Hey there Emptywheel lugnuts, how is your holiday weekend going? I see there is no post since Jim White’s on Friday and thought maybe we should have a little fun. For the record, I almost did a Fast Trash post for the Monaco Grand Prix and Indy 500, but just got distracted by some family duties and the tragic news out of Isla Vista/Goleta area of Santa Barbara.
I haven’t been there anytime recent, but have been there a lot in the past during summers I spent in Santa Monica. One of my high school friends had moved to the Eucalyptus Hill area of Sana Barbara with his family and it was a great drive up the PCH for weekend fun. And, man, was IV a happening place for young folk looking to hoop it up. I’ve been there on both Memorial Day and July 4th holidays, and shoo boy, it was some fun. It is also a beachside, completely college place where there are literally people out in the streets all day and all night. It is a party place, and, sadly, must have been a shooting gallery for Rodger. I am almost surprised there was not more carnage. Unbelievably sad. There are likely a LOT of lessons and psychoses involved in Rodger’s actions, and I will leave that discussion for another day, but feel free to weigh in in the comments with thoughts on the IV deal, or anything else you have on your mind.
But the title of this post was food, and so food shall be discussed! I started off with this:
Well, here is the thing. I got busted. Seriously busted. My wife walks in from yoga and says “I smell tacos; did you have tacos? For breakfast??” Uh, yeah, I did. And I was stupid enough to think I could hide it from her finely tuned Italian culinary nose. Ooops.
But, if that were not sufficient comeuppance, Ms. Wheel tagged in with this:
Yeah, well, that sounds pretty awesome actually!
Here we plan on steaks and burgers for the next two days. And probably some good beer for good measure. Did I note that we now have Founder’s Beer here? Ms. Wheel can no longer hold that over my head.
Well, Monaco is over. Rosberg wins from pole and Hamilton second from P2 on the grid. I am sure Hamilton is sulking and brooding as usual. As I whip this out, the Indy 500 is on. Nearing lap 130. dixon, Montoya, Hunter-Reay, Hildebrand and Power are the top five. All have the chops and car to win. So too does Castroneves. We shall see. Kurt Busch, the NASCAR driver trying to be (I think) only the second driver to drive both Indy and the NASCAR World 600 in one day, has never really been a factor, although he is currently at 15th in the running order. The race has been ridiculously clean and yellow flag free so far, which is refreshing.
Open thread, what you all eating and thinking about?
Well, the likely answer is no, but the ground is certainly finally shifting underneath the NCAA to such an extent that they are worried. The step of trotting authoritarian boob Mark Emmert out on for a series of television appearances sure didn’t work.
But, yesterday, somewhat quietly, the NCAA announced a proposed restructuring of its root governance model:
The board endorsed the restructuring process, which is aimed at allowing the division to be more nimble, streamlined and responsive to needs – particularly the needs of student-athletes – during its meeting Thursday in Indianapolis. The Steering Committee on Governance, made up of university presidents, drafted the restructuring plan.
Under the proposal, the division would still be led by a Board of Directors composed primarily of university presidents. However, new voices would be added: the chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; the chair of a new group tentatively called the Council; and the most senior Division I member of the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association’s executive committee. The council chair would always be an athletics director, giving that constituency an automatic spot on the board.
The Board would focus chiefly on oversight and strategic issues, while leaving much of the day-to-day policy and legislative responsibility to the council.
The council, composed of at least 60 percent athletics directors, would have 38 members: one from each conference plus two voting student-athletes and four commissioners (one from the five highest profile Football Bowl Subdivision conferences, one from the remaining FBS conferences, one from the Football Championship Subdivision conferences and one from the remaining conferences). The council would be the final voice on shared-governance rule-making decisions.
The steering committee suggests creating three bodies that would assist the council in its work and comprise the “working level” of Division I: an academics-focused group, a championships-focused group and a legislative group. Council members would determine implementation details, including what other groups are needed, how the groups will be populated and reporting lines. The steering committee also emphasized the need for a nomination process that is competency-based and diverse.
