Daydreaming About Great Football Games That Are Still 20 Weeks Away, Part One

nfl release

If you scoured the internet hard enough on Tuesday, you may have read that the NFL released its full schedule for the 2015 season. It was done in a very understated way. Only ESPN, The NFL Network, CNN and The Hallmark Channel produced special “NFL Schedule Release” shows.

Without the benefit of looking at other writers’ articles on 2015’s most exciting games, I decided to take a stab at identifying a few games each week that have piqued my interest. In honor of Earth Day, before I printed out the entire schedule I condensed it from 17 pages to 11 pages by making the font smaller and reducing the line spacing on my Google Doc. I’ve always been one to do his part to help Mother Earth.

Of course there are still 140 days until the Patriots and Steelers kickoff the new season. We still have to get through the draft, training camps, roster cuts, player holdouts, unforeseen trades and loads of injuries. It’s somewhat useless to try to predict what games will be the most entertaining by the time Fall comes around. But my second favorite thing after saving the Earth is getting bogged down in useless endeavors.

Here are my initial instincts on the NFL schedule. I’m giving you two or three “games I’m most looking forward to” each week and one “game that’ll be overhyped.” As you can imagine, teams like the Packers, Seahawks and Patriots made multiple appearances in the best games category, and the “often talked about in preseason but never heard from in the postseason” Jets graced the overhyped list several times.

Let’s begin with week 1 and a game I’m obviously looking forward to:

Week 1

Overall Excitement Level: High

  • First of all, it’s week 1 of the NFL season. Let’s get serious. They could have the Jaguars face the Titans, the Raiders face the Browns, and give the other 28 teams a bye week and I’d still be psyched about week 1. But this particular week 1 has a minimum of five games where possible playoff teams are facing each other.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Pittsburgh at New England – The only major sport that doesn’t get its opening game right is baseball. You have to put your defending Champion on display to kickoff the new year. The NFL has been doing this for a long time, and it always feels like a big game. This year could see a lot of scoring in the opener because both teams have awesome offenses and might have middle-of-the-road or worse defenses.
  2. Baltimore at Denver – This feels like a game to determine which AFC team will challenge the Patriots for a top seed in 2015. More importantly, it’s our first good look at Peyton Manning since Twitter left him for dead in January. It’s rare for a Baltimore defense to be bad against the run so you can expect that Manning will have to make throws to win this game.
  3. Giants at Dallas – If it feels like NFC East games are ALWAYS on National TV (like this one, which is the Sunday nighter), it’s because they are. After all, that division includes teams in the #1 (New York), 4 (Philadelphia), 5 (Dallas) and 8 (D.C.) media markets. No one ever accused broadcast companies of not trying to make a buck. This particular game features the established “best receiver in the game” in Dez Bryant versus the up-and-coming receiver who could usurp Dez as early as this season. Odell Beckham Jr. is going to be appointment TV all year.
  4. BONUS GAME: Tennessee at Tampa Bay – This is 100% contingent upon the Bucs drafting Jameis Winston and the Titans grabbing Marcus Mariota. If those two things don’t happen, this game is unwatchable.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Green Bay at Chicago – Let’s face it: The Bears are going to stink this year. And whether Jay Cutler is the starting quarterback for this team or not is kind of irrelevant. What seemed like a division that could produce a lot of interesting games for years to come as recently as last season, the NFC North feels like it’s heading towards a period of what the AFC East has been like lately. One dominant team and three doormats.

Week 2

Overall Excitement Level: Medium

  • There’s not a ton to love here as you can tell by the three games I put in the marquee spot…

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Dallas at Philadelphia – It feels like these two teams and the Giants are going to battle all year for the NFC East crown. So every game among them is going to seem huge. And of course this particular matchup pits DeMarco Murray against his former team.
  2. Seattle at Green Bay – Last year we got this game in the NFL Opener. This year we get it on Sunday night in week 2. Of course this is the matchup in the NFC…the conference’s two best teams. But for Green Bay, the Seahawks have been a nightmare opponent in the Russell Wilson era. First, it was the FailMary game in week 3 of 2012. Then it was last year’s 36-16 opening night stomping by the Seahawks. And finally it was the NFC Championship game just three months ago, where the Packers had it won…until they didn’t (something about a botched onside kick recovery). But for the first time in all these meetings, they’re playing at Lambeau.
  3. Jets at Indianapolis – You think I’m joking, but I’ll reiterate that this is kind of a weak week. I’m intrigued to find out if the Jets can survive (and thrive) on defense alone. They got Darrelle Revis. They got Antonio Cromartie. They got defensive guru Tood Bowles to coach them. But they don’t have a prayer at being good on offense. Can their defense be so good that it shuts down Andrew Luck in Indy on Monday night?

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • New England at Buffalo – REX!!! The build-up to this one is going to be intolerable no matter what, but if the Bills beat the Colts in week 1? Look out. The Rex-a-mania hype will be through the roof. So why is it overhyped? Because the Patriots are going to continue doing to Rex in Buffalo what they (mostly) did to Rex in New York.

Week 3

Overall Excitement Level: Extremely Low

  • Just an awful slate of games this week. Sure, there are some that seem good if you blindly look at the team names (49ers/Cardinals, Bears/Seahawks, Broncos/Lions), but those matchups don’t do it for me when I’m confident at least one team from each game will be bad this year.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Cincinnati at Baltimore – I’m only giving you one awesome game for this week and the best I could come up with is this? Gross. Cincinnati is never exciting. Baltimore is always good, but hardly a team you get excited to watch. Mark it down. September 27th is a fantastic day to go apple picking with your family.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Philadelphia at Jets – It’s just a perfect storm of ESPN’s favorite topics: The Jets, Chip Kelly, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow. And add in the fact that those two quarterbacks (assuming both are on the Eagles’ roster at this point) are technically facing their old team. Ugh, did I mention that Sunday of week 3 is the perfect time to volunteer at that animal shelter that you’ve been meaning to get to?

Week 4

Overall Excitement Level: Medium

  • On top of a few really nice matchups there are some games that are good purely because they feature two teams from the same division (Jags/Colts, Panthers/Bucs, Eagles/Redskins).

Games I’m Most Excited For: 

  1. Baltimore at Pittsburgh – Yeah, this is one of those ugly Thursday night games, but these two teams from the AFC North almost always play ugly games against one another anyway. Le’Veon Bell will be back from his suspension at this point so the Steelers should be playing nearly 100% healthy. More often than not, this rivalry is decided by three points. Can we ask for anything more from a Thursday game?
  2. Jets at Dolphins – Only because this is one of those London games with a super early start time. For the east coast, it’s a 9:30am game. For us West Coasters, football begins at 6:30 in the morning! I loved everything about that Lions vs Falcons game last year that started in the wee hours of the morning (except for, you know, the two teams and the pathetic coaching meltdowns at the end of the game). I love this setup. Don’t stop doing it, NFL. You finally got something right.
  3. Dallas at New Orleans – I’m making some pretty big assumptions that both teams will be good. My instinct is to say Dallas slides back to 8-8 after one solid season, and that New Orleans will suck after getting rid of some key pieces. But let’s pretend for now that both are at least in that 2nd tier of NFC contenders. If so, this should be an entertaining game.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Detroit at Seattle – The Lions are going to blowwwwwwwwww. But since this game features Seattle and takes place on Monday night, we will be told that this is a marquee NFC game. It’s not.

Week 5

Overall Excitement Level: Low

  • We only have two interesting games on the schedule, and I’m even struggling to come up with a compelling Overhyped game.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Indianapolis at Houston – Either you think the Texans aren’t going to be any good because they lack a quarterback, or you’re like me and are blindly jumping on their bandwagon because they seem to have some nice pieces and a good coach. I think the Texans could contend in the AFC South. I also think the Colts still aren’t that great. If the Texans can’t beat them at home, then obviously I’m completely wrong. I’m looking forward to it.
  2. New England at Dallas – If the Cowboys are similar to last year’s team, this will be a really good game. If they stink, the Patriots will win but we may still get some awesome Dez Bryant moments. It’s the best I can come up with for such an uninspiring week.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • New Orleans at Philadelphia – Will we hear the analysts talking up the two offensive gurus facing off against one another in Sean Payton and Chip Kelly? Of course we will! Even if both teams are 0-4 and neither has scored an offensive touchdown at this point in the season, the talking heads will go crazy about offensive geniuses in this one.

Week 6

Overall Excitement Level: Lower than Very Low

  • Our worst week yet!

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Washington at Jets – See what I mean? I guess I’m excited about this game only because I could see both teams being winless going into week 6. Also, what will the state of the quarterback position for each team be at this point in the year? The intrigue is through the roof!
  2. New England at Indianapolis – If you combine the amount of revenge that the protagonists set out for in Django Unchained, True Grit and both Kill Bill movies, you’d still fall short of what the Patriots feel they owe the Colts in 2015. And since New England has mopped the floor with Indy in every game of the Andrew Luck era without having an axe to grind, well, week 6 can’t get here fast enough.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Chicago at Detroit – Again, everyone wants the NFC North to have all these intense rivalries, but it’s just not there. I know it’s too boring and doesn’t take up enough airtime & internet space to say the Packers are going to run away with this division, but that’s precisely what will happen.

