Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Top Ten Albums of 2008

The majority of my life focuses around sports and music. There is no way I could narrow down a list of the Top Ten Sports Moments of the Year, so that leaves me to come up with my Top Ten Albums of the Year. Why? Because if you don’t make a Top Ten List of something at the end of the year, you are a complete loser and borderline failure at life. Or at least that’s what the folks at E! and People magazine told me.

Now, I try to listen to all kinds of music, including the majority of the new releases that come out each week. I like some sounds and some artists better than others, but I try to stay as objective as I possibly can. And while I wouldn’t say I’m a mastermind at music review or music analysis, I wouldn’t say I am a moron. So whatever you do, take this list lightly. They won’t be running it on Yahoo! News or anything like that, but I figured why not share my thoughts. You might hate the list. You might love it. Either way, the Jo Bros don’t make an appearance, so I must have done something right.

Without further ado, the Top Ten Albums of 2008 (with a few extras), courtesy of a 19-year-old with no real music education and a strong hatred for the country music genre. Let the accolades begin.

Honorable Mentions

Stay Positive – The Hold Steady
The middle-aged Brooklyn rockers scored there first major label success, finding a happy medium between punk and drunk.

Rising Down – The Roots
I’m not much for rap, but The Roots have a way of sounding pissed off and optimistic at the same time, making for a solid album. The mix of hip-hop and soul works for me on this record.

Where The Light Is – John Mayer
John gets less whiny and more impressive on this live album, finding a pleasant blend of light, acoustic numbers and crazy, jazzy solos. His covers of “Free Fallin’” and “Bold as Love” define the album’s strengths.

The Top Ten

10. Mudcruth – Mudcrutch
This self titled album from Tom Petty’s earlier band was able to crack my top ten this year. Petty and his old friends went a little more southern rock on this cut, mixing old-school covers with original works. The group was finally able to put out an album after breaking up years ago, before Petty and The Heartbreakers hit the music scene. “Crystal River”, the album’s signature track, shows both the versatility and longevity of Petty. The legendary wailer proved it’s never too late to go back home again.

9. Sleep Through the Static – Jack Johnson
Jack’s most recent release was no where near his best work in my opinion, but it was solid and true to form. I listened to this album about 4 or 5 times consecutively on a trip to-and-from Indianapolis this summer, and each time through I seemed to find a couple new songs I liked better and better. While I was much more impressed with earlier albums such as On And On and In Between Dreams, Sleep Through the Static still achieved that mellow, laid-back sound Johnson is always lounging towards. No single track stands out above the rest, which I feel is a good thing. The body of work builds a solid album, with each song complimenting the others. It’s carefully crafted – not just thrown together.

8. Hope for the Hopeless – Brett Dennen
The young folk singer toned down the reggae overtones on this album, going with a smoother, bluesy-folk sound for his third album. And while you can still hear the spirit of his reggae sound come through on a few tracks, the slight change in direction enhances his effort on this record. Less political and more heartfelt, Dennen’s own soul and spirit bleed into each song. In a way, he uses his modern, funky foot to give old-school folk a kick in the pants, and ends up with a damn good finished product. My favorite song - the slow, sincere track “Heaven” - shows Dennen’s unsure spirituality as he sings “Heaven / What the hell is Heaven? / Is there a home for the homeless? / Is there hope for the hopeless?” Well, if anything, this album gives a great deal of hope to Dennen’s future releases.

7. Dear Science – TV on the Radio
Rolling Stone made this their top album of ’08, which I felt was a little high, but I could still understand the merit. It’s almost impossible to describe the sound of this record; you have to hear it to understand. All of the music components from this record have been used before, but never have they been used together all at once…until Dear Science. It’s distinctive and influenced at the same time. It opens up a whole new package of sound to experiment with.

6. Present Tense – James Carter
By far the best pure jazz record of the year. Carter somehow makes the genre sound simple without making it sound amateurish and pedestrian. There is no more John Coltrane or Miles Davis, but Carter shows the freedom and brilliance of the type of jazz that was born in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. It explores almost every range of the blues while refraining from the drivel of drawn-out solos. The album proves Jazz isn’t dead; it was hanging out with James Carter.

5. Off With Their Heads – Kaiser Chiefs
Ok, bear with me on this explanation. If The Beatles and Pink Floyd had a bunch of kids, and those kids grew up and formed a band, and while the kids had talent, they never came close to matching the luster of their parents, they would sound like the Kaiser Chiefs. You can hear the essence of the ‘60s and ‘70s English legends in their Kaiser Chiefs “offspring”, as the Chiefs put their own personal spin on Brit-rock. It will never measure up to The Beatles or Pink Floyd, but it’s still very good in its own right.

4. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
The Bright Eyes frontman went solo for the first time, and he didn’t disappoint. He writes like Bob Dylan and sounds similar to a Tom Petty/Van Morrison hybrid, all while keeping that weird-o, Bright Eyes vibe integral in his music. On the album, it almost sounds like he had the worst week of his life, then wrote a bunch of songs about it – but instead of being upset, he stayed as serene as possible, with a hint of hope that it would all get better. Oberst has a unique way of telling a story with chords and rhymes. The best single – “Moab” - is brilliant, and the rest of the album is on the same level.

3. Last Days at the Lodge – Amos Lee
This guy used to be an elementary school teacher. Now he’s coming in with the #3 album of 2008 on my blog – my how the times have changed. But in all seriousness, Lee turned out one of my favorite records of the year, and he did it a little differently than he’s accustomed to. The typically slow and melancholy folk singer switched it up on his third album, throwing in a lot of blues and little bit of funk and soul. Still, Lee didn’t forget how to slow it down, showing off his smooth pipes on a few acoustic/folky tracks. It’s an album you can put on and listen to from start to finish, seemingly learning something new about Amos each time through. Not many elementary teachers can do it like that.

