Thursday, January 27, 2005

Random Rants

These are the days that try fans' hearts. We have more than a week left before any NFL action, and then it will be an overblown hypefest with a 60-minute halftime show. Real Football still exists, but only on the NFL Network's Game of the Week or through cleverly-attained full-game DVDs. The problem is that you've seen all of that before; what makes football so much fun to watch is the mystery of the unknown. No matter how many times I see the Ravens play the Titans in the 2000 Divisional Championship, the ending's the same: Eddie George becomes a shell of a man.

Nonetheless, some topics have arisen of late that you may find interesting. And since this is a blog, I am urged, nay, required, to pass my thoughts on to you. Even if I ramble illogical gibberish like Locke on Lost. And yes, I'm stalling until something significantly football-related happens.

Welcome to the EA Sports Super Bowl brought to you by the NFL...
Readers may recall that not long ago the Review made note of Electronic Arts' coup de grâce, snapping up the exclusive rights to promote NFL players, stadiums, logos, and other property in video games. The worry for football fantatics was that the rival ESPN NFL2K series would flounder and flail about, legally confined to making realistic, statistically accurate Canadian Football League video football. Ugh.

Well, things look better for ESPN and their partners. EA Sports, in its benevolence, tossed the following life preserver to its former rival: join us or die. That's paraphrased, of course, but look at the result. ESPN and Electronic Arts today announced a 15-year partnership, giving EA access to ESPN's broadcast, print and online content - as well as its stable of personalities - for all of its sports titles. The integration of the two brands will begin in 2006. So says CNN.

How ridiculous is the new EA Monolith? They also bought the licensing rights to Arena Football.

What makes this doubly interesting is that the EA Sports/John Madden contract has not been renewed. The CNN report notes that the future game, presumptively named Madden 2006, could be named "EA Sports Football." Videogame football without Madden? That's like B.E.T. without butt-shakin' videos, the Redskins without high-priced offseason free agents, and Yanni without his exceptional mustache. Just ain't the same.

On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of seeing a digitized Chris Berman at halftime, running through his Fastest 3 Minutes segment peppered with his unique brand of recapping. (My personal favorites are "MarshallMarshallMarshall!" and the Berman/Tom Jackson duet "San-de-a-go, super Chargers!") Plus you're bound to get a better immersion into the watching-a-game-when-you-aren't-playing experience. And can you put a price on finally hearing the Monday Night Football theme pre-game?

Let's not forget that Take Two, the company who produced the NFL2K series games, is now high, dry, and probably looking for the next Mario to recoup the significant loss of the ESPN brand.

Keep Your Cursed Pink Hearts and Yellow Moons
If there's one cereal that fully represents my youth, it was General Mills' Franken Berry. For those of you under 30, Franken Berry was a delicious strawberry-flavored concotion of ghost-shaped whole-grain pieces, accented by pink, strawberryish marshmallows. Come to think of it, it's like Lucky Charms, but tastes good. This cereal, and his siblings Count Chocula and Boo Berry (we'll ignore Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy, those short-lived, motherless children) stayed crispy despite milk immersion and provided the kid-friendly reward of sweetly-flavored milk when the cereal was finished. A true happy ending.

I bring this wonderful cereal to the forefront because I can't find it anywhere. Some web searching reveals that one can purchase Franken Berry from Amazon, but only for $4.00 a box (not including shipping) or as part of a $15 three-pack containing the Count and Boo. Not desirable, but a fair last resort. I have also heard that Frank's available during the Halloween season. That is clearly too long to wait for that strawberry sweetness. Finally, I am told through rumor that some states miraculously keep Franken Berry stocked on their shelves all year! Only one problem...I don't live in any of those states. I'm in Maryland. Anybody know specifically where a 30+ kid can get some Franken Berry?

