Winning & Musing…..The Super Bowl Edition

Word on the street is that there is some sort of big football game taking place in New Orleans in a few days. Let’s talk about that.

 

 

 

A quick trip back to last fall in the ol’ DeLorean reveals that my NFL prognostications were…as usual…hit & miss.

  • The Good    –              I predicted 6 out of 8 division winners correctly. I was particularly in tune with the AFC, which since I am a lifelong Steelers fan makes sense…I just naturally pay more attention to the AFC. I also got 6 out of the 12 playoff teams right. I said the AFC title game would be New England vs. Baltimore and it was. While a lot of talking heads were shrugging off BountyGate and saying that Drew Brees would still make his team a contender I said that “I do not believe that a team can go through the turmoil that the Saints have experienced this offseason and not be affected.” I was more right than they were.

 

  • The Bad        –              While I knew the Saints would have some issues I still had them going 9-7 and winning their division. Instead they went 7-9 and never quite got things figured out. I may have had Baltimore & New England battling for the AFC crown, but I thought the Patriots would win. Obviously I was wrong. I had a brief lapse in judgment by making the Dallas Cowboys a 10-6 wildcard team, forgetting that they are the model for dysfunction. They could have finished 9-7 and actually won their division but lost the last game of the season. I gave too much credit to my Pittsburgh Steelers, predicting that they’d be a 10-6 wildcard. Instead they finished 8-8. It’s gonna be a tough couple of years for the black & gold until they escape some salary cap issues and get a lot younger on defense. Taking the 10-6 wildcard spot in their place were the Bengals, who I said would go 9-7.

 

  • The Ugly      –              I thought last season was just a hiccup for the Philadelphia Eagles and predicted they’d right the ship by going 12-4 and winning their division. In reality the direct opposite occurred…they went 4-12 and fired their coach. I said of the Minnesota Vikings that “if RB Adrian Peterson doesn’t recover as well as hoped for from knee surgery it could be a v-e-r-y long year for the guys in purple” then predicted they’d finish 2-14. Well okay…I did say IF. Peterson did recover. He recovered so well that he came within a few yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season record for rushing yards, is a serious contender for both league MVP & Comeback Player of the Year, and led the Vikes to a 10-6 record & a trip to the playoffs. I not only had the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs…I had them in the NFC title game. In the world of rational sanity QB Cam Newton suffered a bit of a sophomore slump and we saw that he doesn’t have that great of a team around him. The Panthers went 7-9 and are obviously a few years away from contention. And my biggest snafu was obviously the Atlanta Falcons. I said I wasn’t sold on them, that they’d finish in last place at 7-9, and that QB Matt Ryan would soon be looking to ply his trade elsewhere. Needless to say I was a bit off since the Falcons had the best record in the NFL and came very close to getting to the Super Bowl.

 

 

This weekend the NFL will elect a new class to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame next summer. The finalists are: offensive lineman Larry Allen, RB Jerome Bettis (The Bus), WR Tim Brown, WR Cris Carter, defensive lineman Curley Culp, former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., ,linebacker Kevin Greene, defensive end Charles Haley, former Cleveland Browns & Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden, legendary coach Bill Parcells, WR Andre Reed, linebacker Dave Robinson, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, offensive lineman Will Shields, defensive end Michael Strahan, & cornerback Aeneas Williams. The committee will pare this group down to 84b67738157da9e32b9bdabb9bf044784-7 enshrinees. I don’t think this group has any slam dunks, but if it were up to me the new class would have seven members: Allen, Bettis, Brown, Carter, Ogden, Parcells, & Strahan. I don’t know enough about Culp & Robinson to intelligently comment. I don’t think DeBartolo gets in for awhile simply because he was forced to give up control of the team in 2000 due to legal issues involving alleged extortion & political corruption. I have a feeling Modell will get in, especially since he died a few months ago. Personally I wouldn’t put him in for awhile because of how he screwed over the city of Cleveland and loyal Browns fans when he moved the team to Baltimore. Greene, Haley, Sapp, & Williams were all very good players but not Hall of Fame caliber. I’d lean toward saying the same about Andre Reed but I could be persuaded.

 

 

I have to say the two weeks of Super Bowl hype hasn’t been all that noticeable or annoying this year. I am actually looking forward to the game.

 

 

Dear Randy Moss:  No, you are NOT the best receiver in NFL history. While I appreciate Moss’s confidence…or maybe it is more like bravado…the statement is simply asinine. Not only does that title indisputably belong to Jerry Rice, but there are a whole host of others that I’d put in the conversation ahead of Moss…the aforementioned Carter & Brown, as well as guys like Art  Monk, Steve Largent, Lynn Swann, Don Hutson, & Marvin Harrison all accomplished more than Randy mossMoss. It is true that Moss is probably the most athletically gifted receiver to ever set foot on a field, but he has largely wasted that gift because of his immaturity, lack of focus, & indolence. Has he had a nice career?? Yes. But if his amazing talent would have been paired with a solid work ethic & good attitude then maybe he could have spent his entire career with one or two teams instead of five and possibly racked up multiple Super Bowl rings & numerous other accolades. As it is fans are left to ponder what might have been while poor Randy is desperately trying to convince us that his potential & his output somehow match up. Sorry dude…no one’s buying what you’re selling.

 

 

While I have absolutely no interest in Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show (which she will keysundoubtedly lip sych) I must say that the choice of Alicia Keys to sing the national anthem is superb. I am really looking forward to that.

 

 

 

Is the fact that Ravens LB Ray Lewis may have used a banned substance…reportedly some sort of deer antler spray…to accelerate his recovery from a torn triceps muscle a big deal?? No, not really. But it is ray-lewis-deer-antler-sprayindicative of the character issue I’ve always had with Lewis. He is a hypocritical blowhard who uses Jesus as a co-star in his traveling sideshow. I don’t know what lies deep in the heart of Ray Lewis…only God is privy to that truth. But I am wary of “Christians” who talk too much. Jesus Christ wasn’t braggadocios and He does not want His disciples to conduct themselves in that manner. Your mileage may vary.

 

 

So I guess the time has finally come to ponder the actual game. I really can’t get a good read on this one. I hope it’s a fun & competitive game because 45-3 blowouts aren’t the least bit interesting. I Baltimore_Ravens2think it’ll be a defensive struggle with some big plays that’ll drive the score deceptively higher than what it’d otherwise be. I couldn’t possibly care less about the Harbaugh brothers angle (I think a Broncos-Giants Peyton vs. Eli battle would be far more fascinating). While I feel bad for 49ers QB Alex Smith I believe that Colin Kaepernick is the better player and Smith will get a better payday from some other team in a few months that he has ever deserved. Ravens QB Joe Flacco is the real San-Francisco-49ersdeal and anyone who’s still on the fence about him is either obstinate or stupid. So how will it shake out?? The Ravens defense…mostly because of Lewis…gets more hype, but I really like the San Francisco defense. I think they make the difference. The true battle will be on the ground with the 49ers rushing attack of Frank Gore & LaMichael James going against Baltimore’s Ray Rice & Bernard Pierce. I’m guessing that the 49ers will gain 100-150 yards on the ground while I think the Ravens will struggle to rush for 100 and that is the difference. Keep an eye on time of possession. I’m predicting that the San Francisco 49ers wins that and will win the Super Bowl 27-21. Kaepernick will rush for a TD and throw two, winning the MVP easily. I may be wrong, I may be right, & I may be crazy.

 

 

 

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 2.13

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

As a proud Trekkie and a huge fan of the Star Wars saga I am a bit…ambivalent…about JJ Abrams directing a new Star Wars film. It is my understanding that George Lucas had a 9 part series in his mind originally, so the idea of a new sequel trilogy is not inherently bothersome. However, we don’t have enough data. Is a sequel what is being planned?? If so, and the original stars…Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, & Harrison Ford…are involved in a passing of the torch then it could work. But if the plan is to do a remake or a reboot then I’m not sure I’d be all that interested. Abrams did a nice job trekrebooting Trek, but the way in which it was done was so brilliantly delicate that it simply cannot & should not be repeated. Then of course there is the matter of the Star Wars prequel trilogy that was done a decade ago. While the movies weren’t as bad (especially Episode III) as some cynics accuse them of being they also did not live up to all the hype. I suppose that may provide the benefit of lowered expectations for these sequels, which might not be such a horrible thing. And finally, I think some things should exist in their own space…separate but equal. Ketchup & mayo are both great…but different. Batman, Superman, & Spiderman all kick ass, but inswars different ways. I am not sure how I feel about the same director helming both Star Trek and Star Wars. It just seems odd. As much as I liked The Hobbit movie I still feel like it would have been better if Peter Jackson hadn’t been involved. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are vastly different in tone, despite both being written by author JRR Tolkien, and I felt like the movies should reflect that. They do not. Star Trek and Star Wars are both legendary achievements in sci-fi, but they are different. Let’s hope Abrams is able to do both stories justice while keeping them at a proper distance from one another.

 

 

globe-young-driver-flat-cap--blackI am a hat guy. If I’m trying to be stylish I will occasionally wear a fedora, a GungaBWbkporky pie hat, or a flat cap (sometimes referred to as a bunnet). However, more often than not I prefer a good ol’ baseball cap. Even with a ball hat though I am a bit neurotic. I don’t like trucker hats, not only because of the negative redneck connotation but also because I think the mesh looks tacky. I also do not like snapback hats or adjustable hats with a Velcro closure. They look cheap & low class. I prefer a fitted hat whenever possible but because I have a huge head (my Dad says that’s a trait from Mom’s side of the family) oftentimes I have trouble finding the right size. So my second choice is an adjustable cap with a decent looking belted closure, which is far more tasteful than the snapback or Velcro.

