Friday, October 16, 2009

Come to Tail Gators this Sunday

This Tail Gators Sunday Tailgate party event is getting bigger. The first week was successful, as I competed against some very serious poker players (and some not-so-serious ones) and managed to finish seventh. A fine prize was given away to the guy who knocked me out of the tournament, but I didn't make it easy. Then I watched the end of the football game, had some beer, and a good time was had by all.

This week, there will be a lot more going on. A short list:

- Free pool. Everyone who mentions CHEZ 106 at Tail Gators, all day long, will be allowed to play unlimited free pool all day Sunday. So you can show up at noon, and play an hour's worth of pool, then watch football. Or, you can keep playing pool while watching football. Tail Gators is a pool hall, so there are dozens of tables and you won't have to wait.

- Free poker. The World Poker Tour event that takes place at 4:00 is free to enter, and there are great prizes to be had for knocking me out, or for winning outright. Even if you don't win, you get points that go toward a shot at getting into the Canadian WPT championships - and there's big money there.

- Free football. The Jets-Bills game will be on the main TV at 4:00, but with 30 other screens around the bar, you'll be able to catch all the other games as well. The CHEZ crew will be there at about 3:00, watching the end of the first games and preparing for the late games and the poker.

- Free prizes. CHEZ hats, shirts, and other paraphenalia, of course. But also some football-themed DVDs, and a Bills jersey that I will be wearing all day. I hate the Bills. I want you to win my Bills jersey so I can go back to my old, familiar Green Bay one. But in order to win it, you must beat me at Madden football on the Xbox on the big screen at halftime. I have never played it before, but I play a lot of Mario Kart with the kids so I assume I will be good at it. And I will be trying very hard.

- 35 cent wings. After all that "free", something had to cost, didn't it? The wings are not free. They are 35 cents each. Sorry.

Come out and join me and CHEZ this Sunday, October 18th, at Tail Gators. Pool starts at noon and goes all day. Poker starts at 4:00 (be there at 3:30 to sign up) and goes until someone wins. Football starts at 1:00 (and I must catch Giants-New Orleans and Minnesota-Baltimore at that time). The Jets and Bills start at 4:00. And the wings go all day too. The prizes will go until I run out.

Tail Gators is in the Merivale Mall (it used to be Le Scratch, for those of you who remember that place) on, obviously, Merivale.

One more reason to abolish the death penalty

Not that one more reason is needed. A while ago, (January of last year) I wrote a post about capital punishment in the U.S., because Canada in our infinite wisdom declined to bring a citizen on death row back home. I pointed out that very few countries in the so-called "developed world" still had the death penalty, and Japan and the U.S. are the only two who routinely execute prisoners. Japan does so only in the case of multiple murders.

Now a very-possibly innocent man has been executed in Texas. Governor Rick Perry replaced the forensic team who were about to look into the arson verdict in the Todd Willingham case, just before they were able to do so. And then he pretty much ignored the cries of everyone who suggested that Willingham was not to blame in the fire that killed his three children. At the very least, the forensic investigator who went over the initial ruling said the arson verdict was not "scientifically supported".

Even if Willingham did commit three heinous murders, the fact that there is any doubt at all is reason enough to abolish the death penalty, isn't it? Perry says the outcry is just anti-death-penalty "propaganda" and that Willingham is a monster. Really? If that is so, count me among the purveyors of that propaganda. It's time for the States to end this perversion of justice once and for all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NFL picks week 6

52-24 straight up so far...44-32 against the spread. Let's see...

Houston at Cincinnati (4.5): The Bengals are the better team. In fact, without that ridiculous miracle in Week One, they are 5-0. Their offense is clicking and they have that ability to win games late. However, Houston is better than their 2-3 record, and they seem constantly able to bounce back from big losses. Last week was a big loss. The Texans will play very well in Cincy, and it will be closer than this spread. Bengals, 27-24. Verdict (Texans, 28-17): Well, the Texans sure covered the spread. And it wasn't even close. The Bengals may not be that good. Or, the Texans might just be the Texans, and come up with a great effort every second game.

