this use of the entertainment industry is as hurtful as it is (and remember, despite this, the show is still exceptional) is because after it is stripped of all of the arts industry references is a great show itself, with 7 characters that balance together perfectly - just quirky enough; just dry enough. The characters are mostly all likable (which is a huge contrast with AD, where the characters were loved for being bizarre), and play off each other well. The story has a lot of heart in it, with Jeff learning time and time again the subtle beauty of a life stripped of all the comforts of normal, corporate America. The show itself is great without the use of references and meta-humor. The addition of those two things makes the show great, but the overuse hurts the show.

Everything is there for Community to become the next Arrested Development, and it has advantages that Arrested Development did not have. Community has no threat of cancellation, which Arrested Development always had. Community has attractive women leads, which Arrested Development did not really have (Portia de Rossi was/is attractive, but that wasn't part of her character on the show - and she was married to Tobias). Community also has time to expand, to grow, to change. However, after two seasons, Community is near the threshold of losing all sense of reality, and this is due to the overload of references and reliances on creating satirical scenarios, instead of subtely layering in references onto normal dialogue. Arrested Development still always felt like this could be a real family - a screwed up one, definitely, but a real one. Community isn't exactly there. Despite the brilliance of episodes like the Apocalyptic Paintball fight, these make Community get further attached to the reality that is seven unlikely friends in a Community College.

Nevertheless, I will enjoy watching Community to continue to grow (although the run probably can't be too long, since the setting of a Community College has an attached timeline to it). I will enjoy watching it, and watching a show that reminds of me the greatest sitcom of the past decade. However, I will also have to enjoy the areas where it fails to match that sitcom. That should be easy, as those areas are quite funny themselves.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Master of Their Domain

I have always thought that the sugary-sweet praise of Augusta National, along with its uppity Jim Nantzi-ness and its perfect azaleas, and its "Men's Only" policies were a bit dramatic. At the end of the day, it is still a golf course. It's just varying levels of grass, with some trees and flowers. It's a huge backyard. Wrigley Field is a structure. It is small enough and intimate enough that you can take a tour of the stadium. You can't really take a full tour of the square-miles of Augusta. It isn't a ballpark. There might be history, but it really is no greater than any other swath of grass and bunkers. Hell, it might not even be the most historic Golf Course in the world, with St. Andrews' having just as much history. Because of all of this, the Masters is generally a huge collective ball-washing of Golf and its elitist roots. However, at its heart, the damn thing is still a sporting competition, and that is what made the last couple hours of the Masters such good theatre. The Masters was, for once, a Golf Competition.

Golf isn't a sport I normally watch, or even pay much attention too. There are just too many names, too many courses, too many random tournaments sponsored by odd financial companies that no one would ever juxtapose with an athletic competition. I do make a point to check in every now and then during majors, but only if Tiger is in contention. So, I was not really planning to enter into Masters 2011 on Sunday, with McIllroy leading by four and Tiger seven back. Much to my amazement, when I casually checked the leaderboard on ESPN, Tiger was just three back at -8. The Masters then became a must-see for my Sunday afternoon., and I was treated with everything that the March Madness was not. It had drama, it had great play, it had a glut of players in position to possibly win. It was just a great day of Golf, and I can't believe I loved it.

When I started watching, Tiger Woods was tied for the lead with mini-Tiger Rory McIllroy and Jason Day there. Over the next two hours, the list of names expanded, and the competition just got better. Of course, there was Rory McIllroy's epic crash. He hit shots that would make me proud. However, more than just his erratic drives (into cabins, and tree trunks, and slivers of creek) was his amazing inability to putt anything. He really looked like what a 21-year old kid who was nervous as hell should look. Tiger won the Masters at 21 by 12 strokes. Tiger's also won more majors than Phil Mickelson (4), Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington (all 3) combined. Tiger at 21 was not normal. What McIllroy did was, and it was almost as fun to watch as anything else on Sunday. Not that I was enjoying seeing him play horrible, but I enjoyed watching a kid take the lumps that all champions do. Rafa Nadal lost his first set in a Wimbledon final 6-0. Peyton Manning needed seven years to win a Super Bowl. Seeing a youngster struggle when the moment calls for the opposite is a right of sports. It was exhilarating too see McIllroy man up and deal with the fact that the moment got to him, and that he was only human, and not Tiger version 1.0 (1997-2008). That said, after he quickly erased himself from contention, dropping from -11 to -6 in about the time it took Jim Nantz to explain to us the awesomeness of Butler Cabin, it allowed beautiful Golf to take over.

