Saturday, December 28, 2002

NFL fan free agency update
I probably can't adopt the Cardinals or Colts because I don't like the circumstances by which they jilted their previous cities. (Weird coming from someone whose favorite baseball team is the Oakland, nee Kansas City, nee Philadelphia Athletics, but such is life.) I'll heed JQ's warning about the Falcon bandwagon, even though I still do like Dan Reeves. I appreciate Dwight's efforts to welcome me into the Steeler fold, for which the next Steeler fan I see in a sports bar is likely to get a free drink.

One thing that dawned on me during the Paydirt game, a part of childhood I'd conveniently forgotten: I was an Eagle fan before I was a Bronco fan. It lasted a season or so. Who knows why. I do know I played on a soccer team called the Eagles but they were Under-12, not Under-10, so too late to explain my rooting for the 1983 Philadelphians. They might have been playing the Cowboys on a week I happened to watch. Then later that year they played the Neil Lomax St. Louis Cardinals on a game that ended on a field goal that made me cry. And yet by the end of the year I was an Elway/Bronco fan. Childhood memories: So inexplicable.

(What do you think: Was the Cardinal game 1983 week 4 or 1984 week 13? Was it really 1984 when I got on the Bronco bandwagon and claiming to be with Elway from the beginning is revisionism? Could I possibly overanalyze this more?)

Anyhow, on the subject of bandwagons, now -- after that crushing loss -- is exactly the right time to claim the Eagles without guilt. Well, maybe a little guilt; I can't really claim them until 1984 even though I'll root for them in the playoffs. The thing is, the bandwagon will go to Lambeau, especially if Green Bay wins to clinch home field advantage.

(Damn. I really wanted that game to be meaningless to them so that the Jets would be more likely to win and help Denver. So it goes.)

Every other team I mentioned as a "finalist," I'll root for when convenient. Ditto the Steelers. I'll ever do the Packer/Lutheran thing when convenient (you could that Lutheranism itself is by convenience). But it's the Broncos and the Eagles, and so now in both baseball and football I have an orange team in one league and a green in the other.

(Thought of the orange-green thing earlier today. I think I was going to go with either the Eagles or Packers, depending on which team had less of a bandwagon. Although, bandwagon or not, every Sunday/NFL sports bar I've seen in San Francisco has had a small-but-vocal Philadelphia table.)
That was "Ready Steady Go" right before the coin toss (I'm blogging because I've drawn a blank on who does that song), followed by "Highway to Hell."

I had a premonition on both the Tiki Barber fumble and the David Akers miss. Especially the miss. I was sitting there and he's going to miss it popped into my head. The last time I was dead convinced that a good kicker would shockingly miss a field goal was Gary Anderson's miss against Atlanta four years ago. That one I saw coming early in the drive. This one it was something about how he lined up.

UPDATE: The interception in overtime had "interception" written all over it right when he released the ball.
Feline Neurosurgery
Today's Tribune had a story about a cat who had a brain tumor removed. Very heart-warming. Also a reminder of just how mind-boggling the opulence in this country is. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Blood-Curdling Jeers
Jon asked for them so I'll oblige. Or just snap my fingers and delegate it to a true Giants fan and Dodger hater, of which the audience has at least one. This is a cute picture actually. We'll see if Cooch's World permits links directly to images... as indeed it does. (Geocities doesn't; you can understand why. Bandwidth issues.)

Actually I have Dodger uniform related content! Earlier this year I thought I was uniquely suited to go as Eric Gagne for Halloween. I'd need a uniform, strategic (non)shaving in October, and my clunkiest pair of old glasses. It would have been perfect, except that I forgot all about it until just now.
The song with the bells!
(but what's it called and who's it by?)

Right before the second half started at the Meadowlands (real football, not tabletop gaming), Pam Oliver did her sideline report and threw things back to the booth. While Joe Buck et al were jabbering, the PA system played the same song that the A's play for rallies.

(They play it with the bases loaded, or sometimes two men on base, in the first two innings. If no such rally, then they play it -- inappropriately in my opinion -- for whoever leads off the third inning. It works better for Jermaine Dye with the bases loaded than Ramon Hernandez with none out and none on. Then they'll bring it back later in the game if the situation calls for it.)

In other TV football news, the touchdown called back on holding really threw Fox's top-of-screen-score-bar operator for a loop. The thing disappeared for a play or two before coming back with the 7-0 score. I was somewhat disappointed since you'd think Fox would have found a slick if inane way to handle that situation: Say, a license from Press Your Luck to show a Whammy wiping out the score change, or else a flag graphic swooshing across as the score is reset. The possibilities are endless.
Football, of the completely pretend variety
PHI 3 3 7 6 - 19
NYG 7 0 7 0 - 14

Four lead changes, with no team ever ahead by more than six points. Giants spend the first half with great field position (good special teams: two punts in a row pin the Eagles inside the five) but can't generate much yardage. Neither team's passing game does much in the first half.

Eagles take the ball down by a point, midway through the fourth quarter, go almost entirely to the ground game, get their second rushing touchdown of the half with just under a minute left in the game. They miss the two-point conversion but New York has to go 72 yards in 50 seconds. With the two-minute drill going against a prevent defense (and my timing in seven-second increments instead of ten to be more realistic), the Giants complete some medium-length and sideline passes to get the ball to the Philly 22. The final play of the game is a 16-yard completion, presumably an open receiver in the middle of the field (let's say Shockey) who needs to break one tackle but falls victim to a heroic linebacker or nickelback.

Tough luck, NYG fans. Then again, this simulation involved the 1982 Giants and Eagles (both of whom went 3-6), since that's the only year for which I have team cards for this Sports Illustrated football table game ("Paydirt") my dad bought me years ago. It looks as though Avalon Hill actually designed the game (typically, the Advanced Rules are gratuitously complex), with the SI name slapped on it for marketing purposes.

For what it's worth, each team card has a little blurb on it for how the '82 season went. That this was the strike year adds a little bit of novelty to it. The 49er card is also the first place I ever saw the phrase Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, which I've associated with football ever since.

We also had a "greatest college football teams" card set once (there were an Arkansas and a Texas from the late 1960s, either 1971 Oklahoma or Nebraska or both, an O.J. era USC team, a Notre Dame, basically any team that had a great season between the early '60s and early '80s) but I couldn't find it.

I wonder for how many seasons they made Paydirt cards. I wonder how hard it would be to find on eBay. For now, though, there's real football to watch, and also packing to do.

Friday, December 27, 2002

My Big 12 teams won two more bowl games today than Chad's
That's right, I'm claiming Kansas State despite never having said so before tonight.

The Wildcats recruited well from my high school football team, of whom Kevin Lockett went further, on into the NFL. (Some day R.W. McQuarters will put a big hit on Kevin Lockett, or more likely be called for interference against Lockett, and it probably won't occur to the broadcasters that they went to the same high school.)

