Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Week 16 Picks

It's Christmas Eve and before I give my picks for Week 16, I wanted to point out some things that are making this a Merry Christmas.

-24/7 Rangers/Flyers. Nuff said.

-The first-place New York Rangers after beating the Flyers last night. Still a long way to go

-Seton Hall basketball at 11-1 as they enter Big East play. A legit NCAA chance if they take care of business in-conference

-Watching marathons of A Christmas Story and Home Alone. And if Scrooged and Christmas Vacation are also on, then the only NBA I'll end up watching is the Knicks tomorrow.

-Knicks basketball, who look prime to do some damage (and by damage, I mean win a playoff series perhaps at the very least) this year. NBA and I is a mixed bag, but I do come home to the Knicks.

-Having Christmas Eve off despite working in a retail store. Of course, I still have to shop today, so that's not a overwhelming positive.

-Giants vs Jets today, which means oh so much for both for the first time, probably since the first ever Giants/Jets game.

And on that note, here are my quick picks for Week 16. Happy holidays to everyone and enjoy Christmas Eve football. (Home team in CAPS)

Oakland (+2.5) over KANSAS CITY
Denver (-2.5) over BUFFALO
TENNESSEE (-7.5) over Jacksonville
CINCINNATI (-4.5) over Arizona
NEW ENGLAND (-9) over Miami
Cleveland (+12.5) over BALTIMORE
Giants (+3) over JETS
Minnesota (+7) over WASHINGTON
CAROLINA (-7.5) over Tampa Bay
PITTSBURGH (-12.5) over St. Louis
San Diego (+2) over DETROIT
SEATTLE (+1.5) over San Francisco
DALLAS (-1) over Philadelphia
Chicago (+11.5) over GREEN BAY
NEW ORLEANS (-7) over Atlanta

This week: 1-0
Last week: 7-8-1
Season Record: 112-102-10

Thursday, December 22, 2011

24/7 Episode Two Review

Part Two of 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic aired last night it's becoming clear to me that the Rangers are more interesting than the Flyers (with the obvious exception to Ilya Bryzgalov, who's more interesting than anyone). Last year, no one on the Caps and Pens talk about themselves on the show and the Rangers didn't either. Why are the Flyers? Seems like the Flyers are forcing Bryzgalov to be Bryzgalov, instead of it being natural. I fully agree with Steve Lepore from Puck The Media's point about the Flyers, that they are almost too aware of being on camera when not on the ice.

The best part on-ice part of last night's episode was anything that dealt with the officials. We see Peter Laviolette say "typical Montreal" on his perceived bias in some calls against the Flyers. Something my father has said on more than one occasion. Then you have the refs locker room during last week's Rangers-Coyotes game, which was like last year when the refs discussed a goal disallowed in a Rangers-Penguins game. And the interaction with the players, like when Tim Peel tells Raffi Torres it was a clean hit that Mike Rupp made and when Max Talbot gets warned he's going to get a penalty, then after getting called for one, is told it was a bad call.

More random thoughts:

-Tortorella looked very good on the show, very much like Bruce Boudreau as we see him absolutely pissed during the first intermission when he laid into the Rangers for a lackluster first period. Then we see him and Liam who has cerebral palsy and we see he has a heart of gold. Now all he has to do is look for a Haagen-Daaz and it would be good. Also, Liam is in my dream bedroom (though mine would include some Giants stuff as well).

-Favorite part of Torts' rant;"If you're not going to be stiff, you're not going to play". I expect a line like that to show up on Cinemax at midnight. Also, I'd like to thank HBO for not letting us know if Brian Boyle was stiff before the game in his hotel room scene with Brandon Prust.

-Bryzgalov was great again as he compares the husky to a hot blonde in his typical (Montreal) style. Then you see his thoughts about goaltending and defensemen, which I won't quote, but instead will leave the video here. Tell me if your mind that exploded last week didn't just burst again.

-It's nice to see Danny Briere take in young players to live with him, but having new teammate with his old, divorced teammate and his kids together is very sitcomish (even though Sean Couturier.

-Landon Girardi is adorable. Better scene than Hank playing guitar with John McEnroe, though my mother will love both equally (huge McEnore fan back in the day and probably the one person in the world who watched his show on CNBC).