 

 

Normally a story involving a sports star like golfer Phil Mickelson would be reserved for an installment of Winning & Musing, but the latest news involving Mickelson doesn’t have anything to do with sports. Recently he publicly lamented in an interview that between his state & federal taxes he’s shelling out about 63% of his income to Uncle Sam and hinted that he may have to move out of California (undoubtedly the worst run & most fiscally irresponsible state in the nation). And then it phil-mickelsonhappened…the drive-by media turned on Phil Mickelson like a viper. Uncle_Sam_Obama-1Because he is perceived as being “rich” it was deemed insensitive of him to complain about only getting to keep 37 cents out of each dollar he earns. My lackadaisical attempt at research tells me that he earned about $48 million in 2012, meaning that he gets to keep a little more than $17 million while paying about $30 million in taxes. Liberal logic would say that $17 million is more than enough for a man to live on, even if he is supporting a wife & three children. But let’s take it down to a level most of us can better wrap our heads around. The median household income in 2012 was about $50k. Imagine if you will that you worked hard and brought in $50,000 only to see $31,500 of it go back out in taxes…and that is before you’ve paid the mortgage & utilities, made any car payments, or eaten. You’d have to do those things on the $18,500 that’s left. Wouldn’t you be pissed?? But Mickelson, because he is “rich” (and has just about the coolest job imaginable) apparently has no right to complain and was shamed into making a public apology. That’s what we’ve come to in America…having to apologize for expressing an honest opinion and for wanting to keep more than 1/3 of our earned income. I find that very sad. Your mileage may vary.

 

Speaking of movies…

There are times when interesting films arrive in the theater right around Christmas and between holiday stuff, work commitments, family time, and bad weather I just don’t make it to see them before the end of the year, which makes them ineligible for a Sammy Award nomination (yes…there are rules). Two 2012 examples were the Billy Crystal/Bette Midler comedy Parental Guidance and Silver Linings Playbook, which is nominated for multiple Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actress, & Best Actor. Actually Playbook was released in November but just showed up in my town this month. That same weekend in November the final installment of that Twilight crapfest was released and we did get that here, but had to wait two months for a critically acclaimed award pgwinning film. The joys of small town life. But I digress. I’d give both movies thumbs up. Parental Guidance is a mildly amusing tale about grandparents, parents, culture clash, & the generation gap. Crystal & Midler gel nicely, and Marisa Tomei is always easy on the eyes. It’s a forgettable story, but there are worse ways to spend two hours. Silver Linings Playbook is about two people who are more than neurotic but less than insane. Actually they are just lonely & depressed and luckily find each other to lean on. Jennifer Silver-Linings-Playbook-1984905Lawrence is this generation’s Meryl Streep. She can do comedy, action, & drama, and can be tough, sexy, funny, & vulnerable…sometimes all in the same scene. That’s talent. And if you only know Bradley Cooper from the Hangover films then you’ll be surprised at how good of an actor he really is. Oh…did I mention that DeNiro is in this movie too?? I think he is actually nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, although I am assuming that is based largely on his reputation as a living legend because this, while a fine performance, doesn’t measure up to his more memorable roles.

 

The following are the 157 guns that Senator Diane Feinstein…a lib from California…has made a proposal to ban:

RIFLES:                    All AK types, including the following: AK, AK47, AK47S, AK–74, AKM, AKS, ARM, MAK90, MISR, NHM90, NHM91, Rock River Arms LAR–47, SA85, SA93, Vector Arms AK–47, VEPR, WASR–10, and WUM, IZHMASH Saiga AK, MAADI AK47 and ARM, Norinco 56S, 56S2, 84S, and 86S, Poly Technologies AK47 and AKS. All AR types, including the following: AR–10, AR–15, Armalite M15 22LR Carbine, Armalite M15–T, Barrett REC7, Beretta AR–70, Bushmaster ACR, Bushmaster Carbon 15, Bushmaster MOE series, Bushmaster XM15, Colt Match Target Rifles, DoubleStar AR rifles, DPMS Tactical Rifles, Heckler & Koch MR556, Olympic Arms, Remington R–15 rifles, Rock River Arms LAR–15, Sig Sauer SIG516 rifles, Smith & Wesson M&P15 Rifles, Stag Arms AR rifles, Sturm, Ruger & Co. SR556 rifles; Barrett M107A1; Barrett M82A1; Beretta CX4 feinsteinStorm; Calico Liberty Series; CETME Sporter; Daewoo K–1, K–2, Max 1, Max 2, AR 100, and AR 110C; Fabrique Nationale/FN Herstal FAL, LAR, 22 FNC, 308 Match, L1A1 Sporter, PS90, SCAR, and FS2000; Feather Industries AT–9; Galil Model AR and Model ARM; Hi-Point Carbine; HK–91, HK–93, HK–94, HK–PSG–1 and HK USC; Kel-Tec Sub–2000, SU–16, and RFB; SIG AMT, SIG PE–57, Sig Sauer SG 550, and Sig Sauer SG 551; Springfield Armory SAR–48; Steyr AUG; Sturm, Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rife M–14/20CF. All Thompson rifles, including the following: Thompson M1SB, Thompson T1100D, Thompson T150D, Thompson T1B, Thompson T1B100D, Thompson T1B50D, Thompson T1BSB, Thompson T1–C, Thompson T1D, Thompson T1SB, Thompson T5, Thompson T5100D, Thompson TM1, Thompson TM1C; UMAREX UZI Rifle; UZI Mini Carbine, UZI Model A Carbine, and UZI Model B Carbine; Valmet M62S, M71S, and M78; Vector Arms UZI Type; Weaver Arms Nighthawk; Wilkinson Arms Linda Carbine.

PISTOLS:  All AK–47 types, including the following: Centurion 39 AK pistol, Draco AK–47 pistol, GunsHCR AK–47 pistol, IO Inc. Hellpup AK–47 pistol, Krinkov pistol, Mini Draco AK–47 pistol, Yugo Krebs Krink pistol. All AR–15 types, including the following: American Spirit AR–15 pistol, Bushmaster Carbon 15 pistol, DoubleStar Corporation AR pistol, DPMS AR–15 pistol, Olympic Arms AR–15 pistol, Rock River Arms LAR 15 pistol; Calico Liberty pistols; DSA SA58 PKP FAL pistol; Encom MP–9 and MP–45; Heckler & Koch model SP-89 pistol; Intratec AB–10, TEC–22 Scorpion, TEC–9, and TEC–DC9; Kel-Tec PLR 16 pistol.The following MAC types: MAC–10, MAC–11; Masterpiece Arms MPA A930 Mini Pistol, MPA460 Pistol, MPA Tactical Pistol, and MPA Mini Tactical Pistol; Military Armament Corp. Ingram M–11, Velocity Arms VMAC; Sig Sauer P556 pistol; Sites Spectre. All Thompson types, including the following: Thompson TA510D, Thompson TA5. All UZI types, including: Micro-UZI.

SHOTGUNS:            Franchi LAW–12 and SPAS 12. All IZHMASH Saiga 12 types, including the following: IZHMASH Saiga 12, IZHMASH Saiga 12S, IZHMASH Saiga 12S EXP–01, IZHMASH Saiga 12K, IZHMASH Saiga 12K–030, IZHMASH Saiga 12K–040 Taktika; Streetsweeper; Striker 12.

BELT-FED FIREARMS:             All belt-fed semiautomatic firearms including TNW M2HB.

Now I am far from a firearms expert. As a matter of fact I do not currently own a gun although that may change in the near future. However, I am smart enough to recognize the terms pistol & shotgun and figure out (as if I didn’t already know) that the Democrats in Congress and the “gentleman” in the White House are willing & prepared to use the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary to spit all over The Constitution and take a major step toward a complete gun ban in America. I feel sorry for anyone who has been under the delusion that it can’t happen here. It can and it is. Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

 

I did not watch one single second of President Obama’s second immaculation, but apparently the big controversy is that alleged singer Beyonce lip synched the national anthem. Look, I’m not stupid…I know lip synching isn’t unusual these days. It is likely that a vast majority of what one sees at the average rock concert nowadays is phony. It’s not about the singing anymore it’s about the beyonce-sexy-1show…the lights, the pyro, the choreography. But I am kind of old-fashioned when it comes to the anthem. Being chosen to perform at a Presidential inauguration is an honor no matter what kind of jackass the person being inaugurated might be. It’s a ceremony full of tradition & class. Is it too much to ask that our national anthem be treated with some level of reverence & admiration?? For God’s sake Beyonce…you’re singing The Star Spangled Banner at the U.S. Capitol in front of the leader of the free world and a virtual who’s who of national statesmen, not performing Put A Ring On It at the MTV Awards. Have some respect.

 

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.13

Not a lot of stories to cover today, but alot to say about the few big stories that there are…..

 

 

What a long strange trip it has been for Lance Armstrong. I didn’t watch the show because I would rather soak my private parts in scalding hot vinegar while simultaneously being beaten in the face with a bat made of thumbtacks rather than provide Satan’s favorite talk show host Oprah with the 021323-lance-armstrongratings for her “network” that she so desperately craves, but one would have to have been hiding in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan this past week not to know that after years of vehement denials Armstrong finally admitted to using illegal performance enhancing drugs. The strange dichotomy with Armstrong is that he cannot so easily be discarded into the trash heap of shunned former athletes who have been proven to be megalomaniacal cheaters. ESPN’s Stuart Scott, who continues to fight cancer to this day, offered a passionate defense of Armstrong on Mike & Mike in the Morning this week, saying in essence that the things that have been accomplished & the people who have been helped by Armstrong’s Livestrong charity are far more significant than the fact that he cheated to win a meaningless (in the grand scheme of life) bike race that few armstrong-lance-110609-8colpeople in America care about anyway. It strikes me that it is a contradiction that applies…to varying degrees…to nearly all of us. Very few people are all bad or all good. I know lots of good people who have some major flaws, and I have been acquainted with people in my life that I didn’t particularly like for one reason or another who nevertheless had families & friends who I am sure wouldn’t hesitate to enumerate the person’s vast array of positive traits. Right now it is easy to dump on Lance Armstrong, but just like other famous folks that we love to hate…Barry Bonds, the Kardashian twits, Lindsay Lohan, etc…I suspect that if we met him or them in person they’d make a generally favorable impression. Such is the everlasting complexity & imperfection that is humanity.

 

 

Now that the NFL coaching carousel has stopped spinning it is time to make a snap judgment about what each of the teams who fired & hired were able to accomplish. Of course no one ever knows exactly how these things are going to play out because there are so many variables that go into building a successful football team. It is difficult to gauge if a retread will be more or less effective in their new job as compared to former gigs and it is nearly impossible to forecast whether or not a fresh face will be a great coach or a complete bust. It is all just a big ol’ shot in the dark that can go one way or another based on countless things big & small. But hey, we’ll give it a shot anyway.