Week 7

Overall Excitement Level: Something better than Medium but worse than High

  • There seem to be a lot of “above average” matchups in week 7. Nothing that qualifies for game of the year, but a nice little schedule for late October (Texans/Dolphins, Steelers/Chiefs, Ravens/Cardinals are three OK games that didn’t make my excited list).

Games I’m Most Excited For: 

  1. Buffalo at Jacksonville – Because it’s in London at 6:30am pacific time! I don’t care what anyone says. These extra early games are a thing of beauty. If you already watch 8-10 hours of football on a regular Sunday, why wouldn’t you want to watch another three?
  2. New Orleans at Indianapolis – These aren’t two surefire contenders going into the season, but Drew Brees vs Andrew Luck is still a fun QB matchup to watch. The Colts will probably be at a disadvantage considering it’s going to take them until the Wednesday before this game to recover from the unspeakable things the Patriots are going to do to them the previous Sunday night.
  3. Dallas at Giants – A repeat of week 1, only this time it’s in New Jersey. When you have two of the best wide receivers in football matching up, then you’re guaranteed some entertainment even if one or both of the teams have already shit the bed by this point of the season.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Jets at New England – I was going to say Seattle at San Francisco, but there’s a solid chance the 49ers are 1-5 going into that game. So instead we get Darrelle Revis and the revamped Jets defense going into New England. It’s too bad Revis and Cromartie aren’t Pro Bowl offensive players or else the competitiveness of this game might match the hype.

Week 8

Overall Excitement Level: High Medium

  • Out of the 14 games this week, six of them are division matchups. None of those six games made my excited list. There are a couple very compelling games in the late afternoon and evening on this Sunday.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Detroit at Kansas City – This isn’t one of those late Sunday games. It’s actually another London 6:30am game!!! Please, NFL, you’re too kind. I feel like I owe you something now. What’s extra beautiful about this is that Jim Caldwell gets to return to the scene of last year’s coaching double debacle that he participated in with the exiled Mike Smith. If you don’t remember what I’m talking about, I beg you to read the first half of this Bill Barnwell article on Grantland.com. No one captured the insanity more perfectly.
  2. Seattle at Dallas – The Cowboys went into Seattle last year and handed the Seahawks their only home loss on the season. The Cowboys should have gotten a chance to do it twice, but the NFL’s confounding rules on what constitutes a catch ruined a Dallas/Seattle NFC Championship game. I’m sure the Cowboys are looking at this as their biggest game of the year.
  3. Green Bay at Denver – Two of the best regular season quarterbacks of our time, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, have only faced each other once, and that was way back in October 2008. So if Manning lives up to his end of the bargain and performs at his usual level in 2015, this should be a fantastic Sunday night game. But both of these QBs have some injury history, so there’s at least a 7% chance that this game pits Brock Osweiler against Scott Tolzien.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Miami at New England – The team in the AFC East that most people think has a shot to knock off the Champs gets its first chance. The Dolphins might not be that much better than the Bills up and down the roster, but they have one key thing going for them that Buffalo doesn’t: a slightly above average QB. It’s totally understandable that the media will keep pushing the “who’s going to finally end New England’s reign” storyline because if they didn’t, there’d be nothing to talk about in that division. Good luck to Ndamukong Suh and the Dolphins in this Thursday night game.

You know what? I’ve already eclipsed 2,500 words and we’re only halfway through the schedule. I’m breaking this into two parts. Check back on Thursday for weeks 9-17 of my NFL schedule breakdown.

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Football Is Taking Over The Blog (Again), Here’s What To Expect

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All the experienced will-blog-for-food readers know that this is the time of year where 97% of the content turns into sports talk. Listen, it’s not that football is the only thing I want to write about from August through February, but it’s pretty hard to have new experiences to relay to my readers when I spend every waking minute watching football, tinkering with my fantasy teams, second-guessing my suicide pool & pick ‘em league decisions, and sweating out $5 bets that will determine whether I can splurge for the beef-flavored Ramen or not.

I promise to try to get my girlfriend or dog to do something ridiculous enough from time-to-time that it becomes blogworthy material, but no promises.

But for the football fans, rest assured that I’ll be building off last year’s success of putting out a weekly picks and a weekly recap article during every week of the football season.

Now the biggest dilemma I wrestle with here at the WBFF headquarters is how to entice sports fans to read my material when they’re already getting blasted in the face by the constant fire hose of information coming from respected websites and columnists. If you’re like me, you can seriously waste an entire day refreshing your Twitter feed and clicking on all the interesting football links. There are the updates from local media outlets on your favorite team, the ESPN.com articles, the more hardcore sites like Rotoworld and Football Outsiders, the newer sites like Grantland and Sports on Earth…In my world, it can seriously go from 7am to 6pm in the blink of an eye on a good football-reading day.

The most obvious reason you should put more value on my football posts than anything else you read is because of the actual results. In my picks against the spread during the 2012 season, I went 150-109-8, a 58% win rate. I was good over a long sample size during the 17-week regular season (57%), and I was better in the small sample size of the playoffs, going 8-3 (73%).

If you had bet $110 on every game I predicted over the season, you would have profited $3,010.

I also won my two season-long Pick ‘Em leagues and one of my two fantasy leagues. And if you stuck with me for the Suicide Pool picks, you at least got through week 9 alive.

I’m not saying this to brag, but I am telling you it’s probably not a coincidence that the first year I’ve paid such close attention to the NFL (watching every preseason game, reading as much info about all 32 teams as possible, having a minimum of three devices broadcasting games on Sundays at my apartment) is also the year where I’ve had the most success.

And 2013 is no different. We’re only 16 days away from the Thursday night opener between Baltimore and Denver, and I’m finally caught up on all things football. I’ve read all the football content the internet has to offer—fantasy and regular—and I’ve watched more preseason football than I thought humanly possible while maintaining a only-slightly-strained relationship with my girlfriend.

I’m about one week away from locking in all my predictions for the year.

And that’s what you’ll see coming up over the next two weeks on the blog. Later on Tuesday we’ll have a New England Patriots preview from a Rhode Island news reporter who actually makes a living covering the team. He did me the favor of providing a guest Patriots blog while I focus my attention across the entire NFL landscape.

And early next week you’ll get predictions on the exact number of games each team will win in 2013. Guest blogging regular Nkilla will be assisting me like last year, and we’ll be competing to see who can come closest to guessing each team’s win total (a bet that involves the winner picking the loser’s alcoholic beverages in Vegas is on the line).

We’ll also be providing answers to key questions like “Who will pass for the most yards in the NFL this year?” and “How many times per game will Jim Harbaugh berate a referee or act like a five-year-old whose parents told him he couldn’t have any ice cream?”

And that’s where the other main reason to read my stuff comes into play, for the lighter side of football. Why shouldn’t we debate whether it’s Jerry Jones or Titans owner Bud Adams who’s really the new Al Davis? Why wouldn’t we create a fake scenario in which Larry Fitzgerald orchestrates the murder of all three of his 2012 quarterbacks? (Note to Carson Palmer: Fitzgerald just might finally snap if you don’t prove to be at least a minor upgrade from Ryan Lindley.)

So for as much as we’ll be giving intelligent, game-changing advice throughout the football season, we’ll also be putting an equal amount of energy into calling out the ridiculous shit that will inevitably transpire when two teams of HGH-enhanced guys battle on the football field. Speaking of unnecessary rage, here’s the play that’s getting the most buzz these days. I guess because one guy tried to use another guy’s helmet as a weapon and he’s now suspended for week 1 of the regular season.

My final thought for the day is this: Every football fan should be watching preseason football. Why? Because for as much as you can read about other peoples’ choices for breakout players, sleeper fantasy candidates and important position battles, only watching with your own two eyes will really give you the insight you need. Have faith in your ability to accurately predict which fringe wide receivers look good enough to grab at the end of your fantasy draft, only after you’ve watched them in preseason.

And besides, it’s about time to recondition your girlfriend/wife/mother/whoever you live with that football is coming and they’d better get used to you sitting on your ass for upwards of 11 hours each Sunday.

Oh yeah, and….IT’S FUCKING FOOTBALL! What more do you need?

My advice is to DVR all the preseason games (especially week 3 coming up), which are available on the NFL Network, and then quickly go through at least the first half of each one. If you fast forward all the non-football stuff and even use the “skip ahead 30 seconds” button on your remote control in between plays, you’ll knock out a half of football in 35 minutes while still seeing the important stuff. No-brainer.

And my second piece of advice is to come back to this blog often over the next six months for entertaining goodness.

The Death of SportsCenter: How The Once Mighty Highlights Show Lost Its Way

As a proud member of Generation Y, I grew up in a privileged time where television and breakfast weren’t mutually exclusive.

