1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: February 21-27, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dear Internet:

So, we know each other a little bit by now.  After all, this is the 16th Issue of Tendown - heck, just Last Week, you learned about my new car and my boyhood crush on Sonny Crockett, and how I'm not as fat yet as Kevin Smith. 

And since we know each other a little bit, probably you're aware of my twin pet peeves: compulsory flag salute and poor public restroom etiquette.  This week saw the return of both.  So that's how we'll start our look back at the cultural happenings of the past 7 days (just last night I thought I should have named this Sundown as opposed to Tendown - cause it's Sunday, it's a countdown, and it marks the end of the cultural week.  Sundown - get it?).  Let's get some Tendown!

First: I Just Ate a Whole Bag of Chips

I think I have Asperger's Syndrome

My lady type friend thinks that eventually I will reveal to her that I've been diagnosed with such - I haven't - but I'm...51/49 in favor that I have it.  I'll probably continue to ignore that conclusion, because I'm 39 and haven't the energy to join the ranks of the differently abled, but I fit the profile pretty solidly. 

I mention that here because, while my brain completely locks up and I'm flooded with terror in social situations, I always enjoyed being with my grandparents when I was a boy; my grandmother would make me graham crackers and milk and fried hamburger patties - and my grandfather would take me to the games - we went to see the Niners (we always won, which was curious given how little that occurred in the late 70s) and the Giants (it seems unlikely that I saw Jim Barr lose both ends of a twi-night doubleheader in '79, but it's in my brain nonethless).  It was at my first Giants game (night game at Candlestick against the Reds in '78) that I was first confronted with the idea of the "other" - that people existed outside of my conception of them; we arrived a little late and were on the concourse getting polish sausage (I can still taste the sesame seeds from the bun and feel the snap of the gulden's mustard on my lips) when Cincinnati got a couple of baserunners in the top of the 1st, "The Reds are runnin!" - a dude excitedly uttered as he made his way from the concession line.  It was in that second that I processed a thought which had never occurred to me - that there were people who weren't Giants fans.  I spent the rest of the game (the part where I wasn't eating or freezing half to death) extrapolating that thought into the rest of my life - I loved the Giants unconditionally, my first gift was a 1970 autographed team ball procured by my mother's sister (subsequently destroyed along with every other damn thing I owned in a house fire in the mid 80s) before I was born, and a world of my creation would not have included any Cincinnati Reds fans. 

But here he was - a Reds fan.  An adult man in a white t-shirt and a Red cap cheering for Joe Morgan.  And against my Giants.  This was not my idea. 

And if that wasn't my idea - that meant that the world was not my own creation - my Cartesian doubt about the existence of a world outside my head was shattered - I was, with, every tangy bite of the sausage, cast into a world larger than my sense of it.  The healthy response, one assumes, is to engage with that reality - I've never really been able to do that - instead retreating as deeply inside as I could go, to a place where only Giants fans are allowed to live.

Even more viscerally startling, if not as existentially significant, was a trip to watch the Harlem Globetrotters at the Cow Palace (I think the Trotters eked that one out - that's the benefit of choosing that as my initial hoops experience rather than going to a Golden St. game) less for the actual game - than for the experience in the men's room.  The Cow Palace, in the late 1970s, did not have individual urinals.  Instead, it had a man trough - a bathtub like structure in the middle of the men's room, in which a group of encircled men would, standing shoulder to shoulder - do their business. 

I was unprepared for such a dong laden halftime. 

My primary takeaway from that evening was a lifelong dislike of public restrooms - not to the point of avoidance, as a life in the workforce which I have chosen makes that impractical - but instead, I've become a signatory of a very simple piece of etiquette with which, in my experience, most men (perhaps who have shared similar experiences to my Globetrotter halftime - say in the military or in a federal penitentiary) concur - that a men's room is an experience that, if it must be shared, should consist of as little talking as an elevator or a Benedictine monastery.  I want you talking to me in a men's room about as much as I want you urinating on my shoes.  Just stare straight ahead and go on about your day.

I've noticed just in the past couple of years, with the increase in hands free phone use - that every now and again a student (as that's who I share most of my public restroom encounters with, students) will appear to be talking to me (or Talking to No One, which is a good title for a book by a guy with Asperger's Syndrome who lectures for a living) but instead be on the phone.  I keep my dislike of this practice to myself.  But I note it and make the appropriate gradebook adjustments (jokes, I tell the jokes).

This week, a particularly brutal week in the most demanding stretch of my professional life, I stood alone at the furthest urinal from the door in the downstairs men's room at my institution - when a student walked in and set up shop three urinals down, a safe and manageable distance. 

We wordlessly continued doing what men do without acknowledging that each other existed, when, without any provocation - in full voice - he said "I just ate a whole bag of chips!"

Yeah, don't do that.

My first dude apologizing for an odor that I am not noticing....

My second thought...oh, yeah, he's on the phone. 

By the time I washed up (that's hygeine, son!) and left he had continued with his conversation, so it was clear what the circumstance was, but that thoroughly out of nowhere, I had the experience of hearing "I just ate a whole bag of chips" in a men's room was the thing that happened this week that had the most impact on me - so that's how we start Tendown.  After the jump - we'll talk about compulsory flag salute and all the rest of the happenings from the past 7 days.

TBOR Athlete of the Month - February 2010 (Plus 1991 Recap)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Drew Brees.  Runners-Up: Alex Ovechkin, Bode Miller, Kim Yu-Na

Garret Hartley had maybe the best SB a kicker ever had and got my texted in vote for MVP; but I've got Brees's SB 12th all time for SB QB performances, and that gets him the win. 

He joins Peyton Manning, who won last month, in the race for TBOR Athlete of the Year.

Last month, I started uploading the archives with the full 1990 tally.  Here's 1991 (The AP Winner was Michael Jordan)

1991 Athlete of the Year - Michael Jordan

January - Thurman Thomas (Chris Zorich, Marcus Allen, Matt Bahr)
February - Stacey Augmon (Jimmy Jackson, Dominique Wilkins, Scott Skiles)
March - Brett Hull (Oliver Taylor, Sergei Bubka, Christian Laettner)
April - Roger Clemens (Hakeem Olajuwon, Ian Woosnam, Magic Johnson)
May - Mario Lemieux (Nolan Ryan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson)
June - Michael Jordan (Monica Seles, Scott Erickson, Barry Larkin)
July - Steffi Graf (Cal Ripken, Ian Baker Finch, Dennis Martinez)
August - John Daly (Mike Powell, Fred McGriff, Carl Lewis)
September - Jimmy Connors (Marshall Faulk, Barry Bonds, Chuck Knoblauch)
October - Jack Morris (Alejandro Pena, Kirby Puckett, Steve Avery)
November - Desmond Howard (Michael Jordan, Barry Sanders, Guy Forget)
December - Emmitt Smith (Kevin Willis, Bobby Hebert, Joey Mullen)

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, February 14-20, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dear Internet:

Hi.  I'm Jim and this is the 15th Issue of the Weekly Tendown; Last Week, Sarah Palin wrote on her hand; Peyton Manning threw the biggest interception in football history; and Hollywood Week from American Idol was better than the national touring company of A Chorus Line - what - what do you suppose we'll talk about this week?

First: Tiger Woods Was a Big Supporter of Waterboarding.

The country stopped this week for 15 minutes.  Four networks, all the cable news channels, every sportstalk radio program in the country - they all went live with the Tiger Woods statement on Friday in which he confessed to war crimes.

It was a startling fall from grace and I hope, once he apologizes to the public and goes through a personal journey of self-exploration where, hand in hand, he will walk with his spirit guide, that he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and sentenced to play the rest of his life from the ladies tees at the Pelham Park public course in the Bronx.  Perhaps that seems harsh, but his use of notes instead of just speaking from the heart gave his statement the ring of inauthenticity that I just don't care for from my war criminals.  I need my heart talk.  I need Tiger's heart to reach out to my heart and caress it, slowly but confidently, then with increased intensity until it builds to a feverish crescendo of hot heart on heart spurtgasmic pleasure.  Mmmmm.  Oh - wait - I have a voicemail.  It's one of the new google "pimp my blog" accessories - you can leave me a voicemail right here at TBOR.  Let's see who it is:

Hey.  This is Tiger.  Can you please take my name off your blog?  My wife is going through my RSS feeds.  Thanks.