Grading the recent NFL coaching hires:

Arizona Cardinals          Bruce Arians          B

As a Steelers fan I have an appreciation for what Arians was able to accomplish as offensive coordinator fromLouisville_Cardinals 2007-11 and one also cannot underestimate his role in guiding the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs this season while head coach Chuck Pagano was battling cancer most of the year. The Cardinals must get a legitimate starting QB and either Beanie Wells or the oft injured Ryan Williams has to seize the primary RB role. If those things happen Arians could have tremendous success down the road.

Buffalo Bills                    Doug Marrone       B-

This isn’t Marrone’s first rodeo in the NFL, as he spent several years as an assistant with the NY Jets & New BuffaloBillsRedOrleans Saints before being the head coach at Syracuse the past few years, a program which looked like it might be on its way back to respectability in 2012 after a decade as a bottom feeder. It isn’t a sexy hire for the Bills, but it just might be effective, especially if they can grab a franchise QB in this year’s draft.

Chicago Bears               Marc Trestman       B-

Trestman has been on & off the NFL radar for years. He’s had effective stints as an offensive bears2coordinator/quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, & Miami Dolphins…among others…stretching back over two decades. More recently he has won two Grey Cups as a head coach in the CFL. The general consensus is that if anyone can help QB Jay Cutler fulfill his potential it is Marc Trestman. We’ll see.

Cleveland Browns       Rob Chudzinski      C-

To be perfectly honest the grade was initially a D. The Browns really needed to make a splash with the hiring of 365752their 7th coach in 14 years and, with all due respect, Chudzinski doesn’t even come close. However, he scored a major coup by snagging Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Turner is one of those guys who doesn’t quite seem to have what it takes to be a head coach but he is an excellent assistant. I don’t know if anyone can really turn around the lowly Browns, but if the new ownership & management has some patience and maintains consistency instead of changing coaches like people change socks then maybe this thing has a puncher’s chance of working.

Jacksonville Jaguars    Gus Bradley        C+

Who?? Bradley was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, a group which allowed their opponents only a nugget more than 15 points per game in 2012, making them one of the league’s top defenses. Jacksonville_JaguarsKudos to the Jags for going with a fresh face rather than a tired old retread. However, it’ll all be for naught if they don’t have the balls to pull the plug on the Blaine Gabbert failure ASAP and either trade for a young QB with potential (names like Matt Flynn, Ryan Mallett, & Kirk Cousins immediately spring to mind) or make the right selection with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. A note to the Jags: if the KC Chiefs pass on QB Geno Smith you should probably follow suit. FYI…the + is because the dude is named Gus. I like guys named Gus. It’s a solid, tough, manly name…unlike Blaine.

Kansas City Chiefs      Andy Reid          B

I am of the opinion that a confluence of events lined up juuuust right (or wrong I guess) to sabotage Reid’s last couple of years with the Philadelphia Eagles. By no means do I believe he is a bad coach. The untimely death of his son during training camp due to a drug overdose seems to have been completely glossed over, but in hindsight kc-chiefs-logomaybe he would have been wise to take this past season off to deal with that loss, and no one can convince me that it did not have a deleterious effect. I think the change of scenery will be a good thing, and because the AFC West is a weak division there may be rapid dividends. Everything hinges on the quarterback situation. It might not be a bad idea for the Chiefs to sign a veteran band-aid (Jason Campbell, David Garrard, Kellen Clemens, Rex Grossman, & Matt Moore are all available) in addition to drafting a rookie QB. Now the question is should they use the top overall pick for that purpose. My answer would be no. I’d grab a big time left tackle with that choice and take a QB in the 2nd round.

Philadelphia Eagles        Chip Kelly           A-

The minus is only because of the poor way the hire was handled, with Kelly initially saying he was going to stay at Oregon then changing his mind 2 weeks later after the Eagles had interviewed practically everyone but Jerry eaglesGlanville and the reanimated corpse of George Allen for the job. The history of college coaches transitioning to the NFL is hit & miss. Guys like Jimmy Johnson, John Robinson, Jim Harbaugh, &  Bobby Ross pulled it off. Others…Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, & Dennis Erickson just to name a few…not so much. My money is on Kelly being successful. The Eagles are a solid organization with good support from ownership who have been a perennial playoff team until the past couple of seasons. Kelly isn’t exactly starting from scratch. If he can turn Nick Foles into a decent starting QB and take advantage of the considerable talents of players like RB LeSean McCoy & WR DeSean Jackson then we might just see a fairly quick turnaround. The NFC East is traditionally a tough division, but the Cowboys are a mess, the Redskins don’t know what the immediate future holds due to the knee injury to RGIII, and the NY Giants seem to have plateaued.

San Diego Chargers         Mike McCoy           C

McCoy spent the past few years as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, which means his potential is difficult     to gauge. Before this year he had to rely on guys like Kyle Orton & Brady Quinn as his QBs and was San_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3forced to endure the Tebow circus in 2011. Then in 2012 Peyton Manning came along, and who in the world could possibly screw that up?? Having said all that, this is, like the situation in Jacksonville, another case where a newcomer is being given a shot rather than hiring some failed harbinger of mediocrity. I have to give props to San Diego for rolling the dice, but there just isn’t enough data to offer a proper evaluation just yet.

 

 

I have been searching for the right words to assess the Manti Te’o story at Notre Dame. It seems to me that there are two possibilities. Either he was in on the whole thing, which makes him a filthy liar, or he was made a fool of by a few tricksters who perpetuated this joke for no apparent reason other than boredom & cruelty since there doesn’t seem to be any tangible gain to be gotten. After much consideration I am leaning toward the latter probability. And while that would absolve Te’o of any responsibility in regards to straight up lying to the American public, it still leaves one with the inescapable impression of him as an emotionally crippled 12 year old masquerading as a man. teoEither way he appears to be a rather pathetic human being with some curious mental issues who is under the delusion that a woman you’ve never met can be considered your girlfriend. What is almost as amazing to me is that I’ve heard multiple talking heads…football “experts”…say that all this is unlikely to have any significant negative impact on his NFL Draft status. Really?? I’m sorry, but linebackers aren’t that tough to find. I’d rather take some unknown kid out of a small school in the 4th or 5th round, sign him for peanuts, and give him an opportunity to shine than guarantee this wackjob big bucks just because he played for almighty Notre Dame. I am sure that won’t happen though. I sure as hell pray that the Steelers don’t take him because if they do I will lose all faith in the intelligence of their front office.

 

 

 

 

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 1.13

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

I had originally planned to do an entire piece about the on-again gun control debate, but I honestly just don’t have the stomach for it at the present time. Between liberals who are hellbent & determined to spit all over The Constitution & do whatever it takes to take away the freedoms that our Founding Fathers deemed so important that they specifically enumerated them in the Bill of 2ndRights, and sanctimonious Christians who take passivity to a whole new level because their idea of Jesus is some sort of easygoing, “It’s all good. Just chill out & let it go dude”, submissive milquetoast who wouldn’t want us to stand up for what’s right…well, I’m just kind of exasperated by the whole thing. I had mentioned in the State of The Manofesto that I had decided to pretty much steer clear of sociopolitical debates at the moment, but I was going to make an exception on this very important topic. Not now. I think it is best for my mental & emotional buddyjesuswell-being if I just keep my opinions to myself, which kind of sucks since the charm of…dare I say the whole point of…writing a blog is to express one’s opinions, and when I feel restricted in my ability and/or desire to do that it kind of paints me into a corner.

 

 

MTV’s new show Buckwild has been a big topic of conversation here in West Virginia. It is generally not my protocol to condemn something without giving it a fair chance, but in this case I have no intention of ever watching the show. First of all, MTV wasn’t even my thing when MTV was cool & popular, and since now it has strayed completely away from its original purpose & openly caters to wvthe lowest common denominator it definitely isn’t worthy of my time & attention. Secondly, Buckwild has been compared to Jersey Shore, which is kind of like trying to get someone to taste your cooking by comparing it to vomit. No thank you. And finally, you must understand that I am born & bred in West Virginia. I am well aware of the positives & negatives of my home state. I choose to concentrate on the positive and try my best to ignore the negative whenever possible, but unfortunately pop culture rarely utilizes that tactic. West Virginia is usually the butt of the joke. We are portrayed as a bunch of illiterate hillbillies who do nothing but drink, smoke, party, listen to country music, go to the bathroom in an outhouse, and sleep with our relatives. I won’t deny that there is an element of our population that ratifies such stereotypes, but most of the folks I know are somewhat educated, dress well, drive decent cars, have jobs, speak clearly, and frown on inbreeding. That is my West Virginia, and so I will not give credence to a “reality” show that once again allows us to be a punchline. Your mileage may vary.

 

 

So the Oscar nominations have been announced. Of the 9 nominees for Best Picture I have seen only Lincoln, which is a very good film. I have a level of interest ranging from mild to moderate in seeing atleast 5 of the others but likely will not catch them until they are available on PPV or video-on-demand. It has always struck me as odd that apparently no great films are released for about the first nine months of the year in the eyes of The Academy. I realize it is kind of a “Which came the_dark_knight_rises_2012-t1first…the chicken or the egg??” kind of thing. Studios now just kind of follow the “rules”. They release their big budget action flicks & sequels in the summertime, and wait until late fall to unleash the more cerebral “Oscar worthy” films. But when did those rules come into play?? Who came up with them & why?? As tongue-in-cheek as The Sammy Awards may seem because of the way I present them thru the prism of my quirky sense of humor, I take them seriously to a certain extent and meant it when I said that The Dark Knight Rises is a true epic. I also said that it is “too good to overlook”, but apparently The Academy doesn’t share my tastes. It is disqualified from being considered “artistic” because it’s about a comic book character and was in theaters during the summer. That’s a load of poppycock in my humble opinion.

