Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stat of the day - Dec. 30

Green Bay Packers' record: 6-10

Green Bay Packers' point differential: +39

How the 2008 Green Bay Packers will be remembered: The most un-clutch squad in team history

Thoughts of the Week (pre-bowl season)

Apparently it's not just pop-tarts:
Last week I shared my discovery that frosted pop-tarts are healthier than unfrosted pop-tarts. This epiphany must have led to a greater curiosity about food because I think I just outdid myself. BALANCE bars (you know, one of the many "nutrition energy bars") are actually pretty tasty compared to their rivals, but good lord they have some weird ingredients.
My favorite? Fish gelatin. Yes, the next time you eat a Balance bar, remember that you are eating fish gelatin. Don't ask me how or why (or even what), because I have no clue.

What makes Chipotle visits great:
When each and every "burrito line" worker is so distracted that they pile enormous amounts of stuff on your tortilla. You get the equivalent of two meals in one. If you're going for this strategy, try the end of the lunch hour.

Can't say it never happened:
Hail in Southern California. Yes, hail. While working in Pasadena last Tuesday, first I saw my breath when walking to lunch, and later I watched hail pelt my office window. Damn, it feels like home.

Early line on the college football bowl slate:
Tired system. Over/under on games the average fan watches: 3.5

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The best Christmas greeting of the year

Courtesy of my always-witty friend and fellow sports enthusiast, Courtland.

"Merry Christmas, buddy. I got you a defensive playcard signed by Mike McCarthy. It'll be there when you don't need it, but when you do need it... it'll disappear."

Summing up the Packers' season in less than 30 seconds - nice work, Courtland.

Why hasn't anyone else conjured up the scenario of Dan Orlovsky driving the Lions in for the winning fourth-quarter score to save Detriot from infamy and hand the Packers' their seventh defeat by 4 points or less?

If I went to church today, I would have prayed for that (likely) scenario never to unfold.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Putting Christmas in perspective

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope all your wildest gift wishes come true.

The New York Yankees have spent the holiday playing fantasy baseball, except with no salary cap and real money.

Instead of taking the fun out of baseball, as the Yankees commonly do, they could have supported half the homeless people in America for the entirety of 2009.

In case you haven't heard, the Yanks' latest move was acquiring Mark Teixeira for $180 million. Only George, Hank and Co. can look at that dollar figure and think it'll be a profitable investment. After all, baseball is a business.

Who needs a bailout? Just call the Steinbrenners.

Why hadn't I seen this before? Amazing finish to bball game

Watching the first 30 seconds or so of this video will never, ever get old.

I can't imagine what the kid who made the in-every-other-game-ever game-winning shot must have gone through in the final five seconds. The world's most intense emotional roller coaster, perhaps.

Pure sport.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

And the Pac-10's annual battle against perception commences...

The Pac-10 has not had a losing bowl season since 2002. For the math deficient, that's 5-straight .500 or better postseasons.

For a league almost universally perceived as weak, that's not bad.

But it's not good enough, either.

No, for the only BCS conference to test itself in preseason games and then play a true regular season round robin (the Big East doesn't count as BCS), nothing seems to be good enough.

It's USC and the nine step-sisters.

High-octane offenses and single-gear defenses.

The domain of Washington and Washington State.

Everyone has an opinion, but as is normally the case with East Coast-based criticisms of West Coast teams, the opinions are rarely substantiated.

And they don't need to be - networks and writers know that most of the country will agree with them.

Arizona began the Pac-10's 2008 postseason tonight by soundly beating No. 17 BYU, 31-21. For any knowledgable football fan, the result was no surprise. I'm sure Vegas odds-makers, who had the 'Cats at -3, were salivating at the fact that enough fans out there thought the Cougars were the better team.

BYU got clobbered by its two strongest opponents, Utah and TCU, and were an absurdly terrible officiating call away from going into overtime against now infamously 0-12 Washington.

Arizona, on the other hand, finished 7-5 in a deeper conference after losing to the Pac-10's three top teams by 7, 10 and 2, respectively. Oh yeah, Arizona has a better quaterback and a tougher defense, too.


