Friday, October 11, 2013

Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt Review

Ten seems like a very fitting number for my relationship with Pearl Jam. I consider Ten to be their best album. It's been ten years since I've saw them for the first time at Madison Square Garden. I've seen them over ten times in concert (Okay, cheating a little bit, it's been 13 shows). And finally, they'll be releasing their tenth studio album in Lightning Bolt.

It's definitely Pearl Jam's most unique effort since Binaural back in 2000. They've released three studio albums since then, two of which -- Riot Act and Backspacer -- I didn't think too highly of. Riot Act was pretty much a swing and miss, as there wasn't really anything special about it. All or None was a really cool song, and Love Boat Captain has become somewhat of a fan favorite, but when you look up-and-down the track listing, does anything really make a fan's top-10?

The self titled album (also known as Avocado) came next, and that was much more well received. There isn't any skippable songs on the album. Quite a few songs are real crowd pleasers when played live (Severed Hand and Life Wasted seem to give the crowd a jolt). And it has one of my personal favorites in Inside Job.

And finally was Backspacer, an album I've heard so many mixed opinions on. I thought it was okay -- definitely better than Riot Act -- but it was missing something for me. I think the sum of the parts is much better than the album as a whole.

Pearl Jam took a bit of a break (four years) to do some solo and side projects, then finally announced Lightning Bolt was coming. We heard some teasers from the album (They released Mind Your Manners as a single, then Sirens, and finally played a few live songs from the Wrigley Field show). Then a few days ago, I saw the tweet heard round the world. Pearl Jam's album was streaming on iTunes.

I quickly put it on, and having many listens since it was released, feel that I have a good grasp of how I feel about the album.

Overall, I think it's an extremely strong album. One of my friends put it best when he said they did a lot of experimentation on the album. Take Pendulum, a slow, chilling track that sounds like something from the No Code era. It works because it isn't your typical Pearl Jam sound.

Sirens -- the second single off of the album -- shows the band's evolution. This isn't an "angry at the world" band anymore. Their older, wiser, and in a much better place. Vedder's voice shines during the chorus.

All of the interviews I've read make me feel like this is the most "at peace" the band has felt. It could be because they took a longer break from the band, but I just think they are all older and have families. They've really shed the label of being a grunge rock group and have become a complete band.

We see a lot more of Mike McCreedy's signature guitar on this album. We have quite a few solos including favorites in the title track Lightning Bolt and Yellow Moon. If you like Vedder's solo album "Ukulele Songs", Yellow Moon incorporates that sound along with the McCreedy guitar to create a really nice song.

Some other favorites from the album include the first song Getaway, just a straight-up fun rock song and My Father's Son, which I feel like could get lost in the shuffle (similar to a song like Cropduster) but a song I really enjoyed.

The standout track to me thus far is Infallible. Honestly didn't expect this, but I legit get goosebumps during this song. Feel like this has the potential to be a live favorite. Well done with this one!

I think the first half of the album is better than the second half, but I also think it is a preference of sounds. On Future Days, it seems like Pearl Jam is going to put at least one of these type of slower songs on their albums moving forward (The End comes to mind). And Sleeping By Myself was pretty forgettable to me, as some Pearl Jam diehards are calling it a Christmas song.

But Pearl Jam is heading into a much different place. If you are looking for angry, angst, grungy hard rock, this isn't that band anymore. This is a band that is focused on not only making great rock music, but making songs which will cater to their live shows. It's amazing to me that they are one of the few that are still thriving out of the early 90s alternative scene.

And here's to hoping they can continue on.

Album Rating: B+

Best Album Moments
-Vedder's voice in Infallible
-Guitar towards the end of Yellow Moon
-3:25 mark of Sirens
-3:35 mark of Sirens

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dexter: What The Hell?

(The following contains spoilers about Dexter)

I started watching Dexter about four years ago. Early enough where I can catch up to it, but late enough where I can binge watch to a point where I’d get a good feel of what I thought of the series. After just two episodes, I immediately remember thinking “Wow, this show is pretty entertaining.”

The show was very easy to watch. I was hooked on the characters and really thought it was unique. It had the mood of a drama but was more a dark comedy.

It had some fantastic moments early on, culminating with the death of Dexter’s wife in the infamous John Lithgow season (the fourth). It easily moved into my top-five shows (Lost is far and away at the top, although now-a-days, Breaking Bad could challenge depending on the conclusion).

And then things started to turn. The show got a bit more outlandish. I found myself bored at times, looking at the clock midway through episodes. Each season after season four was worse. Yes, it had its moments, but the show certainly was not what it was at its peak.

Dexter finally announced it was concluding after eight seasons, maybe two seasons too late, but still, I thought it could go out with a bang.

Then I watched the series finale. It was the worst episode of any show I had ever seen.

It absolutely boggles my mind that someone would write such garbage. Yes, the final season of Dexter was pretty bad to begin with. They introduced a random daughter to one of the minor characters Masuka, a story that went nowhere. They brought in a woman who was extremely important to Dexter’s past and makeup, and besides her being killed off, was just an annoyance throughout the entire season. It felt as if they were forcing things on the audience with no real satisfaction in the end.

It is extremely ironic, because that is exactly how the finale went. The whole episode snowballed to the point where I was laughing out loud during the final 15 minutes. Let me explain:

-Dexter’s sister Deb was shot and brought to a hospital where she seemed to be doing okay. The doctor’s said no major arteries were hit; there was no real lead up to anything potentially bad. Then completely out of nowhere, her conditioned turned for the worse and she went brain dead. It just felt like another thing that was just force on the audience.

-Dexter – who was leaving the country to be with his girlfriend Hannah and young son Harrison – comes back to be by Deb’s side. Hannah was a convicted serial killer herself who had just poisoned Dexter and his sister earlier in the season. And now Dexter is not only going away with her, but letting his son go with Hannah alone. “I’ll meet you there,” Dexter said to Hannah and Harrison. Who in their right mind would EVER let their son just fly to another country with a serial killer?

-At the hospital, Dexter confronts the killer (Oliver Saxton) he has been trying to capture. He was re-captured in the hospital, which is something I actually bought. But while Saxton was sitting in jail at Miami Metro (Where Dexter used to work before resigning to run away with Hannah and Harrison), Dexter somehow was able to freely visit his jail cell using a lame excuse. Who decided that letting a former employee walk into the prison cell of the man who shot his sister was a good idea? Dexter provokes Saxton to attack him, Dexter then kills Saxton, the two cops he is friends with reviewed the security tape and determined…it was self-defense. Yeah okay, sure.

-Dexter goes back to visit Deb (on life support), and decides to cut the cord so she wouldn't suffer. Now for my favorite part. While all this is happening, the hospital is moving patients due to a hurricane that is coming. Dexter takes Deb from her hospital bed and just wheels her out of the hospital to his boat which is docked. There were probably 40-50 people he walked by without anyone even glancing at him. He continues to wheel out dead Deb and carries her onto his boat. He takes the boat and drives out (with impending Hurricane conditions) and drops her into the water.

-And now for favorite part No. 2: It hits Dexter that he causes everyone he cares about to suffer. So with a son with a serial killer in another country, Dexter decides to seal his fate and drive his boat into the heart of the impending Hurricane (which really looked like something out of the movie The Perfect Storm). The next day, they find parts of his boat destroyed. This into sequence felt like a part out of the movie The Room, which is considered the worst movie of all time. But The Room is so bad, it’s good. This was just so bad though.

-They focus in on Hannah and Harrison sitting. Hannah sees on her iPad an article about Dexter’s presumed death. She barely reacts to the death, wiping one tear away, and then asks Harrison if she wants ice cream. That’s your first reaction? One tear and some Ben and Jerrys?????

-And finally, we pan in on the final scene of some workers cutting down trees. For about ten seconds, I thought it was a preview to some new show on Showtime. Then we see a man walking, and guess what, it’s Dexter! Somehow, he survives driving into the heart of a hurricane. They show him getting into his new home (a lifeless log cabin), and he sits down, he stares into the camera, and end series.

All of this in the final 15 minutes.

Just typing all of this gives me anxiety. People devote hours upon hours of to these shows. I went online afterwards and read that this ending was planned for years. Someone actually had this idea and no one said “Ya know…you might want to change it.”

