Pondering A New “A Christmas Carol” Film

cc1I recently shared with The Manoverse my favorite film adaptations of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. In the process of producing that piece a few things became clear. First of all, there has been no perfect version of the story made for the big screen. Older movies leave too much out in an effort to be “family friendly”. Newer attempts lean toward either animation or modernization of the story so that it isn’t really a straight-up translation but something that is merely inspired by the Dickens book. Few have had well-known stars in lead roles. Secondly, some of the better takes on the story have actually been made-for-television movies. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think A Christmas Carol deserves a faithful, big budget, live action film with all the bells & whistles…a star-studded & talented cast, superior production values, a top shelf director, and Oscar buzz. Hollywood specializes in remakes, right?? They remake classics that didn’t need remade like Footloose, The Poseidon Adventure, Halloween, The Karate Kid, Arthur, The Pink Panther, Miracle on 34th Street, & Psycho, as well as movies that few gave a darn about in the first place like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Red Dawn, Total Recall, Robocop, & The Manchurian Candidate. But while all these lukewarm pieces of crap litter our cinemas the fact is that a non-gimmicky big screen adaptation of A Christmas Carol hasn’t been made in over 60 years. It’s time for that to change.

 

First though, there needs to be a few rules. This would be a live action film. No animation. As much as I like The Muppet Christmas Carol and the 2009 Jim Carrey cc2motion capture movie that kind of thing isn’t what I’m going for here. Besides, it’s been done and probably can’t be done much better. This would not be a musical. I’m not necessarily anti-musical, although they aren’t really my thing. However, making a Carol musical is just another gimmick that has been done so there’s no need to go there. This would be an authentic version of the novella. Too many films leave things out, add things in, change names for no apparent reason, gender bend, & make other unnecessary alterations. I am by no means a film production or screenplay writing expert, but I don’t see why it’d be so difficult to translate a hundred page novella into a two hour movie without pointless modifications. And finally, the cast would be comprised completely of British actors & actresses. Charles Dickens was British. A Christmas Carol is set in London. Scrooge, Marley, Bob Cratchit, & all the other characters are British. I don’t care how talented Tom Hanks, Leonard DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, or Meryl Streep may be…they are American and should not star in A Christmas Carol.

 

pjI’ve given a lot of thought as to who the director should be, and while I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of every filmmaker out there and all of their work I do, as a movie fan, have a passing familiarity with many of the more prominent modern auteurs and their styles. In pondering the issue one name kept creeping into my mind…Peter Jackson. Jackson, of course, is best known for spending most of the past 15 years bringing author JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit to life on the big screen. I believe he could make the kind of epic version of A Christmas Carol that I envision, and he could do it while showing immense respect to the source material. He has the skill to capture the dark tone of much of the story while infusing the film with lighter moments that’d make an audience smile. Jackson isn’t British and prefers to work in his native New Zealand, but I am confident a solution could be negotiated in which most of this movie would be shot in London. Hopefully he wouldn’t try to make A Christmas Carol into a trilogy.

 

Now…onto the main cast…..
As mentioned I believe that this needs to be a strictly British group. As much as I love Robert Downey Jr. it bothers me tremendously that he has portrayed Sherlock Holmes on the big screen. Do you realize that America’s most beloved trio of superheroes…Batman, Superman, & Spiderman…have all most recently been played by three British actors (Christian Bale, Henry Cavill, & Andrew Garfield)?? It’s not that these capable performers have done a bad job. Bale, in particular, was quite good in his role as The Caped Crusader. I just think that it takes a contemporary moviegoer, with all we know about the moviemaking process due to The Internet and other accessible & informative technologies, out of the realm of fantasy & imagination when we know “Hey…that dude is using a fake accent!! He’s from another country!!”. I am only mildly neurotic and most of my fixations are kind of trivial…this just happens to be one of them. Fortunately there is a plethora of very gifted British actors to choose from and I think we can put together the best cast of any A Christmas Carol adaptation ever made:

 

 

Ebenezer Scrooge – Daniel Day-Lewis
Lewis, with his three Oscars for Best Actor, adds instant gravitas to our film. To be honest I am not a huge fan of most of his work. His movies justdaniel-day-lewis aren’t my thing. However, I did enjoy his performance in 2012’s Lincoln in which he was mesmerizing as our 16th president. Dickens describes Scrooge as having “old features”, a “pointed nose”, “thin lips”, & a “wiry chin”. He is generally thought of as skinny, which makes sense since he only eats “a small saucepan of gruel”…a porridge/oatmeal type of substance typically eaten by peasants…for supper. Lewis fits the bill physically and at 57 years old the transformation into an elderly miser wouldn’t be all that difficult.

Bob Cratchit – Simon Pegg or Martin Freeman
peggI would be fine with either of these two gentlemen in the role of Scrooge’s overworked & underpaid clerk. Bob is freemanmarried and has 6 children, the eldest of whom is said to be an apprentice at a milliner (hat maker) shop. This means she is probably a teenager, which puts Bob somewhere in his 30’s or 40’s. He is generally depicted as a mistreated milquetoast who doesn’t dare challenge his nasty boss Mr. Scrooge, but then when he gets home is a devoted father & husband who tries to make the best life possible for his family despite a decided lack of resources. Pegg is best known as Scotty in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot films, while Freeman stars as Dr. Watson in the British television update of Sherlock Holmes and as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit trilogy. Both actors could portray the lighthearted, doting, & generally content Cratchit while not ignoring the underlying pathos present in a character who is abused at work, is very poor, and has a young son on the verge of death.

Mrs. Cratchit – Emily Blunt
This is a relatively minor role. Mrs. Cratchit is Bob’s supportive spouse who nevertheless isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade when it comes toblunt Ebenezer Scrooge. She appears to be a traditional wife & mother who loves her family, but with just the tiniest bit of spunk. Blunt isn’t as well-known as she probably should be due to her eclectic career choices, having done a whole spectrum of movies from rom-coms to action-adventure to drama to Shakespeare…few of them being all that great or profitable. She may be a tad young to play a mother of 6, but I think she could pull it off and add some much needed refreshing beauty to what can largely be a bleak story.

Jacob Marley – Alan Rickman
Marley, as you’ll recall, is Scrooge’s business partner who is “dead as a doornail”. He shows up in ghost form to tell Scrooge how he has completely rickmanscrewed up his entire life and to warn him of the impending visit of three spirits. It is a relatively small yet vital role. Rickman is best known for playing bad guys like Hans Gruber in the original Die Hard and, more recently, Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. Marley isn’t necessarily a bad guy I suppose. It seems that, when alive, he was as much of a ruthless & greedy businessman as Scrooge, but now he is a sad & pathetic figure, doomed to roam the Earth in the afterlife bearing the burden of the chains that he forged in life. He is in only one scene, but it is important and sets the tone of the entire film. Anyone who has seen Rickman’s work knows that he could pull off the scary spectral figure of Jacob Marley.

Fred – Benedict Cumberbatch
Fred is Ebenezer’s nephew and the antithesis of his grouchy uncle. He is friendly, jovial, & full of Christmas spirit. He genuinely cares for his uncle and cbatchcontinues to attempt to have a relationship with him despite Scrooge’s perpetual rejection. Cumberbatch has seen his career trajectory rise exponentially since playing Sherlock Holmes in the contemporary BBC television show, but it seems like he is often cast as the villain otherwise. He played Khan in 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness and voiced the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy. I think it would be interesting to see him go against type and play a cheerful & approachable character. This is another small but key role, and Cumberbatch would undoubtedly be a tremendous addition to the cast.

Tiny Tim – unknown British child
I don’t know enough about child actors in general, let alone specific British child actors, to pull a name out of the hat. However, I will tinytim_optopine just a bit. We don’t know exactly what disease young Tim suffers from, but we know that he will die without proper treatment which Bob Cratchit cannot afford to provide, and that he walks with the aid of a single crutch. Tiny Tim should be portrayed as a loving child with a positive attitude and faith in God. At one point in Dickens’ novella it is said that Tim “hoped the people saw him in the church because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.” However, I believe it is unnecessary and counterproductive to have Tiny Tim be an incessantly jolly child. That is just annoying and does the story no favors.

Fezziwig – Robbie Coltrane
When Ebenezer Scrooge was a young man just starting out in the business world he worked for Mr. Fezziwig, who we can assume was in the samecoltrane “money-lending” profession as his young apprentice. Fezziwig is portrayed as the kind of employer we all wish we had, a kindhearted man who has his priorities straight and treats people with warmth & respect. He is generous, loyal, & presumably successful. Fezziwig’s benevolence is a stark contrast to Scrooge’s malicious attitude and serves to show us who Ebenezer could have and probably should have become had he allowed Fezziwig to be more of an influence in his life. Coltrane is best known nowadays as the gregarious Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter series, and he immediately sprang to mind as I pondered this role. In addition to Harry Potter, Coltrane has been in a couple of James Bond films as well as forgettable movies like Nuns on the Run, Message in a Bottle, & Van Helsing. Fezziwig is another brief but vital part in a story that seems to be full of them.

Young Scrooge – Daniel Radcliffe
The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Ebenezer Scrooge back in time to a few significant moments in his life, one of those being when he was a young radcliffeman just beginning his career and facing the choice between love and professional achievement. Radcliffe, of course, is best known for his role as the titular character in the mega-successful Harry Potter series, and I think he vaguely resembles a young Daniel Day-Lewis. It is tempting to overlook such a small role in what I visualize as a grand film, but I believe it would be a mistake to cast a marginal talent in the part. This is when we see who Ebenezer Scrooge used to be and gain some insight as to what went so terribly wrong. It is a turning point, and a youthful but skilled actor like Radcliffe adds credibility that lets critics & audiences know that this film is legit.

Belle – Carey Mulligan
If you meet a man who is cynical, angry, bitter, & kind of a jackass there is a good chance that there is a woman somewhere in his past that is partly to mulliganblame. Okay okay okay…I’m kidding…sort of. At any rate, Belle is a young lady that Scrooge meets at one of Fezziwig’s Christmas parties. They fall in love and become engaged. Eventually Belle breaks up with Scrooge because of his obsession with money. Remember, The Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. While Scrooge goes thru life brokenhearted & lonely Belle eventually finds love again, marries, and has a happy life with several children. Mulligan is best known for her roles in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and as Daisy Buchanan in the 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby that starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby. She is quite fetching but also tough, like the kind of person who wouldn’t hesitate to kick her fiancée to the curb when he becomes selfish, greedy, & narcissistic.

