Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


What have we learned - Week 17

It's the last post of the year about the final regular-season weekend in the NFL. Ah, symmetry! (Of course, now I'm finishing this on the first day of the year, but we'll leave it dated 31 December. That's just fitting.) I didn't watch a lot of football this weekend, but I'll give it a try and figure out what, exactly, we have learned.

The Eagles won three in a row when they were meaningless and finished the season 8-8. They wasted a brilliant year by Brian Westbrook because they didn't want to go into the season with a quarterback controversy, so they didn't re-sign Jeff Garcia, so they rushed McNabb back from his knee surgery, and early in the year, it was obvious he wasn't 100%. Hey, Eagles? Re-sign Garcia and then bench him when McNabb is healthy! You know what doesn't cause a quarterback controversy? Winning damned football games! Anyway, the Eagles would be foolish to let McNabb go, and probably foolish to do anything to Andy Reid. I would like them to go out and get a big-time wide receiver, but we'll see. They have enough talent to do some damage, but they need to keep McNabb healthy, and that means assessing the offensive line. Buffalo, meanwhile, was 7-6 but suddenly went in the tank and lost their last three. Watching them on Sunday, I'm amazed they won any games. They looked timid and untalented. Marshawn Lynch can play, but they seemed to play a very safe game, which, as we know, is a recipe for disaster. Fortune Favors the Bold! Philadelphia has a good defense, but the Bills' play-calling was deadly dull. I doubt if they'll change, because teams rarely do. But we'll see.
Turnovers: Eagles 2, Bills 0. Final score: Philadelphia 17, Buffalo 9. Turnovers = loss? No, in this case. 0-1.

Did anyone else see that dude from New England, Wilfork (I can't remember his first name) poke the Giants' player in the eye? No penalty was called, even though the refs were standing right there. What's up with that? Everyone was talking about how great it was that the Giants played to win, but if their center, who was injured in an essentially meaningless game, can't play against Tampa and Eli Manning gets hammered, how wonderful is their effort now? I don't mind teams resting their starters in meaningless games. The announcers in the Philly game were lauding the players for "going all out." Well, of course they would. If you play, you should go all out. But that doesn't mean you should be in the game. It didn't matter one bit if New Jersey or New England won that game, but I'll be interested to see if it makes a tiny bit of difference in the Giants' playoff game. As for the Cheaters, after they beat the Eagles I was hoping they would go undefeated, because now when they lose in the playoffs, it will be much sweeter. You know it's going to happen! And wouldn't it be nice if the Giants could cover the guy who has caught 22 touchdown passes on the season? Randy Moss's record-breaker was like that "sack" that Michael Strahan got on R. C. Favre a few years ago, except that I don't think the Giants' cornerback wanted to let Moss break the record. Moss ran straight down the field and no one covered him! Sheesh - no wonder he caught so many touchdown passes.
Turnovers: Giants 1, Cheaters 0. Final score: New England 38, New Jersey 35. Turnovers = loss? It was pretty crucial. 1-1.

Whenever I turned on the Seattle-Atlanta game, there was a commercial on. So I missed it, and it turned into a wildly entertaining game. I don't have much to say about it. Atlanta is a mess, and I have no idea how they can get out of it. When you have players on the team who want a felon who pled guilty released from jail, you're a mess, and it just gets worse from there. Seattle, meanwhile, is like Tampa: no one seems to know that they're in the playoffs. Everyone is talking about the top two teams, the New Jersey Mannings (who are set up for another big postseason fall), and the Washington Taylors, who are the sentimental favorite (but not mine). I have watched a few Washington games this year, and I don't see how they're any more talented than a lot of teams. Seattle should beat them pretty easily this weekend, although the Seahawks can be a basket case of a team, so who knows?
Turnovers: Seahawks 3, Falcons 0. Final score: Atlanta 44, Seattle 41. Turnovers = loss? Well, that and the fact that Seattle rested a lot of players. 2-1.

So the Saints went into the last two weeks of the season with a playoff berth on the line and screwed up twice? Man, that sucks. They need McAllister back, because Reggie Bush can play off of him. And they need to stop punting to Devin Hester, who is the only offense the Bears have. "They are who we thought they were," indeed. Chicago's Super Bowl run last year is looking more and more like a mirage.
Turnovers: Saints 3, Bears 3. Final score: Chicago 33, New Orleans 25. Turnovers = loss? Everything balances out.

Poor Cleveland. They went 10-6 but missed the playoffs, and they'll be kicking themselves for some blown games. They lost at Oakland, for crying out loud, on that cheap "call the timeout right as the kicker kicks it" crap. They were up big in the second Pittsburgh game and couldn't finish the deal. They turned the ball over too much against the Cardinals. And, of course, they blew it last week against the Bengals. Still, they saved Romeo Crennel's job, may have found a quarterback (if he's not a one-year wonder) and seem to be headed in the right direction. Meanwhile, the 49ers suck. The highlight of their year was beating Arizona twice and keeping them out of the playoffs. They were a trendy pick to make the playoffs this year, but I can't imagine them getting much better next year, either.
Turnovers: Browns 1, 49ers 0. Final score: Cleveland 20, San Francisco 7. Turnovers = loss? No. 2-2.

What's there to say about Detroit? Watching them against the Eagles earlier in the year, I knew their 6-2 record was a mirage, but they went in the tank so hard it was astonishing. They simply couldn't protect Jon Kitna, and if you can't protect the quarterback, bad things happen. That's just the way it is. I'm not happy that the Packers had such a good year, but we can all hope that R. C. Favre reverts to form in the playoffs and throws six interceptions, can't we? Can't we?????
Turnovers: Lions 2, Packers 1. Final score: Green Bay 34, Detroit 13. Turnovers = loss? It appears so. 3-2.

I'm not sure how the Bengals could stink this badly, because they have plenty of talent. It seems like they're just mentally soft, what with the bad behavior off the field and the antics on it. I would love for the Eagles to get Chad Johnson (he's disgruntled in Cincy), but only if they can somehow make him behave. Maybe they should suck it up and give him a one-year deal and then cut him loose, like they should have done with Owens. Miami is another one of those teams that looks like it will suck for a few years longer. Bill Parcells will help, but not right away. Fans should circle 2009 on their calendars, because next year isn't going to be much better than this one.
Turnovers: Bengals 1, Dolphins 1. Final score: Cincinnati 38, Miami 25. Turnovers = loss? It mattered not.

Tampa rested everyone, and Vinny Testaverde retired. Vinny sounds like a swell guy, and I know no one is putting him in the Hall of Fame, but the accolades the pundits were giving him seemed out of place. He was a decent NFL quarterback who could never become a star. My lasting memory of him will be the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, when he and his arrogant Miami Hurricanes lost to Penn State and Vinny threw five interceptions. That should have told teams you could baffle him, and that's why he never became great. Still, I wish him luck.
Turnovers: Panthers 2, Buccaneers 1. Final score: Carolina 31, Tampa 23. Turnovers = loss? No. 3-3.

Andre Davis returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and Houston finished at 8-8, their best season ever. Matt Schaub, by the way, was 4-7 as a starter. I still think Atlanta wished they had him back. Jacksonville played mostly back-ups, so the score is indicative of nothing, but I hope they got some nice rest, because they have to beat Pittsburgh on the road for the second time this season. That won't be easy.
Turnovers: Jaguars 1, Texans 1. Final score: Houston 42, Jacksonville 28. Turnovers = loss? The two kickoff returns for touchdowns were more important.

I was reading Peter King, who said that Tarvaris Jackson's quarterback play for the Vikings means that Minnesota should NOT pursue Donovan McNabb. Really, Peter? The Vikings are out of the playoffs because Jackson couldn't make the plays the last two weeks and teams ganged up on Adrian Peterson. So if King thinks that Jackson can be a top-flight QB, he's seeing something that hasn't shown on the field yet. I'm not saying Jackson can't be good, but he's not yet. Denver, meanwhile, is struggling with Jay Cutler, but the jury is still out on him too. Next year should show better what he's all about.
Turnovers: Vikings 3, Broncos 0. Final score: Denver 22, Minnesota 19. Turnovers = loss? Pretty directly. 4-3.

JaMarcus Russell didn't have a great start, but at least he got in the game. Oakland is another team that doesn't seem to have much of a future for a few years. I didn't watch them that much this year, but they didn't seem to have much beyond Justin Fargas. Norv Turner, meanwhile, finally figured out that LaDanian Tomlinson is pretty damned good. Once he got that through his head, the Chargers were a decent team. They need to win this playoff game this weekend, because they have that huge monkey on their back. If they do win, they might be dangerous in the next round.
Turnovers: Raiders 4, Chargers 1. Final score: San Diego 30, Oakland 17. Turnovers = loss? Indeed. 5-3.

If they held a football game between two pathetic teams, would anyone notice? Well, they tried it on Sunday, as the Chiefs played the Jets, and I'm not sure anyone did notice. The Chiefs were another team that barely registered this year. Larry Johnson got his money and then got injured, Brodie Croyle is apparently the quarterback for the near future, and they're hoping next year is better. The Jets have no quarterback (unless Kellen Clemens can somehow get better) and not much else, either. At least they have a genius coach!
Turnovers: Chiefs 0, Jets 0. Final score: New Jersey 13, Kansas City 10. Turnovers = loss? Not an issue.

Arizona returned two interceptions for touchdowns and finally got an easy win, as the Rams just went meekly into the offseason. The Cardinals finished 8-8 and have plenty of talent to win in double-digits, but they have quarterback problems too. Kurt Warner had a fine season, but he turns the ball over at really bad times, like in overtime (and in the end zone) against the 49ers, and against the Rams, when he forced a couple of balls and had one returned for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Matt Leinart should be healthy, but he wasn't lighting anything up before he went down. Plus, the Cardinals have contract issues with a bunch of players, and who knows if they'll actually open up the coffers for once, as they have been a notoriously cheap franchise through the years. I'd like to see Arizona win, just because they've been bad for so long. St. Louis was decimated by injuries, but they really need to figure out how to keep Marc Bulger healthy. He's a fantastic quarterback who never gets a chance because they keep letting him get banged up. It's too bad.
Turnovers: Rams 3, Cardinals 2. Final score: Arizona 48, St. Louis 19. Turnovers = loss? Two picks returned for touchdowns by the Cardinals? I'd say yes. 6-3.