We had a little 13-inch Zenith sticking out of a cabinet in our kitchen. It was white, there was no remote control, and I believe in its fifth or sixth year the power button stopped working so plugging it in to the socket and then unplugging it became our on/off switch.

As a sixth grader in 1994, I can remember waking up as late as humanly possible—6:50AM I think—frantically showering while most likely skipping over key body parts, getting dressed in my Catholic school blues (navy blue pants, light blue shirt, navy blue knit tie), and then sprinting to the kitchen table to eek out as much breakfast and TV time as possible until Bus 2 showed up to bring me to St. Joe’s. When my brothers and I got to that kitchen table every morning, my Mom would change the TV from the news to “SportsCenter” on ESPN. This is why the getting ready process needed to happen so quickly, so I could maximize my time watching the previous day’s sports highlights. And like clockwork, two minutes after I sat down at the table my Mom would put a plate of perfectly cooked Eggo Waffles in front of me, with just the right amount of syrup on top and some extra on the side (to this day my Mom regrets the one time she burned my waffles and had to endure nine years of me instructing her before bed each night to “put the waffles into the toaster carefully” the next morning).

I’d like to think I was a pretty typical 12-year-old back then. My mind was usually focused on girls (if I’m not mistaken, Allison Cotton was the girl I obsessed over during sixth grade) and making sure my homework was perfect (how things have changed). But for those 15-20 minutes each morning, SportsCenter was all that mattered.

It was perfect. A bombardment of highlights from every major sporting event around the country. Things that I could never watch live back then, either because I wasn’t allowed to stay up late enough to see it or because there was literally no way to get that particular game on our cable package.

Today’s sixth graders will never know that feeling of putting the TV on one channel and getting the quick-hitting highlights of all their favorite sports. I imagine the kids who are watching SportsCenter while they devour their Lucky Charms these days are very educated in the subjects of Tim Tebow, LeBron James, PEDs, Brett Favre’s yearly unretirement speculation and the sad circus that is the New York Jets.

Those poor kids have 15 minutes before Bus 2 comes, and instead of seeing highlights of the 10 baseball games that were played the previous night, they’re getting Stephen A. Smith screaming at them about Derrick Rose refusing to come back from his knee injury. Those poor kids.

I might be at risk of sounding way behind the times here, but I see no reason to put the TV on ESPN for one of their highlights shows ever again. SportsCenter, Highlight Express, ESPNEWS, NFL Live, Baseball Tonight….all dead to me.

Some of you may be like “Dur, Ross, SportsCenter became irrelevant years ago, dummy.” Well excuse me for being slow on the uptake. I have a feeling there are plenty of non-early adopters who are wondering why I’m saying ESPN is obsolete.

Well, let me explain from the average sports fan’s perspective. You may think I’m going to tell you to simply watch highlights online, but that’s not the case. I don’t watch many highlights online because I still like the analysis that the in-studio personalities provide. Instead, I tape the NHL Network’s “NHL Live” and the MLB Network’s “Quick Pitch” every night, and when I wake up the next morning, I plow through the two hours of programming in about one hour.

When the NFL starts up in less than two months, I’ll be taping the NFL Network’s “NFL GameDay” for my football highlights.

Now that these individual sports channels exist and have perfected their highlight shows, I can see exactly what I want—no more, no less—without having to endure all the bullshit that floods ESPN’s shows (the Jets quarterback controversy! Lebron doesn’t have enough rings! the Yankees hate A-rod!).

I think the downward spiral of SportsCenter began in 2005 when ESPN baseball reporter Pedro Gomez was essentially embedded in San Francisco for the final three years of Barry Bonds’ career. We would get daily updates not only on Bonds’ fictitious pursuit of the home run record, but also of every off-the-field moment concerning his legal battles with BALCO and the perjury case. At the time, ESPN was probably just giving us what we were asking for. But then it really spiraled out of control with nonstop coverage of Brett Favre’s daily indecisiveness…and the rest is history.

Maybe you’re the type of person who won’t believe me when I tell you that ESPN doesn’t hold a candle to the other sports channels’ highlight shows. Maybe you need analytical evidence. That’s fine because I have that for you too.

Earlier this year, I crunched some numbers on SportsCenter’s morning show and the NHL Live morning show. The night before I sat down to study these shows there were only two major sports going on, three playoff hockey games and 10 baseball games.

I found that NHL Live ran highlights complete with player sound bytes and in-studio analysis on all three games within 13 minutes of going on the air. That’s not too bad, right? Sit down with your bowl of Cheerios, and 13 minutes later you’re completely caught up on last night’s action. If you had a full hour, you could have sat around to watch more player interviews, analysis of the playoffs and updates on non-playoff hockey news. But if you were in a rush, you’d still be completely caught up in less than 15 minutes.

With SportsCenter that same morning, they led off with highlights of the most intriguing playoff hockey game—Penguins/Islanders—but then we had to wait until minute 44 of the program to see highlights of the third and final hockey game from the night before. Forty-four minutes!

In between minute one and minute 44, SportsCenter covered some baseball, but the focus seemed to be more on two controversies from earlier in the week—the Angels’ protest of the way the Astros substituted pitchers, and the lingering frustration of the A’s over the umpires’ blown home run call in their game against the Indians a couple days before.

Out of the 10 baseball games played the previous night, SportsCenter didn’t provide a single second of highlights for three of those games (four of the six teams ignored by ESPN were above .500 at the time, and three of those teams were in 1st place…so it’s not like they ignored an Astros/Mariners game, which no one would complain about).

Over the course of a one-hour show, baseball was given nine minutes of highlights and updates. Hockey was provided seven minutes.

Why would you watch one hour of programming just to get 16 minutes of actual highlights? Maybe you like seeing the 3,000th package of Tiger Woods’ career and his chase for more majors, or you enjoy a sound byte montage of every NBA player and coach saying how hard it is to win in the playoffs.

If you like that sort of stuff, fine, keep watching SportsCenter. But if you enjoy sports for the actual games that are played on the field/court/ice, it’s time to ditch SportsCenter and its offspring entirely and get on board with relevant highlights from each sports league’s flagship TV channel. It’s the only way to get all of the information you want and none of the information you hate.

A few days after I studied SportsCenter’s lack of relevant material, I saw this tweet and started shaking my head:

sportscenter tweet_5-31-13

If I had seen that tweet as a sixth grader in 1994, I would have agreed and probably retweeted it. But in 2013 it’s just a reminder of how ESPN lost its way.

My Seven-Day Audition With The Red Sox

I’ve mentioned more than once that buying the major league baseball package for the 2012 Red Sox season was one of the worst investments I’ve ever made (this is coming from someone who bought bongos during a hazy hippie phase sophomore year of college and never used them…needless to say I’ve made some bad investments).

For the first seven years that I’ve lived in California, I bought the MLB package no questions asked. With the way this team was winning since 2003, it was a no-brainer. But we all know things are different now. The Sox aren’t expected to be in the playoff mix this year. They’re certainly not considered one of the favorites to win the World Series. It’s very tempting to blindly say no to even the smallest investment in anything Red Sox-related. Besides the possibility that this team just won’t be that enjoyable to watch, there’s also the notion that watching 150 baseball games isn’t the best use of time for a 30-year-old unemployed aspiring writer. Those three hours of baseball-watching each day should probably be going towards something a bit more productive.

But in the interest of fairness and equal opportunity for all Boston teams, I’m giving the Red Sox a seven-day try out. In this first week of the baseball season, the Sox have already been on ESPN twice, and the MLB package through DirecTV gives subscribers a free week of all the games. So by Sunday afternoon I will have seen six games and my decision will be made. Am I going all in on the 2013 baseball season, or am I going to casually watch from a distance (and hop on the bandwagon should they be 35-15 after their first 50 games)?

The February 2013 version of Ross would be stunned to see the present day Ross even considering paying $130 for access to Boston Red Sox baseball. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for the hope that comes along with a new season.

It’s only been two games so far, but let’s check in on how the audition is going:

  • A 2-0 start against New York will make even the biggest pessimists question their attitude toward this team. I’m not blind to the fact that the Yankees are marching out a lineup that might not outhit the September 2012 Red Sox lineup, but they did have their top two starters pitching in these games and the Sox didn’t struggle at all to score. 
  • You know what I see when I open up the Boston Globe every morning? Not a hint of drama. No talk of the manager showing up his players. No references to some of the players trying to find a clubhouse snitch. Nobody freaking out about a pitcher playing golf on his off day while injured. Nothing. It’s so peacefully quiet.
  • You know what’s taken the place of the drama? Discussions about Jackie Bradley Jr.’s immediate impact, the ridiculous fielding of Jose Iglesias, the fact that Shane Victorino might actually be worth the big contract, the resurgence of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz at the top of the rotation, and the potential for the Sox bullpen to be one of the best in baseball. Again, I know we’re only 1.2% of the way into the season, but there’s a lot on the field to be encouraged about.
  • And it turns out David Ortiz might be less than two weeks away from returning. Could this team have a sneaky-deep bench?
  • What if we go beyond the fact that they’re winning games and focus instead on how they might win games this year. I didn’t pay attention to John Farrell’s managing style when he was in Toronto, but by all accounts he’s going to be a more aggressive in-game manager than Terry Francona ever was. And with a team that could have four guys capable of stealing bases in the lineup every night (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Victorino, Bradley Jr.), Farrell might have the weapons he needs to make those bold moves (i.e. play some small ball).
  • And what if 2013 John Lackey (apparently hit with the “Thinner” curse from that Stephen King book) is healthy for a full season? Same for Ryan Dempster. Notice I didn’t say “what if they return to all-star levels”. How about they just each make 30 starts this season. That would be huge compared to last year when Aaron Cook (18 starts), Dice-K (11),  Daniel Bard (10), Franklin Morales (9) and Zach Stewart (2) combined to make 50 starts, which is about 49 starts too many.