In order to allow the five highest-resource conferences (the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 Conference, Big Ten Conference, Pac-12 Conference and Southeastern Conference) to address their unique challenges, the model would grant them autonomy to make rules on specific matters affecting the interests of student-athletes.
Sounds all nice and glossy, no? Not so much though upon closer inspection.
First off, it appears timed to be a direct attempt to deflate the unionizing vote at Northwestern today. Emmert and the NCAA just can’t help but be oppressive jerks can they?
Secondly, it enshrines into the root NCAA governance that the major football and basketball conferences are all that really matters and the rest of the universities and colleges in the NCAA are second tier and unimportant. As the AP stated in their report:
If approved later this year, schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC could implement some rules on their own and would get more voting power over legislation that would affect every NCAA member school.
Sadly, that looks exactly right under the restructuring plan. Now, there is some value in giving a bit of autonomy to the super conferences, but not to where they can exercise their greed to the detriment of all the rest of the smaller conferences and member institutions.
Notably, while the NCAA proposal has taken care of the NCAA’s own institutional power, and cravenly concentrated more of it in the big money conferences, notably absent are attendant concrete proposals that actually aid the student athletes, provide for their well being and insure their existence in the face of injury.
As further evidence of the NCAA’s continuing malevolence, at the same meeting in which the restructuring proposal was approved, the NCAA also voted to screw the athletes just a little more by restricting their ability to transfer. The exact provision is to eliminate hardship waivers that permit athletes having a just cause for needing to transfer to another school the ability to be immediately eligible and, instead, just gives them an extra year of eligibility. In short, the NCAA just decided that instead of helping such athletes, they would screw them by stringing them out.
In other related news, the National Labor Relations Board announced also announced Thursday that they would grant the request/appeal lodged by Northwestern University challenging the previous regional decision to permit the players’ attempt to unionize. From the NLRB official announcement:
The National Labor Relations Board has granted Northwestern University’s Request for Review of the Regional Director’s March 26, 2014 decision in 13-RC-121359. The Regional Director found the University’s grant-in-aid scholarship football players are employees under the National Labor Relations Act. The election will take place on April 25, 2014 but the ballots will be impounded until the Board issues a decision affirming, modifying or reversing the Regional Director’s decision.
The Board intends to issue a subsequent notice establishing a schedule for the filing of briefs on review and inviting amicus briefs, to afford the parties and interested amici the opportunity to address issues raised in this case.
It is not totally clear, but it strikes me that should the Northwestern players vote to not unionize, the NLRB matter may be technically moot and die of its own weight.
However, what is clear is that should the players vote to form a union, their secret vote won’t be know and/or certified anytime soon, and will play out over months, if not years.
So, in short, status quo for the corrupt NCAA.
The lads are back from the winter off. The 2014 F1 season opens this weekend in Melbourne down under Australian way. But things are different this time. After several years of relative stability in the top teams, there has been all kinds of driver movement. And, of course, there are entirely new specs for the cars and engines. In short the whole snow globe is turned upside down.
Qualifying will be at 2 am EST Saturday morning (11 pm tonight PST) and the race goes off at at the same times one day later, all coverage on NBCSports Network.
Four time defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel is back to defend his title. But no longer will he pair with Mark Webber, who has moved out of F1. Instead, Vettel is partnered with young Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull. Likewise at Maranello, Fernando Alonso returns for Ferrari, but longtime partner Felipe Massa is gone and replaced by the aging, but still very fast, Kimi Raikkonen. Massa has moved over to Williams, where he will be paired with up and coming hopeful Valtteri Bottas. It is good to see Kamul Kobayashi back in the show, but he is saddled with a back bench team in Caterham. Jenson Button is back at McLaren, and can’t possibly have a worse year than he did last year. Button will be paired with another unknown quantity, Kevin Magnussen. Lewis Hamilton returns again for Mercedes, where he will be paired again with Nico Rosberg. A rundown of all the teams, drivers and principles can be found here. Somewhat sadly, Vitaly Petrov once again could not find a ride, even as a tester.