I learned a lot from watching Dexter. Shows seem to have a shelf life of about 4-5 seasons before things turn. Usually there’s one or two defining moments that turn out to be the peak of the show. Dexter’s moment was his wife’s shocking death.

I also learned that it is never a good sign when a showrunner is replaced midway through a series. The showrunner for the first four seasons left and was replaced by two people. Coincidentally, season five is when the show took a turn for the worse. I actually read an interview with the old showrunner where he stated his thoughts on how he wanted the show to end. And it was far and away better than how it did.

Dexter will always have a soft spot for me. In one breath, it was simple, entertaining, and had some great characters. But it’s a tale of two shows, and unfortunately, the second half put a very dark cloud over what was supposed to be a strong series.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How to Dominate the Fantasy Football Season

Everyone's favorite sport is here. I've been playing in fantasy football leagues since I was 13-years old. Do I think I am any better than anyone else? Well, yes, I do. So feel free to use this as a little cheat sheet to dominate the 2013 fantasy football season (With season predictions at the bottom).

NOTE: Based off of standard 12-team PPR leagues.


My Top 5
Aaron Rodgers
Drew Brees
Peyton Manning
Cam Newton
Tom Brady

-Michael Vick: Vick is probably the biggest "what if" in fantasy football. What if he stays healthy? What if he recaptures his form from a few years ago? What if everything clicks in Chip Kelly's new offense? Quarterback is such a deep position this year, but after the top five, you have to look for home runs. Vick is that home run. Even if he doesn't play a full season, if you spot start him, he's going to produce some stud weeks.
When to draft: 9th Round or later.

-E.J. Manuel: RG3 and Andrew Luck showed that rookie QBs can make an impact. While Manuel isn't at their level, he still holds a lot of value. The key is in his legs. In college, he rushed for over 300 yards and four TDs in his final season at Florida St. His offense is going to be sneaky good too. The Bills drafted Robert Woods who is an immediate upgrade over (fill in the blank) Bills No.2 WR. They also have a speed guy in Marquise Goodwin who is going to catch a few deep balls. Oh yeah, and don't forget about C.J. Spiller. I think if Manuel is a full-time starter (at some point this year, Manuel is going to start), he's worth the chance. And his latest injury might scare a few more owners off.
When to draft: Final few rounds or pickup as a free agent.

-Carson Palmer: Doesn't it seem like each season, Palmer is rostered by about half your league's teams? I don't think people realize that Palmer has been pretty solid as a fantasy QB in the last three years (Real life? Not so much). Palmer threw for over 3900 yards in two of the last three years, and in 2011, if he played 16 games (he only played 10), he would've been right around that mark. When the conditions are right -- think at home, versus a subpar defense -- Palmer is a perfect fill in.
When to draft: 11th Round or later.

-Russell Wilson: I'm not buying the Wilson hype just yet. Yes, he's gaining a year of experience, but the hype is just wayyyyy too much on him. Forgetting the fact that I think a regression is in order, he's also still without a true No. 1 WR (assuming Percy Harvin doesn't play this year) and still competes in the same division as the 49ers. I don't like paying for guys in a career year, and I think Wilson absolutely overachieved in 2012
When to draft: I wouldn't touch him until the 10th round or until you are in backup fantasy QB rounds.

-Ben Roethlisberger: You probably won't find Big Ben on any of my fantasy teams. Everything has been trending towards the downside. He's had four seasons in a row where his yards-per-attempt have dropped. He's missed multiple games in two of the last three years. Roethlisberger also lost his best WR in Mike Wallace and might lose his tight end to a few games in Heath Miller. And he's not so young anymore (31). If I'm drafting a fringe starter/backup QB, I want upside. Roethlisberger just does not provide that.
When to draft: At best, the last three rounds.

Running Backs

My Top 5
Adrian Peterson
Doug Martin
C.J. Spiller
Jamaal Charles
Ray Rice

-Daryl Richardson: I'll throw some numbers at you on Richardson. He didn't even amass 100 carries last year yet had 475 yards rushing. He quietly caught 24 balls as a full-time backup. Everything is just screaming undervalued. And it's stunning to be that he's being drafted as a 7th-to-9th rounder, behind guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Brown, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I'll take the guaranteed starter over the question marks.
When to draft: 6th round

-Bilal Powell: Listen, Powell is never going to be a top-five back. I don't think the talent is there. But Powell will make for a nice bye-week stop gap or a fringe starter for a few weeks. Powell will start some games this year (Chris Ivory has played in 12 total games in two seasons). He's also looked a bit quicker this preseason. You could do a lot worse towards the end of your draft.
When to draft: 13th round

-Ryan Mathews: Mathews has burned pretty much everyone in the past. But this is the first year you can count me on board. I think you have to sometimes go against the trend, and this is the perfect case. Two years ago, he rushed for close to 1100 yards and also caught 50 balls. Is it that crazy to think he can do that again? The hate on Mathews has gone waaaay to far. I wouldn't reach for him, but if he's sitting there at the right spot, he could provide some value.
When to draft: 5th-6th round

Names to Stash
Lance Dunbar, Knile Davis, Daniel Thomas

-Frank Gore: I thought Gore would be a complete bust last year, and I am doubling down. Gore's wound up having quite the career, but father time has to catch up to him at some point. There's very little upside to Gore. Plus, the Niners have a boatload of solid RBs. I just don't want to be on the boat when it starts to sink.
When to draft: At best, 5th round

-Rashard Mendenhall: This is another guy who will not be on any of my teams this season. I don't know why you'd even consider making him your RB2. The Cardinals are going to be throwing A LOT this year (why else would you get Carson Palmer) so there will be quite a few games where Mendenhall puts up low single-digits. I have absolutely no faith.
When to draft: 10th round or later as a backup

Wide Receivers

My Top 5
Calvin Johnson
Dez Bryant
A.J. Green
Demariyus Thomas
Julio Jones

-T.Y. Hilton: Love Hilton this year. In his final eight games, he had 26 catches for 506 yards and five TDs.  He also had eight catches in the Colts' lone playoff game. I just feel like he's going to step that next step forward and be a 1,000-yard WR, especially considering I expect Reggie Wayne to take a small-step backwards.
When to draft: 6th round seems like a solid spot, although you may be able to sneak him into the 7th.

-DeSean Jackson: Injuries are obviously the biggest concern for Jackson, who seems to miss at least one game every year. With Jeremy Maclin out for the year, someone is going to have to catch passes for the Eagles. I think Jackson takes the step up. And let's hypothetically say he played 16 games last year and performed at the pace he was playing at. His stats would've been 70 catches for 1017 yards and 3 or 4 TDs. Not too shabby of a season. Feel like he's similar to Hilton in how he's being drafted
When to draft: 6th round.

-Brian Hartline: He's a boring name who had one amazing game last year. But I think Hartline is going to be a perfect FLEX/bench player for your team. Hartline took the leap last year with 74 catches and 1083 yards with an astounding 131 targets. People think that Hartline is going to underproduce with the addition of Mike Wallace, but remember, Reggie Bush and Davone Bess are out of the picture and Dustin Keller is hurt. Hartline's going to be a poor man's Wes Welker.
When to draft: 11 round or when you are up to your backup WRs.

Names to Stash
Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Givens, Jeremy Kerley

-Mike Wallace: Everything here screams bust. Even when Wallace is at his absolute best, he'll have one great game followed by one clunker. Looking at his situation, he moves from Ben Roethlisberger to Ryan Tannehill. That has to already downgrade him by at least 100 to 150 yards. But looking closer at the stats, Wallace's total receiving yards have dropped each of the last three seasons despite an increase in targets. Wallace will have a few big games, but I'd be stunned if he was anywhere near a Top 20 WR.
When to draft: 8th or 9th round (Torrey Smith area).

-Stevie Johnson: Johnson has been a solid, consistent WR since he became a starter in 2010. He's never really made any kind of leap, but you know exactly what you are going to get. I think he's hit his peak though. But I think a lot of that success was due to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Listen, Fitzpatrick was not the greatest QB, but he moved the ball down the field. The Bills offense is drastically changing though. Enter E.J. Manuel, a running QB with not a great arm. Enter an offense focused on getting the ball to C.J. Spiller. I'm going to go out on a big limb and say Johnson becomes unstartable by midseason.
When to draft: Completely avoid at all costs.