 

 

I have commented in the past about how much I enjoy the occasional haircut. Besides being a rather sensuous experience it also can provide an opportunity for a bit of innocent flirtation, a skill I like to practice whenever possible (although since I am 40 & single I’m obviously doing it wrong). However, I seem to have inadvertently developed the wrong ability. Now even though I am openly non-PC it is also never my intention to be mean-spirited or offensive, so that is not my goal here, but I must be honest. On atleast three occasions in the past several months…at different hair salons…I have eagerly anticipated some social interaction & meager physical contact with a lovely young lady only to be Hair Cutting Scissorswaited on by the one stylist that isn’t going to do anything other than provide (hopefully) a decent haircut. Yes, I am talking about the one male employee in the place…and he usually isn’t batting on my team if you catch my drift. Let me be perfectly clear…that person’s orientation is their own personal choice and has nothing to do with anything except the fact that it really kind of defeats part of my purpose. If I wanted a dude to cut my hair I’d go down the street to Joe Bob’s Barber Shop and get a fine haircut, as well as some stimulating conversation about sports & politics. When I choose the more…feminine…shop at the local mall or shopping plaza my intent has a broader purpose, and when I get stuck with a guy with frosted blonde hair who loves musicals & thinks Channing Tatum is OMG HOT it seemingly confirms my belief that God has a sense of humor and is really messing with me. Plus I end up with gel in my hair and look like a cross between Nathan Lane & the crippled kid on Glee. Yes I actually did watch that show once. It was horrifying, as if Saved by the Bell and Cop Rock had somehow crossbred and produced the worst TV show of all time.

 

 

Long time West Virginia U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller has announced that he will not seek a 6th term in 2014. I know this will cause a lot of sleepless nights, upset stomachs, & nervous tics throughout my home state, but personally I am glad. I have never understood West Virginia’s love affair with rockyobama1Rockefeller, a wealthy carpet bagger who has simply used our state as a tool in his quest for power. It is a strange dichotomy that, in a state where most people detest “the rich” and can’t stand anyone who has more than they do (which is pretty much the entire rest of the country besides Mississippi and maybe Kentucky), a significant majority of people here have spent the past four decades voting for a man (first for Governor then for Senator) who is the very definition of an affluent, out-of-touch trust fund baby born with a silver spoon in his mouth that has never had to actually work a day in his life and cannot possibly have the slightest clue about the kinds of issues that most of his constituents face on a daily basis. Of course that description could fit almost the entirety of both chambers of Congress nowadays.

 

 

Superfluous 7 – Ways To Fix The Pittsburgh Steelers

This weekend fans across the nation of teams like the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and five others will sit down in front of their big ol’ flat screen TVs or gather with friends & fellow fans at a local watering hole or wings eatery and cheer on their favorites as they compete in the conference semifinals of the NFL playoffs. As a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers I steelwill pay casual attention to the games but spend the vast majority of my time reading a book or watching movies. This is unacceptable. However, since I am a solutions oriented type of guy I have decided to offer a fan’s perspective on what the folks in the Steelers front office need to do so that this time next year…okay, maybe the year after next if I am being perfectly honest…I may once again enjoy the playoffs and look forward to my Steelers making a legitimate run at a 7th Vince Lombardi Trophy. Therefore, it is with all due respect to an organization that has dominated the NFL for most of the past four decades and won more Super Bowls than anyone else that I humbly present…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Latrobe, PA…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Ways To Fix The Pittsburgh Steelers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7       A Legit #1 RB

When people talk about the Steelers the conversation traditionally goes in one of two directions…the awesome defense or the strong running game. The Steelers have always been primarily a running team until the past few years. Even when Swann & Stallworth were catching balls from Bradshaw in the late 70’s & early 80’s there was still the specter of Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier, who combined for 1500 yards or so for several years. More recently there was The Bus Jerome Bettis, who ran for over Franco-Harris-reinstated-as-charity-chariman-TMME7L9-x-large1000 yards annually from 1996 to 2001 until injuries and time share situations decreased his role. There have also been a whole host of guys that maybe didn’t make a long term impact but were pretty darn good for a short time…Bam Morris, Frank Pollard, Willie Parker, Merrill Hoge, Barry Foster. Does current starting RB Rashard Mendenhall measure up to Franco, Rocky, & The Bus?? Hell no. Is he as good as those second tier guys?? Maybe, which is why I am not ranking this as a primary need…yet. But since BettisMendenhall was a 1st round draft pick there is a heightened level of expectation. Since beginning his NFL career in 2008 Mendenhall has only exceeded 1000 yards twice, and in 2012 was hampered by injuries. Backup Isaac Redman is exactly that…a backup, and it became clear this past season that he cannot be counted on to carry the load. I do not think the Steelers should jump thru hoops or make any crazy trades to snag a back, but if the opportunity presents itself I would not be heartbroken to see Mendenhall shown the door and someone new be given the chance to tote the rock.

 

 

6       Backup QB

It is not unusual to see an NFL team floundering like water deprived fish on a warm sidewalk when roethlisberger-out-browns-jkjpg-7dab2c5a751ea52b1their starting quarterback goes down. But most teams have gotten the message that in the modern NFL a decent backup QB is essential. The Steelers brass is far from clueless and until now have had the situation covered, but it has become obvious that this has evolved into an area of need. 38 year old Charlie Batch is believed to be retiring, and Byron Leftwich is an injury waiting to happen. And the elephant in the room is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is now 30 years old and, because of his freewheeling style of play and the fact that a porous & injury prone offensive line has left him hung out to dry far too much in the past few seasons, usually misses atleast a game or two every year due to injury. At the very least a reliable veteran backup is needed that might be able to lead the team to a couple of victories now & then, and it may not be a horrible idea to groom a youngster to take the helm in 3 or 4 years. Kirk Cousins anyone??

 

 

5       Faster Linebackers

Lawrence Timmons & Lamarr Woodley are both fairly young players, but the two had a total of just harrison-sack10 sacks between them in 2012. That has to improve. James Harrison & Larry Foote are both in their 30’s and have obviously lost a step, The jury is still out on Jason Worilds (although it doesn’t feel to me like he’ll ever become anything more than a complimentary player) as well as youngsters Stevenson Sylvester & Sean Spence. It seems likely that the team will need to add atleast one, maybe two linebackers. As a Steelers fan it is odd…and a little disconcerting…when a discussion of the best linebackers in the NFL includes names like Patrick Willis, Clay Matthews, Terrell Suggs, and DeMarcus Ware with nary a Steeler in sight. This must change. Would Jarvis Jones or Manti Te’o look good in black & gold?? Maybe.

 

 

4       Younger Defensive Line

Brett Keisel & Casey Hampton are in their mid-30’s and likely finished. Will Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, & Steve McClendon step up and become a new Steel Curtain for the 21st century?? It is possible. However, it is likely that one or two additional pieces are needed. Alameda Ta’amu was 91506_feature_mediumsupposed to be Hampton’s replacement, but he was cut then re-signed to the practice squad in the wake of a felony arrest for drunk driving, aggravated assault, & fleeing law enforcement last autumn. I suppose Ta’amu could potentially still evolve into the second coming of William “Refrigerator” Perry, but one can fairly assume that he is on a v-e-r-y tight leash and will have to work extremely hard to cajole himself into the lineup. The Steelers front office has always had the knack for knowing when to cut veterans loose who had nothing left in the tank while simultaneously having their replacements ready & able to step into the spotlight, but one has gotten the feeling over the past couple of years that they may have held onto a couple of these guys a bit too long and haven’t been as prudent as usual in laying out a succession plan.

 

 

3       Depth on the O-Line

I must give proper credit where it is due. Last year the Steelers drafted guard David DeCastro in the 1st round and tackle Mike Adams in the 2nd, so it isn’t as if they have not addressed the problem. And it is no one’s fault that a pre-season knee injury derailed most of DeCastro’s rookie campaign. Steelers-offensive-linemenHowever, there is still work to be done. Various injuries plagued the offensive line throughout 2012, exposing a few players as either injury prone or just not worth the effort. Some tough decisions are going to have to be made about who to keep around and who to cut loose. Obviously salary cap issues will play a significant part in these decisions as well. Since I am far too indolent to do the necessary research about such mundane issues as salaries & contracts, I’ll just go with the eye test. I’d jettison guards Willie Colon & Ramon Foster, as well as tackle Max Starks. That means drafting atleast one or two offensive linemen again as well as signing a couple in free agency. It might make for a rough 2013, but since that is probably going to occur anyway they may as well look ahead to having a solid line ready for the following season.

 

 

2       Offensive Coordinator

It was clear from the very beginning that Todd Haley and QB Ben Roethlisberger weren’t on the same page. And even though head coach Mike Tomlin did a fine job of keeping egos in check most of the season that discord never completely disappeared. At this stage of his career I think Big Ben has earned a certain amount of influence in the direction of the offense. I didn’t have a problem with Haley’s ideas about getting back to traditional Steelers smashmouth football, but the fact is that when you have a quarterback with the unique skill set of Roethlisberger, a group of pedestrian & injury hi-res-6587156_crop_exactprone running backs, an average at best & also injury prone offensive line, and a fine receiving corps like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, & TE Heath Miller you dance with the one who got you to the soiree. It is my understanding that Haley is being interviewed for some of the various head coaching & offensive coordinator positions available throughout the NFL, and I wouldn’t be heartbroken if he took off for greener pastures. Maybe Norv Turner would like to recapture some of his offensive coordinator mojo by working for a fine organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers & with another future Hall of Fame QB like Roetlisberger. And even if Turner is a pipe dream I still think there’s got to be a better answer than Todd Haley. Heck, I’d even welcome Mike Mularkey back into the fold.