Very good game in San Diego tonight, with a pass-happy underdog falling short against a team that likes to run the quarterback keeper. Earlier, Oklahoma State won (props to Chad for calling me after the game, a game I'd been too stupid to watch) but Nebraska lost. Iowa State was idle.

Between the purple uniform and the eyeblack, the KSU quarterback always looked like Cris Carter when they showed him on the sideline.
Name someone shockingly unattractive for his or her profession and/or profile...
I'll go first. Lizzie Grubman. She's ass-ugly, or else just stunningly untelegenic. I claim this can't be topped.
Synecdoche of the Day
A Fox News channel news-ticker trailer just used the phrase:

Moscow's embassy in Paris
Is it time for me to declare my NFL free agency?
Starting in 2003, who should I root for other than the Broncos? And would this be a new team or just a secondary team? See below for the six finalists, then drop me a line or send a comment.

Based on wire service reports, it looks as though Mike Shanahan has benched Brian Griese and Griese whined about it over Christmas.

The broadcasters at the Broncos-Raiders game mentioned that in previous news stories, Griese had embraced the idea that the game would be the defining point in his career. He then of course threw two interceptions, fell behind 0-21, and was injured (almost mercifully) on a Bill Romanowski hit. Now the hot rumor is that this weekend's Denver-Arizona game will serve as an audition for potential free agent Jake Plummer. Things don't look so good for my grand scheme of the Broncos having just two starting quarterbacks from when I was 8 to when I was 40.

(In a way that plan was already shot: The Bubby Brister era lasted only for one John Elway injury and most of the next pre-season but it was long enough that Brister is the Denver QB in NFL Blitz 2000.)

On a cheerier note, the Tribune pointed out this morning that if all the favorites won this weekend (counting New England as a home-team favorite despite the game being Pick Em) then Denver would sneak in at the #6 seed. Nonetheless, if I had to take on a backup team or two, here's where things stand...

Arizona: I already root for the Cardinals a lot, mostly out of sympathy. This is comparable to one year that the Patriots really sucked and I rooted for them anyway, possibly the first year that Parcells coached the team. (Among other things there was a game against Pittsburgh where the Steelers made an improbable goalline stand.) Also this was the home team for my first in-person NFL game. Definitely a candidate.

St. Louis: One of my best friends is a big Ram fan. In his presence I'll root for them. Still, it's his thing, not mine.

San Francisco: You'd think so. I live in the area. And yet whenever they're on TV/radio I impulsively root against them.

Seattle: Don't like the uniforms, plus Mike Holmgren has worn thin on me. Aside: Have you noticed how often this year they host the 4:05 game (late game but non-doubleheader network)? I suppose they're the least relevant west coast team. Or maybe Arizona is.)

Chicago: Now that my parents live here, I could be the perfect Chicagoan by becoming... a fair-weather Bear's fan. So ask me again when they're good again and I'll claim to have rooted for them all along. You'll see right through it.

Detroit: See St. Louis. Also, I'm not a masochist. (Sorry, Craig.)

Green Bay: Sure, I like Favre. I love their fans. I like Mike Sherman. Of the teams that consistently make the late playoff rounds, I'm relatively happy with the Packers. Also, much of the population of suburban Chicago are Packer fans, as are a strong minority of Lutherans. Nice convergence there. So they move on to the next round.

Minnesota: Eh, no. Don't like Randy Moss. Also, by the previous item, I think my Lutheran Bowl sympathies are with the green-and-gold rather than the purple-and-white.

Atlanta: Sure. I love Dan Reeves. Michael Vick also reminds me of another #7. The downside is that there's a conspicuous bandwagon going. Still, they might work.

Carolina: Bad team, no redeeming virtues; they're not even legendarily bad. Also, they seem to have had more than their share of criminals on the team.

New Orleans: Nope. Too many uniform changes, too ugly a December fade, and Kyle Turley.

Tampa Bay: Nope. Warren Sapp and Jon Gruden.

Dallas: If I became a Cowboy fan I think my childhood self would travel forward in time and kill me.

NY Giants: Yes, as mentioned before, I deeply revere Jim Fassel. Still, the it's my friend's team, not mine principle applies. Godspeed to the boys of Cooch, despite their New York-ness.

Philadelphia: Sure. I really like Andy Reid. Very well-coached team, good on offense and defense, nice franchise history without a discernible bandwagon. If they meet Green Bay in the NFC championship, I can't lose.

Washington: Bad owner. Spurrier. Fans who seem to believe the Beltway is the center of the universe. Hell no.

Kansas City: Had I been five years older or five years younger, but still grew up in Tulsa, I'd have probably been a Chiefs fan for local TV reasons. Didn't work out that way.

Oakland: (Shudder.)

San Diego: I do like both Brees and Tomlinson. Still, it's a division rival. Can't root for the Chiefs, Raiders, or Chargers.

Baltimore: Brian Billick + Ray Lewis = no way.

Cincinnati: It's one thing to sympathize with a loser. This is just an incompetent franchise though.

Cleveland: Apparently they're really fun to watch. My parents grew up in Ohio. I guess they're a candidate, if barely.

Pittsburgh: This is a great franchise but I just can't be a true Steeler fan. I don't know why but it just wouldn't fit. I'm not from Western Pennsylvania.

Houston: There's the expansion team factor and the sympathy factor but if you want to root for an expasion team you have to get in at the beginning; I missed my window.

Indianapolis: Manning. Dungy. This is actually a natural fit for me.

Jacksonville: Nope--Coughlin, plus I don't like that part of the country much. Rooted for them in the playoffs one year but the comeback at Mile High was just too much of a letdown.

Tennessee: No compelling reason not to but no compelling reason to root for them. Well, Steve McNair carries the team on his back. I'll give him props.

Buffalo: I actually knew a diehard Bills fan in high school. (I think he'd spent part of his life in Western NY.) Bledsoe is there now. Their coach is a moron. Thing is, they're the one team with a worse Super Bowl run than Denver. That particular allegience switch wouldn't be a step up.

Miami: Fiedler's great but I can't root for a team that so many people I know hate.

New England: Half the audience of this blog are Pats fans. More power to you. I lived in Boston once. The problem is I don't anymore.

NY Jets: My friend Corwyn's team. So there's, again, both the my friend's team, not mine factor and the New York factor.

FINALISTS: Arizona, Atlanta, Cleveland, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Philadelphia
A depressing bit of Chicago sports history
Hockey fans in the audience probably already knew this but I just learned it yesterday, reading a tourist-oriented mural: Do you know how many Stanley Cups the Chicago Blackhawks have won? Three, most recently in 1961.

Considering how many decades the NHL went with just six teams, I think that makes the Hawks an even sorrier franchise than the Cubs or White Sox. Well, maybe the White Sox are still worse. (Sorry, masochistic Cub fans, but even though it's been forever, those Cub teams of 100 years ago kicked enough ass almost to make up for the rest of the century.)
Four-Day School Weeks!
Speaking of Craig, here's one up his alley: Why didn't they have these when I was a kid? Is it a good idea?