-Eric Decker: I'm scratching my head over why Decker is drafted as a 4th-5th rounder. It's no knock on Decker's talent, but West Welker was signed to take on most of the targets that went Decker's way. They also added Monte Ball, which should continue to make the running game an underrated focal point (Denver runs the ball a lot more than people think). I think we average Decker's 2011 and 2012 stats and you end up with his 2013 stats.
When to draft: Avoid

Tight Ends

My Top 5
Jimmy Graham
Rob Gronkowski
Jason Witten
Tony Gonzalez
Jermichael Finley

-Delanie Walker: I'm really picking a flier here in Walker. I've always been a fan of him. Feel like his talents were never used properly in San Francisco. Solely as a backup the last three years, he combined for six total TDs. He also had his highest yardage total in 2012 at 344. Moving to Tennessee, he is now THE tight end. That offense isn't exactly packed with stars, so I expect Walker to have a sneaky solid year. He's a perfect matchups guy as well as a bye week fill in at the cost of a late pick.
When to draft: Last round

-Brandon Pettigrew: After improving in year's two and three, Pettigrew took a big step back in his fourth season. He had some nagging injuries that cost in two games and the Lions offense seemed like a complete mess at times. I think Pettigrew is primed for a bounce-back season. Detroit is going to throw the ball and with Calvin Johnson continuing to draw attention on the outside, Pettigrew should continue to get opportunities in the middle of the field. The only drawback with him is touchdowns, as his highest season total is five. But if he can approach the 83 catches he had in 2011, you have yourself a nice starting tight end.
When to draft: 12th round

Names to Stash
Julius Thomas, Tyler Eifert, Fred Davis

-Greg Olsen: It's not that I don't think Olsen is talented, but explain to be the difference between Olsen (drafted in the 7th round) and Pettigrew (drafted five rounds later)? Olsen also had eight games with single-digit fantasy points and just four games where he scored a touchdown. There's just no difference between Olsen and the rest of the field.
When to draft: 10th round

Season Predictions

AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Ravens
AFC South: Texans
AFC West: Broncos
Wild Cards: Colts and Bengals

NFC East: Redskins
NFC North: Packers
NFC South: Saints
NFC West: 49ers
Wild Cards: Seahawks and Falcons

MVP: Peyton Manning
Offensive ROY: Cordarrelle Patterson
Defensive ROY: Jarvis Jones
Surprise Team: Cardinals
Bust Team: Steelers

AFC Divisional: Broncos over Texans
NFC Divisional: 49ers over Packers
Super Bowl: Broncos over 49ers

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How To Dominate A Wedding

I recently got married (woooo, crowd goes crazy!) It's the happiest time period of my life and one of the best days I've ever experienced. The whole wedding day just warps on by and before you know it, you are off on your honeymoon.

I didn't realize how much fun weddings could be until I went to my first one a few years ago. I've been to a few and have started to see what separates the "haves" from the "have nots". You can know zero people at a wedding and become the MVP by the end of the night. If you aren't having fun, you aren't following these little tips.

1) Drink...Drink...And Drink

-Alcohol can solve many things. And luckily, weddings have lots of alcohol. I cannot stress enough, but make sure you drink a lot. Drinking just brings people and positive things together. BUT, don't be THAT GUY that throws up at the end of the night.

2) Cocktail Hour Is Your Meal Ticket

-You can make Tip No. 1 go a lot smoother if you follow this. Cocktail hour is usually where the best food is. It's a buffet of your absolute favorite appetizers. There's shrimp, mini hot dogs, pastas, sliders, salads, you name it. And it all just surrounds you in one giant room. Take advantage of this. Not only will it fill you up early (meaning your chances of getting sick from drinking go down), it'll give you more time to do some of the other tips I suggest.

3) Mingle Early and Often

-Whether it is your wedding or you are attending one, talking to a lot of people early on will set you up for success. If you are the one getting married, you can get through a lot of people before the music starts. If you are just attending as a guest, you can gain a lot of allies (and future drinking buddies) by putting yourself out there before the party starts.

4) Just Dance

-I'm probably the worst dancer you'll ever see. Luckily, about 75% of guests at a wedding are just as bad. But effort goes a long way. Take a few notes of some of the people who actually know how to dance, and then just dumb it down a bit. People respect the ones who are smack in the middle of the dance floor. We're all in this (badly) together.

5) Take A Shot...At A Shot

-Most bars at weddings will pour all of the shots you want. And for some reason, weddings and shots go hand in hand. Be the one to gather a bunch of people and lead a group shot. If you see the groom/bride or their parents, involve them in a shot as well. My friend made my Dad (who isn't a big drinker) take a few shots at the wedding and he's still talking about it. You'll be an instant star just by rallying the troops together.

6) Put A Ring On It

-For the single people, weddings could also be a time where the opposite sex is most vulnerable. The girls start to think "When am I going to be married?" That internal clock speeds up to about 40 mph. Guys, take note. Be on a close lookout for those girls who don't have a boyfriend. Many people have found their future spouses this way.

7) After Party Madness

-By the time a wedding is over, everyone is drunk and still looking to party. Usually there's an after party either in the wedding suite, another room, or a hotel bar. After parties are usually where the real fun begins. Make sure you save some energy (and your voice) for the post-wedding festivities. If you have an iPod with some old 80s or 90s tunes, pop it on and host a few sing-a-longs.

8) It's Not About You

-Don't be too much the center of attention. Ultimately, the day is about the bride and groom. Make the focus on them.

9) Have A Great Freakin' Time

-The most important thing is to just have fun. Don't sit in a corner half the night looking at your watch. Just get out there and dominate the wedding!

Friday, June 21, 2013

In Defense of Lebron James...

Can EVERYONE just stop for a second and admit that Lebron James is the greatest NBA player since Michael Jordan?

And when it is all said and done....he might even be better than Jordan.

I know this is a sore subject to people. How can anybody be better than Michael Jordan? He never lost an NBA championship (6-for-6). He won the scoring championship ten times and MVP five times. You can list accomplishment after accomplishment. But that doesn't mean James won't go down as being better.

We have to remember how James started out. As a junior, his High School games were being broadcasted on ESPN. the amount of hype as he entered the NBA was absolutely astonishing. Sports-media outlets engrained into everybody's heads that this guy was going to be THE guy. How many times have we seen athletes live up to the high bar placed on them? I can't think of too many. And we've certainly seen player after player in all sports completely fail. James not only met the expectations, but has far exceeded them.

He does everything. And has only gotten better. People said James needed a low-post game, and he developed one. Naysayers claimed James will never have a good outside shot, and he developed one. List any blemish on his resume, and James has come out and erased any doubt.

Let me just throw some numbers that stood out to me.

-It took Jordan seven years to make the NBA finals.
-In the ten seasons James has been a pro, he's already made four finals and won two. Jordan won three in the same time span.
-If we're looking at postseason numbers, James has put up a career per-game line of 28.1 pts/8.6 rbs/6.7 assists while averaging 43.1 minutes per game. Read that game. 43.1 minutes per game! While Jordan has scored more, he's 2.2 rbs and 1 assist short of James.
-And then there's the triple-doubles. Just type in Lebron's name next to that term. And just be astonished.

If you are pro James, you can continue to rattle off stat after stat. And if you are pro Jordan, you can do the same. And quite frankly, we haven't even put a major dent into James's career.

But he needs to be in the conversation.

Do I think the hate on James will ever go away? No, I really don't. "The Decision" left such a sour taste in everyone's mouths that people want nothing more than to see him fail.

But we're living in a time period where we can witness one of the greatest athletes in sports history and certainly the best current athlete.

Let's appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tim Tebow Deserves an NFL Job

Tim Tebow is jobless.

He's a Heisman trophy winner. He had over 12,000 total yards in college. He won a National Championship. And yet EVERYONE looks for a reason to knock him.

Why can't we just finally admit to ourselves that Tebow should have an NFL job?

Let's look at the superstars that are currently starting in the NFL. Brandon Weeden is going to be 30-years old and threw 17 INTs in 2012, leading the Cleveland Browns to another miserable season. For a halfway decent team, Weeden would be a backup at best, but the Browns have no one, and they drafted Weeden relatively early, so he's their QB by default.

Then there's Mark Sanchez, whose career has been in an absolute freefall since his back-to-back conference championships a couple of years ago. Why the Jets wouldn't start Tebow over Sanchez last year STILL boggles my mind.

