Wednesday, November 27, 2013

NFL Picks Week Thirteen: Let's Light Some Turkey Candles!

Alright, folks, so remember all that talk I gave last week about how I was starting to believe in the Giants? That was fun, right? I know I had a good time with it because, after all, who doesn't love a little dreaming. Evidently, though, as I found, dreaming is really quite silly. I didn't understand that at the time naturally, but as I watched Dez Bryant slice and dice the Giants' secondary late Sunday night (or more accurately, followed in on my phone because I was not near a functioning TV), it became clear that dreaming is stupid.

And lo and behold, so it was.

It's ok. I have grown to accept that the Giants, amazingly, can't win the Super Bowl every year. After all, what fun would that be? (Answer: A lot of fun.) But even if I can't appreciate seeing Big Blue hoist Lombardi every February, there is something that will distract me this week from my football-centric misery (because let's not even talk about Northwestern right now), and that is turkey. Lots and lots of turkey.

Now, to be honest, I don't particularly like turkey if we're talking about fowl or white meats. It tends to be pretty dry if it's overcooked and that tryptophan, well, it packs a wallop. Perhaps too much of a wallop. But Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday because if we overlook the coma-inducing nature of the meat itself or it's dryness (though my stepmother, who is cooking this year, actually makes a pretty juicy turkey), the rest of the food and accoutrements are just as tasty. And let us not forget that, if you haven't heard, on this day they play football. A lot of it.

I will be watching four football games over the course of the holiday this year, ranging from my old high school football team to NFL teams that are playing like they're in high school at the moment such as the Green Bay Packers or Oakland Raiders. Now, while I hope things turn out better for my high school than they did last year, I'll still find a way to enjoy the holiday because, hell, it's Thanksgiving. Food, drinks, football. Oh, and I guess family.

Friday, November 22, 2013

NFL Picks Week Twelve: Am I Ready to Start Believing In This?

I have an unfortunate quirk in that I tend to actually believe my sports teams still have a chance as long as they aren't mathematically eliminated. This has led me to much anxiety -- or as I call it "The Mets" -- but it also gave me the foolish thought that despite their horrendous start this season, the New York Giants were not actually done for the season.

This was, in short, lunacy. After all, the Giants started out 0-6 and didn't look particularly good in the process. There was the season opener in Dallas in which they probably would have won were it not for six turnovers, and the sixth defeat in which they easily could have come back against Chicago but failed. But in between those two games the New York Giants did not look anything close to particularly good. And that put them in the NFC East cellar with considerable hole to climb out of. After all, making the playoffs after losing your first six games isn't impossible (theoretically), but it would certainly be difficult for the Giants to pull off the long, long list of teams that have pulled off the feat.

However, I'm silly. Also kind of dumb. And for that reason, I started telling people the season wasn't done. The Giants had the fortunate luck of being in the NFC East, which this season is more or less terrible, or as I like to say, "evenly balanced." That meant that a little run and suddenly Big Blue was right back in the thick of it. This was the mantra I was preaching when I went to see the Giants play the Vikings (courtesy of Listerine®), and the one I continued to preach a week later when I took my dad to see the Giants visit the Eagles (courtesy of The Eagles, strangely enough).

Suddenly the Giants were 0-2 (albeit against less-than-stellar competition), and afte a bye reeled off wins against the Oakland Raiders and Aaron Rogers-less Green Bay Packers.

And suddenly they were 4-6. And perhaps more shockingly, just 1.5 games out of first place due to their division rivals ineptitude.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NFL Picks Week Eleven: In Which I Experience the Wonder of Jury Duty

I will put it blunt to admit that this has not been a particularly good week on several fronts. The most notable, probably, is that Northwestern a few hours ago lost yet another disaster of a game, this time to Michigan in triple overtime. The game featured several potential game-winning interceptions that Northwestern dropped, multiple fourth-down conversations in the final minute as Michigan hastily drove to tie the game, and a field goal by Michigan as time expired that forced OT and almost certainly should not have been allowed.

So, if you're keeping score that home, that's a seven-game winning streak in which Northwestern has blown a 10-point lead to the No. 3 team in the country, lost in Overtime twice and lost on a Hail Mary. It's been fun.

In the case of this particular loss, since Northwestern mustered just three field goals in regulation despite largely keeping Michigan in check and having several opportunities for touchdowns the theme of not being able to capitalize and finish drives seems to be carrying the Wildcats through the season. I can only hope that along with the numerous injuries and bizarrely unusual ways to lose that they've found will come a regression to the mean next season, because as it stands, bowling is likely not happening this winter.

