Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spring Training Roundtable #1 - State of Baseball

Every week, five of us gather to discuss baseball issues during this spring training season.   Each Sunday until the start of the season, the discussion will be posted here to see. The first topic called upon each of the participants to give a 'State of the Game' type speech.  

I promise that there were zero standing ovations during the giving of these 'speeches'  Also, added to the 'speech' was a set of expectations for the team each participant follows.

My Jingoistic Burning Passions

I am not normally like this, but today, it is the duty of every loyal and patriotic American to rise up with one voice and shout out with all his might - 
Maul those Mounties!!  Crush the Canucks!!  Bring home the Gold! 

USA!! USA!! USA!! 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Because 100,000 Were Not Enough...

There is a sort of sick humor in the story that says the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research had to 'step in' to alleviate the condom shortage at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  100,000 condoms had been used in the first 14 days, and apparently, there just wasn't enough love to be had, so more were needed.  

No glove, no love, indeed!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NFL HGH Testing

The NFL has made a proposal that all players ought to be tested for Human Growth Hormone, or HGH.  

I applaud such a proposal.

The NFL Players Association does not - and I believe they are making a fundamental miscalculation in coming out against it.

For what it is worth, this is just another front in the war that will inevitably lead to (hopefully) a lockout right before the 2011 season.  The NFLPA will ramble on and on about 'rights' being violated and all that kind of jazz, but they need to remember that playing football is not a right in any meaningful sense, and there is no ironclad law that says the NFL has to either exist or even remain popular.  Baseball took some major hits with its problems surrounding performance-enhancing drugs, and the NFL has remained unscathed (for reasons unknown to me, honestly), but it won't be unscathed for much longer if the players' union refuses to go along with this.  In this, the NFL is absolutely right to try and tackle the issue.

But let's see if the NFLPA will do the right thing.  I doubt it, somehow. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Greatest Sports Call Ever?

I was 'watching' NBC the other day (I think it was either Saturday or Sunday) and listening to Al Michaels and Bob Costas converse about stupid nonsense that no one outside of that studio cared to hear except them, and Costas talks about a conversation he had with a random guy who said the three greatest sports calls of all time were 1) 'Do you believe in Miracles?' by Michaels himself, 2) 'The Giants win the pennant!' by Russ Hodges, and 3) 'I can't believe what I just saw' by Jack Buck in reference to Kirk Gibson's home run in the 1988 World Series.

Let's start with number three - Jack Buck's call of Gibson's homer to end Game 1 in the World Series is, in my opinion, one of the most overrated calls in history.  I much prefer Vin Scully's call of the home run, which is understated.  I realize Buck was on the radio and Scully on TV, but saying 'saw' on the radio automatically takes it down a notch.  The Buck call I really like is the one of Ozzie Smith's game winning home run in the 1985 NLCS (i.e. 'Go crazy, folks!').  That call should actually be higher on the list than the Gibson call.

Hodges' call of Bobby Thomson's home run ('The Shot Heard 'Round the World') to win the 1951 NL pennant for the New York Giants definitely deserves its spot on the list.  It gives me goosebumps to hear it, and it is even better to listen to it while watching the film and seeing the mob scene at the Polo Grounds.

The importance and the spontaneous exuberance from (a younger) Al Michaels in 1980 as the US Hockey team of college kids defeated the mighty Soviet Union in the semi-final game of the Olympics I will certainly not dispute.  So with numbers one and two locked into place, what other calls belong on the list?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

For the first time in the month of February, and probably the first time since December, we are going to have a full week of school.  Thank God.  As much as I like the snow and the time off, it's a complete pain in the backside with regard to planning, and playing catch up.  Between all the events surrounding my grandmother's viewing/funeral and the Snowmaggedon Snowpocalypse Storm of the Century 2010, it has been some time since I was able to settle in and actually do my job again.  

Back to the old routine - wake up at 5:15, eat breakfast, make sure the cat is not acting up, shower, get out of the house by 6, arrive at school at 6:40 and all the fun stuff of a routine I have described before (it says 5:30 - but that was before I had to start testing my sugar every day and you know, actually eat breakfast).  We are finally on the verge of completing our foster/adoption class that has been going on since January 7th, but has been postponed for three straight weeks.  Hopefully, the home study and such will be completed soon and we will be ready for placement by late spring.  It has been an exciting and apprehensive time in life.  This blog has provided a nice little outlet to vent and share my thoughts.  Things are returning to some semblance of abnormalcy and I am thankful for that and for you, the readers.

It's good to be back in the saddle once again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

USA!! USA!! USA!!

Beat those Canadians!

Phillies Spring Training - 10 Opening Questions

Over the next six weeks, Lattanzi Land will be examining and previewing the 2010 season from both the Phillies' perspective as well as from the rest of baseball.  Today, we begin by looking at some of the major questions that arise as teams fill up their camps in Florida and Arizona.