I just want to walk through this. 

Sunday, the former Vice President of the United States said, on ABC, "I was a big supporter of waterboarding."  Now, waterboarding's torture, by all international precedent (including our prosecuting the Japanese after WWII).  And Harpers identified specifically what US law it is that Cheney confessed this week to breaking.  Presumably, principled conservatives, who are now arguing that, while civilian courts were used to try suspected terrorists during the Bush Administration - that doing so now is a sign of terrible, near treasonous appeasment during the Obama Administration - presumably principled conservatives would say that Dick Cheney should face a military tribunal for his confessed actions.

If only there had a been a gathering this week of the very most principled conservatives to test the theory.

Cheney, like Bob Hope making an unannounced walk on to the Carson show during a San Diego zoo spot in 1977, magically appeared at CPAC this week to "thunderous applause". Not everyone at CPAC viewed Cheney's statements with such equanimity, Bob Barr, who just fifteen years ago was as red as a red state congressman could be, said "waterboarding is torture" and was resoundingly jeered, almost as if he had said "evolution is real."

(You see this poll from this week?  30% of Texans think people and dinosaurs lived at the same time).

Actually, I don't hate Cheney for this - I didn't anticipate that a debate over "is torture ethical" should be part of our national discussion, but clearly it should be.  That it's not isn't his fault - Cheney and the conservatives are very clearly taking a position that torture should be part of our prosecution of the war on terror (and perhaps normal criminal procedure; I don't know, I'd be interested in just how much big government conservatives believe in; how much power they want the government to have in criminal investigation.  The theme at CPAC this week was the liberal assault on the Constitution (Simple Jack used the word cancer). And as half of the Bill of Rights specifically speak to the limits on the power of government in its criminal investigative role, probably someone should ask them to reconcile these views).  What we need is another political party - one to the left of the Republicans, to challenge this view about torture - maybe we could have a clash of ideas about who we are, what we stand for, what are the American principles for which we continue to fight trillion dollar wars to uphold and defend.

Instead of that, we made Tiger put on the hair shirt this week.

Because that's who had to answer for his crimes.  Tiger Woods.

Some people thought he was sincere.  Others did not.  A thought commonly expressed by the sports media industrial complex was from the SF Chronicle; which offered that Tiger was still a "control freak" and if he wanted to prove that he was really trying to change, he could start by skipping the Masters.

One way to understand a society is how it manifests disapproval of behavior.

So - Tiger Wooods had sexual intercourse with women other than the woman with whom he is supposed to have sexual intercourse.  And the penalty for that is he should miss the Masters.  Got it.

What if he had only gotten to second base?

Let's say that on Deadspin tomorrow is a photograph of Vijay Singh feeling up an Applebee's waitress.

What should be the penalty - that he, say, has to sit out Doral?  What if we just penalize him some strokes?  Golf's good like that - maybe he has to give up 3 shots a side in his next tournament.

Tiger's not a priest or a politician - he's a pitchman.  He's not Larry Craig, taking a wide stance in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall after a career of anti-gay legislation; the bar for "it's not about the sex, it's about the hypocrisy" has to be a little higher than "he wasn't getting blown in any of those Buick commercials - I have been deceived and demand recompense!"

Or maybe it doesn't.  I don't know.  I don't make the rules; I just write Tendown.  This week, a former Vice-President confessed (without any enhanced interrogation, just freely of his own will) to torture and the response to his subsequent public appearance was tremendous applause - and a golfer went live on every channel on your television to apologize for having sex.  That's where we are today.  Right there.

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown.

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, February 7-13, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dear Internet,

Hi.  I'm Jim and this is the 14th issue of the Tendown, your weekly look at the best cultural happenings of the previous seven days; Last Week, I pit the 44 Super Bowls against their corresponding 44 US Presidents.  Most shocking result - a victory for Nixon, which even I didn't see coming.  It was the longest and most productive (not like a cough, but like - look how much product there is, which I picture myself saying while wearing a paper hat and a nametag and smiling fearfully at a supervisor) Tendown thusfar.  I like Tendown, it's the opposite of proven blog technique (multiple little posts as opposed to one gelatinous one) but I prefer to write in essay form.  I keep threatening myself to move back to dialogue based pieces, which is in my wheelhouse (the most recent gimmick, used in the 2006-7 versions of my online career, was that I'd have debates with a voice in my head).  The value is that it's more entertaining than my essay writing, as if I have any real writing strength its in a 2 man rhythm (that's what she said; see, I told you I was funny!) but that requires a lack of self-censorship just not in keeping with my attempt to at least marginally be a public intellectual; I enjoy the occasional wildly off color reference, but I'm a soon to be 40 year old college instructor with a +1 corporate health insurance plan; it not only seems imprudent to make the same types of sketch comedy jokes I wrote two decades ago, its maybe a little creepy.

Funny.  But maybe a little creepy.  That's me and this is the best thing that happened over the past week: 

First: The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations.
If there was ever a proof required of the "a picture is worth a thousand words" aphorism, here you go.

For all the words that have been written (and the many, many more that will be) about The Decline and Fall of the American Empire - none is as clarifying as this demonstration that, in 2010, in the middle of two unending, unwinnable wars and the worst economy in over a half century, the presumptive leader of the Republican Party has the intellectual horsepower and academic temperament of a tenth grader who's sleeping through American history.

 David Broder wrote this week about her "pitch perfect populism."  Joe Klein wrote this week about the "mystic chords" that she strikes.  Frank Rich wrote this week about her message gaining traction.

None of these pieces really argue that she's qualified to be President or that her ideas will alter the trajectory of what appears to be an inexorable slide.  Instead, the throughline seems to be that a woman who needs to write "lift American spirit" on her hand to remember that very nuanced policy point is to whom the American electorate is gravitating.  (And here's the important point).  Not in spite of actions like this but because of them.  The argument made this week was that who we want is a woman who writes notes on her hand. 

We like her because she's dumb.  That's the argument.  We like Sarah Palin because she's dumb. 

On this week's Office, Michael Scott said "sometimes the smartest people don't think at all."  Which sounds like something that might be slipped into one of Sarah Palin's speeches.

Not that we'd know that from her upcoming Florida appearances, because the media is barred from attending.

Of all the baseless charges Rush aims at Obama, the idea that he's not bright is the one where I most wonder how even his most ardent devotees think he's not full of crap:

I think this is the first time in his life that there's not a professor around to turn his C into an A, or to write the law review article for him he can't write. He is totally exposed. There is nobody to make it better. I think he's been covered for, all his life.

Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law....writes crib notes on her hand.  Okay.

Emerson said "the mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself." 

Perhaps that, and not the high fructose corn syrup, is the cause of our obesity epidemic. 

That's the best thing that happened this week.  After the jump - the rest of the Tendown!

44 Super Bowls vs. 44 Presidents

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From last Sunday's Tendown, just so I can give it a separate post - it's 44 Super Bowls vs. 44 Presidents!

I had the idea to organize the Tendown around Super Bowl MVPs v. Presidents matchups (because Obama is the 44th President and this is the 44th Super Bowl)

And then, Friday night, I found this. Son of a bitch. I should have planned better for this. Go there, it's where you want to go. He beat me to it. Grrrrrrr. But I decided to plow my way through it anyway. Because even though I'm teaching 8 courses, trying to sell my house, buy a car and coordinate moving two households into one - I feel a need to bury myself in more work. Least you can do is read it. (Dude got a book deal; my list is better.)

Here's how I'd analyze the 44 matchups, I'll note where my outcome is different than the one given on that dude's site, to which you should still go. Grrr....