2. Attack & Release – The Black Keyes
The Black Keys were always good. But they showed how great they could be when they hire a real producer and record in a real studio. The Akron duo hit it big with their fifth album, finally receiving the recognition they have deserved for years. On Attack & Release, The Keys found a nice mix of grunge-garage band and laid-back blues rock, producing a sound that seems much bigger than the two-man effort they employ. And it may have taken The Black Keyes a few years to hit the big-time, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

1. The Bootleg Series, Volume 8: The Tell Tale Signs – Bob Dylan
I know, I know. Big surprise, huh? Yes, I am a huge Dylan fan. And yes, this is a very biased selection for my #1 spot. But it’s my blog, so technically all the picks are biased. Either way, this pick is anything but ridiculous. Dylan shows his genius, even in his old age, with a collection of alternate takes and forgotten tracks spanning 1989-2006. I wrote about this album on my blog back in October, and in the two months since (and the 9 months prior), I found nothing that came close to Dylan’s eighth installment of The Bootleg Series. The album boasts a compilation of songs that the folk-god felt were too incomplete or sub par to make the final cut of his Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind, and Modern Times records (among others). However, as I have written before, Dylan’s sense of “incomplete” is synonymous with a sense of “perfection” for everyone else. Bob shows both flexibility and brilliance in each variation. Whether he speeds it up or slows it down, adds a touch of blues, a touch of country, or a touch of folk, every revision comes out sounding even better than the original. When you improve on greatness, there’s no way to deny you the top position. Dylan earned his spot.

It’s hard to end on anything better than that. Hope you liked the list. Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Week 17 NFL Picks

Last Week: 11-5

Overall: 80-55

Well, about half the games this week have playoff implications and the other half are pointless. One of those pointless games will be the Bengals-Chiefs contest. Personally, I would really like the Bengals to win and end the year on a nice streak. However, this will probably convince Mike Brown that the team is good, prompting him to sit around on his (statement removed for decency purposes) all off-season and do nothing to fix this franchise. Mark it down. I’m positive this will happen. But on a happier note, Cincy didn’t have a single player arrested this season. I guess there’s always a silver lining somewhere. And we aren’t the Lions. Or the Browns. I guess I’m a glass half-full kind of guy.


ATL 24 STL 13 – Atlanta could end up with the #2 seed in the NFC with a win and some help. The Rams could end up with the #2 pick in the Draft with a loss and some help. Best of luck to both teams.

CHI 21 HOU 17 – Chicago needs a win and a Vikings loss for the playoffs. The Texans also need to lose, or else their expectations will be way too high for next year, leading to certain disappointment for the fine fans of Houston. I’ve been down that road before. If the Texans care about their fans at all, they will blow this game. If not, it’s all down hill from here.

NYG 33 MIN 23
– I know the Giants already have the #1 seed, and they will probably rest a bunch of starters, but I just have a feeling the Vikes will find a way to screw this one up. When your playoff hopes rest of the puny shoulders of Tavaris Jackson, it’s hard for me to trust them.

CAR 30 NO 28
– Drew Brees needs around 400 yards to break Dan Marino’s single season record for passing yards. I think he comes up just short as the Saints become the first NFC South team to lose a division game at home. However, I’ve been wrong about this division all season, so I don’t expect to get this one right. The fact that the Falcons are going to the playoffs and have a chance to win the NFC South just shows how freaking ridiculous this division is. From dog-fighting to playoffs in one year? How am I supposed to pick these games? I’m not Columbo.

PIT 23 CLE 6 – Ken Dorsey and Co. threw three picks to Bengals cornerback Leon Hall last week. If you follow the Bengals like I do, then you know how terrible Leon has been this year. If that one game contributes to Leon gaining confidence and having a successful career, I will write a personal thank-you letter to Ken Dorsey. If it contributes to Leon thinking he is good and holding out for a better contract, I’ll track Dorsey down and kick him in the teeth. So it’s all up in the air right now. And oh by the way, the Browns got shut out by the Bengals last week. Re-read that sentence. No punch-line necessary here.

TB 20 OAK 12 – Tampa needs to win and get some help to make the playoffs. The Raiders just need some help…period. A lot of help.

IND 20 TEN 14 – “The Scrubs Game” will show every Titans fan how thankful they should be for the resurrection of Kerry Collins. Vince Young can only hurt his future status in the NFL by playing in today’s game. The guy had a mental breakdown and hasn’t played a significant amount of snaps since Week 1. Do you really expect him to be even a little productive? Really?

GB 24 DET 130-16. When it rains it pours. But keep your head up, Detroit. You are guaranteed to do no worse next year. So, you know, just concentrate on that for the next 8 months.

NE 21 BUF 9 – Matt Cassel just made himself a lot of money for next season and shows a great deal of promise for his future. Which is interesting, because the same thing happened to Derek Anderson last season. Oh, wait…nevermind.

CIN 17 KC 6 – (Justin’s “the fan” choice) – This will be three in a row for the Bengals, which makes me feel slightly better about next year. Way to go, fellas. (Justin’s sensible choice) – This will be three in a row for the Bengals, which really speaks to the "crappy-ness" of the NFL this year. Way to go, fellas. WHO-DEY!!!!!

BAL 23 JAC 10 – The Ravens need to win to get in. Luckily, the Jags suck. Merry Christmas Baltimore.