I think what’s most appealing to me as a Red Sox fan is that for the first time in a decade, it feels like we’re working with a clean slate. They’re not the juggernaut with crazy expectations that they were from 2004-2011. They’re not the 2012 team that had us tuning in only because we might see a meltdown on the field or in the dugout. They feel like a brand new team. Wipe the championship years from your memory along with the 2012 “oopsie,” and all of the sudden you’re rooting for a team with no expectations or baggage. That’s a nice unfamiliar feeling, isn’t it?

I think you can tell which way I’m leaning regarding the purchase of that TV package, but I’ll let the week fully play out before I make my final decision. It might take a four-game losing streak combined with a string of injuries and an out-0f-nowhere steroid scandal to make me change my mind, but with the Red Sox you can’t rule out anything. I’ll check back in on Monday with the decision.

And now for a few more random Red Sox notes that are dying to get out of my head:

  • As Red Sox fans, we really can’t complain about the team not making the playoffs for three straight years. We shouldn’t bitch and moan about rebuilding or these “bridge years” because it’s a guarantee our rebuilding process is going to be shorter and smoother than a lot of other teams. The Astros are going on year eight of rebuilding. The Royals have gone 28 years without a playoff appearance. And even that Indians team that almost beat the Red Sox in the 2007 playoffs are knees-deep in a rebuilding process that’s gone on for six years. So as Boston fans, we’re even spoiled in our down years. Don’t forget that.
  • Speaking of the Indians, I read Terry Francona’s book over the past few weeks. I definitely recommend it to anyone who was as invested in the team during his years managing as I was.
  • Re-reading the parts about the end of his career with Boston opened up those old wounds for me. I don’t know if there was anyone more stunned or pissed off when he got fired than I was. Just inexplicable. The Red Sox owners got what they deserved last year after getting rid of Francona. But that’s not good enough for me. I want Francona to be able to throw it in their faces a little more. So when the Indians play the Sox for the first time this year, April 16th-18th, I’ll be rooting for a Cleveland sweep. Tito deserves that gratification of showing the Red Sox owners they made a mistake, even if it’s just for a day.

The Hectic Schedule of an Unemployed Writer

“So, Ross, you’ve been wearing that outfit all week…”

-Julie, on a Thursday

It’s safe to say Julie’s ready for me to be gainfully employed once again. Not because she’s sick of me spending her income on frozen waffles and legos, but because a job would give me a reason to take a daily shower, put on deodorant most mornings and change out of my basketball shorts & cut-off t-shirt combination.

It got me thinking that my handful of loyal readers probably wonder what the hell I do with my time every day. Obviously you all know I’m running a world renowned blog, and that’s some serious shit. But I’ll admit I have plenty of free time on my hands. So here’s a glimpse at my daily schedule:

7:15am: While half asleep, try to think of ways to delicately ask Julie if she can get ready for work in a quieter way. Or if maybe she can get ready in the living room instead of the bedroom.

7:15 – 8:15am: Get my 10th hour of sleep, obviously.

8:15am: Finally ready to start my day. After putting on the standard gray basketball shorts and cut-off t-shirt, I have a race against the clock: Can I get my dog outside before she pees all over the carpet? I currently have a 75% success rate with this task.

8:30am: Fire up the computer to see if I’ve received any emails from people offering me writing jobs. Quickly remember I haven’t sent out any resumes or writing samples so it would be really strange if someone did email me to offer a job.

8:35 – 9:45am: Get distracted by the internet—Twitter, espn.com, Bank of America (daily habit to check my bank statement to see if my old job accidentally direct deposited two weeks worth of salary into my account)

9:45 – 10:15am: Light breakfast to energize myself for the day….4 eggs, half pound of bacon, hash browns, 3 slices of bread, 6-8 pancakes (small ones). Leftovers go to the dog.

10:15 – 10:45am: Exercise time. Most days I go for a jog, and to stay motivated I reward myself by jogging to a fast food place that has awesome milkshakes. I like to think jogging to the milkshake place and back offsets the calories in the milkshake. This is the route I take to the restaurant.

10:45 – 11:30am: You’d think a shower would be in order after such a long run, but you’d be surprised how many days a week I get home from exercising, sit in front of my computer and completely forget about my hygiene. So this time is usually spent looking at emails again.

11:30 – 12:30pm: Finally, it’s time to be productive. This is the first writing session of my day. What that means is I stare at a blank screen for five minutes, get frustrated that I can’t think of anything to write, then toggle over to twitter or a sports website and read through a few articles. This goes on for the full hour usually. By the end of this first session, I just like to convince myself that I have a good idea and when I sit down for session two later in the afternoon, I’ll finally start to write it.

12:30 – 1:30pm: Lunch. Even though I don’t have a real job, I like to stay in the rhythm of how a real job works. This means a one-hour lunch break. That’s the law. I don’t make the rules.

1:30 – 2:30pm: This is when I do some studying for my eventual career as a TV writer. Over this one hour, I can watch three episodes of whatever sitcom I choose. Recently it’s been Workaholics and The League.

2:30 – 2:45pm: Sit on the couch and send Julie text messages about things I think she should pick up on her way home from work. Usually it’s simple requests like a fountain Diet Coke, 50 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or a fire extinguisher. You can imagine that this is Julie’s favorite part of the day.

2:45 – 2:50pm: Gotta go check the mail. If a major film studio hasn’t emailed me a job offer, maybe they’re old-fashioned and sent me the offer via regular mail.

2:50 – 4:00pm: Time to come up with new story ideas for future TV scripts. Rather than sit at my computer and try to use my imagination for this task, I like to  generate story ideas by sitting on my balcony and trying to create backstories for other residents in our complex who I can see through their windows. For instance, why does the lady across the courtyard from us have to shake out her rugs twice a day? What’s going on in her apartment that’s making things so dirty? My theory is that she’s running a cocaine packaging and distribution center out of her apartment and she’s constantly getting residue on her rugs. Someday soon I’ll test this by running underneath her balcony and opening my mouth up like I do during a snowstorm while she shakes out the rug.

4:00 – 5:00pm: Shit, Julie’s gonna be home soon and I’ve literally done nothing productive today. Time to break out the notebook and index cards to make it seem like I’m deep into the middle of outlining a TV or movie script. A nice trick I’ve learned: the messier I make the kitchen table with all of my writing materials, the harder it looks like I’ve been working.

5:00 – 5:15pm: Julie gets home and sees me “hard at work.” She asks if I’m gonna be done soon so we can take the dog for a walk and chat about our day. I pretend to struggle to decide whether I should keep working or call it a night. I tell her, “I guess five straight hours of this is enough for today. Sure let’s go for that walk.”

5:15 – 6:00pm: Ross, Julie and dog go for a family walk while Ross thinks, “Tomorrow, I’m gonna write all day long. No excuses.”

The End.

Adventures in Relocating: Checking in After 1 Quarter of LA Living

After three months of living in LA, you’d probably expect me to have lots of stories from all these new things we’re experiencing. I don’t. Turns out life isn’t that exciting when you’re an unemployed writer trying to get by on the money from your childhood savings bonds, and it’s even less exciting when you have a puppy that demands your attention 18 hours a day.

Rather than end this post right here, I’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions that people might have asked me about my first quarter in LA.

FAQs

Question: You mentioned being unemployed. What’s the deal with that? Any jobs on the horizon?

Answer: I’ve learned that it’s tough to get a job when you haven’t started looking for one, and unfortunately, Julie isn’t making quite enough money yet for me to be a stay-at-home boyfriend. The blog is starting to pull in some revenue…I made $0.99 last month off my advertisements, but Word Press doesn’t allow me to claim any funds until I’ve made $100 or more. So in just eight short years, I should be able to cash out that first $100 from the blog. In all honesty, I’ve been waiting for someone to contact me about a job in the entertainment industry. I hear that’s how it works around here, you just wait for people to pursue you. I will have to start searching for a job soon, but football season is just a really busy time for me. Check back in February and I’ll probably have started my job search by then.

Q: What about your writing? Have you finished any major projects yet like TV or movie scripts?

A: Do 2,000-word blog posts count? There’s nothing major finished yet, but before the end of 2012 I’m planning to have at least two television scripts and one movie script finished. The goal is to continue blogging and writing a ton of football content with the hope that a popular blog/website spots my amazing talent and hires me for a seven-figure salary.

