Friday, September 28, 2007

Race to the Finish!

(It only reads well if you say it in the Super Smash Brothers voice)

The American League is all but locked in. The only thing left to determine is who plays where, and let's be honest, that's the boring part. Playing for home field advantage, regardless of the sport, has a lot less flavor than playing to squeeze into the playoffs.

Which leads us to the National League. If you haven't taken a look at the standings recently (Michael), I suggest you take a moment and look at what's going on in the senior circuit. Precisely zero teams have locked up playoffs berths. The NL East is tied between the Mets and Phillies, and the loser will likely not make the playoffs. The Cubs have the largest division lead at 2 games, and with a series at Cincinnati should be able to wrap up the division before the Sunday, but nothing is certain in the wild NL Central. And the loser of that race will not make the playoffs.

Which brings us to the most exciting and seemingly strongest division in the NL, the West. The Diamondbacks have a slender 1-game lead over the Padres for the division, and the Padres are in the lead for the wild card. But don't look now; the Colorado Rockies, long dismissed as a "can't pitch" team, are 1 games out of the wild card, and are playing some of the best baseball in the country right now. The reality is that there's a strong chance that games played on Sunday, the final day of the season, will be for playoff berths. And there's just as strong a chance that we'll need "extras," that is, 1-game playoffs, to determine who gets into the playoffs.

As an aside, Matt Holliday is just tremendous. He's hitting .338, and is the NL RBI leader with 132. He won't get the accolades he deserves because he plays out west and isn't on one of the historic teams, but fantasy owners know that he's among the best in the game. If you get a chance to watch him bat, enjoy it.

Especially if it's this weekend. All these games are going to have playoff implications.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Suggestions for the Space Race

Below is a list of a few games that have been suggested for the Space Race. They're listed in alphabetical order, so as to not add in my own potential biases. Add your own comments if you would like to suggest any other games. (NES and SNES games work best).
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Dragon Warrior 2
  • Final Fantasy
  • Final Fantasy 3 (Final Fantasy VI)
  • Secret of Mana
Additionally, it has been suggested that, instead of "real-time," we use game time played as the measuring stick by which to determine the winner of the space race. Obviously this would disqualify any games that don't have that feature integrated, but would balance the competition between people who have different schedules. However, it would also change the way I play the game, and I imagine that's true for others as well. Additionally, we would want a cap on how long it can take, so we're not waiting for months and months to find out who finished fast enough.

In the end, it will be up to the eventual participants as to how we'll measure victory/defeat. Again, post a reply or contact me in some other way to express your interest.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Does Louisville suck?

The short answer is yes, but there's more to it than that.

The big news Saturday night was that Syracuse managed to play Louisville's kind of game and edge them out for a victory, putting a serious damper on the Cardinals' chances to go to a BCS game. But this loss shouldn't have been as surprising as people thought.

First, Syracuse may have been 0-3 coming in, but they played...just kidding, Syracuse got crushed by three currently unranked teams: Washington, Iowa, and Illinois. And Kentucky appears to really have something going this year, a pleasant surprise for the people of the bluegrass state who've been disappointed with Louisville so far.

But let's look farther back, at a game that screamed to us that this Louisville team wasn't the superior team of last year. I give you exhibit A, Louisville vs. Middle Tennessee State, a team that lost to Florida Atlantic by 13 the week before they played Louisville. The Blue Raiders put up 42 on Louisville, scoring on plays of the following distances: 78, 23, 24, 39, 1, 79. It was clear after looking at this game's stats that, barring some complete transformation, Louisville was going to have trouble beating any teams with reasonable talent. And go figure, Kentucky and Syracuse edged the Cardinals.

What I found amazing was that at the half against Syracuse, Louisville was down 21-7, and on ESPN News, Robert Smith declared that Syracuse would get blown out of the game. It wasn't even like he was meaning to be bold or anything, he just completely discounted the Orange's ability to play football. Somehow, Smith seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Louisville couldn't stop anyone, despite back-to-back games giving up at least 40 points.