MIA 20 NYJ 14 – Brett Favre comes to the Jets. The Jets cut former starting QB Chad Pennington. Miami signs Pennington. Pennington comes to New York in Week 17 and beats Favre to send Miami to the playoffs. You can’t even script it that well. Irony is about to slap the Jets square in the face. (No "Ricky Williams smokes weed" joke this week. Ricky prefers I be more blunt in my prediction for such a big game.)

SEA 23 ARI 17 – Holmgren wins his last game, and people in Arizona can’t believe they are still allowed to have a home playoff game. Wait, scratch that. EVERYONE can’t believe they are still allowed to have a home playoff game.

SF 19 WAS 16 – Mike Singletary has coached himself into the head position with San Fran. On the other hand, Jim Zorn has coached himself right out of the head position…with anyone.

PHI 24 DAL 13 – The Eagles chances at the playoffs will probably be shot by a Tampa Bay victory. And yet, I still foresee the Cowboys laying an egg in this one. They’ve been disappointing all season, so why would they stop now? Plus, I’d love to see Jerry Jones’ head explode in the post-game interviews.

DEN 23 SD 20 – The fact that one of these two teams will make the playoffs is slightly disgusting. The AFC West should be annexed and made into a college football conference. Then, their playoff spot could go to the Bengals for their impressive three-game win streak. That’s the only fair thing to do. Can you think of anything better? Exactly, I didn’t think so either.

Thanks for reading

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Dilemma with Kanye West

(Author’s note: This entry is somewhat lengthy, but I think you’ll find it interesting whether you are a fan of rap music or not. So make sure you have some time when you want to read it. If that time is not present right now, don’t worry. I’ll be here waiting for you whenever you decide to come back.)

A few weeks ago, rapper Kanye West released his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak. I finally had a chance to listen to the entire thing, and felt compelled to share my thoughts on the hip-hop artist. Now, my feelings about Kanye are somewhat complicated. Anyone that knows me well would probably be able to tell you that I don’t care for the guy at all (which is true), but that doesn’t do justice to how I truly feel. In order to get my point across for you to best understand, I will give you the finest example I can come up with. From what I can tell, analogies are all the rage in journalism, so I hope this helps.

Towards the end of the movie, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, an important scene takes place. San Diego news anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) jumps into a bear pit in order to rescue one of his fellow co-workers. After saving her life, Ron begins to climb a ladder out of the pit as the many on-lookers cheer his good deed. However, as he reaches the top, Ron’s rival anchorman and arch nemesis Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn) grabs the end of the ladder, threatening to shove Burgundy back down into the abyss of killer bears. Just as it appears that Ron’s life is sure to end, Wes looks Burgundy dead in the eye and says: “From deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you…but dammit do I respect you.” He then pulls the ladder back to the edge, and extends a helping hand to get Burgundy back on safe ground.

From deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you…but dammit do I respect you.” I could not express my feelings for Kanye any better than that.

Don’t worry, I’ll explain. Let me start with the hate. Hate is a pretty strong word, but I can’t stand Mr. West, so I’ll move forward with it. Loathe, despise, spurn – those descriptions all work, too. And my reasons are pretty simple: Kanye West is one of the most egotistical, conceited, and disillusioned human beings I have ever heard speak.

To be fair, I am not a huge fan of rap music, but I do like a little. I also try to listen to all kinds of music and artists, while being as objective as I can about the music I hear. Aside from a few tracks (Gold Digger, Stronger, Champion), I don’t care for the majority of Kanye’s work, and I certainly don’t like it as much as he does. He seems to think his music is manna from heaven, life-sustaining nourishment that is just as important to America as democracy and apple pie. He views waking up every morning as a gift to the world. If it were up to Kanye, Mount Rushmore would feature a sculpting of his face…on all four heads.

Aside from his music, his celebrity status is marked by numerous controversies and questionable comments, as well. In 2006, he posed on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in the image of Jesus, bearing a crown of thorns on his head. He even stated that he was so famous he should “…be in the Bible.” At the MTV Europe Music Awards, he interrupted the presentation for an award he failed to win, stating that he deserved the honor instead. And when MTV chose Britney Spears over West to open the 2007 Video Music Awards, Kanye implied that race was the reason by stating, “Maybe my skin’s not right.” However, Kanye’s biggest controversy occurred at a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina victims. On live, national television, West ignored the script and criticized the media for portraying the African Americans of New Orleans as looters and degenerates. He then said, “(President) George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” before being cut-off.

These instances are small events that show just how self-absorbed and irrational Kanye can be. He seems to be completely obsessed with himself and little else. If you could somehow combine the egos of Tyra Banks and Spencer from The Hills, you would end up with only a fraction of the vanity of Kanye West. I’m almost positive he spends eight hours a day in front of the mirror and another four having self-portraits painted and mounted around his house. He has a smugness and arrogance that I can neither stand nor agree with. He may be a thriving artist in the hip-hop field, but he’s not the savior he thinks he is. He views himself as the voice of our generation and the greatest rapper of all time. I view him as an arrogant prick. He sees himself as Jesus Christ with rhythm and fashion sense. I see him as Flavor Flav with a tooth brush. (Note: I’m not saying Jesus didn’t have rhythm or fashion sense. I’m sure he was a hip dude. Moving on.) Kanye might be famous and successful, but he’s not a god among men. And as you can see, I have plenty of reasons for why I pure, straight hate Kanye West.