I have no interest in seeing Washington do well in the playoffs, despite their emotional season. First of all, I don't like any NFC East teams. Second, Joe Gibbs has already won three Super Bowls, so I don't need him to win any more. And I don't see why Sean Taylor's death is any more tragic than so many others in the world. Everyone wants to make him the greatest guy ever, which is not surprising given the circumstances of his death, but it doesn't mean anything to me. I feel bad for his kid, but it doesn't make me want to root for Washington, any more than I root for R. C. Favre because he's so swell and "down-to-earth." I don't see Washington winning much with Todd Collins at quarterback anyway. Go, Seahawks!
Turnovers: Washington 2, Cowboys 1. Final score: Washington 27, Dallas 6. Turnovers = loss? I guess not. 6-4.

Baltimore finally fired Brian Billick, which was good to see. I know he won a Super Bowl, but for the past few years (even last year, when the Ravens went 13-3), his team was painful to watch. Just awful. Maybe it wasn't completely his fault, but he still has to bear the blame. I wonder where he'll go next?
Turnovers: Steelers 3, Ravens 1. Final score: Baltimore 27, Pittsburgh 21. Turnovers = loss? Why not? 7-4.

The Colts played guys they found on the streets in the second half, and basically gave up the game to Tennessee, costing Cleveland a playoff spot (well, the Browns lost some games they should have won, too, as detailed above). I don't have a big problem with the Colts resting everyone, but why did NBC put this game on, when they knew one team wouldn't be playing very hard? The Titans play San Diego, and I don't see how they're going to win. Kerry Collins might play, but I don't know if it will matter much. Their quarterbacks threw 9 touchdown passes all year. NINE! I'm still not sure how they won 10 games!
Turnovers: Titans 2, Colts 1. Final score: Tennessee 16, Indianapolis 10. Turnovers = loss? No. Strange. 7-5.

The final stats for the record of teams who turn the ball over less than their opponents is 167-35. I'll take that winning percentage! I'll have to break down the numbers a bit better later on.

I don't have much to say about college football, because I'm not that interested in the bowl games. Penn State played well and beat Texas A & M on Saturday, but a 9-4 record for the season is somewhat disappointing. They have talent, and I think that they will never get back to elite level until Joe Paterno gets rid of his son, Jay, who is the quarterbacks coach. Of course, that's never going to happen. Jay Paterno never makes the quarterbacks better, so they have to rely on natural talent. We'll see what their good running quarterback, Darryl Clark, does next year. Arizona State, meanwhile, got waxed by Texas, but they still finished with a nice 10-3 record. They have a lot of players coming back, so the Pac-10 should be fun next year as well. If you haven't seen the weird play from the Holiday Bowl, check out YouTube. The Texas coach's stepson came onto the field and touched a ball that was live after an ASU fumble, committing a penalty and giving the ball back to the Sun Devils. They scored on the next play to cut the Texas lead to 21-7, held on the next series, and appeared poised to get back into the game. They didn't, of course, but that could have been a huge play. Why on earth was a guy on the sidelines in the field of play? He was pointing out the ball to the players who were chasing it, but do they really need to be told where the ball is? What a weird scene. I would imagine if he weren't Mack Brown's stepson, he would have been killed right there on the sidelines. Even so, I wonder if he'll ever be on a sideline again!

So that's the year in football. I won't be watching the playoffs, because I just don't care and I fear that the Cowboys will be playing the Cheaters, and nobody wants that! So I'll just wait until September, when the Eagles begin their Super Bowl run! You know it's coming!

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Great songs, according to me (Part 35)

It's another list of ten songs I happen to think are great. And we know that I am the arbiter of all that is great!

Check out the previous posts: the archive of Parts 1-15, Parts 16-30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, and Part 34. And now here's the next group!

341. Love Removal Machine (by The Cult on the album Electric, 1987): This song is probably the high point of The Cult's first "hard rock" album, although there are other good songs. This song rises above partly because the hard-driving music is so strong, but also because Ian Astbury liked what he did on this song so much he ripped himself off in later songs! This established the Cult "formula" for the next few albums, and when Astbury sings, "Baby baby baby baby baby I fell from the sky" to start the second verse, it's a triumphant moment in the history of metal. Yes, I just wrote that! Deny it at your peril!

342. Love 2 The 9's (by Prince on the "symbol" album, 1992): Prince is pretty frisky on this album, and he gets even more so on this song, which features a nice jumpy beat that slides into a sleazier groove as the lyrics get dirtier. The early part of the song is even a bit transcendent, as Prince sings, "This is the only kind of love that I've been dreaming of, the kind of love that takes over your body, mind, and soul." Then he gets down a bit, yearning for a "lover with a body that says some mo'" and that he's looking for an "ass piled high and deep you see." Yes, Prince can pile on the raunch as much as anyone. The "questionnaire" section of the song, where an associate of Prince's interviews "Arabia" to see if she can "make that booty boom" is very funny, and Prince winds up the song with, really, a paean to spiritual love, if you can believe it. The great thing about Prince's songs is that we actually believe he's looking for a soul mate even when he wants a girl who can make the booty boom. That's his genius!

343. Love You 'Till The End (by the Pogues on the album Pogue Mahone, 1995): The final Pogues albums has some very good songs, none better than this ballad that is simply about what it says in the title. There's a simple yet effective mandolin/guitar riff, and Spider Stacy sings with emotion and love. The lyrics, like the music, are simple but powerful when sung with the right attitude, and they speak to a deep love that cannot be denied: "Why don't you just take me where I've never been before; I know you want to hear me catch my breath." It's a beautiful song and makes you feel happy to be alive.

344. Love's Recovery (by the Indigo Girls on the album Indigo Girls, 1989): I like this song so much we played it at our wedding. It's a quiet love song, building to a triumphant climax, and it speaks to those who refuse to accept love they find right in front of them. The bridge is a powerful cry for non-conformity, and then the final verse arrives at the victory of the heart: "Tell all the friends who think they're so together that these are ghosts and mirages all these thoughts of fairer weather. Though it's storming out, I feel safe within the arm of love's discovery." The Indigo Girls have written a lot of love songs, but none as good as this.

345. The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side (by the Magnetic Fields on the album 69 Love Songs (vol. 1), 1999): There are many great songs on 69 Love Songs (as you may know, if you've read these posts before), and although this is a bit corny, it still has a wonderful goofiness that makes it so very memorable. It has a nice, bouncy melody that has a weird tinny organ-grinder sound to it, and Stephen Merritt's vaudevillian lyrics add to the fun: he's the luckiest guy because he has "wheels," and the girl, who is admired by many men better than he, wants to go for a ride. Of course, at the end, we learn he only keeps the "heap" for that reason. It's a love song, sure, and plenty of fun at that.

346. Mama (by Genesis on the album Genesis, 1983): Genesis was the first album I bought on my own with my "own" money, back when I was 12 (I didn't have a job, so it wasn't really mine, but I didn't ask my mother to buy it for me). Yes, I was a bit late in getting into music, but that's just the way it is. I owned a few albums prior to this on, but this cassette really had a huge impact on me and shaped a lot of what I like about music. This isn't the greatest Genesis album, but "Mama" is brilliant, beginning the album with that haunting keyboards that Phil would use on some of his own songs, and then the creepy lyrics: "I can't see you mama, but I know you're always there ..." As the song builds, suddenly we get the stop and the terrifying laughs and the thumping drums. The best part of the song is when Phil gets a bit wistful in the middle section, singing "You're taking away my last chance, don't take it away ..." 24 years after I heard it for the first time, this still has a powerful effect on me. And then I heard "Illegal Alien." Sigh. I guess they can't all be great!

347. Mama Said Knock You Out (by LL Cool J on the album Mama Said Knock You Out, 1990): Man, I love this album, and the title track. We get the grooving beat and the chanting in the background, then the broadcaster announcing Cool J's "triumphant comeback" before L himself steps on his words with "Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years!" Then we get an overwhelmingly bad-ass celebration of LL's awesomeness, delivered with hard snarls and over-the-top exaggeration. All the lyrics and the delivery are great, especially when LL sneers, "Just like Muhammed Ali they called him Cassius," as he draws out the "a" in "Cassius." Watch him bash that beat like a skull, indeed, LL. What a great song.

348. Mamma Mia (by ABBA on the album ABBA, 1975): Yes, it's the basis for a musical that has taken over the world, but don't hold it against the song, which is a great early tune from the Swedish quartet. We get a peppery keyboard and a rolling guitar, and the ladies start singing a somewhat poignant song about failing to ditch someone who's bad for them. "Even if I say leave me now or never, it's a game we play, doesn't mean forever" they sing in the chorus, and although they stay light-hearted in tone, the lyrics and a subtle shift in their voices speak to the sadness behind the "game." It's a deeper song than people expect - much like a lot of ABBA songs!

349. Man Of A Thousand Faces (by Marillion on the album This Strange Engine, 1997): The first song on this uneven album is very strong, with an acoustic beginning that builds slowly to a swirling finish. It's a song about a universal presence, a man who is behind the scenes at every great event in human history: "You see my face in the stones of the Parthenon, you hear my voice in the babble of Babylon." Hogarth is in good form here, triumphant when he's boasting and cajoling, but able to shift to a more soothing voice when he "speak[s] to machines with the voice of humanity." It's the best song on the album, and sets a nice tone.

350. Many Too Many (by Genesis on the album ... And Then There Were Three, 1978): This is from an album before Genesis became a supergroup, so Phil isn't obnoxious yet and the band's progressive roots haven't been lost in a grasp for chart success. This ballad is a quiet song that takes you along slowly but surely, and when Phil gets to the chorus, he adds a plaintive cry for freedom from the romantic snare in which he's caught. When he sums up the relationship with "You set me on a firmly laid and simple course, and then removed the road," we know we're listening to a great song, and not a 1980s Collins schmaltz-fest. It's a shame that he decided that dollars were more important than dignity. Oh well.

Another nice list of great songs. Music is groovy!

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What have we learned - Week 16

As the football season winds down, we have learned that the Eagles are most dangerous when they have nothing to win, and some of the teams that are going to the playoffs are really crappy. I mean, in the NFC, you have the Vikings, Saints, and Washington fighting it out for the right to get creamed by the Seahawks in the first round, while I doubt if anyone is scared by the Giants or even the Buccaneers. In the AFC, if the Titans make it (thanks to the egg the Browns laid yesterday), they will get slaughtered by the Steelers. Vince Young continues to look like he doesn't even know how to throw a football, much less lead a team. Sigh. It's going to be New England and Dallas/Green Bay in the Super Bowl, isn't it? Gadzooks. What a way to make me not even curious to watch.