1) Can the Phillies become the first National League team in 66 years to win three consecutive pennants?  

This season could be a major groundbreaking year for the Phillies as they go for an unprecedented fourth straight division title and attempt to be the first team since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals to win three straight NL pennants.  As always, it will be disappointing if they do not win the World Series, but one has to think that the Phillies are the odds-on favorite to make it back to the Fall Classic and win their second championship in three seasons.

Vertigo

The film of the same name (directed by Hitchcock) was creepy, but I refer to the actual condition.  Things are spinning around, including this computer screen as I type these very words.  I have nearly fallen 4-5 times, and it is only 9:35 in the morning.  I can only imagine the exponential growth in these "near-misses" as the day goes on.  Hopefully the Claritin kicks in at some point.  Hopefully.  And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.  Just a little taste of the dizziness can be found right here:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Express Lane Madness

I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few items to eat today.  I needed things that were high in protein and low in carbs, so I got some hot chicken wings and some shrimp as well as some Hot Pockets for Paula.  It was absolute madness in the store as it seems that just because it was the warmest day in weeks, Wal-Mart was the place to be!  I'll never understand it, although I do appreciate their lower prices on many things, so I guess that's the appeal.

ANYWAY...

I get the things I need - as I am a very quick shopper - and I find an express lane.  I had all of four (FOUR!) items in a lane that says 'no more than 20 items' in large, boldfaced lettering at that.  Yet, there were three people ahead of me that had full carts and certainly more than 20 in each case (since I was bored in line, I counted their items).  One lady had 27, another lady had 24, and a man had 25.  Ugh.  Talk about holding up the line and inconveniencing both other customers and the cashier "associate".  I started thinking that stores with "express" lanes need to do something to keep people with more than the maximum amount out OR penalize them for doing so - sort of a HOT (high-occupancy toll) lane for retailers.

The plan would be the following - if anyone goes over the maximum amount of items, then there should be a ten percent surcharge on the entire bill, per item, COMPOUNDED.  This is how it would work...

23 items that end up being a total of 90 dollars.  There are three more items than 20, the maximum.  For the first item, a ten percent surcharge ($9) brings it to 99 dollars, then the second surcharge is $9.90, bringing the total to $108.90, and the third one is $10.89, bringing the total bill to $119.79.  Ultimately, you will have paid an extra 30 dollars for the "convenience" of the express lane.  

Hopefully, people get the hint and stop abusing the express lanes.  Stores will be able to make extra money and keep the express lanes flowing as they should be.  Unfortunately a system like this will never catch on, but most people have been in the position I describe above - getting stuck behind some jackass who possesses not an iota of decency and apparently is illiterate as well.  

Nevertheless, I can dream, right?

Mother of All Political Posts, Part I: Development of Thought

This is the Mother of All Political Posts - a two part series being unveiled today and tomorrow.  Today, I reveal a little history of my development of thought through the years.  If you are not into this type of topic, then I advise you not to keep reading.  If you are easily offended and don't like to read opinions that run counter to your own, then likewise I advise you not to keep reading as well.    

Updates...

Trying to crank out the Mother of All Political Posts...but I have hit a snag - writer's block, especially in how to describe certain things.  It will get up when it does.  Otherwise, continue to enjoy the fine stories and commentary here at Lattanzi Land.

-- Josh

Water Found To Be Wet....

...and a study shows that Chicago area politicians are corrupt.  Who woulda thunk?   They needed a study to show what people could gather from reading the front page of the paper?  One thing I have been curious about for the past couple of years is why the President has never been even so much as implicated in anything involved with Chicago considering that a) he is part and a product of the political machine there and b) he was buddies with criminal entrepreneurs like Tony Rezko.  It may well be that Obama was never involved in the seedy side of things, but let's just say I would not be shocked if it came out later that he was part of, or had had knowledge of some of the things that were going on.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Upcoming Events

There won't be much going on here at Lattanzi Land today.  It's a Friday and I just wish to chill out for a while.  We are taking my parents out to dinner at Red Lobster today.  Tomorrow, I will be unveiling the Mother of All Political Posts - a look at my political odyssey from early teens to the present.  It should be interesting, to say the least.  Sunday will have our first look at the Phillies and a little bit of a roundup from Spring Training.  Over the next few weeks, I will also be reviewing all the baseball movies I own as the run up to the start of the season occurs.  Enjoy the reading, and as always, the comment threads are open.

-- Josh

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On Bowling...