More importantly, the equipment is vastly changed for 2014. Gone are the naturally aspirated screaming engines of the recent past and in are turbocharged 1.6 litre power units with enhanced energy recovery systems (ERS). An extra gear has been allowed in the gearbox which, combined with the more efficient motors, allows reduced on board fuel load. Aerodynamically, the noses have been substantially lowered and the rear wing architecture tailored. The new lower front wing design makes this year’s car (with the possible exception of the somewhat pug nosed Ferrari) quite a bit more attractive. The tire compounds seem to be overall harder, resulting in longer life, but reduced cornering grip. It also results in less rubber being laid down on the course, which also reduces grip. Bottom line is the cars look a little squirrelly early on.
So, who is fast coming out of winter testing at Jerez and Bahrain? Not Red Bull. Despite having Vettel and Adrian Newey, the airflow design engineering genius, Red Bull is lagging badly. Mercedes powered vehicles are the clear leader so far, and this was borne out in the first practice session in Melbourne. Ferrari and Williams are close but not quite there. But the Renault engines are just flat bad right now, and poor Lotus is behind even Red Bull in the Renault pecking order.
One thing should also be mentioned. The season starts with a bit of a cloud over it as Michael Schumacher still seems to be languishing in a coma. The latest report is Michael is showing “small, encouraging signs” of progress in awaking from the medically induced coma he has been in. That is certainly good news, but it still seems rather bleak. The sport is just better with Michael in it. Wake up Schumi.
There is so much that is different that there has to be a shakeup. Good, things had gotten too predictable the last few years, it was time for a change. One thing I don’t care much for so far is the voice of the new engines. They are quieter and the awe inducing scream is gone. The sound is going to take some getting used to.
Okay, that is it for now. We will check in with the circus at key points as the season progresses. Consider this wide open Trash Talk, all subjects welcome whether sporting, food or political.
Now that the super exciting Pro Bowl is over (shoot that thing and put us all out of its worthless misery), we are down to just one last football game. But it is a good one, with the top ranked team in each conference representing, and the best offense versus the best defense. And all that jazz.
And, really, what else is there to say about the game at this point? It has been the fascination of sports, general and entertainment media for two weeks of hype now. I could take you through the normal rundown on the teams, but why? My one real take is that the game boils down not to Denver’s offense or Seattle’s defense, but rather to Denver’s defense. Peyton and the Broncos will score some points no matter how well they are defended. The same cannot necessarily be said about the Seahawks. So, if the Broncos defense plays big, Denver wins. If not, they don’t.
Can’t wait to find out; will be one hell of an exciting game to watch. If you can’t wait and want a simulation, this Breaking Madden piece is pretty great.
So, let’s talk for a bit about the game itself in terms of what it means and does for the host city. Does hosting a Super Bowl mean as much to a city as is commonly claimed?
Here is a report on the effects of 2008 Super Bowl XLII on the greater Phoenix area by the Arizona State University WP Carey School of Business. The results claim:
Super Bowl festivities generated a record $500.6 million in direct and indirect spending by visiting fans and organizations, according to the newly released Super Bowl impact study produced by the W. P. Carey MBA Sports Business program.
The gross impact of a half billion dollars in the Arizona marketplace brings rejuvenation to an economy that has been weakened by a recession.
The ripple effect of return visits, family and company relocations, and word-of-mouth marketing nationally could equal or exceed the record Super Bowl spending in years to come.
That is in line with many of the claims that are commonly pitched for Super Bowls, but is that right?
Well, maybe not. There are a lot of demands on a host city, and they really add up. One of the best journalists out there writing on the intersection of sports and society is Travis Waldron, and he reported this on the eve of last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans:
Those estimates, though, are likely fool’s gold, according to an assortment of academic research into the actual economic impact of Super Bowls and other major sporting events. When professors Victor Matheson and Robert Baade studied the economic impact of Super Bowls from 1973 to 1997, they found that the games boosted city economies by about $30 million, “roughly one-tenth the figures touted by the NFL” and an even smaller fraction of what New Orleans officials predict. A later Baade and Matheson study found that the economic impact of a Super Bowl is “on average one-quarter or less the magnitude of the most recent NFL estimates.”