-Tough to take as a Rangers fan, but all those shots with Mike Rupp getting cut (great editing to have the thud when the blood dripped on his face) as well as Ruslan Fedotenko and the injured shoulder to Steve Eminger are just more evidence to why 24/7 is the best reality series on TV.

-Liked the soundtrack HBO played tonight. I'm not entirely sure why.

-What I want to see next time; all three Rangers games (particularly the Devils win), Peter Laviolette to show that he's more than a hockey coach, some more natural interaction off the ice by the Flyers.

Rushed for time because of work (can't wait for holiday to be over), so I'm sure I left out other great and not-so-great footage in need of discussion. Meanwhile, the Colts will cover tonight against Houston.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week 15 Picks

There hasn't been a lot of picks in recent weeks as I've been stuck working during Sunday afternoons. Fortunately, there's a good chance I won't be working for any more NFL Sundays (and Christmas Eve football this Saturday) through the Super Bowl.

We saw a couple of beatdowns to start the week with Atlanta and Dallas taking care of business (Falcons are closer to clinching a playoff spot, Cowboys are now guaranteed to be alive for their Week 17 game with the Giants). Let's see who joins them and who doesn't in this make or break week (as every week at this point is).

GIANTS (-6.5) over Washington
Green Bay (-11) over KANSAS CITY
New Orleans (-7) over MINNESOTA
Seattle (+3) over CHICAGO
BUFFALO (PK) over Miami
HOUSTON (-5) over Carolina
Tennessee (-6.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Cincinnati (-7) over ST. LOUIS
OAKLAND (+3) over Detroit
DENVER (+7) over New England
PHILADELPHIA (-3) over Jets
ARIZONA (-6.5) over Cleveland
SAN DIEGO (+2.5) over Baltimore
SAN FRANCISCO (-3) over Pittsburgh

This week: 2-0 (Yes, I'm counting both as wins)
Last week: 9-7
Season Record: 107-94-9

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

24/7 Review

Tonight was the return of 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic. This year, my favorite team is involved as we get to follow a month in the season of the New York Rangers, as well as one of my most hated teams, the Philadelphia Flyers. I'm not here to tell if this is good or not, because everyone who watches it knows this is the best hockey will ever look. Instead, I'll just give you my random thoughts on what we saw from HBO's access.

-No documentary can ever match 24/7 unless they are allowed to leave expletives unedited.
-Speaking of, while expecting the F-bombs to fly from John Tortorella, Peter Laviolette stormed out of the gate with 5 F-bombs during the intro. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy tweeted that he found 43 F-bombs tonight, a good start.

-That intro, is as epic as anything that HBO has done. I'm dead serious, very well done.

-It was clear to me that we got to know more Rangers than Flyers in the first episode. The specific players profiled was about even (maybe an edge to the Flyers), but we get to see the Rangers as a group interact amongst themselves. This wasn't true with the Flyers.

-Not enough words can be said for Ilya Bryzgalov. The man who was the star of this interview, stole the show with his first interview. One of the two reasons he's my favorite Flyer (the other being as last playoffs showed, can turn into a sieve at the worst time). He also warned me to never come in contact with a tiger ever. Either the tiger will kill me, or the government will after I kill it to save my own life.

-The Rangers locker room scenes were definitely more compelling, but that's because the Rangers lost some games, while the Flyers are on a winning streak. Flyers didn't find their compelling scene until the Claude Giroux concussion. Probably the reason their comeback win in Buffalo was bumped.

-Fun to see Matt Cooke call Scott Hartnell a "piece of shit", while Hartnell calls Cooke the "dirtiest player in the league". Also smart, since both are right.

-I enjoyed everything that resulted from Artem Anisimov's goal celebration. From the brawl, to the reaction to the penalties that were called, to Sean Avery and Marian Gaborik's reaction upon seeing Anisimov in the locker room. All I saw last week was how everyone tried to tell Arty that it's wrong; turns out it was able to be mocked and brought out the humor of Anisimov. I now expect Russians to be funny if their in the NHL.

-Tortorella is as fiery as I thought he is behind the scenes, while Laviolette seems very serious. While the Flyers seem to have the personality of their coach (seem very boring outside of Bryzgalov), Rangers don't, but are very tight-knit, which help them succeed. Once thing is for sure, his calling out of players makes me think of Bill Parcells (best case Rangers fans, Torts wins a 2nd one like Tuna; worst case, he doesn't win in his remaining coaching stops, including here). Plus, he taught me not to "shit my pants" in regards to Phil Kessel.