(Note: I actually really liked school, at least in moderation. On second thought, what I liked was the material. I deeply resented having to spend all that time in the same place, hour after hour of classroom experience. Your mileage may vary.)
Weird moment in blog-reading
So just now I opened this blog and this blog at the same time. (One of them was slow to open; woo blogspot!) Got temporarily confused which blog was which and mentally mislabeled this post.

For about five seconds it was a side of Craig I never knew.
Talk radio all around the country probably hit a new low this morning
This post says everything worth saying about this morning's clone news. The mid-morning local hosts on WLS (Jay and Eileen are supposedly quite good) gave their callers enough free rein to say a lot of things not worth saying.

Then Walter E. Williams came on (substituting for Limbaugh; outspokenly libertarian economist, occasionally described by his canned sound effects as Black by popular demand). If he mentioned the clone at all, I missed that part. Instead he had a long segment with Thomas Sowell.
"Protestant B"
Deeply moving story here. I got it from Joanne Jacobs, who credits the two people whose weblogs she saw it on.

(I'm wary of turning things in the Middle East into strictly a religious conflict. Obviously religion is a big part of it but if you look at it only in religious terms, you lose the ability to draw moral distinctions between democracy and tyranny, terrorists and non-terrorists, and so on. That's also true of Northern Ireland, although there the question of who's practicing terror is far less one-sided. Nonetheless, heroism is heroism and I'll point it out when I see it. Also, of the major players in the Middle East, those who are Muslim aren't exactly winning much respect for their cause. As an actual Protestant, I have no strictly religious stake in this that I know of.)

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Weird Thing I Just Learned From Talk Radio
"Many in the pro-life community are disappointed in Bill Frist."

You heard it here first, unless you heard it from the same Sean Hannity caller from whom I heard it. He's also (gentleman in Kansas) dead convinced that there are things that one can say only on that program -- "You can't even say this stuff on Rush Limbaugh anymore."

Sometimes I jokingly call myself a single-issue voter. If it came down to it this would probably be false but it's never actually come up. (A protest vote for Alan Keyes is pretty transparently just a protest vote. Then again, I never did vote for him because I kept forgetting to vote in primaries at all.) Even for that, people who say things like "many in the pro-life community are disappointed in Bill Frist" make my head spin.
Bar Exam, LSAT, same difference
Chad pointed out a brain-fart on my bio page many months ago. Then he pointed it out again. (Maybe a third time.) Then someone else pointed it out. Then I finally fixed it.
Also, I saw a Simpsons that I'd never seen before
I suspect The Computer Wore Menace Shoes would have been far more intelligible had I ever watched The Prisoner.

One of the first Simpsons megafans I ever knew was also, almost certainly, a big fan of The Prisoner. This episode was probably heavenly for him.
Syndicated TV questions
All inspired by this episode of That 70s Show:

1. Did they really have Krispy Kremes in Wisconsin in 1977? (Look closely at the box of donuts Red brings to the new apartment.)

2. Why does Laurie have a reputation for being hot? (Or does she? Is the rep just for being skanky without being necessarily hot?) Either there's miscasting or my tastes are outside the mainstream but in the looks department I'd put Lisa Robin Kelly a distant third behind Mila Kunis and Laura Prepon.

3. (from a commercial) If Men's Wearhouse and Wherehouse Music ever merged, would they finally spell warehouse correctly in the new name?
Sean Hannity has a really weird voice
Not that I'm one to talk. Still, I'm not the one with a national radio show. The best part: His guest host this week, namely Mark Levin (I imagine Hannity's on vacation; parents have lamented that he's on vacation from his TV show) has an even weirder voice.

(There's a radio on in the computer room, always tuned to WLS. I'm reluctant to fiddle with it; whenever it bothers me I just turn it down.)
Conversation on the Beach
Here's some jarring perspective on what's happening in the Middle East. There's a probably straw man here but it appears to be a true story.

UPDATE: If I'm going to attack people who take Islam too far, might as well go whole hog and pass this news along -- both links are from Little Green Footballs.
Is baldish a word?
Mom got a 100-point play just now (baldish and orbiters) and she was so happy about it that I didn't even consider challenging. It's also unclear whether there's an Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary handy. Needless to say she won.

UPDATE: Yes we have a Scrabble Players' Dictionary and yes, baldish is a word. The only non-word played last night (there were no challenges) was my dad's mousey (a by-product of gooey). He came in third anyway.
Coming Attractions
The student paper I wrote for isn't what it used to be. When I have time to write (probably not until the return to SF), I'll try to get something published tying together this story, the history of alternate campus papers (at least at Harvard), my lunch today, and a gratuitous book reference.
Sears Tower and entertainment socialism
Today I went to Chicago to have lunch with an old classmate. (More on that later actually; there's a chance I'll turn it into a Serious Article somewhere unexpected. I'll link to it once I do.) After lunch I wandered around downtown, walked along Lakeshore Drive, and decided to go to the top of the Sears Tower.

Maybe my memory of the Empire State Building is too rosy but it seems as though they don't run things as well at Sears Tower. First there was the security check, where everyone went through metal detectors. This part was remarkably smooth compared to what happens inside. The ticket line stretched just past this one place where people were hawking photographs. (They strongly encouraged you to pose, stopping just short of requiring it, bellowing about how there was no obligation to buy. It was the surliest group of photo-op hawkers I ever saw, though; they were hectoring people in the line to clear space for the photography. Part of it was just poor layout.)

The posted rate was $9.50 for Adults, with discounts for kids and seniors. Seeing this I got out a $10 bill, only to be billed for $10.45 once sales tax was included. (Leading me to fumble again for a one or for change.) With just two ticket takers, all the fumbling around adds up.

After the ticket booth there was a line going around a corner. This is where I found out not only that there was a mandatory eight-minute video presentation but also that the next presentation began in something over 12 minutes. (They had a clock counting down the seconds.)

The presentation was actually reasonably interesting apart from how much I resented being forced to watch it. Then once that got out they filed people into elevators. This is where I encountered the most inane gratuitous entertainment ever. A video screen near the elevator ceiling (with accompanying audio) attempted to give the impression that our elevator was being controlled by a sentient computer that somehow screwed us, hurtled us into outer space, got directions back to Chicago from astronauts, and so on. (On the way back down we supposedly went into some basement and then almost got run over by an El train.)

Problems I have with this kind of entertainment:
1. It's hokey
2. I would have gotten plenty of enjoyment/amazement out of watching the numbers go up/down on the digital display of what floor we were on. (You could still do this if you were good at tuning out the on-screen entertainment.)
3. It's hokey.
4. Having a "sentient computer" act as though there's been a screwup and urge you to remain calm leads to a Boy who cried wolf problem. If there's ever a real emergency on that elevator, nobody will realize it because they'll assume it's a new wrinkle to the entertainment.
5. It's hokey.

And just to complete my grumpiness, visibility was unusually low today.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Single Artist Anthologies Sold Only On TV
So far today I've seen two of them and both times I thought of a particular person who would crave that CD/collection.