 

 

1       A Shutdown Corner

I’ve been saying this for it seems like forever. I must again give due credit though. Kudos to both Keenan Lewis & Cortez Allen for stepping up in 2012 and being decent enough corners. Between them and Ike Taylor things weren’t horrible this past season, but they can & should significantly improve. The Steelers only forced 1.3 turnovers/game, which ranks near the bottom of the league. Theyaaa intercepted 14 balls…far less than 19-21 range where the league leaders reside. The defense accounted for 37 sacks, which puts them in the middle of the rankings for that category, not near the top where they should be. This obviously has more to do with not getting enough pressure on the opposing QB, but I also think it means that the pass coverage needs to be better. Look, I know that some people might look at this and say “Dude…the Steelers statistically had the top defense in the league in 2012…what are you complaining about??”. I get that. But one thing that no one seems to ever account for is the fact that the Steelers offense always ranks near the top in time of possession, which means that the defense is on the field less. I believe that helps to mask certain issues. Is it a bad defense?? Of course not. Are these cornerbacks that atrocious?? Not really. But if the opportunity arises to draft Dee Milliner from the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, or sign a free agent like Leodis McKelvin or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie then I think it would behoove the suits in The ‘Burgh to do so.

 

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.13

Welcome to the first W&M in nearly 6 months and the first edition of 2013. There are a few loose ends to tie up, plus some football playoff action to cover. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

laces-football-grassI went 3-4 in the last week of the Pigskin Picks of Profundity, making my final overall record 46-71-1. That’s a 39% winning percentage. In baseball that’d get me a batting title & a probable MVP, but in football it makes me about as successful as the Buffalo Bills. I’m already looking forward to next season when there’s nowhere to go but up.

 

 

I did slightly better with my college bowl picks, going 18-17 for a 51% winning percentage. Heck, 51% would get me elected President of the United States!!

 

 

p1_brentMuch too much has been made of ESPN talking head Brent Musberger katherine-webb-aj-mccarron-girlfriendfawning over Alabama QB AJ McCarron’s beauty queen girlfriend during the national title game. I happened to catch Musberger’s comments (Monday Night Raw was in commercial), and didn’t think he came across as anything remotely close to a creepy old man. He simply pointed out a lovely young lady. Have we gotten so eaten up by political correctness that we cannot give proper recognition to beauty when we observe it?? Shame on ESPN for “apologizing” for the comments. I got your back Brent…even if your employer doesn’t.

 

 

I have no issue with no one being voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. The fact is that guys010311_HoF like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris, & Edgar Martinez were very good players but not Hall-of-Famers, and there was no way in Hell that known cheaters like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, & Mark McGwire were going to get voted in. Maybe someday…but not now. A case could conceivably be made for Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, & Dale Murphy, and I think that most if not all of that foursome will get elected eventually, but I won’t lose any sleep over them not getting in this time.

 

 

So I guess they resolved the NHL labor dispute and an abbreviated season will begin shortly. I still don’t care.

 

 

The NCAA football playoff cannot get here fast enough for me. I hadn’t planned on watching much of the BCS (emphasis on the BS) national championship game between Alabama & Notre Dame anyway because I generally need an underdog to root for and that game didn’t provide one, and as it turned out I certainly didn’t miss much. In contrast, just think of what might have occurred if we’d had a 4 team playoff between those two teams, Oregon, and either Florida or Kansas State. Surely Oregon would have given Alabama a little bit more of a fight in the title game…maybe.

 

 

I would be remiss if I did not address the huge letdown that was the 7-6 season for my hometown West Virginia Mountaineers. I hesitate to say the following but it is the honest truth. Before the season I told my Dad and I believe my nephew Zach that I thought the step up in competition from the Big East to the Big 12 would be a bigger deal for the Mountaineers than most seemed to be expecting and that I wouldn’t be surprised if they went 6-6. I kept that opinion on the down low because most folks in my orbit were caught up in the hype of a possible national championship run and a strong WV-Logo-and-Mountaineer2Heisman candidacy for QB Geno Smith. You may have noticed that the ‘Eers were not ranked in my pre-season Top 25, but other than that I just kind of kept my negative vibes to myself. Hindsight is 20/20 and I regret not shouting my prediction from the rooftops because I would have looked like a genius. I must admit that I was sincerely hoping I might be wrong and it looked like I could be after WVU began the season 5-0, including an impressive win at Texas. However, it is difficult to overcome a horrendous defense that ranks 117th in points allowed and makes every opponent’s pedestrian QB look like Johnny Unitas. Even after all that though I thought the Mountaineers would crush Syracuse in their bowl game for a variety of reasons, but I was way off base. Getting out of the Big East was surely a necessity, but in retrospect it might have behooved the powers-that-be to be a little more patient and wait for an eventual ACC invite, because it looks like it’s going to be a rough road for WVU in the Big 12.

 

 

The NFL coaching carousel is always entertaining. I think the KC Chiefs made a great hire in Andy Reid, who is a solid head coach who just needed a change of scenery. The firing of Lovie Smith by the Chicago Bears was mildly surprising, especially since the truth is that it doesn’t matter who the head coach is while headcase Jay Cutler is the QB. Cutler simply does not have what it takes to lead an NFL team to greatness. Lovie will land on his feet just like Reid did, and whoever hires him will instantly become better.

 

 

Speaking of the Chiefs…

They are “on the clock” with the first pick in April’s NFL Draft and all the “experts” seem to think they TCU v West Virginiajust won’t be able to pass up WV Mountaineer QB Geno Smith. As a lifelong Mountaineer fan I am here to give a friendly warning to the Chiefs…run. Trade the pick, choose a can’t miss offensive lineman, or roll the dice on USC signal caller Matt Barkley. Geno has bust written all over him. He reminds me a little bit of Akili Smith, who wowed scouts during his senior year at Oregon in 1998 with 3700 yards passing & 32 TDs, was taken 3rd overall in the 1999 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals (ahead of guys like Edgerrin James, Champ Bailey, & Ricky Williams), then proceeded to only throw for 2200 yards & 5 touchdowns over the course of the next four years. Yes most of the disappointment of this past WVU season can be laid at the feet of the Mountaineer’s porous defense, but Geno came up small in a lot of games and in some important moments. I have a strong suspicion that he’ll be a huge regret to any team that picks him very high in the draft.

 

 

I chose only half of the NFL’s playoff field correctly in my season preview last fall, but we still may be on track for my predicted Super Bowl matchup of Green Bay vs. New England, although at this point I would actually much prefer a Denver vs. Seattle game.

 

 

The State of The Manofesto 2013

As a new year dawns it is once again time to take stock of things here at The Manofesto and make some plans for the future, or atleast the next several months.

 

2012 was a good year. I achieved some internal goals in relation to the site, and even more importantly I have found that I have an increasing hunger to write. Sometimes I’ll be at church or out running errands and just can’t wait to get home to write. That’s not to say that I Still-Life-With-Inkwell,-Quill-And-Bookscouldn’t be more productive or don’t endure funky little lulls where the words just aren’t coming to me, but I have found that those moods have evened out a bit more and inspiration flows more steadily now, rather than seizing me like some sort of fit of insanity only to be followed by weeks or months of malaise. I am fortunate enough to have a job where oftentimes I have time to write, which is a fringe benefit I am in a unique position to appreciate.

 

I have been pleased with several of the things we’ve gotten done here in the past year, but better things are on the horizon.

 

football-introducing-the-science_1The Pigskin Picks of Profundity were a lot of fun to do, even if my career in the prognostication arts won’t ever make anyone in Vegas quake in their boots. In the classic sports film Tin Cup Costner’s characters says that “sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you’re not good at them”, but I would argue that picking football games could legitimately be thrown into that mix as well. Next season the tentative plan is for my eldest nephew Zach to join me in a slightly altered, Siskel & Ebert-esque version of the PPP’s. I have no doubt he’ll smoke me like a Virginia country ham. We’ll also get back on track with the Winning & Musing feature, which has sort of been put on the backburner during football season because this site is supposed to be an eclectic cornucopia of ponderation and not specifically sports-centric.

 

Thinking_ManIn the “everything old is new again” department I have decided to bring back two old favorites. A couple of years ago I discontinued Random Thoughts, choosing to exclusively utilize Twitter for pithy contemplations of life. However, I have found that sometimes 140 characters just doesn’t cut it. There are times when I have something more to say, yet not enough to warrant a standalone entry. So I think what I would like to do is have a regular feature where I pontificate on various minutiae. The details are not concrete at the moment, but I’ll work it out soon. Do I have enough discipline to commit to a consistently scheduled column?? A year ago I would have leaned toward “no”, but I kept up with the football picks pretty good so I think I can expand upon that. Secondly, a feature that I quickly canned when I brought The Manofesto to WordPress from MySpace a few years ago was the Person of the Month. Again, at the time I just didn’t have the focus to maintain such an obligation, but I am confident it won’t be a problem now. It is likely that we’ll actually do two persons of the month…a good & a bad, or in pro wrestling parlance a face & a heel. I’ll have it all figured out by the end of January.

 

Back in November the Presidential election really kicked me in the gut. I was quite despondent for a few days and pretty much ready to throw in the towel. I’ll even admit that my faith in God was shaken. We all know that the Jews…aka Israel…are God’s chosen people, but let’s face it…we Americans have always fancied ourselves His special silver medalists. After the events of November 6, 2012 I am not so sure that is the case anymore. While I still believe that each of us can have a relationship with Him on an individual basis if we so choose, it is clear to me that God has lost His patience with our nation and has decided that if we want to head down the wrong path then far be it for Him to stop our descent.cross-and-flag And really, who can blame Him?? The United States began to marginalize God and push Him out of various aspects of life a half century ago, so we deserve everything we get. But, though The Great Experiment may have finally crashed & burned, life goes on and we just have to re-adjust our focus and pick & choose our battles. That being said, don’t expect to see much of anything political here for the time being. I have been refraining from posting political stuff on Facebook & Twitter as much as possible and don’t really have any desire to write about such things here. I had already backed off a bit for most of 2012, but now I think a wise strategy is wholesale retreat. I still retain my beliefs, but am well aware that I am a combustible engine in a hybrid world. If the majority of the country wants to engage in class warfare, yield to economic mediocrity, embrace “alternative” (i.e. abhorrent) lifestyles, sacrifice traditional values & American exceptionalism, and spend their lives with their hands out expecting Big Government to hold them gently & whisper softly in their collective ear that everything is going to be just fine then hey, who am I to argue?? I’ll still get up every day, go to work, enjoy my life as much as possible, and write thought-provoking pieces at The Manofesto…..just not about sociopolitical topics.