Similarly, a 1999 paper from professor Philip Porter found that the Super Bowl had virtually no effect on a city’s economy. Research on other events New Orleans has hosted, including the men’s Final Four, is similar. When Baade and Matheson studied Final Fours, they found that the events tend “not to translate into any measurable benefits to the host cities.”
There are multiple reasons the estimates are often overstated. Impact estimates usually take into account how much money will be spent in the city during an event like the Super Bowl without examining how much potential spending will be lost because people don’t visit or leave the city to avoid the crowd — that is, the impact studies account for gross spending, but not net spending. And the estimates rarely include the additional cost of putting on the event, further distorting the disparity between gross and net spending figures.
Frankly, I find the Williams College study undergirding Travis’ argument far more persuasive than the happy face one put out here by ASU that is cited above. Still, even if the net impact is “only” 150-200 million dollars, that is a good thing for a city’s economy. And I don’t know what people going to the Super Bowl in cold weather place like New Jersey/New York are going to come away Continue reading
Sadly, this is our penultimate weekend of football here at the Wheelhouse. Down to two games, San Francisco versus Seattle and New England versus Denver. And, really, it is fitting, as these were probably the two best teams in their respective conferences when the season started, were throughout, and are now. So, we are where we are supposed to be.
Patriots at Broncos: While the NFC Championship features two new school mobile kids on the block, the AFC features two of the classic, and classiest, traditional pocket passers in NFL history. Any discussion of best ever quarterbacks has Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in it, irrespective of who you put at the top of the list. Personally, I have Joe Montana still at the top and think some older players, to wit Otto Graham and Bart Starr, are given far too short a shrift. But Brady and Manning have earned their spot in the discussion, and this is a real treat to be able to see them face off, yet again, in such an important playoff game.
The Patriots seem to have stabilized on defense, the Broncos seem to still be reeling from the loss of Von Miller. On paper, Denver has a significantly better defense, both against the pass and the rush. But paper doesn’t count for this game, and I think it is a draw on the D side of the ball. On the offensive side, both teams have been known to rely on their quarterbacks too much. But both have recently found, and relied on, their running game. LeGarrette Blount was a monster for the Pats last week, and Knowshon Moreno ate the Pats up earlier this year. You already know about the QB’s; they are a wash. There is one area where there is a difference though. Receivers. Bill Bel and Brady have been geniuses with what they have gotten out of rooks and scrubs, but Denver has serious ballers in Welker, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. That is a real edge. Then give the coaching edge to Bill Bel….and you end up with a pick em.
49ers at Seahawks: They may be newfangled, but both QB’s in the NFC Championship are superb, and, apparently, evenly matched too. But not so fast. Kaepernick has been rediscovering his groove down the stretch, and Russell Wilson has been looking a little shaky in the confidence (and performance) category. Edge to Kap. Niners also have far better receivers, with Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Crabtee, than do the Squawks. Percy Harvin would have helped level that playing field, but he won’t be playing. Gore and Lynch are both studs, and thus a wash, but the QB and receivers are a huge plus for SF.
The defensive paper actually seems to favor the Niners but, again, toss the paper out the window. Seattle’s defense is bad ass, and they will have the 12th Man noise that comes with their home field. That is an edge. Coaching is a wash between Harbaugh and Carroll, but man do they completely dislike each other. The game is really probably another pick em, to slight favorite for the Niners; however, I am going to take a flyer on the Squawks. I don’t feel good about it, but there you have it.
Music is by by It’s A Beautiful Day, featuring Pattie Santos and David LaFlamme. A completely killer band out of the 60′s heyday of San Francisco. Shame they never hit it bigger and are mostly forgotten now, because they were really good. And to tie it all together, this song, White Bird, is a song about some melancholy times LaFlamme and his wife spent in Seattle. See, it all ties together for the NFC Championship Game!