You have Blaine Gabbert, who is just plain atrocious. Carson Palmer has been a band-aid for the last five years.

Yet teams would rather put these QBs out there than Tebow. It makes no sense.

I have absolutely no idea if Tebow is a good NFL QB. I really don't. I do know in a limited sample size, he led the Broncos to numerous comeback wins and a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. If Denver had (insert QB), would (insert QB) have done what Tebow did?

I know that Tebow wills his team to a different level when it matters most. We saw that in Denver's six comeback victories with Tebow at the helm. I know that despite having a completion percentage under 50%, he only threw nine INTs. Not 18 INTs (ahem Mark Sanchez ahem), but nine.

For the upper half of the league, I completely get it. He brings a media circus that's completely unnecessary. Even if Tony Romo or Philip Rivers were starting ahead of Tebow, a fan base will put pressure on an organization as soon as that starter struggles. And having an unknown at QB is not what a playoff contender wants to have.

But if you are bad, please tell me what you have to lose? Afraid to lose 12 games? Because the Browns and Jaguars are most likely going to do that for the 23892389th season. If you throw Tebow in there and he is equally as bad, well, you have a top-five pick next season. Which is no different of situation than if Tebow weren't in.

And in the case of Jacksonville, it's not like it is the talk of Florida. It's been a dead team since the Mark Brunell days. Imagine Tebow coming in? It'd inject life into a sorry franchise.

I'm not going to sit here and preach to everyone that Tim Tebow is some fantastic QB. Because he's probably not. But he's got something a statistic can't explain.

And he should be given a shot. Because what does a team have to lose?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Can The New York Knicks Be Fixed?

The New York Knicks have problems.

It is very easy to pounce on a team that underachieved in the playoffs, bowing out in the second round to the Indiana Pacers. But it runs a lot deeper than just a poor showing in the postseason.

The Problems

Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire are set to make $35 million combined over the next two years. Marcus Camby is set to make $8 million over the next two seasons. That is a ton of money for three players who were non-existant over the last thirty days of the Knicks season.

Surprisingly, Chandler had one of his better rebounding season, averaging over ten rebounds per game for just the second time in his career. But injury/flu/fatigue led to a laughably poor showing against Indiana as Roy Hibbert completely dominated him. Chandler will be entering his 13th NBA season and I expect some decline. But ultimately, he's going to be their center and should bounce back.

Camby's contract -- albeit not crushing -- is a gigantic waste unless he retires. It wouldn't shock me if that happens, but I'm sure he'd love to be paid to sit at the end of the bench.

Then there's Stoudemire. What the hell do you do with this guy? Sure, he could come back and be a key piece next season, but how can you trust that? Even when he was healthy (let's use February as his peak), he averaged just under 15 pts/gm and 5.6 rbs/gm. $44+ million for that kind of production is not going to get it done.

The Asset

Iman Shumpert is the Knicks most valuable player. He's young, he's due very little money, and he's coming off a great playoff run. Don't let the points fool you (a shade over 9/gm); Shumpert was the second-best player on the Knicks' roster. He's ferocious defensively and has continued to show signs of getting better.

The worry with Shumpert is the ACL he tore last postseason. It took him a few weeks to play in an NBA game, and arguably a half of a season to get back to how he played last year.

The Leader

I'm going to just come right out and say it. Carmelo Anthony is not an elite NBA player.

Melo is one of the most prolific scorers in the league. He is outstanding in isolation and can get off any shot at any time. But I'm starting to worry if he can single handedly carry a team on his own.

Melo's wanted to be a Lebron James for years, but at some point, the NBA world has to accept that he is not that. He's only made it out of the first round twice. And while his numbers have either equaled or improved, the continuous seasons of underachieving has finally made me believe that he needs better talent around him rather than just being "the guy".

The Solution

There aren't many moved the Knicks can make. I highly doubt any team is going to take Stoudemire straight up. Obviously they aren't trading Melo, so how can this team be fixed? I think the answer is trading the Knicks one true asset in Shumpert.

Listen, I love Shumpert and absolutely think he'll be a very good NBA player. But you have to win now and this team is setup for that.

The Knicks can kill two stones by packaging Shumpert with Amare or Chandler. Trading Chandler might not be the most popular opinion, but the possibility exists that with the amount of games he has played, he could be heading towards the downside of his career. One thing history suggests is that NBA centers fall very quickly.

But let's say they can get by with keeping Chandler. That leads Amar'e. I really believe a team will take Amar'e and the two years left on his deal to also acquire Shumpert. It's about finding the right trade partner.

The Possibilities

Paul Pierce: Pierce has one year left on his deal. He can still score and would be a perfect compliment to Melo. But age is a BIG factor and Pierce had plenty of moments this year where he looked worn down. If Pierce were a year or two younger, I think it would make sense, but I think it's a bit too late to explore this option.

Rajon Rondo: This one is a bit more interesting. There's been rumors that the Celtics might be intrigued with trading Rondo. This type of deal would have drawbacks from both sides. Do the Celtics want to be saddled with Kevin Garnett/Pierce/Stoudemire with no point guard? Do the Knicks want to take a risk on Rondo coming back healthy? Would the Knicks also take on Brandon Bass's contract (The Celtics would also need to throw in a middle-tier contract and Bass makes the most sense)? The idea of having Rondo is nice, I just don't think both sides could make this work.

Joe Johnson: The Knicks could probably do a Johnson/Stoudemire deal straight up, but I really don't think they want to be saddled with Johnson until 2016. I'd consider this a very last resort.

Dirk Nowitzki: See Paul Pierce (plus Nowitzki has a no-trade clause AND the Knicks would probably have to take on Vince Carter as well). Just don't see this happening.

Pau Gasol/Steve Nash: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. This would be quite the shake up. It's due-able if the Knicks give up Stoudemire/Shumpert/Raymond Felton. We've heard Gasol's name in potential deals for years. And I really think the Lakers are fully ready to give up Nash, who has one-year left on his deal. But this means the Lakers would have to take a small step back. And I think the Lakers focus is going to be on how to deal with the Kobe Bryant issue. This trade feels more like fantasy land than real life.

Chris Paul: And here's one of the more interesting "what ifs". Knicks give up Stoudemire/Shumpert/Felton for Paul/Caron Butler. There's a lot of things that need to go right with this trade but it absolutely is a consideration. Paul would have to decide he doesn't want to be a Clipper. The Clippers would have to be sold on Stoudemire (and probably find a suitor for DeAndre Jordan). Imagine a Knicks lineup with Anthony and Paul? The naysayers from the Knicks end are doing to say that Paul has fizzled in the playoffs early and will wonder if his legs can hold up through the length of his new deal. But stars win in the NBA. And this could be the game changer.

The Result

Ultimately, I think the Knicks stand pat. Stoudemire's health is just too much of an uncertainty and I really don't know if another team would want to take on the risk. Both the Knicks as well as (insert trading partner) have to ask themselves "What will Amar'e Stoudemire be giving me in the next few years?"

I didn't even touch on the coach, but I'd give it a 50/50 chance Mike Woodson is fired.  If he is let go, it might be even more of a realistic opportunity that the Knicks explore trades so that whoever the new coach is can almost start new.

But the future of the Knicks is going to fall on their star and how the team can build around him.

As a fan......I am definitely worried.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

When a Video Game is More Than A Video Game

I wrote this blog post a long time ago for another site, but since I love it so much, I figured I'd re-post it here (Cop out, right? I've just had nothing noteworthy to write about in a few days). But to be fair, I added a few additional notes in this one. Enjoy!

We all played them growing up. Sports games were a part of our lives. The thrill of rushing home to start up the new release of a game was a feeling like no other. All of us didn't just play the game. We lived the game. There were two in particular that set the video game bar in my life.

The NHL Series (The Sega Genesis): If you watched the movie Swingers, you have an even better understand of why these games were great (Especially NHL '94 and '96). What was better than playing on ice that was too small and with players that were too quick?

The best features of this game were the little ones. I loved the Spin-O-Rama move that they instituted later on (I think in 1995, don't quote me). I found it hilarious that you can do a little ballerina twirl and get by three players. Best of all, the Spin-O-Rama was the Start button. How stupid is that? Somehow, it worked.