Christmas Past – Tilda Swinton
Dickens describes The Ghost of Christmas Past thusly: “A strange figure—like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some swintonsupernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white; and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.” It is further said that “its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.” Various adaptations have shown Christmas Past as an angelic female, an elderly man, & an “androgynous” figure of unspecified age. The 2009 Disney motion capture film comes the closest to bringing Dickens’ unique vision to fruition. Obviously with CGI we could do something similar even in a live action movie. However, I think what might work best is a combination of computerized magic and a performance by a real actress. Swinton not only has a unique look, but she is another Academy Award winner to add to our fully loaded cast.

Christmas Present – Sir Anthony Hopkins
Dickens describes The Ghost of Christmas Present as “a jolly giant” clothed in a green robe with white fur and sitting upon a throne of various kinds of food (yum…my kind of throne!!). Most films represent the spirit fairly accurately. However, many don’t present the events of the story faithfully. hopkinsChristmas Present takes Scrooge into the streets of London on Christmas Day, to Bob Cratchit’s house, to see a poor miner’s family celebrating in their little shack upon a lonely moor, to visit two men keeping watch in a lighthouse, out to sea where the crew of a ship (possibly a fishing boat…the book doesn’t specify) is quietly remembering Christmas amongst themselves, & to his nephew Fred’s house where he and a group of friend’s are making merry. For some reason the visits to the lighthouse, the miner’s shack, & the ship are often left out of A Christmas Carol movies. We would not allow that in our version. Christmas Present also reveals to Scrooge two “wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable” children hiding under his regal robes named Ignorance & Want. It is a disturbing scene rife with social commentary and is too often left out of movies. Not this one though. At any rate, when pondering the casting decision my mind immediately fell upon Academy Award winner Sir Anthony Hopkins. We associate him most with the role of evil Hannibal Lecter, so I think it would be really interesting to see him instead play a character that is ebullient & gregarious. Christmas Present ages as the night goes along, and we undoubtedly could pull that off as well.

Christmas Yet to Come – Andy Serkis
Dickens describes Christmas Future as a “draped and hooded” phantom “shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its serkisform, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand”. Essentially it is The Grim Reaper, and almost all film versions of A Christmas Carol depict it as so. The spirit doesn’t actually speak…it just points a lot and acts menacing. This is a tough one from a casting standpoint, but I immediately thought of Andy Serkis. That name might not ring a bell because he isn’t a well-known actor in the traditional sense. His specialty is giving voice and physicality to computer generated characters like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the titular character in King Kong (a lukewarm 2005 film directed by…Peter Jackson). We could certainly go the CGI route here, but I think Serkis’ unique talent adds a level of je ne sais quoi that would elevate our movie to another strata.

 

Ideally this film would be released in early December so that it could be enjoyed by audiences looking for some holiday cheer at their local cineplex in the midst of their Christmas shopping. Hopefully it would get lots of love from Hollywood during its awards season. What do you think?? Do we need another A Christmas Carol movie?? Did I do a good job of casting?? Does this look like a film you might be tempted to check out?? As always your comments & feedback are welcome. Merry Christmas Manoverse…and God bless us everyone!!

Superfluous 7 – Favorite A Christmas Carol Adaptations

CTVIt has become an annual tradition the past few years for me to kvetch about the peculiar entertainment options offered on TV during the Christmas season. If I were to own or run a station like American Movie Classics or Turner Classic Movies the entire month of December would be dedicated almost exclusively to the plethora of holiday favorites that have been produced over the past several decades. Instead what has become the norm for these channels is to show a meager smattering of Christmas films here & there while still using the majority of their time to broadcast movies that have absolutely no relationship to the holiday season. Who in the heck wants to turn on a classic movie channel in December and watch some crappy 90’s rom-com, a western, or anything starring James Dean?? Not this humble Potentate of Profundity. Anyway, one holiday classic that you will usually see somewhere every year is A Christmas Carol, based on Charles Dickens’ wonderful 1843 novella. The question is which adaptation is being shown?? And for the purposes of this exercise a more important query is which version is worth watching?? In an effort to clarify the matter The Manofesto presents…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Dickens, TX…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Best Adaptations of A Christmas Carol:

 

 

 

 

 

7 Scrooge (1970) starring Albert Finney
I know a lot of people love this version. I like it well enough. However, there are issues. The music isn’t horrible, but no one in the cast is especially talented at ScroogeAFsinging. They are the kind of vocalists that get laughed at during the auditions on America Idol. When we are introduced to young Ebenezer’s girlfriend Belle it is said that she is Fezziwig’s daughter. The source material never states that and it seems like an unnecessary alteration. When Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present it is said that the year is 1860. The book was published in 1843 and almost all other films acknowledge that. Why change it?? The Ghost of Christmas Present sequence leaves out the child specters of Want & Ignorance and also skips over visits to a lighthouse, coal mining shack, & a ship at sea…omissions that aren’t uncommon among Carol films. And let’s talk about Scrooge’s visit to Hell. What kind of cheesy sci-fi schlock is that? However, all things considered, this is an entertaining movie that retains the essence of the story even if it is a bit liberal with the details. Albert Finney was only 34 years old when this film was made yet plays a fairly convincing Scrooge. Sir Alec Guinness…known primarily nowadays as Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars…plays the ghost of Jacob Marley, a bit of trivia that I find rather amusing.

 

 

 

6 A Christmas Carol (1999) starring Patrick Stewart
I am a self-proclaimed Trekkie, so of course any adaptation starring Captain Picard is going to make the cut. Stewart has done a one man stage production of Carol ScroogePSin the UK for many years, therefore it makes sense that he’d star in a full scale movie. This was a made-for-TV film on TNT about 15 years ago, and unlike another television version we’ll get to eventually this one feels…small. The supporting cast is fine but not particularly notable. Stewart’s performance is extraordinary…as are most Stewart performances…but still not especially memorable. It is a fairly faithful re-telling of the story and even includes the scene where the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge people celebrating Christmas in a lighthouse, on a ship at sea, and a small cabin with coal miners. That is a part of the book left out of too many film adaptations for no particular reason. If you’re a Patrick Stewart fan you’ll probably like this movie. If you’re not a Star Trek: TNG enthusiast and have little affinity for Stewart you may be unimpressed.

 

 

 

5 A Christmas Carol (1938) starring Reginald Owen
This particular adaptation of the story is what most will remember as the cheery one. Some might say it is a bit too jovial, which is seemingly intentional on the part ScroogeROof the filmmakers. Tiny Tim is quite peppy for a terminally ill child and Bob Cratchit looks pretty content & well-nourished for a man who can barely feed his family and is constantly on the verge of losing his job. At worst he’s kind of a jittery guy, like someone who might want to consider downsizing his daily caramel macchiato from venti to grande. Melancholy aspects of the tale like Scrooge’s fiancée that dumps him when he becomes a greedy money-loving jackass and the ghastly child apparitions of Want & Ignorance are not in the film at all. This is definitely a sanitized version of Carol, but on some level it still works. Owen’s take on Scrooge isn’t particularly noteworthy but neither is it dreadful. I seem to recall seeing this movie on TV a lot as a child which probably explains my affection toward it.

 

 

 

4 Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009) starring Jim Carrey
This version hasn’t really had time to find a foothold in the collective pop culture consciousness just yet. It may get there one day or maybe it won’t, but I assume it ScroogeJCwill receive ample opportunity in the next several years due to its $200 million budget and the hours of effort & skill it had to have taken to put together such a high tech project. I saw the film in a theater upon its release in 2009 and it is a dazzlingly beautiful piece of work from director Robert Zemeckis, the man who gave us the brilliant Back to the Future trilogy. I am a big fan of motion capture animation, and although this movie doesn’t measure up to 2004’s The Polar Express one can clearly see how much the technology has advanced over the years. Jim Carrey…much like what Tom Hanks did in Express…plays multiple roles and does a nice job. I like animated Carrey a lot more than I do real Carrey. The movie stays quite true to the book and that fact alone probably makes it more appealing to me. It is actually a rather dark film at times because the format allows the ominous aspects of the story to be portrayed more artistically than a live action movie might allow. It is kind of surprising how menacing some scenes are. This isn’t a kids’ movie. The filmmakers probably had a little too much fun with their toys and there are moments when I wish they would have dialed it back just a bit, but it’s a small nit to pick.

 

 

 

3 A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott
It is my humble opinion that legendary British characters…Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Harry Potter, & yes, Ebenezer Scrooge…should be portrayed by British ScroogeGCSactors just as beloved American characters…Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer, Jay Gatsby, Batman, Superman, & Spiderman…should be played by American actors. It’s kind of a hang-up with me. That being said, due credit must be given to George C. Scott for a portrayal of Scrooge that has aged quite well and has been shown on television with some frequency only since 2007 when Mr. Scott’s estate sold the rights. Perhaps that two decade time lag is what makes this one of the lesser appreciated versions of Carol. Originally a TV movie on CBS, it has a big screen vibe that makes it feel significant. Scott’s Scrooge is more of a cunning & merciless business tycoon than a bitter old geezer, a subtle yet intriguing departure. It is a fairly austere, decidedly gimmick-less version, which is a refreshing rarity. There are minor omissions & variations from the source material, but nothing that is glaring or unforgivable.