Q: Three months in LA…have you made any friends?

A: We do have a couple friends at this point, but there’s a 50% chance they’re just people who feel really bad for us. I do think at times we’re giving off a strong stench of our desperation to make friends (like when we were leaving a BBQ at a friend’s house a few weeks back and I said to the entire crowd, “It was good meeting everyone…we really need friends. When can we all hang out again?” Obviously we haven’t heard from any of them since).

Q: The people in LA have a reputation for being superficial, stuck-up and self-absorbed. Have you noticed any truth to this?

A: There are just as many superficial, stuck-up, self-absorbed assholes in LA as there are in any other major city. I don’t think douchebags are exclusive to Southern California. It’s just that our douchebags are tanner than yours.

Q: You’re living with your girlfriend. How’s that going?

A: Fine.

Q: Have there been any issues, fights or surprises during the first three months of your cohabitation?

A: I’ll be reading a statement that Julie has prepared for me: “Living with my girlfriend has been the most incredible and rewarding experience. There have been no fights or issues stemming from us living together. And every surprise has been a good surprise, like when I’m trying to sleep in sometimes and she’s awake and full of energy at 6:30am. It turns out I didn’t really want to sleep until 9:30 after all.”

Q: It seems like you’re unwilling to admit to any cohabitation problems that have happened in the first three months. Are there any problems looming on the horizon?

A: Possibly the issue of us only having one TV. I’ve tried to gently inform Julie that I plan to watch 12 hours of football on Sundays, three hours on Mondays and three more hours on Thursdays (and eventually three hours on some Saturdays). She actually got a dose of how disruptive football season can be when I taped 10 NFL preseason games on our DVR and it caused all of her Sex & The City’s to be deleted. She should be plenty prepared.

Q: One TV? How has that worked out so far?

A: It feels like my viewing of Sex & The City, Say Yes To the Dress, Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Snapped has increased by 5000% since we moved. And yet, if I put the TV on ESPN or the NFL Network for 10 minutes, I get crucified for “always putting it on your stupid sports shows.”

Q: What’s something weird or interesting that will jump out to any visitors of your apartment?

A: Other than the patio being coated in a thick layer of dog piss (there’s a Thompson’s Water Seal joke here, but I don’t feel like writing it)? Probably the fact that nothing we’ve hung on the walls (pictures and shelves mostly) is even close to level. We’re blaming it on the apartment walls and floors not being level, but we wouldn’t even know how to test if that’s true or not.

Q: How about exploring outside of your apartment? Is there good sightseeing in LA? Where have you taken visitors?

A: The sightseeing in LA blows. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the sightseeing in Fitchburg, Massachusetts (which I wrote about in THIS) is better than the sightseeing in LA. I’m about done bringing people to Hollywood Blvd just to see them underwhelmed by all the “stars” on the ground. And sure, there’s the famous Chinese Theater and Kodak  Dolby Theater, but there’s not much to look at from the outside. The entire Hollywood Blvd area takes about 11 minutes to thoroughly see, and there’s a decent chance you’re gonna want those 11 minutes back when you’re finished. Other than the Hollywood sign, there are no other relevant landmarks worth seeing in LA. Oh, and if you’re like me and had this awesome image of the La Brea Tarpits in your head because of the movie Volcano (starring Tommy Lee Jones where the tar pits are literally erupting and spewing out tar throughout the movie), you’re going to be severely disappointed when you see the real thing:

Q: Any final thoughts on living with your girlfriend?

A: Yes, I’d like to address the one topic that every other couple brought up to us when we told them we were moving in together: pooping. Strange as it sounds, every couple we talked to said having to share a bathroom, particularly when one of us had to take a shit, was going to be the biggest adjustment. I’d just like to say that it hasn’t been a tough adjustment at all. I poop whenever I want, wherever I want in the apartment. And Julie has learned to simply go around the corner to the McDonald’s or Starbucks whenever she has to go number two. I don’t understand why this is such an awkward thing for other couples.

Summer Olympics Preview Part 4: Obscure Trivia, What to Watch, and Phelps vs Lochte Revisited

[Editor’s Note: And just like that we’ve arrived at Opening Day of the 2012 Summer Olympics. It seems like just yesterday Nkilla and I were discussing the crazy sport known as the Modern Pentathlon or the phenomenon that is olympic swimming. While those posts were actually weeks ago, we pretty much did just get done discussing the olympic sport best suited for a normal civilian to compete in successfully. We decided for our final email exchange to really empty out the proverbial notebook. In this fourth post, we ask each other some very obscure trivia questions, talk about the best events to watch and how to watch them, revisit the Phelps vs. Lochte debate, and show you the next “big” thing in Beach Volleyball. There’s something for everyone so please enjoy.]

From: Rmurdera

To: Nkilla

OK, we’re in the home stretch for the London Games to kick off so it’s now or never to get any final words of advice out there to our beloved readers. Rather than pose the question of who are the hottest female athletes in the Olympics, several websites have already done the hard work for us. Here is the Bleacher Report’s “100 Hottest Female Olympians of 2012.” http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1223953-100-hottest-olympians-of-2012/

That covers all countries.

And Men’s Fitness has come out with their version, the Sexiest US Olympic Women: http://www.menshealth.com/olympics/sexiest-female-olympians

Instead of us debating who’s the hottest athlete, I’ve run some stats on the top 30 according to the Bleacher Report I referenced above (because who cares about anyone outside of the top 30 honestly?).

Here’s what I found:

-In terms of countries, Italy has 3 women in the top 30, Russia has 4 women in the top 30, and the US has a whopping 10 women in the top 30.

-In terms of sport, tennis occupies 3 of the top 30, volleyball and beach volleyball each have 3 in the top 30, track & field has 4 in the top 30, and soccer has 7.

How do you feel upon hearing those stats? Does it line up with what you would have expected? Is it really possible that the US has 1/3rd of the hottest 30 female athletes in the olympics? After all, there are 205 total countries competing in the olympics…seems a bit absurd to think such a large concentration of hotness is coming from one country.

And what about Soccer having the most spots? Are soccer chicks really that good looking? Would you have expected any other sport to make a run at soccer before I showed you these stats?

A little random trivia for you…I just mentioned that 205 countries are competing in this year’s Olympics. Can you guess how many countries are competing from each of these continents…Africa, Asia, and Europe? Don’t google it, just try to guess.

And finally, do you wanna weigh in for our audience on the whole “London is 8 hours ahead of the West Coast of the US so watching the important events on TV without having Twitter, Facebook or ESPN ruin the results ahead of time is going to be a challenge” issue? What’s the best way for people to watch the events? And remember that some people can’t sit in an office and stream the games live on their 2nd and 3rd monitors like you can…

From: Nkilla

To: Rmurdera

Regarding the attractive and obviously-smart-as-well women of the Olympics:

You retrieved your lists from websites that are primarily visited by US citizens, so I am not surprised how many of the top 30 are American. If you found a popular German site that came up with the same list, I wonder what the results would be. Although, the US tends to be able to qualify women for all events, which cannot be said for most other countries, so since US women make up the largest percentage of all female Olympians maybe it makes sense that they have a higher percentage of smart and attractive athletes. I almost want to apply math to the soccer situation as well. Each soccer team has 22 or so ladies to choose from so it probably makes sense mathematically that soccer yields the highest percentage of smart and attractive women. My prediction though is that there is going to be some women’s beach volleyball team that garners a lot of attention for something other than their play. I feel like it happens every Olympics. Misty May and Kerri Walsh are getting a little older now so they are past their prime with their “non-athletic appeal,” but someone is going to step up. My prediction is Kolocova & Slukova.

As for your “countries by continent” trivia, here are my answers:

Africa = 35

Asia = 37

Europe = 44

Those are all just guesses; I did not google it. Here is an interesting question related to country participation. For international soccer, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all field their own teams as independent nations. Yet for the Olympics, they all compete as the single nation of the United Kingdom. Why? And could Canada and Australia join the UK team if they wanted?

The best way to watch the events is live, either at home or on your computer. Most of the medal events will happen late in the day London time, which means sometime between 9am-noon Pacific Time. When NBC shows the replay, you know they are going to save the best events for the end of their primetime broadcast, so we are talking between 11pm-midnight. I do not believe the average sports fan can keep themselves from finding out the results for up to 15 hours, so really if you care about not having it spoiled for you, then you need to find a way to watch it live.

I bought a copy of the Sports Illustrated Olympic Preview issue the other day because they try and predict the winners of every single medal, and I am toying with the idea of tracking how accurate they are. My guess is that they are going to be around 20% with picking the exact winner of the exact medal for each event. In terms having their three picks for each event win any medal, do you think they will be over or under 50%? I’m going to go with slightly over. They are also predicting the US and China to tie with 42 golds each, and the US to edge out China in total medals 99 to 97.

Another fun thing about the SI preview: They put a fun little sentence about the sport or competitor for each event. For instance, after the Men’s Individual Archery picks, they wrote “Two-time champ Im (the gentleman they picked for the gold) has 20/200 vision.” So my guessing game back at you: here are my favorite tidbits; Can you figure out what event they belong to?