It appears that bmaz is still grieving the Packers’ loss last week and so has outsourced trash to me. As a courtesy to him, I’ll refrain from loading up the Brady pron until around 1PM, at which point it will become too late. Settle in for 4 games played at or close to 40 degrees (though Gillette will be a sloppy mess), spring training for Divisional round football!
Rivers’ Bolo v. Peyton’s Head
They say this weekend marks the changing of the guard, with 4 elite QBs of old and 4 elite QBs of the future. But the Bolts-Broncos matchup pits an elite QB who has never reached that elite pinnacle, Philip Rivers, against the best QB of this generation, Peyton Manning.
Only, there’s that troubling little problem that Peyton’s own head tends to beat him once he gets to the playoffs.
Which is one of two reasons I think the Chargers will repeat their feat of several weeks ago, beating the Broncos at home. The other is Rivers has really grown comfortable with letting others carry the ball (which is how they beat the Broncos the last time).
Deion Branch Comes Home
Boy did I laugh my ass off when the Colts announced, earlier this week, that they had signed Deion Branch. That’s the kind of thing BillBel would do, after all, hiring a longtime player from the opposing team just in time to learn signals and other neat details. But to do it with one of Brady’s long-time partners? Priceless, even if it only serves as a head game.
I’ve been predicting for weeks the Pats would make it to the playoffs yet again but go nowhere, and I stand by that. I think three things will deliver that: Tom Brady lying on his ass under Robert Mathis, Andrew Luck running through the holes where the Pats D used to be, and Adam Vinatieri kicking a game winner from a very sloppy field as time expires because why not? I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.
The Young Guns
I think the Panthers are right to complain that commentators are underestimating them. They are a great team this year, with the D that has already proven they can hold the Niners — and especially Kap — in check.
But that was when Steve Smith was healthy and Michael Crabtree was out. He’s back and hurting people. Now that the Panthers will have to account for him, it’ll free up Anquan Boldin to do what he always seems to do in playoffs.
Who Says “Short” Men Can’t Throw?
This game features the most poignant matchup, as Russell Wilson has modeled his game on the way Drew Brees succeeded as a sub-six footer before.
This game will be closer than the blowout earlier this year, because the Saints have been emphasizing the run. Still. It’s Seattle. It’s their D. I just don’t think the Saints can beat Seattle in Seattle.
Before we get to the news and notes for the Divisional Playoffs round in the NFL, lets take a quick look at two great NCAA games last night. Unfortunately, I missed both as I was at a wedding at the Desert Botanical Garden where they had the most incredible Chihuly glass display (click on the 2013 photo link). Very cool, especially lit at night.
But, while I was away, the Clemson Tigers dealt the B1G another blow by handily taking out Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. I saw a replay later, and it was a good game until late when the mistakes by OSU and the talent and speed of Clemson took over. Sammy Watkins is unreal, he’s going to be a star in the pros. In the Cotton Bowl, again another close game, but Missouri just had too much for Oklahoma State. For all the talk of ex=Big 12 teams Missouri and Texas A & M not belonging in the SEC, they seem to have done rather well so far. As a last thought, just like to note that vaunted geniuses Nick Saban and Urban Meyer were a combined 0-4 to close out the season.
In the pros, my first comment is on the somewhat startling difficulty of the NFL in selling out three of the four games this weekend, which could have meant local blackouts for home team fans. Bolts/Bengals in Cinci, Niners/Packers at Lambeau and Chiefs/Colts in Indy all struggled to sell out and needed corporate help swooping in to buy up the last blocks to get the required sellout. Maybe, maybe, you can see that at the other two, but the thought of a non-sellout at Lambeau in Titletown? Sacrilege. Our friend Peterr from FDL wrote in with some thoughts:
Reading some of the news stories about this over breakfast, various folks point to the cost of tickets and the prevalence of 55 inch flat screens at home as reasons for people not going.