 

Speaking of God…

I did make my triumphant return to church last spring after a one year absence. I have embraced it as the social gathering that it has become and enjoy it on that level. If some spiritual enlightening trickles down in the process it is a lovely but unexpected bonus. The duty of developing a relationship with Jesus Christ is on me, not a bunch of very nice people who nevertheless pretend to be something A Bible studythey aren’t for a couple of hours every Sunday morning. As a matter of fact, I need to stop being one of those lukewarm dabblers myself. Having said that, I am fully aware that a year ago I stated that I was going to begin a Bible study here at The Manofesto and have not followed thru. I have been on the cusp of a breakthrough with that particular task on multiple occasions but for some reason the inspiration never fully materializes. I think the idea is of sufficient significance that it is worth waiting on God’s green light and not forcing the issue, but my intention is to get the ball rolling in 2013. We will also continue with both the Sermon on the Mount & Fruits of the Spirit series, both of which I have neglected.

 

The other primary focus here in 2013 will likely be The Bookshelf. My apartment is filled with books that I have either never read, half read, or would need to read again in order to intelligently express an opinion here because it has been far too long since I originally read them. Right now the plan is to concentrate on three authors: Shakespeare, Twain, and Dickens, all of whom I enjoy immensely. Since I genuinely believe that Shakespeare is best experienced in a live performance rather than in a william-shakespearebook, and since I live in a town whose idea of comedy is Honey 353L12408_6M43ZBoo-Boo and tragedy is when the last pack of cigarettes in a carton is gone, my plan is to find the best possible performance of each play on video and watch it in conjunction with reading the play. As with all of my other long term projects I may not finish until I am old, grey, & arthritic, but I’ll get there eventually. In addition to those three authors I am sure there will be a smattering of others…a little Bradbury, maybe some Steinbeck, and possibly even some Faulkner, Heinlein, or more Stephen King. I have some biographies & non-fiction books that might be worth writing about too. I am also going to dive into James Bond. I must admit that I have never watched a single one of the nearly 2 dozen Bond films, but not long ago I ran across a set of the original Ian Fleming books on eBay for a terrific price and snapped them up. I think they’ll be a nice little diversion from the tedium of the daily grind.

 

cropped-eaglecleanlogo.gifAs always these plans are subject to change, but I am pretty comfortable with the blueprint I have in my head. I would really love to see The Manoverse experience some significant growth this year and know that the first order of business in meeting those expectations is to provide a reason for people to want to come here to spend a few minutes of their browsing time each day. Folks are busy…jobs, kids, social obligations, etc. But I know that most people spend atleast a little while online on a daily basis decompressing from the pressure cooker, and I would love it if The Manofesto became a favorite destination for anyone looking to chill out & maybe learn something interesting at the same time.

 

 

 

 

The Sammy Awards 2012 – Part 4: The Final Crusade of the Temple of the Lost Skull

Resin-Trophies-1348257350204After a brief delay we are pleased to welcome you to the thrilling conclusion of the 2012 Sammy Awards. If you have not yet done so please check out Part1, Part 2, and Part 3 before proceeding.

 

 

To present our next award The Manofesto is happy to bring together the cast of The Hangover The-Hangover_Justin-Bartha_tux.bmp1_Trilogy (The Hangover Part III will be coming to your local Cineplex this May). Please welcome Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifinakis, Ed Helms, & Justin Bartha. And the nominees are:

 

 

Best Movie

 

Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln…the 16th President of the United States for those of you in the southern reaches of Appalachia who’ve never been out of the holler but do inexplicably read The Manofesto…is generally considered by both Democrats & Republicans as one of our greatest leaders. It’s one of the few things both sides of the aisle can agree on these days. He was martyred, ended slavery, had that whole Civil War thing…what’s not to love?? This particular offering from Steven Spielberg is a modest, solicitous look at the last few months of President Lincoln’s life when his steadfast focus was on passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery. I have more than a passing interest in politics (although I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a political junkie) so I didn’t have any issues following the tale, but it is unlikely that this is a film that will appeal to everyone. So be it. Daniel Day-Lewis is remarkable in the titular role and should have another Oscar nomination coming his way soon. Sally Field & Tommy Lee Jones are as solid as we’ve come to expect them to be in whatever they are in, and I have to give kudos to known leftist Spielberg for not inserting any kind of offensive bias into the proceedings. Lincoln is what I describe as a quiet film, meaning that it isn’t abounding in special effects, gunfire, explosions, & violence. There is a story, there is dialogue, and there is good acting. It is simplicity at its best. Most chefs will tell you that a fine cut of meat is usually flavorful enough to be enjoyed on its own, without being bathed in sauces or marinades. The same goes for movies. I have a robust predilection for quiet movies. Your mileage may vary.

 

Rise of the Guardians

I used to think that animated films were for strictly for children and the parents that felt obliged to take their crumb crunchers to see them. However, in the past several years, with movies like the Toy Story trilogy, The Polar Express, and the Shrek series my opinion has evolved, and so I was excited to see this story about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman, and The Tooth Fairy recruiting Jack Frost to help them save the world from The Boogeyman. I’m not sure why Alec Baldwin uses an eastern European accent for Santa, but strangely enough it works. Santa also has tattoos, which is weird. Anyway, the story basically takes some of our beloved childhood fairy tale characters and turns them into ass kickin’ superheroes, a premise that I’d normally crap all over. However, like Santa’s strange accent, I mysteriously didn’t hate the idea. There is some subtle commentary about childhood, dreams, fear, and feeling invisible, but that is something that is probably only noticeable to geeks like me. For the target audience this is just a rollicking good time and there isn’t a thing wrong with that.

 

Joyful Noise

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to sing hymns in church rather than Michael Jackson or Wings cover tunes. That unfashionable attitude initially made me resistant to this story about a small town church choir trying to win a big time “gospel” music competition. You see, all of my life I have attended the same country church that I grew up just down the road from, and that has understandably framed my outlook on what a church should be. But eventually I decided to give this one a whirl, and I was satisfied with the outcome. Dolly Parton has starred in a few solidly entertaining films over the years, from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas to Steel Magnolias to 9 to 5, and she does her thing here acceptably well. Queen Latifah has never really frosted my cupcake, but I suppose she’s alright. The body count is a little too high for a romantic dramedy, which weirded me out just a bit. I really liked the other two leads…a luminescent Keke Palmer as Latifah’s daughter & newcomer Jeremy Jordan as Parton’s grandson. The music is cool even if it’s not really church music. Joyful Noise isn’t going to win any awards, but even a flawed film can be entertaining.

 

The Dark Knight Rises

I have not been a big fan of director Christopher Nolan’s vision for Batman. It’s too gritty & lifelike for my entertainment palate. Batman is a comic book creation so I prefer a film that reflects that. Tim Burton’s Batman movies, in my humble opinion, struck the right balance between the dark tone of the comics and the expectations we have of a superhero movie. The first movie in this trilogy was a decent enough origin story while the second was dominated by Heath Ledger’s manic portrayal of The Joker and the effusive praise that performance received in the wake of the young actor’s untimely demise. In this case though the third time is the charm, and I have to give Nolan & company credit for getting it done right and in style. This is the very definition of epic, with a complex storyline, interesting characters, intriguing plot twists, and just enough action to keep things moving. Michael Caine is exquisite as Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred, and Gary Oldman is a strong, resolute Commissioner Gordon. Michael Keaton & Adam West are still my favorite Caped Crusaders and Christian Bale does nothing to alter that perspective here, but like a pedestrian quarterback on a team with a great defense Bale doesn’t have to singlehandedly win the game…his duty is simply to not screw it up. Bane is far from the most memorable villain in Gotham City’s rogue’s gallery, but I understand why he was chosen for this particular story. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts here, and it all comes together in a thrilling conclusion that crescendos nicely. I assume someone else will come along down the road, reboot the whole thing, and take it in a completely different direction, but Nolan lays the groundwork for what could be a captivating continuation or a slight detour with Nightwing as the central figure.

 

The Hunger Games

I really liked the Hunger Games trilogy of books, but I mentioned in my review of them that “I am looking forward to the movies because I believe they were the intended end game all along. I have a feeling that the Hunger Games movies will surpass the books’ achievements.” After seeing the first movie I am ready to backtrack on that statement ever so slightly. As most citizens of The Manoverse know, it is my belief that the book is almost always better than the movie, and in hindsight I think I was shortchanging these books. That being said this is still a fine movie. The powers-that-be nailed it when they chose Jennifer Lawrence to portray heroine Katniss Everdeen, and I really liked Woody Harrelson as deeper-than-you think drunkard Haymitch Abernathy. The movie follows the book pretty closely and there are very few significant alterations or omissions. Some of the choices the director made were interesting. This could have been a typical balls-to-the-wall action flick, but the filmmakers show an incredible amount of restraint, choosing gritty minimalism over CGI excess, which is admirable. I didn’t love some of the shaky, documentary style camera work, but that annoyance seems to dissipate as the story picks up steam. Overall the movie leaves a good impression. Whether or not it is a lasting one remains to be seen.

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I absolutely love JRR Tolkien’s classic book The Hobbit, a prequel to the more acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is one of my favorites, which is why I was simultaneously thrilled & apprehensive about it getting the big screen treatment. My concern increased when the auteur of the Rings trilogy of movies, Peter Jackson, decided that he’d direct The Hobbit as well and make another trilogy. You see, whereas Lord of the Rings really is three books therefore making three movies a logical choice, taking one book like The Hobbit and making it into three films seems more than excessive. In addition, tonally The Hobbit is vastly different than Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is lighthearted, whimsical, and…accessible. Lord of the Rings is darker & quite the marathon. This is a movie that would have benefitted tremendously from a different perspective. However, there’s no use crying over spilt milk and at the end of the day what we ended up with is pretty darn good. Martin Freeman is the perfect choice to portray Bilbo Baggins, and anyone who liked the Rings movies should like The Hobbit.

 

Dark Shadows

Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows aired in the late 60’s before I was even a gleam in my father’s eye, so I came into this experience with no expectations and no preconceived notions. I’m a sucker for funny “fish out of water” stories, so I appreciated the humorous idea of an 18th century vampire being revived in the 1970’s. Johnny Depp is clearly having fun playing the role and it is all quite campy. I suppose this would be classified as a dark comedy, although my own personal preference would have been for the comedic aspect to be ramped up just a bit.