1. Washington v. SB1 Pack v. Chiefs - Winner: Washington
-Both more important for where they stood historically than for their content - but Washington wins because SB1 was not recognized at the time as of real moment; it wasn't seen by the men involved as the embarking of a cataclysmic event - but the origin of the United States was not like that; those involved saw themselves as doing great things - things of moment - things of import. The stakes weren't just high in retrospect like SB1; they were high at the time. Washington wins. Plus, he would tie his men to a tree and beat them when they threatened to desert during the War, and I'm pretty sure Lombardi did the same thing to Paul Hornung. Washington wins. Presidents 1-0

2. Adams v. SB2 Pack v. Raiders - Winner: SB2 (the site picked Adams)
-SB2 was a dog game, but it continued to establish the greatness of the dynastic Packers (and Oakland was a sneaky all time great SB loser) Adams was a failed Presidency; he supported the Alien and Sedition Acts which made it a crime to criticize, well, Adams (freedom of speech, despite looking nice in the Bill of Rights, wasn't enforced the way we think of it until the 20th century; think of all the supression of corporate ideas which must have occurred before then) and was the only President in the first 5 not to win election to a second term. SB2 wins. Tied.

3. Jefferson v. SB3 Jets v. Colts - Winner: SB3 (the site picked Jefferson)

-Incredibly difficult, just incredibly difficult. The Louisiana Purchase transformed the nature of the country, both in size and in the use of government in that fashion (Marbury v. Madison also takes place during the Jefferson Administration - but that really worked in opposition to Jeffersonian beliefs) but the Embargo Acts were a pretty good fail; if I was evaluating the totality of Jefferson's career, he'd blow by Joe Willie based on the Declaration of Independence and the articulation of the separation of church and state (and dude created his own Bible by ripping apart all of the elements of magic, as Jesus as mortal philosopher was the only element he could sign off on). But SB3 transformed the Super Bowl - the AFL win turned it from what was basically just a souped up world title game into the Super Bowl; further, Namath's guarantee and the firestorm it creates is not only the template for the modern day Super Bowl hype week, but also ushers in the modern athlete into professional football, and the modern athlete v. the establishment is the throughline of my entire sports narrative. Jefferson finished 7th on the CSPAN ranking of Presidents, but, oh man...SB3 wins. Super Bowls 2-1

4. Madison v. SB4: Chiefs v. Vikes -Winner Madison (site picked the game)
-Another hard call, SB4 is a forgettable game outside of Kansas City and most of Madison's accomplishments are pre-Administration, as the primary architect of the Constitution. But he served two terms and while the War of 1812 ended in a draw - it did lead to the first peace with England in 40 years, peace that remains today. Let's go Madison in a nailbiter over the mic'd up Stram. Tied.

5. Monroe v. SB5: Colts v. Cowboys -Winner: Monroe
-SB5 was probably the worst of the SBs, low scoring and plagued by turnovers, just a sloppy, feckless game - Monroe wasn't lots better, the Monroe Doctrine is jingoistic and would be used as pretext for American intervention in Latin America later in the century, the Missouri Compromise came in 1820 which was patchwork on the fundamental structural flaw in the country, the cancer of slavery. But 11 turnovers! 11 turnovers is an epic fail, no one would call an 11 turnover game the Era of Good Feelings. So it's an easy win for Monroe. 3-2

6. JQ Adams v. SB6: Cowboys v. Doplphins - Winner: SB 6 (site picked Adams)
-Largely harmless, Adams and his dad are the only one term Presidents in the first 7; his Administration's a fail - SB6 is just for Cowboy fans, I've got Staubach's performance as the 18th best by a QB in SB history and that provides the edge for the game. JQA did say that the historian must know no country, and I use that as part of my "it's not my job to stand here and chant U-S-A for the next 3 months of your lives" history professor rap - but he wasn't Roger Staubach. Tied

7. Jackson v. SB7: Dolphins v. Redskins - Winner: Jackson
-Jackson was a populist, his Administration the origin of the modern Democratic Party - and that cuts both ways; his supporters included non-property owners, as the American political system began to be opened up to those beyond the wealthiest - but with that populism came a campaign predicated on anti-intellectualism, came Indian Removal, came the defiance of Worcester v. Georgia when the Supreme Court restricted Georgia's power to have jurisdiction over tribal lands and Jackson supported Georgia's refusal to follow that decision. But he was able to back South Carolina down in the Nullification Crisis and fought the Bank of the United States explicitly due to its concentrating wealth in too many hands. SB7 had Garo Yepremian throwing that pass. Now, we'd think that, as the culmination of the perfect Dolphins season it would have an epic feel - but the Dolphins opponents that season had a .367 winning percentage and they were not viewed as a monster champion. Jackson is far, far, far from perfect, and if a Native American wanted to gently raise a hand in disagreement I don't want to be at the lectern opposite in the debate over this game - but I'm gonna say he takes it. 4-3.

8. Van Buren v. SB8: Dolphins v. Vikes - Winner SB8 (site picked MVB, this is clear error)
Van Buren got hit with the Panic of '37 and was unable (to be fair, largely for reasons beyond his office) to respond - his Administration was crippled from the outset. Similar to SB2, the game is largely just important for reflecting the dominance of the back-to-back champions. I've got Griese's game here as the 28th best in SB QB history (passer rating of 110.1) and that beats MVB, who CSPAN ranks as the 31st best President ever. Tied

9. Harrison v. SB9: Steelers v. Vikes - Winner SB9
Harrison served a dozen days and died. SB9 went the full 60 minutes and a couple of the Steelers steroid laden offensive lineman are still with us. That's enough. Super Bowls 5-4

10. Tyler v. SB10: Steelers v. Cowboys - Winner SB10
Tyler was the first Manifest Destiny President; states rights - pro-slavery, let's take Texas from Mexico and make it a slave state to increase the power of the slaveholding south. He's a full on bad president, without redemption. CSPAN has him 35th. SB X was the first Steeler/Cowboy game with Swann making those catches. I've got Bradshaw's game as the 15th best QB performance in SB history, and this was the Steelers best team of their dynasty. This one's an absolute blowout. Super Bowls 6-4

11. Polk v. SB11: Raiders v. Vikes - Winner SB 11 (site went Polk, and for the same reasons I pick against him)
Polk invaded Mexico. We started the Mexican American War solely for expansionist reasons, to kill Mexicans and take their stuff. Manifest Destiny was the politics of the day and Polk ran with it - he also nearly caused a war with England when we fought over Oregon's borders with Canada. We forced a sale from Mexico of half a million square miles of territory and the only reason we didn't take all of Mexico was a desire not to incorporate their population into our country. The Raiders won SB11. Only guy who got hurt there was Tarkenton. The only Spot Resolutions requested were to determine If Old Man Willie Brown stepped out of bounds on that pick. No points for imperialism at The Blog of Revelation. Super Bowls 7-4.

12. Taylor v. SB12: Cowboys v. Broncos - Winner SB12 (site went Taylor)
Taylor got run over by Henry Clay in the slave debate; he was opposed to the Compromise of 1850 which included vigorous Fugitive Slave Act enforcement, which is a point in his favor, but he didn't have the political strength to stop it. The Broncos got run over by a similarly evil force - the Dallas Cowboys. You'd want either side to put up a better fight - but Taylor's fight killed him and Craig Morton went on to live a fruitful and productive life. I'll take the game and now it's Super Bowls 8-4 and the Presidency is in a good sized early second quarter hole.