But despite everything I’ve just written, I still have quite a bit of respect for the man. No matter how much I seem to despise the guy, I can’t help but admire how honest and authentic he is. In a time where everyone is obsessed with their public image and political correctness, Kanye has a candor and straightforward manner that is refreshing in spite of its annoyance. He has said and done a lot of stupid things in the past, but he’s true to himself, a quality that few public figures seem to possess in this day and age. In fact, he’s even able to poke fun at himself in some situations. When he appeared on Saturday Night Live, he did a sketch that made fun of his outburst at the MTV Europe Music Awards. He has also apologized for some of the inconsiderate comments he has made in the public light. And while I disagree with the absurdity of statements such as, “George Bush hates black people,” I can’t help but have some respect for the way he speaks his mind. He has that Charles Barkley way about him, where no matter what the subject is, he refuses to stifle his true opinion or reserve his thoughts just to ease the minds of others. I may not always (or ever) agree with what West says, but I value the fact that he does say it, no matter how badly it will lead the media and public opinion to shatter his persona. In the community of “celebrity phonies”, Kanye has a rare sincerity about him. He’s real when so many of his peers appear to be counterfeit.

When it comes to his music, West holds a characteristic that few before him have achieved or strived for. He has a unique way of speaking to the times through his lyrics, attempting to be that generational voice he labels himself as. His music preaches a message of change and open-mindedness, a progressive view that makes everyone equal and everyone accountable. Or in other words, he speaks about how he truly feels, regardless of what others may think. This attribute reminds me a lot of…Bob Dylan. Shocking, huh? If you know me at all, your jaw probably hit the keyboard right about now. And yes, it was extremely difficult for me to even type that Kanye reminds me of Dylan. I got sick to my stomach just thinking about it. In my eyes, Dylan is the most influential singer/songwriter of all time and an American hero. Comparing him to Kanye West is more ridiculous than comparing The Beatles to Milli Vanilli or Seinfeld to The Teletubbies. So trust me, Kanye is no Bob Dylan, and never will be. But, he does remind me of him in some ways. That is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to admit, but I’m just being honest.

Kanye possesses that quality that Bob Dylan has, the ability to influence and revolutionize their culture through their music. West is not nearly as great as he would like to think, but his music is relevant to the world we live in, significant to the times of today. He writes about real issues of real importance, and stands up for the things he believes - a feature few artists own. Bob Marley had it. Otis Redding had it. John Lennon had it. Artists such as Aretha Franklin, U2, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain had it to a certain extent. And anytime you can be mentioned in the same breath as those icons, you’ve accomplished something very impressive. Kanye is right there. As much as it pains me to say it, Kanye is on the cusp of what those men and women achieved, in his own way and in his own time. I do not like it, but his authenticity deserves deference. As annoying and arrogant as he is, he’s unique. West has placed himself among exclusive company. He sits on the small ship of truth that thrashes about on a broad sea of lies.

Yes, I hate Kanye West. But I also respect him too much to let him fall to his death in a pit of killer bears. And therein lies my dilemma.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Week 16 NFL picks

Last Week: 8-8

Overall: 69-49

I struggled last week, coming out of the pile with only a .500 record. However, none of that matters. You know why? WE WON!!!! WHO-DEY!!!! That’s right, got the big #2 under our belt. And if the rest of the league isn’t careful, we could end up with #4 before the year is over. But by getting to a respectable (wince) 2-11-1, the Bengals have saved themselves from having their worst season of all time. With the two wins and the tie, we are guaranteed to finish better than our 2-14 record in 2002 (thanks Dick Lebeau). Our reward this week: the lowly Browns. If Cleveland loses-out and we win-out, the Bengals will end the season with a better record. You have no idea how happy this would make me. So needless to say, this is a big game. I bet Braylon Edwards and the Brownouts can barely hold on to their excitement. Get it Braylon?

Let’s do it.

IND 27 JAC 13 – The Jags had a nice win at Green Bay last week. But don’t worry. They’ll get back on track this Thursday with a spanking from the Colts. In fact, after such a disappointing season, I bet Jacksonville fans were a little disappointed last Sunday. They blow any chance of making the playoffs and living up to the pre-season hype, and then they win a tough, late-season road game at Lambeau Field. You’ve already crushed your fans’ hopes, so the least you could do is give them some consistency. They have feelings too. Quit toying with them.

BAL 19 DAL 17 – Well, a meteor did not crash onto the field during last weeks Ravens-Steelers game, so the two teams live to play another day. I suppose this is ok. The meteor probably wouldn’t have been a good thing…for the NFL at least. And this week, if Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed all collided at the same time and somehow exploded into oblivion, it wouldn’t be a good thing either. Why? Because the game is on NFL Network, and I wouldn’t get to see it happen. (Please don’t judge me.)

CIN 20 CLE 16 – (Justin’s “sensible” choice) – Ryan Fitzpatrick vs Ken Dorsey. Enough said. Justin needs new shorts. – (Justin’s “the fan” choice) – For the first time in a long time, my “fan pick” and my “sensible pick” are exactly the same. I see the Bengals winning this week, and I owe that vision entirely to Ken Dorsey. He makes Fitzy look like a combination of Johnny Unitas and Bruce Willis. If there is only one thing that can make us Cincy fans excited for Sunday, it’s Mr. Kenneth Dorsey. Oh, and a bye week. We like those, too. IF IT’S BROWN FLUSH IT DOWN!!! WHO-DEY!!!

PIT 24 TEN 21
– I hate to do it, but I have to pick the Steelers. They just keep finding a way to win these big games. Plus, it looks like Kerry “Lazarus” Collins finally remembered the kind of player he really is. It’s good to have to have you back Kerry.