This strikes me as yet another symptom of the two-tier economic world we’re in these days. For all the 1%ers who have enjoyed the rise in the Continue reading
The dawn of a new year always brings with it hope and change. Unlike the hollow rhetoric at 1600 Pennsylvania NW, there is a whole lot of real change going on in the football world. And some actual football too!
Let’s start with the hope and change. Because that is always wonderful when it is actually in play. So far, there has been change noted in Detroit, Washington, Houston, Minnesota, Tampa and Cleveland. They may all think they have immediate hope, but Detroit is the place where it really may be true. The Lions are chock full of talent and if they pick the right new coach to bring some discipline, both mentally and physically on the field, they have a real shot at being elite.
The team that everyone is talking about, the Skins, is going to be a tougher road. RG 3-13 is a self centered basket case with a father that needs to find a different hobby. And while Griffen is the focus, the root fact is Washington is pretty bereft of on the field football talent and leadership on both sides of the ball. And the retirement of London Fletcher is only going to make the situation worse. Houston might have some hope, but their QB situation is a real problem that new coach Bill O’Brien will have to solve. Matt Schaub went from solid to flimsy in less thatn a year. Will O’Brien try to coach him back up, or will the Texans cut bait?
Okay, on to the bowl games. There were a couple of big ones yesterday, and the big ones start up today. Yesterday the story was, as it probably should have been, the most exciting man in college football. Johnny Football. Give the Dookies credit, they put up an unexpected hell of a fight in the Chick-fil-A Eat More Chickn Bowl. But they don’t call him Johnny Football for nuthin. The evidence is in the video above. Wow. In two seasons at Texas A & M, here is the kid’s bottom line: 63 passing touchdowns, 30 rushing touchdowns, 20 wins and a Heisman Trophy. Not bad.
In two other New Year’s Eve games, the Pac-12 kicked some ass. Which was good seeing as how the ASU Sun Devils got their ass kicked the night before. UCLA killed Virginia Tech, and Rich Rod’s Arizona Wildcats put a licking on Boston College.
But that was all then, it’s a New Year baybee! We have games to be played in the new year. Bowl games, including the Grandaddy Of Them All. Which, of course, will feature a conifer tree instead of the Devils and, thus, Bmaz will be watching from the comfy confines of his couch instead of Pasadena as he was hoping for. Oh well, whadda ya gonna do? The Tree is ranked number 5 in the country, but Sparty is number 4 and has an absolutely killer defense. My gut tells me to go gang green here, but there is one hard and fast rule in life that, while not totally perfect, is close to it: NEVER BET THE BIG-10.X IN THE ROSE BOWL. Never. Remember hallowed names like Bo and Woody? People in the Pac do. Cause they kicked their asses so consistently.
Nebraska has no business being in a New Year’s day bowl game and you have to think the Dawgs will remind them of that. Same goes for Iowa, and LSU will so instruct them too. Wisconsin is a closer call with South Carolina, although the ‘Cocks are a lot better team on paper and should win the game on the field. If all goes according to plan, it will be yet another 0 for New Year’s Day for the B1G. Yeah, I know, nobody saw this coming.
Which leaves UCF versus Baylor here in the Fiesta Bowl. Looks boring from the names, but could be an excellent game. Nobody knows the Knights of UCF, but they have a good coach, George O’Leary, and a really good QB, Blake Bortles. For all the hype surrounding Johnny Football and some other college QB’s, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bortles is the first QB off the board come NFL draft day. Baylor has the better reputation and national profile, but I am taking the Knights in an upset.
On January 2nd, look for Alabama to take out their frustrations on Oklahoma. Big time. Well, that is it for now, more trash this weekend.
Sorry about the late start here, but I have been otherwise indisposed for the last day and a half or so. An old friend was around and we went walkabout downtown. Among the festivities taken in was the Phoenix Suns game against the 76ers. The Suns won, but it was really atrocious basketball by both teams. The current NBA is just not very appealing right now. Ugly and selfish play; little teamwork. It is almost unwatchable, which is a shame.