13. Fillmore v. SB13: Steelers v. Cowboys - Winner SB13
Fillmore, like Taylor before him, was impotent in trying to navigate all sides of the slave issue; SB13 was a terrific game, Bradshaw's performance was the 8th best by a SB QB (and Staubach was 23rd, he and Bradshaw both had QB ratings over 100 and was the second best QB'd game in SB history). An all-time great game and another blowout for the game. Super Bowls 9-4

14. Pierce v. SB14: Steelers v. Rams - Winner SB14
Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which furthered our march to war and spent his term trying to get Cuba from Spain to serve as a slave colony. As the country was being torn apart by slavery the American presidency furthered that tearing with their explicitly expansionist policies. CSPAN has him 40th. The Steelers concluded their empire building by taking out the upstart Rams.  Super Bowls 10-4

15. Buchanan v. SB15: Raiders v. Eagles - Winner SB15 (the site picked Buchanan)
Dred Scott was decided in Buchanan's term, and it was a decision he played a role in generating, as he believed it would give him political cover in the slavery debate. He was also after whom the school in Welcome Back Kotter was named. For that, CSPAN has him ranked last and Epstein's mother wrote a note to get him excused from class. Plunkett had the 5th best QB'd SB ever here, he had a rating of 145 with 12+yards/attempt. The Raiders upset the Eagles nearly three decades ago - but there's no upset here. Super Bowls 11-4

16. Lincoln v. SB16: Niners v. Bengals - Winner: Lincoln
Aw, hell. This game is no fun anymore. Look, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, which is wrong - and was moved by circumstance into the equal rights position he wound up taking. But, you know, considering the context of the surrounding Presidents, the guy that saved the Union and ended slavery is ranked first by CSPAN for a reason. 16 is my Niners; it's the Goal Line Stand! Our first ever title - my first title in anything ever. This is the toughest matchup since #3, but, with malice toward none and chairty to all, I turn to the better angels of my nature and pick Abe. I'm sorry. I don't like making this pick. I want to stop writing now. Super Bowls 11-5

17. Johnson v. SB17: Redksins v. Dolphins - Winner SB17
I hate SB 17. The strike was that year, and I was coming off my Niners winning the year before (and the other Bay Area team, who I also rooted for, winning the year before that - I even liked the Steelers in the late 70s when picking between Steelers and Cowboys which it felt like all mankind was required to do from my elementary school perspective, so for me the Super Bowl was just nothing but cream cheese) and I just disliked the whole Thiesmann/Riggins/Hogs thing. But Johnson got impeached and while it was political, his lack of interest in the moral force of Reconstruction set the template for the next 70 years of Presidential disinterest in racial issues. Hey, slavery was over - what else do you want from us? If you wanted to identify with America, why do you decide to be Black? Johnson was a disaster. Super Bowls 12-5

18. Grant v. SB18: Raiders v. Redksins - Winner SB18 (site went Grant - this has to be a hidden anti-Raider bias, much like the Hall of Fame)
Grant's Administration was the forerunner for the corrupt Presidency with numerous scandals; there's been an upward revision of Grant's effectiveness in recent scholarship (getting us through the Panic of '73, maintaining Reconstruction) - but SB18 is Marcus Allen slicing through the Redskins defense. Close your eyes, you can see it right now. Hells yeah. For a Trojan fan with a secondary attachment to the Raiders, Marcus Allen was my favorite non-Niner ever; I rooted for him from the time he was Charles White's blocking back. And my Niners got screwed in the NFC Championship on a phantom pass interference call. And I didn't like the Redskins. And I won a ton of cash taking the Raiders plus 3, like 20 bucks, my biggest score ever as a 13 year old sports fan. Sure, Grant won the Civil War - but that was a previous season and we're about the here and now. Super Bowls 13-5.

19. Hayes v. SB19: Niners v. Dolphins - Winner SB19
The biggest mismatch yet. Hayes was nicknamed Rutherfraud as his election was part of a deal to end Reconstruction which began the period of segregation in the south (which Tom Tancredo apparently laments the passing of, given his stated wish for the return of literacy tests) and SB19 is my favorite SB ever. It's like picking among your children (I assume) trying to pick which of the 5 Niner SB is my favorite - but there was a lot of Marino press in the run up to this one, Joe slid in the mind of the mainstream sports media into second place - and it was so much fun to win going away a game that everyone said would be a nailbiter. Also, pregame included OJ Simpson predicting a surprise bustout performance from Roger Craig - and its that on the nose prognostication for which the Juice is now best known. Probably my age at the time (14) plays the biggest determining factor in this - but this is probably the Niner team to which I had the most emotional attachment. Incredibly underappreciated historically - I have this team second among all SB teams in NFL history and Joe's game here the 4th best performance. Super Bowls 14-5

20. Garfield v. SB20 - Bears v. Pats - Winner: SB20 (site picked Garfield)
Garfield was the second President assassinated in office. And he loved lasagne. The Bears are my pick as the greatest NFL team of all time, and that seems to be consensus (or at least plural) opinion; this game was, well, you know what the game was - but I thought the criticism of Super Bowls as bad games in this stretch was always error, that we were seeing some historic teams (back to back, the Niners and Bears went 18-1, I think they're the two best football teams ever) and watching the Bears be historic far outstrips Garfield's six months in office. And this Bear team taught us that runnin' the ball is like makin' romance. This isn't close. Super Bowls 15-5.

21. Arthur v. SB21- NYG v. Broncos - Winner: Arthur (site picked the game, but screw that noise, Paco)
Okay - Phil Simms was 22 of 25, and I have that as the third best SB QB performance ever, and it's Elway's first SB, so that's something too. And CSPAN has Arthur rated 32nd - but here again is where context matters - the Giants were a clear step backward from the all time great teams the previous two seasons - whereas in this Presidential desert, each one more pointless than the previous - here's Arthur backing the passing of the Pendleton Act, working to lower the tariff and modernizing the navy. He isn't ending Reconstruction or getting impeached or getting shot or enjoying the fruits of the Gilded Age - he signed the Pendleton Act! And dig the crazy facial hair! It's Arthur! Like Dudley Moore! Who didn't love them some Dudley Moore! If there's any man who wants to demean the memory of the late, great Dudley Moore I'd like to see him have the guts to stand in front of me and say it! Super Bowls 15-6

22. Cleveland v. SB22 - Redskins v. Broncos - Winner: SB
Cleveland had a largely pointless first term, Haymarket Square was 1886; we're in the Gilded Age and there's growing worker resentment of the exploitation by the monied classes and Cleveland's pro-business but largely staying out of the way. Meanwhile, its the football game that suddenly gets progressive as Doug Williams wins the MVP and the Redskins for all I know still might be scoring in that second quarter. A blowout. 16-6, Super Bowls.

23. BHarrison v. SB23 - Niners v. Bengals - Winner - SB
The only single second, in all of the Niners five Super Bowls, where I didn't think we were going to win was when the Bengals ran that kick back. We had not played well, Steve Wallace got knocked out in the first series and our offensive rhythm was never replaced. But you know what happened; Jerry had 200+ yards receiving and JT caught the game winner just before the gun. My single favorite SB moment. Harrison signed the Sherman Act, which he supported - theoretically it could have been used to bust up trusts - instead it wound up as an anti-union act in practice; it wasn't until the passage of the Clayton Act that Congress was able to really get serious about regulating business. 'Member Jerry on that last drive? Just carving the Bengal secondary up? Bill's last game - Bill's last game! Niners. Goddamn right. 17-6

24. Cleveland, Part 2 v. SB 24 Niners v. Broncos - Winner - SB (site picked Cleveland)
Cleveland stood full on with the dying Gilded Age, he responded to the Panic of '93 (which closed 600 banks, we had 20% unemployment, there were marches on Washington) by breaking the Pullman Strike, ordering troops to Chicago and locking up Eugue Debs. It was a battle between exactly the type of laissez faire that Fox News says if we try to move away from we're socialist - and workers trying to assert their human rights. There's nothing about laissez faire required by democracy - too many Americans think of business and the military as the securers of their freedom and prosperity - but a hundred twenty years ago, in the factories, in the streets, in the fields - Americans stood up to the machine. Many of them got squashed, squashed by Cleveland here, but they paved the way for change. Speaking of squashed...55 TO 10!! SUCK ON IT BRONCOS! SUCK ON IT!! The most dominant performance in SB history, maybe the most dominant team sport championship performance in the past half century. Against Grover Cleveland?  Please. SB 18-6.