Bowling is a sport that takes more skill than a lot of other sports.  In bowling, you must roll a ball that is anywhere from 10-16 pounds on a wooden lane that is only 41 inches wide yet 60 feet long.  The first 39 feet of the 60 is covered in oil in various patterns.  They say baseball is a game of inches; bowling is a game of millimeters.  One degree higher or lower is the difference between a strike and a tap-seven or a split.  One moment it looks like it is going into the 'pocket', then the next moment the ball has chopped the head pin directly and you are looking at a 4-7-6-10 split.

When I started bowling, I threw a 12 pound straight ball.  In my (short-sighted) thinking at the time, a lighter ball would give me more power.  It gave me power, but almost nothing in semblance of control - I finished my first season with an average of 153 and my second season actually went down to 149.  Something had to change.  I started experimenting with a hook and eventually a heavier ball - my current ball ('The Kid') is 15.5 pounds.  Soon enough, the average started going up and so did my consistency.  

I have a weird delivery - my middle and ring fingers only go fingertip deep and I don't use the thumb, so the ball is in a 'cupped' position.  The flick of the wrist still goes through the recommended motion - when the ball is released, my hand is in a shaking position.  

But one bad position in the throw screws it up.  I see bowling very much like pitching; repetition is the key quality, and success in that repetition makes one good.  Cole Hamels' changeup is a nasty weapon when it is well-positioned.  A hitter can know it's coming and still whiff every time on it.  If I can put the ball in the same spot on the lane each and every time with a consistent speed and motion, then I will be successful.  The last two times I have bowled show perfectly how Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can show up, even in consecutive games.  Just a matter of inches, even millimeters.  276 and 258 in first games...168 and 180 in the middle games.  It's weird, but like pitching, bowling is also a game of adjustment - fatigue, lane conditions, shoe conditions, and so forth. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

The borrowing of this cliche' means one thing: spring training has arrived!  It's the one time in the sports year (other than perhaps Speed Weeks) where all teams are equal and optimistic about what the future portends.  NFL and NBA training camps don't give off this kind of vibes; they are occurring, respectively, in the heat of summer and indoors in early fall and thus do not have the soft and nice feeling of what George Carlin called 'spring, the season of new life!' 

As a Phillies fan, I have extra reason to be optimistic, despite my normal cynical and pessimistic outlook in most things that occur in life.  They are two-time defending National League champions who have just acquired a top 5 pitcher, everyone is (relatively) healthy heading into the season, and not a whole lot of the competition has improved in that same stretch. 

Over the next six weeks, I will provide periodic prognostications, as well as provide the space for some guest posts on how others think the season will go.  Easter weekend will have a gigantic free-for-all debate over the finer points of the season, as well as how I will do in fantasy baseball this season. 

The Bigger Fundamental Issue Involved...

I caught this article while moseying around on Facebook earlier and it is certainly causing a bit of consternation among people who support same-sex marriage and the foster system (sometimes this is mutually exclusive).  Let me take a stab at defending the Catholic Church, who really do not need such a defense, but here goes...

The District of Columbia city council recently passed a statute allowing for and recognizing same-sex marriages within its limits.  Part of what comes with this allowance and recognition is the idea that any government entity must do the same when it comes to hiring and benefits for its employees.

The Catholic Church does not recognize any kind of union between people of the same sex as a 'marriage' in any way, much as it won't recognize unions between close blood-relatives as one either.  Homosexuality is seen as an objective disorder in the human condition (but not sinful in itself) and any practice of it is sinful.  The Church (Archdiocese of Washington) runs several social service organizations within the city limits and the particular aspect that has arisen is over their foster-care program.  As related to the statute mentioned above, any married couple (hetero- or homosexual) could apply to be foster parents.  The Church, rather than being forced to accept licensed same-sex couples, simply ended their foster program and passed it along (relatively seamlessly) to another organization that could (and would) do so in recognizing same-sex couples.

These are the facts of the case.  They are undisputed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

M*A*S*H Issues - "Good" BJ vs. "Bad" BJ

This essay actually began as a discussion between me and my brother.  It was his premise; I am expanding upon it.

Captain BJ Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell) arrived at the 4077 at the beginning of Season 4, which was by far the biggest turning point within the series. Farrell, coming in for Wayne Rogers (Trapper John McIntyre) was one of two major cast changes made (the other being Harry Morgan as Colonel Sherman Potter) between the third and fourth seasons. The series would take a turn away from the pure slapstick employed in the first three seasons and eventually settled into a serious tone by Season 8. The character of BJ Hunnicutt played a major role in that transformation and in a lot of cases, that was not necessarily a good thing. I have long maintained that, from a technical standpoint, there are no bad episodes of M*A*S*H, but as I make clear in the Eras of M*A*S*H essay, a fundamental alteration took place that made the later seasons worse off than the earlier ones.