-Torts: "...if you start changing some things around because there's some struggles, everyone second-guessing. It's a matter of not losing your patience." I hope he thinks of this quote the next time he decides to switch up the lines again.

-Who knew that we would find a worse victory song then the Washington Capitals "Beat Dat Beat" from last year, but the Flyers found it with Mac Miller.

-I'm pretty sure we won't see Brad Richards again unless something happens to him (the anti-Bryzgalov). I do want more Brandon Prust instead of the quick punchlines he said tonight.

-Finally, I had to end with Ryan Callahan with his family, particularly his 95-year old grandma. You can make a case that she stole the show tonight; her and Bryzgalov. If I was Cally, when I'm arguing with the refs, I'd bring her down to help out. By the way, if you don't feel any type of emotion when Cally embraces her, then you don't have a soul.

So ends the first episode of 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic. I'll be back for each of the 3 episodes with my thoughts. Until then, as Artem Anisimov would say, go reload your weapon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Beginning of the End for David Stern

I think David Stern tonight did more damage to his career and legacy than the entire lockout did. It was the fairest trade the Hornets were going to get for Chris Paul. Yes, the Lakers can pair Chris Paul with Kobe, but the price was both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Bringing the Rockets in the deal and New Orleans gets a team that's like last year's Nuggets, in that they are deep enough to compete for a playoff spot and who knows if they can flip an asset for a better player. Hornets GM Dell Demps should be commended tonight for a great haul for a player everybody knew was out the door.

Instead, after a few owners were upset that Chris Paul was Laker-bound, David Stern takes it upon himself to kill the deal. Now to be fair, the NBA is the owner of the Hornets and in any normal case, an owner can overrule the GM if he/she doesn't want to make a trade. However, it's not normal when a league owns a team and they can't use the same rules that any other owner would. The conflict of interest is too obvious (since the 29 owners own the Hornets, we saw 2 of them approve this trade). And yet, Stern puts the kibosh on the agreement.

I actually could understand the move a little more (still not like it, but understand it) if this was about getting an owner to pay more money to buy New Orleans. Yet, the league's position is that this trade was blocked for "basketball reasons" (leading to a fun night I had on Twitter with the hashtag #basketballreasons). Read the story Adrian Wojnarowski wrote about the trade (my first link in this post) and it's apparent that Stern is trying to control where players going so that the players don't have the control in this instance. Then you find that Dan Gilbert (Cavs owner; of comic-sans fame) continues to write humorous letters to people. Oh, wait, he's serious and is nearly reaching Ted Septien-levels of head-shaking ownership. So much for labor peace; the players just signed the new collective bargaining agreement this afternoon.

So what happens now? Does Chris Paul even get traded? How about Dwight Howard? If they are force to stay with their respective teams, what happens next year when both men are free agents and want to leave and won't make the same money that they can if they sign with their own team. Seems to me that a collusion suit can and will be filed. As for David Stern, this is the last straw. I only remember two other commissioner pulling a move like this; Stern's former protege Gary Bettman putting the Devils signing of Ilya Kovalchuk on hold for circumventing the salary cap (despite many instances of other teams doing the same thing) and Bowie Kuhn blocking the A's from selling Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi in 1976 for cash. Seems to me that Stern is using the blocking in a much more irrational way. It's only a matter of time before Stern will no longer be able to be irrational in his way of dealing with the NBA.

UPDATE: I forgot the last point; this is horrible news if your a fan of the Lakers, Heat (well, they got their guys), Knicks, Bulls, Clippers, even Mavs (eventually). Now, you can't use your money to grab franchise players if you already have one. So don't be celebrating the Lakers losing a player, because you could be in the same shoes the next time.

Pujols to the Angels

And the hammer in the baseball Winter Meetings has just occurred; Albert Pujols signs with the Angels, who came out of nowhere to sign him, beating the Cardinals and the Marlins to the punch. The deal; 10 years in some amount between $250-260 million. Now the Angels have signed C.J. Wilson to 5 years/$75 million and have clearly stated that they are all in. Remember, last year's Angels couldn't hit well, but had a strong rotation in Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. Well, now the Angels add Wilson to that rotation, while making the lineup infinitely better with Pujols in the middle of the lineup.