Detroit at Green Bay (13.5): Yes, the Packers should win this game. Coming off their bye, they need to win this game, because the Vikings and Bears are putting distance in front of them in the division. But there are still serious questions about the Packers' offensive line and their new 3-4. And the Lions are playing better and better every week - remember how they made a real game of it against the Steelers last week? Lions will cover this spread. Packers, 30-23. Verdict (Packers, 26-0): I sure didn't see this defense pitching a shutout. But if this is an indication of things to come, the Packers could be a real force to be reckoned with in the NFC South. The Vikings have to come back down to Earth sometime...don't they?

St. Louis at Jacksonville (10.0): The Jaguars got embarassed last week by a weak Seahawks team. They have to come back and make a statement this week if they hope to make anything out of this season. There is no better team than the Rams against whom they could do that. If the Jaguars have pride, they ought to stomp St. Louis. However, if they are deflated and sad, this might be the one game the Rams win all year. I am betting, a little bit, on pride. Jaguars, 23-10. Verdict (Jaguars, 23-20): Well, I got the 23 part right. I don't think the Rams are this good, I think the Jaguars are just this inconsistent.

Baltimore at Minnesota (3): The Vikings are at home. And that is a big advantage here. But they are playing a Baltimore team that went from being maybe the best team in football to a two-game losing streak. The Ravens will be desperately looking to re-establish their bonafides as one of the elite teams in football. And they still are. But so is Minnesota. A really tough call in a really tough game. Vikings, 21-20. Verdict (Vikings, 33-31): Pretty darn close. Baltimore covered, the Vikings won. How many times can you pull a win out of the fire to stay unbeaten? Apparently, the Vikings can do it week in, week out.

New York Giants at New Orleans (3): Another really, really tough call. The Saints are coming off their bye, and I think they will have their offense back on track. Their defense all of a sudden looks fantastic as well. But they are an attacking, ball-hawking defense, and I think Eli Manning can pick that apart. And if any defense can slow down Drew Brees at his best, it's the Giants. One of these teams will be undefeated after this game, and I think it will be New York. Giants, 29-27. Verdict (Saints, 48-27): Drew Brees really came off that bye week firing, didn't he? I still believe that the Giants win this at home, but New Orleans looks like the team to beat in the NFC.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (14): Maybe the closest thing to a gimme all week, despite being a division game. The Browns looked just awful last week - and they were playing a team that was even worse. The Steelers are coming back into their own, and re-establishing themselves as one of the league's elite teams. They got to work out some kinks against the Lions last week, they will continue to do so against the Browns. Steelers, 28-10. Verdict (Steelers, 27-14): Pittsburgh still can't put teams away in the fourth, and the Browns made this one closer than it should have been. With Polamalu healthy though, this will be a different Steelers team from here on in.

Carolina (3) at Tampa Bay: One of only two teams favoured on the road are the Panthers, who are coming off a tense, down-to-the-wire win against a dreadful Redskins team. But that game showed the Panthers are ready to be a decent team again, and they will have far more confidence when they play the Bucs, who I think are the worst team in football so far this season. Panthers, 33-20. Verdict (Panthers, 28-21): I don't know if the Panthers have turned around their season with two wins against a couple of dreadful teams. But it's possible, and if they meet a solid challenge or two in the coming weeks, this could be a whole different season for them.

Kansas City at Washington (6.5): The Redskins (and the Cowboys, for that matter) are going to look much better than they really are at the end of the year because they are playing Kansas City and Oakland during the season. (It also gives people with an eliminator pool a couple of gimmes when the Giants and Eagles play them.) The Chiefs came awfully close to beating the Cowboys last week. They will come awfully close to beating the Skins this week. They might even beat them outright. In fact, I'm calling it. Chiefs, 22-21. Verdict (Chiefs, 14-6): The Redskins ARE that bad. They are painfully bad. And this might be the only game the Chiefs win this year, although they are looking better with every passing week. They just don't have any awful opponents like Washington for a while.

Philadelphia (14) at Oakland: Clearly, the easiest gimme of the week. The Eagles are able to put the boots to the bad teams, and they have been doing so. They will not let up on the Raiders, who are in disarray and may not win again this year now that they got that one KC game out of the way. Eagles, 42-10. Verdict (Raiders, 13-9): Ummm....whahappened? Clearly, NOT the easiest gimme of the week. I don't even know what to say about this. A team like the Eagles can't lay an egg like this one and still expect to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender. And they may no longer be. JaMarcus Russell was better than in previous weeks, but he still sucked. And the Raiders still won. I'm at a loss. Thank God I'd already taken Philly in my eliminator pool.