What also worked was the wrap-around goal. You can have a player go behind the net, come around and score. The goalies were always too slow to react to this. They did make it a little harder in NHL '96 to pull the move off, but if you were down 4-3 with 5 minutes left, it was your best bet.

Now I don't know if this was just a glitch or it was just my game, but anytime I popped in my game after a long period of not playing and tried to load up my season as the Rangers, it would always vanish. It was like the game was punishing me for not playing. It was telling me "You ignored me for so long? You will pay for this!"

The older NHL games didn't really have a franchise mode. You could play a whole season but once it ended, it ended.

One of the more underrated features is the moment after the Stanley Cup is won. A random player will come out holding the actual cup with the team surrounding them. I thought that was beyond cool.

I just loved getting a quick game with my buddies and just playing to see who allowed the most goals. I can go three years without playing it, pop in my Sega Genesis, and my night is fulfilled.

The NHL series was simple and to the point. It was money and everyone knew it.

The Madden Series (Any system): I could spend about 25 posts just on the Madden series by itself. I mainly went the Sega to Playstation route, with a little Dreamcast and XBox thrown in there. I don't know one male under the age of 25 who did not have a Franchise mode that lasted less than three seasons. Not only could you play a season, but you could draft and scout players, building them up into future superstars. My teams became grouped into my favorite teams. If I lost a game, I'd be miserable the rest of my night.

One of my favorite all-time athletes (Right below Derek Jeter and Patrick Ewing) was my RB in Madden '02: Doug Hamilton. He was an absolute beast and was about 90% of my offense. With Ogden Traylor manning the QB position, my team would dominate any level (Yes, his name was Ogden. A hilarious feature of Madden is the made-up player names, which would just shuffle first and last names of existing players). When Madden '03 came out, I felt just a little sad getting the new game, because that meant I had to start a new franchise (I haven't played Madden in about six or seven years, but I think they allow transferring of rosters from one game to the next. If they don't, then that is just stupid).

I was also one of those losers who played online when if first came out (PS2 in 2004 or 2005, forgot the year). I could pop in your game and play against someone from another country. My ultimate goal was to beat the top players. My claim to fame was beating the 9th player in the world. I felt proud than getting into college.

I also loved the players that were great in Madden but awful in real life. I could make a list of guys who had 98 Speed or 95 Throwing Accuracy but were fourth stringers rotting on the bench of a real team. Trung Candidate had the skills of Barry Sanders. Michael Bishop had a cannon of an arm. Jerome Mathis had about a 99 in everything (Coincidentally, it's probably the amount of receiving yards he amassed as a pro).

Were there plenty of bugs? Of course there were. You could run the same curl route with a big WR and he'll catch it 9 out of 10 times. Ten years ago when Michael Vick was on the cover, he could run around all day and find a way to get 20 yards. I was able to routinely kick 59-yard FGs as if my kicker had the leg of Pele. My biggest issue with the whole online thing was people would cheat. There was some weird bug where if someone toggled their Internet connection and if it was done just right, the player could disconnect from their game and not suffer a loss. It was absurd and happened against me a ton of times (I'm STILL getting fired up over this).

But even the flaws is what made the game unique. Madden became its own sport.

This was part of my life growing up. Unfortunately, when you grow up, you are too busy to play video games. But there's always that one rainy Sunday afternoon when you can pop in that old video game and remember the days of your childhood.

Everyone had a franchise that lost the Super Bowl two years in a row or a Jari Curri who scored 65 goals in your season. If you could go back in time to play one more season as the St. Louis Rams, you'd do it in a heartbeat.

Everyone has a story.

But now the most pressing question. Do I draft Pete Welker or Hardy Barnes with my first-round pick?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Stock Investing for the Non Investor

If you have any money stashed away, invest it in the stock market.

I've been following for as long as I remember. As a ten-year old, I'd take The Daily News, flip to the sports section, then just as any normal kid would do (not!), turn to the stock pages. I'd look at companies which I knew (Nike, McDonald's) and see their current stock prices as well as what they did the day before. My dad turned me onto his favorite stock, Philip Morris (now known as Altria). Almost two decades later, I still learn each and every day.

There are plenty of people out there who couldn't tell what a dividend is. But I'm going to do my best to help give some basic tips to get you started on your investing journey. If you stick to these notes, you'll be well on your way.

Keep It Simple

My fiance is a huuuuuuuuuuge fan of Costco. She'll come home from shopping and comment on how amazingly juicy the Costco fruit is. Her, her mom, and my parents have been avid Costco shoppers since last year. And since Mr. Costco has come into our lives, the stock has jumped from $80 to $110.

Point is, companies that are a big part of your life are usually good places to start investing in. Don't worry about random companies you've never heard of. I'll bet you have not a clue what Baidu does (Just for fun, they are the Chinese equivalent to Google). But they were an extremely popular stock pick in the last few years. Had you bought Baidu in July of 2011, you would have lost half of your investment today.

For every Baidu, there are stocks that I'm sure would've given some big gains. But it is not worth the risk. Stick to the companies that you know and love. My advice would be to track stores and products you buy on a daily basis. Assuming you follow public companies (companies can also be private, but you cannot publicly invest in them as a stock), I bet they would be far valuable five years from now then they are now.

Simple Investments: Nike, Disney, eBay.


A lot of stocks payout a dividend. A dividend is a portion of a company's earnings that are handed right to it's shareholders.

Not every company pays a dividend, but usually strong companies not only pay out dividends, but also raise their dividends every year.

Let's take Johnson and Johnson for example. Back in 2003, JNJ (their ticker symbol) paid our a 24-cent quarterly dividend. Today, they payout a 61-cent quarterly dividend. Combine that with the fact that JNJ was $51/share in 2003 and now over $80/share, and you have yourself a very nice return.

You'll probably hear the term "Dividend Reinvestment". Some people choose to take their dividend and just keep the money. But the shrewd investor will reinvest that dividend into the company and buy more shares of the stock. Imagine taking that JNJ dividend and buying more stock each quarter?

Dividends can come in all shapes and sizes. My rule of thumb is to look for stocks which have a track record of raising dividends each year and yield anywhere from 2.5% to 5.5% (Yield is the yearly dividend divided by it's stock price). What's better a stock paying that to you every year, or the money that makes less than 0.75% in your savings account?

Dividend-paying stocks aren't going to net you crazy gains, but the long-term investor will be rewarded nicely.

Safe Companies: Verizon, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Pfizer

Read, Read, Read

The ten-year-old me picked up on this early. But try to get a hold of as much information as humanly possible. The beauty of public companies is that they have to disclose all of their quarterly and yearly finances. If Nike lost $300 million last year, the information is right there.

I'd say the service that has helped accelerate my knowledge is Twitter. Most of the stock gurus are not just posting every hour, but some will even give their own trades.

The one drawback to Twitter is it seems like no one ever loses money. People will gloat about their victories, but never even hint at a defeat. My rule of thumb is to trust A) People I have heard of or B) People with over 10,000 followers.

But I guarantee you that the more you read, the better grasp you'll get on the stock market. It's all free (well not all, but most of it is) and just a click away.

Free Information:, Motley Fool, CNBC, CNNMoney, Forbes, AOL Finance

Earning Power

One of my favorite indicators to look at is P/E, which stands for Price-to-Earnings. A company's P/E is the stock price divided by their yearly earnings. So if the stock price is $200 and a company made $20/share, their P/E is 10 (people refer to this as their Trailing P/E for their past earnings). There's Forward P/E as well, which is the stock price divided by it's future earnings. So if that same company has future earnings of $25/share in 2013, their Forward P/E is 8.

My general rule is to focus on companies that has a P/E in the 12-18 range. That range is considered valued to undervalued, but there's plenty of other factors.

You might find a company like Dell with a lower P/E than most and think it's undervalued. The problem is if a company's earnings are shrinking, then the P/E can be deceptive, because they are not growing. On the opposite end, a company like Netflix has a P/E of 500, but because they have extremely high growth potential, they are valued much higher.

Every stock and sector utilizes a much different baseline P/E. There a current cycle where technology has a lower average P/E (Figure the 10 to 13 range) because people fear those companies are lagging in growth. Those fears are probably overblown, but it's something to keep in mind when evaluating a stock.

Overall though, if you focus on P/E's in the highlighted range for growing companies, you'll end up finding value.