 

 

Trouble with the Curve

It’s been quite the year for Clint Eastwood. Everyone was talking about his appearance…one way or the other…at the Republican National Convention. He was in a Super Bowl commercial that stirred the pot a bit. He’s hosting the 2012 Sammy Awards. And he also found the time to star in a movie since that is primarily what he is known for. Curve is an inconspicuous little baseball flick about an aging scout who eschews modern technology & that new fandangled sabermetrics stuff in favor of good old-fashioned instinct & legwork. The suits in charge of the ball club are starting to question whether or not Gus (the name given to most old codgers in movies) still has the knack, and his job is on the line in evaluating a power hitting outfielder who might be the next big thing. There is some family melodrama too in the form of Gus’s daughter, a hotshot attorney whose relationship with her father is strained for no particular reason. When she discovers that Gus’s job is in jeopardy and that he is suffering from macular degeneration she puts her own career on hold to go on the road with the old man. Oh yeah…there is some romance thrown into the mix too when a young scout played by Justin Timberlake pursues the daughter. Eastwood is the go-to guy for crusty curmudgeon roles and there is a good reason for that…he’s great at doing them. Timberlake has become one of my favorite supporting actors and Amy Adams as the daughter is tough yet vulnerable, sweet but also benignly sexy. Is Trouble with the Curve a great movie?? Ehhh…probably not. But it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

 

Friends With Kids

You might have missed this one. If so it’s worth a rental. The story centers around two single 30-somethings who have witnessed their other friends get married, have children, and become absolutely miserable. Their solution?? Make a baby without all the relationship drama. They do just that, and even though all their married pals predict utter disaster the twosome defies the odds and their lives move along smoothly & happily…for awhile. Of course we see where this is headed because we’ve seen it before. But even though there is never any doubt about how the story ends the journey in getting there is fun & interesting. There are no big stars here, just good writing and an unblinking confrontation with the realities of marriage, kids, and the inherent despair those things oftentimes seem to create in modern America.

 

Hope Springs

If I am a Hollywood suit and someone pitches me an idea that’ll star Tommy Lee Jones & Meryl Streep there is a good chance I’d give the green light based solely on the casting. The legendary duo play Kay & Arnold, an aging married couple who have settled into a boring routine that makes my life look like an episode of 24. They even sleep in separate rooms. Kay enrolls them in a weeklong intensive marriage counseling course in Maine. Arnold thinks their life is just dandy and does not want to go, but eventually he acquiesces, proving that there is an old softy who does actually love his wife buried deep inside all those layers of stolid granite. Playing the couple’s therapist is funnyman Steve Carell, who employs a soft monotone straight out of that old SNL NPR parody The Delicious Dish. That works great here because it leaves Streep & Jones in the spotlight to do that thing they do. The doctor’s prescribed solution to their problem is for them to have sex, which seems a bit simplistic to me, but what do I know?? Needless to say the couple eventually works thru whatever the issues are and reconnect so that we get our happy ending. This is one of those stories that might have been a complete snoozefest without the right cast, but in the hands of craftsmen like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones it becomes a thought-provoking look into the tedium of marriage. I am probably not the target audience for this film, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

 

This Is Forty

You may recall the 2007 rom-com Knocked Up in which slovenly funnyman Seth Rogen hooks up with the beautiful (and she knows it) Katherine Heigl. In that film Leslie Mann & Paul Rudd play Debbie & Pete, the sister & brother-in-law of Heigl’s character. This is a spinoff in which Debbie & Pete take center stage as a constantly bickering couple dealing with job pressures, financial problems, bratty kids, and latent Daddy issues. I love Paul Rudd. He steals just about every movie he is in and I am glad to see him given the opportunity to carry a film (although admittedly that didn’t work out so well in 2009’s I Love You, Man). I also dig writer/director/producer Judd Apatow, who is curiously morphing into this generation’s John Hughes right before our very eyes. I am not married nor do I have children but, even though I am sure most couples don’t fight constantly like this pair, I am just as sure that there are some truths in the story that lots of folks will recognize and smile knowingly. Kudos must be given to Albert Brooks, an underrated comic gem whose presence here as Rudd’s father adds a much needed respite from the bickering. This film is superior to its predecessor, although it is an unfair comparison on many levels.

 

 

People Like Us

Chris Pine has the potential to become one of my favorite actors. He achieved the impossible in 2009…took over the role of Captain James Tiberius Kirk from William Shatner in a Star Trek reboot that not even noted Trekkie & cantankerous critic of pop culture The Owl could bring himself to dislike. I’ve seen him in a few other TV shows & movies, but he is just now becoming a star. In this interesting character study Pine plays a down-on-his-luck corporate barterer (whatever that is) named Sam whose estranged father dies. Upon going home for the funeral Sam is given a wad of cash ($150K) to deliver to a person he’s never heard of. Since he really really really needs the money and his father left him absolutely nothing he is tempted to just skip town and not find the mysterious person to whom dear old Dad bequeathed such an inheritance, but curiosity gets the better of him. I don’t think it’s a major spoiler to reveal that the person in question ends up being Sam’s sister, a single mother who is struggling even worse than he is. He doesn’t come straight out & tell her who he is for various reasons, but they form a bond and he also gets to know his nephew. There’s no action, no gun battles, no car chases. This is another quiet movie…a story about people, relationships, motivation, secrets, and lies. It is well written and the performances by Pine, Elizabeth Banks, and Michelle Pfeiffer (who is apparently eligible to play hot grandmas now) are understatedly pleasant. It’s not going to win any critical acclaim, but I liked it and in The Manoverse that’s all that matters.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

The Dark Knight Rises. I may not have cared for the first two films in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but the final installment is too good to overlook. To compare this movie to your typical 21st century action flick (Transformers, Fast & Furious, anything starring Tom Cruise or Will Smith) is like comparing foie gras to Vienna sausages. Batman here is akin to the shark in Jaws in that we really don’t see all that much of him (we see much more of Bruce Wayne), but that minimalist approach is utilized to great effect. The story starts out a little slow before building to a stirring climax, which I dark_knight_logorealize may not be cool with a lot of modern viewers. So many movies offer balls-to-the-wall action from the opening credits to the final scene that it has become what people are used to and what they expect. This is a movie that takes time to tell a story, to offer a plot with layers and intricate context, to develop characters and relationships…all things that I wholeheartedly embrace. The fight scene between Batman & Bane that so many fans of the comics have been salivating about in anticipation plays out differently than what one might expect. It is raw & physical, not some elaborate effects laden dance sequence. Three plot twists at the end…Bruce Wayne’s fate, the identity of the real villain behind all the mayhem, and the reveal of the possible future of the franchise…are well done and probably clinched this award. The ending of a movie is always important, and the last 15 minutes or so of this one is sensational.

 

 

To present the final award of the evening it is truly a privilege to bring to The Manoverse the 43rd6a00d8341c630a53ef0133ed0512cc970b-600wi (111x237) President of the United States and his lovely First Lady. Please give a rousing ovation to George W. & Laura Bush. And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest News Story

 

Presidential Election

On November 6, 2012 we elected a President of the United States. You may have heard a thing or two about it. From the hotly contested yet kind of boring Republican primary season thru the national conventions in the summer to the general election process this was a story that dominated headlines pretty much on a daily basis.

 

Trayvon Martin Shooting

Back in February 17 year old Martin was shot & killed while visiting a gated community near Orlando, FL. The gunman was a young man named George Zimmerman who was part of the community’s neighborhood watch program. Zimmerman claims that Martin looked suspicious and that after he had contacted law enforcement the teenager attacked him which is why he shot him in self-defense. The fact that Martin was a young black man stirred the pot and took the story from just another shooting to a national firestorm. Was Martin an innocent teenager in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was he a juvenile delinquent who was out to cause trouble?? Is Mr. Zimmerman a dirty racist murderer or just an overzealous cop wannabe who became cornered by a thug and did what he had to do to protect himself?? We might not ever know the real story, but we’ll hear about all this again when Martin goes on trial this coming summer.

 

Unemployment

The unemployment rate was right around 7.5% when President Obama took office four years ago. At the beginning of 2012 it was up over 8%. This is in comparison to the 4.5-5% rate for the majority of the George W. Bush years. And we don’t even know if the number is accurate because there are so many people that have just completely given up looking for a job. One must also take into consideration how many people are employed but making a paltry wage in the $7-9/hr. range, which is certainly not enough to properly take care of a family or achieve any goals other than the next meal. It doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of folks these days though because Big Government will take care of them, which of course makes a lot of the politicians happy because it’ll keep them in power. Oh what a tangled web we weave.

 

The Death of Whitney Houston

On February 11 the world was saddened (although not shocked) to learn of the untimely passing of pop superstar Whitney Houston, who was found dead in a bathtub at a Beverly Hills hotel. I loved Whitney Houston when I was 14 years old. She was one of my first celebrity crushes. She was gorgeous & had a set of pipes that would melt even the iciest of hearts. Unfortunately she got hooked up with that jackass Bobby Brown and the two of them became just another clichéd Hollywood joke. Like so many people in modern America Houston became addicted to drugs, and apparently despite public proclamations to the contrary she never completely defeated those demons. How very tragic.

 

Supreme Court’s Mixed Ruling on Arizona Immigration Law

Controversy has been brewing in Arizona for a couple of years due to the passage there of a law designed to limit illegal immigration. Without delving into boring details let’s just say that the law imposed tough restrictions, requirements, & penalties on illegal immigrants. Almost immediately there were accusations from liberals that the law was nothing more than racial profiling and that it was unconstitutional. Queue The Supreme Court, who ruled this past June that the part of the law in which law enforcement can check on the immigration status of a detainee if they deem it necessary is okay, but struck down a large chunk of the law related to requiring individuals having to have documentation of their immigration status with them at all times and allowing police officers to randomly ask people to show such paperwork.