I Call Him...Beatle-Man!
This recent news is further proof that the world is running out of good ideas: Stan Lee, the creator of such memorable comic book characters as Spider-Man and The Hulk has a new superhero franchise on the horizon. The hero will be based upon the life and persona of...Ringo Starr. You remember him: the only unoriginal member of the Beatles. The Associated Press reports that we can expect television and DVD programs featuring Captain Ringo, (or Sgt. PepperSpray, or whatever they come up with) within the next year or so. Ringo's alter ego is a secret--shh!--and is described as an "evil-battling, Earth-saving — though reluctant — superhero with a great sense of rhythm." Of course he is.

Why would Lee, who made Wolverine a household name, choose Ringo Starr to embody his superhero? Says Lee: "Ringo is beloved worldwide for his commitment to people and his singular wit." Apparently, Dr. Ben Carson, Christopher Walken, and Bill Gates weren't interesting enough.

I'll Take Fiction, Please
From the Sometimes Truth Is Strange Enough files: 1980s pop princess Deborah "Don't Call Me Debbie" Gibson is posing for Playboy; McDonald's is advertising their double quarter-pounders with the Internet vernacular "I'd Hit It;" and Michael Douglas has decided to star in another sequel to his two-decades old, inexplicably popular movie Romancing the Stone. Have mercy.

But for my dollar, the oddest thing I've heard is how dramatically the Arizona Cardinals have changed their team logo. Yes, they're still the Cardinals (and yeah, they'll still stink), but now their symbol is "more predatory and much more aggressive," says their vice president. I dunno what side of town you're from, but hitting Bold and Italic does not a killer make. Here's the evidence and here is the article, full of laughable quotes.

Coming soon: my picks on why both teams will win the Super Bowl...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Bacon Roethlisburgers, 1/2 Off

I don't know about you, but the news on Sunday of the passing of Johnny Carson sure hit home. I was killiing time before playoff football by watching NBC's domestic-heavy coverage of the Detroit Auto Show when they interrrupted the broadcast to announce the sad report. I was stunned, as when I heard of the recent death of Ray Charles. Nobody ever expects to live forever, and tomorrow is assured to none of us; but death sure seems to arrive ahead of schedule for some people.

Carson's Tonight Show was one of the few late night shows my parents allowed me to watch during my early years. I cherish the memory of sitting with my family and watching Johnny deftly ad-lib his way through dying material. He was something special, and represented for me one the last vestiges of great television comedy. He could be funny, sure, but his greatness in my eyes resides in the cleanliness of his humor. Of course, there were sly winks and double entedres that sailed over my head like a Roethlisberger pass, but it was his clever wit and delivery that charmed me into a loyal viewer. I was drawn to this man who looked to be doing exactly what he was born to do.

So then I admit a bit of naiveté, mourning the loss of these icons from my youth while shocked at their lack of immortality. But I shan't apologize; every faint remembrance of Charles Schultz, Fred Rogers, and Christopher Reeve is like a brief whiff of Mom's corn pancakes: they always make me smile. Good night, Johnny.

Want to know what gets my goat? NBC's website didn't even have any note of Carson's death on their front page on Monday morning. As of this writing, they've added a little square to the bottom right honoring the man whose show once produced more than 10% of NBC's total revenue and ended with 50 million viewers. What's prominently displayed when the page loads? Couple's Fear Factor. Have mercy.

Let's talk football.

I was speaking with my boy Ryan the Commish earlier today, and he reminded me that this season's Super Bowl matchup has been widely predicted since, oh, August. After all the talk this year about the Colts and Manning, the Chargers and Brees, Culpepper and Moss, and, um, Gibbs and Brunell, the very simple truth remained that the Philly Egos and New England Patriots are the best teams in their respective conferences. How true.

What I find amazing is that while both of these teams are perennial contenders, occasional conference champions, and one nears dynasty status, they both keep getting better. Consider that the Patriots and Eagles both finished last season ranked #1 and 3 respectively and still were able to pick up high-impact free agents in the offseason who perfectly filled their few weaknesses. Corey Dillon had his best year ever and Terrell Owens instantly made Donovan McNabb a pocket passer. That's good management of personnel and finances, and the rest of the league (et tu, Snyder?) would do well to learn from their example

The labored two weeks between conference championships and the Super Bowl give plenty of time for analysis and prognostiaction. But let me say here, now, that if Terrell Owens fails to play on Super Sunday, the Eagles will not win. If T.O. suits up and plays, I give the Eagles a 47.6% chance of winning. That is, it's more likely than not that the Patriots will repeat and ascend to the Pantheon of Great NFL Teams.