After yesterday's game, I really hope the Eagles keep Donovan McNabb around next year. I get that he gets injured, but if they give him a receiver, he won't hold the ball as long and won't get clobbered so much. They moved up and down the field against the Saints (granted, not the greatest defense, but still) and it was a pleasure to watch. They still have such great talent that they could easily be a contender next year. I was amazed that Andy Reid called a naked bootleg on the first third down they faced. McNabb took it 40 yards before the defender punched it out (it was then recovered in the end zone for an Philadelphia touchdown). I have been wondering for years why Reid doesn't call more bootlegs at the goal line, especially with McNabb's speed and strength. Hey, look! it works! The announcers, meanwhile, were killing the Saints for going for it on 4th-and-goal early in the third when they were losing 24-17. I like the call, even though it's the Saints. They didn't get it, but their defense dropped the ball, as the Eagles took it 98 yards to put the game away. Your defense has to step up!
Turnovers: Eagles 1, Saints 1. Final score: Philadelphia 31, New Orleans 23. Turnovers = loss? It's a wash.

I didn't watch the Thursday night game (who did, really?), so I no idea what we learned from it. I still can't believe Marc Bulger resigned with the Rams in the off-season when they gave no indication they would give him an offensive line. I have little pity for him, because he could have gone somewhere else and really had a great year. Meanwhile, the games on Thursday and Saturday nights used to be on Saturday afternoons. I wonder how the ratings are for the night games compared to those old afternoon games?
Turnovers: Rams 2, Steelers 0. Final score: Pittsburgh 41, St. Louis 24. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 1-0.

I believe Terrell Owens' explanation that he was joking about Jessica Simpson being at the Dallas game against the Eagles, but shouldn't Owens know better? He knows what people do with what he says, and saying stupid things like that will just get him in trouble. Of course, I also believe that he might have been joking, but if things don't go well for the Cowboys in the playoffs, he won't be joking much longer.
Turnovers: Cowboys 1, Panthers 1. Final score: Dallas 20, Carolina 13. Turnovers = loss? Another wash.

Did everyone notice that in the Giants-Bills game, in which the teams combined for 59 points, every single score was going into the right end zone (on the television screen, that is)? The wind was blowing very hard in that direction, and the teams couldn't move the opposite way. It's nice for Eli that the Giants had two 100-yard rushers (for the first time in their history), because if he continues to play like he did, he'll never lead them to a Super Bowl. Which, of course, will make me happy. The Kevin Everett story was nice, even though Buffalo couldn't win the game for him. However, I'm tired of people using the word "miracle" to describe it. His spinal cord was not severed, so there was a good chance he would walk again. His doctors worked hard, he worked hard, and, of course, a rich organization spared no expense to help him. It's a very inspiring story, and I don't want to take anything away from Everett. But it wasn't a miracle. Man, I'm bitter, aren't I?
Turnovers: Giants 4, Bills 4. Final score: New Jersey 38, actual New York team 21. Turnovers = loss? Another wash, but one of Buffalo's was crucial.

What was nice about the Packers loss to Chicago was that in the first game of the year, Green Bay won a game they should have lost when they beat the Eagles because Philly kick returners couldn't field punts. So in this game, they lost to a team they probably shouldn't have lost to because they couldn't get a punt off, as Chicago blocked two of them and tackled the punter in another situation. It's all about balance, people! Of course, this loss didn't help the Eagles at all, but it cost the Packers a chance at home-field advantage ... something they shouldn't have been playing for anyway, because they should have already had another loss on their record. Get it? Brett "R. C." Favre, meanwhile, had 9 yards passing in the first half. All a team has to do is get a little ahead of R. C., because then he reverts to form. Even if he throws to get back into it, which he's capable of, he will also force throws and get them picked off. It's good to see! So, when Seattle plays the Pack in the second round of the playoffs, they should try to get a nice 14-point cushion early. Even if it's in the first half and Green Bay could easily come back while still running the ball, R. C. will go pass-happy and start turning the ball over. Count on it!
Turnovers: Packers 2, Bears 0. Final score: Chicago 35, Green Bay 7. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 2-0.

My friend Jeff Smith, who occasionally reads the blog (hi, Jeff!) sent me a link to a fantastic article about the weird deification of Favre. Check it out here. I'm happy to see I'm not the only one a bit peeved about the slobbering over R. C.

Man, the Browns really stunk up the joint yesterday, didn't they? Derek Anderson's bubble burst at the wrong time, as now Cleveland can't do anything except watch the Tennessee game on Sunday night. (In an odd quirk, if both teams finish 10-6, the Titans get in, but if both teams finish 9-7, the Browns get in. So it doesn't matter at all if the Browns win or lose ... all that matters is if the Titans win or lose). I didn't watch the game, but Anderson looked like he was forcing it way too much, hence the four interceptions. Man, turnovers will kill you. I wonder if anyone else knows that?
Turnovers: Browns 4, Bengals 3. Final score: Cincinnati 19, Cleveland 14. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 3-0.

Hey, the Chiefs played the Lions yesterday! Yeah, I didn't realize it either. It's the first time Kansas City has lost 11 games since 1988. I'm not sure what that means, because they lost 10 games in 2001, which is also pretty crappy. Oh well.
Turnovers: Chiefs 1, Lions 1. Final score: Detroit 25, Kansas City 20. Turnovers = loss? It's a wash, but Detroit's interception went for a touchdown.

Houston must have been feeling pretty good about themselves, going up 7-0 on the Colts. Then Peyton Manning decided to take control. Indianapolis had TWO 92-yard touchdown drives and scored 38 straight points. Go home, Texans! Call us when you're ready to play with the big boys.
Turnovers: Texans 3, Colts 1. Final score: Indianapolis 38, Houston 15. Turnovers = loss? It appears so. 4-0.

I guess Oakland showed up against Jacksonville yesterday. I wonder if Al David simply brought in a high school team for a thrill. Talk about quitting. Lane Kiffin, I imagine, will be there next year, so one would think these guys would want to play hard so they have a job next year. Why wouldn't Kiffin cut everyone on that team? Sheesh.
Turnovers: Raiders 4, Jaguars 2. Final score: Jacksonville 49, Oakland 11. Turnovers = loss? Well, yeah, but I doubt if it would have made a difference. 5-0.

Arizona is a lousy team because they were cruising along with a 24-14 lead at halftime but they couldn't get that one score that would have put the Falcons away. They let them hang around and hang around, and then they needed a desperation drive at the end to tie the game (which is why the Falcons are a lousy team, because they allowed the Cardinals to drive down the field on them). It will be interesting to see what the Cardinals do in the off-season to address their problems, because they have talent. If you've never seen Anquan Boldin catch passes, you're missing a treat. He had at least two one-handed catches yesterday, and he loves knocking defenders around once he does catch the ball. Too bad he works in Arizona: he just set a record for the quickest receiver in history to 400 catches.
Turnovers: Falcons 1, Cardinals 0. Final score: Arizona 30, Atlanta 27. Turnovers = loss? Other factors were involved, but sure. 6-0.

We learned nothing from the Tampa-San Fran game, because the Buccaneers packed it in early. Nice to see San Francisco take advantage of it, at least. Remember when they were 2-0?
Turnovers: Buccaneers 2, 49ers 2. Final score: San Francisco 21, Tampa 19. Turnovers = loss? Yet another wash.

Vince Young threw some horrible passes and looked befuddled a few times when he got rushed. Is he going to be any good, or is this his ceiling? I don't know, but shouldn't someone work with him to get him to throw better? Isn't that what coaches are for?
Turnovers: Jets 2, Titans 2. Final score: Tennessee 10, New Jersey 6. Turnovers = loss? Man, a lot of washes in these games.

The Cheaters kept giving the Dolphins chances, but Miami is just too pathetic to take advantage of it. One play summed up the Miami season: Cleo Lemon, scrambling for a touchdown on fourth down, goes out of bounds at the half-yard line without diving for the pylon or even stretching the ball toward it. Yes, the defender forced him out, but they weren't about to blast him. He just ran out of bounds! That's why you're 1-14, Miami. What a crappy play. Oh, I guess Tom Brady threw some touchdown passes. He's pretty good.
Turnovers: Cheaters 4, Dolphins 0. Final score: New England 28, Miami 7. Turnovers = loss? As usual with the Dolphins, they can't take advantage of turnovers. 6-1.

You couldn't have paid me to watch the Baltimore-Seattle game, and then I saw it was 21-0, Seattle, so I had even less incentive to watch. I again ask: you have to fire Brian Billick, don't you?
Turnovers: Ravens 3, Seahawks 2. Final score: Seattle 27, Baltimore 6. Turnovers = loss? I suppose. 7-1.

In a battle of mediocrity and for the right to get slammed in the first round of the playoffs, Washington beat the Vikings last night, holding the Greatest Rookie Ever to 27 yards. If you're the Greatest Rookie Ever, shouldn't you play better when your team needs you? Today on ESPN, Merrill Hoge was talking about how scary Washington is. Yeah, your quarterback hasn't started a game in a decade and you're scary. There's a reason Todd Collins has been riding the pine for TEN years. I know ESPN does this to pump up interest in crappy wildcard games, but really, Merrill Hoge - have some professional dignity!
Turnovers: Vikings 3, Washington 0. Final score: Washington 32, Minnesota 21. Turnovers = loss? Yep. 8-1.

That brings the record of teams who win the turnover battle to 160-30. That's pretty good. The bowl season has started, by the way, and I hoped you all watched Utah beat Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl and East Carolina (is that a state?) beat Boise State (is Boise a state?) in the Hawaii Bowl. Those are some classic games, people!

I don't mean to crow, but my father-in-law bought us a 42-inch flatscreen HD TV for Christmas. I'm somewhat stunned - he's a very nice guy, but it's not like he's rolling in dough - and extremely excited. I can't wait to watch some football in HD, but unfortunately it won't be installed until 1 January, after the Penn State and Eagles season will be over. I'll just have to watch some football games I don't care about just to check it out. We've wanted one for a while, but we were going to wait until we moved and had some more space. I'm looking forward to checking it out. Will I ever want to watch non-HD stuff again?????

Have a great Christmas, everyone, if that's your thing. Be nice to each other!