There was Geoff Ogivly, who was once known as the guy who made the most of Mickelson's breakdown in the 2006 US Open, making five straight birdies and tyeing Tiger in the clubhouse at -5. There was Angel Cabrera, the man who quietly has won two majors since 2007, making a run. There was Adam Scott and KJ Choi, two veterans making Sunday charges. There was Jason Day, who unlike his kid playing partner in the first three rounds (McIllroy) played amazing. There was Tiger entertaining the masses with a brief stretch of Golf that only he is capable of. There was Luke Donald, who chipped in on 18 to finish at -11 and officially end Tiger's chances. Finally, there was Mr. Schwartzel who upped everyone with four straight birdies to shut it down in a closing performance worthy of Mariano Rivera. It was just one player playing great after each other, and Tiger really started it.

Tiger's performance on the front 9, which coincidentally I did not actually watch live (but saw highlights) was the first act in a great production. His performance over those 9 holes in shooting an unimaginable 31 was the first sign that the finale of Masters 2011 would be special. We all that it would be in that Tiger would continue his run and do what he has never done, and come back and win a major. Instead, it just inspired everyone not named Rory McIllroy that was playing behind him to gear up and raise their games as well. When Tiger first got to -10 and tied for the lead, Schwartzel was at -10 as well, but Jason Day was at -9 and Adam Scott was at -7. Even KJ Choi was behind him at -8, along with Angel. All those men would match Tiger, pulled up by his performance. Tiger was the catalyst, and the reaction was just simply put, great golf.

As Tiger finished the rest of his day at even par, Schwartzel went -4, Day went -3 and Scott went -5. KJ Choi, Angel Cabrera, Geoff Ogivly (who basically did what Tiger did in the front nine on the back nine) and Luke Donald all made nice runs, but it was the two Australians and the South African that made the day memorable. Jason Day was the unkown kid who played along the more-known kid in McIllroy for three days, but like a caged dog set free, when the cage of McIllroy's presence left Day, he flew, with a great 68 on Sunday. His put on 17, which he stared over for what seemed like two hours, was drilled to perfection, nailing it from what looked like at least 30 feet. That was the highest pressure moment there could be, playing along a player at -12, Day, who was at -10, absolutely needed a birdie. I'm always astounded how pro's get birdies like that. I mean, you have to hit the ball perfectly. Day had to do all that with the knowledge that his dream depended on it. He did it, and did it with style.

Meanwhile, one hole behind Schwartzel was at -11, and was on the famous 16th hole. The hole immortalized with Tiger's amazing chip in 2005. His second straight birdie brought him to a tie for the lead at -12. It was obvious that Tiger, who shot a -5 on Sunday would come up short. Sure he started the day seven shots off the lead, but that guy who he trailed shot 80. The guys who were beating him were shooting days better than Tiger. That is what was truly impressive. There were four more amazing putts to come. First was Day's on the 18th hole, needing a birdie to tie Scott and pressure him in his upcoming par putt and putting the pressure on Schwartzel. Again, he needed to hit a perfect shot. And again, he nailed it. Scott then had to hit a putt to save par and tie Day from further away. For a guy who supposedly hat putter problems over his career, it was definitely not an easy putt, but on Sunday at the 2011 Masters, many putts became a whole lot easier than normal.

It was at this moment, that Schwartzel birdied 17, and was at -13, needing just a par to win. Of course, on a day that was defined by amazing birdies, from Tiger's first nine, to Ogilvy's four straight, to Choi's run to -10, to Day on hole 17 and 18, and Scott on 17, Schwartzel had one more in him. It was really incredible. The whole event was. Those dueling birdies on Sunday were just an astounding watch. For once, Golf was great becuase everyone involved was just on fire, and all at the same time. It is amazing these types of days in Golf Majors don't happen more often. This is a game where there are scores of talented players who can win any tournament. It makes no sense that players often win by 5 or 6 strokes uncontested. Days like this should happen, where everyone is bunched together, and strings of birdies are connected many times, where the leaderboard is more volatile than the NYSE. This is what Golf could be, and what Golf should be, and for one glorious day, it was just this way. For once, despite the relative anonymity of the winner, the Masters was the greatest Golf show on earth, if only for year.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Madness 2011: The Ends Justify the Means