 

Facebook IPO Epic Fail

You have a Facebook page. I have a Facebook page. Most everyone not going to dinner at 4pm and telling troublesome neighborhood youths to get off their damn lawn probably has a Facebook page. That’s why the company going public seemed like such a slam dunk. I actually pondered the idea of pooling some cash with some friends and buying a few shares just for fun. In hindsight I am glad we didn’t go thru with the idea. Back in November Facebook began trading publicly on NASDAQ with much anticipation. The first day was disappointing but still successful. But over the next few weeks the price of the stock fell and Facebook became the stock market equivalent of the movie Gigli or the NFL career of Ryan Leaf. Somehow though I think Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, with his bank account of $9 billion, will weather the storm and not lose any sleep over the debacle.

 

Benghazi

On September 11 the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. Four people were killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Ten others were injured. The Obama Administration tried to blame the attack on an anti-Muslim film that had been posted on YouTube and had been seen by less people than I rode with on an elevator today. Conservatives quickly labeled the Obama response as pure poppycock, and questions began to arise about what really happened, why it happened, what the administration really knew, and why they were so hellbent on lying about it. I believe there are still some Congressional committees looking into the matter, but at this stage it is likely a moot point.

 

The End of Twinkies & Ho-Ho’s

I make no secret of the fact that I am a chocoholic. You want to take pop away from me?? Okay, I can deal. Tell me that alcohol can never touch my lips again and I won’t even bat an eye because I don’t drink anyway. Tell me I have to be celibate for the rest of my life and never again enjoy the touch of a beautiful woman and I might cringe a bit but I’ll be just fine. But threaten to take away my sweets and we’ve got a problem. I love it all…candy, cake, ice cream, cookies. So in November when Hostess announced that it was going out of business and that snacks like Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, Zingers, Ding Dongs, and those little cupcakes with the swirly icing on top…not to mention Wonder Bread…would be disappearing forever from grocery store shelves I kind of felt like I did when I was 9 years old and my pet frog jumped out of his bowl never to be seen again. Thankfully there is a likely reprieve from this death sentence in the works, as various companies are in a bidding war to buy the rights to these products from Hostess. When fair & festival season rolls around next summer we just might still be able to pay $6 for a deep fried Twinkie. God Bless America.

 

Superstorm Sandy

There is almost always one or two big natural disasters to talk about when reflecting upon a just passed year, and in 2012 it was Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Sandy (I’ve seen it called both) which inflicted mayhem on the eastern seaboard of the country, especially New York & New Jersey, in late October. It is said to be the largest Atlantic hurricane (meaning it formed in the North Atlantic Ocean) on record and the 2nd costliest, doing about $65 billion worth of damage. It also played a key role in the Presidential election, as there were actually idiots out there who made a last minute decision to overlook the past 4 years of misery and vote for Obama because he “looked Presidential” for a day or two in the wake of the disaster, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie practically made sweet love to the President because he answered a few phone calls and dropped by for a visit for an hour or two. It is my understanding that there are still people in Jersey dealing with the problems caused by the storm, which is a damning indictment of how we use tragedies as political pawns in 21st century America but don’t really do what needs to be done to truly help people over the long haul.

 

Shootings in Aurora, CO & Newtown, CT

We’ve become almost numb to gun violence in America. It’s just something that happens occasionally and we aren’t all that shocked anymore when it does. However, two incidents in 2012 seemed to awaken the masses and spur debates about gun control, mental health issues, and a whole host of ancillary topics. On Friday July 20 a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight showing of the newest Batman film The Dark Knight Rises. Twelve people were killed and 58 others injured. I go to the movies often myself, and I am a huge Batman fan. As a matter of fact I had seriously pondered the idea of attending the midnight showing at my local theater but ultimately decided against that idea. It is awful to think that something as fun & innocuous…something so American…as going to a movie isn’t even immune from real life violence anymore. Then on December 14…less than two weeks before Christmas…a 20 year old lunatic busted into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killed 26 people, 20 of them children ages 6 & 7. We might have become nonchalant about violence in this country, but when innocent kids are senselessly murdered we stop & pay attention. Unfortunately, as tends to happen with these types of tragedies, it was quickly turned into a political football, with leftists and Hollywood hypocrites with no shortage of armed bodyguards resuming their incessant cries for gun control. I understand the logic…I really do. Regrettably however we seem to have lost the ability in this country to have an intelligent & thoughtful debate about important issues. We are a nation of reactionaries on both sides of the political spectrum and at the end of the day everyone loses. I cannot imagine the pain & sorrow the parents of those children have been suffering thru, and I am sure it was the worst Christmas of their entire lives. To me that is what must not get lost in the shuffle here. I pray that God wraps his loving arms around these families and helps them somehow resume their lives and find a way to move forward, although I cannot wrap my head around any scenario in which that’d even be possible.

 

Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare

I am a huge fan of pro wrestling, and in wrestling one of the fun things that happens occasionally is a heel turn. That is when a good guy turns bad by screwing over his tag team partner or suddenly telling the fans that have cheered him that he thinks they are losers and he doesn’t need their support anymore. Chief Justice John Roberts did a heel turn last June when he became the deciding vote in upholding the crime against freedom & economic sanity that is nationalized health care, better known as Obamacare. Roberts was thought to be a conservative, but instead proved himself to be just another political whore when he ruled that it was perfectly okay for the U.S. government to coerce free citizens into purchasing healthcare coverage or else go to prison. Roberts ruled that Obamacare is a tax, even though President Obama himself had spent years saying that it wasn’t. If it is a tax…which I guess it has to be or else it’d be unconstitutional…Obamacare is the largest tax increase in the history of the United States. Good job Roberts…you jackass.

 

The Fiscal Cliff

The last few weeks of 2012 were dominated by incessant discussion of this fiscal cliff. In a nutshell the dawning of a new year was scheduled to bring about spending cuts & tax hikes that would have cut the budget deficit but also would have led to another recession (that is if you believe that we aren’t still in one now anyway) and would have wreaked havoc on the finances of nearly all Americans. There was the typical struggle between Democrats & Republicans…one side with a fervent desire to raise taxes, punish achievement & success, & keep on spending money like drunken sailors on social programs that will keep their handout loving voter base happy, and the other side pledging to not raise taxes & desiring to slash spending like Freddy Krueger on a crack high. Of course this deal couldn’t get done way ahead of time. Where would the drama be in that?? As a matter of fact the deal wasn’t technically done on time but a few hours late. From what I understand the Republicans caved like the Buffalo Bills in a Super Bowl, and the Democrats are proud as peacocks. That’s what happens after an election…to the victor go the spoils. It’s just too bad that you & I will be literally paying for this debacle out of our own paychecks.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

The Election. I certainly didn’t like the results, but there is no denying the fact that for the vast majority of 2012 it was the lead story on a daily basis. I will refrain from going off on one of my infamous political rants. The fact is that my side lost this time and I have to deal with it. I cannot resist the urge though to point out that it is less than a week into the new year and my paycheck has already been affected in a negative way. But of course most of the 51% responsible for the debacle that occurred on that fateful Tuesday in November wouldn’t know anything about that since they are unemployed and/or sitting around smoking their cigarettes, drinking their cheap beer, watching those idiotic Kardashian twits whore it up on TV.

 

 

 

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astronauts Neil Armstrong & Sally Ride…entertainment icon Dick Clark… Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Golden Globe, and Tony award winning composer & conductor Marvin Hamlisch…authors Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), Gore Vidal, and Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)…singers Whitney Houston, Andy Williams, Etta James, Levon Helm, Donna Summer, Kitty Wells, and Robin Gibb (The Bee Gees)… General Norman Schwarzkopf…comedienne Phyllis Diller…baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter…actresses Kathryn Joosten (The West Wing, Desperate Housewives), Deborah Raffin (7th Heaven), and Celeste Holm (Gentleman’s Agreement, All About Eve)…retired NFL stars Junior Seau, Freddie Solomon, Blair Kiel, Alex Karras, and Ben Davidson…Atari & Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel…Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius…disgraced football coach Joe Paterno…hairstylist Vidal Sassoon…infamous police punching bag Rodney King…Boston Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky…automobile designer Carroll Shelby…amplification specialist Jim Marshall…political pundits Tony Blankley and Andrew Breitbart…legendary collegiate coaches Gene Bartow (basketball), Darrell Royal (football), and Rick Majerus (basketball)…game show hosts Richard Dawson (Family Feud) and Bill Raftery (Card Sharks)…director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Days of Thunder)…sports commentators Jim Huber and Beano Cook…former U.S. Senators Arlen Specter & Warren Rudman, former Governor George McGovern, and Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye…former WV Mountaineer football coach Bill Stewart…Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon…screenwriter/director Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally)…motivational speaker Zig Ziglar…songwriter Hal David (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, What the World Needs Now Is Love, I Say a Little Prayer)…former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell…journalists Mike Wallace (60 Minutes) and Helen Gurley Brown (Cosmopolitan)…artists Leroy Neiman and ”Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade…pro wrestling legend Chief Jay Strongbow…baseball executive Lee McPhail…fashion designer Nolan Miller…former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork…musicians Earl Scruggs, Ronnie Montrose, Davy Jones, Dave Brubeck, and Donald “Duck” Dunn…boxing historian Bert Sugar…former Patriots/Giants/Jets coach Ron Erhardt…impressionist Steve Bridges…former MLB union leader Marvin Miller…infamous mobster Henry Hill (the inspiration for Goodfellas)…retired pro wrestlers Doug Furnas, Mike Graham, Bobby Jaggers, Buddy Roberts, & Brad Armstrong…NFL Films guru Steve Sabol…former White House counsel Charles Colson…retired boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho”…actors Andy Griffith, Larry Hagman (Dallas, I Dream of Jeannie), Jack Klugman (Quincy, The Odd Couple), Ernest Borgnine (McHale’s Navy, The Poseidon Adventure), Ben Gazzara, Ron Palillo (Welcome Back Kotter), William Windom (To Kill A Mockingbird, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles), George Lindsey (Goober from The Andy Griffith Show), James Farentino (Dynasty), Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons), Chad Everett, Herbert Lom (The Pink Panther series), Sage Stallone (Rocky V), Robert Hegyes (Welcome Back Kotter), John Ingle (General Hospital), Charles Durning (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon), and Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile, Daredevil, The Whole Nine Yards)