Most recently, Back in the U.S. -- a Paul McCartney retrospective. The McCartney groupie I know is currently in England.

But earlier today, The Essential Heart. I'll let the Heart megafan out there speak for himself, assuming he's man enough to admit it.
Sign that my mom listens to a lot of talk radio:
In the Saturday Night Live marathon* earlier today, the sketch that made her laugh most reliably was the "Delicious Dish" radio women. (Mind, she's not much of an NPR listener and it sounds as though WLS is a lot more interesting than NPR, but if you've been exposed as a captive audience to any NPR at all, you can appreciate "Delicious Dish" even though it's excruciating to sit through.)

More mom zen: You'll get one point for guessing which sketch led her to exclaim,
"But there's absolutely nothing ambiguous about them!"

*- Anyone know why both Comedy Central and E! decided to run SNL marathons? Oh, if you care, best sketch by far in the two hours or so we watched was "Carl Sagan's Global Warming Christmas," featuring Mike Myers as Sagan, host Tom Hanks as Dean Martin, somebody as Isaac Asimov, someone else as Crystal Gale, and Dana Carvey as Paul McCartney.

Honorable mention to the celebrity Jeopardy! wherein Lucy Liu played Ms. Zeta-Jones and someone else was Robin Williams. Speaking of that sketch, I was in a fantasy football league this year where one team was named An Album Cover. Until today I didn't know the reference.
LOTR and D&D
One thing I meant to mention but forgot: On a second viewing of Two Towers I started gratuitously thinking of the scenes from a gameplay perspective. The highlight was one encounter where a roll for charisma would be appropriate. If you've seen the movie you can probably guess which one; otherwise I won't spoil it.

(There may even be more than one but one in particular jumped out at me.)
Obligatory politics
Click if you want to: The real story on Frist and segregation.

In other political news I also have a very strong opinion about North Korea that probably wouldn't surprise you much. For more info I'll refer you to Subliminal Man (Kevin Nealon) and his SNL intro-sketch commentary on Iraq, circa December 1990. (You can probably find it on-line if you look hard enough.) And to George W. Bush himself (paraphrasing from a different intro): You both say this is a complex world, but I know there are some kids playing baseball on the South Lawn who don't think this is a complex world at all. And this may surprise you, but I agree with them.

(Neither Condi nor Cheney was surprised.)
Minor meta-note: In many posts here and elsewhere you'll see an erroneous reference to one "Avashi" -- whose name I heard wrong a week and a half ago. Her name is really Akasha. I'd sat on that for a few days but never had time to go around fixing it.
POLL: Which science fiction writer are you?
Find out here. (Caveat: My result fit me extremely well in my opinion but is most definitely not a science fiction writer. Maybe I'm being too nitpicky. Anyway, as soon as I get done typing something, you'll see elsewhere who I got.)
Beyond the Glory: Sammy Sosa
(voice of minor league teammate Jonathan Hurst) "Every single had to be a double, every double had to be a triple."
(voice of narrator) "And one night in Tulsa, a triple had to be a home run."

(footage of Sosa running out an inside-the-park home run, from a game that my mom and I were both at)

We looked at each other that day and knew this kid would be a star. In fairness we figured if he set any records it would be for speed rather than power. Still, he had hustle, and he wanted it. And now 13-and-a-half years later, we get to see the very same play again. (The footage was from a camera near the third-base dugout, while our seats had been down the first base line.)
X-Mas Comix
Of the 28 comic strips in this morning's Chicago Tribune (print version), 21 have a Christmas theme. Two more make fun of Trent Lott (of which, the Boondocks is significantly funnier than the Doonesbury); five lack a holiday theme (of which the funniest of course is Dilbert).
POLL: Which Monopoly piece are you?
The key detail I left out last night (for not wanting to bore you too much) was which piece everyone played as.

I share a household with a ship (Dad), a thimble (Sarah), and a dog (Mom). The remaining choices were bell, car, cannon, hat, horse, iron, purse, and shoe. I played as the car but bell and cannon were both also tempting.
Christmas Morning
Hope yours is going well. (If you're reading this shortly after I posted it, get off the computer and go back to your family or roommates or whoever.) I asked for two particular things and got them both. George Forman will significantly improve my eating habits and maybe goad me into learning how to cook. The camera... well, cameras are self-explanatory.

There is also Chex party mix. I should stop eating the kind they put in bags and ship to convenience stores, because the homemade variety, hot and fresh and laden with worcestershire sauce, is way way better.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Monopoly post-mortem
Somehow it worked out that we actually did play Monopoly tonight (scroll down a ways to find a Monopoly post buried in the football). Fun for the whole family. I'm sure this post will reveal me to be a hypercompetitive jerk but since this was the first time in over a decade that I played Monopoly against real live human opponents, I'm fixated on it now.

This being a family on Christmas Eve, we didn't get overly cutthroat. No insanely complicated deals involving immunities or percentage cuts or whatever else the really good players do. Sarah rolled boxcars when we were seeing who would go first; it was possibly her last lucky roll all game. Her, then Dad, then me, then Mom. The women folk got unusually bad rolls in the early game, paying rents rather than landing on unsold properties. They each got sent to jail twice in the early rounds, giving the guys a big advantage on number of times passing Go. Dad did extremely well on money (two turns in a row he landed on Chance or Community Chest and got an "Advance to Go" card) but I had the best unsold-property luck, rolling doubles multiple times in the first trip around the board. (On the first turn I got Electric Company and New York.)

Early game: Once there was more sold property than unsold, I think the only unopposed color lots were the Baltic lot (Mom had one but not the other) and the Boardwalk lot (both unsold).

Key trade: I gave Sarah a yellow property and cash for two cheaper ones. That gave her two properties unopposed, needing only to land on Marvin Gardens. (Nobody landed on Marvin Gardens until players were already being eliminated.) It gave me and Dad opposition on 3rd, 4th, and 5th streets, so you'd think a trade would be imminent once we could give each other monopolies.

Indeed, Dad landed on the other 5th street property, which left him salivating over Indiana Avenue. Unfortunately for him, he'd gained so much money on the board that giving him a monopoly was too suicidal. (Also, too much time elapsed until he was in a position to give me a monopoly back.)

Key event: I landed on Boardwalk (at this point I was way low on funds but was able to buy Boardwalk after mortgaging something), but then Sarah landed on Park Place. Sarah also landed on the other 3rd street property, causing her and dad and me to cancel each other out. Somewhere along the line she traded Park Place to Dad for a 2nd street, a 3rd street, and mucho dinero.

Key event: Mom landed on the third 7th street property (at that point she had one and I had one). I offered to complete the lot for her in exchange for Baltic (giving me the worst monopoly), Water Works (giving me a utility monopoly), and whichever 2nd street property didn't pass from Dad to Sarah. She got as far as two houses on Pennsylvania Avenue (one each on the other two properties) but people kept missing her lot or else landing on the less-deadly Pacific or North Carolina. Never got enough cash flow to make that monopoly really potent.