 

 

 

2 The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
I pondered whether or not to include this movie at all, but ultimately decided that its magnetic charm cannot be overlooked. My preference for the perfect A ScroogeMCChristmas Carol adaptation is a straightforward, high quality, authentic rendering of Charles Dickens’ story. No animation. No song & dance numbers. No gender bending. No omissions of key characters or plot points. No additions or “fleshing out” of things barely alluded to in the book. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that seems to be an almost impossible task to accomplish. Having said that, I have, over the years, opened my mind just a bit and accepted some unique interpretations on their own merits. Those of us that grew up in the 70’s & 80’s were blessed to have Jim Henson’s Muppets as a ubiquitous part of our childhood, and probably one of the greatest Muppet productions of all time is this take on A Christmas Carol. Is it faithful to the book?? Well…more than one might expect. I mean sure…it is so family friendly that it makes the 1938 Reginald Owen version look like a snuff film from Sam Peckinpah, but that’s okay. It’s fun, which isn’t a bad thing. I love the narration & running commentary from Gonzo the Great (as Charles Dickens) and Rizzo the Rat. Kermit the Frog is a fine Bob Cratchit. Michael Caine…one of the few “real” actors in the film…gives quite possibly one of his best performances as Ebenezer Scrooge. Music adds some unobtrusive levity yet the dark nature of the original story isn’t completely lost. Like most Muppet movies this one is amusing & will warm the cockles of even the coldest heart.

 

1 Scrooge (1951) starring Alastair Sim
This is generally considered one of the best adaptations of the Dickens novella by most critics…whoever “they” are. For me it rises to the top spot kind of by default.ScroogeAS I won’t award an animated/musical/cartoon version the #1 spot. I just can’t do it. That narrows it down quite a bit. The 1938 Reginald Owen movie leaves too much out and gives the source material a tonal lobotomy. It is a fine film on its own merits but cannot be #1. It is a testament to George C. Scott’s brilliance that his Ebenezer Scrooge is thought of by many as definitive, however I cannot give the honor to a made-for-TV movie that was largely inaccessible to the public for over two decades and stars an American actor in a uniquely British role. So we are left with the film that would probably win most polls anyway. However it is not without flaws. An entire subplot is added in which young Scrooge & Marley thrown in with a shady businessman named Mr. Jorkin and leave old Fezziwig in the dust. Later on the crooked Jorkin’s legal problems lead to success for Scrooge & Marley. It’s not horrible background material…it just isn’t in Dickens’ novella. For some reason Scrooge’s maid Mrs. Dilber gets a lot of airtime in the movie as well. Again it isn’t necessarily bad character development…just not faithful to the book. And for no apparent reason whatsoever young Scrooge’s fiancee’s name is Alice instead of Belle. I am sure that someone somewhere had a reason for making that change 65 years ago, but I hate stuff like that. It makes it seem as if the people who were getting paid to make the movie couldn’t be bothered to read the book first. At any rate, even with those issues this is still a great film. It retains the solemn (at times forbidding) tone of the story, and Sim is uniquely memorable in the titular role. He has a singular appearance that allows him to convincingly exhibit both sides of the Scrooge coin…the bitter & lonely old miser who is then transformed and joyously embraces a second chance. The supporting cast is solid if not all that remarkable. If/when Hollywood ever decides to do another big screen remake of A Christmas Carol this is the one they should emulate.

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 17

I have to be honest. Choosing which games we are going to pick has become difficult. College football is, of course, over. The NFL is down to the nitty gritty. We have a good idea of which teams are definitely in the playoffs and which teams certainly will not be playoff bound. The real interest lies in the handful of teams who are fighting for just a couple of playoff spots. However, I don’t want to just keep talking about the same half dozen teams every week. That’s redundant & tedious for both myself and The Manoverse. Ah well…there are worse problems, right?? At any rate, last week Zach went 2-3, while I went 3-2. Zach’s faith in Johnny Football proved to be misguided, while we both underestimated how far the San Francisco 49ers have gone off the rails. That brings my season record to 50-41, while Zach is currently 46-45. I think it’s pretty cool that both of us are still above .500. Hey ESPN…call me!!

*

Buffalo (-5.5) at Oakland
raidersNeither team is going to the playoffs. The Bills aren’t mathematically eliminated, but they are definitely fighting an uphill battle. To be fair Buffalo_Bills_Helmetthough they have shown improvement. It looks like they don’t believe QB EJ Manuel is the answer, so they’ll likely have to address that issue in the offseason. Conversely, even though they seem like they have their quarterback of the present & future with Derek Carr, the Raiders are a mess. They’ll be looking to hire a big time coach in the offseason. As far as this game goes I am going to go with the upset. Call it a gut feeling. Zach thinks Buffalo will win easily.

My Pick = Oakland
Z’s Pick = Buffalo

Detroit (-8) at Chicago
The big sports news this week is that the Bears are benching QB Jay Cutler and starting Jimmy Clausen. It’d be shocking if that is a long term answer. Will Cutler Detroit_Lions_Helmetbe with the Bears next season?? Can head coach Marc Trestman keep his job?? I have no idea. Meanwhile, the Lions are in a dogfight for both their division lead and a wildcard spot. They have a lot riding on this game and I don’t think they’ll mess it up. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Detroit
Z’s Pick = Detroit

Indianapolis at Dallas (-3)
The Colts have already clinched their division. The Cowboys lead their division and need to win atleast one more game. This is going to be a shootout. I expect the Indianapolis_Colts_HelmetPalace in Dallas to have a playoff atmosphere. However, I also expect Andrew Luck to have more bullets in his gun than Tony Romo. Zach agrees.

My Pick = Indianapolis
Z’s Pick = Indianapolis

Seattle (-7.5) at Arizona
ss1The defending champion Seahawks are still in the playoff hunt, but the Cardinals have clinched the division title. However, the Cards are azcdown to 3rd string QB Ryan Lindley. I have no doubt that Arizona will put forth their best effort, and eliminating Seattle from playoff contention would be sweet for them (and every other NFC playoff contender). I just don’t believe that a Seattle team with everything on the line will go down easily. Zach, on the other hand, is all in on the Cardinals despite their shaky quarterback situation.

My Pick = Seattle
Z’s Pick = Arizona

Denver (-3) at Cincinnati
The Bengals took care of business last week by knocking that arrogant jackass Manziel down a peg or two, but now it’s time for them to lose. Cincy is just a half denvergame in front of Pittsburgh & Baltimore in the AFC North, and both of those teams have very winnable games this week. The Broncos have already clinched their division and I suppose it’s not out of the question that they could take their foot off the gas these last couple of weeks. I hope they wait until next week versus Oakland to do that. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Denver
Z’s Pick = Denver

College Football Bowlapalooza 2014

College football wrapped up its regular season a couple of weeks ago, and now we have the opportunity to watch nearly 40 post-season bowl gamestrophy over the next few weeks. Some games will be more entertaining than others. Let me remind everyone that these picks are not part of our Pigskin Picks of Profundity and we do not utilize point spreads. There are just so many games, many of them featuring teams that we know very little about. Bowl season is quite unpredictable, and there are a plethora of variables. Some teams are playing for interim coaches. Some are disappointed about where they ended up. Some have a big chip on their shoulder, while others enjoy the fun aspects of the bowl experience a bit too much. Most of these teams will not have suited up for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. Having said all of that, we’ll give prognosticating these games a whirl. I am going back to an idea that I utilized a couple of years ago. I am dividing all bowl games into three tiers. Tier 1 are the more superfluous games, with second-rate matchups featuring uninteresting teams that will likely be enjoyed only by hardcore football fans and of course fans of the teams involved. Tier 2 games have the potential to be quite engaging. Most football fans will atleast check them out. Tier 3 is the good stuff. These are the games that nearly everyone is excited about and should provide several hours of quality gridiron action. Enjoy!!

Tier 1

New Orleans Bowl
Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
12/20 11am ESPN
I’m a Wolfpack fan, but there’s no denying that they’ve settled into a pattern of 7 win mediocrity the past few years after going 13-1 in 2010. I know very little about the Ragin’ Cajuns except they are one of what seems like dozens of college football teams in Louisiana. This is basically a home game for Lafayette, but old habits die hard. I’m going with Nevada. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Nevada Z’s Pick – Nevada

New Mexico Bowl
Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)
12/20 2pm ESPN
I have picked against Utah St. in previous bowl games because I didn’t know anything about them. But now I know that they’ve won their past two bowl games. That’s enough evidence for me. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Utah St. Z’s Pick – Utah St.

Potato Bowl (Boise, ID)
Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)
12/20 5:45pm ESPN
I suppose I’ll be all patriotic and pick the service academy. Zach likes the Falcons’ triple option and believes that’ll help them get the win.                     My Pick – Air Force Z’s Pick – Air Force

Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL)
South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)
12/20 9:15pm ESPN
A camellia…for those who may be wondering…is a type of flower. That’s cool. Atleast they didn’t name this game after some second-rate retail establishment or a publicity seeking restaurant. I’m a MAC fan so I’m going with the Falcons. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Bowling Green Z’s Pick – Bowling Green

Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2)
12/23 6pm ESPN
Oh where to begin. I was severely disappointed when my alma mater & the C-USA champions chose this game over another one in which they would have faced an admittedly mediocre Big Ten team. The knock on the Herd all season has been that their schedule was weak and they haven’t played any “power” conference teams. Like it or not perception matters in college football and I still believe that Marshall should have taken the opportunity to silence the doubters, even if it would have been against a 6-6 opponent. Having said all that I do have to admit that this will likely be a competitive contest. My residual bitterness about Marshall’s season ending in a low level post-season game on a Tuesday night instead of heading undefeated to a New Year’s Eve bowl or atleast a pedestrian matchup with a “power” conference foe may or may not dissipate in the next several days. Strangely enough Zach feels more loyalty to The Herd than I do, although he does have legitimate concerns about a defense that allowed 67 points to Western Kentucky…something that ruined the perfect season.
My Pick – n/a Z’s Pick – Marshall

Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego, CA)
Navy (6-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
12/23 9:30pm ESPN
So this is basically a home game for the Aztecs. Shouldn’t there be a rule against that?? Anyway, I suppose once again I’ll make the jingoistic choice. Zach is in agreement due to his affection for the triple option. My Pick – Navy Z’s Pick – Navy

Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Western Kentucky (7-5)
12/24 Noon ESPN
All I know is that Western Kentucky ruined Marshall’s perfect season…those bastards. I know even less about Central Michigan. I’m pretty unforgiving when I comes to sports, so I’m rooting for the Chippewas all the way. Zach likes WKU’s prolific offense.
My Pick – Central Michigan Z’s Pick – Western Kentucky

Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State (6-7) vs. Rice (7-5)
12/24 8pm ESPN
The NCAA oftentimes appears to be rather obtuse, but they are atleast smart enough to have figured out that if you’re going to have football teams be away from home on Christmas then they need to be enticed by exotic locales like The Bahamas and Hawaii. I have a huge problem with a team like Fresno St. going to a bowl game with a losing record, while other eligible teams with a .500 (i.e. not losing) record like Ohio U., Temple, & Middle Tennessee are staying at home. It’s not right. Pulling for Rice may be a meaningless & ineffective form of protest, but it’s all that I’ve got. The Bulldogs have screwed the pooch on three occasions this season when Zach picked them, so he’s understandably going in a different direction this time. My Pick – Rice Z’s Pick – Rice

Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5)
12/26 1pm ESPN
This is the game that my Marshall Thundering Herd should be playing in. Instead Louisiana Tech…the team that the Herd defeated in the C-USA title game…gets the opportunity to challenge a “power” conference team. Obviously the Illini aren’t that great, but they played teams like Wisconsin & Minnesota tough in losing efforts and beat both Penn St. & Northwestern. A shaky resume for sure…but I’ll take it. Zach think this will be a close game and likes Bulldogs’ QB Cody Sokol to snag a late victory. My Pick – Illinois Z’s Pick – Louisiana Tech

Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI)
Rutgers (7-5) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
12/26 4:30pm ESPN
This is the old Motor City/Little Caesars Bowl, now being sponsored by an auto shop subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company. I have a feeling most people will be at the mall exchanging the banal yet overpriced Christmas gifts they received from clueless friends & relatives rather than watching a completely superfluous football game. Zach thinks the Tar Heels’ special teams will make the difference.                                                                  My Pick – North Carolina Z’s Pick – North Carolina

St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State (7-5) vs. Central Florida (9-3)
12/26 8pm ESPN
This game would be much more interesting if it were being played in St. Petersburg, Russia instead of Florida. I had the Knights in my pre-season Top 25, and I’ll be darned if they didn’t almost get there. Ah well…close, horseshoes, hand grenades, etc. I suppose I’ll stick with them until the bitter end though. Zach is borrowing my philosophy about teams in better conferences being battle tested and therefore being prepared for games such as these.
My Pick – UCF Z’s Pick – NC St.

Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD)
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
12/27 1pm ESPN
Shouldn’t one of the academies be playing in this game?? Anyway, the Bearcats have been a much better team than the Hokies this season and I see no reason why that won’t continue here. Conversely, Zach believes Va. Tech has a better coaching staff and will win this game with a superior ground attack.
My Pick – Cincinnati Z’s Pick – Virginia Tech

Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, NY)
Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)
12/27 4:30pm ESPN
Hey look…it’s a game that could be played during every regular season if the people that ran the now defunct Big East football conference hadn’t been complete idiots. The Nittany Lions have had all sanctions removed, as if that pesky sexual abuse stuff never really happened. The NCAA should just go the extra step and restore all of Joe Paterno’s old records. The hook for this shindig is that it is played at Yankee Stadium. I suppose it’s better than playing in Detroit. Zach sees this as an even matchup, and believes that the Eagles’ rushing attack as well as their defensive line will make the difference. My Pick – Penn St. Z’s Pick – Boston College

Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC)
Georgia (9-3) vs. Louisville (9-3)
12/30 6:30pm ESPN
The Bulldogs had much higher hopes for 2014, but we knew someone would be the odd team out in the SEC. The Cardinals didn’t suffer too badly from the loss of QB Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL, and I must admit to being a bit surprised. Belk, for those who may be curious, is a department store chain on par with JC Penney’s, Dillard’s, & Kohl’s. We don’t have one where I live so I know nothing else. Anyway, I think Georgia will be ready to take their frustration & disappointment out on someone, and it looks like Louisville is the unfortunate victim. Zach is unimpressed with Louisville and thinks freshman backup RB Nick Chubb will have a breakout game for Georgia.
My Pick – Georgia Z’s Pick – Georgia

Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX)
Houston (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)
1/2 Noon ESPN
Soooo…we have a Military Bowl AND an Armed Forces Bowl?? Seems redundant. Anyway, I believe both of these teams will be playing for interim head coaches. The Cougars fired their coach and Pitt’s coach is leaving for Wisconsin. As a long time WV Mountaineer fan I can’t bring myself to cheer for the Panthers. Zach likes the Panthers’ rushing attack and believes it will help them prevail.
My Pick – Houston Z’s Pick – Pitt

Cactus Bowl (Tempe, AZ)
Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
1/2 10:15pm ESPN
This is the former Copper/Insight.com/Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. I like the new name much better. The Huskies fared quite well this season under new head coach Chris Peterson and the Pac 12 might want to look out in another year or two. The Cowboys fell off a bit after posting 9+ wins in 5 of the previous 6 seasons. I think this might be a shootout, and I’m picking the upset. Zach likes Washington to win easily.
My Pick – Oklahoma St. Z’s Pick – Washington

GoDaddy Bowl (Mobile, AL)
Toledo (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)
1/4 9pm ESPN
Those that have perused these bowl picks in previous years may recall my contempt for this particular game. It’s horribly named. GoDaddy is a website building company that can’t be taken seriously with that stupid moniker. Yes it is memorable & catchy…but it’s also juvenile & unprofessional. The game itself never features an engaging matchup, and it is played at the worst possible time. By January 4th the other bowls are over and all that remains is the national title game. Plus the NFL playoffs are underway. With all that going on in addition to the post-holidays resumption of ho-hum normalcy can anyone really be expected to give a hoot about Toledo and Arkansas St.?? I think not. Zach concurs My Pick – Toledo Z’s Pick – Toledo

Tier 2

Las Vegas Bowl
Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
12/20 3:30pm ABC
Okay…now things are beginning to heat up. This could very well be the best of the spate of games that begin the bowl season. As opposed to the poor guys who ended up in places like Detroit and Idaho for the post-season these teams get to go to Vegas. Vegas baby…Vegas!! The Rams have had a nice season and were a loss to Boise St. away from playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Their head coach has already departed for greener pastures with the Florida Gators, which puts them at a disadvantage. Zach believes that losing their coach will energize the Rams and they’ll secure the victory.                            My Pick – Utah Z’s Pick – Colorado St.

Miami Beach Bowl
BYU (8-4) vs. Memphis (9-3)
12/22 2pm ESPN
I think this is a brand new bowl game…as if we needed that. Atleast it’s a good matchup though. I think this will be a close contest that’ll be decided late in the 4th quarter. Zach sees big things on the horizon for the Cougars (might I suggest an invitation to join the Big 12) and thinks it starts with this game.
My Pick – BYU Z’s Pick – BYU

Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)
Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
12/27 2pm CBS
It’s Devils vs. Devils!! Did you know that the Sun Bowl is one of the 2nd oldest bowl games?? The Rose Bowl began in 1902, and the Sun, Sugar, & Orange Bowls were first played in 1935. I’m not sure how the Sugar & Orange Bowls have grown to be so much more prestigious than their solar-named brother. At any rate, I still think of Duke as a basketball school. Conversely, the Sun Devils have had a very nice year and were in the thick of the Pac 12 title race until the end. Zach foresees a blowout win for Arizona St.
My Pick – Arizona St. Z’s Pick – Arizona St.

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA)
Miami (FL) (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
12/27 3:30pm ABC
Not all that long ago this would have been a marquee matchup, but both programs have hit kind of a rough patch. The Hurricanes have been mired in mediocrity for about a decade, while it’s just a bad season for the Gamecocks. I refuse to believe that Steve Spurrier, given a month to practice & plan for a very average opponent, won’t be completely prepared. Zach thinks both teams have been inconsistent this season, but agrees that The Old Ball Coach will make the difference.
My Pick – South Carolina Z’s Pick – South Carolina

Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA)
Nebraska (9-3) vs. USC (8-4)
12/27 8pm ESPN
If this were the 80’s these teams might be competing for a national championship, but in the new reality of college football USC is still very good but hardly dominant, while the Cornhuskers are finding out that recruiting 5 star athletes to play in Lincoln, NE isn’t as easy as it was a few decades ago. Nebraska will be playing for an interim coach, while the Trojans seem poised to make another run at the top sooner rather than later. Zach isn’t sold on USC and believes this game is a toss-up.
My Pick – USC Z’s Pick – Nebraska

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN)
Texas A&M (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
12/29 2pm ESPN
The Aggies were knocked down a peg or two adjusting to life after Johnny Football, but still had a decent year. My Mountaineers are settling into life in the Big 12, but this may be their fate more often than not for the foreseeable future…a solid season rewarded with a December bowl game that will only draw mild interest. I’m actually looking forward to this game. The thing I notice more than anything about the much celebrated SEC is the overall speed of the teams. WVU might have a tough time matching that speed, but they’ll give it their best shot. Zach believes that A&M will shred the Mountaineers’ defense.
My Pick – West Virginia Z’s Pick – Texas A&M

Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Oklahoma (8-4) vs. Clemson (9-3)
12/29 5:30pm ESPN
Once upon a time this was the Blockbuster/MicronPC/CarQuest/Champ Sports Bowl. They seem to have an issue retaining consistent corporate sponsorship. At any rate, both teams were hoping for bigger & better things in 2014, but stuff happens. On paper this looks like it’ll be a fun, close contest. I hope that is the case. Oklahoma is beginning to have the same issues as Nebraska…just because they used to be elite 30 or 40 years ago doesn’t mean they are going to retain that status in the 21st century. Clemson benefits from playing in the ACC where only the defending national champion Florida St. Seminoles are consistently superior. I think this will be a low scoring game with lots of tough defense, but the Sooners will prevail in the end. Zach thinks Oklahoma’s offensive line will lead them to a crushing victory. My Pick – Oklahoma Z’s Pick – Oklahoma

Texas Bowl (Houston, TX)
Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6)
12/29 9pm ESPN
Despite the pedestrian name of the bowl and the matchup of two 6-6 teams this could be a real sleeper. Both programs have seen better days, but I believe that both will be successful again…eventually. I like the Razorbacks rushing attack to grind out a low scoring victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Arkansas Z’s Pick – Arkansas

Foster Farms Bowl (Santa Clara, CA)
Maryland (7-5) vs. Stanford (7-5)
12/30 10pm ESPN
Formerly known as the Fight Hunger/Walnut/Emerald Bowl, this game is now being played in the San Francisco 49ers brand new stadium. Foster Farms is a California poultry company. I hope that doesn’t mean the game will be a turkey. The Stanford campus is about a half hour away, so this is basically a home game for them. I think that’ll help make the difference in a fairly easy victory. Zach is all bent out of shape about Maryland’s lack of class & sportsmanship. I obviously missed something.
My Pick – Stanford Z’s Pick – Stanford

Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
Mississippi State (10-2) vs. Georgia Tech (10-3)
New Year’s Eve 8pm ESPN
I find it odd that the venerable Orange Bowl has been pushed back to New Year’s Eve. Ah well…atleast it won’t have to compete with the playoff semifinal games. The Bulldogs were in the national title hunt for awhile but must settle for this consolation prize. Tech is one of those mostly unexceptional programs that occasionally has a really good season. However, their failure to “upset” vastly overrated Florida St. in the ACC championship is troubling. I think Mississippi St. wins this game easily. Zach believes it’ll be a rather close contest, but likes Bulldogs’ QB Dak Prescott to lead his team to victory. My Pick – Mississippi St. Z’s Pick – Mississippi St.

Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Missouri (10-3) vs. Minnesota (8-4)
New Year’s Day 1pm ABC
It’s back!! Well okay…it never really left, but for the past decade this game was known by one of those horribly tacky corporate names. I’m glad that’s over. The combatants are two sneaky good teams that were overshadowed by well-known brands in their respective conferences. The Tigers probably have more team speed and I think that’ll make the difference. Zach is really interested in this game and believes that Missouri will win a close one late in the 4th quarter.
My Pick – Missouri Z’s Pick – Missouri

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL)
Iowa (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)
1/2 3:30pm ESPN
This game is officially known by one of the aforementioned crass corporate names, but I refuse to play along. It’s been the Gator Bowl since 1946 and it’ll stay that way in The Manoverse. In addition to the name BS the game is being played after New Year’s, which wouldn’t happen if I were in charge. The matchup is a little dubious as well. The Gator Bowl used to invite 9 or 10 win teams. This is the best they could do in 2014-15?? Having said all that, I think these are two solid teams that are a threat to be really good in any given season (just not this year). I think it’ll be a decent game…not a defensive battle but not a shootout either. The Voices are telling me special teams will be the difference in a Volunteers victory. Zach likes the Hawkeyes by a touchdown.
My Pick – Tennessee Z’s Pick – Iowa

Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina (8-4) vs. Florida (6-6)
1/3 1pm ESPN
I hate the unimaginative name of this bowl as well as its spot two days after New Year’s. Folks will have had their fill of collegiate gridiron action by now and will be concentrating on the NFL playoffs and the national title game. However, one cannot overlook the fact that at one time the Pirates were in the running for the “access” bowl, i.e. the bone thrown to the best team among the non-power conferences, before going 2-3 in the latter part of the season. The Gators will be playing under an interim head coach since Will Muschamp was fired (and has since become the defensive coordinator for Auburn). I’m not sure who is considered the underdog. East Carolina has the better record, but Florida is battle tested in the SEC. I am known to pull for the little guy, so I suppose I’ll do that. Zach has very little interest in this game but believes Florida will win easily.
My Pick – East Carolina Z’s Pick – Florida

Tier 3

Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN)
Notre Dame (7-5) vs. LSU (8-4)
12/30 3pm ESPN
Normally these are two teams that would be aiming for a much more valuable prize, but they just so happened to have both had an off year. Kudos to the powers-that-be in Nashville for putting together what is still an intriguing matchup despite what the mundane records might indicate. Neither team has much momentum coming into the post-season, with the Irish on a four game losing streak and the Bayou Bengals losers of 2 out of their last 3. It’s all about pride and trying to build on something positive heading into 2015. Zach has nothing but contempt for both teams, but thinks LSU will win easily. My Pick – LSU Z’s Pick – LSU

Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA)
Ole Miss (9-3) vs. TCU (11-1)
New Year’s Eve 12:30pm ESPN
Both teams were in the thick of the playoff hunt. Many still believe that TCU should be one of the final four. Now it’s time for both clubs to prove themselves. If the Horned Frogs win it’ll add fuel to the argument that they should have been included in the playoff. A Rebels victory would end a mostly positive season on a high note after dropping 3 out of their last 4 regular season games. I’m not totally sold on either team, but I’m going to pick the upset. Zach is one who believes the Horned Frogs got screwed by the playoff committee, and thinks that QB Trevone Boykin will lead TCU to a late win. My Pick – Ole Miss Z’s Pick – TCU

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ)
Boise State (11-2) vs. Arizona (10-3)
New Year’s Eve 4pm ESPN
I’m really looking forward to this game. It is unfortunate that it’ll be played at 4pm on New Year’s Eve when most folks are on their way home from work and preparing to go out and celebrate the holiday. Like the Orange Bowl the Fiesta is typically played on New Year’s Day in prime time, but the playoff has changed most of the traditional rules. Anyway, the Broncos have proven that they can go toe to toe with the big boys. The “new reality” of college football will likely dictate a move for them to one of the “power” conferences” in the near future (may I suggest the Big 12…which currently has ten teams), but that’s down the line. As far as this game goes, I certainly think Boise St. can hang with the Wildcats, who will essentially be playing a home game. Can they pull off the upset?? I’m predicting a high scoring (over 80 points combined) shootout, with the Broncos winning a squeaker. Zach likes Arizona’s high-powered offense and thinks they’ll win easily.
My Pick – Boise St. Z’s Pick – Arizona

Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL)
Auburn (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)
New Year’s Day Noon ESPN2
I was really high on the Badgers…until they got blasted in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) title game by Ohio St. Then their head coach bolted…for Oregon St. I pretty much nailed Auburn’s season in my pre-season rankings. They’re good, but not at the level they were at a year ago. This should be a really competitive contest, and I’m not at all concerned with Wisconsin’s coaching situation since former coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is temporarily at the helm. I think the Badgers were humiliated in that conference championship game and will be motivated to prove their worth. Conversely, Zach thinks the game will become ugly early, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (Heisman runner-up) will be shut down, & Auburn QB Nick Marshall will have a great game.
My Pick – Wisconsin Z’s Pick – Auburn

Cotton Bowl (Arlington, TX)
Michigan State (10-2) vs. Baylor (11-1)
New Year’s Day 12:30pm ESPN
As former pro wrestling announcer Jim Ross might say, this is going to be a real slobberknocker. Lots of people believe that Baylor deserved a spot in the playoff. The Spartans had a lot of buzz coming into the season but an early November loss to Ohio St. doomed their playoff chances. Baylor’s campus in Waco, TX is less than a hundred miles from the Palace in Dallas, so I expect they’ll have a notable home field advantage. I also think that the Bears will be hellbent on proving that they should have had the opportunity to play for the national championship. Zach, on the other hand, likes the Spartan defense to shut down Baylor and win by 7-10 points.
My Pick – Baylor Z’s Pick – Michigan St.

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) – Playoff Semifinal
Oregon (12-1) vs. Florida State (13-0)
New Year’s Day 5pm ESPN
Here we go with the four team playoff for the national title. As much as I have complained (with good reason) about the playoff committee and their methodology I must admit that I have no problem with the four teams selected. I think the Seminoles have been far more lucky than good in 2014 but I believe their luck will run out here. The Ducks can match…and probably exceed…Florida St.’s team speed, and though I’m no Mel Kiper Jr. or Todd McShay I will opine that I’d take Oregon QB & Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota over Florida St. QB & former Heisman winner Jameis Winston with no hesitation. Zach has reservations about Oregon’s defense but is still picking them to make it to the championship game. My Pick – Oregon Z’s Pick – Oregon

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) – Playoff Semifinal
Alabama (12-1) vs. Ohio State (12-1)
New Year’s Day 8:30pm ESPN
There was some thought that the playoff committee wouldn’t put Ohio St. in as the #4 seed because they are down to their 3rd string quarterback. That would have been completely unfair and I am glad the committee didn’t fall victim to that logic. However, the facts can’t be ignored when it comes to this game. The Buckeyes’ defense would have to play the game of their lives to secure a victory. Is that out of the realm of possibility?? No…but it isn’t likely. ‘Bama just has too much size & athleticism in the trenches, and their ground game may be slowed a bit but it won’t be stopped. This feels like a low scoring affair (under 40 total points), with the Tide grinding out a close victory. To say that Zach has disdain for Ohio St. would be like saying President Obama is slightly unethical or Gigli wasn’t a great film. He doesn’t believe the Buckeyes belong anywhere near the playoff and is hoping that Alabama hangs 100 points on them.
My Pick – Alabama Z’s Pick – Alabama

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX)
Kansas State (9-3) vs. UCLA (9-3)
1/2 6:45pm ESPN
I’m not sure when the Alamo Bowl became significant enough to get a post-New Year’s prime time (kind of) time slot, but there is no denying that this is an attractive matchup. The Bruins were in the hunt for a Pac 12 title until an inexplicable home loss to Stanford in the final game of the regular season. The Wildcats fought hard in the Big 12 but couldn’t overcome TCU & Baylor. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is the likely difference in a fun & competitive contest. Zach isn’t a bit impressed by UCLA and is picking K St. to win big.
My Pick – UCLA Z’s Pick – Kansas St.