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My dream

In my dream, there is silence. Across the land, entertainment venues are shut down. The writers have not gotten their just rewards, because the moguls do not want to release their miserly grip on any penny of their profits. And so the television shows, writerless, founder and sink, never to be seen again. Movie theaters are dark, their celluloid visions forever locked inside the minds of striking writers. But is there sadness throughout the land?

In my dream, there is no sadness. People writhed in agony without their fix of CSI, House, Pushing Daisies, and The Office. They were ecstatic when the late-night talk shows returned, but without their writers, their jokes were stale, and their audiences dwindled. Not even Hugo Chavez's appearance on The Daily Show couldn't help Jon Stewart's ratings. The moguls believed that the people in the land would demand that the writers cave, while the writers believed that the people in the land would demand that the moguls cave. Yet something strange happened.

Everywhere, televisions were turned off. Everywhere, no demands were made on the writers or the moguls. Instead, people started reading books. People started spending time with their families. People spoke to other people. Yes, some people played video games, but they did so with other people. People did puzzles! And there was happiness throughout the land. Living rooms were re-aligned around a central area rather than everything pointing at the television, and people no longer pictured their favorite actors when they read books, instead using their imaginations to create their own pictures in their heads. They learned unusual words by doing crossword puzzles. People discovered secret passageways in their houses that had been bricked up long ago. It was a Golden Age!

It's only a dream. Someone will cave, and there will be new episodes of Two and a Half Men, Back to You, and Samantha Who? Multiplexes throughout the land will light up with new releases of Michael Bay movies, Will Smith vehicles, and animated features with wise-cracking animals. We will all return to the warm cathode-ray glow and Dolby Surround Sound, and everything will go back to normal. Ah, modern entertainment!

But I can dream, can't I?

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The birthplace of fame: Scappoose, Oregon!

Scappoose, Oregon, lies about 20 miles northwest of Portland, along Route 30 on the way to Astoria on the coast. Here's a map! It's a small town, with a population around 6000, and it's rather charming. If you blink you'll miss it, but that's part of its charm! We used to drive through it on the way up to St. Helens, where you could take the bridge (the only one between Portland and Astoria) across to Washington and make your way back to Portland. This was back in the day when we liked to take long drives through the Oregon wilderness. But today on ESPN I saw a story that made me realize that Scappoose is more than just a charming little town. It's a fame generator!

ESPN was doing a story on Derek Anderson, the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Anderson has come out of nowhere this year. He took over for Charlie Frye in the second game of the season, and most people figured he was just a place-holder until Brady Quinn took over sometime at the halfway point of the season. Unfortunately for Quinn, Anderson got hot and is thisclose to taking the Browns into the playoffs. In the process, he's probably saved Romeo Crennel's job. Anderson has looked great and shows once again that draft choices are a crap shoot. I remember when Anderson played at Oregon State (I no longer lived in Oregon then, but since we're still in PAC-10 country and I like the Oregon teams, I paid attention), and he looked decent enough, but nobody thought he would do anything in the No Fun League. He might be a flash in the pan, but this season, at least, he's a star.

The ESPN story, however, made the point that he might not be the most famous Scappoosian (don't blame me; that's what they called themselves in the story)! The reporter pointed out that the 2007 Playboy Playmate of the Year, Sara Jean Underwood, is also from Scappoose! What are the odds? Miss Underwood, naturally, has a MySpace page (both this and the previous link are safe for work, by the way), but if you're really interested, you can check out nude pictures of her here (or, you know, do a Google search - she's naturally quite popular). As it's been some years since I've paid attention to Playboy, I had never heard of Miss Underwood until this morning, but that's an achievement, I guess, being named Playmate of the Year. Miss Underwood is cute, although it's kind of creepy that she kind of looks like a 14-year-old:

Anyway, it's strange that the current Playmate of the Year and the starting quarterback of an NFL team are both from such a small town, and it's even stranger that they know each other. In a small town, that's not surprising, but they are so close in age: Anderson was born on 15 June 1983 and Underwood was born on 26 March 1984. In the ESPN story, Miss Underwood said that he was a year ahead of her in school, but they knew each other pretty well, as he dated one of her friends. This would weird me out. I don't think I'm alone in wondering if any girls he went to high school with ever became nude models (maybe I am), but to actually know someone growing up who can be seen naked by anyone in the world with a subscription to Playboy or an Internet connection would be bizarre. I doubt if Anderson hangs out with Underwood much these days, but what does he do when he sees her naked? "Hey, I used to hang out with that chick when we were twelve!" I don't know, it would be bizarre to see someone I know all unclothed. When I was younger, I guess it would have been cooler, but now it would just be strange. Maybe I have too many hang-ups. Let's call it the "J. Geils Syndrome." I don't really have a problem with women posing for Playboy and its ilk, but I think it's sad that the only way they get anyone to notice them is by taking off their clothes. But that's a whole different post!

One more thing: Miss Underwood would have been 9 when we moved to Portland and 17 when we left. We drove through Scappoose plenty of times in those 8 years. That would have been weird if we had stopped to eat at a diner and she was there with her family. Using my foreknowledge of future events (that's why I'm so wealthy, don't you know), I could have told them, "Hey, your 12-year-old daughter will pose naked in ten years! Won't that be fun?" This is the kind of stuff I would do if I had a time machine. Yes, I'm twisted.

To sum up: Scappoose, Oregon is a hotbed of NFL quarterbacks and Playmates. Who knew?

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What have we learned - Week 15

Another week, another Eagles win in Dallas, causing Terrell Owens to whine. The season may be lost for the Beags (they will be officially eliminated when the Vikings win on Monday night), but it's always fun to beat the Cowboys, especially when Brian Westbrook refuses to score at the end of the game just to keep it out of Tony Romo's hands! Awesome.

The maddeningly frustrating Eagles played a fantastic defensive game yesterday, and the offense played just well enough to win. It just shows again that the Eagles should keep McNabb and maybe Reid (I'd rather they dump Reid than McNabb), but they need to run the ball more and get McNabb some good receivers, for crying out loud! They're still very talented (except at wide receiver) and they need to upgrade. Why can't the front office see that? Sheesh. It was a sweet game because of how poorly Romo and Owens played, and I was so happy to see Brian Westbrook take a knee at the one-yard line with 2 minutes left. If the Cowboys don't have the ball, they can't make a miracle comeback! I wonder if Westbrook (and Jon Runyan, who suggested it to him) remembered the Tampa game from last year, when he scored the go-ahead touchdown on a long screen pass that he could have downed at the one and run more time off the clock, which allowed Tampa to come back and kick a game-winning field goal. I wonder ... Meanwhile, didn't the Cowboys run the ball once? They just gave up on it, which made me wonder if Wade Phillips was studying the Andy Reid School of Coaching!
Turnovers: Cowboys 3, Eagles 1. Final score: Philadelphia 10, Dallas 6. Turnovers = loss? Definitely. 1-0.

Hey, the Texans played the Broncos on Thursday night! Who knew? Mario Williams got three more sacks and is playing like a madman. Meanwhile, the Titans have a weak passing game, and Reggie Bush is not playing. Does anyone think this will stop the insanity of judging draft picks on the day of the draft? Probably not.
Turnovers: Texans 1, Broncos 0. Final score: Houston 31, Denver 13. Turnovers = loss? No. Strange. 1-1.

Hey, the 49ers played the Bengals on Saturday night! Who knew? I love when quarterbacks who have bounced around forever come in and play great. Yes, the immortal Shaun Hill led San Fran to that win. What happened to the Bengals? Seriously, that team has too much talent to suck this badly.
Turnovers: Bengals 0, 49ers 0. Final score: San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 13. Turnovers = loss? It's not relevant.

The game of the weekend had to be Buffalo-Cleveland, simply because of the snow. If you missed it, they often couldn't find the yard lines because there was so much snow on the field. Awesome. The Browns simply gave the ball to Jamal Lewis, who got 163 yards on 33 carries. Holy crap, that's a lot. The best player, however, was Phil Dawson, who kicked two field goals, the second of which was a 49-yarder that he kicked way to the left and let the wind push it back through the uprights. What a great kick. The Browns will probably get smacked in the first round of the playoffs (they'll probably play the Chargers, who will destroy them), but it's a great story in Cleveland.
Turnovers: Bills 0, Browns 0. Final score: Cleveland 8, Buffalo 0. Turnovers = loss? No turnovers in that game? Wow.

I didn't watch any of the Tennessee-KC game, because I had things to do, man! Vince Young still isn't looking that good, though. He has the tools, but is still very undisciplined.
Turnovers: Chiefs 3, Titans 0. Final score: Tennessee 26, Kansas City 17. Turnovers = loss? Looks like it. 2-1.

So Brett "R. C." Favre set another record. Yeah, yeah. Did anyone see the long touchdown pass to Greg Jennings that made it 27-14? The two defenders across from him were discussing who was going to cover him, and it appeared they both decided to let him run free and cover the underneath guy. It would, of course, help if there was a safety deep, but there was no one. R. C. gets credit for the touchdown, of course, but he should send a nice bottle of champagne to the two loser defenders. Sheesh. If you can't make up your mind who to cover, try picking up the deep guy. Idiots.
Turnovers: Packers 3, Rams 2. Final score: Green Bay 33, St. Louis 14. Turnovers = loss? Weirdly enough, no. That's how bad the Rams are. 2-2.

You have to fire Brian Billick, right? YOU HAVE TO!!!! Okay, he lost to a winless team, which pissed me off because I wanted Miami to go 0-16. But it's not that he lost, it's that the Ravens reached the 1-foot line with 12 seconds left and Billick kicked a field goal to tie and go to overtime. Yes, it was fourth down. But you need a freakin' foot! Not only do you have Willis McGahee to pick up that foot, but your quarterback is Troy Smith, who is pretty agile and could either sneak the ball or run a bootleg. Hey, Brian, your team is 4-9 and you've lost 7 straight. What the hell are you doing turning into a wuss? He has to go. When I watched them kick the FG, I knew the Dolphins were going to win. It was inevitable.
Turnovers: Ravens 1, Dolphins 0. Final score: Miami 22, Baltimore 16. Turnovers = loss? It was more Brian Billick chickening out, but why not? 3-2.