The rest of my week was also drab -- though there was the bright spot in that I got to see Twelfth Night with the brilliant Mark Rylance on Thursday night -- but the real pisser was that I, like Homer in that picture up there, got the wonderful experience of being on jury duty for the first time this week. If you've never been, I will not tell you to try it, particularly since the courts will decide that option for you, but it is a remarkably inefficient exercise in institutionalized bureaucracy and hammy litigative play-acting. I was lucky in that my trial settled after a scant three days, but given the interminable combination of unctuous lawyer and self-consumed litigant on the plaintiff side of the fence, I'm glad I had to endure as little of it as I did.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NFL Picks Week Ten: Northwestern and its Snakebitten 2013 Season

Ladies and gentlemen, I do not believe in the supernatural. To a degree the idea of "what goes around, comes around" is something I do accept, but it is more due to the idea that things regress to the mean rather than it being hatched by karma. I don't by hexes, while I'm not exactly an atheist I don't really put much faith in prayer and with the notable exception of the Chicago Cubs I absolutely do not believe in curses when it comes to sports.

All that said, something is rotten in the state of Evanston, and there's no real way I can put my finger on what, exactly, it is. It is probably not a curse, but there is some funky, supernatural nonsense that has completely thrown what was the most anticipated Northwestern football season in years entirely down the tubes. To wit: One month ago, Northwestern was undefeated, ranked No. 16 in the country, coming off a 9-3 season with its first bowl victory in more than six decades and had a 10-point second half lead on No. 3 Ohio State.

Then things began to unravel.

First Ohio State rallied for an undeserved win in Evanston. Then a week later Northwestern suffered a rough, but explainable blowout loss at Wisconsin, a notoriously difficult building in which to play. Then came an entirely inexcusable home loss to an inferior (or so we thought) Minnesota team and a mind-numbing overtime loss to Iowa that Northwestern probably should have won, but didn't because the team apparently forgot what football was for roughly 38 minutes of the game. Suddenly the Wildcats were unranked, down to .500 and, astonishingly, 0-4 in conference play.

And then Nebraska happened. This is a game that in so many ways I cannot begin to process not exactly because Northwestern lost despite outplaying Nebraska for most of the game in Lincoln, nor because of the fact that Northwestern missed opportunities to increase what was at one point a 14-point lead. It was how Northwestern lost in a way that was so discombobulating and disorienting that for the first five minutes after it happened I really had no idea what was going on. They say you can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but it seems on a day like this past Saturday, Northwestern managed to do the opposite.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NFL Picks Week Nine: Finally, Red Sox fans are vindicated

This is Luisa and Mike. I like Luisa and Mike. They're good people. We're friends. Two years ago the two of them were living in a small city in Germany and they allowed my friend Kristen and I to stay at their studio apartment with them. Luisa and I have known each other for a decade now and had many adventures in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Illinois and Minnesota. And yes, Germany.

One of our adventures included a trip to Fenway Park in 2009 to watch one of the four or so great starts Johan Santana had for the Mets over the course of his injury-marred tenure. This is pertinent information because, as the picture indicates, Luisa and Mike are Red Sox fans. Well, Luisa is a Red Sox fan, Mike is a Cubs fan, which basically means this is the closest he's ever getting to a World Series championship anyway. The point is, I'm happy for Luisa. Really I am. I was with her when the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004 and know the significance this kind of event has not just for Sox fans in general, but for Luisa specifically.

So all that said, here's the thing. FOX, MLB, most of the U.S. sports media, presented Boston's World Series triumph as the end of much suffering because finally, at long last, the Boston Red Sox won a World Series after 95 years of waiting. In Fenway. A World Series in Fenway afer 95 years of waiting. Apparently this must have been a deeply emotional sore spot for Sox nation because if you listen to Joe Buck's call at the final out, it seems like eons of suffering have finally been ended.

That's fine and all, but this isn't exactly a team that's been suffering. Yes, the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series at Fenway in 95 years, but in the last eight seasons before this one they were not bereft of World Series titles. They had won two of them. And judging from this video from the stands, it didn't exactly sound like the Sox were on the road when they won their second of three titles in the last decade in that Bostonian Hub of Denver, Colorado.

Also, not for nothing, but this whole jumping up and down after the final out rather than collapsing in a dog pile thing is pretty silly looking. This is how it's done.