Key follow-up trade: Sarah and I each had two railroads. We kept dickering over megadeals that would give one of us the rail monopoly. The deal that finally did it gave the railroads to me but she got a complete 3rd street monopoly and two legs up on 2nd street. Unfortunately, she also never got enough cash flow to make that monopoly really potent.

Mid-game Snapshot:
Unbought = Vermont (2nd street), Marvin Gardens (6th), both to Sarah's chagrin
Sarah = 3rd street monopoly, two 2nd street, and two 6th street (all four of those soon mortgaged)
Dad = St. James (4th), two 5th street, Park Place (8th), and a huge load of money
Me = 1st street monopoly, railroad monopoly, utility monopoly, New York (4th), Indiana (5th), and Boardwalk (8th) (all mortaged, utilities being furiously mortaged and unmortgaged based on cash flow)
Mom = 7th street monopoly and no other properties

At this point Sarah and Mom had monopolies but not enough cash flow to make 'em stick (they also had bad luck with what they landed on versus who didn't land on them). Dad had massive cash flow but every potential monopoly blocked by me.

I had the slum lord combo (rail, utility, flop houses) and the will power not to deal with Dad until enough turns passed that I had the cash flow I wanted. The deal that finally did it: St. James and $500 for Boardwalk. Even after the $500 he still had enough cash to get two-houses-each soon and spend most of the endgame at three-houses-each. Unfortunately for everyone else, the $500 came in really handy in quickly building up the 4th street monopoly.

In my opinion, rail monopoly + 4th street monopoly is unbeatable. But Dad did hang around a long time, with a massive upside (Park Place at $1100 and Boardwalk at $1400). Mom went out to him but he couldn't do much with 7th street. Sarah went out to me; I built up 3rd street moderately and had just built up 6th street (somewhere around here I landed on Marvin Gardens) to three-houses-each when disaster struck: A Chance card "Assessed for Street Repairs" gouged me for $950, then Park Place at $1100 nearly broke me.

Between the two, 6th street went from three-houses-each to all-mortaged; the flophouses had to be torn down; and all railroads and utilities mortaged. Fortunately, a couple big 4th street hotel landings followed. Even after those let me get back sort of to where I was, the loot in Free Parking (yes, we play that way) grew well over $1,000. In a situation that I saw as next person to land on Free Parking probably wins, I was the fortunate one. So I didn't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after all.

While Dad and I fought it out (he conceded after taking a medium-sized hit on Virginia, then rolling snake-eyes to go from there to St. James -- even though $600 in house resales plus some mortgaging would have kept him alive, it left him unable to counterstrike), Sarah finished wrapping presents and Mom checked on the status of the pie.

So Christmas Eve worked out well, and thank you for reading this far.
Cool things about this week's Onion
It's all reruns, of course, but I have fond memories of many of these stories. I'm glad to see they've figured out that a "best of" is better than no update at all.

1. Look at the picture: I think I've played quiz-bowl games against both the dorkwad representative and the gaywad rep.

2. The cat breeding thing is my single all-time favorite Onion column.

3. On the right margin picture, the girl in the photograph looks like someone old (say, college age) trying to pose as someone young. At least I hope so; at first I missed the point of the abuse thing and thought, "that's quite a bit of leg."
More Football Media Irony
NFC fans don't know for sure yet which stadium the road to the Super Bowl leads to but the road to the road to the Super Bowl leads through our stadium leads through The Meadowlands.

Isn't this at least the second year in a row that both Jets and Gints were home on the final weekend? G-Men host Philadelphia on Saturday, Jets host Green Bay Sunday. The Eagles need a win or a Packer loss to clinch home field advantage.

(AFC home field junkies: You already knew the Raiders need a win or a Tennessee loss. Since the Titans are playing Houston, an expansion team, Oakland is on its own.)

Meanwhile, tough scheduling question for NFC wild card games: By TV contract I believe there has to be one game per day from each league. (So that each network has one Sunday game.) The likely wild card home teams in the NFC are San Francisco and Tampa Bay. Since the 49ers play next Monday, they'd almost certainly get the Sunday game. But that means the Buccaneers play Monday night, then Sunday night, then Saturday night: Three games, all prime time, in 13 days.
On Beards
There's a picture of comedian Dick Gregory in today's Chicago Tribune, shown leading a Kwanzaa celebration. He has a long beard and a microphone and damn if he doesn't look exactly like O**** B** L**** in the photo. In other words, the beard has gotten a little too long.

(Also, I have a hard time respecting anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa given that some guy completely made it up a couple decades ago. Maybe I judge too hastily.)

Anyway, obligatory NFL comment (it's that time of year): Both Bill Cowher and Jeff Fisher look ridiculous in their current facial hair. Nobody ever talks back to the coach but you'd think somebody would tell one of them to shave.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Sports Media Irony
Of the seven games that matter to the AFC playoff race, Fox gets four of them as non-conference games with an NFC road team.
Full List of Scenarios
(This is the last football post, I promise! And I also probably screwed up somewhere. But if you're bored I could send you the underlying spreadsheet.)

The capsule version: Cross-divisional tiebreaks with three or more teams are generally good for Cleveland, Miami, and Kansas City; bad for New England, NY Jets, Denver, and San Diego. (Basically conference record here.) Uselessly trivial exceptions:

The Chiefs have head to head sweep over the Browns and Jets, so they'd win a three-way tie there. This was the ONLY potential 3+ tie I saw for which "head to head sweep" was relevant.

There's a bizarre scenario where the Colts could miss out on the playoffs if they were in a 3+ way tie for two spots, where at least two of the other teams were also 7-5 in the AFC. Then it would go to Strength of Victory, where Indy is surprisingly vulnerable. Note that anything that goes to that tiebreak (read: any scenario where I list the Colts as eliminated) really isn't settled yet. The rest are, though. Have fun. Correct me if you're bored...

INDIANAPOLIS makes the playoffs if:
1. The Colts beat Jacksonville, OR

2a. {The Broncos beat Arizona OR the Raiders beat Kansas City OR the Falcons beat Cleveland}
2b. {The Dolphins beat New England OR the Packers beat NY Jets OR (San Diego wins AND Denver loses AND Kansas City loses)}, OR

3. In the worst case, a Strength of Victory tiebreaker, they make up the ground they're currently trailing (or my math is wrong)

Short version: Probably in. If the Colts make the playoffs, they're probably the #5 seed. You don't want to hear about the seeding complications.

MIAMI makes the playoffs if:
1. The Dolphins beat New England (in fact, they win the AFC East iff they beat the Patriots), OR

2a. The Packers beat NY Jets AND
2b. {The Broncos beat Arizona OR the Raiders beat Kansas City}

Short version: More likely than not but there's an easy way for them to miss. If they lose to New England then they'll root like hell for Favre et al.