25. McKinley v. SB25 - NYG v. Bills - Winner - McKinley (site went SB, as will everyone else but me)
This is my least favorite Super Bowl; I really thought up until the second the NFC Title game ended that the Niners were about to win their 3rd straight - and it felt like a death, Joe got knocked out, effectively ending his Niner career - Roger fumbled - effectively ending his Niner career - it happened so lightning fast that it was the most devastating football loss of my life; I don't think there's a close second (and the Raiders lost to Buffalo like 49-3 earlier in the day). And it was Gulf War SB - so there was the Whitney Houston National Anthem and all the flag waving - and I was (correctly, 'cause we're still goddamn there) completely opposed to that war - seeing it as expansionist...sort of like the Spanish American War when McKinley invaded Cuba on behalf of United Fruit. McKinley's no prize, he conflated god and war just like the Super Bowl did, but I didn't have to watch McKinley alone on my couch for 3 hours on a Sunday night my junior year of undergrad.  Hated it. Plus, Glee is set at William McKinley High in Lima, Ohio, which is the town where I did my law school clerkship. SB up 18-7

26. TRoosevelt v. SB26 - Redskins v. Bills - Winner - Roosevelt
Teddy's overrated. He was expansionist, he busted up fewer trusts than Taft, he permitted the growth of US Steel, and his understanding of conservation of land was more about land use than it was land preservation. He's 4th on the CSPAN list and would be lower on mine - but he supported the Hepburn Act and in his second term (the way Presidents sometimes do) more loudly proclaimed the need to reign in business; it's a mistake to think of President TR as really "progressive" (losing candidate TR came back later as the furthest left on the general election ballot) but in context, he was still Teddy Roosevelt. And Mark Rypien beat the Bills in 26, so it's not much of a game. 2 straight for the Presidents and its 18-8.

27. Taft v. SB27 - Cowboys v. Bills - Winner: Taft (I've forgotten, I assume the site picked the game)
3 straight for the Presidents - Taft's a little underrated, he broke up more trusts than did Roosevelt, but not nearly as much as the now growing progressive movement wanted him to break - but too much for the pro-business crowd. Whether it was Payne-Aldrich (pro business) or Mann-Elkins (pro regulation) Taft took political hits as he tried to navigate the issue. But he supported the 8 hour day, worked for laws regulating the railroads, and supported what would become the graduated income tax. The game's just another Buffalo loss. It's Taft and it's not that close. 18-9

28. Wilson v. SB28 - Cowboys v. Bills - Winner: Wilson
Wilson's as overrated as TR; racist, more pro business than Taft (and more than the version of Teddy who ran against Wilson in 1912, calling for sweeping regulation of business) - that was the tenor of the election of 1912 - which one of the 3 candidates could put forth a more progressive platform; that's how the US responded to the excesses of the first Gilded Age - the economic collapse of 2009 could well have been viewed as the end of the second Gilded Age - but there is no progressive movement - there has been a massive, unprecedented, really, wealth transfer to the banks - there's been a huge corporate crackdown that seems to have stopped real health reform - the oligarchy has its own tv news network that has served to create a new Know-Nothingism for a new millennium. In many ways - the future looked brighter in 1912 than it will look in 2012. We got the Federal Reserve and the Clayton Act, the Farm Loan Act - Brandeis on the Supreme Court - workman's comp, child labor laws, and Wilson supported women's suffrage. WWI is a black mark (funny how things move; Wilson's become a piƱata for conservatives, but it used to just be the lefties like me who criticized our involvement in WWI) but he's only up against the 4th straight Buffalo loss, each one uglier than the previous. Easy win for the Presidents and now its 18-10.  4 straight.

29. Harding v. SB29 - Niners v. Chargers - Winner: SB
-Harding ranked 38th in the CSPAN poll; there's no one who doesn't consider his Presidency a disaster. Meanwhile, I attended pregame festivities in Miami, winning a trivia contest and getting to call "the Catch" in an NFL Films booth - my Niners were favored by 18.5 - I gave the points, gave 2 and a half touchdowns in the Super Bowl - did it heavily and did it without breaking a sweat and covered. I think the Niners will win again one day, but 15 years later this marked the end of the dynasty. 19-10.

30. Coolidge v. SB30 - Cowboys v. Steelers - Winner SB
Like Harding before and Hoover after, Coolidge was part of the laissez faire Republican rollback from what was perceived as Progressive Era excess - regulations were vetoed or muted - corporations felt untethered in their speculative investing and lending - and you know what's coming in 1929. Capitalism's best friend is regulation - Fox News doesn't understand that - but the thing that kept the United States from really becoming an actual European style socialist country with a strong and vibrant social welfare program is that regulations were placed on business that were sufficient to pacify the anger that came out of the Gilded Age - and then would come again after the Depression (the Wars helped do both of those things also). Coolidge sucks - and this, the last Dallas win of the era, wasn't a great game - but I liked the number and successfully took the Steelers getting 13.5 which makes it a win for football. 20-10.

31. Hoover v. SB31 - Packers v. Pats - Winner SB
I don't like Brett Favre, as I've written before, but, you know - Hoover's initial response to the Great Depression was that the government had no role to play in assistance, that it was more of a matter for charities. This was error; Keynes would establish a better model for economic understanding, and the United States would never again face the sorts of economic catastrophes which had plagued it since its founding.  Sort of like Salk developing a polio vaccine, Keynes kept America out of the iron lung.  Thank God we'd never forget those lessons.  Nope.  Never forget.  Nossirree.  No chance that would ever happen.  SB 21-10

32. FDR v. SB32 - Broncos v. Pack - Winner - FDR
Come on. It's FDR. TVA, NRA, AAA, CCC, WPA, NLRA, Social Security, Eleanor speaking out for women and blacks, a worthwhile war won, of all things. On the other hand - Terrell Davis. 21-11

33. Truman v. SB33 - Broncos v. Falcons - Winner - SB (site went Truman, as will everyone else including me if I keep thinking about it)
This is hard; Truman was, to that date, the best President for Civil Rights other than Lincoln; he desegregated the military and started the Committee for Civil Rights; he helped rebuild Europe and he vetoed the pro business Taft-Hartley but had it overridden - Truman stood against Congress as they attempted tax cuts for the wealthy (taxes were enormously high, but that's what built the country post WW2 - the next time someone talks about the greatest generation coming home from the war and building the country - the answer is they could do that because we used to recognize taxes are how you pay for things). Truman's ranked 5th by the CSPAN poll and understandably so - on the other hand - Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the start of the Cold War. I went with Jackson despite the Trail of Tears - I went with TR and Wilson and didn't even mention internment with FDR or slavery with all of our founding father presidents, I am looking through the eyes of white western male privilege and don't deny it - but Hiroshima (and especially Nagasaki) is where I'm drawing the moral line. It's got to be someplace. Elway won his second Super Bowl here. I really disliked the game. But its SB 22-11

34. Ike v. SB34 - Rams v. Titans - Winner: Ike (site went the other way)
Great finish, with the Titans comeback on St Louis falling short at the gun. And Ike's got both Korea and Vietnam and was slow to act on Civil Rights. But eventually he helped enforce Brown v. Board of Ed., and he coined the term military industrial complex, which, after hegemony is probably the concept that best explains the modern United States. 22-12

35. JFK v. SB35 - Ravens v. Titans - Winner: Kennedy
Kennedy's 6th by the CSPAN poll and he's overrated - he escalated Vietnam and crawled on Civil Rights until he got near the end - but he didn't act as power looking to suppress the movements below the way Nixon would just a few years later - the civil rights, womens rights, and anti-War movements begin to coalesce at the end - and the most progressive government institution in our history, the Warren Court, really works in full flourish without any JFK interference. And goddamn was that Ravens/Giants game boring. 22-13.

36. LBJ v. SB36 - Pats v. Rams - Winner: LBJ (site mistakenly went the other way)
LBJ's got Vietnam, Vietnam was bad and Vietnam took him down - but he was maybe our best ever domestic President - Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Great Society, War on Poverty - the high water mark of economic justice in the history of this country occurs under LBJ. Vietnam is bad, and the Pats dynasty starts - but Medicare wins this one easily 22-14.