Is the entire country retarded like this? Are wins and losses and rankings the only things that people look at when trying to evaluate teams? Louisville should've gone down in the rankings after their suspect game against Middle Tennessee, and they should've dropped out of the top 25 after they lost to Kentucky. They're obviously unranked now, but the rankings have made a lot of people more surprised than they needed to be. Louisville is the new Kansas State. They have a potent offense, but can't really stop anyone, so get used to some .500 seasons down south.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Time to retire, Steve McNair

I love Steve McNair. I was a big Titans fan when he was there, and I don't personally know anyone who was as happy as I was when they made it to the Super Bowl.

But that was a long time ago. Steve McNair is not a top 5 quarterback in his conference anymore. Interestingly enough, he's not even the best quarterback on his team. Kyle Boller finally seems like he's getting the hang of professional football. Granted, his start last week was against the Jets, but in the interest of full disclosure, McNair's start in week 1 was against a defense that gave up 51 points to the Browns. And McNair managed to engineer an offense that turned the ball over 5 times, including 3 of his own fumbles and an interception.

Boller came in late in that game and gave the Ravens a chance to win, first with a TD pass to Todd Heap that was called back on a phantom offensive pass interference call, then with a pass that bounced off of Heap's chest and was intercepted by Mike Myers in one of the most impressive football-grabbing acts I've seen in years.

Last week, against the Jets, the Ravens offense chugged along. Boller passed for 2 TDs, no INTs, and finished with a QB rating of 97.9. Perhaps most importantly, Baltimore won that game.

Kyle Boller is still only 26 years old, and he's under contract this year and next. Steve McNair has shown that his "game management" skills may be dwindling, since the crux of a "game management quarterback" is his ability to avoid mistakes (like multiple fumbles, just as a random example). I think, with him showing a little bit of sass, you've got to give Boller a chance to take this job from McNair. McNair isn't necessarily the best option right now, and he's certainly not a long-term solution, but Boller could be.

Plus it's just fun to say Boller, if you say it like I do. Bah-ler.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Is the NFL truly the "No Fun League?"

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-tofined&prov=ap&type=lgns

Terrell Owens had a post-TD celebration that was funny, well-timed, and unobtrusive. He was fined $7,500. I'm so sick of the bullshit that the NFL throws down about this, and what's even more appalling to me is all the commentators (especially the ESPN NFL Countdown crew) who say, "Stop show-boating, just give the ball to the ref and get back to your sideline."

What is so wrong about allowing these players to be individuals? Can you imagine if, the first time Sammy Sosa did his signature hop after slamming a ball, he had gotten fined and told not to do it again? Whether you find it contrived or endearing or somewhere in between, it's certainly part of who Sosa is, and has surely helped Sosa to make money in endorsements. Why is the NFL so opposed to their players trying to express themselves in some way?

Chad Johnson apparently had multiple conversations with league officials about his planned celebrations to ensure that he wouldn't be risking a penalty or fine. That's kind of a bummer to me. I'd like to see some celebrations that weren't necessarily "approved," especially if it means more celebrations like Owens' from this past Sunday.

The level to which the NFL apparently dislikes its players disgusts me. I'd gladly stomach things like Joe Horn's cell phone gimmick and T.O.'s Sharpie incident to ensure that the people who I tune in to watch are allowed to be themselves when they celebrate. That's the basic idea behind free speech, which seems like a pretty good idea. Give it a whirl, NFL owners.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Donovan McNabb Is A Complete Idiot

How's that for being more critical, D-Mac? Hopefully when you do your research for your next HBO interview, this post comes up in your Google search, and you can lament the woes of being a professional athlete.

The fact is, it's not black quarterbacks that get criticized more than anyone else. It's quarterbacks. Peyton Manning broke records and was still cited as someone who "couldn't win the big game." John Elway had a similar reputation right up until the end of his career. Jim Kelly is starting to receive some of the credit he deserved, but he's still not thought of in the same class as Elway, Young, Montana, Marino, etc.