SF 14 STL 12 – There are only a handful of teams that would NOT be pumped to play the Seahawks and Niners in consecutive weeks. The Rams are one of those teams. That tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

TB 20 SD 13 – The Bucs have lost two straight games to division rivals. Fortunately, they’re still in the hunt for a wild card spot and will have Norv Turner working to get them a win this Sunday. Sorry Charger fans, but it’s the truth.

NO 26 DET 19 – This is where I break my rule of picking the Saints at home and against them on the road. Only the Lions could ruin such an explicit statute. By the way, which would be more demoralizing: the Lions losing every game and going 0-16, or someone losing to the Lions in one of the last two games? I figure, if the Lions “lose-out” they at least get the #1 Draft Pick, so it’s not all bad. But if another team actually lost to the likes of Dan Orlovsky, years of counseling couldn’t even repair that damage.

MIA 21 KC 16 – The great thing about playing the Chiefs is that Ricky Williams will have someone to share that peace-pipe with. That’s right, I’m finishing the year strong with the “Ricky Williams pot-head” jokes. I really hope the ‘Fins can make the playoffs and keep the steak alive.

NE 24 ARI 20 – I’m rolling with the Pats, but it’s all good. Kurt Warner is still the NFC’s starting quarterback for the Pro Bowl and has a real shot at the MVP. He even led his team to a division title this year. (You know what’s cool? Those two sentences are relevant in 2008 and 1999. Any statement that spans two decades is pretty unique.)

DEN 23 BUF 9 – After the Bills started 5-1, they have steadily skidded to a 6-8 record and played their way right out of the playoffs. The result: head coach Dick Jauron signed a 3-year extension. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Did Buffalo secretly hire Matt Millen? I bet they’re already planning to employ Romeo Crennel and Rod Marinelli as assistant coaches for next season.

NYJ 26 SEA 14 – With the Jets poor play of late and a big game next week against the division-rival Dolphins, this would be a prime trap-game for New York. Luckily for them, they play the Seahawks, so trap-game averted.

HOU 27 OAK 13 – Slight parallel here. The Texans have been playing extremely well down the stretch. Unfortunately, they’re already eliminated from the playoffs, so all those victories don’t really count. Similarly, the Raiders have continued playing games down the stretch. Unfortunately, they’re still the Oakland Raiders, so they don’t really count. BA-ZING.

MIN 20 ATL 17 – The game is in Minnesota, so I’m giving the Vikes a slim advantage. Plus, Adrian Peterson has been running angry lately and mowing down opposing defenses. Why? Well, you’d be pretty mad too if you had to wear purple every week.

PHI 22 WAS 15 – Earlier this week, Redskins head coach Jim Zorn said he felt like “the worst coach in America.” What could possibly compel a man to bestow such a dreadful title upon himself? Well, Zorn saw thousands of Bengals fans actually applauding Ryan Fitpatrick as he led Cincy to a crushing victory over Zorn’s Redskins. Trust me, if you were in his shoes, you would hate yourself too.

NYG 24 CAR 21
– If this game were in Carolina, I would probably take the Panthers. However, I have real qualms about siding with an NFC South team on the road, so I’ll go with the Giants. But I am not as certain about this pick as I would like to be. After the past couple weeks, my confidence in the Giants is shot. I could really misfire with this pick. It’s kind of a shot in the dark. It just seems like lately, the Giants have been shooting themselves in the foot…or leg. (Get it? Moving on.)

CHI 17 GB 13 – Last year, the Packers made the NFC Championship game. Then the Brett Favre saga hit, and in the end, Aaron Rodgers became the quarterback of the future for Green Bay. Now, the Packers are out of playoff contention, and Aaron Rodgers is walking on egg shells with the Green Bay fans. I feel this is a little unfair because Rodgers has played very well for the majority of the season. Plus, if Packers fans would just look around their own division, they would see how good they have it. Would you rather have Aaron Rodgers, or any of the following combinations: Kyle Orton/Rex Grossman, Gus Frerotte/Tavaris Jackson, or the dominant trio of Dan Orlovsky/Daunte Culpepper/Jon Kitna? Yeah, Aaron Rodgers is looking pretty good now, isn’t he?

My thoughts on Kanye West should be up soon.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Week 15 NFL Picks

Last Week: 12-4

Overall: 61-41

Wow. I went 12-4 last week. I might be able to make a living doing this kind of thing. Unfortunately, my Bengals have not had nearly as much success this season as I have. But you know what really bothers me? Guys like Gus Frerotte, Kerry Collins, Chad Pennington, Kurt Warner, and Matt Cassel have led their teams to winning records, but Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t even throw a stone into a lake. All those other guys have somehow become winning quarterbacks, and our back-up is the reincarnation of Ryan Leaf. I’m sure this is all Mike Brown’s fault.

Moving on. Let’s get to the picks.

CHI 23 NO 20 - I refuse to pick against the Saints at home or with them on the road. They are a shining example of what the NFC South stands for.

TEN 27 HOU 19 – The Texans have been impressive the last two weeks. Unfortunately, they were superb against the Jags and Packers, two teams who have been just as impressive as a big-budget, Colin Farrell movie. Kerry “Lazarus” Collins ends the Texans’ joy-ride.

IND 31 DET 13 – How much do you think every big name college athlete is dreading being the first pick in the draft? I would gladly take a huge pay cut as long as I didn’t have to play in Detroit. Receivers beware. I hope Michael Crabtree is reading this. If he has any brains at all, he will stay for his senior year and pray Detroit doesn’t go “all-defeated” next year, too.

STL 17 SEA 13 – If this game were a child, even its mother wouldn’t love it.