Are they better than the Rangers? I say slightly because of the pitching advantage and that the Rangers haven't finished in their dealings for the offseason. I'm certain the Rangers will add a starter, and if they do, they still have the better lineup and a slightly better bullpen (even with Neftali Feliz and Jose Ogando starting).

How about the Cardinals? Where do they go from here? Well they get financial flexibility in the future and now can start Allen Craig in the outfield while moving Lance Berkman to 1B. Also, now they have plenty of cash so they could look to upgrade CF (Carlos Beltran, perhaps), SS or 2B. I don't think Prince Fielder just moves in there because it makes sense to have Berkman at first. One thing is clear, it was an end to an era when Tony La Russa retired; now Pujols joins him in an exit from St. Louis. I guess for that reason, I'm glad they won the series over the Rangers. Of course, in the race for the 2012 World Series, the Angels have now taken two very important pieces from the participants.

Today's a day for the Angels. We'll worry about if the Angels overpaid for these guys in the future. They probably did; of course, it's still not as bad as taking on Vernon Wells contract. I still figure the first 3 years as to determine whether the Angels win on these deals. And the lack of New York-style pressure will allow Pujols/Wilson to avoid early slumping, in my opinion. Next move: where does Prince Fielder go and is there a trade left to be made to swing the balance of power.

Meanwhile, there's NFL tonight. My pick: PITTSBURGH (-14.5) over Cleveland.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 13 Picks

No Tiffany today, and because my regular job, today's picks will be quick ones. Let's hope this is the last NFL Sunday I'll have to work this season (I'm not counting Christmas Eve, a day I'll surely need to come in). Before the picks, I do have some random football thoughts:

-If you notice, Denver at Minnesota is a Fox game today. The NFL TV contract states that Fox only shows AFC home games against an NFC team, not road. Seems like they got the game after New Orleans-Detroit was flexed to Sunday night, but I'm curious, how many times has the wrong network (CBS-Fox since '98, Fox-NBC '94-'97, CBS-NBC '70-'93) aired a particular game? A question I'm sure Ken Fang of Fang's Bites can answer.

-Now that Fox is done with college football, can Fox now use Gus Johnson as it's second NFL team? I love Kenny Albert, but we need Gus for at least one playoff game (I'm not wasting time wanting Gus to replace Joe Buck; it won't happen).

-LSU would beat Oklahoma St if they played in the BCS championship, but at least it would be a fun matchup. I enjoyed LSU-Alabama, but I don't want a second one. Too bad that's what's going to happen. And you wonder why I'm not a big college football guy.

Enough talk, time for the picks (home team in CAPS).

Tennessee (+1) over BUFFALO
CHICAGO (-7) over Kansas City
MIAMI (-3) over Oakland
PITTSBURGH (-7) over Cincinnati
Jets (-3) over WASHINGTON
Atlanta (-1.5) over HOUSTON
Carolina (+1) over TAMPA BAY
Denver (-1.5) over MINNESOTA
NEW ENGLAND (-21 ) over Indianapolis
CLEVELAND (+7) over Baltimore
SAN FRANCISCO (-14) over St. Louis
ARIZONA (+5) over Dallas
Green Bay (-7) over GIANTS
NEW ORLEANS (-9) over Detroit
JACKSONVILLE (+3) over San Diego.

This week: 1-0
Last week: 10-5-1
Season Record: 87-81-9

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Night Pick

A change in my schedule at my regular job now allows me to have a preview of the Thursday Night Game. It begins this week as the Team Formerly Known As Dream Team Philadelphia Eagles make the trek to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seahawks. Too bad this game means absolutely nothing, since both teams are 4-7, losing games that would have put them on the fringe on the playoff race in the NFC.

Eagles are still without Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin. Meanwhile, the specter of Andy Reid being fired at the end of the year and what happens with DeSean Jackson as he goes into free agency will be the only things interesting about this Eagles team (except from their games with the Jets and Cowboys as a chance to play spoiler). Seattle was supposed to be awful, instead are just bad. Tavaris Jackson still isn't good, but the Seahawks play good defense, and that keeps them in games, and allows them to win games they shouldn't (Baltimore); that and that home crowd.

So what happens tonight? I think a better than normal Qwest Field crowd since it's a night game, and an Eagles team that usually needs a reason to get up for a game will lead to another Philly loss. Seahawks will win 17-13 in a turnover-filled game.