I was a bit dismayed at how unbalanced many of this season's playoff games turned out. The headlining games featuring Vick vs. McNabb, Manning vs. Brady, Roethlisberger vs. Belichick, Vick vs. Bulger, Culpepper vs. McNabb, Favre vs. Culpepper, and Manning vs. Mike Sherman all turned out to be one-sided smackdowns whose only drama was whether the losing team could make the score respectable. Thankfully, the Jets made the playoffs and provided some Real Fun Football, even if it wasn't Good.

So I'll wait a bit to predict a final score and confirm the Patriot's win. Think I'm overconfident of New England? Raise your hand if you thought Brady would go deep for two passes over 40 yards in the first half, including one for more than 60 for a touchdown. Nobody in Pittsburgh should have their hand up. The Patriots held the high-powered Colts to 3 points, then put up 41 on the road against the #1 seed in the AFC. They humbled the league MVP and Rookie of the Year in consecutive weeks, and were never challenged. They can run, they can pass, they have a wide receiver playing in nickel defense. What can't they do?

I dunno about you, but if I'm Andy Reid and the Eagles, I don't sleep these two weeks and prepare to do what appears to be the impossible: outsmart the New England Patriots.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Divisional Playoff Pick 'Em

Before we unveil this weekend's playoff picks, there is some sad news to report. It appears that the horrific devastation and loss of life in South Asia have forced the cancellation of the February re-make of the 1985 anthem We Are The World. NBC reports that Quincy Jones, the producer of the original hit, which supported the USA for Africa relief efforts by selling millions of records, felt that the timing of this project (to be named We Are The Future) in the wake of the tsunami catastrophe was inappopriate.

We here at the Redskins Review couldn't agree more, and applaud Q's sensitivity. However, the comedic value of a 21st century We Are The World is simply too great to ignore. There are more than enough modern crackpots to fill the slots once occupied by such great artists as Steve Perry, Tito Jackson and Bette Midler. Thus, the Review is proud lend a hand and present the updated rosters for We Are The World 2005.

Dan Aykroyd...Vince McMahon
Harry Belafonte...Tiger Woods
Lindsey Buckingham...Lindsey Lohan
Kim Carnes...Britney Spears
Ray Charles...Jamie Foxx
Bob Dylan...Bono
Sheila E....Shakira
Bob Geldof...that guy who says "Seacrest out!"
Hall and Oates...Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard
James Ingram...Ray Lewis
Jackie Jackson...Usher
LaToya Jackson...Sharon Osbourne
Marlon Jackson...Jack Osbourne
Michael Jackson...Ozzy Osbourne
Randy Jackson...Kelly Osbourne
Tito Jackson...Lenny Kravitz
Al Jarreau...Jay-Z
Waylon Jennings...Jon Stewart
Billy Joel...Marilyn Manson
Cyndi Lauper...Christina Aguilera
Huey Lewis and the News...Green Day
Kenny Loggins...Kenny Loggins (he could use the work)
Bette Midler...Gwen Stefani
Willie Nelson...Regis Philbin
Jeffrey Osborne...Dave Chappelle
Steve Perry...William Hung
The Pointer Sisters...Destiny's Child
Lionel Richie...Marc Antony
Smokey Robinson...50 Cent
Kenny Rogers...Eminem
Diana Ross...Oprah
Paul Simon...Michael Moore
Bruce Springsteen...John Tesh
Tina Turner...Jennifer Lopez
Dionne Warwick...Queen Latifah
Stevie Wonder...R. Kelly

If Quincy's got any sense, he'll record a Making Of video and put it on pay-per-view. I'd pay $39.95 to see Tiger and Marilyn Manson working on their harmonies.