The Cheaters went to 14-0 in umimpressive fashion, and I would be worried if I were them. They might sit their starters (although knowing Belicheat, I wouldn't count on it), but if they play Jacksonville in the second round, they might be in trouble. If they play Indy in the Championship Game, they might be in trouble. They did not play well at all, and needed an interception return for a touchdown and a blocked punt to score their only offensive TD. I'm still rooting for them to go 16-0 and then lose in their first playoff game. That would be awesome.
Turnovers: Jets 2, Cheaters 1. Final score: New England 20, New Jersey 10. Turnovers = loss? Sure. 4-2.

I know teams don't like to use injuries as excuses, but the Cardinals have suffered through a lot of them. So has Tampa, but the Buccaneers are a veteran team, and I do wonder how Arizona would have done this season if they had a charmed life like the Cheaters or the Cowboys (until yesterday, when they sent a bunch of guys to the infirmary) and hadn't lost so many to injuries. Of course, their tough-guy head coach has simply given up on the running game, which is mysterious. Drew Brees, meanwhile, went nuts: 26-30 for 315 yards. Man, that dude is a monster. Did San Diego really give up on him?
Turnovers: Cardinals 2, Saints 2. Final score: New Orleans 31, Arizona 24. Turnovers = loss? The Cardinals' turnovers hurt more than the Saints', but ultimately it's a wash.

Another great game to watch was the swirling-snow Jax-Pittsburgh game. Jacksonville simply pounded the crap out of the ball, with Fred Taylor gaining 147 yards. This is a game that points out why you shouldn't turn the ball over. With a 22-7 lead in the fourth quarter, David Garrard threw an interception that sparked the Steelers to two touchdowns and a tie game. Don't turn the ball over! Jacksonville proved they can go into a brutal atmosphere and win. Watch out, Cheaters!
Turnovers: Jaguars 1, Steelers 0. Final score: Jacksonville 29, Pittsburgh 22. Turnovers = loss? Again, no. Bizarre. 4-3.

Very early on in the Atlanta-Tampa game, Ronde Barber returned an interception for a touchdown. Anyone who knows anything about football should have turned off the game right there, as a 7-0 deficit is far too great for this year's Falcons to overcome. I actually happened to have the game on with the Buccaneer dude returned the kickoff for a touchdown, and I was kind of saddened that we'll never again hear, whenever a team kicks off to Tampa, that they've never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in their existence. It was kind of comforting, knowing you'd hear that whenever the Buccaneers play. I guess now a Mets pitcher will throw a no-hitter in the upcoming season. That would be too crazy, I suppose!
Turnovers: Falcons 4, Buccaneers 1. Final score: Tampa 37, Atlanta 3. Turnovers = loss? The first Atlanta turnover went for a touchdown, which were all the points the Bucs needed, so yes. 5-3.

Seattle and Carolina went into the fourth quarter 0-0. The first touchdown of the game was scored with less than two minutes remaining. This was in Carolina, not Cleveland or Pittsburgh or New England. What the heck were the teams doing? Seattle, I think, was mailing it in because they clinched the division, but it's still a troubling game. They should crush either the Giants or Vikings in the first round of the playoffs, but I can't imagine they'll go farther than that.
Turnovers: Seahawks 1, Panthers 0. Final score: Carolina 13, Seattle 10. Turnovers = loss? Looks that way. 6-3.

The Raiders played so well, but just didn't have enough playmakers. That's why it's so hard when you're not very good to win against superior teams - you need something wacky to happen, and when the opposing team is so good, they don't often do wacky things. The Colts simply didn't panic and did their thing, and pulled out a lackluster victory.
Turnovers: Colts 1, Raiders 0. Final score: Indianapolis 21, Oakland 14. Turnovers = loss? Another no. How odd! 6-4.

Detroit has now lost games this year by scores of 56-21 and 51-14. Man, what happened to them? I know they played an easy schedule early on, but at least they were playing hard. Now they don't look interested at all. LaDanian Tomlinson passed Jim Brown on the touchdown list, by the way. Stuff like that irks me. I never saw Brown play, but when I see him on film, there's really no doubt that he's the best running back of all time. More and more people are forgetting him, though, and that's too bad.
Turnovers: Lions 6, Chargers 0. Final score: San Diego 51, Detroit 14. Turnovers = loss? You think? 7-4.

Hey, look - it's the annual Giants meltdown! Eli Manning now has to deal with the loss of Jeremy Shockey (I'm glad he's not dead, but I'll shed no tears for him breaking his leg, because he's a punk) and the fact that his receivers seemed to be allergic to the ball. Amani Toomer dropped a long pass that would have gone for a touchdown when there were no defenders within fifteen yards of him. You can't drop that pass! I think Manning is wildly overrated, but his awful performance isn't all his fault. The G-Men are going to get smacked around by Tampa or Seattle in the first round.
Turnovers: Giants 1, Washington 0. Final score: Washington 22, New Jersey 10. Turnovers = loss? I suppose. 8-4.

The Vikings are also destined for a first-round exit, because their quarterback is mediocre and Adrian Peterson is a rookie who can be stopped, and has been, quite often (the Eagles, Packers, and freakin' 49ers all held him in check, and that's just off the top of my head). Tarvaris Jackson kept giving the ball back to the Bears, and Kyle Orton kept finding ways to not score touchdowns. I can't really say we learned anything from the game. The Bears stink, and the Vikings are a nice story who won't last long in the postseason. But we already knew that.
Turnovers: Vikings 4, Bears 1. Final score: Minnesota 20, Chicago 13. Turnovers = loss? Not with that mighty Bears offense screwing up so much! 8-5.

That brings teams who turn the ball over less than their opponents to 152-29. This was probably the closest week for that, but it's still better to not turn the ball over. That's probably obvious. College football is in hibernation, unless you root for one of those strangely-named teams in the lower divisions. Appalachian State won its third Championship in a row and its fans displayed lousy class, coming onto the field and asking for autographs before the game was over, and Wisconsin-Whitewater beat Mount Union in Division II. Mount Union routinely destroys weaker teams, so I have no problem with them losing. I read somewhere that Joe Flacco, the Delaware QB (the Blue Hens lost to App. St.), might be a first-day draft choice. Keep track of your favorite Blue Hen next April! (Come on, who doesn't love the Blue Hens?)

So that's the week in football. Maybe by this time next week Terrell Owens will have called his quarterback a Nancy Boy and his offensive coordinator a brain-damaged hick. We can hope, can't we?

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What I've been reading

From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith by L. Michael White. 508 pages, 2004, HarperCollins.

I may be an atheist (which will preclude me from ever being president but not dictator of the world), but I am terribly fascinated by the history of Christianity and how it evolved. So I am intrigued by books like this, which are about that evolution. White is the director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas, so I suppose he's somewhat qualified to write about this subject.

White structures the book generationally. He begins with the world of the New Testament, looking at Rome and Judea in the reign of Augustus. Then he gets to the historical figure of Jesus, which is the first generation. Each generation covers about 40 years, so the letters of Paul are included in this first generation, as they're the oldest books in the New Testament. The second generation begins with the first Jewish revolt (AD 66-73), when the nature of both Christianity and Judaism changed as the former began to be less of a Jewish sect and more its own religion. This period covers the writing of the first three Gospels (the Synoptic ones). In the third generation, which begins around AD 100, Christianity begins to become a "church," and the people who knew people who knew Jesus begin to die. This is also when the Gospel of John was written. Finally, in the fourth generation, which stretches from mid-first century to the end of it, Christianity begins to define itself against "heresies," which necessitates the formation of a New Testament, a process which lasted well beyond the confines of this book. White, however, shows why an orthodox, canonical list of scripture became crucial for the continued growth of the religion.

White puts the life of Jesus and the world of the New Testament in context by looking at Rome and Herod the Great's reign in Judea. This is obviously somewhat important for understanding who Jesus was. He breaks down the Gospels to illuminate the life of Jesus, but the book really hits its stride when he gets to Paul, who wrote the earliest "books" of the New Testament. He has already gone into the oral tradition of the Jesus movement, as he calls the early "Christians," who still considered themselves Jews before the revolt of the 60s. Now, with Paul, he looks at who Paul was and what he was doing. He puts to rest the ideas that Paul turned Christianity into a "Greek" religion, pointing out that there was plenty of interaction between Jews of the Jesus movement and Greeks prior to Paul; the thought that Paul was the "second founder" of the church, as the Jesus movement was vibrant and diverse before Paul began preaching; and that he was the "first Christian," as Paul never considered himself anything but Jewish. White does, however, shed some fascinating light on the context of Paul's letters (the earliest, 1 Thessalonians, was written in 50-51) and how he shaped a distinctive form of the new religion. Early on in the writings of the Christian founders, there is a definite eschatological bent to the ideas, as Paul expected Jesus to return any day. It's interesting to consider that Paul had no thought to the consequences of some of his letters because he didn't think the believers would be around very much longer.

The Gospels come from the second generation, after the disastrous Jewish Revolt, which brought about the destruction of the Temple and a new, rabbinical version of Judaism. It also prompted people to begin writing the story of the life of Jesus down, which White points out came about because the people who actually knew Jesus were beginning to die off and the oral traditions about him were going to fall away. The oral traditions, White argues, were very influential in the creation of the Gospels. Mark was written first, around 70-75, which is right after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, so the Gospel reflects some of the sadness about this event. By the time we get to Luke-Acts (which, White argues, ought to be regarded as one book written by the same author), there was a sense of anxiety about the delay of the parousia, the return of Jesus. In Paul, there is no need to reconcile the lack of a Second Coming with the passage of time, but Luke changes the way the Second Coming is viewed, as the "kingdom" has already arrived with the destruction of the Temple, and it becomes separate from the return of the Messiah. Jesus's return moves into an indeterminate future. Obviously this is a key component in the evolution of the church.

As the first century comes to a close, the Roman emperor Domitian (81-96) began terrorizing many throughout the Roman world, although White argues that he didn't really target Christians, as many people have claimed. What Domitian did, however, was establish imperial cults to himself, rather than dead emperors, and some Christians were more accommodating than they should have been. This inspired, among other things, the Revelation of John, which rejects imperial cults. As we move into the second century, we get more (apocryphal) Gospels that deal with the growing need to fit Christianity into Roman society. This leads to the Gospel of John, which is far more anti-Jewish than the earlier Gospels. Christianity had moved from a Jewish sect to a separate religion, and the writings of AD 90-120 reflect that.