Arizona at Seattle (3): I have no idea who either of these teams are. The Seahawks looked amazing last week agains the Jaguars. The Cardinals looked very good against the Texans. Both teams are looking better now that the Niners have started to fall off a bit in that division. The winner of this game has a good shot at the division lead. And I think that winner will be...the Seahawks at home. Barely. I think. Seahawks, 20-18. Verdict (Cardinals, 27-3): The Seahawks have put up 44 points in the last two weeks. Which would appear to be a decent number...but 41 came last week. THREE points? With Hasselbeck at the helm? I know their offensive line is in disarray, but come on! I certainly thought the Cardinals had a good chance to win this game, but I would never have expected this hammering.

Tennessee at New England (9): Not a gimme, by any stretch. The Patriots' weaknesses have been exposed the last few weeks, and Brady looks pretty shaky. That being said, the Titans have looked awful all season, and the only unit shakier than Brady's passing might be the Titans' pass defense. Patriots, 27-23. Verdict (Patriots, 59-0): When I saw the snow coming down in Foxboro, I thought "the Titans might have a chance". Then I looked away. And looked back. And it was a million to nothing and the half hadn't even ended. Is Tom Brady really back? Well, the Titans have an awful pass defense right now, and the snow is a bizarre X-Factor. Still, looks pretty rosy for the Patriots at the moment.

Buffalo at New York Jets (no line): A real gimme against the spread, since the Bills are awful and the Jets are not. The Jets have several questions that need answering though, but not nearly enough to lose to Buffalo, who just need to start asking questions everywhere. The Jets defense is now, I think, suspect. But the Bills team is suspect. Jets, 24-12. Verdict (Bills, 16-13): OK. Maybe the Jets really are awful. Maybe they just got lucky early in the season by running into three teams who had yet to find their legs and their identites. Would anyone pick the Jets to beat New England again, now? I doubt it. The Bills are still a terrible team, but Mark Sanchez handed them this game. When your running back goes over 200 yards and you're terrible.

Chicago at Atlanta (3): The Falcons looked truly amazing last week against what I thought was a very strong Niners team. The Bears have been playing very well without Brian Urlacher, but I don't think they are on the level of the Falcons right now. When this weekend ends, the Saints could very well find themselves tied for first place in their division. Falcons, 27-23. Verdict (Falcons, 21-14): The Falcons look better to me with each passing week. And the Bears are just not a dominant team, much as they would like to be. The real test of Atlanta will likely come over the next few weeks, after their tuneup game against the Cowboys next Sunday.

Denver at San Diego (3.5): Denver is 5-0. Their defense has given up fewer points than any other in the league. Even those teams who have had bye weeks and haven't played five games. The Chargers are 2-2. And there are many questions about their team. And yet...San Diego is favoured in this game? Yes, and I agree. I have picked the Broncos wrong, 5 weeks in a row now. And I am being stubborn and picking them, again, to lose. Eventually I will have to be right. Chargers, 18-13. Verdict (Broncos, 34-23): That was a complete game. Now, the Broncos could still fall off and finish 9-7, while the Chargers could still come on and finish 11-5 and win the division. But it's looking less and less likely. I am now a believer. But I hate it.

I was 8-6 straight up this week, 6-8 ATS. That's my first losing week against the spread all year. Garbage! I am now 60-30 straight up, and 50-40 ATS.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Cynical Cinema today

All new DVD releases

Girlfriends, Season Seven: An awful show about awful women who fight with other awful women. And that Toni! Is she ever coming back? Does anyone care if she does?

Terre: Puissance D'Une Planete: Visually sensational BBC documentary about volcanoes and ice and other natural phenomena - but in French only for some reason.

South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut (Blu-Ray): One of the funniest, greatest musicals of all time. But on Blu-Ray? Why bother?

Jackass the Lost Tapes: No, it turns out the stuff Jackass left on the cutting room floor is not funny, or clever. It's as dumb as the rest of the show, but with more vomit.