NEW ENGLAND makes the playoffs if:
1a. The Patriots beat Miami, AND

1b. {The Packers beat NY Jets OR (Colts lose, Browns lose, and Broncos win) OR (Browns lose, Broncos lose, and Chiefs lose) OR (Browns lose, Colts win, and Chiefs win)}

Short version: Gotta win to get in and also root for Green Bay. A Packers win gives you the AFC East if you beat Miami, or a back-door playoff berth if you don't. There are weird scenarios where you still make it despite a Pats loss and Jets win but they're too far-fetched.

NEW YORK JETS make the playoffs if
1a. Jets beat Green Bay, AND

1b. (Patriots beat Miami, OR {Dolphins, Falcons, and Broncos all win} OR {Dolphins, Falcons, Chargers, and Raiders all win})

Short version: Win and get help. Best help comes from New England (and wins the AFC East), more far-fetched help comes from Cleveland losing and avoiding tiebreaks with the Chiefs.

CLEVELAND makes the playoffs if:
1a. Browns beat Atlanta AND

1b. Avoid the Chief-tiebreak whammy {Broncos lose, Chiefs win, and Colts win} and the Dolphin tie-break whammy {Dolphins lose, Jets lose, (Colts win or KC wins AFC West)}.


2. Lose but all the other 8-7 teams also lose (Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Patriots, and Jets)

Short version: No guarantees either way but just win and you're 90% in, lose and you're 99% out.

DENVER makes the playoffs if:
1a. Broncos beat Arizona AND

1b. Browns lose to Atlanta AND

1c. {Patriots, Jets, and Colts all win} or {Patriots and Jets both lose}

Short version: It's a reach. Not absurd, but a reach.

KANSAS CITY makes the playoffs if:
1a. Chiefs beat Oakland AND

1b. Broncos lose to Arizona AND

1c. Avoid the whammy (here, whammy = {Browns lose; Patriots, Jets, and Colts all win})

Short version: Both 1a and 1b are too far-fetched.

SAN DIEGO makes the playoffs if:

1a. Chargers beat Seattle AND

1b. Broncos lose to Arizona AND

1c. Chiefs lose to Oakland AND

1d. Browns lose to Atlanta AND

1e. Patriots and Jets either both win or both lose

Short version: Pray for a miracle.
What if the 8-7 teams all won?
(Yes, more football geekery. Scroll down if you have to.)

See the post below this one for the general premise. A New England win implies a Miami loss. So there would be a seven-way tie for (AFC East plus #6 seed), or if Indianapolis lost then an eight-way tie for (AFC East plus two wild card seeds). In either of those scenarios, the Jets come out on top of the AFC East so that leaves the other N-1 teams for wild card spot(s).

Next best team in each division: Denver, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New England
No head-to-head sweep; eliminate the Broncos (worst AFC record)
Still no head-to-head sweep; eliminiate the Patriots (worst AFC record)
For seeding, Indianapolis over Cleveland by head-to-head.

(So if all the 8-7 teams won, the Colts' result wouldn't matter. Cleveland is looking awfully good. Have the Colts clinched? More to come.)
What if the 8-7 teams all lost?
(Yes, more football geekery. Scroll down if you have to, but only a little bit.)

It is indeed theoretically possible that an 8-8 team would get the last wild card spot. There are five AFC teams that can't finish worse than 8-7-1: Oakland, Tennessee, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. A six-way tie at 8-8 would result from:
San Diego losing to Seattle
Denver losing to Arizona
Kansas City losing to Oakland
Cleveland losing to Atlanta
New England losing to Miami
NY Jets losing to Green Bay

Which of those teams would get the last playoff spot? First, break ties within the division. That yields Denver, Cleveland, and NY Jets. (See chart in post below.) There's no head-to-head sweep there but the Broncos would be eliminated first by conference record, leaving the Browns over the Jets by head-to-head.
A gratuitous table of two-team AFC division tiebreakers
(All of the teams that could potentially finish 9-7. Obviously this is where the 8-7 teams would be after a win or the 9-6 teams after a loss. No 8-7 teams face each other nor do any 9-6 teams face each other. Despite Pittsburgh's tie, I'm assuming nobody else has a tie. If you wanted to be even geekier than me, you could use this chart and the tiebreaker order shown here to settle ties of three or more teams and then go on to give conditionals for what playoff scenario each team needs. Remember that ties are broken within the division first! Remember also that this table includes the AFC East champion and both wild card teams, but NOT the AFC South or AFC West champs, since Oakland and Tennessee clinched those.)

Pardon my HTML. Let me know if (when) I mess it up. The first time I publish this it will be ugly.


(h) head-to-head
(div) division record
(afc) conference record
(com) common opponents
For about two years now, every time I come home I end up playing myself at this a lot (as three or four players at once). Outside of that I never really get to play because nearly everyone I know who would have been interested in it turns out to be more interested in some other game. It seems as though a lot of people have had their fill of Monopoly, kind of a "been there, done that" reaction. They've sowed their Monopoly oats, as it were, and it just happens that I never did. (Don't feel sorry for me. Also, don't go there.)

True, we played this growing up. This was one game where my sister was better than me, partly because she knew I'd be so eager to make trades that if she held out, she'd get deals very favorable to her. So you could say I have a lifetime history of being on the wrong end of one-sided deals. Other than that, in most strategy situations I basically know what I'm doing. (If you're a baseball junkie then think of me as exactly the opposite of Ed Wade: Generally sound principles with a total clinker once in awhile instead of wasting money most of the time but pulling a total steal every year or two.)

In any case, playing as four people at once is hard in that you can't realistically simulate negotiating. I try to see both sides at once and come up with fair trades that both players would plausibly make. What typically happens is that somebody overpays for the first monopoly and doesn't have enough resources to keep it potent. More specifically, we've had two games in a row where the New York properties beat {Boardwark properties plus railroads} when people landed on orange a lot (coming out of jail) but not on blue, at least not at the most advantageous times.

I did make a gift of Simpsons Monopoly, after it was previously an impulse purchase. (I feel somewhat less self-criticism about impulse spending when it becomes reasonable gift-giving.) It's possible this will get played soon. I wonder whether the Simpsons theming (I assume the rules and such are identical, just the properties are named differently) will make people more likely to play.
Two random observations from a second viewing of Two Towers
(Yes, I saw it again. My parents held extreme opposite opinions on whether this was a movie worth seeing. My going today seemed like a far better option than depriving one of them, force-feeding the other, or having a parent go alone. Also, I missed a lot the first time around.)

1. Didn't the armies of Sauron look an awful lot like Palestinians? (Some of them looked like they had veils on.)

2. Didn't the orcish armies of Saruman look an awful lot like Raider fans?
On Color Blindness
<politics>Tonight on The O'Reilly Factor, guest host Cal Thomas presented a false dichotomy, for the Republican Party, between "reaching out to minorities" and "sticking with traditional positions." The correct answer, as my dad immediately called back to the TV, was both! Nearly every "traditional position" that I associate with the Republican Party is either race-neutral or based on the idea that we treat people as individuals rather than discriminating between various ethnic blocs. The content of our character, I just overheard from the TV room. (At the moment I type this I'm proud to be his son.) I guess there are things like welfare reform where both sides of the issue think their position is a better result for poor people (many of whom are minorities); empirical evidence suggests that those of us who were in favor of welfare reform are right, at least so far.</politics>

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Denver Needs Help
...but the Broncos can still easily make the playoffs!