Let's get to some football. Here are my picks for this weekend's games:

New York Jets at Pittsburgh
Word on the Net is that Jets quarterback Chad Pennington arrived at practice this week looking like death warmed over due to some mysterious illness. The team actually refused to let him practice because of his condition. Coach Herm Edwards says that Pennington definitely will start this weekend. Anybody else think that Chad can pull a Jordan and play through flu-like symptoms? Me neither. Meanwhile, backup Quincy Carter had to step away from the team to attend to family matters. So that leaves one man to go under center, second-year wonder Brooks Bollinger. Yes, that Brooks Bollinger. The one who's thrown nine regular season passes. Good news, Jets fans: he completed five of them.

Pittsburgh walks into this game with Roethlisberger, Staley, Burress, Bettis, Ward, and Randle-El rested, healthy, and playing at home. The Steelers' defense should be able to clamp down on the run, should pick off two interceptions, and handle the Jets easily. Pittsburgh wins, 20-10.

Indianapolis at New England
My friend (and Cowchip rooter) Dr. Lim asked me about this game earlier today, and here's what immediately came to mind: "....But for the record, the Colts can beat the Patriots this weekend, particularly because the Pats don't have their two starting safeties and they have a wide receiver covering slot receivers. Imagine Deion Branch trying to cover Brandon Stokely. I laugh.

The key for the Colts is their defense. They need pressure on Brady by defensive end Dwight Freeney, but more importantly they have to stop Dillon and the run game. Everyone knows that Manning can't score if he's not on the field. So if Dillon can control the clock, the Pats win. If the defense forces some relatively quick 3-outs, the Colts win. Can the Colt defense do that? I don't think so, but it'll be fun to watch them try."

Let's not forget that the Colts defense was fortunate against Denver when a first down was negated on replay and Denver opted not to attempt a 4th and one near midfield. Indy promptly scored after both events, and the rout was on. In the second half, Denver put up three touchdowns with minimal effort. But for the enormous power of the ManningBoys, this game could've been close. Kind of.

The Colts' defense will lose this game for them. Colts 24, Patriots 30.

Minnesota at Philadelphia
Mike's Vikes sure sound confident coming into Ego territory. And perhaps they should: they marched into Lambeau Field (which now has the same amount of "magic" as Lothian, Maryland) and humbled the LemonPants. The Vikings' main concern is Randy Moss' sprained ankle, which apparently didn't hobble him enough to burn Green Bay defensive back Al Harris for the clinching touchdown. No worries about Randy.

The Philly Egos come into this game a wee nervous about their sudden impotence. Terrell Owens may be a lot of bad things, but he was a veritable godsend for this organization. Without him, Chunky Soul pitchman McNabb will likely be scramblin' around or handing off to tailback Brian Westbrook. That isn't the prescription for a win, even if you've had more than 30 days to revise your offense around passing to Todd Pinkston.

I hope the Liberty Bell is flame retardant, because the City of Brotherly Love is gonna burn Sunday evening. Vikings win, 21-20.

St. Louis at Atlanta
Folks have mentioned that St. Louis got the very best assignment for a second playoff game--inside the high-speed astroturf of the Georgia Dome. I concur, but it won't be enough to win. I don't know how, I don't know when, but Mike Vick is going to win this game for Atlanta. Remember in The Matrix Reloaded when Trinity was falling to certain doom, having been shot by an Agent? Remember how Neo was suddenly able to fly at Warp Factor Five to catch her at the last possible second? Remember how that felt? That's what Vick's gonna do for viewers of this game: save the world and blow your mind when he does it...

Holt and Bulger will hook up for two touchdowns and 154 yards; the Falcons need 60 yards to get into field goal range, possessing one time out but facing 20 seconds until the final gun. Atlanta will line up in four-wide set and send everyone on staggered post routes. Someone on the Rams will forget who's quarterbacking the Falcons and will drop back into coverage. Vick will dip, dive, disappear, and break free for a 40 yard run, with only 8 seconds remaining. With one play remaining, Atlanta opts to pray for a miracle. They go five-wide, and the Rams prepare for a Hail Mary, but someone will forget that Vick can still throw deep while on the run. At the snap, Vick faints a quarterback scramble, drawing absent-minded defenders forward. Superman launches a laser strike that would make Peyton happy to Alge Crumpler, who slipped to the rear corner. Happiness ensues.