National Championship (Arlington, TX)
Oregon/Florida St. vs. Alabama/Ohio St.
1/12 TBD ESPN

Oregon-DucksI am predicting an Oregon vs. Alabama title game, which is the matchup that I am pretty sure most folks want to see. Zach AlabamaCrimsonTide2agrees. Can ‘Bama’s defense, ranked 4th in the nation in points allowed, stop QB Marcus Mariota and the 3rd ranked scoring offense in the country?? Will the Ducks’ defense be able to stop the Tide’s ground game, led by TJ Yeldon & Derrick Henry?? Can ‘Bama WR Amari Cooper (who finished third in Heisman voting) escape probable double coverage and make some big plays?? I think it’ll be a close game for 3 quarters, but eventually Mariota will be able to hit a few long bombs and the Ducks will pull away for the surprising victory. Zach believes that Alabama’s experience on the big stage will make the difference.
My Pick – Oregon Z’s Pick – Alabama

The Sammy Claus Wish List 2014

Former President Calvin Coolidge once said that “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” It goes without saying that we should be merciful and exhibit goodwill all year round, but hey…if you can only muster such geniality & compassion a few weeks per year then atleast that’s a start and now is the moment. At any rate, it’s time to present the 6th annual Sammy Claus Wish List. Let me remind you that, in my limited role as tree02Sammy Claus, I wield no genuine authority to bequeath these gifts. My job is to make suggestions and hope that the Jolly Old Elf up at the North Pole is a citizen of The Manoverse and deems it appropriate to fill folks’ stockings as I have proposed. In the previous five years we have actually had quite a bit of success. The original list in 2009 hoped that John & Kate and Heidi & Spencer would go away. The fact that many of you are now asking “Who are they??” is evidence of our achievement. In 2010 we requested a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. That new stadium is now under construction and set to open in 2016. That same year we asked for a college football playoff and for Time-Warner Cable to offer the NFL Network. Done and done. In 2012 we wished for the return of Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s, & other delicious snacks that went away when Hostess imploded. Those treats are indeed back on the shelves at your local supermarket. We also hoped for the extinguishing of The Big East in 2012, and not long after that the football conference shut down. Now only a revised and still pretty decent basketball conference (the original idea anyway) remains. Last year we yearned for a new NASCAR champion and we got one. Jimmie Johnson made The Chase but was eliminated. Bob Hope once stated that ““when we recall Christmas past we usually find that the simplest things…not the great occasions…give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Seeing the gifts on this list bestowed in real life makes me happy. Cheerful reading, and may this Christmas season find you blessed & healthy.

 

 

 

The White House
extra sprinklers & fire extinguishers while the current President continues to set fire to the U.S. Constitutioncon1

 

iTunes Users
another free U2 album…whether you want it or not

 

Officer Darren Wilson
peace, safety, & a new job in a better town

 

Star Wars Fansswars
a new hope as The Force awakens

 

Former U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
A happy retirement. Good riddance you old out-of-touch carpetbagger.

 

Fans of Frozen
the wherewithal to let it go

 

Janay Palmer Rice
self-respect, strength, & the courage to eventually walk awayjp

 

Jimmy Fallon
the ability to focus on his guests instead of indulging his own narcissism

 

College Football
a fair, logical, & transparent playoff system

 

The White House
an extra powerful vacuum to clean up as the current President shreds the U.S. Constitutioncon3

 

Former UAB Football Players & Staff
a new home & success in whatever is next

 

Bill Cosby & His Alleged Victims
the truth…one way or another

 

Donald Sterling
tickets to a rap concertsterling2

 

American Schoolchildren
a return to fulfilling & appetizing meals for lunch

 

Kim Kardashian
a pair of pants (size XL)

 

ESPN
more sports, less sociopolitical commentary & obvious bias

 

David Letterman
A happy retirement. You were brilliant for two decades. I’m so sorry you became a weary & bitter old man.letterman

 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
to be trapped in an elevator with Ray Rice

 

John Travolta
reading glasses

 

The White House
extra toilet paper & air freshener while the current President continues to take a huge crap all over the U.S. Constitutioncon2

 

California
lower taxes & rain

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers
a new defensive backfield

 

Business Owners in Ferguson, MO
economic recoveryferguson-looting-4

 

Fans of Honey Boo Boo
books…lots of books…..

 

The View
continued irrelevance & eventual cancellation

 

Florida St. QB Jameis Winston
A short, miserable, unproductive, non-lucrative NFL career. Stupidity shouldn’t be rewarded.

 

Craig Ferguson
Happiness & success in future endeavors. I regret not discovering the hilarity of your Late Late Show until it was almost over.craigferguson_big

 

 

 

As has become tradition I shall end with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

Santa-and-Jesus“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 16

College football is over except for bowl games and of course the playoff. We’ll deal with that post-season in a few days, but as far as these picks go it’ll be three straight weeks of the NFL. Last week Zach went 3-4, while I went 5-2. That takes my season record to 47-39, while Zach stands at 44-42. These next few weeks will be really interesting though, as I have always found pro football to be much more unpredictable than their collegiate counterparts.

 

 

 

 

 

Miami at New England (-7.5)
The Patriots hold a commanding 3 game lead in the AFC East and would wrap up the division title with a victory. The Dolphins are in the midst of a logjam battling New_England_Patriots_Helmetfor a wildcard playoff spot. They are a skosh better than I thought they’d be, but the Belichick/Brady train just keeps on rolling, which is what I think will happen in this game. Zach concurs.

My Pick = New England
Z’s Pick = New England

 

 

Cincinnati at Cleveland (even)
Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetThe buzz around this game is all about the debut of Johnny Football as an NFL starting quarterback. I am faced with a conundrum. It wouldCleveland_Browns_Helmet certainly help my Steelers for Cincinnati to lose, but a Cleveland victory would produce ceaseless fawning over Manziel as the second coming of Manning/Marino/Elway/Unitas, which would be intolerable. The last thing that dude needs is his ego stroked. The folks in Vegas obviously have very little respect for the Browns since the pick ‘em odds mean they are getting no home field advantage whatsoever. The Bengals could win this week and then lose their final two games to Denver and Pittsburgh, a plan that sounds peachy to me. Conversely, Zach has bought into the Manziel myth and is rooting for the Browns.

My Pick = Cincinnati
Z’s Pick = Cleveland

 

 

Denver (-4) at San Diego
The Broncos and Peyton Manning have looked a little more…human…this season but are still probably going to win the AFC West and atleast get close to the 13-3 denverrecord they posted in 2013. The Chargers are in the aforementioned wildcard gridlock, and a victory here would be huge. Once again the oddsmakers aren’t giving any love to the home team. I like San Diego, but I think Denver is actually a better team now than a year ago when they went to the Super Bowl. Manning has to know that the window for him to snag another ring won’t stay open much longer, and opposing defenses should look out from now thru January. Zach agrees.

My Pick = Denver
Z’s Pick = Denver

 

 

San Francisco at Seattle (-10)
Most “experts” seem to believe that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is on his way out the door and I have no reason to doubt those reports. The defending champion San-Francisco-49ersSeahawks haven’t been as dominant this year as last and aren’t going to win their division. However, they are in a four way battle with Dallas, Philadelphia, & Detroit for two wildcard spots and a win against their archrivals would certainly boost those prospects. Having said that, I think San Francisco might have one last gasp of respectability remaining. I’m not sure they can pull off a victory, but a 10 point spread is just too much. Zach thinks the Seahawks will win but not cover the 10 points.

My Pick = San Francisco
Z’s Pick = San Francisco

 

 

Dallas at Philadelphia (-3)
These two teams are currently tied atop the NFC East. One team will win the division, but the other still has a decent opportunity to make the playoffs as a wildcard. eaglesThe Eagles get the nominal home field advantage and smoked the Cowboys by three TDs at the Palace in Dallas on Thanksgiving night. I see no reason to expect anything different this time. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Philadelphia
Z’s Pick = Philadelphia

A Weekend Christmas Movie Marathon

It’s winter. It’s cold. There is snow on the ground. Sure you have stuff to do, but going outside and dealing with the real world justChristmas doesn’t sound all that appealing at the moment. Fortunately it is the holiday season…the happiest, jolliest, most heartwarming time of the year. Okay okay okay…I am probably wearing my rose colored glasses, but that is exactly what this is all about. We work hard all week to bring home the bacon and provide the necessities for ourselves and our families, so I think we deserve the best of what Christmastime has to offer instead of beating ourselves into oblivion, which means that instead of facing the hellish experience that is the local retail scene this time of year (trust me…online shopping is the way to go) you & I are going to have ourselves a good old-fashioned movie marathon. Nothing but commercial free Christmas movies & shows for an entire weekend. Heaven on Earth.

hottoddyNow in reality one would have to plan this activity well in advance with a rather large purchase of DVDs, a trip to Redbox, downloads from Netflix or Amazon Prime, or recording stuff on DVR/TiVo. For our purposes I will just imagine that this has already been taken care of and everything is readily available. The schedule is based on what I perceive as the average “real” life and there are a few rules. We will begin Friday evening after work by first getting comfie cozy & fixing some snacks. My definition of comfortable is a well-worn t-shirt that I’d never wear in public & an old pair of sweatpants. Sexy, huh?? Cozy means that Rocco & I are snuggled underneath a big ol’ comforter in front of the TV even though the heat in The Bachelor Palace is turned to an acceptable level. I sincerely wish I had a fireplace, but life isn’t perfect. The lights are out except for that which emanates from the television. What can I say?? I’m all about ambiance. The snack menu would ideally include hot chocolate (or eggnog) and other assorted junk food (chocolate chip cookies are my favorite). No adult goodiesbeverages for this humble Potentate of Profundity, although I am sure Dr. Seuss, Ralphie, Clark Griswold, & Hermie the Elf would all be hilarious in a whole new way if I was snockered on hooch. The marathon does end at an acceptable time each night because I am not 19 years old anymore and pulling an all-nighter no longer seems like all that much fun. I have learned to embrace the value of a good night’s sleep. And finally I will attend church on Sunday morning and get to bed at a decent hour that night, therefore Sunday isn’t as long of a day as Saturday. I still think we end up doing pretty well, with over 37 viewing hours and watching about two dozen movies & specials. I can’t think of a much better way to spend a weekend this time of year.

 

wreath

 

 

 

Friday

5:30pm      Miracle on 34th Street
We commence with this 1947 classic (in black & white!!) about a Macy’s Santa Claus who believes he is the real deal. The movie opens with the Macy’s 600full-miracle-on-34th-street-screenshotThanksgiving Day Parade, which of course has become the unofficial kickoff of the holiday season. For the love of God and all that is holy avoid the horrendous colorized version like MSNBC shuns truth & logic. There was a remake in 1994 and it’s…okay…but for our purposes we’ll stick with the original.