As White begins to look at the mid-first century, he gets into the definition of "scripture" and why Christians felt the need to codify the texts of the New Testament. Part of it was because of the different regions that practiced Christianity. The Egyptian form (which became Coptic) was different from the the Syrian form, which was different from the Greco-Roman form. Obviously, the regional forms overlapped in a great many ways, but they all had their quirks that made them unique. There was also still a very strong Jewish strain in Christianity, and some Christians had begun to look suspiciously on Paul's letters as anathema to the "true faith" because Paul had taken it too far from its Jewish roots. Similarly, many Christians were beginning to declaim those adherents who denounced Paul. Ironically, a "heretic" was responsible for coming up with the idea for a "scripture" of texts that would be canonical. In the 130s and 140s, Marcion, a Christian from Anatolia, went to Rome and began preaching about his version of Christianity. Among his ideas were that the God of Genesis was a different and inferior God to the Father of Jesus, which led him to reject Jewish scripture entirely; that Jesus was not born as flesh and blood, but was an entirely spiritual being; and that Paul was the only authority in this matter. These ideas led him to form his own collection of authoritative texts which contained an early form of Luke and the ten letters of Paul (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon). Marcion was excommunicated, but he gained a wide following and forced other Christian thinkers to come up with their own authoritative scripture.

As White reaches the latter half of the second century, he looks at the establishment of actual church buildings (prior to this, a "church" was just a gathering of Christians) and the debate over which letters of Paul were authentic and should be included in the canon, and which Gospels were authoritative. Throughout the book, White continues to examine apocryphal literature, including several Gospels (the Gospel of Thomas, for instance, which was a very popular text), and how they reflected the concerns of the community whence they emanated. Another influential Christian in the formulation of an authoritative Testament was Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons from 177-190. Irenaeus, who wrote an extremely influential text called Against Heresies, argued for the inclusion of the four Gospels we now have, and is often credited with coining the word "catholic" to refer to the universal truth inherent in the Christian message. White does point out that the New Testament wasn't codified until the Council of Carthage in 394, but by the end of the second century, the texts that would eventually included in it were all there, with just some debate over a few of them.

This is a very interesting and exhaustively researched book. It's not the most entertaining book, but White keeps things relatively lively and doesn't get too bogged down in the scholarship. He does a nice job placing the development of Christianity in the context of the Mediterranean world, but the one place I think the book falters a bit is when he talks about the creation of the texts and how they are reactions to things in the community. He generally does a good job, but with some of the writings, he keeps things somewhat vague, and I was hoping that he could be more specific. I assume that for some of the writings, the specifics aren't known, which is a concern for something that happened 2000 years ago, but from what he has written, it seems like he knows the specifics but chooses not to divulge them. I could be wrong. With the major books, and especially with Paul's life, he does a better job, which leads me to believe he doesn't know the context in all cases, but it's just a minor complaint.

For the most part, I like this book a lot. It's very fascinating to read about the creation of the New Testament and how the political reality of the early Christian world shaped it. If you're at all interested in the Bible, this is an excellent book to check out.

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As usual, I'm puzzled by people with far more money than I have

"Disheartening." "I don't have any respect for him." "Coward." "Hypocrite." "Quitter." These are just some of the things the Atlanta Falcons are saying about their ex-coach, Bobby Petrino, who ditched them yesterday to bolt back to college, where he took the Arkansas position. Petrino learned what a lot of college coaches from big conferences learn: it's a lot easier to win 11-12 games at a college football factory than in the NFL, where everyone is pretty good. I don't understand why college coaches are so eager to go to the pros. They make pretty good money in college (Petrino will take a pay cut from 4 to a little over 2 million dollars a year, which is the kind of pay cut I could live with) and they certainly don't have as much pressure on them. Let some assistant coach on another pro team move up in the ranks! Petrino is an asshole, no doubt, because he ditched the team with three games left in the season even though he always told his shitty team (the Falcons are 3-10) to play four quarters each game. Good job, Coach! But all coaches lie, so we shouldn't be surprised. Arkansas drove Houston Nutt (what a great name!) out of Fayetteville for some off-field stuff, but also because they thought he didn't win enough. Well, the team is in the SEC, usually cited as the toughest conference in the country, and he won 9 games four times in 10 years, won the SEC West twice, and finished with a record of 75-48, including 42-38 in-conference. You're Arkansas! Frank Broyles isn't coming back, and you're not winning any more National Championships (Arkansas has actually won one, in 1964). Deal with it. Good luck with Petrino, especially when he ditches you in a year or two.

However, this isn't a rant about what an asshole Petrino is. Those same players who were so offended by Petrino running out on them were the ones wearing the "Free Mick Vick" T-shirts under their jerseys this past Monday night. Mike Vick, who pleaded guilty. Mike Vick, who finally admitted that he actually killed dogs. Mike Vick, who is by all accounts a total scumbag. The Falcon players are justifiably angry that their coach left, but they support a dog-killing asshole like Mike Vick. It just shows us, once again, that people are idiots. What a bunch of assholes all around.

I mentioned a while back that I didn't think Vick would miss another season, because of his celebrity status. I'm kind of surprised the judge dropped the hammer on him, but then I heard that he did finally admit that he killed dogs and didn't just pass them on to his buddies to kill. As usual, lying to a judge gets you in more trouble than doing something wrong. Vick is gone for next year, and I have my doubts if he will ever play again. And you know what? I don't care. Let him get a real fucking job like everyone else. Maybe he can go coach on Bobby Petrino's staff!

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What have we learned - Week 14

Well, football was pretty crappy this weekend. An overpraised quarterback won the Heisman Trophy, the playoffs continued in the lower divisions of college football with no notable cries for pity on the student-athletes, and the Eagles sank deeper into the mire. When the Eagles are out of it, I start rooting against teams, and that didn't even work, as the Cheaters, the Cowboys, and the Packers all won. I'm starting to think the Jaguars are the only team who can beat the Cheaters. We'll see, because they might play each other in the second round of the playoffs!

The Eagles scored a touchdown on their first possession and made it look easy. So, of course, they never scored another TD. Gadzooks! They had a first-and-goal at the eight-yard line early in the third after a fumble recovery and were forced to kick a field goal. That's because they're a bad team! Eli Manning continued to do just enough to win but still looked crappy. And the Eagles never even tested the two rookie safeties the Giants had in the game. The more I watch all football, the more I'm mystified by play-calling. Why not even try to go deep down the middle of the field? I was going to make a big deal about Brian Dawkins taking Ruben Droughns down at the two-yard line instead of giving up on the play and letting him score, because that would have been easy. Instead, Dawkins made a great tackle and the Eagles held the Giants to a field goal. I was hoping Philly would win by a field goal so that would have been the difference in the game. Even though it wasn't, it just shows how great Brian Dawkins is. If the Eagles can get one more year out of him without injury, they might have one last chance at glory. Oh, and Jeremy Shockey sucks. How does he get any publicity? Is it just a New York thing? It has to be, because he sucks. A lot.
Turnovers: Giants 2, Eagles 1. Final score: New Jersey 16, Philadelphia 13. Turnovers = loss? No, but the Gints did score their only touchdown off Philly's lone turnover. 0-1.

I get the NFL Network and I was barely aware of the game on Thursday night. I'm not terribly interested in this NFL v. Cable brouhaha, but I would point out that all these people clamoring for Congress to get involved because they want to watch a few games a year aren't making a big deal out of the fact that the NFL is doing the same thing that Big Cable is doing with the DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket. In Canada, NFL Sunday Ticket is available as part of a basic cable deal. In the U.S., you can only get it through DirecTV, which many people in the country can't even get because of problems with the satellite feed. So screw both the NFL and Big Cable. And leave Congress out of it, unless you want to examine the monopoly that the NFL and DirecTV enjoy. I doubt if the league wants that!
Turnovers: Bears 2, Washington 1. Final score: Washington 24, Chicago 16. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 1-1.

It was with much glee that I noted the Bills were up 21-0 on the Dolphins in the first quarter. What a glorious score! Every time I turned the game on, Miami seemed to be turning it over or failing to pick up a loose ball or doing something stupid. How did they get so bad so quickly? Two years ago they seemed to be on the upswing. Now they're historically bad. It's amazing.
Turnovers: Dolphins 5, Bills 1. Final score: Buffalo 38, Miami 17. Turnovers = loss? Well, the Dolphins can't win when they win the turnover battle, so if they lose it, a loss is guaranteed! 2-1.

The announcers of the Cincinnati game kept talking about how tough Steven Jackson is. I just don't see it. He's a good runner, but it seems like he really tries to avoid contact (which isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but when it comes at the detriment of picking up yardage, it is) and he's always getting hurt with weird injuries. I'm always curious as to whether the announcers are censoring themselves because they want to keep their jobs, or if they actually believe what they say. It will remain a mystery. Speaking of mysteries, was that Pat Summerall calling the game? It sure sounded like him. Any answers, Woody?
Turnovers: Rams 2, Bengals 2. Final score: Cincinnati 19, St. Louis 10. Turnovers = loss? Neither team had an advantage.

I didn't watch the end of the Dallas-Detroit game, but I would have been angry, especially because this seemed like the game that, had the Boys lost, Terrell Owens would have gone nuts. He only caught 3 passes for 21 yards, and he dropped a few, and when that happens, Owens starts looking for someone to blame. But they won, so all is well. Damn it. How the crap does Jason Hanson miss a relative chip shot (35 yards) indoors that would have given the Lions a 30-21 lead late in the game? Sheesh. Stupid Detroit.
Turnovers: Cowboys 1, Lions 0. Final score: Dallas 28, Detroit 27. Turnovers = loss? No. 2-2.

I don't know anything about the Oakland-Green Bay game except that the Packers won and R. C. Favre threw one of his patented long touchdown passes that looks like a punt but somehow causes the defensive back to fall down. Maybe from craning his neck so much to look at how high it was thrown? Of course, R. C. didn't throw it into double coverage for a change, so once the defender fell down, it was an easy touchdown. I hate to root for the Packers, but right now I really hope they can defeat the Cowboys in the playoffs.
Turnovers: Raiders 3, Packers 1. Final score: Green Bay 38, Oakland 7. Turnovers = loss? It looks that way. 3-2.

The Titans were playing at home with a late 17-3 lead and somehow managed to lose. There was a controversial fourth-down catch by Chris Chambers that kept the final regulation drive alive, a catch that looked like it was a trap, but the replay wasn't conclusive. Chambers said he was lucky there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it. Doesn't that sound like someone who is admitting he didn't catch it? I know he's going to say he did, but that's an odd thing to say. Anyway, it didn't matter, because the Titans couldn't pick up one first down on their final drive to ice the game, and if you can't do that, you don't deserve to win.
Turnovers: Chargers 3, Titans 2. Final score: San Diego 23, Tennessee 17. Turnovers = loss? Wow, no. 3-3.