So it goes for the Pac-10. At worst, the league should go 4-1 in its five bowl games this year, and it has a great shot at going 5-0. There's no doubt the conference's bottom tier (UW, WSU, ASU, UCLA) was down this year, but why should that mean the Pac-10 as a whole is subpar?

You'd think 4-1 or 5-0 would be enough to raise perceptions of the league to the point where more teams would populate the 2009 preseason poll.

You'd think so. But if five-straight years haven't done the trick, maybe logic just doesn't play a leading role.

Kenny Mayne should be on ESPN more

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but wasn't Kenny Mayne beyond hilarious back in the day when he was on SportsCenter regularly? I'm not sure whose decision it was to minimize his role, but I sure hope it wasn't ESPN's.

The sports behemoth has been fooling around with new, original forms on content on ESPN.com in the past few months, likely due to the site's flattening traffic numbers. Although ESPN.com still trumps all other sports Web sites, 2008 brought no growth in unique visitors despite the wealth of great sports stories this year.

One of these "experiments" has been an original Web comedy series starring Mayne. While the series has had its moments, I have to admit I haven't been the biggest fan. The writing falls flat in many places.

But after watching episode 9 today, in which Mayne gives a group of tourists an off-color tour of ESPN's Bristol, Conn., headquarters, I'm starting to think the series is coming around.

My favorite line? "This is the screening room. It looks kinda like a nice OTB. Each game has to viewed, logged and then edited by a person who has never had sex."

In writing, maybe not the funniest thing you've read. But that's why Mayne is so great. He makes the clip.

If you have a few minutes, watch and enjoy. And ESPN, bring this guy back into my living room.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Three's company

Johnny Unitas and Brett Favre: Meet Peyton Manning.

Manning all but locked up his third MVP award Thursday night by leading the Colts to another come-from-behind victory, this time over Jacksonville.

Using the Associated Press award as the benchmark, the better brother will become the third player in NFL history to claim its highest individual honor in three separate years.

In what was once a wide-open race, Manning has risen to the top by carrying an injury-prone Indianapolis team on his shoulders. Quietly (if that's possible), the Colts have won eight in a row.

If records are made to be broken, and by records I mean Favre's numbers, then Peyton is the man yielding a hammer.

A lot of time remains, however, in between now and the point at which Manning could start passing Favre in the books.

And for those that think Favre's most dubious feat is perhaps the most untouchable record, Manning's 165 interceptions have him on pace for 280 at Favre's age.

Not too far behind old No. 4's 305.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stat of the Day - Dec. 17

I ended my first-ever fantasy football season on a 6-game winning streak... and I didn't win the title.

The BCS has to be involved somehow.

Why Duncan doesn't fit with the Spurs like Bird does the Celtics and Jordan the Bulls

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I have no interest in the NBA.

Zip. I'd rather go clay pigeon shooting.

I realize I'm not indicative of an entire fan base, but it's no secret the NBA's popularity has waned this decade.

Amid image problems, scandal and the Shaq-Kobe melodrama has existed a lack of compelling basketball.

The NBA has had its moments. Lakers-Pistons 1 was good. The 2007-08 Celts were a good story. But everything in between has been a slow-moving haze created by the league's most neutral-colored team and its neutrally emotional franchise player.

I don't think it's too early to proclaim that Tim Duncan has been bad for the NBA. Not so much because he's not your typical superstar, but more because he's prevented other "superstars" from fulfilling their traditional roles.

Think about it.

I'm no historian, but has there ever been a league so full of "superstars" who haven't won a championship?

LeBron James. Carmelo Anthony. Tracy McGrady. Kobe Bryant (you know what I mean). Dwight Howard. Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire. Dirk Nowitzki. I could name more.

In pro sports, compelling storylines come from late-postseason duels. No matter how fun some of those Suns-Lakers series were, after a year or two they meant nothing because neither team went on to win the title.