7:15pm      All I Want for Christmas
I guess this movie was in theaters in 1991, but I’m not sure anyone noticed. I first became aware of it several years later when it allchristmasbegan popping up on TV here & there. The story has nothing to do with the overplayed Mariah Carey song (nor the superb Vince Vance & the Valiants tune), but instead is a charming story about two kids trying to get their divorced parents back together on Christmas Eve.

8:45pm      Lethal Weapon
10:45pm    Die Hard
lethalweaponHey, Christmas movies don’t all have to be about Santa Claus, family hijinks, or anything heartwarming. I enthusiastically endorse Mel diehardGibson & Bruce Willis as two of the best Christmas gifts cinema has ever given the masses. And unlike most other insipid action flicks these films offer a good story, some humor, and yes…even uplifting family values. Plus gunfire, explosions, & car chases. I suppose we can’t leave those out completely.

1am        Mr. Krueger’s Christmas
I had to find a way to shoehorn this little gem in somehow. Jimmy Stewart may be well known for a certainmr-kruegers-christmas-1980b other Christmas film, but in 1980 he also starred as Willie Krueger, the type of lonely old man that society has a tendency to toss aside in their “golden years”. Willie works as a custodian in an apartment building and lives in the basement unit with his cat. He is somewhat of a Walter Mitty-esque character, imagining himself in various situations like conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and kneeling at the manger of the baby Jesus on that first Christmas night. Willie obviously craves human interaction & companionship but doesn’t seem to have much of it. This is only a half hour program but it packs a punch in those 30 minutes. You won’t find it on TV but it is easy enough to track down online and well worth the effort.

1:30am      Elf
We end our Friday night on a jovial, fun, and dare I say jolly note with this 2003 offering starring Will Ferrell as an orphan who grows up at The North ElfPole believing he is one of Santa’s elves. He learns the truth and sets out for NY City (passing through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, & then the Lincoln Tunnel) to find his curmudgeonly father, who just happens to be on The Naughty List. Hilarity ensues. A great way to wrap up the evening.

 

 

Saturday

8am          Frosty the Snowman
8:30am    Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
9am          Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
10am        A Charlie Brown Christmas
10:30am Mickey’s Christmas Carol
11am       Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
rudolph3Okay so I lied…we didn’t get much sleep last night. No worries. Buck up little trooper…we’ve got movies to watch!! At any rate, when I cbchristmaswas a kid Saturday mornings meant cartoons. So we will spend this morning watching a half dozen of the most beloved animated Christmas specials of all time. All of these programs have been repeated annually for several decades. A few stretch back to the 1960’s…before I was even born. The Whos down in Whoville, Yukon Cornelius, The Island of Misfit Toys, Burgermeister Meisterburger, evil magician Professor Hinkle…what awesome characters. I am so glad I grew up in grinchsantacominthe era that I did, and even happier that I can still enjoy these delightful stories. There are new specials for kids to enjoy nowadays…Prep & Landing, Shrek the Halls, Merry Madagascar, etc…but I firmly believe that a hundred years from now few of those will still be around while the classics that I love so much will remain.

12pm      Home Alone
1:45pm   Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
The older I get the more questions I have about these films. If the phones are out why is little Kevin able to order pizza?? Why is there a wheelchair in homealonethe McCallister basement?? After going thru all she has for three days why is milk the first thing Mrs. McCallister worries about when she gets home?? You mean everyone on the whole block went out of town for Christmas?? How long was Kevin working those mannequins & the cardboard Michael Jordan (because he had no idea when the crooks were coming back that night)?? Why can’t anyone but Kevin see what a jerk Buzz is?? Why doesn’t Kevin call the police before the Wet Bandits rob Duncan’s Toy Chest, since he knows what time they will be there?? Who thought it was a good idea to give Rob Schneider a job?? Nevertheless I still find both movies quite charming and required viewing during the holiday season. I acknowledge that the sequel isn’t as good as the original, but it is still good enough for these movies to be thought of as a package deal and to be viewed back-to-back in the course of this special weekend.

3:45pm   Holiday Inn
5:30pm   White Christmas
HInnI have to give a shoutout to my brother The Owl for introducing me to these delightful movies many years ago. They just don’t make ‘em like this White-Christmas-1954-christmas-movies-3176714-960-536anymore and that’s a crying shame. Bing Crosby was a multitalented guy that could sing, dance, & act. He does all three in these movies with a little help from Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, & others. Holiday Inn was made in 1942 and isn’t only a Christmas film but celebrates all of our American holidays. There is an infamous scene set during Lincoln’s Birthday (President’s Day used to be two separate holidays…Lincoln’s Birthday & Washington’s Birthday…until the mid-1980’s) in which Crosby and his lovely lady friend sing in black face. Even I…someone who views people that are perpetually offended & politically correct as silly and annoying…understand how that scene can be considered offensive. However, I disagree wholeheartedly with the modern propensity for television censorship. The movie was made during a different era and represents part of our history that shouldn’t be edited to protect peoples’ sensitive feelings. But I digress. Holiday Inn introduced the beloved song White Christmas, the popularity of which led to the second movie a dozen years later. These are both wonderful films, tributes to a bygone age when true talent & skill were recognized and appreciated.

7:30pm    Scrooged
I must confess that I didn’t see this film…made in 1988…until a few years ago. It just didn’t seem like my cup o’ tea and I’ve never found Bill Murray scroogedto be all that entertaining. Unlike some Saturday Night Live alumni who have carved out semi-successful & enjoyable movie careers I have always felt that Murray’s shtick was best when confined to brief comedy sketches and that when stretched out over an entire movie the act grows tiresome. However, though I can’t honestly say that Scrooged would be near the top of my list of favorite Christmas flicks, I do think it deserves a spot in our movie marathon. Murray receives a lot of support from a huge and rather eclectic cast…Bobcat Goldthwait, John Forsythe, John Houseman, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Buddy Hackett, Jamie Farr, Lee Majors, Robert Goulet, Miles Davis, Buster Poindexter (just to name a few). Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton is in this movie…as Tiny Tim!! Wrap your head around that!! The final scene, featuring the 60’s hit song Put a Little Love in Your Heart, is classic. There are dozens of adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but this is probably the goofiest and most unique. It is so out-of-the box that it actually works…much to my surprise.

9:15pm   National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Do any kind of substantial random survey these days asking folks about their favorite Christmas movie and I’ll bet you this third installment in the christmas-vacation-moose-mug-shot-glass-5adventures of the wacky Griswold clan (following 1983’s Vacation and 1985’s European Vacation) would get a good many votes. It gets a lot of play on TV each December, which I hope doesn’t lead to any kind of backlash. Chevy Chase’s post-SNL career pretty much boils down to Fletch and the Vacation series, with this being the best of the latter.

11pm      Viewer’s Choice – A Christmas Carol
It is at this point that I give the power to you…citizens of The Manoverse. There is no shortage of movie carolversions of Dickens’ tale. Some are old black & white films. Some are more recent. Some are animated. Some set the tale in modern times while others are more faithful to the source material. I have my preferences, which I plan on writing about soon. But for the purposes of this project I will leave it up to each individual to pick their favorite. No matter which one you choose it is a great way to end a long but enjoyable day. And maybe when you lay your head down and slip into a sweet & restful slumber you’ll be visited by spirits who will assist in transforming your life for the better.

 

 

Sunday

1pm        A Christmas Story
I trust that church was as awesome as it should be not only during this festive season but each & every week throughout the year. Now we are home acsand have changed back into our lazy clothes. We’re going to skip Sunday dinner today and do some more veggin’ out with festive beverages and snacks. I am well aware that TBS does a 24 hour marathon of this 1983 classic every Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Most folks probably get their fill of it then. I am not most folks.

2:45pm  Trapped in Paradise
This would seem to be an odd inclusion in our little parade of epic Christmas goodness. You’ve probably never trappedheard of it and even I admit it’s not a very good movie. I have my own reasons for considering it special, but I honestly believe that if y’all give it a whirl you’ll like it too. It has shades of It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, & maybe a little Andy Griffith Show. Originally released in 1994, the story involves three not-so-bright brothers (Nicholas Cage, Dana Carvey, & Jon Lovitz) who rob a bank in a sleepy little Pennsylvania hamlet on Christmas Eve and then, for various reasons, are unable to get out of town. Trapped in Paradise has a brutal 10% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes along with some rather harsh reviews, but I don’t care. I like it and that’s what counts.

4:45pm   The Ref
Not only did the 1994 holiday season bring us Trapped in Paradise, but just a few months earlier we got this gem starring Denis Leary as a thief forced refto hold a bickering couple (and their wacky family) hostage on Christmas Eve. I don’t know why a Christmas film was released in March. It is very strange and maybe one reason why it is a vastly underappreciated movie even two decades later. Unlike many holiday classics it is rarely on TV in December, which is unfortunate. Trust me…if you haven’t seen The Ref you must correct that void in your life right now. Leary is hilarious and Kevin Spacey…in a comedic precursor to his Oscar winning role as a husband & father drowning in domestic misery in 1999’s American Beauty…takes the experience to a sublime higher strata. In contrast to Trapped in Paradise this film received a lot of good reviews and has a 70% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I concur.

6:30pm   The Santa Clause
I’m a sucker for Santa Claus origin stories, and though this movie doesn’t go back to St. Nick’s beginning it does postulate that Santa is a role that is clauseplayed by a never-ending parade of ordinary guys who just happen to be in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time…a fascinating concept. At the time of the film’s release Tim Allen was amongst the biggest television stars in the world due to his show Home Improvement. I like this movie much better than I ever liked that TV show. Two sequels were made in 2002 & 2006 (they probably waited a little too long) and both are alright I suppose. Feel free to watch the entire trilogy when time permits. However, for the purposes of this project I am including only the original. It is fun and has that magical glow that makes Christmas films special.