This is why I think Jacksonville can beat the Cheaters: David Garrard doesn't turn the ball over, they run very well, and they have a solid defense. Of course, so did Pittsburgh, but still.
Turnovers: Panthers 2, Jaguars 1. Final score: Jacksonville 37, Carolina 6. Turnovers = loss? Sure. 4-3.

I love watching games like Tampa-Houston. It's a game nobody thought about, even though the Bucs could have clinched the division with a win. Yet it turned into a pretty entertaining game, at least the parts I watched. Of course, it also points out why this league is so vexing: Houston looked really good, yet they're only a 6-7 team. Tampa will win their division, yet they looked unimpressive. Odd.
Turnovers: Buccaneers 2, Texans 2. Final score: Houston 28, Tampa 14. Turnovers = loss? It wasn't a concern.

By the afternoon games, I was sick of football. The Eagles were awful, the Cardinals were going to get bashed at Seattle (I just had a feeling, which turned out to be a good one), and I wasn't in the mood to watch the Cheaters beat up another team (another game I had a feeling about, as they were angry about everyone talking about how beatable they were for the past two weeks). So I rode my bike around the neighborhood, as I need to exercise more. Therefore, I have less to say about these games than the earlier ones. I will say that the 49ers, for the brief time I watched them play the Vikings, looked like a peewee football team. The NFL should change the schedule to let the 49ers play the Dolphins. Whoever loses gets thrown out of the league and has to play in Conference USA for a year.
Turnovers: 49ers 5, Vikings 1. Final score: Minnesota 27, San Francisco 7. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 5-3.

By the time I got home from my bike ride, Seattle was already winning 24-0. Man, that game looked ugly. Arizona will never be a good team unless they stop turning the ball over, but more importantly, they need to stop committing stupid penalties. How hasn't this been fixed yet? The false starts at home are bad enough, but the Cardinals also commit too many personal fouls, especially when they seem to have the other team stopped but then a defender hits a guy after the whistle. That kind of stupidity is why mediocre teams can't get over the hump, and so the Cardinals will stay in mediocrity. Seattle, meanwhile, is quietly playing really well. Maybe they can beat the Cowboys!
Turnovers: Cardinals 5, Seahawks 0. Final score: Seattle 42, Arizona 21. Turnovers = loss? Very much so. 6-3.

If it's an odd-numbered game, the Broncos must be playing well. Doesn't that seem like the way they do things up there in the thin air?
Turnovers: Chiefs 3, Broncos 0. Final score: Denver 41, Kansas City 7. Turnovers = loss? It certainly appears so. 7-3.

Pittsburgh looked like it was in the game for a while, and then the Cheaters hit them with that double lateral play and that put a stake through them. Boy, talk about a mentally weak team, but that's what Pittsburgh is right now. Some nobody on their team guarantees a win, they play hard, but the minute New England throws something weird at them, they fold like lawn chairs. I wrote a few weeks ago that I now hope the Cheaters go unbeaten and then lose in their first playoff game, and it looks like there's really no way they can lose unless they want to. And with the way the offensive line protects the Golden Boy, why should Belicheat sit him once they clinch home field? He's probably safer behind the line than standing on the sidelines, where he might trip over something! The Cheaters play the Jets next week. Consider the history, and one wonders if Brady might break Peyton Manning's touchdown record (he's four short) in the first half. I think he'll get six next week. Really.
Turnovers: Steelers 1, Cheaters 0. Final score: New England 34, Pittsburgh 13. Turnovers = loss? Well, it was probably that stupid guarantee, but the stats don't lie! 8-3.

Speaking of the Jets, they suck. It's nice to see the Browns go on the road and handle their business. It will be interesting to see if they can make any noise in the playoffs. Their defense is still not very good, but they can hurt you either way offensively.
Turnovers: Jets 2, Browns 1. Final score: Cleveland 24, New Jersey 18. Turnovers = loss? Why not? 9-3.

The Ravens were probably still whining when they took the field last night, which made it easy for the Colts, I reckon. Manning should send the Cheaters a thank-you note, because any hope the Ravens had to win this game went away a week ago, when they decided that bitching about a game that had ended was smarter than preparing for a game that hadn't happened yet. Brian Billick needs to be fired, doesn't he? And this team needs to be blown up. They're old and cranky, and while that might work when you're sitting on your porch ranting about how everything was better when you were a kid, it doesn't work in the NFL.
Turnovers: Ravens 5, Colts 0. Final score: Indianapolis 44, Baltimore 20. Turnovers = loss? Well, I'm sure the Ravens are blaming the refs, but let's say yes. 10-3.

That brings the total to 144-21 for teams that turn the ball over less than their opponents. Wow. That's a good stat.

I don't have much to say about the Heisman. It's nice that a sophomore finally won it, but in a year where no one really distinguished themselves, it would have been nice if the voters finally decided to look a little deeper and give it to a non-QB non-running back. I mean, as a homer, Dan Connor of Penn State probably had a better year than Tebow did. I'm not hyping Dan Connor for the Heisman, I'm just saying that it seems like a lot of Tebow's stats were piled up against weak competition. I get that the Heisman should be renamed to "Best quarterback or running back who plays on a winning team in a major conference," but in a year like this, it just seems like the voters could have reached a little and come up with a true "Best Player" instead of settling for a guy who is certainly talented but is not the best player in the country. My theory is that the sportswriters were all hoping that Tebow would introduce them to women like this:

I mean, it makes as much sense as believing he's the best player in the country, right?

Next week: the playoffs come into even more focus, the Eagles lose BIG at Dallas, and the Cheaters just might break the record for most points scored in a NFL game (which is 72 - I think - for a regular season game, and 73 for a playoff game; yes, a team has scored more points in a playoff game than anyone has ever scored in a regular season game, which is kind of weird) ... in the first half! It's sure to be a doozy!

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Italians know why people tune into the weather on local news

We here in the United States believe that people actually care about the storms in the Pacific Northwest or hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. The Italians, however, know that when you tune into the weather on the six o'clock broadcast, you're only looking for one thing: T&A. Or is that two things? Anyway, behold:

I love the first weather chick, who's dressed like she just rolled in from some trashy club. At least the second chick made an effort. I found these here by way of this post.

Italians aren't shy about trying to get ratings, I'll tell you that much.

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Classic rock?

So I'm listening to the "classic rock" station here in town the other day, and "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" by the Eagles was on. It was near the end of the song, so I left it on to hear what was coming on next (I don't have a problem with "Peaceful, Easy Feeling," but it's not like it's the greatest song in the world). So the next song that comes on is ...

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band. Now, I like that song, but is it really "classic rock"? It sounds like pure country to me. I mean, it's about Johnny and the Devil playin' their fiddles, for crying out loud!

What say you, loyal readers? Should they be playing that song on a classic rock radio station?

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What have we learned - Week 13

Since the Eagles began their remarkable run back in 2001, there have been only two seasons when I've been at peace: this year and 2005, the last time they tanked. It's a wonderful feeling, watching football with no hope, because if I had any hope, I would have been worked up about yesterday's game. That's not to say I didn't get peeved that the Eagles blew it, but it was more of a dispassionate anger, like I was watching a game that occurred many years ago and I already knew the outcome. I can watch the Eagles' Super Bowl loss in 1981 and get angry that they lost, but it's more regretful than anything. So there is calm in my heart, because not only are the Eagles going to miss the playoffs this year, if things go the way they're rumored to be going and Andy Reid stays and Donovan McNabb leaves after this year, they likely will miss the playoffs next year too. I would rather see Reid leave and McNabb stay, but I guess that's not going to happen. Oh well.

As for the game itself: neither the Eagles nor the Seahawks are any good (despite Seattle's 8-4 record) because Philadelphia handed the game away, with the first two Seattle touchdown drives totalling 18 and 8 yards after bone-headed throws by A. J. Feeley were picked off. Neither Reid nor Holmgren was willing to commit to the run on a day with freezing rain pelting down, and if Reid had, the Eagles would have won. Early in the second half Brian Westbrook scored the last Eagle touchdown on a nice 29-yard run, and then Reid threw again. With a minute left and no timeouts, Westbrook somehow returned a punt 64 yards to the Seattle 14. Just like last week, Feeley threw a pick, but it wasn't as stupid as the one he threw last week, even though he should have seen Lofa Tatupu. I like Feeley, but he's a back-up, and prone to mistakes. As usual, I don't understand why Reid doesn't adjust his game plan to fit the conditions of the game. Last week, Feeley was on, and Reid rode him. This week, it was obvious he wasn't on, but Reid kept calling pass plays. I want to apply for the job of Eagles coach and tell Jeffrey Lurie that I will not get my quarterback killed, nor will I ever punt. Do you think I'll get the job?
Turnovers: Eagles 4, Seahawks 2. Final score: Seattle 28, Philadelphia 24. Turnovers = loss? Absolutely. 1-0.

Brett "R. C." Favre was terrible early in the game on Thursday, and then he got hurt. This gives me hope, not only that R. C. will revert to form, but that Randy Moss and Terrell Owens will as well. This is why Andy Reid can't change - he's that guy, like it or not. I will be grumpy if R. C. doesn't start throwing idiotic interceptions and Terrell Owens doesn't throw his quarterback under the bus. Ron Jaworski pointed out that Moss took some plays off against the Eagles, so maybe "Straight Cash, Homey" Moss is reverting to form. That would be nice.
Turnovers: Packers 2, Cowboys 1. Final score: Dallas 37, Green Bay 27. Turnovers = loss? It appears so. 2-0.

Vince Young looked like a real quarterback! Yay! I still don't like that hitch in his motion, but if Jeff Fisher is happy with it, oh well.
Turnovers: Texans 2, Titans 1. Final score: Tennessee 28, Houston 20. Turnovers = loss? Sure. 3-0.

The Jaguars are claiming they got hosed by the officials early on in their game with the Colts. David Garrard fumbled, some Colt picked it up, and then a Jaguar stole it back. I don't like siding with the Colts, but replay shows that the Indy guy was down with several Jaguars touching him. Sorry, Jacksonville. How about your receiver makes the catch late in the game near the Indy goal line instead of batting it to a defender like you were playing volleyball? Maybe then you wouldn't be complaining.
Turnovers: Jaguars 2, Colts 1. Final score: Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 25. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 4-0.