Think I'm wrong? Falcons win, 28-24.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Playoff Fever...Catch It!

This first weekend of the NFL Playoffs is one of my favorites of any season, trumped only by the Divisional Playoff games coming this weekend. For me, all of the ingredients for excitement are doubly present during these two January weekends: good teams facing desperate, underdogs, knowing that their home field advantage is no guarantee of success; the season-ending finality of the contest; the harder-hitting, the deeper-strategizing, and the magnification of mistakes. Makes for drama in nearly every contest.

Plus it's football nearly eight hours of football on Saturday and Sunday.

This Wild Card Weekend certainly lived up to its billing. I mentioned last week that I wasn't looking forward to the games between St. Louis and Seattle nor Minnesota at Green Bay, on account that none of these teams looked like playoff material in the final weeks of the regular season. Yet still these clashes were competitive and, yes, entertaining. I can see Don Cheadle's next NFL commercial: "One team's 8-8, the other backed into winning a division. But you can't turn off the TV. That's how great the playoffs are: they can make even teams that stink watchable." By the way, if want to see some of those great playoff commercials, I found them here.

So watch I did, and here's what I saw:

St. Louis vs. Seattle

The Rams are suddenly the Bandwagon Pick against the Falcons after Marc "Battle of the" Bulger and company cooly passed all over the Seahawks' defense. The reason for Marc's success was containment of the Seattle pass rush. On his laser strikes to Torry Holt, Kevin Curtis, and Cam Cleeland, Bulger had time to throw against blitzes. Credit Marshall Faulk and his understudy Steven Jackson for part of that. Seattle's defenders clearly couldn't keep up with the Rams' receivers.

An aside: wasn't it nice seeing Ol' Faulk put up more than 50 yards and a touchdown? Might he have more moves left in the tank? Surely some team next year could use a guy with more unused energy than 65-year old Emmitt Smith--who, by the way, had more rushing yardage (937) than anybody in Kansas City, or Oakland and touchdowns (9) than Ahman Green, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns, Tennessee's Chris Brown, and anybody in Detroit or Jacksonville. Think about that before next year's fantasy draft. Credit my boy Tony G. for raising the issue.

Seattle ran the ball less than I thought, given that Shaun "Waaah!" Alexander came within one yard of this season's rushing title. If we've learned nothing from Mike Martz in his Super Bowl loss to New England, we have gleaned that you dance with your date. Or you don't jump horses midstream. Better yet, run what'cha brung. Seattle was pass-oriented on Saturday, which in hindsight wasn't too bad a plan...except that Hasselbeck's passes were dropped at crucial times. What a heartbreaker for Seahawks fans. May I suggest Stick-Um?

New York Jets at San Diego

This game was high on my Gotta See list, in part because here in Maryland the Charger's regular season games were never shown. From afar did I begin to admire Marty Schottenheimer's work with the formerly last-place franchise. The mystique of Drew "Summertime" Brees and the curiously-named LaDainian Tomlinson, coupled with the "where'd that come from?" (aka the "Keisha Knight-Pulliam") pulled by tight end Antonio Gates spiced up an already exciting gaming proposition.

This game provided, for my money, the best action of the weekend. Unlike other games, these teams looked evenly matched, played (relativey) smart football, worked their strenghts, and sent the game into overtime. All in damp, muddy, real-football conditions. My only regret was that I had to listen to the 4th quarter on AM radio on my way home. Every football fanatic should have this experience:

[after commercial]

"SHHZZZ We're back...Marv Albert, John Riggins here at Qualcomm Stadium, the Jets 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Chargers are down by seven with the ball on the New York Jet 2 yard line. FRZZRRRRCC It is fourth down and the game is on the line..."

"Marv, you CHRZZZ think that Schottenheimer needs to go to Gates or Tomlinson here. He just tossed incomplete to Gates on the that third down, so New York knows Brees is looking his way. They've done a great job of SCHZZZZZ Gates until this last drive. Brees has got to get the ball to him or L.T...."