8:15pm   The Polar Express
I don’t know what else I can say about this movie that I haven’t previously said on multiple occasions. It is enchanting. Not long ago I was speaking with a former co-worker who has two small children and she told me that their family “doesn’t do Santa Claus” because she & her husband want their children to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. I admire the intent but disagree with the method and The Polar Express illustrates exactly why. I understand that there are many devout Christians who hate the idea that Santa, on some level, seems to have replaced Jesus as the center of the polarexpressholiday. However, let’s paint outside the lines just a bit. Those that do allow Santa Claus to be part of the Christmas celebration oftentimes concede to their kids that the guy at the mall or atop the fire truck in the parade isn’t the “real” Santa, that he works for the real Santa Claus who is busy up at The North Pole preparing for the big day. So, why can’t we…using similar logic…say that Santa is a friend of Jesus who is helping to spread His message and shining His light in the world?? The Polar Express has wonderful themes like friendship, faith, generosity, loyalty, innocence, & hope…ideals that Jesus would certainly approve of. In Matthew 14:19 Jesus says ““let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” In Matthew 18:3 Jesus says that “unless you become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Santa Claus is a symbol of childhood that helps people of all ages regain a measure of purity & wonder, if only for a brief moment each December. I see nothing wrong with that. Your mileage may vary.


10pm      It’s A Wonderful Life
There is only one perfect way to wrap up this awesome weekend movie marathon…with the best Christmas film ever made (B&W!! Stay away from the colorized version!!). I have talked about IAWL here before so there’s not much left to say. It is such an oddity in so many ways. The idea originated as a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, a Pennsylvania man who had authored several books about The Civil War. In 1943 Stern self-published The Greatest Gift and gave it to a couple hundred friends as a Christmas present. Who knew that it would evolve into a tradition that millions still enjoy each Christmas?? One of those who received the story was a Hollywood producer and the rest is history. IAWL was released in December 1946 but was IAWL_2marketed as a romantic comedy…not a Christmas film. It had good but not great reviews and though it was profitable it certainly wasn’t a blockbuster. It wasn’t until a few decades later when local TV stations began showing IAWL countless times…often very late at night…during the holiday season that it became a beloved classic. On the surface a story about a guy contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve seems like the unlikeliest of uplifting family movies, but there is something about it that just seems to speak to the masses. Maybe there is a part of all of us…at one time or another…that feels dissatisfied, unfulfilled, & overwhelmed. Maybe there is a part of many of us that has contemplated escape in some form, whether it be thru something as drastic as suicide or a less messy approach like divorce, relocation, or simply quitting our job. Maybe there is a part of most of us that has seen the dreams of our youth fall by the wayside to be replaced by a life that doesn’t seem to measure up to those big plans we once had. And hopefully the majority of us receive the message, whether it be thru a kindhearted guardian angel or some other outlet, that as long as we have a friend or two, a roof over our head & food to eat, and take advantage of the opportunity that God provides each day to do good and make a difference then life is mostly pretty darn great.

lights03

 

Okay, so…that’s it. Have fun. Relax. It’s Christmas…delight in it!! And please let me know in the comments what changes you would make for you own custom Christmas Movie Marathon. How would you change the timing?? What films would you choose differently than me?? What kind of snacks would you munch on?? As Charles Dickens once said, “Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home.” I wish you peace & joy during this wonderful season and in all the days of your life.

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 15

We’ve reached the end of the road for college football, atleast as far as these picks go. I’ll do a little bowl pick ‘em, but it won’t count as part of this process. From here on out our picks will be strictly NFL until they finish up.

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It’s conference title game week for all except The Big 12 (which has 10 teams). We now know the 6 or 7 teams vying for 4 spots in the playoff, and the talking heads have had a field day dissecting all related issues. If I hear the phrase “body of work” one more time I’m going to punch somebody. The fact is that the playoff committee is atleast half comprised of folks who have a stake in the outcome and others who have strong ties & loyalty to certain institutions, which taints the whole procedure. When I first heard that college football was going to have a playoff I was excited and imagined that it’d be similar to the way the March Madness basketball field is set. I was obviously wrong. There is very little resemblance between the two and the entire football playoff methodology is flawed. I’ll probably have more to say about it some other time, but for now it is what it is and y’all are here for picks.

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Last week Zach got the better of me, as he went 4-3 while I went 3-4. That brings his season record to 41-38, while I cling to a slight advantage at 42-37.

 

 

 

 

 

Kansas St. at Baylor (-8.5)
baylorBig 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby should be fired immediately. No one is buying the whole idea that the conference doesn’t need to add two teams and a championship game because they all play each other now. We know it’s about the money. The school presidents like the idea of splitting the pie 10 ways instead of 12. And now the commissioner has not only gone against logic and football tradition but he has kneeled & bowed to this damn playoff committee which has entirely too much power and no idea how to wield it properly. They are just making up the rules as they go. Commissioner Bowlsby has stated that…assuming both TCU & Baylor win this week…they’ll be co-champions of the conference, which is idiotic. There are always tiebreakers, and the first one is usually the results of the head-to-head matchup. In this case Baylor defeated TCU 61-58 in overtime on October 11th. Despite that outcome the playoff committee (I’ve got to come up with a catchy nickname for them) haskansas-state-dm seen fit to rank TCU ahead of Baylor, and right now the Horned Frogs are in the Top 4. Bowlsby doesn’t want to cost his conference any money, and doing the right thing by having the head-to-head lead to Baylor being named conference champs might do exactly that. In other words Bowlsby has been castrated by the stupid committee. Moron. At any rate, the way things have gone Baylor certainly isn’t out of the playoff picture, but they’ll need to beat Kansas St. like Adrian Peterson at a daycare with a bag of switches. I think they’ll do exactly that. Zach foresees a shootout and is picking Kansas St.

My Pick = Baylor
Z’s Pick = Kansas St.

Northern Illinois (-6.5) at Bowling Green
huskiesThis is the MAC title game. I like the MAC. I wish my Marshall Thundering Herd would have never left the MAC. Their teams get very littlebowling green respect and are oftentimes stuck playing televised games on Tuesday & Wednesday nights. However, for true football fans the games are usually more than watchable. I don’t think the Huskies will have any problems covering the points and winning the trophy. This is a rematch of last year’s championship when the Falcons pulled off the upset. Northern Illinois will want revenge. Zach thinks this will be a close game and Northern Illinois will be unable to cover the points.

My Pick = Northern Ilinois
Z’s Pick = Bowling Green

 

 

 

Arizona at Oregon (-14.5)
Oregon DucksI’m really looking forward to this game, which will be played on Friday night at the San Francisco 49ers new stadium. The Ducks are in the ArizonaWildcatsplayoff. A lot of things would have to go haywire for that to change. The Wildcats aren’t going to be pushovers though. Actually they have an outside shot to make the playoff, although it is highly unlikely that all the dominoes would fall right for that to occur. I am almost positive Oregon will win the game, but by how much?? I am normally skittish about such large point spreads, but for some strange reason The Voices are screaming at me, and they are saying one word…Oregon. Zach thinks it likely that Oregon wins but doesn’t believe they’ll cover.

My Pick = Oregon
Z’s Pick = Arizona

 

 

 

Alabama (-14.5) vs. Missouri
Congratulations to the Missouri Tigers. You’ve had a good season. You’ll enjoy a nice bowl destination. But you are not winning the SEC title. Nothing would make AlabamaCrimsonTide2me happier than for all of the top teams to lose and the playoff situation to become complete mayhem. Would an Alabama loss in this game drop them out of the Top 4?? Sadly we’ll never know. And not only will the Tide win, but they’ll roll BIG. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Alabama
Z’s Pick = Alabama

 

 

 

Florida St. (-4.5) vs. Georgia Tech
The one nice thing I’ll say about the playoff committee is that they seem to have Florida St.’s number. The Seminoles can’t be denied a shot to defend their nationalgatechlogocos-3 championship as long as they remain undefeated, but they’ve slipped all the way to #4 in the process of scratching & clawing their way to wins in which they were outplayed for atleast ¾ of the game. A loss in this ACC title tilt would be devastating, as either Baylor or Ohio St. would surely leapfrog into the playoff. The Yellow Jackets are a team I have completely overlooked this season. I had no idea they were 10-2 and even in the conference title hunt. This is a neutral site game being played in Charlotte, NC, which may help Tech a bit. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I’ve been hoping for a Florida St. loss like Ralphie wants a BB gun in A Christmas Story. That movie had a happy ending…maybe this game will too. Zach feels the same way.

My Pick = Georgia Tech
Z’s Pick = Georgia Tech

 

 

 

Fresno St. at Boise St. (-20.5)
boise-state-logoThis is the Mountain West title game. It is being played on Boise’s blue turf. If my Marshall Thundering Herd hadn’t shot themselves in the footfresno last week and still had a shot at a New Year’s bowl I’d probably be really interested in this game and rooting hard for a Broncos loss. However, now I simply don’t care, although I’ll probably watch, atleast until it gets out of hand, which may be fairly early. I don’t believe Boise St. will have any problems covering the points. Conversely, Zach is unimpressed with Boise St. and uncomfortable with such a large spread. He thinks Boise may win but won’t cover the points.

My Pick = Boise St.
Z’s Pick = Fresno St.

Wisconsin (-4) vs. Ohio St.
I must take this opportunity to admit a mistake. Anyone who follows these picks or has read other sports related content here at The Manofesto knows that I like to WisconsinBadgerspoke fun at the Big 12 for having ten teams and the Big Ten for having 12 teams. The problem with that is that in 2014 the Big Ten has 14 teams. I completely forgot that Rutgers & Maryland joined this season. Oops. Anyway, this is the Big Ten title game and is being played on a neutral field in Indianapolis. Everybody has seemingly given up on the Buckeyes after they lost QB JT Barrett to injury and now must rely on a 3rd string QB. As much as I hate to admit it those folks are probably right. With Barrett there is no way Ohio St. would be underdogs in this game…without him Wisconsin is favored by 4 points. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see the Buckeyes beat out Florida St. and both Big 12 contenders for the final playoff spot, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Zach gleefully concurs and doesn’t feel a bit bad about picking against Ohio St.

My Pick = Wisconsin
Z’s Pick = Wisconsin