37. Nixon v. SB 37 - Bucs v. Raiders - Winner: Nixon (What????)
I invested solidly on the Raiders in this game, I made some of it back by a wishful flier on Jerry scoring a TD (which he did, late) but it was the most wrong I had ever been about a title game. Yes- Nixon had Vietnam and he was the authoritarian crackback on all of the progressive movements that I'm in favor of. Oh - and Watergate. Yeah, I know, Nixon's a bad guy. Except he had the EPA, and affirmative action, and didn't look to gut the gains made in the War on Poverty - domestically, we have not had a more progressive President than Richard Nixon since Richard Nixon. Yes, I know, I know - he's Nixon - I agree. But Jerry Rice lost the Super Bowl to a team from Tampa Bay. It's close - but you don't get to kick Dick Nixon around in this one. 22-15.

38. Ford v. SB38 Pats v. Panthers - Winner: SB
Ford had stagflation - SB38 had Brady and Delhomme throwing the ball all over the damn yard. I have Delhomme's losing performance as the 11th best QB SB game ever. Back and forth and a FG at the gun. Easy win for the game. 23-15

39. Carter v. SB39 Pats v. Eagles - Winner: SB
Carter had the Camp David accords but a lot of dead Indonesians under our propping up Suharto would question his pro-peace bonafides. Things did not go well for Carter. The game was hot - TO on one leg lighting up the Patriots - but it was Brady's best SB (and the last one I got right, taking Philly +7) and an easy win for the game. 24-15.

40. Reagan v. SB40: Steelers v. Seahawks - Winner SB (site disagreed, it's not close)
The death of the United States can be traced back to Reagan - one of the reasons I didn't kill Nixon was because he wasn't Reagan. Deregulation, supply side economics, the embrace of conservative Christianity, the erosion of civil liberties and the social safety net - those are all the elements that have gone into our 3 decade slide. Reagan would be on a very short list for most destructive men in American history. The Super Bowl was probably fixed. 25-15

41. GHW Bush v. SB41: Colts v. Bears - Winner: SB
Bush the first signed the ADA, but he was largely Reagan's third term, all of the harms began 8 years earlier continued under Bush and he also brought us the occupation of the Middle East that has helped bankrupt our country and engendered fanatical anti-American passion among much of the rest of the world. Peyton Manning did not play well in his first shot at a SB, but won over a crummy Chicago squad in a forgettable game. 26-15

42. Clinton v. SB42: NYG v. Pats - Winner SB
Great finish, obviously - and historically important - even with the loss I have this 18-1 Patriot team as the third best in SB history; it's what you want the SB to be - and Clinton was not without some domestic successes - but what he mainly did was complete the rebranding of the Democrats as our second corporate party - it's a mistake to ever look at the Democrats and see fire breathing leftists - but Clinton, with NAFTA, welfare reform, continued deregulation - really just was an effective Republican presidency - the wealthy got crazywealthy under Clinton, he was a businessman's best friend - and while I don't care who blew him, his sex scandal gave the Republicans cover to today's date - if you were to put the top 5 answers on the board and asked a random family playing the Feud, "name a President who lied" - Clinton is probably the top answer on the board. Weapons of Mass Destruction doesn't have the resonance of "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." - even in his second term, a term when historically those predisposed to moving left were able to - Clinton never broke ranks from his monied masters. I'ma registered Democrat, Clinton is, to date, the only successful Democratic President of my lifetime - but he isn't close here. SB 27-15

43. GW Bush v. SB43 Steelers v. Cards - Winner: SB43
A good game - at least from Harrison's hundred yard return on - Warner had the 12th best SB QB performance; we got a late TD pass and much excitement was had. CSPAN has Bush as our 36th best President and he is massively overrated at that number; the only other two term President within 10 slots of him is Nixon at 27th - when you're looking at "worst" you don't just pick WH Harrison who served a dozen days; he wasn't harmful, just irrelevant - I was as good a President as Tippecanoe. Bush is the worst President we've ever had, maybe the worst western leader there's ever been - he isn't competing with Super Bowls, we're entering a universe where he's competing with science fiction villains and characters from Norse mythology.  SB 28-15

44. Obama v. SB44: TBD
Gun to my head - there are 6 more years of the Obama Administration and we are far, far from determining his success or failure. The football game was good - special in that it provided more aid to New Orleans that did the previous Administration, Hartley may have had the best game for a placekicker in SB history and I have Brees ranked 12th in All Time SB QB performances.  The Saints aren't an all time team, I have them as the 38th best team in SB history - so, there's room for Obama to win the game, but the successes, while real, have been moderate, and the inability, given the numerical advantage, to press for economic justice is a potential deathblow.  We'll see in 2 or (I think) 6 years what the final score is.

So, that's every Super Bowl v. Every American President. Unsurprisingly, the less ugly and bloated of the two institutions wins.

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: Jan 31-Feb 6 2010 Super Sized Edition

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dear Internet,

Hi.  I'm Jim and this is the SuperSized 13th issue of The Weekly Tendown; last week, I talked about Obama slapping around some Republican congressmen, Tim Tebow not being so good at football, the conviction of Scott Roeder, and the end of Better off Ted.  What - what do you suppose we'll talk about this week?

              First: If Sugar's Bad For You, Why Did Jesus Make It Taste So Good?

Daily Kos, this week, commissioned a poll of self identified Republicans, among the results:

39% say Obama should be impeached
63% say Obama is a socialist
24% say Obama wants the terrorists to win
31% say Obama is a racist who hates white people
23% say their state should secede from the US
73% say openly gay people should not be allowed to teach in public schools
77% say the book of Genesis should be taught in public schools
31% say contraceptives should be outlawed

O'Reilly hit the poll for being biased, without explaining how it was the poll was methodologically flawed - but that's not the beef I'll pick with Bill - watch the clip - why would it be that Bill O'Reilly would criticize these findings?

Republicans think Obama's a socialist.  Republicans believe Obama's a racist.  Republicans believe Obama is on the side of the terrorists.

Now, why ever would they think such things?  Well, it took me all of five seconds to google Glenn Beck + socialism and come up with nearly 2 million hits, including this from last month where he took Julian Bond's correctly referring to Martin Luther King as a "critic of capitalism" and deduced that meant both King and Obama were "radical socialists" (it's telling that Simple Jack equates anything short of full throated laissez faire with radical socialism, and telling that, as literally every industrialized country on the planet has a more advanced social welfare state than we do - that as opposed to then associating "radical socialism" with, well, the normal behavior of everyone else for most of the past hundred years, he just pins it on totalitarian regimes and Democrats) - Beck's criticism of MLK Day as having replaced Washington and Lincoln's Birthdays didn't make any news cycle, which is testament to it being a drop in the deluge of "Obama is a socialist" talk that rains from the right.

While I'm picking on Simple Jack, here he is saying Obama's a "racist" who "hates white people."

And here's Limbaugh calling Obama "the greatest living example of a reverse racist."

Here's Hannity's studio audience voting that Obama should be tried for treason.

I wonder where anyone could have gotten the idea that Fox News endorses those viewpoints?

Hell, just this week Tom Tancredo opened up the Teabagger Convention by standing in a hotel in Nashville, Tennessee and saying that the reason the first African-American President in US history was elected was because we don't have literacy tests at the polls.

No, seriously.  But if the Daily Kos has a poll asking Republicans "should we bring back literacy tests as a qualification to vote' - and 43% say yes - O'Reilly will say the left is just making up stuff again. 

This element has been able to stay under the wire, but Parks and Recreation has been able to sneak in a progressive message or two this season; this week in a town hall meeting over the decision to privatize the snack concession at the city parks came the following citizen comment, "if sugar's bad for you, why did Jesus make it taste so good."

Those arguments, the volume of those arguments, and more importantly the corporate dollars which benefit from those arguments were able to carry the day in Pawnee, but they aren't a comedic construction - that's the level of debate from the right to which we've been subjected since the election of the first African American President in US History (and the first Democrat from above the Mason-Dixon Line elected since JFK).  Just this week, Simple Jack offered the following erudite deconstruction of the President's psyche:

He chose to use his name Barack for a reason -- to identify, not with America -- you don't take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical?