"Brees steps up under center, surveys the defense...the Jets spread, covering San Diego who send Tomlinson out, now in a five wide receiver set...this is for the tie...there's the snap... Brees back to pass, flushed backward from the pocket and SCHZZZZRRR pass ZZZRRRRHHHCHHHZHHHHHHRRRRZZZZZZZZZ endzone! RRHHHHRRHHHRZZZZbyRRRREEZZZZZZRASGKGKJJFRRRRR but FRRZZR there is a flag GRRRRSZZZZZZHHHRRRRRSCHSSHC! BRRRRRCCCCRZZZZZZZ!"

"Boy, what a break for San Diego, Eric Barton has TRCCCZZHHHH feel horrible for SCHHHHZZZZing FFRRRESSDZZZZZ committing such an stupid foul, Marv. Brees had clearly gotten the ball away, and the ref was right there to make the call. He had to make that one. Now the Chargers have GRZREEECHHHHHOOOOWWWW on the FRZZZZRRRREEEECHHH..."

I say that all to say that I never really heard what happened at the end of regulation. Thankfully, I have Comcast's NFL Network On Demand service, so I got to see--and hear--everything the way it really happened. Ah, technology.

Denver at Indianapolis

You had to know this wasn't going to be pretty. Manning, as I wrote last week, has looked as invulnerable as the X-Men's nemesis Juggernaut all season. The Colts were well-rested and playing at home on their track-like indoor turf. Denver's John Lynch added fuel to the Indianapolis rocket when he suggested that the Indy receivers were soft (and probably regretted his comments as Reggie Wayne amassed more yards in the first half than his entire team).

Broncos fans couldn't have expected to win. They may have thought they'd make a game of it, since adding Pro Bowler Champ Bailey and Lynch. Bailey limited Marvin Harrison to about 50 yards and only four catches. I guess that was good. But his team still was humiliated, this year by only eight points less than last year. That ain't progress. As TMQ noted, at this rate the Broncos should be able to win by the year 2010. Keep hope alive, Mile Highers.

One more Bailey note: did you see him get completely pasted by lil' Marvin Harrison during Wayne's Screen Pass of Glory in the 4th quarter? Because he's still respected around Redskins park, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably had his head turned the wrong way and got blindsided. Riiight.

Minnesota at Green Bay

What I thought would be the least interesting game of the weekend surprised me and was both competitive and entertaining. I have no beef with Green Bay as a city, or the LemonPants Packers as a team. I appreciate the Cheesehead’s loyalty and (relative) intelligence. Heck, I like that the Pack are publicly owned and their fight song is pretty fun to sing.

What gets my goat is the deification of He Who Walks On Water, Brett Favre. Sportscasters the world over seem to think that he can do no wrong, extolling his maverick-like courage and determination. Let’s be clear: he will be in the Hall of Fame, he is a savvy quarterback, and he still possesses a rifle arm. Sometimes, like on Sunday, Ol’ Brett sucks (22-33, 216 yards, 1TD/4INTs, 55.4 rating). He is not Thor, Chris Collinsworth. Joe Buck, he cannot summon lightning. And Darryl Johnston, his little illegal flip pass, made when his team really could’ve used the first-and-goal or fourth-and-one inside the five yard line, wasn’t cute, innovative, or keen. It was a cowardly, rookie move that, though excused by the analysts, pushed a sure field goal back another five yards, resulting in the miss.

One play in particular was Exhibit #1 in my case of NFL Favre Deification: Favre passes incomplete to Bubba Franks, who is tackled. Franks rises, and a Vikings defensive end, who apparently didn’t hear the whistle, takes Franks down. A mild scrum ensues. The refs began separating players, and Sir Favre runs up the crowd and begins pushing Vikings players. At this point, the shoving is dying down. One of his own linemen moves Favre back, and he goes around the crowd to confront a Vikings linebacker and hits him in the face, right in front of a referee. It was absolutely clear. Did he get flagged? Did the commentators note how Favre had no business fighting people, and how he pulled a Ron Artest and attacked someone who had nothing to do with the play? Of course not. He’s Brett Favre and he’s playing through personal pain. Sheesh.