Man, that LaDanian Tomlinson can really run the rock. I think he has a future in this league. Someone should have told Norv Turner about him earlier this season.
Turnovers: Chiefs 4, Chargers 1. Final score: San Diego 24, Kansas City 10. Turnovers = loss? That, and a good dose of Tomlinson. 5-0.

Because of the snottiness of the 1972 Dolphins, I'm totally rooting for this year's vintage to go winless. After this past weekend, where they were favored at home but ended up losing by 27, I think they might pack it in. Go, Dolphins! Suck up the joint!
Turnovers: Dolphins 5, Jets 2. Final score: New Jersey 40, Miami 13. Turnovers = loss? Yes, but it's the Dolphins, so they're going to lose anyway. 6-0.

Everyone says the league has become pass-happy and you can't win the "traditional" way, that is running the ball and stopping the run. That's why I hope Minnesota wins the Super Bowl. They have a quarterback who isn't very good but doesn't screw up, and two running backs who run right at you and dare you to stop them. I'm still worried that Adrian Peterson is going to fall apart, as is his wont, but I would love to watch he and Chester Taylor smash right through the Cheaters' aged linebackers in SB 2-and-40. Probably won't happen, but a guy can dream, right?
Turnovers: Lions 1, Vikings 1. Final score: Minnesota 42, Detroit 10. Turnovers = loss? It's a wash, but the Lions should consider that it could have been worse, if they turned the ball over more.

Everyone is talking about Joe Gibbs calling consecutive timeouts at the end of the game to give the Bills a much easier field goal, and they're right: maybe it's time for Gibbs to hang it up. Yes, I know they were distracted by Sean Taylor and all, but that has nothing to do with it. It's a standard rule any coach should know. Someone mentioned that Rex Grossman tried to do it last year in the playoffs against Seattle and his tight end told him it was a penalty. If your tight end knows the rules, the coach ought to. What I'm mystified about is the long pass that got the Bills in position. There's 20 seconds left and Buffalo has no timeouts, yet somehow the receiver got 30 yards downfield and caught the ball. Where else would Edwards throw the ball except downfield? I understand that they were guarding the sidelines, but that's inexcusable.
Turnovers: Washington 2, Bills 1. Final score: Buffalo 17, Washington 16. Turnovers = loss? That, and the idiotic stuff at the very end. 7-0.

Boy, the 49ers suck. What does that say about Arizona, who is 0-2 against them this year?
Turnovers: 49ers 6, Panthers 2. Final score: Carolina 31, San Francisco 14. Turnovers = loss? You bet. 8-0.

Turnovers are the great equalizer again, as Oakland got some short scoring drives to beat a Denver team that seems intent on shooting itself in the foot every season. They have talent, but as long as they keep looking for the next Elway (Plummer and Cutler seem cut from the discount Elway mold), they're going to keep stinking up the joint.
Turnovers: Broncos 4, Raiders 1. Final score: Oakland 34, Denver 20. Turnovers = loss? Indubitably. 9-0.

Some Cleveland fans are arguing that they got rooked by the officials because Kellen Winslow was clearly knocked out on the last play of the game, which in the NFL means the catch should have counted and the Browns would get a game-winning touchdown. Well, maybe. That's a tough call, because I'm not terribly sure if Winslow would have come down in bounds anyway - he was going pretty hard out, and barely got one toe in even after being hit. But maybe it should be reviewable. Of course, Cardinals fans could argue that Braylon Edwards was clearly touched on his long touchdown to end the third quarter as he went down to the ground. He jumped up and kept running, but replays showed, pretty obviously, that the defender brushed him. Now, it had nothing to do with him going down (he was laid out making a catch and would have gone down no matter what), but the rules are clear about it. So Cleveland got a gift touchdown and had a touchdown taken away. It all evens out! Arizona was a lock to win this game because no one expected them to. I think they'll probably beat Seattle next week in Seattle, but then the expectations will be too much and they'll go in the tank. Cleveland, meanwhile, should still make the playoffs - as long as they don't turn the ball over!
Turnovers: Browns 4, Cardinals 1. Final score: Arizona 27, Cleveland 21. Turnovers = loss? Yes indeed. 10-0.

I didn't watch the New Jersey-Chicago game, but how on Earth did the Giants win that one? Sheesh. I did see Devin Hester drop a pass that should have gone for a touchdown when he was wide open by about ten yards. That's why you punt to him: yes, he returns some for touchdowns, but he also drops a lot. It's a risk/reward thing!
Turnovers: Giants 4, Bears 0. Final score: New Jersey 21, Chicago 16. Turnovers = loss? Stupid Bears. How can you be +4 in turnovers and lose? 10-1.

Why, Sean Payton, why? If you haven't seen the unbelievably stupid play that cost the Saints the game, it's quite the puzzler. Leading by three with not a lot of time left (under four minutes, I think), Reggie Bush took a handoff and then tried to pitch it to a wide receiver who was coming around the other end. His pitch was bad, the ball hit the turf, the Buccaneers recovered, and scored the game-winning touchdown. Why run that play? I love trick plays ... but not when all you need to do is grind out the clock. It's the same mentality that led to Feeley throwing deep into the end zone last week when all the Eagles needed was to grind the clock. Trick plays are great, but there's a time and place for them. At least Payton acknowledged he screwed up. But that's a job-costing call right there.
Turnovers: Buccaneers 1, Saints 1. Final score: Tampa 27, New Orleans 23. Turnovers = loss? Not a concern, but the Saints' one led directly to defeat.

Another game I missed was the Sunday night one, but again, how did the Steelers win? They turned the ball over 4 times yet won by two touchdowns. Cincinnati and New Orleans, I notice, are also reverting to form. They're ready to rejoin Arizona as the league's bottom-feeders. It's a shame, really, but someone has to suck. I wish it was Dallas and Indianapolis and New England, but I can't get everything I want, right?
Turnovers: Steelers 4, Bengals 1. Final score: Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 10. Turnovers = loss. No. How did Pittsburgh win? 10-2.

I hate to side with the overrated Brian Billick and the murderer-protecting Ray Lewis, but the Ravens got jobbed last night. The timeout on the fourth down play was annoying, sure, but don't you love how on the next play, a penalty against the Cheaters helped them? They were stuffed on fourth down again, but a false start penalty backed them up, and since it's a dead ball foul, Baltimore couldn't decline it. I would much rather go 4th-and-1 against the Cheaters than 4th-and-6, because they'll probably run it on the former down and throw it on the latter, and I'd rather have them run. They called a pass play on 4th-and-6, and Golden Boy was able to scramble for a first down. Then, the officials called what looked like a phantom holding call on another fourth down, this time an incomplete pass. Then, of course, Jabar Gaffney appeared to be bobbling the ball as he went out of bounds on the game-winning touchdown. It seemed pretty obvious, but they didn't overturn the call. I get that good teams get the calls, but it's also obvious that the officials call the game differently, not necessarily based on who's playing, but based on their own inclinations. I bet that the defensive holding call gets called about half the time. Hey, either it's holding or it's not. Randy Moss shoves off all the time and hardly ever gets called for pass interference. I almost fell out of my chair when he got called for it in the Eagles game. It's frustrating, because I know the officials are human beings and probably aren't looking to give the Cheaters any edge, but I wonder how that game plays out if there's a different official on the field who doesn't believe in calling ticky-tack penalties. Again, it's not that the officials are favoring the Cheaters, it's just that they "interpret" the rules differently. New England, however, looks very beatable. I trust everyone in America will be rooting for the Steelers next week.
Turnovers: Ravens 2, Cheaters 1. Final score: New England 27, Baltimore 24. Turnovers = loss? Well, that and the horrible officiating. 11-2.

So that's 134-18 for teams that turn the ball over less than their opponents. Shocking, I know.

College football sorted itself out as well as can be expected. I don't have a problem with Ohio State and LSU in the Championship Game, although I think LSU will destroy them. The Buckeyes have a chance because nobody gives them a chance and I think Les Miles will still be distracted by the Michigan job (he hasn't signed his extension with LSU yet). The rest of the BCS bowls are pretty dull, except maybe the Sugar Bowl, which features Hawaii trying to do what Boise State did last year. I have been listening to the palaver (to paraphrase David Stern) about the BCS and how we can't have a playoff, and it pretty much stinks. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports has come up with a viable playoff plan, and it would be nice to see something like it in my lifetime. I mean, the Rose Bowl is run by a bunch of jerks, who took a three-loss Illinois team just to maintain some "tradition." Meanwhile, everyone in the Basin is pissed that the Fiesta Bowl didn't take Arizona State, but once the Rose took the Illini, the Fiesta Bowl's hands were tied, and that's the point. It's an antiquated system, and unless we just admit that there's no point to crowning a National Champion (this is college sports, after all, which isn't supposed to be about who wins), then someone needs to step up and tell the bowls their days of dominance are over. I love how people who argue against a playoff claim it would destroy the bowls. Why, exactly? Penn State is playing Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. That game wouldn't be affected by a playoff at all. They could still hold it and let one of the teams finish with a nice win. Any team would be eligible for a bowl except the teams in the playoff. It's really stupid. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 continues to be idiotic in their television package. They have bowl tie-ins with only one New Year's Day bowl -the Rose. That means crappy mid-level SEC teams like Tennessee get to play on New Year's Day while Arizona State, the second-place Pac-10 team, is shunted to December 27 for the Holiday Bowl. If you want to know why there's an East Coast bias in college football, it's partly because the Pac-10 has done an awful job getting their teams - except for USC - into visible bowls. Sure, the Holiday Bowl is the only game on that night, but it's still a night game when a lot of people have to work the next day. If it were on 1 January it would be more visible.

Oh well. I want a playoff or a return to the old system. Pac-10 v. Big Ten in the Rose, the Big 12 v. ACC in the Orange Bowl, the SEC v. Big East in the Sugar Bowl. At least then we wouldn't have to pretend that we're actually crowning a National Champion when LSU thumps OSU. I hope they do, actually, because then the winner of the Virginia Tech-Kansas game would have a case, the winner of the Oklahoma-West Virginia game would have a case, the winner of the Georgia-Hawaii game would have a case, USC would have a case if it wins, and even Arizona State could make a case. It will be chaos! Excellent ...

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