“The Wangs are not related.”

“Nevin beat his cousin Michael to win the Irish nationals.” (This one is only good once you figure out the sport and imagine that the Irish qualifications happen drunk one night outside a bar.)

“McKeever will soon qualify as a chartered accountant.”

“Ex-bartender Heath can mix 150 cocktails.”

“Daley’s coach taunted Qiu on Twitter this year.”

“Fox-Pitt’s middle name is Speed Lane.”

“Orozco had three background roles in Law & Order.”

“New Zealand’s Logan Campbell opened a legal brothel to fund his training.”

“Cheywa attended police college.”

From: Rmurdera

To: Nkilla

Let’s tackle the trivia portion of your email first.

Africa actually has 51 countries participating while Asia and Europe have 45 countries in the olympics. The reason I asked—and really the only reason this caught me off guard—is because my entire knowledge of Africa and its countries is from the board game Risk. And in that game, there are all of six countries represented. I always thought there was something like 6-12 total countries on that continent.

For your really random and obscure trivia questions, here are your quotes again with my answers and my rationale:

“The Wangs are not related.” = Table Tennis: because Wangs = Asians and Asians = Good at Ping Pong

“Nevin beat his cousin Michael to win the Irish nationals.” (This one is only good once you figure out the sport and imagine that the Irish qualifications happen drunk one night outside a bar.) = Wrestling: because your clue of being drunk outside a bar makes me think it’s a head-to-head fighting type of event, and I don’t see the Irish having anyone entered into Boxing

“McKeever will soon qualify as a chartered accountant.” = Sailing: because people charter things like planes and boats, right? And a lot of accountants probably like sailboats.

“Ex-bartender Heath can mix 150 cocktails.” = Handball: because playing handball seems to be as athletic of a sport as mixing cocktails.

“Daley’s coach taunted Qiu on Twitter this year.” = Badminton: because I have no fucking clue.

“Fox-Pitt’s middle name is Speed Lane.” = Track & Field: because speed lane makes me think of a fast runner.

“Orozco had three background roles in Law & Order.” = Shooting: because this one was obvious…Law & Order is about the police, who have guns, which maybe means this guy shot a fake gun in his background roles and that helped him become an Olympic shooter.

“New Zealand’s Logan Campbell opened a legal brothel to fund his training.” = Water Polo: because it seems like the type of sport that New Zealand would be randomly good at.

“Cheywa attended police college.” = Modern Pentathlon: because at police college you’re probably schooled in shooting, riding a horse, running and maybe sword fighting, and those are four of the events in the Pentathlon.

One final topic I want to revisit before we sign off for good on the Olympics Preview is the Phelps vs. Lochte debate. Even though the rivalry’s cooled down a bit since the US Swimming Trials were broadcast a few weeks ago, it’s going to be ratcheted back up on Day One (July 28th) when they begin their first event, the 400M Individual Medley. Are you rooting for the favorite, the dominant force, the Tiger Woods of swimming (Phelps, obviously)? Or are you rooting for the underdog, the guy who would be the favorite if Phelps wasn’t around, and apparently the more likable guy (Lochte)? Everything I read says that while Phelps doesn’t show much personality to the public, and he doesn’t do much with his time besides swim and pretend to eat at Subway, Lochte is the polar opposite…he’s apparently a “fun-loving, easygoing guy,” and besides swimming he likes to play basketball, volleyball and go surfing.

Do you root for dominance to continue, even if the person doing the dominating doesn’t relate to regular people very well? Or do you root for the underdog who’s apparently a lot more relatable to a normal person?

From: Nkilla

To: Rmurdera

OK, here are the answers to my trivia quotes:

“The Wangs are not related.” = Women’s Singles Badminton

“Nevin beat his cousin Michael to win the Irish nationals.” (This one is only good once you figure out the sport and imagine that the Irish qualifications happen drunk one night outside a bar.)  = Boxing (Irish not entered in boxing? Come on, Rmurdera, they would not let the legacy of Hurricane Peter McNeeley die.)

“McKeever will soon qualify as a chartered accountant.”  = Men’s 200m Kayak Singles

“Ex-bartender Heath can mix 150 cocktails.” = Men’s 200m Kayak Doubles (Seems like if you are good at kayaking you have a lot of free time. Maybe you should take this up).

“Daley’s coach taunted Qiu on Twitter this year.” = Men’s 10m Platform 

“Fox-Pitt’s middle name is Speed Lane.” = Equestrian (So just to be clear, “William Speed Lane Fox-Pitt” is the name of the jockey, not the horse.)

“Orozco had three background roles in Law & Order.” = Gymnastics

“New Zealand’s Logan Campbell opened a legal brothel to fund his training.” = Taekwondo (Makes sense, right? A pimp needs to be able to beat down both employees and customers when necessary.)

“Cheywa attended police college.” = Steeplechase (Also makes sense, the running and jumping over things.)

As for your Risk perspective on Africa, does that mean you have thought the USA was made up of only two states (an eastern state and a western state) for the past 30 years? Also, in any history class throughout high school or college, if there was a question on a test as to how a war started, did you simply just write the one word answer: “Siam”?

I’m going to keep the Phelps vs Lochte argument simple since I already talked about it in part two of our Olympic preview:

After seeing Lochte’s picture on his wikipedia page and seeing he is from New York, I decided he looks like a typical Yankees fan so I am completely “Team Phelps” when they go head-to-head, but I’ll switch back to “Team Lochte” any time he is competing against the Russians.

Finally, for anyone wondering what events they should consider watching over the first weekend of the games:

MUST WATCH:

Men’s 400m IM Final – Saturday 11:30am

Women’s 400m IM Final – Saturday 12:10pm

Women’s 4×100 Free Final – Saturday 12:40pm

Men’s 100m Breast Final – Sunday 12:00pm

Men’s 4×100 Free Final – Sunday 12:50pm

Men’s 200m Free Final – Monday 11:40am

IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE BY A TV:

Men’s 132 lb Judo Medal match – Saturday 8am (Although if this is not exactly like the All Valley Karate Championship from Karate Kid, including music, I’m going to be pissed.)

Men’s Team Archery Medal Match – Saturday 10am (I’m expecting Hunger Games, but with adults)

Men’s 400m Free Final – Saturday 11:50am

Men’s 145 lb Judo Medal match – Sunday 8am

Women’s Team Archery Medal Match – Sunday 10am

Men’s Individual Sabre Final – Sunday 11:10am

Women’s 100m Fly Final – Sunday 11:30am

Women’s 400m Free Final – Sunday 12:15pm

Men’s 161 lb Judo Medal match – Monday 8am

Women’s 100m Back Final – Monday 11:50am

Men’s 100m Back Final – Monday 11:55am

Women’s 100m Breast Final – Monday 12:10pm

IF YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR WIFE/GIRLFRIEND HAPPY:

Men’s Team Gymnastic Finals – Monday 8:30am

To: Nkilla

From: Rmurdera

I know you had addressed the Phelps/Lochte rivalry earlier, but I was hoping you’d give us a little more substance than “Lochte’s a Yankees fan so I don’t like him.” My opinion is that I want Phelps to dominate again. I hate an underdog success story. I always root for the scenario where I’ll be able to tell your kids someday that I saw the most dominant athlete at a given sport in his prime. That’s why even amidst the Tiger Woods personal life meltdown a few years ago, I’m still hoping he crushes the Major Championships record. I always root for the favorites, at least until the first sign of disappointment. No one jumps off a bandwagon quite as quickly as me.

Summer Olympics Preview Part 2: Swimming, Team Phelps vs Team Lochte

[Editor’s Note: You’re about to read Part 2 of our Summer Olympic Preview.  If you missed Part 1 and you’re dying to know more about the Modern Pentathlon, click here. In Part 2 we discuss Swimming, perhaps the most popular Summer Olympic event.  But just why is it the most popular? You’ll have to continue reading to find out. Also, a big congrats to Nkilla for giving birth to a baby boy yesterday. Well, his wife gave birth actually; he sat outside in the waiting room working on this blog with me the whole time. As happy as we are for him at the WBFF blog, we are giving him no excuse to stop blogging.  If anything, he should be blogging more frequently while he spends time with his new bundle of joy.  That baby’s going to sleep for like 20 hours a day…that’s prime blogging time.]

From: Rmurdera

To: Nkilla

Now that we’ve covered perhaps the most obscure olympic sport—the Pentathlon—let’s change gears and talk about some of the more popular events. Have you guys been watching any of the qualifying stuff that’s on at primetime every night?

I assume if you’ve been watching anything, it’s the swimming right?