Speaking of personal attacks, I admit that I thought effervescent Randy Moss’ clinching-touchdown display pretty funny. I don’t condone it, and wouldn’t recommend anyone try to follow suit in the future. But every time I see the picture of Moss’ moon, I laugh. It wasn’t nice, but it sure hit the nail on the head and unequivocably made his point. Moss better have extra security next time he plays in Wisconsin.

Tune in tomorrow as I present my Playoff Picks. I dunno if you have the time or not, but we have a slate of phenomenal games on tap.

P.S. By the way, the United States is calling off the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Make of that what you will.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Week 17: I Reminisce (I Reminisce)

Happy New Year! In light of the closing of one year, the ending of one regular NFL season, and the beginning of the annual Redskins-win-it-all offseason discussions, I thought it best to reflect on 2004. Surely we all learned something in the last 12 months. For example, The Source magazine should have learned that they should never, ever, have another awards show. Without free kevlar armor. Thus, today I present to you now, gentle readers, the...


1. Manning = Real Deal. Some heads are talking that Peyton Manning's touchdown record is a result of the enforcement of the five-yard contact rules. To that I say balderdash! Manning deserves full credit for breaking this seemingly untouchable record because he is a ridiculously accurate, superiorly intelligent quarterback. It's true. Nobody can read and react to a defensive set better than Peyton, and the Ravens and Chargers can personally attest to that. For accuracy, dig how he set the new record on his pass to Brandon Stokely: the receiver made a quick out cut from the left hash mark, and Manning began his throwing motion. The safety saw this and moved toward Stokely, just as the receiver cut back inside. Manning's pass was in the air before the cut and hit Stokely perfectly in the hands, in the end zone, as soon as he turned his body back for the pass. The safety had no chance on the play. None. If I were stuck on an island and forced to watch but one quarterback's career highlights, it'd be Manning.
2. The reason I like Starbucks' caramel macchiato is because, in the end, it tastes like a liquified bowl of Super Golden Crisp.

3. Chris Cooley has proven to be the best H-back/tight end Washington's had in a long time; he could be the next Donny Warren if his play continues. He blocks reasonably well and is a legitimate short-yardage threat. He's no Todd Heap, of course, but defenses better cover him on 3rd and goal. Great pickup in your 2005 fantasy draft.

4. While no one's completely sure whether the Broncos or Redskins won in the offseason Bailey/Portis trade, I am absolutely certain that D.C. is better off without the presence of Trung Canidate.

5. If someone told me, back in 1993, that Flavor Flav would one day star in a reality series on a music video channel whose spinoff show would feature his love affair with Bridgette Nielsen...well, I would have bet my children's college fund you were wrong. After I punched you in the mouth for your blasphemy.

6. The Redskins are undefeated in 2005. Oh yeah. Wait, that didn't happen in 2004. In that case, I learned that the Digital Video Recorder is the greatest invention since, um, the Internet. Whether through TiVO, Cox, or Comcast, it will change everything you know about watching television.

7. Somewhere during 2004 The Boondocks suddenly became not funny. I can't say when, I can't say why, but this once potent comic went thud. Maybe it was the New Yorker article from April, where Aaron McGruder admitted that he doesn't even draw the strip anymore. He just sends ideas to some lady in Boston, who does the inking and sketching. We should all be so lucky.

8. My brother Roy managed to pull off the near-impossible task of starting a fantasy football season 2-6, then winning nine straight--including beating the best teams--en route to winning the Festivus Maximus Championship. The lesson here? Free Agents = Gold. Now I know who the $#$%!@ Lee Evans is. Congratulations and well played. How 'bout them Jones boys?

9. Thanks to the Pacers/Pistons melee, I now care about the fan-fightin' NBA just a shade more than the NHL. Speaking of which, what happened to the National Hockey League? Nobody's playing, or they dismantled the Western Conference or something. I'd look into this, but I don't care.