There will be a many-way tie at 9-7. Denver needs to be part of this tie, the tie needs to be for at least one playoff spot, and the Broncos need to win on tiebreaks.

Step #1: Get to 9-7 by beating Arizona at home. Not too hard.

Step #2: Tiebreaks within the AFC West. Beating Arizona takes care of this regardless of how Kansas City and San Diego do because Denver has a better record versus common opponents. (If two or more of them are 9-7 then they'll also be 3-3 in their division. The Broncos swept the Chiefs but Denver-SD would go to common opponents anyway. The only teams the Broncos played whom those teams didn't play were Indy and Baltimore, both losses; in their non-common games, the Chargers beat both Cincy and Houston while the Chiefs split with Cleveland and Jacksonville.)

Step #3: Tiebreaks outside the AFC West. Denver is in trouble versus Indy (head-to-head) or Cleveland (conference record) or NY Jets (head-to-head) or Miami (head-to-head) but does beat New England (head-to-head) or the AFC West rivals. So...

Cleveland has to lose next week (or Pittsburgh lose twice).
The second-place team in the AFC East has to either be New England or be 8-8 or worse. Several scenarios accomplish this, most of them involving the Patriots splitting the Jets and Dolphins (either order).
Why I use the word whore in the peculiar way that I do
(Apologies to non-sports fans: Like the last N Sundays, I've made a bunch of football posts in a row including this one.)

Even though it was ultimately a loss I do have to give Beuerlein and Denver credit for hanging tough. Found out just now that I could successfully will a fumble on a kickoff return and almost will an interception-leading-to-easy-touchdown (the guy dropped it). But that's not why I post.

Earlier today I heard news that made me angrier than football news has ever made me, angry in a way that transcends how the Broncos or Raiders did in that one game. If you didn't hear about this somewhere else, I'm not going to be a very good source of news because I'm going out of my way to avoid mentioning someone.

As you may remember from past entries, I avoid using the word whore in situations where other people would use it as a stand-alone noun. The situations that I do use it as a stand-alone are places where someone else might say media whore or opportunist or whatever.

Anyhow, there's a football team that's worked its ass off all season. It's a team I don't like very much for rivalry reasons, dislike for its owner, its fans, and so on. Nonetheless even I will admit there are some class acts on that team, some really good players who deserve whatever success they get.

When you have a group of guys like that, who can succeed or fail based on the work they've put in all year, nothing makes my blood boil quite like a johnny-come-lately who thinks he can swoop in, sign at the last minute, get all the publicity and then whore himself for whatever credit he can get out of it. (Plus the undeserved ring that he's apparently already taking about.)

We're talking about arguably the softest player in NFL history, a guy who couldn't tackle to save his life, probably because he didn't want to hurt his pretty face. We're talking about the biggest whore in NFL history (maybe the modifier isn't even necessary), and you know how big a whore he is because he dresses like a pimp.

I used to absolutely loathe him as a player, moreso than I ever remember loathing any other athlete. With the passage of time, with his falling out of the spotlight and then landing on a second-rate NFL studio show, I'd forgotten just how or why I loathed him because it wasn't worth the time. Now I remember.

So anyway, a big fat F-U to someone you've heard enough about already. At this point, even what he did to Tim McCarver can't redeem him. (Even what Carlton Fisk did to him can't redeem him. The best thing Fisk ever did was the Game 6 home run but emphatically putting a prima donna in his place has to be a close second.)

I almost posted here claiming that if he did sign, I'd show up to whatever playoff games I could get tickets to wearing the visiting team's insignia and vocally rooting for that team. Couple problems with that:

1. That would be disrespectful to Gannon, Rice, Brown, Callahan, and so on, when the very reason this incenses me is the disrespect it shows to them.

2. I don't trust you guys to raise enough bail money for the inevitable consequences.

(By the way, I know full well that a team can offer a contract to whoever it wants to (supposedly the Raiders deny ever making an offer anyway), and that Oakland has had problems with its secondary and so on and so forth. Nonetheless, if you had any class AT ALL, you'd accept it or decline it without making an ass of yourself on national TV. In fairness I didn't actually see the show; all I can go by is what the guys in the CBS booth said about it in hindsight, plus the asinine on-line poll that I want no part of.)

Parting thought: I'm sorely tempted to start a Bill Callahan fan club, partly because if I don't then I doubt anyone else will. The thing is, you rarely ever see a team as well coached as this year's Oakland Raiders. When someone actually does coach that well, the consequence almost always is that the sports media collectively fellate him the way Callhan's predecessor was fellated. I actually used to like Callahan's predecessor but at some point the hype -- the image that he created for himself and milked -- just became too disgusting.

So yay to Bill Callhan, unless his team signs the Uberwhore.
By the way, this is a very good weekend to be a Giant fan
Jon, take a bow. Of course you knew that New Orleans would lose to Cincinnati. The Saints make no sense to me, comparing who they beat in weeks 1 and 2 to who they lost to in weeks 15 and 16.

I do have to say I secretly deeply admire Jim Fassel. I have no idea whether he made any absurd playoff-related promises this year but I remember what he said in the past. It takes balls to say the things he's said, especially in that media market, and for the most part it's worked out for him.

If Tony Dungy didn't exist and Mike Shanahan weren't a Bronco then Fassel would be my favorite NFL coach.

Speaking of Couture, I'm facing him this week for the greater glory of 5th place in a 10-team league. Yay, first division!! (I have no idea who's winning.)
Opportunities Blown
Outside, I feign apathy. Dead silent, arms folded across my chest, no facial expression (so I'd like to think). It works: People around me generally act as though I am apathetic, rather than acting as though they have to be diplomatic about an angry person.

Inside, I am like Professor Frink on Treehouse XIII, serving as the insane Dr. Hibbert's turkey dinner. Obviously there's still time, in the sense that Frank Reich still had time against Houston ten years ago, but barring a significant comeback I have to ask:

Is there any franchise in any sport that's been on the wrong end of as many high-profile ass-kickings as the Denver Broncos? I don't mean heartbreaking losses suffered by good teams, nor blowouts suffered by teams that don't have a clue and aren't going anywhere. I mean teams that seemed to have a chance, even if they were underdogs. Or, even if everyone other than me knew they didn't have a chance, it's a high enough level of competition that you shouldn't necessarily be ashamed to be blown out -- except when the blowout itself becomes shameful.

Punt (touchdown), interception (touchdown), interception. Not the Griese I remember. Sacked--Griese out of the game. I wonder what absurd promise I would have made ("If Beuerlein manages a comeback here, I'll..."), had I thought of one in time. (This is along the lines of Rooker walking back to Pittsburgh after the blown 10-run lead in baseball.)