If so, is your wife getting as illogically excited over the races and specifically Michael Phelps as my girlfriend is?  Maybe it’s because Julie was a swimmer in high school, but she’s dancing around the house saying things like, “oh my god, this is the best sport ever.  Why isn’t it as popular as football?”
She was screaming for Phelps one night last week and just kept going “Come on, Michael, come on!” Apparently they’re on a first-name basis. Oh, and after one of his qualifying events she said that she wishes she had the same birthday as Phelps. No explanation on that.
I was enjoying the swimming trials right up until we had to watch an eight-minute event, the 800M Women’s Freestyle. They went to commercial in the middle of the race…that, to me, means it’s too long of a race.
Anyway, my question is what’s the main reason, in your opinion, that swimming is the most popular sport in the Summer Olympics?
A). Like Julie said, it truly is just the best sport ever.
B). It’s only popular right now because of Michael Phelps and as soon as the next olympics comes and he’s not around, the popularity will drop off.
C). The Summer Olympics sneakily has mostly really terrible events so swimming wins as the default only decent event.

From: Nkilla

To: Rmurdera

I think the answer lies somewhere between B and C.

First of all, I would argue that the Summer Olympics has two major events that do not fall within the realm of main stream sports: swimming and track & field. The Olympic Committee knows these are the main attractions because all the swimming happens in the first seven days, all the track & field happens in the last seven days, and they don’t overlap. I think the general population is attracted to these two events because almost everyone knows how to swim, and almost everyone knows how to run and jump, so people feel some sort of kinship to the athletes. I also have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people are either into the swimming or into the track & field, but not both.

Back to the original question: I went back and looked at the swimming results for every olympics since 1988 (since that is the first olympics I can remember following) because I had a feeling that each olympics had a dominant swimmer involved. It turned out I was mostly right: 1988 Matt Biondi (7 total medals, 5 gold), 1992 Alexander Popov (5 total, 3 gold), 2000 (Ian Thorpe 5 total, 3 gold and all happening in his home country), 2004 Michael Phelps (8 total, 6 gold), 2008 Michael Phelps (8 total, 8 gold). The only year without a dominant male swimmer is 1996, and that year the US as a whole dominated the swimming, including winning gold in all six relays. What I am getting at here is that I think there is a chance that swimming is only popular because there is a dominant swimmer to follow in each games. I expect that to be fueled additionally by the “Phelps vs Lochte” hype this year. (Side question: Have you done any research yet to see if we should be “Team Phelps” or “Team Lochte”?)
Do you think my theory on “swimming only being popular because there is a dominant swimmer” holds water (pun intended)? Do you have a favorite discipline or race you look forward to more than others in the swimming area? And finally, the front crawl, back stroke, and breast stroke all seem to be natural swimming motions, but where the hell did they come up with the butterfly?

From: Rmurdera

To: Nkilla

I’m in agreement with you that swimming is only popular because there’s a dominant swimmer we can latch onto each year. I think that’s how being a casual fan works. If the network broadcasting the olympics (with the help of ESPN and other media outlets) doesn’t create a compelling storyline that makes us connect with a specific athlete in these obscure olympic sports, then we won’t follow. There’s no such thing as a true, hardcore olympic fan. If someone tells you that they really are fans of any of the sports we’ll be seeing in August (except basketball or soccer of course), be sure to ask them when was the last time they caught the swimming, gymnastics or wrestling world championships on TV.

This brings me back to why I’ll be tuning in for swimming this summer, but won’t even notice when things like track & field, cycling, archery and gymnastics are going on. Swimming has done an incredible job creating compelling storylines for us. And the storylines vary. In the past 14 days, I’ve been tuning into the US swimming trials to see the greatest olympic athlete ever try to qualify for another chance at eight gold medals (Phelps), a 45-year-old woman trying to earn a spot in her sixth olympic games (Dara Torres), a 17-year-old phenom outswim the field over and over on her way to qualifying for seven events in London (Missy Franklin) and Phelps’ closest competitor and biggest “rival” try to overtake Phelps once and for all (Ryan Lochte). There’s so much drama, intrigue and stimulation that my nipples just got hard from typing the previous sentence.

As for my favorite discipline to watch, all I can tell you is breaststroke is my least favorite…it’s just so slow. I think the individual medleys are pretty sweet because the swimmers are tested in all four strokes, and I’m always expecting one of them to screw up and do them in the wrong order. I can also tell you I won’t be watching any events where NBC could theoretically take a full commercial break, return to live action and inform us that the race still has halfway to go (sorry, Women’s 800M and Men’s 1500M Swims…I don’t have time for you).

And by the way, don’t bother googling the history of the butterfly…it’s far less exciting than when I googled the Ancient Pentathlon. Basically some guy didn’t like how slow the breaststroke was and decided to tinker with it. Boom, butterfly born in 1933.

What are your thoughts on Phelps’s decision to drop out of the 200M Freestyle, thus ending his chance to repeat the eight gold medal haul from 2008?

From: Nkilla

To: Rmurdera

I know one true olympic fan: my father-in-law. He loves track & field almost as much as we love football. He watches the world championships every year in his living room and times the races with his own stopwatch to make sure the official timer does not mess up. (I’m only slightly exaggerating. I went to the Olympic trials with him in Sacramento in 2004 and he did bring his own stopwatch.)

I’m fine with Phelps not doing eight events again. That was such a ridiculous goal he set for himself in 2008 and amazing that he made it happen. He should treat these olympics as his victory lap and only do the events he knows he can win with minimal effort. He deserves it. Though I do wish he would have dropped one of the relays instead. Phelps and Lochte will go head-to-head in the two IM races. Phelps holds the world record in the 400, Lochte in the 200. So assuming they split the IMs, the 200m Freestyle would have been the tiebreaker. I can definitely see the potential for a “Dan-Dave” situation where Lochte fails to qualify for the finals in the 400 and faults his way out of the 200 or something like that. Also, after just seeing Lochte’s picture on his wikipedia page, I decided he looks like a typical Yankees fan so I am completely “Team Phelps” when they go head-to-head, but I’ll switch back to “Team Lochte” any time he is competing against the Russians.

The compelling story lines are nice, but let’s not forget 50% of the reason to tune into the swimming events, Finland’s Finest.

Another thing that makes swimming highly popular amongst the viewing audience: for the first eight days of the games, swimming will have four medal events per day. Should I rank the eight days of swimming from best to worst medal events by day? I think I should:

1. 28-Jul (M: 400 IM & 400 Free; W: 400 IM & 4×100 Free)

2. 4-Aug (M: 4×100 Medley & 1500 Free; W: 50 Free & 4×100 Medley)

3. 3-Aug (M: 100 Fly & 50 Free; W: 200 Back & 800 Free)

4. 31-Jul (M: 200 Fly & 4×200 Free; W: 200 Free & 200 IM)

5. 29-Jul (M: 100 Breast & 4×100 Free; W: 100 Fly & 400 Free)

6. 1-Aug (M: 200 Breast & 100 Free; W: 200 Fly & 4×200 Free)

7. 2-Aug (M: 200 Back & 200 IM; W: 200 Breast & 100 Free)

8. 30-Jul (M: 200 Free & 100 Back; W: 100 Back & 100 Breast)

From: Rmurdera

To: Nkilla

I love when you put the TV schedule/event logistics in your email because it tells me it’s time to wrap this conversation up. I never answered your “Team Phelps” vs “Team Lochte” question, but I think it’s fairly obvious from my original email that if I don’t choose Team Phelps, I’m likely to have a girlfriend who refuses to talk to me until the 2016 Summer Olympics.

No Basketball, No Hockey, No Problem! Everything You Wanted To Know About Euro 2012

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by infrequent blog contributor Neil “Nkilla” Gariepy.  As the WBFF Blog expands its reach, I’ll need to have more guest bloggers to keep up with my readers’ demands.  Believe it or not, this blog has been accessed by people in more than 30 countries, so a post on an international soccer competition isn’t that ridiculous.  And since Neil is the only person I know who gives a shit about this thing, I figured I’d let him write til his heart’s content.  Here we go.

When Rmurdera (pronounced are-mur-dare-a) wrote his summer TV preview the other day, I responded that he does not need sitcoms and dramas to make it to football season because it’s going to be a great sports summer with the Euro and the Olympics happening. His response: “Can you explain to me why I should care about the Euro?” Sure, Rmurdera, let me give it a shot.

What is the Euro?
This is an easy question to answer. Every four years the countries of Europe hold a soccer tournament to determine who has the best team in Europe. It’s just like the World Cup, but only for Europe.

Why should I care?
There are people who know much more about soccer than I do who are adamant that the Euro is a better soccer competition than the World Cup. Their argument is that the World Cup only allows 11 European teams to participate (out of 32 total teams), but there are more than 11 European teams in the top 32 in the world. They conclude that since the Euro has 16 European teams it is a better collection of talent than the World Cup. I am not sure I agree with this perspective, but I can see where they are coming from. Other than Brazil and Argentina, the only other countries that really have a legitimate chance to win the World Cup every four years come from Europe. Occasionally another South American team will have solid back-to-back World Cups and you may get a Japan or South Korea making some noise every once and a while, but really it is the two South American juggernauts and all of Europe that have the true legitimate chances in the World Cup.