They're not serious minded people making serious minded concerns, they're McCarthy-ite hacks looking to line their pockets with the dollars of the faithful and they create a hermetically sealed world in which conservatives are pounded with:

Democrats intentionally caused the financial crisis.

The Haiti earthquake is made to order for Obama

And everyone is told to bend over and grab their ankles for one reason or another.

And that's just Limbaugh. 

There is a not small number of Republicans who believe this country has two political parties - Real Americans and Communists - and any chance we get to see that in its full flourish is a truth we need to face. 

That's the best thing from this week - after the jump - the rest of the Tendown

Super Bowl 44 Pick.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In my January Athlete of the Month post, I began rolling out some of my pre-blog archives (archives being the word I'm using to describe a literal lifetime of inveterate list-making; I was not so much for the playing with the other children, but I sure liked composing a list of the Ten Best Happy Days Episodes during recess; were I a couple of decades younger, I would have lived entirely a virtual life, unencumbered by human interaction; this either would make me perfectly suited to earn a living writing the blogs that instead I do entirely for free - or would mean I would have flunked out of undergrad and be working part time at a baseball card shop) to list my 1990 Athletes of the Week/Month/Year. 

Another list I keep is my prediction on the point spread outcome of every Super Bowl since 1990.  I became aware of the point spread over ten years earlier; I got into a pretty good shouting match when I was nine over a disputed call in a Steeler/Oiler Monday Night game that cost me five dollars; how did a nine year old go about understanding the betting line on a football game?  Have you met my mother?

But I've only kept the records for the past 20 Super Bowls. 

Here are the salient details.

A. I've lost 4 straight.  I had the outright winner last year and in 2007, but not with the number.
B. I've taken some pretty solid beatings on Super Sunday this century.  I had the Rams giving -14 to the Pats, the Raiders giving 4 to the Bucs, and the Pats giving a dozen to New York. 
C. I am, sort of remarkably given the context of this season, dead at .500.  9-9-2 picking the last 20 super Bowls.  I say that because, picking every game this year and the first two rounds of the playoffs - I was exactly .500.  I won both conference championship games, including getting the NFC both right straight up (Saints) and against the number (taking 3 1/2 and the Vikes).

That victory means I'm over level for the season regardless of the outcome of the game - but wouldn't that be a helluva thing - if not only were I playing to nudge over .500 for the year - but for my lifetime of making Super Bowl picks as well (this is really far fetched, as the first Super Bowl I ever picked was 32 years ago, but, for the sake of the story, and because I don't have a piece of paper to attest otherwise, we're going to start with 1990.)

I picked this year's game back in Sunday's Tendown.  I'm going to copy it below, but first, some additional thoughts:

I see more running in this game than the public thinks - the Saints were 5th in the NFL in carries and defensively they don't put up much fight against the run, so it makes sense for both sides to put a little less air in the ball than the public believes it will see. 

The total 56.5, will be the highest over/under at kickoff in SB history.   I see three currents that you might be able to swim against (1) the Manning narrative; the overarching story during the run to the game is Manning's place in QB history; there's a lot of public belief that he's going to have one of those Montana 4 TD games (2) the Saints gave up 500 yards to the Vikes and (3) everyone watches the SB, people like to see points - so they're betting on the game they want to see.

So - I like the under.

And then I like some of the inflated numbers that go with that under.

Total completions for Brees - under 24.5
Total attempts for Brees - under 35.5

Additional props I like:
-Shots on TV of Archie Manning over 2.5
-Shots on TV of Eli Manning over 2.5
-Will there be 3 consecutive scores by one team - yes
-Will there be a touchdown of over 51.5 yards - No
-Robert Meachem  over 3 receptions
-Jeremy Shockey under 3.5 receptions
-Will Darren Sharper intercept a pass - No

Finally, Pierre Garcon is 15-1 to win MVP; given the Haiti situation, if he scores a couple of TDs I think a tie between he and Manning is in the cards.  That's worth a flyer. 

That's 10 bets beyond the side and total.  If you also play Colts on the moneyline, that's 13.  13 plays!

You win, consider the tip jar.  What's a better deal than that?

Here's the pick from Sunday:

Last Week, I gave you both conference championship winners - both straight up and against the number, and that required a little needle threading, as I had to pick the Saints outright - but the Vikes plus the 3 1/2. And as you can read, I did.

So, while I was dead at .500 for the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs, I was a little better than that this week.

Which is why it's here as one of the best elements of the week. Because I like to be right (I also picked Colts/Saints at the top of the playoffs to make the SB) more than I like to be anything (I'd trade right for wealthy; you can pick any belief I've ever offered, if you want to trade it for real money, I'm open to discussion. Yup, that's where we are in 2010).

And I have a Super Bowl pick.

And here it is.

Colts to win. Saints to cover. I'm threading the needle again.

Colts are the better team, but just by a little bit, one point, two points - after the conference title games I thought 4 would be the number, that anything under 4 and I take the Colts, anything over four and I take the Saints.

Right now, Sunday afternoon, one week before kick, the number is 5 1/2.

Take it. (I mean, if you have to play; if you don't, don't play, it's just one game. Play season long win totals instead; if you pay attention when I do my preseason picks - in baseball, NBA, NFL, you'll see that I give suggestions about which win totals I most like - go back if you're inclined to those picks, from MLB in 2009 to NFL and NBA right now - and NCAAF too, you'll see real success, real demonstrable success, in the totals where I say I have the most confidence - really, this past year I have had a nearly perfect, in fact, maybe a completely perfect, mark. So, don't play the SB.)

But if you have to play, play the dog. Let the public bet Manning. Play the dog. And if it climbs to 7, then, even if you don't play, that becomes a really attractive number.

Or - ignore the game altogether and watch the Super Bowl as directed by Tarantino.

The Top 100 Wrestlers in the World, 2010-11

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Occasionally, I write about wrestling.  Like here. Or here. Or here.  I could keep going.  But you see my point (or "catch my drift", which I hear all the cool kids saying these days; with their slicked back hair and their windbreakers.  You kids in your windbreakers get out of my yard!).

For about a decade, approximately every other year I've sat down to systematically construct a top 100 wrestlers in the world list; it's not an all-time value list, nor is it a snapshot of this second ('cause dudes get knee injuries) instead it's what you'd conventionally think of when asking  - "okay, who are the best wrestlers?" 

Unless by "who are the best wrestlers?" what you think of is impact on the business or the ability to draw money or memorable promos.  I don't care about any of that.  I look at a wrestling match the same way I look at a television show and evaluate its quality based on some normative standard of excellence that exists in my head.  If I can say "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is a better show than "Two and A Half Men" which is utterly without qualification or any interest in a view contrary - I can make the same claim about a wrestler, even if he draws less money. 

I also don't watch a lot of lucha.  I'm sorry. 

With that - The Top 100 Wrestlers in the World, 2010-11 version.

101. Takuya Sugawara - Zero One
-Not on the list is Sugawara; I've decided that's where the line is, to make the list, you have to be better than he is; sort of like Duke Snider on my baseball list.

100. Manabu Nakanishi - New Japan
99. Paul London - Independent
98. Walter Inoue - New Japan
97. Doug Williams - TNA
96. Tomohiro Ishii - New Japan
95. Fit Finlay - WWE
94. Chris Sabin - TNA
93. Mistico - CMLL
92. Shuji Kondo - All Japan
91. Teddy Hart - AAA

Probably, this will be the last time on the list for Nakanishi and Fit, given their age; Kondo and Mistico are both lower than they were two years ago; I like both Ishii and Inoue and think they could move in either direction over the next couple of years; I'm probably a little too hard on Sabin; I don't know what's gonna happen with London, his career path is up in the air as of this writing - and I'm a Teddy Hart mark, I like that whole shtick, I'd like to see him come back to the states; I'd think, even with the baggage, it would make sense for TNA to capitalize on his name. 