Didn't I say that at far as entertainment value, having an All-Cinderella, or even an All-Surprise Final 4 is bad for college basketball? Didn't I say that the 2010 Final 4 would be forgettable, among the lines of the 2006 Final 4, the last one to feature no #1 seeds? I know a lot of people had a different idea - a lot of people thought that March Madness was imbued with new life in a year where all but one #1 seed was gone before the Elite Eight, and the best seed left in the tournament in the Final 4 was a team that went 9-9 in conference. It was a forgettable season of college basketball, with no great team (unlike last year, which had great teams, but teams that lost early, like Kansas and Kentucky). The tournament was highlighted early with odd refereeing decisions capping a glut of close, tightly played games. It was then taken over by two cinderella stories - one a team that lost its best player off of a miracle season and made it back to the Final 4. Amazingly, that wasn't the most ridiculous Cinderella story, with VCU, who's inclusion in the tournament was met with the fury of a thousand winds from Jay Bilas, somehow blowing through their region and making the Final 4 as a #11 seed. Of course, Cinderella's aren't always a great thing, and that point has never had any more evidence than that dud of a Title Game yesterday.

18.8%. That is what Butler shot from the field. I can shoot a higher percentage shooting three pointers in any gym in America. Most NCAA teams could shoot a higher percentage playing against an NBA team. That was an unconscaibly bad display of offense. UCONN's amazing defense and shot blocking and altering should take some credit, but even then, shooting that bad needs help from an impotent offense. Butler could do nothing. Every team, from this years Pitt team to last year's Syracuse team, to Butler's two semifinal opponents Michigan St and VCU, were all wondering "Where was this Butler team then?" Butler rode a magic carpet ride for two tournaments, but that display will probably cloud everything, and it shouldn't. Butler was in the end, who we thought they were. They couldn't play this well, this composed forever. Sooner or later, they would play like a mid-major (especially this year, where they tremendously overachieved). Sooner or later, they would lose the test of wills to a bigger, faster, more athletic team. They met that team, and the result was historic... ally bad.

UCONN should not be blamed. They were down 6 early in the second half despite in many ways outplaying Butler, and did not get discouraged. Rather, they came together, and played the most dominant 10 minutes in UCONN history, rolling Butler for a 22-3 run. It was hard to watch, but also beautiful. Here UCONN was, playing Butler's game. Butler loves to play ugly, they love to get into a street fight. For once, Butler met a team who loved a street fight as well. UCONN relishes these physical games, and they always have. Ever since UCONN won the title with Okafor in 2004, they have been defined by their defense and shot-blocking. From Okafor, to Villanueva, to Thabeet. UCONN has always had a great defender down low. That was supposed to be what made this UCONN team different. They weren't supposed to have that. Well, here comes Alex Oriakhi, out of nowhere. The best part, he's only a sophomore. Just hope he doesn't have Hasheem Thabeet's NBA career.

UCONN took advantage of the worst Final 4 talent wise ever. The 2006 Final 4 might have not had a #1 seed, but there was a lot of talent - starting with obviously Florida's starting 5. This Final 4 had a Butler team that overachieved and a VCU team that was a team playing well over its head. Kentucky also overachieved, getting to where its previous team should have. UCONN was well coached, and had a singular great talent. That was enough in 2010, and that shouldn't be the case. It is unfair to call UCONN a true one man team, like Carmelo Anthony's Syracuse, but they are really that at heart. That usually isn't good enough (Carmelo is probably the most dominant college player we have seen this decade). Usually teams have to not only have good players, and a good coach, but be deep with talent and skill. That wasn't necessary to win in 2011, and I hope that does not stay the case. There should be some skill requirement to win a title, and 2011 did not deliver.

Was March Madness 2011 a fun ride? Yes, because it took advantage of a watered-down year in the NCAA to give us true madness, with upsets all over. It was an amazing ride for two weeks. However, it was not for three weeks, and that is the worst part. A tournament like this is only great when it ends great. That was the beauty of the 2005 March Madness, which had crazy games, upsets all over, amazing finishes, but delivered when it gave us the two best teams in the country to finish it off. It happened in 2007, where the first two weekends were pretty wild, especially the middle weekend, and in the end had the two best teams again. This was not the same. This finished with a loud thud. Forget the great exploits of VCU. Forget the amazing run of Butler. Forget all those odd referee decisions. Forget Kentucky's great win over Ohio St, or Arizona running all over Duke (although I'll try hard to not forget that one, since seeing Duke mauled like that was fun). This tournament will always be remembered for a Championship Game ending 53-41. You realize that just one year ago, There was an NFL Playoff game that had two more points scored? That is really the definition of madness.

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.