Let me try and explain that last part a little better for this blog’s target audience. Let’s say there was a competition for the hottest woman in the world. Let’s say that competition was between 12 women. Based on pure hotness, you would probably end up with 10 Americans (Munn, Perry, Wilde, Lawrence, Stone, Fox, Lively, Johansson, Hathaway, Biel), 1 Russian (Kunis), and 1 Israeli (Refaeli). That is your top lineup for a “12 hottest women on the planet” competition. Now let’s say the competition committee decides more countries need to be included to truly be able to name the hottest woman on the planet, so only half the field can be Americans. Now you have a tournament where you have to pull out four of the Americans listed above and replace them with Misses Nigeria, South Korea, Uruguay and Egypt. Sure these women are probably beautiful, but could they really beat Jessica Biel if she was allowed in the tournament? Probably not. So those who argue the Euro is a better competition than the World Cup are the same that would argue that the “almost all American hottest woman on the planet” competition is better than the one with Miss Egypt.

Another reason you should care: There is some general animosity between almost all the countries in Europe. I think if you go back far enough you can find a war between any two European countries. Everybody hates the Germans for obvious reasons. The Czech Republic and Croatia hate their old Eastern Bloc “allies” Russia and Ukraine. Neighboring countries tend to have some extra hatred for each other: England-France, England-Ireland, Spain-Portugal, Germany-Holland. Everybody hates the Italians because they are traditionally the biggest collection of floppers. And so on. The heightened and natural dislike between some of these countries raises the competition level.

When and Where Can I Watch These Matches?
All games are on ESPN. Even better, all games are on ESPN3. Since they are in Europe, the matches will take place during “work hours” US time. What better way to make the work day go by quicker than watching four hours of soccer on your computer. There will be two matches a day during the group round through June 19th. For the quarterfinals you will have one match each day June 21-24. Semifinals are June 27 & 28, and then the final is on July 1st. If Rmurdera gets more than three readers on this post, he might let me do a quick update every few days letting everyone know which upcoming matches are important and why.

Who should I root for?
At this point you’re probably thinking, “OK, this makes sense, a highly competitive sports tournament, I’ll give this a try. But for some reason they are not letting the USA participate, even though we constantly bail them out of wars and financial crises. Who should I root for?” Let me give you a couple of options:

Heritage: Most of us have some European heritage in our family. Decide which of your great-grandparents you like the best and root for their home country.

Food: There are several varieties of food native to European countries. Pick your favorite and then root for that team. You like pizza and pasta – Italy is your team. Baguette and cheese person – go France! Tapas people are going to want to jump on the Spanish bandwagon. You are not much of an eater, you just like to drink – well you sound like an Ireland supporter. Oh, you meant hard alcohol – Russia it is. Chips, pretzels, doritos, ice cream bars, and frozen pizza is more your speed – Holland all the way!

National Anthems: Finally, you can look at the words to some of these countries’ national anthems to see if the lyrics inspire you. If you like green beaches, then you will want to cheer for Denmark (“A lovely land is ours, with beaches green about her”). You want a country that aggressively shows their hatred of other nations in their national anthem? Then you my friend are a Poland supporter (I am not going to paste the whole thing here, but let’s just say Poland calls out both Italy and France in their anthem). Feeling arrogant, then root for Portugal (their anthem alludes to how they are the greatest people and could conquer the world if they want. I guess to the Portuguese “world” = “a little sliver of land Spain let us have on their beach”). And then there is this from Ukraine:

Ukraine is not yet dead, nor its glory and freedom,

Luck will still smile on us brother-Ukrainians.

Our enemies will die, as the dew does in the sunshine,

and we, too, brothers, we’ll live happily in our land.

We’ll not spare either our souls or bodies to get freedom

I’m ordering Ukrainian flags and jerseys as fast as I can.

If the Celtics Lose Game 7, Do NOT Let Them Off the Hook

The Celtics do NOT get a free pass if they lose Game 7 on Saturday.  Any fan that claims the Celtics are playing with house money at this point—therefore rationalizing a loss to Miami in the final game of the Eastern Conference Finals—is a complete buffoon.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I already know how the narrative will go if the Celtics lose on Saturday.  The “ESPN experts” will say something like, “It was a valiant effort by an older Celtics team…a team no one expected to make it this far.  They should be proud of putting up such a good fight, especially if it is the last stand for the Big Three.”

The ignorant fans will be talking months from now about how they didn’t expect this team to A). make the playoffs, B). beat Atlanta in Round One, or C). Advance to the Conference Finals.  The subtext being, “Yeah, it sucks they lost, but since we didn’t expect them to make it this far, we can’t be too upset that they fell short of the Finals.”

Fuck that.

You know who would never entertain the idea of “playing with house money?”

Kevin Garnett.

Just listen to one of that guy’s postgame rants and you’ll realize he expects to win the NBA Championship every time he steps on the court.

The Celtics should have ended the Heat series in five games, considering they outplayed Miami in games two through five.  Just like they should have ended the 76ers series in five games as they outplayed Philadelphia in games one, three, four and five.

This isn’t a team that lacks so much talent compared to their opponents that we should feel lucky they’re winning.  They have plenty of talent; they’re just as healthy as every other playoff team (just ask Chicago about Derrick Rose or Miami about Chris Bosh); they have three future Hall-of-Famers and a former Coach of the Year.  They are not outmatched.

Sure, win or lose on Saturday I’ll still be proud of the fight they put up this postseason.  They certainly could have come up with plenty of excuses to bow out early.  But since they have gotten to this point—and proved that they belong in the Finals just as much as any other team—I think it’s only fair that we expect them to win.

If you’re a Celtics fan, it’s understandably lazy to be happy they made it this far and not expect anything more.  Be better than that.  Expect this team to be in the Finals.  The old guys taking the floor on Saturday night certainly will.

Adventures in Relocating: Losing My Mind over Home Entertainment Choices

I worry that I’ll come home one day to find Julie trapped inside my wire jungle

I have already lost two full days trying to solve this riddle, and there’s no end in sight.

In my current apartment, we have DirecTV, a DVR for recording shows, and a Blu-Ray player.  Our DirecTV package has most of the regular cable channels as well as HBO & Cinemax.  We have typically bought the NFL Ticket and MLB Extra Innings packages to watch football and baseball when they’re in season.  Our Blu-Ray player can stream Netflix Instant content.  Those are all of the options we have available at this time. While Netflix Instant is affordable at $8 per month, DirecTV rapes us to the tune of $124 per month.

With the move to the new place in LA only two weeks away, I thought this would be the right time to do a reset of my home entertainment packages to see if I can A) leverage different services and devices to have a broader choice in TV shows and movies, and B) cut out some significant costs from my current situation.

As I started researching this topic via the web and chatting with friends, I came across an endless amount of options: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, Roku, AppleTV, iTunes, DirecTV, Comcast, On Demand, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, illegal downloading…

Don’t worry, this can go even one layer deeper in complexity when you start to consider the following: Netflix has its instant service and its regular/ship you dvd’s service; HBO GO only works if you have an active HBO subscription through a participating cable or dish provider, Hulu has free and plus services, Roku has four different devices with options on picture quality as well as having ports for your USB cable.  Not a single service seems to have “everything.”  For instance, Netflix Instant has almost every well-known TV show, but lags in making the newest seasons of shows available to you.  Hulu Plus’s claim to fame is that the newest episodes of currently airing TV shows are available the day after they air.  But their problem is they don’t have deals with all the major network and cable channels so some shows are missing.  Amazon looks awful for current TV shows but awesome for movies.

It also seems like if you were to create a spreadsheet that matched up all content providers (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) with all the physical devices that the content can be streamed through (i.e. PS3, Xbox, Roku), your computer would probably explode.  Just like my head was about to do when I started to consider all these options.

Maybe the first thing I should figure out is what I really want access to. Ideally I want to be able to watch any new/currently airing TV shows close to the date that the new episodes actually air.  I also want to catch up on old seasons of still-airing shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and 30 Rock.  I need the ability to watch the playoffs of all major sports.  But I also need access to every Red Sox and Patriots game. Movies don’t matter as much: I just want the option to see most new movies that are coming out on DVD.

I know some people who have gotten rid of cable/satellite service all together and get their content exclusively from the Netflix and Hulu’s of the world.  This is the dream scenario, and I eventually want to get there. But here are three reasons why I’m reluctant to get rid of DirecTV/cable: playoff sports still have a lot of games on channels like ESPN, TBS, TNT; without cable I feel like I might miss out on something (there’s no logic to this feeling, it’s just an emotional reaction); and Julie will go ApeShit on me because all of the ridiculous shows she watches are on Food Network, MTV, E!, and TLC, and I don’t think she could get access to all of that content from another service.

I guess I’m leaning towards keeping DirecTV (but going back to the most basic package possible), and then buying a Roku to stream Netflix Instant and the MLB.tv package on my TV.  This will probably satisfy me for three months, at which time I will buy AppleTV, subscribe to Hulu Plus, buy a PlayStation 3, add HBO to my DirecTV package again so I can access HBO GO, and of course activate the NFL Ticket just in time for football season.

I’m exhausted from this talk we just had…any better suggestions for me?