90. Takayuki Iizuka - New Japan
89. Kenta Kobashi - NOAH
88. Makoto Oishi - KDojo
87. Jack Evans - AAA
86. Akihiko Ito - NOAH
85. Testsuya Naito - New Japan
84. John Morrison - WWE
83. Claudio Castagnoli - ROH
82. Koji Kanemoto - New Japan
81. Yujio Takahashi - New Japan

Iizuka got picked over a big group of Big Japan guys; I wound up taking just a couple of the BJ garbage wrestlers for this list, as I find it hard to incorporate most of them into this analysis but I think the best of those light tube matches are really good.  We get a bunch of juniors here - both Yujio and Naito, young Oishi and Ito and not so young Kanemoto.  Claudio has really improved in the last few months and could be poised for a workrate breakout; Morrison's here instead of Shelton Benjamin or MVP or both Young Bucks; and Kobashi's the greatest wrestler who ever lived but health is a skill he no longer possesses.

80. Toru Yano - New Japan
79. Minoru Fujita - Zero One
78. Satoshi Kojima - All Japan
77. Masaaki Mochizuki - Dragons Gate
76. Kenny Omega - PWG
75. Jun Akiyama - NOAH
74. Takeshi Sasaki - Big Japan
73. Yoshinobu Kanemaru - NOAH
72. Kagetora - Dragons Gate
71. Kengo Mashimo - KDojo

-I love Akiyama, think he's incredibly underrated historically, but he's apparently wrapping it up this year; Sasaki is one of the BJ garbage workers who I like a lot and put here; I like Omega but the comedy wears me out a little bit, Kanemaru's uneven, Mochizuki and Kojima are on the back sides of their productive careers, then there are the juniors and the lesser half of a longstanding good NJ tag team.

70. Genki Horiguchi - Dragons Gate
69. Kohei Sato - Zero One
68. Ryouji Sai - Zero One
67. Isami Kodoka - Big Japan
66. Masashi Takeda - Big Japan
65. Homicide - TNA
64. Ricky Marvin - NOAH
63. Evan Bourne - WWE
62. Brian Kendrick - TNA
61. Kevin Steen - ROH

Hard for me to separate Sato/Sai and Kodoka/Takeda; Horiguchi maybe should be higher than this - Homicide maybe should be lower, he's hard to evaluate given how little he's asked to do in TNA; two more years at his current level of work and he's not on the list.  Marvin was much higher the last time I did this list, he had a ridiculously good year just a couple of years ago but has slid; Sydal's good every time, but he got taken from the indies so quickly that its hard to tell if he can do a lot more than he shows; Kendrick's just now coming out of that WWE style funk, hopefully he'll get a chance to crank it up in TNA; and despite the weight gain Steen's only slid a little bit.

60. Taka Michinoku - KDojo
59. Ultimo Guerrero - CMLL
58. Mike Quackenbush - Chikara
57. Tyler Black - ROH
56. Chris Jericho - WWE
55. Christian - WWE
54. Rocky Romero - AAA
53. Mark Briscoe - ROH
52. Jay Briscoe - ROH
51. Kurt Angle - TNA

-Lot of guys you know here.  Taka's maintaining a lot of his value; there's Romero and Guerrero - Ultimo's my highest lucha worker on the list and Quack's the only Chikara rep.  Briscoe Brothers are the highest of the "how do you separate them" pairings.  Black's on his way up; I'm a big Christian fan considering that style of match - and the two famous guys are here too. 

50. Fujita Jr. Hayato - MPro
49. Yamato - DGate
48. Minoru Tanaka - All Japan
47. Harashima - DDT
46. Ryo Saito - DGate
45. Dragon Kid - DGate
44. Suwama - AJapan
43. BxB Hulk - DGate
42. Pac - DGate
41. El Generico - ROH

-Dragons Gate takes over this block with half of the representatives; everyone else is a jr. too save for Suwama. 

40. Rey Mysterio - WWE
39. Roderick Strong - ROH
38. Chris Daniels - TNA
37. Susumu Yokosuka - DGate
36. Atsushi Aoki - NOAH
35. Go Shiozaki - NOAH
34. CIMA - DGate
33. Taiji Ishimori - NOAH
32. Chris Hero - PWG
31. CM Punk - WWE

-Rey's an all time legend; he and Punk are the first representatives from WWE in the top 50.  3 NOAH guys, and 4 if you include Hero - who also could be included as a ROH guy with Strong, or he and Strong could be called PWG guys.  And Daniels, who is screwed in the new TNA configuration.

30. Low Ki - WWE
29. Steve Regal - WWE
28. Daisuke Sekimoto - BJapan
27. Hiroki Goto - NJapan
26. Togi Makabe - NJapan
25. Prince Devitt - NJapan
24. Ikuto Hidaka - Zero One
23. Masato Yoshino - Dragons Gate
22. Hiroshi Tanahashi - NJapan
21. Takashi Suguira - NOAH

-I love me some Low Ki; I love me some Steve Regal.  I wouldn't mind watching them go 8 minutes on ECW next week.  Make it happen!  We get some powerhouse guys here - Goto/Makabe/Suguira/Sekimoto - and the talented juniors, Devitt/Hidaka/Yoshino.  Tanahashi supporters will be upset that he's this low. 

20 best wrestlers in the world:

20. Takeshi Morishima - NOAH
-falling since the last ranking, but not falling as much as others would have him go.

19. Nigel McGuinness - TNA
-I enjoyed hearing Hogan on Bubba say that Desmond was "real close" - "just missing something" as if the words coming out of his face ever had any content. 

18. AJ Styles - TNA
-Wooooooooo!  I assume eventually they pull the plug on this and Flair turns on AJ to instead align with another young guy as the Nature Boy.

17. Alex Shelley - TNA
-Alex Shelley's awesome. 

16. Kaz Hayashi - All Japan
-If Kaz wrestled top end guys on a constant basis I wonder if he'd be in the top 5.

15. Austin Aries - ROH
-I dislike the current gimmick, not as a gimmick, as a gimmick it's good - but when he incorporates the chickenshit aspect into his matches it drives down the work.

14. Kota Ibushi - DDT
-Best high flyer in the world.

13. Naruke Doi - Dragons Gate
-He got my vote for the WON Wrestler of the Year in '09.

12. Yuji Nagata - NJapan
-Always been good - was good with WCW and has just maintained that good - I'd enjoy a Yuji/Regal program right now.

11. Masato Tanaka - Zero One
-Who would have thought that Tanaka would actually be better a decade after those ECW matches with Awesome?

The Ten Best Wrestlers in the World...

10. Yuko Miyamoto - Big Japan
-The most underrated wrestler alive, he can do a four star light tube match any time he wants.  The best garbage match wrestler alive. 

9. Shinsuke Nakamura - New Japan
-Nakamura's a bad, bad man.  With the leather pants and kicking you in the orbital bone. 

8. Samoa Joe - TNA
-Who the hell knows?  Hogan and Bischoff talked about Abyss as their young breakout franchise star - I don't know if they get Joe. 

7. Kotaro Suzuki - NOAH
-Kotaro's been behind  more high profile NOAH juniors, but he's pretty damn terrific in his own right.

6. Naomichi Marufuji - NOAH
-Marufuji's one of those more high profile juniors, I haven't seen any of his return work yet, hopefully he's rounding back into form.

5. Davey Richards - ROH
-2 years ago I put Richards in the top 20 and heard protest; no one's protesting now.

4. Shingo Takagi - Dragons Gate
-Goddamn Shingo.  You see that guy?  I want Shingo and Davey battering each other all year, frustrating that Davey's pulled from the DGUSA shows.

3. Katsuhiko Nakajima - KOffice
-He might have gotten my vote for most improved each of the past three years; two years ago maybe he's the 80th best wrestler in the world - today, he's right here at number 3.

2. Bryan Danielson - WWE
-A WWE wrestler is the second best wrestler in the world?  Yup.  Yes he is.  I don't know if you'll ever see him, but he is.

1. Kenta - NOAH
-Kenta was in 14 of the 50 best matches of the decade.  The Observer online had a poll for the top wrestlers of the decade - there should have been only 2 choices; Kobashi, who won - and Kenta, who wasn't on the list of nominees.

And that's your list.

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