Undervalued P/Es: Apple, Chevron, IBM, Wells Fargo

Penny Stocks For Dummies

Just stay away from penny stocks. Far away. I'm sure you've seen or heard proclamations that a stock can make you 10000% if you buy it.

There's a reason why a penny stock is a penny stock. They are nothing more than a sucker bet. Sure, a penny stock could get you short-term gains. But in the long run, those stocks are $0.

The ONLY time I'd recommend taking a chance is on a company you know. Kodak is currently in penny stock land, but the possibility exists that another company buys them out or they make a grand comeback. Pier One was heading to it's death in 2009 but made some huge changes. Now, the stock is $24/share. It's a small possibility that these type of companies make a comeback, so you have to tread with caution.

Penny Stocks to Avoid: Companies with "Q" in it's name, Stocks on the OTCBB exchange (When these two things happen, it's considered the equivalent of stock death)

Other Tips

-Don't chase stocks: Stocks don't go up forever. If there's a company you like, be patient and buy it at a price you feel comfortable at. Remember, there's thousands of stocks to choose from, so if you miss out on a move in a stock, there are plenty of others.
-Taxes: If you sell a stock you've held for less than a year, any gains are taxed at whatever tax bracket you are in (usually 25% to 30%). Stock gains from ones you have held over a year are taxed at 15%. You are only taxed when you sell.
-Write-Offs: If you lose money, you can write off those losses on your taxes up to $3,000. Any losses over $3,000 can be carried over into following years.
-Be Patient: Don't refresh your screen every five seconds hoping for your stock to go up. The very best stock investors still have stocks that go down. If experts can't find the very bottom price, how do you expect to?
-Diversify: Don't put all of your eggs in one stock. Spread it around to 5-10 stocks in different sectors.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Nickelodeon Game Show Rankings

Come on, admit it. You've spent about two years of your life watching Nickelodeon.

You'd run home from school, pop on Channel 22 (or 25 or 51) and jump for joy as Stick Stickly popped on the screen.

My personal favorites were the game shows. Who wouldn't want to win a lifetime supply of beef jerky or a $10 Gift Card to Foot Locker?

But which were the best? In my continued series of analyzing some childhood favorites, I bring you the Top-5 Nickelodeon Game Shows!

Honorable Mention: Figure It Out
The Good - Summer Sanders; Amanda Bynes right before her prime; The Secret Slime Action; Prizes included props from other Nick game shows;
The Bad - Lori Beth Denberg; Any joke the little kid from Pete and Pete said; E-List celebrities no one knew;
Fun Fact - Julius Erving was a guest panelist on the show. Really? Dr. J??!?!

My Take: Think of Figure It Out as the stale bread that they put on a table when you first come into a restaurant. You'll eat it. It serves it's purpose. But only because you are hungry. The basic principle of the show is kids coming on as celebrities try to guess their secret talents. And when I say celebrities, I mean recycled stars of other Nick shows.

As host, Summer Sanders definitely added some major points. But there were far better shows out there.

This show completely over killed on bad jokes and fake laughter.

One of the issues with bringing kids on a show is that you don't know if they'll love being on television or if they'll look absolutely frightened. And after analyzing the data, about 95% of the kids had the deer-in-the-headlights look. Luckily, Summer was there to make everything better.

Probably a crazier fact? This show is still on the air! Nick decided to bring it back last year. There's clearly five other shows that were better, and they chose to bring this back? Honorable Mention feels right for this one.

5) Wild and Crazy Kids
The Good - Omar Gooding; The cool shirts; Dizzy Bat Home Run Derby; Human Battleship; Gigantic game of Twister; Slow-Motion replays.
The Bad - The brunette host who had no personality; Voice-over color commentary by the hosts; Terrible athletic performances from the kids.
Fun Fact - Jessica Gaynes (the red headed host) was 14 when she began hosting. Her IMDB hasn't been updated since 1999. She's Lebron James except the complete opposite.

My Take: Wild and Crazy Kids is a show that everyone watched yet is some of the least memorable television. Has anyone ever said "Remember that episode when.....?" Just never happened. I feel like one of out every five kids has been on WCK at some point. Every episode had 100-on-100 relay races, so odds were in your favor.

Stunningly, WCK launched two careers. Omar Gooding became a mildly successful star while Donnie Jeffcoat has been casted in a number of things (Most notably, he was on One Life To Live. I have absolutely no idea if he is still on it. Around ten years ago, he was at our local supermarket being promoted as "Soap Star Donnie Jeffcoat!").

The games were pretty dumb. Never really cared about "Pop Balloons so That Cream Can Fall On Your Head" or "Pin The Tail on the Donkey So That Someone Gets Dunked in a Dunk Tank." Without a doubt though, my favorite game was Dizzy Bat Home Run Derby. I'd come home begging the show to have it. You know how hard it is to spin around ten times then try to hit a ball? Feel like someone needs to call the Olympics and add it as an event.

WCK had some impressive technology. I thought they used the slow-mo instant replays to perfection. They knew exactly when to show a kid pressing a button to blow up a toy car.

WCK had some meat on the bone, but to this day, I just don't feel completely satisfied with the end product.

4) Double Dare
The Good- Marc Summers; Opening of the show jumps right into a game; The Obstacle Course; The Music.
The Bad- Harvey the announcer; Marc Summers' outfits (You host a game show that has slime everywhere and you wear suits?); Spending 45 seconds on one station in the obscale course.
Fun Fact- If you ever had aspirations of being on Double Dare, Orlando has the next best thing. Check out Double Dare Live. And yes, I am absolutely doing this if I ever venture near Disney.

My Take: Ranking Double Dare in this spot is going to cause some controversy. There's a very strong camp that believes Double Dare was the best of the best and that it paved the way for other game shows. The supporters will point to the degree of difficulty in winning Double Dare. You have to answer questions about Presidents and events from the 1800s. I mean, how does an eight-year old know Lincoln's mother's sister's occupation?

The Physical Challenges scared the crap out of me. I couldn't blow up balloons and then sit on them. I would've gotten absolutely creamed.

Then there was the Obstacle Course. The thing that bothered me the most about the course was a kid would get through the first two obstacles with ease, and then get up to looking for a flag in a nose and spent 3/4ths of their time picking the nose. I wanted to throw my Juicy Juice boxes through the screen. Just find the damn flag!

Marc Summers probably was the best host you can find on television. Better than Alex Trebek, better than Wink Martindale (Side note: Please Google Wink Martindale. The guy never ages. I'd include a picture, but it's more fun to have you Google the name Wink Martindale). Summers completely controlled every aspect of Double Dare. I knew when things got messy, Summers would have it all figured out.

With all that though, Double Dare was missing something. The replay value was "meh" at best. I know I couldn't watch more than one episode. I also thought there was just too much going on. You had Summers screaming, Harvey the announcer screaming, the 16 members of the studio audience cheering, the music, the lights, the slime, the goofy set. It was just this giant mess. Double Dare should have combined with Summers other show What Would You Do? (Which was unfortunately omitted from this list due to the fact that it wasn't a game show. Sorry, it just wasn't) and I felt like it could've been one great show.

DD set the bar, but there was better out there.

3) Nick Arcade
The Good- Mikey; Every second of sound effects; The host singing to the sound effects of Mikey walking around town; The round where Mikey travels around the mall; The final round;
The Bad- Mikey getting pied in the face; Unknown video games; Boring questions;
Fun Fact- N'Sync's own Joey Fatone was a contestant on the show. YouTube it. He does a really weird handshake with his partner too.

My Take: This was far and away my favorite show. Sorry to everything else. But a show about video games? I'm just kicking myself for never sending an application in to be on the show. I would've done a Ken Jennings and win like 239039040 straight weeks. Probably racked up about $55 worth of prizes in that run. You don't understand. I played about eight hours a day of Sonic and Ghouls and Ghost as a kid. Maybe Nick knew this and didn't want me to completely own everyone.

Point is, Nick Arcade was fantastic. It revolutionized the gaming industry. To this day, there's really nothing that actually allows you to play inside of a video game. But Nick Arcade's final round did just that.