Bird's Celtics were able to win the decade-long series against Magic's Lakers. Jordan's Bulls were always one step (or small shove) ahead of Stockton and Malone's Jazz.

Great basketball. Great rivalry. Great TV.

Now you look at Duncan and can proclaim that his Spurs were, well... screw you, Duncan.

The Spurs hang over the NBA like a black and silver cloud. Right now, how many people out of 100 would bet on the Lakers over the Spurs to represent the West in the Finals?

How many of those who couldn't take the bet cussed under their breath upon coming to that conclusion?

In 10 or 20 years, people will look back on the 2000s NBA and remember a few things. The brawl at the Palace. Dwyane Wade's 2006 Finals performance. Shaq (and Kobe).

Many won't remember Duncan and the Spurs - at least not how they remember Bird and the Celtics or Jordan and the Bulls.

Not because they shouldn't, but because they choose not to.

The type of play that turns a youthful fan into a lifelong diehard

Circa 2000. I was in middle school. It was definitely past my bed time.

But there I was, more juiced up than Bonds' left bicep, watching the Packers and Vikings duel on Monday Night Football.

You know, the MNF with Frank and Al and Dan that got the party started.

At this stage in my life, Packers-Vikings was everything. It was about pride. It was about diehard resilience. It was about, well, being right.

I was the Packers fan. And I loved every Minnesota second of it.

Pacing back and forth across my living room (the game was 20-20 in OT), I watched Brett Favre loft a third down pass deep to Antonio Freeman. The ball came down, the ball bounced, the commentators thought for a second it was picked.

I turned my back, yelped, and walked into the hallway.

My dad's cries of joy spun me around on a dime just in time to see Freeman juke Robert Griffith out of his purple socks and jaunt into the end zone.

I didn't see the play live, but I didn't care. I jumped and screamed and found some way to combine hitting and hugging in a manly father-son embrace.

Lucky for me, I live in a YouTube generation. Enjoy.

Thoughts of the Week - Dec. 9 (futureactive)

I've been maintaining a quasi-miniblog on my Facebook profile for the past year, disguised under the name "Thoughts of the Week." The growing want to archive these "thoughts" was the real impetus for this blog.

Here's guessing that most of my non-sports takes will come in this weekly installment...

What I know now that I didn't know last week:
Frosted Poptarts are healthier than unfrosted Poptarts.

Don't know why I decided to match the nutrition labels side by side, but I was certainly surprised at the outcome. My first reaction was, "Wow." My second reaction was, "What the hell is the point of that, Kellogg's?"

I mean, really, you market the unfrosted to the health-conscious consumers and the product is actually less healthy than its kid-targeted counterpart. If I was money- and ethos-lacking lawyer, I could probably find a way to sue Kellogg's. Luckily, I'm not.

If parody ruled the world:
Pete Carroll led the Washington search committee for a head coach.

What I'm missing:
Golf. My clubs stare at me in my room while I work for work, work for school and fight the never-ending battle against email.

Hell, I live in California - one of the few places where you can play golf in December. During the winter in Minnesota, I used to hit golf balls into a video screen and call it a round. It's funny how the absence of possibility creates the need for innovation.

What I'm loving:
Interesting conversations with interesting people. I think conversation is the first thing that gets lost amid busy schedules and frantic lives, and it's a shame. I try to remind myself how much I enjoy simply talking with people about items not relating to the daily grind, but it's great when someone else does the reminding for me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Welcome one, welcome all

A blog. Never thought I'd see the day.

It's fitting, then, that it hailed in Southern California yesterday.

Never speak in extremes, right? An old Peter Simones mantra, albeit one I can't claim as entirely my own.

Hail in SoCal. Peter starting a blog. The Timberwolves winning an NBA championship.

To quote Kevin Garnett: "Anything is possible!"

Too bad Michelle Tafoya isn't here to celebrate the moment.

That's good enough for an intro. Thanks for joining me. In my typical style, I'll throw out a heavy dose of sports, a sprinkling of observation and an ounce of shtick.

You can measure the outcome...