GB 20 JAC 13 – This game just reeks of shame and filth. These two teams have been major disappointments this season. Luckily, both have somewhat of an excuse. The Jags are in a very tough division, having to go against the Titans, Colts, and up-start Texans twice a year. And Green Bay is in the NFC “Ugly Duckling” North, which turns anything it touches to crap. Even still, I’ll be surprised if these teams decide to roll out of bed Sunday morning.

NYJ 24 BUF 16 – What happened to the Buffalo Bills? After opening the season 4-0, they are now piddling along at 6-7. They have gone straight downhill and would be happy to finish at .500. Huge disappointment for the fans of Toronto. As Charles Barkley would say: “They started out as Halle Berry, but ended as Rosanne Barr.”

MIA 23 SF 17 – The Dolphins control their own destiny. If they win-out, they’re in the playoffs. Considering they went only 1-15 last season, their accomplishments this year are astounding. They should really be proud of themselves. In fact, I can already start to see that glazed look of joy and happiness in Ricky Williams’ eyes. Yup, joy and happiness…I’m sure that’s what it’s from. Also, what the heck happened to Chad Pennington? He just woke up in Miami and decided he wanted to be Dan Marino? He’s amazing. How do the Dolphins luck in to Pennington, but I’m stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick? Why God? Why?

ATL 23 TB 20 – The Falcons are at home. That is the only basis on which I picked this game. I have no clue how either of these teams will actually play, but I am picking the Falcons. The only thing that is slightly consistent with NFC South teams is they play well at home. The Falcons are at home, so I picked them to win by 3. That was my entire thought process. I’m done trying to figure out this division.

KC 19 SD 17 – If it wasn’t for the Rams and Seahawks playing this Sunday, this game would be the worst of the weekend. The “Chiefs vs Chargers” is the Legally Blonde to the “Rams vs Seahawks” Legally Blonde 2. Sure, Legally Blonde sucked, but not as bad as the second.

WAS 23 CIN 7 – (Justin’s “sensible” choice) – The ‘Skins have really been struggling lately. Lucky for them, they get to play the Bengals, which is the best medicine for any team going through tough times. All I want out of this game is a touchdown. Oh, and if Leon Hall could maybe make a tackle, or even just slow down an opposing player enough for someone else to make a tackle, that would be nice too. – (Justin’s “the fan” choice) – PLEASE SCORE A TOUCHDOWN!!!! PLLEEEEAAAASSSSEEE!!!! (I’m about one more 30-point-loss away from being institutionalized.)

ARI 20 MIN 16 – Gus Frerrote is questionable for this game, which could actually be a good thing for the Vikes. However, the Cards are Division Champs for the first time since Martin Van Buren was in office, and no one can rain on that parade.

BAL 21 PIT 17 – Great game. Easily the best game of the weekend on paper, and probably a top-5 game of the year. With that said, if a meteor happened to crash down on M&T Bank Stadium at some point during the first half, it wouldn’t completely ruin my Sunday, if you know what I’m saying.

NE 24 OAK 9 – The only hope the Raiders have in this game is if Randy Moss has terrible “post-traumatic Oakland syndrome” and starts getting flashbacks in the middle of the game, forcing him to commit a bunch of penalties and turn the ball over 8 to 10 times. Sounds a little crazy, but the chances of it happening are probably a lot higher than one might think.

CAR 27 DEN 20 – NFC South teams are deadly at home, and Carolina made Tampa Bay their own personal treadmill last Monday Night. I expect another big game here. Plus, Carolina is made with real bits of panther, so you know they’re good.

NYG 27 DAL 18 – The Cowboys are really heading in the wrong direction. Their owner is constantly calling out players, their coach looks about 2 interceptions away from having a heart attack, their quarterback seems to forget what color jersey to throw to, and their star wide-out has the same maturity level as Will Ferrell in Elf. Sucks for Dallas. Hilarious for everyone else.

PHI 28 CLE 10 – Last Sunday I was watching the Eagles-Giants game between Ryan Fitzpatrick’s incomplete passes. Before the third quarter started, sideline reporter Tony Siragusa said the Eagles would try to move the ball in the second half by “putting their focus on running and passing the ball.” Wow. Running AND passing in order to move the ball. What an insightful analysis. Fortunately for Philly, they could focus on picking their noses this week and
would still win by 20.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Week 14 NFL Picks

Last Week: 10-6

Overall: 49-37

I told you I would get these picks in on time. And I need to stay on my toes, because we are getting down to the nitty-gritty. Only four weeks left before the playoffs and I’m still not confident in the majority of my picks. If I want to be able to make smart late-season and playoff predictions, I’m going to have to step my game up. I need to start analyzing individual games and players, digging deeper and deeper into the most miniscule statistics. I need to sweat over the small numbers, the minimal facts that could end up playing a big role come crunch-time. I’m going to dedicate every waning second I have to the labyrinth that is the NFL, and when I’m done, it will be impossible to get one of these picks wrong.

Nah, I’m just kidding. Then I’d have to miss Top Chef, Gossip Girl, and all those wonderful “holiday movies” on Lifetime, and that just wouldn’t be right. I mean, I have to be true to myself. Hop to it.

SD 23 OAK 16 – Greeny and Golic decided to call this game “The 2008 NFL Europe Championship.” Lane Kiffin spoke of the dysfunction of the Raiders franchise during his press conference at the University of Tennessee. Norv Turner will be prowling the sidelines, trying to make it look like he has some idea what is taking place on the field. Now, I would usually bash the NFL Network and my cable company for refusing to show this game, but here I have to say thanks. They have saved me from at least having the possibility of watching this atrocity.