As to the oblong ball, there was apparently a game at Sun Devil Stadium last night. Earlier in the month, I invited David Dayen, a Michigan alum, to come over for the big Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but he demurred. Good choice as the Wolverweenies got their ass kicked by Kansas State it appears. The game of interest locally is tomorrow night in So Cal, the Holiday Bowl with ASU and Texas Tech. ASU looks on paper to be a solid favorite, but the Red Raiders are pretty scary and can really score points. Also tomorrow, Mack Brown’s last game at Texas, with the Whorens taking on the Quack Attack of Oregon. Take the Ducks.
Today the biggest game is obviously the Packers at Bears, but I won’t be able to see that because I have to watch the Niners slaughter the paper thin playoff hopes of the Cardinals. Oh well, GO PACK! Aaron Rodgers is back, hope that is enough, cause the Pack defense is like Swiss cheese.
Also exciting, and just about to kick off, is the Ravens and Bengals. Baltimore has the pedigree, but I am taking Cinci and Dueling Dalton here. the Pats should pretty easily put the Bills out of their misery. And for that matter, the Eagles should do the same for the Cowboys.
With a late start and all, I am going to wrap this up and we’ll just hit the rest of the games in comments. Rock on!
Well, Trash is harder to gin up for without the regular season college games in action. And, no, the Royal Purple Bowl was not enough to overcome that fact. The only bowl game even halfway interesting between now and next weekend is Boise State versus Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. Take Boise.
The NFL game that most interests me is, of course, the Packers and Steelers on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau. The Cheese has won two in a row with Matt Flynn at the helm, but have looked shaky doing so. At least they are scoring points, which is good because their defense is atrocious. The Steelers have rebounded to be very respectable. Pittsburgh’s defensive secondary is pretty good, so Green Bay will have to hope for a huge game from Eddie Lacy. Big Ben and the Stillers will score on the Pack, and I will take them in only the mildest of upsets.
Probably the best game today is Baltimore hosting New England. The Ravens have won four in a row and seem to be on a playoff run that seemed unlikely mid season. And the Pats always have a tough time in Baltimore. Plus Brady is throwing to the midget brigade again. Oh, and Justin Tucker has not missed a field goal since the second week of the season. Kenbrell Thompkins and Nate Solder have been downgraded to OUT & will not play. I am trying to find the positive note here that points to Brady and Belichick winning this game, because I think they will. But I sure don’t see it on paper.
The ‘Boys at Skins could be a fascinating game to see which sad sack team manages to pull out the win and how. Mostly, it will be interesting to see how Kirk Cousins plays in his second straight start. Take the ‘Boys I guess but, really, who cares? Colts at Chefs also interesting. Colts are sliding and Trent Richardson has been none of the help he was brought in to be. Chefs on the other hand are starting to open their offense up for Alex Smith and still have that great defense. Chefs smoke some horsehide.
Bears are at the Iggles and Giants at the Lions. This weekend really seems to favor the Lions. Both the Pack and Bears have to play tough games, and the Kittehs draw the hapless Giants and Bad Eli Manning’s ever more contorted dour face. At home in Deetroit. Card and Squawks would be a great game….if it were anywhere but Seattle. A hellish place to play. Cards are a pretty solid team, but no way they will win in the Squawk Palace. Which will probably put an end to the Cards’ playoff hopes for the year.
The final Monday Night game of the year is also the final game ever in famed (or infamous as the case may be) Candlestick Park. Cleveland may talk about their Mistake By The Lake, but, damn, they got nuthin on San Francisco and the Stick. The old story was that the only real site survey was done at a time of day when all was calm there, and no one ever told Horace Stoneham and the other poohbahs that it was a swirling wind hell during afternoons and nights when most games would be played. Ooops! At any rate, take the Niners big over the hapless Falcons (sad end for Tony Gonzales’ storied career). Here, thanks to PJ Evans, is a great photo history of the Stick.