10. Vinny "AARP" Testaverde's poised play in the final two games was the worst thing that could happen to Dallas fans. Cowchip fans don't want him, but Coach Bill Parcells now will sit backup Bo Buckner, or Jim Henson, or whatever his name is, and stick with Vinny to start next year...a choice already vying for Worst Decision of 2005.

11. Sean Taylor is a future Ronnie Lott. As Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen said on their post-game wrap-up show, Old Men Radio, Taylor hits like a linebacker but possesses the speed of a wide receiver. Sure he makes mistakes, as he did Sunday when beat by Randy Moss for a touchdown. But his nose for the football gets him in on nearly every play, like Ray Lewis in his prime. Taylor could become one of the Faces of the Redskins (along with Arrington and the soon-to-depart Smoot) if only he'd lose the prima donna media silence. Mr. Taylor, nobody in the media told you to go drinking and driving. Admit the mistake and let's get on with life.

12. Nas' latest album, Street's Disciple, saved me from completely dismissing 21st century hip hop/rap music. It's got the rare blend of lyrics, delivery, and production that synthesizes into a forceful, yet introspective musical journey. And no, I didn't copy that from Throw in some James Brown samples and belittling Cuba Gooding, Jr. and the icing's on the cake. Take note, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and The Roots.

13. Speaking of music, congratulations to Snoop Dogg for putting out the worst, lackluster, simplistic excuse for a song THAT I CANNOT GET OUT OF MY HEAD. He has managed to easily surprass the Black Eyed Peas' Let's Get It Started on the Annoying Music Meter. Even the video makes no sense. Drop it like it's hawwwt, drop it like it's hawwwt...

14. The Maryland State Board of Law Examiners = Cloven-footed minions of Mephistopheles. But otherwise nice people.

15. ABC's Lost is the best television I've seen since the premiere of FOX's 24. I can only hope that in their second season the survivors don't start making coconut telephones and bamboo skirts.

16. This season's Hang Your Head award winner goes to a Redskin who single-handedly capsized a potentially successful season. By his hand the Skins lost games they should have won, and kept us from the postseason through poor decisions and suspect execution. He is, ironically, going to lead this team to the playoffs next year now that he's learned from these mistakes. The winner of the autographed 12" single Straight To My Feet by MC Hammer/Deion Sanders is none other than Coach Joe Gibbs. Nothing personal, sir, but if you so much as breathe the name Mark Brunell again, I will affix a Gore-Lieberman 2000 bumper sticker to your car.

17. The NFC should be ashamed of this season's wild-card playoff games: St. Louis at Seattle, Minnesota at Green Bay. For the first time in memory these games are, on paper, doo-doo matchups. None of these teams played well enough to earn their positions. I don't want any of these teams to win. I don't like any of these teams. How dare they proceed while gutsy squads like Carolina sit at home. Burns me up. Of course I'll be watching these games. Curse you, NFL.

18. This seasons' Man Among Men (aka, the "Riggo Award") is defensive coach Gregg Williams. He deserves a burgundy and gold Rolex from Daniel Snyder for organizing, maintaining and leading the best defense Washington has seen in my lifetime. Filled with who-dats and stand-ins, the Redskins managed to keep this season from falling into complete disaster. Nobody did more with less in Washington.

19. There will never be another Ray Charles, Barry White, or Luther Vandross. I don't care how record companies dress the Ruben Studdards of the world. You can't fake greatness. I doubt we'll see another Reggie White, either.

20. If the earthquake and tsunamis can teach us anything, it's that unpredictable biblical-level calamities can still happen. Many people are shocked, depressed, and in despair. Some folks still haven't recovered from seeing the horror of the Russian schoolchildren massacre. May I suggest what I believe is the truth?

And one bonus learning...

21. Writing a sports blog is more rewarding that I imagined, even if it sometimes feels like the equivalent of having a monologue in a bathroom stall. But just when you think that nobody hears your words, you open the door and realize a man from Switzerland was listening the whole time.

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I review NFL Playoff action, no doubt lampooning the NFC playoff contenders. Here's to a great '05...