CHI 21 JAC 17 – At the beginning of this season, the Jags were a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl. Since then, they lost to the Browns and Bengals in consecutive weeks, had to come back to beat the Lions, and got blown out on Monday Night by the Texans. I’m working on a theme here, so just keep this in mind.

TEN 29 CLE 10 – (Read in voice of guy from NFL Films clips) - No Brady Quinn. No Derek Anderson. No problem. When it seemed that all was lost for the Cleveland Browns, they suddenly made a move that would change the course of their season, and possibly, the future of the National Football League. They signed…(are you ready)…Bruce Gradkowski. Uh-oh, look out everyone, Bruce Not-So-Mighty is here to save the day for the Brownouts. No, I’m just kidding. He’s only the back-up; Ken Dorsey will be the one counted on to save the day. I bet Romeo Crennel is already packing up his office.

NYG 27 PHI 19 – There has been a lot of critical talk this week regarding Plaxico Burress and his most recent incident. However, I think a lot of it is unnecessary. Sure, he shot himself in the leg, but he isn’t a complete idiot. He was smart enough to tell the hospital that his name was Harris Smith and he was shot at an Applebee’s. What a creative mind this young man must have. Let’s cut him some slack.

MIN 30 DET 15
– The odds of the Lions going “O-fer” are looking pretty good. I just don’t see them making enough mistakes to accidentally win one of their four remaining games. How unfortunate. By the way, I’m still working on that theme.

GB 21 HOU 18 – Houston played really well last Monday Night, and the Packers have been choking quite a bit recently. But it’s really freaking cold in Green Bay, and Houston is playing on a short week, so I’m rolling with the Packers. And if you’re freaking out because my pick actually made some sense, don’t worry. Sometimes I lose track of my thoughts and spew random, coherent ideas. Trust me, it won’t last.

ATL 24 NO 19 – NFC South teams are 22-2 on their home field. Therefore, the Saints have very good odds in this game against the Falcons. Therefore, I feel strongly inclined to stick with the odds and take the Saints at home. Therefore, I’m picking the Falcons. It’s good to be back. Moving on.

IND 38 CIN 13 –(Justin’s “sensible” pick) – This is where my theme finally falls into place. Yes, the Bengals really suck this year. Yes, this season has been one massive headache I’ve had to endure. And yes, if I happen to see Ryan Fitzpatrick walking down the street, I will throw the first piece of garbage I can find at him. However, when I step back and evaluate the rest of the league, I notice a few things. The Browns suck, the Jags suck, the Chargers suck, the Raiders suck, the Chiefs suck, the Lions really suck, and the Giants have star-players shooting themselves. Bob Marley once said, “When the rain falls, it don’t fall on one man’s housetop.” Too true. So I want to say thanks to all of you out there who are just as miserable as I am. I enjoy the company. - (Justin’s “the fan” choice) – HEY PEYTON, I WATCH THE GAME ON A VISIO!!! SCREW SONY!!! WHO-DEY!!! (Yup, that’s the best I could do this week. I really hope we score a touchdown.)

MIA 25 BUF 14 – The AFC East race is shaping up to be one of the best in the league. I’m really pulling for the Dolphins. I don’t like the Pats, don’t like the Jets, and I really don’t think the Bills have it in them. This means I’m left to hope that Ricky and the Fins can blaze a trail to the playoffs. And yes, I mean “blaze” as a connotation for Ricky smoking dope. You didn’t think I was going soft, did you?

NE 24 SEA 12 – Matt Cassel got torn apart by the Steelers ‘D’ last week, but I’m looking for him to rebound with a good performance Sunday. Not so much because I have faith in Matt Cassel, but more because I have faith in the Seahawks to keep up with their rather foul smelling output this season.

DEN 27 KC 16 – Denver might be the most perplexing team in the league. They lose to the lowly Raiders one week, then stomp the up-start Jets the next. Luckily for them, a suddenly decrepit LaDanian Tomlinson and a constantly confused Norv Turner are their closest competition in the AFC West, so I think they’ll be just fine.

NYJ 23 SF 14 – Brett Farve likes Wrangler Jeans because they’re reliable, and reliability is something that’s important to him. That’s why if Brett says something, he sticks by it. Hey, wait a minute…

ARI 26 STL 15 – The Cardinals can clinch the NFC West with a win against the Rams OR a Niners loss this week. Wait…what? Are you freaking kidding me? The Cardinals? What year is it? What’s going on here?

PIT 20 DAL 17 – You know what really chaps my bum? The entire world seems to be obsessed with Dick Lebeau and what an amazing job he does as the Steelers defensive coordinator. I watched him as head coach of the Bengals for three seasons, and he couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag. But now, he’s with the Steelers, and he’s like a coaching genius. There is just no justice in this world.

BAL 17 WAS 14 – I was not impressed with the Ravens at all this past Sunday. I watched them give up 3 points to my boys at Paul Brown Stadium. Me and my 10 imaginary friends could keep Ryan Fitzpatrick and Co. under a field goal. If Baltimore expects to be a playoff team, they’ll need to turn it around this week.

CAR 27 TB 21 – Finally, a Monday Night game I will actually be interested in watching. Unfortunately, it features two NFC South teams (AKA – The NFC Anomalies). So this could either be the greatest game of all time, or a 3-2 barn-burner. If it’s the latter, I might be switching over to The Hills around halftime. Am I kidding? Sadly…no.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Heavyweight Bout: Bengals Fan VS Wisdom Teeth

On Sunday of this week, I watched my Cincinnati Bengals get beat like the dirtiest rug on earth in a steady rain-fall at Paul Brown Stadium. On Monday of this week, I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed. Sitting here now on Tuesday night, as my cheeks are continuing to puff-up (making me look like freaking Louie Armstrong), I had an idea. I could compare the experience of being a Bengals fan and getting my teeth pulled. I figured it would accomplish three things: first, it would show the pain and suffering I went through to have my teeth pulled; second, it would show the pain and suffering I continue to go through as a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals; and finally, I would be able to prove to myself that there is actually something more painful than being a Bengals fan…or so I thought.