Anyway, Beuerlein comes in, another sack. Then another. Then a punt.

It would have been nice to fall back on late-season cut-throat drama, except that last week's Saints-Vikings outcome gummed up the works. (Had that one game gone the other way, I'd have gone into this week second to Mike Burger instead of the standings being what they were. That game was huge to Lauren A's season.)

Actually, by Schadenfreude, I thoroughly enjoy cut-throat this week. To all you who picked the Bears over Carolina or the Saints over Cincinnati, I say Bite down hard on it while I celebrate your misery. (To the extent that a pick em pool with no money riding on it could even conceivably lead to misery.)

Unfortunately, because the Vikings bit me for the second straight week, I can't fully enjoy the moment.

If all else fails, nearly every relevant AFC team is also losing. Maybe when all is said and done the Miami loss this week will actually make the difference in Denver backing into the final playoff spot. It could happen.
Revenge of the Techno
It's all over at Lambeau, Bledsoe having just fumbled in the red zone. Quite the turnover-prone team, those Bills.

Around the two-minute warning they showed white guys in the stands, wearing camoflauge gear and yellow helmets, dancing to House of Pain's "Jump Around." (Randy Cross wondered whether the ducks would see you coming from the helmet.) Entering the second half they played that same song the Giants were always playing during the World Series.

Bonus Randy Cross critique: Half the time he makes gratuitous references to his old 49er teams; half the time he makes gratuitous references to his currently living in Atlanta. (At one point he compared Favre to Greg Maddux.) Kevin Harlan deserves better. I wanted to claim this was my first non-A-team CBS game of the season but then I remembered the no-name announcers who got stuck with Raiders at Arizona.

Starting to get a sinking feeling about the late game, not about the Broncos struggling but rather about Chicago's CBS affiliate opting for Browns-Ravens. If it worked out that way this would be my first Cleveland Browns game (excluding sports bars) since, well, last year when I was home for Christmas. Seems to work out that way a lot. You can see why the Chicago market would get a lot of Midwest teams from tradition-rich cities.

Random estimation question: How many times a season do you think the Chicago TV market gets Packer games? Green Bay is tremendously popular here, almost on par with Bears fandom itself. (Were it not for Chicago's 2001 playoff trip, the Packers bandwagon would probably have buried the Bears by now.) Obviously Chicago's Fox affiliate sticks with the Bears for good or bad. But for Green Bay, let's see...

The teams face each other twice.
Four more times, either Chicago or Green Bay will host an AFC opponent (as today, with the Packers on CBS).
Maybe three times or so Fox will have a doubleheader where one team is early, one team late.
However many times there's prime time coverage.
Obviously some of those reasons will overlap but I still imagine the Packers are on here maybe eight games a season. Probably about analogous to how often one sees the Jets in New England.

The Broncos come on in the Bay Area marginally fewer times but it's not quite the same situation: The rivalry is there but not the geographic snugness.
Wisconsin Cuisine
Having a Packer game on reminded my mom of the time she visited friends in Wisconsin earlier this year. They went to some sort of restaurant/bar where the dining room was empty but the bar packed with people in Packer colors, watching the game.

She ordered a burger-and-a-brat combo. Not two separate items but rather a double-decker where the top slab of meat was bratwurst shaped into a patty. It also had a very thick slice of cheese. That's Wisconsin for you, heart attack central.

(Sounded really good to me though; some day I'll make it up there and try that.)
Two questions about actors, from my parents
1. Who's the guy in the new NFL playoff commercials? (Black guy, talks about "impossible" and "five seconds" and gusy named Joe.)

2. Who's the female singer joining Stevie Wonder in Target's Christmas ads?
Ninety-Nine Yards and a Cloud of Dust
When Jim Nantz showed the highlight I immediately thought of Kubicek. Ninety-nine yard plays (especially passes) would be right up his alley, so especially appropriate that it happen in a Chiefs game. (Note: While typing this I discovered that by going to the computer room I missed an 84-yard punt. Unbelievable: I probably love long punts even more than Chad does. Fortunately they showed the replay: The ball went about 75 yards in the air -- 60 from line of scrimmage -- then rolled and rolled and died perfectly, barely before the goal line.)

Meanwhile, I have yet to check e-mail and my phone is in the downstairs bathroom recharging. I imagine Chad has expressed his glee one way or another, unless he's out shopping.

Interesting day for the KC TV market: I imagine CBS does Chargers-Chiefs, then Broncos-Raiders, with Fox probably showing Rams-Seahawks ("the 4:05 game"! -- I irrationally like the concept of the 4:05 game opposite the other network's doubleheader) both for quasi-regional interest and to not compete with the Chiefs.

Here, as you know, Bears-Panthers (in case you wondered where Pat Summerall was: It's as if he follows me), Bills-Packers, and Broncos-Raiders. Probably similar in Boston except with Giants-Colts instead of Bears-Panthers.

I guess the Bay Area would get a morning Fox game, probably Giants-Colts. On CBS maybe Chargers-Chiefs (AFC West interest?) to precede Broncos-Raiders (or even Browns-Ravens late if the Oakland faithful failed to sell the game out).
Signs that Your Game Is A Dog
1. Both starting quarterbacks are over 40.
1a. The play-by-play guy is over 70.
1b. One starting quarterback gets hauled off on a cart, replaced by someone you've never heard of.

2. On the promotion for "next week's Fox doubleheader," both the announcer and the screen show exactly one game per time slot: They already know that everybody watching this game will be shown that pair of games.
2a. The Carolina Panthers get top billing in the copy promoting one of those games. ("These Panthers will try to dent the playoff hopes of the New Orleans Saints...")
2b. The Carolina Panthers are hosting the game you're watching.

3. A span of eight snaps includes two punts, three sacks, and three incomplete passes where the quarterback was nearly sacked. (What does it mean when both offensive lines are phoning it in but neither defense got the memo?)

Over on the other channel, on paper Favre versus Bledsoe is an excellent matchup. Brings back memories of that one Superbowl. Add tundra for effect. Add Beasley Reece, sideline reporter for comic relief.

As you can tell, my flight landed safely last night. Culinary report: Late supper was leftover potroast but it was so soupy that Mom just added some rice and served it in a bowl. Came out really well.

Lunch today: Chicago-style hotdogs from a place that had a coupon in the paper.

Bed: Extremely comfortable, in a basement room through whose window the sun barely makes an impression. It turns out I'd gotten used to the mid-morning sun waking me up in SF.

Cat: Extraordinarily healthy for a 17-and-a-half year old but she's not as agile. She moves slowly (think of Lee Smith moseying out to the mound for his 400-and-somethingth save). Her facial expressions aren't as sharp. She really likes to be patted on the head and told she's a good girl. For some reason her coat is becoming brownish (she's part-Siamese, used to have Seal Point coloring; the pattern is still mostly there, just a darker base now).