I thought the host was pretty spectacular. His name is Phil Moore. You knew what he looked like, but no one knew his name. One of those super over-the-top hosts that you couldn't be around for more than 7 minutes. Here's a jaw-dropper: Phil Moore is 51 years old. 51?!?!?!? It took me an hour, but I found a picture of him: Phil Moore = Now

I write for the people though, and I know that there's two other game shows that people liked better. But Nick Arcade SHOULD be No. 1.

2) Guts
The Good- The Aggro Crag; "Let's go to Mo for the scores, Mo"; Global Guts; Nicknames; The video game for SNS (I bet no one knew a video game of Guts existed)
The Bad- Mike O'Malley; Prizes; The Point System
Fun Fact-The Aggro Crag's height was 28 feet. The Super Aggro Crag height was like 150 feet, minus 120 feet. That's right. It was only two feet higher than the regular Crag. Not so super?

My Take: ABC can have Wipeout. NBC can have Splash. The 90s' was all about Guts. They had me at the theme song "Do do do do you have...Guts!" The show spawned a nation of kids to work out with one goal in mind: to win a piece of the Aggro Crag. I was one of the smart ones though. I knew early on that the piece of the Crag was a fraud. It was a piece of plastic that had a light bulb in it. It wasn't a crazy valuable item. It was a piece of plastic! It wasn't even from the Crag itself. They probably used their recyclables from the previous week's garbage to make it. Having said all that, if I ever won a piece, I would've framed it and hung it on my front door.

Out of all of the Nick game shows, host Mike O'Malley has probably had the best career. He was nominated for a freakin' Emmy. This is Mike O'Malley we are talking about. I thought he was the weak point on the show. Him and Mo should've switched roles.

Speaking of Mo, she was awesome. Straight to the point. You jumped over an out of bounds line, bam, Mo gives you a penalty.

I thought the games were pretty spot on. Always wanted to do the bungee cord basketball game. I'm sure some amusement park has something like this. If not, I'm building one in my non-existent backyard.

I wanted to go back to the Aggro Crag for a second. I'm shocked it was only 28 feet in height. I thought the thing rivaled the CN Tower and it took players forever to get up there. Watching it now, a lot of the "obstacles" during the Crag run weren't exactly tough. You had to face elements such as glitter, plastic rocks, and steam. Not exactly climbing Mount Everest.

Whatever, in reality, we all wanted to be on the show. It tested you mentally and physically. The best players won on Guts. And the worst, well...Worst Guts' Player Ever?

1) Legends of the Hidden Temple
The Good- Olmec; The shirts; The gear; Orange Iguanas; The temple
The Bad- The half pendants (This is in my book of my All-Time Great Rants); Olmec's mouth not in sync with voice
Fun Fact- Olmec's voice was played by the same guy (Dee Bradley Baker) who did the voice of Daffy Duck and Tazmanian Devil in Space Jam.

My Take: Okay, let me get my rant out of the way and then we can get to the good stuff. In my head, this makes perfect sense but it might be completely confusing. So in the "Temple Games" round (the round before you enter the temple), there's two teams left. You play three games against each other and the winner goes to the temple. Pretty simple stuff. The first two rounds are worth a half of a pendant and the final round is worth one pendant. Once in the final round (the temple), if a temple guard comes out and nabs you, you can save yourself by using a full pendant or a half pendant. (Both are worth the same value) Great. So let's say a team wins all rounds and gets a full pendant and two half pendants. Rather than allow teams to use three lives (Full Pendant, Half Pendant, Half Pendant), they combine the halves into one full pendant. This would be fine, except let's say a team winds up entering the temple with two lives (Full Pendant, Half Pendant), the half pendant can be used exactly the same as if you had a full pendant. What a freaking scam. This should've been bigger than the MLB steroids controversy. Except seven-year olds were watching this show. And that rant sounds horrendously confusing on paper. Good luck understanding how my brain works.

Besides Pendantgate, this show was flawless. It had the perfect combination of learning (Olmec tells some awesome stories), suspense, action, and heartbreak (I shed tears when teams come so close to winning).

Legends was probably the toughest game out there. Think about a 12-year old during the following: Swim across a lake with a rope in a plastic boat. Then, answer questions about a made-up story. After, go through a series of challenges. And after all that, find your way through a temple filled with guards, swings, a multi-piece silver monkey (Impossible to put together) and jumps. Google should use the temple during their interview process.

Kurt Fogg was fine as a host. There was a period where I actually thought he lived in the temple. And then I see him now and realize he probably just ate the temple: Kirk Fogg Now.

To this day, if someone is spotted on the street wearing a Legends shirt, you'll get at least two comments and three high fives.

Luckily for us, they re-run all episodes on one of the random Nick channels. How amazing is that? It was the king of the Nickelodeon game shows.

And after writing all of this, I miss being a kid. But at least for a few minutes, I was able to relive my childhood.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Geno Smith: The Jets' Savior?

I hate the New York Jets.

Nothing more that I wanted to start out with then that statement. I openly root against them. I think the fan base is laughable. Their coaching staff is a circus. There is nothing to like about the Jets.

Most of this emotion stems back to my father, who has an equal hatred for the Jets. So growing up, we would root against them, and root for my one NFL love, the New York Giants.

I remember the days of Chad Pennington and proclaiming that he will never win a Super Bowl (fact). I've been living through the Mark Sanchez era (the Sanchize!), also stating how he will never win a Super Bowl (looks like a fact).

I feel I've been pretty spot on.

But today, I have the solution to fixing the team I hate the most. The Jets need to start quarterback Geno Smith from day one.

There is absolutely no downside to this move. Let's step into a flash forward and I'll give you three scenarios that will come from making this move. And surprisingly, all scenarios lead to success.

1) Geno Smith is a complete bust
How can a player who lays an egg be a good move for the franchise? Because the 2014 NFL Draft class is going to be a gold mine for quarterbacks.

I've always had the mantra that I'd rather be really really bad then really really mediocre. Look what it did for my Giants? They went 4-12 (Taking by losing their last eight games) the season before drafting Eli Manning. They had the 5th pick in that draft and were able to maneuver and trade for the savior of their franchise.

And the Jets head into this coming season starting Smith. The fan base gets energized because there's some fresh blood at a position that has been average to bad for them for years.

Yes, this is the point where the Jet fan says "But Sanchez led us to two AFC Championships!"

The defense led them to two AFC Championships with Sanchez doing just enough to get them there. Remember, he had 12 TDs and 20 INTs in his rookie season. Is that a QB who lead his franchise? He didn't even throw a TD pass in a first-round victory over the Colts in his sophomore season. The defense was the star the entire time, masking mediocre performances. Eventually, NFL teams figured out that Sanchez was mediocre, and exposed him for the fraud he was. And now Sanchez needs to move on.

Smith looks awful most of the way his rookie season. He makes too many poor decisions, throwing 20+ INTs. Smith's numbers in college don't translate to the NFL. The wide-open offense that West Virginia ran hid Smith's faults. And the Jets completely bottom out. They go 3-13 and get the first overall pick in the NFL draft.

And that is where they can move on. Sanchez's contract is over. They rid themselves of the gigantic salary cap mess. And now they have the first pick in an extremely deep draft.

We don't know which QB prospect will make that leap, but there's going to be someone (I think multiple someones). Could it be A.J. McCarron, who has been as steady as you can be for Alabama? What about Teddy Bridgewater or Logan Thomas, both of whom are Geno Smith with much higher upside? Aaron Murray of Georgia has the arm and the pocket presence to be a great pro.

There's a star in that group, and the Jets can hit the reset button with one of them. And we know what a team can do if a top QB pick can pan out.

2) Geno Smith is a star
Obviously this scenario is easy. Smith comes into the league and puts on his RG3 shirt. He puts the franchise on his back and throws 25 TDs and just 6 INTs. He leads the Jets to an improbable 12-4 season, losing in the conference championships. But the Jets find their franchise QB for the next 15 years (Let's not forget that Smith would come at a fraction of the cost his first few seasons).

Smith is the type of QB that players want to play with. He runs around in the pocket, creating mismatches for opposing defenses. He opens up the running game because you never know when he'll take off.

This helps the Jets to bring in skill players. Wide Receivers WANT to come to the Jets. It's their opportunity to play with THE Geno Smith.

Smith being a star sells infinitely more jerseys than Sanchez ever did. Even at Sanchez's best, did anyone really love to watch him play? The NFL is a business, and Smith's skills translate to excitement to the common fan.