And bad white quarterbacks get yanked with seemingly the same frequency as bad black quarterbacks. Cade McNown actually improved slightly in his second season, but was shelved for Shane Matthews, who didn't have the mobility or game management skills of McNown, and proved it. And what about Kelly Holcomb, a career 64.6% passer who's been a perennial backup annually, even after helping to lead Cleveland to their only winning season since being re-born as an expansion franchise?

I do not argue that McNabb personally takes more heat than most white quarterbacks, but look at his specific situation. He's been the face of a Philadelphia team known best for losing 3 consecutive NFC championship games, then losing in the Super Bowl the next year. In that Super Bowl loss, the offense appeared to have no sense of urgency at the end of the game when down two scores, and game management decisions/mistakes will always fall on the coach and the QB, even if the superstar WR doesn't say that the QB got tired.

Speaking of Terrell Owens, that's another situation that McNabb botched. His whining and unprofessional stance of "I don't like this guy, so he's got to go" probably cost them another shot at a Super Bowl. Think about your work, for those of you who have jobs. Do you have to work with people you don't like? I bet you do. Do you demand that they be removed from the company? No, because you're not a Nancy who can't deal with having his feelings hurt.

On top of all that, McNabb is the starting quarterback, the most prominent figure on a sports team in Philadelphia. Philadelphia fans apparently didn't like Mike Schmidt, lifelong Philly, 3-time MVP, 10-time Gold Glover, Hall of Famer, and arguably the best overall 3B to ever play the game. Philly fans are best known for booing Santa Claus and cheering when Michael Irvin suffered what ended up essentially being a career-ending injury. They're gonna ride you a little bit, pal.

Are there fewer black quarterbacks than white quarterbacks? I haven't crunched the numbers, but that sounds correct. There are more white people than black people in the United States, so that shouldn't come as too big a surprise. But the thought that owners or coaches adjust their depth charts based on race is hard for me to fathom. With as massive a business as the NFL is, and with as precarious as head coaching jobs are in the NFL, I can't imagine that anything other than a player's ability to lead the team to victory would determine whether or not they started.

McNabb is a tremendous athlete, and has had some fantastic seasons. If he were my team's starting quarterback, I'd be delighted. (Especially if we're talking about the Vikings here, because good gracious, Tarvaris Jackson is awful). He's not transcendent, but there are maybe 2 quarterbacks who fall into that category in today's NFL: Manning and Brady. If he wants to be considered transcendent, then do some transcending, buddy. Stop popping off at the mouth whenever you feel slighted and concentrate on winning football games, which so far you're not doing so well.

Is it possible that McNabb is right, that fans and media and ownerships are more critical of black quarterbacks? Yes, it's possible. But I'll need some kind of proof before I buy into something that outlandish. Show me numbers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Space Race

Not really a "space race," but a race. I challenge Chip (and whomever else might be interested) to a race to beat any long-term RPG game that we have or is easily obtained. I have most NES and many SNES role-playing games. It'd be awesome if we all had Final Fantasy X, because that's a great game to play through, but neither of us even has a PS2, let alone the game.

So what say you, cowards and weaklings? Do you dare rise to the challenge made by someone who's got a glorious amount of free time?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Final Fantasy - Voices of the Lifestream

For those of you unfamiliar with it, OC Remix is a site dedicated to remixes of video game music, new and old. Among the most entertaining remixes are songs from Megaman 2, Super Mario Brothers, and the topic of this post, Final Fantasy. These songs are always available free of charge, and without any registration requirements.

From time to time, OC Remix conducts larger-scale projects involving the collaboration of a number of artists. These collaborations produce "albums" of music from the same game. The newest such album was released today, and is based on Final Fantasy VII. You can see the information about the project here, including download links. Or, if you use a BitTorrent application, you can download a torrent of the project by clicking here.

Enjoy!

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...