Springsteen closes down Giants Stadium

Bruce Springsteen played the final show at Giants Stadium before it gets demolished. He first played there in 1985, when he was at the height of his fame with Born In The U.S.A. It has been 24 years since then, and he has played 24 shows at the famous venue. Here are some clips from that final concert:

The Last Time

No Surrender

Born In The U.S.A. / Cover Me

Turkey Bowl Deux Mille Neuf

It was a cold and foreboding day as two teams of young, eager and out of shape people took the field at L'Ecole Des Voyageurs in Orleans for the annual Turkey Bowl, a brutal and taxing game of two-hand-touch which gets more and more contentious with every passing year. I arrived early, because I was the guy bringing the football. Also, I was last year's MVP, which meant that I was to bring the MVP trophy and put it up for grabs again. Last year's trophy was a plastic chicken glued into a gravy boat, but I could not find it. It appears my wife thought at some point this past year that it was junk, and through it out. Even though it was prominently displayed in my rather sparse trophy case.

So I arrived at the field with a new trophy, one that I had made myself after a short trip to the dollar store. It was a plastic chicken glued ont a gravy boat, just a different chicken and a different boat. And they were not glued together. Because I had only a glue stick at home, a promotional token from that movie Hump Day (which for some reason gave away glue sticks), I was unable to properly fasten the two together, and they came apart in my car on the way to the game.

As players began to trickle in from all over Ottawa, the two teams were chosen. Last year I benefited from some quality teammates and lazy opponents in winning the MVP trophy. I had good chemistry with Eric Russo, and the luxury of being covered by Marc Bois, who did not want to run very much. This year things were different, as I had Marc on my team and Eric on the opposing side of the field. I don't know when it happened, but event organizer Steven Dalrymple named our squad Team Punishment at some point during the game. It may have been off the top, or it may have been later on. But by the second half, we were Team Punishment. The other team had no name. I will refer to them as Team B.

In the first half, the teams appeared to be evenly matched. In that neither team had any offense. The first half ended with the score tied at 2-2. Marc Bois had thrown a pick-six for our side, but had redeemed himself with three interceptions and two (admittedly flukey) TD passes of his own. I had also thrown a pick-six, having been effectively baited on defense by Eric Russo. But I had not redeemed myself. At the half, we re-assessed our situation. They had two QBs who could throw deep, Eric and Pat. We had one, me. But we did have a few other QBs who could be very effective and accurate in short-yardage situations.

Team Punishment was also aided by the second-half arrival of Caroline Russo, who took the place of the six members of our team who decided to sit down on the sidelines and smoke rather than continue playing. It is a testament to the chemistry of Team Punishment that we didn't notice this mass defection until about five series of downs had gone by. In the end, it was Team B who sputtered on offense. Mike Phillips, a skinny British import, was proving to be a rather effective short yardage possession receiver, but toward the end of the game he was left out of the plans of Team B. Eric Russo, who throws a pretty nice deep ball, was constantly throwing that deep ball. Often into tight coverage. Which made it quite easy to defend. Team Punishment settled for shorter gains of 15-20 yards per play, and did very well in the battle of field position.

Toward the end, the result of the game was very much in doubt. I had led a quick TD drive early in the second half, and Team B had responded with a long, quick-strike TD of their own. The score was tied, 3-3, and the game would end with the next score. Or at 3:30, whichever came first. People had to go for thanksgiving dinner, after all. And with time running down, and the clock our enemy, Eric (the guy in the red shirt I don't know his last name) led a last-second, Favre-esque touchdown drive, three quick short completed passes followed by a short fourth-down toss to James Fraser for the win.

I didn't get to keep the MVP award I had built myself. Co-MVP honours went to Marc Bois and the guy on our team in the red sweatshirt who had a twin brother playing on the other side. Which was fortuitous, because the MVP trophy was now in two pieces. Bois had the trophy wrapped up at halftime, but his injury forced him out for the second half, leaving the door open for someone else. Eric Russo was the MVP of the losing side, winning a can of No-Name brand chicken and peas.

I got home exhausted, and went almost straight to bed, and only then did I discover that I was badly injured. I think it occured on a play where Krista, who had been covering me tightly all day, shoved me to the ground while visciously two-hand-touching me. My shoulder is absolutely screwed. I couldn't sleep on my left side or my right side, and I could barely sleep on my stomach or on my back. I tossed and turned all night, and each time I moved even a little the sharp and intense pain would wake me up. Which means that this morning, I am so tired that I didn't realize until now that I had written eleven paragraphs on a silly, silly football game. Sorry about that.