3) Geno Smith is average
I recall saying a little while ago that you don't want to be average. But in the Jets case, an 8-8 season might be the best medicine.

Let's say Smith looks decent, showing some flashes in his rookie season. He has some decent games and some had scratchers. An 8-8 season will do what the Jets have needed to do for years. It'll give them a reason to fire Rex Ryan.

Rex Ryan is a circus act. He brings clown shows to ridiculous press conferences, where he makes all these proclamations that land him on the cover of the New York Post. He's an outstanding defensive coordinator but nothing more. He is not an NFL Head Coach.

The Jets have needed a completely new staff for years. And 8-8 will do just that.

They can now bring in a coach that will fit their team. They have a QB in Smith with some promise, but a good coach will maximize that type of skill level. Look at RG3 and Mike Shanahan. Griffin may not have done what he did his rookie season if not for Shanahan and some of the formations and plays he installed. It was the perfect match.

And Smith and (fill in coach) can make that perfect match.

Whether Smith is a star, a bust, or somewhere in between, the Jets have options.

And it sickens me to come to that realization.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Cereal Awards

Cereal is awesome.

Who doesn't love opening their cabinet door and looking at their selection of 2-3 cereals. You have the cereal box that is 3/4ths empty but that last quarter has been sitting there for weeks. There's the box of cereal that was just opened this morning yet already is half done. And of course, every cabinet has to have a fresh unopened box, just waiting to be experienced. Usually that box is opened wayyyyy before the other two boxes are finished, because everyone needs some variety in there life.

But which cereals are the best? Which are the worst? Without further ado, I present you with The Cereal Awards!

Best Supporting Cereal - Cheerios

Is Cheerios really anyone's favorite cereal? But you know what, it always is there when you need that snack. It's not going to be the first box you pickup at the supermarket. You'll buy it in March and it will still be in the back of your closet come June. But there's always room for one handful. General Mills realized this and created about ten other flavors of Cheerios. Honey Nut is arguably the best. But there's always room in my heart for just regular plain ole' Cheerios.

Best New Cereal - Krave

Have you had Krave? Really, you don't know what it is? Please go to your local CVS and buy three boxes immediately. It's amazingness in a bowl. It really shouldn't even be classified as a cereal. Restaurants should be serving it as a desert. Krave is crispy multi-grains with the catch being there's chocolate in the middle. Listen, I'm sure there's like 15 grams of sugar per serving, but your fooling yourself if you eat cereal for the health benefits (Does anyone know what a serving actually is? What is 3/4ths of a cup? Can't we change the universal definition of a cereal serving as a bowl). Anyway, just buy Krave. The End.

Cereal Most Likely to Send You To a Hospital - Captain Crunch

I don't remember the first time I took a bite out of Captain Crunch, but I certainly remember a good amount of times. And man, it hurts. You take a nice amount, and then bam, the top of your mouth gets all scratched up. Captain Crunch is made for around three to four bites. Anymore, and you are feeling it for days.

Lifetime Achievement Award - Fruity/Coco Pebbles

What a great cereal. The duo combines everything you want. Tasty, easy to eat, bang for your buck. A little expert tip is to mix the two and you get just an infusion of fruit and chocolate. This cereal type started in 1971! Unbelievable how it has lasted. And according to Wikipedia, there's been like ten versions. This is where I get sucked in for about twenty minutes, because who knew there was a Dino Smores Cereal. It lasted a few years, but had a bone, marshmallow, and piece of chocolate. I'd probably pay $30 a box for this today. Anyway, anytime I have trouble picking out a cereal at the supermarket, I always go to my go-to duo.

Cereal That Needs To Go Away - Frosted Mini Wheats

I find myself buying FMW about once a year, and everytime, I find myself unsatisfied at the end. It's a terrible cereal to mix with milk, because quite a few things happen.

A) The little straws of wheat get so soggy that they break apart like a poorly made canoe. Eventually, you have a pond full of wheat.

B) The sugar dissolves. 90% of the allure of FMW is a vat of sugar on each bite, but the milk takes away all of the fun.

C) It's impossible to cleanup after completion. I'm not going to eat all that excess wheat. But yet, you have to somehow clean your bowl. If you spill the milk out, your sink is full of this seaweed (I realized while writing this that I'm absolutely hate the word wheat, so seaweed sounded better). If you pour it all in the garbage, your garbage becomes a dripping mess.

MVC (Most Valuable Cereal) - Lucky Charms

We had some great nominees for this category. In the end, nothing beats my Lucky Charms. The commercial ropes you in, with that little green guy hopping around happily. Always gets me in the mood. What I love about LC is you can eat it numerous ways. I usually will try to have a marshmallow-to-oats ratio of 75%/25% in my spoon each and every time. Some people like to go all mallows, or even all oats, saving the mallows for last. Anyway you eat it, it's consistently top notch. There's even a bit of mystery to LC, because I couldn't identify half of the shapes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Death of Apple? Nope

These are the following quotes that people have posted in the last few months:

“Apple is done”…….“Apple’s products are stale”……“Apple’s profit margin is awful”....."Bye Bye Apple"

Well then, I guess Apple is going bankrupt.

Apple just announced their earnings for the first quarter. They only sold 37.4 million iPhones. They had a measley 19.5 million iPads sold. And oh yea, their revenue was $43.6 billion. Wait, what? But I thought Apple was done? Wasn’t this a company that has had their stock price drop from $700 to $390? The stock market IS the pulse of how a company is doing.

Just avoid everything you hear. Apple is the best company on the planet. And if anyone has money just sitting in their bank account, it’ll be the best long-term investment you’ll ever make.

Apple’s stock price is going to be much higher next year at this time. It'll be even higher every year after. The problem with the stock market (in the short term) is that it is controlled by robots that manipulate share prices so it can get in at the price they want it at. But when you cut out all of the noise, you’ll realize this is the same Apple we’ve grown to love over the last decade. The potential product road map is going to turn their $10/share a quarter earnings into $15/share. They are going to inevitably release new and crazier versions of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac books. After that, you’ll see some form of a TV or a watch or some other crazy gadget no one is talking about.

The iTV is going to be the biggie. In the fantasy technology world that lives inside my head, Apple would buy Netflix and would create this ultimate streaming service that would eventually change the way we watch TV. Picture never having to flip through channels again. You can just stream anything you want at anytime. Your voice would be the remote control. All of Apple’s gadgets would be synced together, so you’d have to be part of their ecosphere. All of the technology is there for this and I think it is going to happen (Okay, Apple isn’t buying Netflix. But the iTv? It’s coming). The question is “When?”.

And that’s the problem. “When?”

The Apple hatred has built up over the last couple of months. People think that since the Jobs passed away, the innovation is dead. All I keep hearing is how Apple will just put out the same forms of their existing products until little by little, their market share goes away. And then eventually, every other company is just going to pass them and Apple will be a forgotten company.

I'm not some crazy Apple blogger that dissects their every move. I have no insight into anything outside of what I read. But there was about 3% of me that bought into all the hate Then I remembered, I’ve heard this song and dance before. When the iPod came out, people thought it was a cool little niche product, but there’d be a million better copycats that would eventually just take away Apple’s market share. Didn’t happen, did it? We heard the same ripping months after their Mac books, iPhones, iPads. It was the same trashing over and over.

So my question: Is Apple is done?

Time To Blog

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I think some people are born with a small amount of ability to write, and that grows to a point where you just have to write. I know plenty of people who hate to write. I don’t get it. And they don’t get why I enjoy to write.

I’ve always hated grammar. I like to write how I think and speak. Who cares if you put a comma in a wrong spot?

I’ve always hated to proofread my own writing. Whenever I re-read things I’ve written, I end up just deleting 80% of what I’ve written and it becomes a mess.

So what will this blog entail? Just my own random thoughts about anything I feel like. I’m not going to care if Merriam-Webster finds my writing completely against their codes. I’m not going to go back and proofread it. It’s just going to be whatever comes out of my head.

It’s always been a goal of mine to write a book. I’ve tried, and my laziness as always gotten the best of me. I’ve even tried to start a blog with friends. But even that got old. Then my wonderful fiance said to me "Just start a blog!"

This is going to fill everything I’ve wanted in a blog. I write what I want and how I want. I’m not going to give myself deadlines. It’s just going to be all my thoughts on one spot.

That’s my definition of writing.