There were many similarities I found between having my teeth pulled and watching the Bengals. The most obvious, of course, was how incredibly agonizing each of them is. But that wasn’t good enough for me; I knew I would have to dig much deeper and be much more in-depth to discover which of the two was actually more unbearable. This was not going to be a simple two paragraph blog, a concept I considered for a mere five minutes before jotting my thoughts down. I would need to pour my entire soul into this project, no matter how excruciating it might be.

What I found was disturbing, to say the least.


First of all, it is much easier to sleep through each event. Now I have never actually slept through a Bengals game, but staying awake each week is all the evidence I need to know that sleeping would be just as productive (if not more so). I did get to sleep during my teeth removal, and the anesthesia-induced coma that got me through it really enhanced the process. I was in the chair, felt a small prick in my arm, and before I knew it, I was asleep on my living room sofa. If I could do this for Bengals’ games, I would at least save myself from the pain I would suffer during the game.

Unfortunately, the second thing I learned was that the suffering goes well beyond the individual event. For instance, once the anesthesia (God’s gift to the world) began to wear off, I really began to feel the soreness and pain kick in; it has yet to go away. Similarly, after watching the Bengals play each week, I’m left in an awful funk until about Thursday, just in time to get my hopes up for another…umm…letdown. So to sum up, being a Bengals fan and getting your teeth pulled are horrendous, even after the occasion is actually complete.

Next, I realized how much fun other people can have while I am forced to suffer. While I was getting my teeth yanked from their sockets (or whatever the medical term is), my mom was sitting in the quiet waiting room, reading a book. When I was done, they placed me in a room, put a blanket over me, and let my mom come back. Now I have no recollection of any of this, but apparently I was hilarious. My mom said she was in tears from laughing as she listened to me slur my speech and make outrageous comments. Evidently, I was shivering like a recovering meth-addict and called the surgeons “SOB’s” for putting gauze in my mouth. She had a great time. I remember none of it. I was drugged out of my mind. And you know who else gets to have a great time? The people that get to watch their teams win on Sunday, they have a great time. The people that get to follow their hometown teams into the playoffs with the chance of winning a Super Bowl, they have a great time. Eighty-year-old women that go antique shopping for nine hours every Sunday, they have a great time. But not me. I don’t get to have fun on Sundays. I don’t even get to be in a drugged-up haze. Nothing.

There’s more. I discovered that both events completely ruin your appetite. All I was able to handle on Monday were cups of apple sauce and small sips of water. My food intake for the day was about equal to what pre-schoolers get for a snack after recess. On “post-surgery” day #2, I was able to upgrade to oatmeal and soup - or in other words: “nursing-home food.” I most likely won’t be able to eat solid food for a week, and the medicine I’m taking doesn’t really surge my hunger anyways. This is eerily similar to how I feel after watching the Bungals each week. The game makes me sick to my stomach, and I simply have no desire to eat. In fact, any food I ate before the game I would most likely “refund” while watching Ryan Fitzpatrick run from defensive lineman like a 6-year-old girl from a spider. I might as well not eat at all on game-days. Nourishment does me no good.

I also noticed that both the Bengals and wisdom teeath are a complete rip-off. My dental insurance has to cover a couple thousand dollars for a procedure I was forced to have. I went in for an appointment, was told I needed my teeth removed, and was praising the Lord and my parents that I had the insurance to cover the costs. I was made to endure this painful, expensive procedure, and couldn’t help but feel the same way sitting in the heart of Cincinnati a day earlier. As the Ravens were making the Bengals their personal hand-puppets, I glanced around the massive stadium for this “marionette show.” I realized that my tax dollars and the tax dollars of my fellow, hard-working, Cincinnatians paid for this graveyard. We were all forced to shell out our cash to pad the wallet of “soul-sucker/Lucifer/owner” Mike Brown. He even had the nerve to disgrace his father’s great name by allowing it to be called Paul Brown Stadium. In my opinion, the field should be called The Gentleman’s Club. Why? Because each week, countless men of all ages squander away dollars and dollars to watch a group of talent-less women defile themselves, and then have to walk away smelling of shame and filth. I’ve never actually been to a strip club, but the movies portray it to be exactly like my experience at Paul Brown. And if you think that was harsh, then I extend my apologies to strip clubs everywhere. Pretty troubling, huh?


After I realized how similar being a Bengals fan was to getting my wisdom teeth pulled, I came to an even more alarming realization: I only have to get my wisdom teeth pulled once, not 16 weeks a year. No matter how much anguish and misery I have to go through after getting my teeth pulled, it will be a one-and-done deal. I’ll never have to watch my cheeks blow-up like a flounder or force feed myself apple sauce again. No matter how bad it is, it's just one time. But I’m a Bengals fan for life, which means the same agony of a single game will haunt me over and over again for the unforeseeable future. Getting my wisdom teeth pulled is nothing like being a Bengals fan – it’s not even close. Being a Bengals fan is much, much worse. And if you know anything about sports, then you can understand why this is a burden I will forever have to carry. Unfortunately, they have me for life.

But who knows, maybe next week will be better. Maybe it will be worse. Either way, I’ll be right there along for the ride…week, after week, after week.

NFL picks should be up before the game on Thursday.

Thanks for reading