BJ Hunnicutt arrived as a clean-cut, even-tempered family man and left a mustachioed and an extremely bitter and enraged family man. Watching the fourth, fifth, and sixth seasons, BJ was very much the soft-spoken voice of reason – a true counterweight to Hawkeye Pierce and his free-wheeling ways. One could argue that war can change people, but if it hadn’t changed him after one, two, THREE seasons, then it just becomes a device in a television show, not a real development.

What makes the BJ character so bad by the end is his constant whining and pining for his family. Yes, it was bad, but he always seemed to make his suffering more than anyone else – a point made by Margaret in the episode “Wheelers and Dealers” (Season 10). BJ had his ‘humble pie’, but was back to his embittered and whiny self once again in the ensuing episodes. There’s a reason why the later seasons of the show make for compelling drinking games. BJ’s pining for home and Peg and Erin always serve as a good starting point for a shot.

It may seem to be a shallow distinction, but the mustache that Mike Farrell donned during the later seasons actually is a good indication of which BJ you will see. Clean-shaven = Good BJ. Mustache = Bad BJ. The mustache itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but looking back, it seemed to precipitate a change in the character. On television especially, a change in appearance portends a change in character.

As the character got darker, so did the show. It wasn’t the fault of the acting, but of writing and direction. Obviously, the people involved had to have been invested in some way or else none of that would have happened. I think the real problem came because a character can be serious and sad and even angry at times, but BJ Hunnicutt became a melodramatic buffoon; a caricature – much in the same way Frank Burns became a caricature during the fifth season. He was less a complete character than a systematic crying machine: I miss Peg and Erin! I want to go home! The army sucks! Ok, we get it, especially after the first 50 times.

Ultimately, in Seasons 4 through 6, BJ was one of my favorite characters; by the end, he was down with Hawkeye on my list of least favorites. It was an odd transformation, and it was one that helped push the series down the path toward a dark and serious tone that bore almost no resemblance to the show it was in the early to mid-1970’s. Times had changed, but the show went beyond that, and a casualty of that change was the “Good” BJ Hunnicutt.

Go Nuclear!

In an move that is sure to infuriate a lot of his own hardcore supporters, President Obama is beginning to push for the building of nuclear power plants and reactors.  I applaud this move, even as I am still skeptical about the reasons he is pushing for this - the cap and trade legislation that is sitting in Congress.

No nuke plants have been built in at least a couple of decades (probably close to 30 years); the scares of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are apparently still fresh in people's minds, although it has been 30 and 24 years since their respective incidents.  I have long been a proponent of nuclear power, because it is the most effective way to mass-produce electricity for the longest time - more so than oil, coal, or natural gas.  Moving (especially) the electrical grid to nuclear energy would lessen the dependence on oil for electricity purposes, keeping it for vehicles until alternatives become viable to fuel them.  I have no problem with moving to alternatives, provided that it serves a practical purpose and doesn't satisfy some sort of religious-type fetish to 'get back to our roots'.    

Spring Training Is Finally Here!

 
Praise be to God!

Happy Fat Tuesday!

Since I am neither French nor from New Orleans, I do not call it Mardi Gras and I do not celebrate Carnival (although I wish I did), so I am stuck with calling what it ought to be called...

Fat Tuesday.

Or Shrove Tuesday.

Or something involving Tuesday - (Martes Gordo?)

Tomorrow begins the great penitential liturgical season of Lent, in which Christians use the forty days prior to the Triduum to prepare for the Passion of Jesus.  A lot of emphasis has been placed on 'giving something up' during Lent, but not enough emphasis has been placed on being actively penitential.  Jesus spent forty days in the desert prior to the start of his public ministry and was tempted by the Devil.  Our temptations are not nearly as rigorous as his were, but Lent is as good a time as any to reflect back on the temptations and the agony through which Jesus suffered for the sake of our sins.  

Enjoy the food and the festivities.  The long haul begins tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Snow Days...

Prince George's County has called off school once again.  I have not seen the inside of a classroom since Tuesday, February 2nd.  I am quite sick of staying at home and my biggest fear of all is that we will have to go to school until early July.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be IT and we will not have any more snow days for the next 3 years.  Good God. 

Enough is enough.  Otherwise, enjoy some of these pictures...

 
  
 

Small All-Star Game?

'Duk over at Big League Stew muses over the idea that the baseball all-star game ought to be played in a small environment like Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY - where the annual Hall of Fame Game is played.  His thought is that baseball ought to be antithetical to the NBA's practice of holding their All-Star Game in the biggest venue possible, which they did last night in Jerruh-World.  From Big League Stew:
It's really an interesting dynamic if you think about it. Though the NBA All-Star Game would have been awesome if played in a high school fieldhouse, we made a big deal of it being played in the biggest spot possible. We also rarely decry the fact that such an intimate sport is played in bland and corporate settings that seat 20,000 people and over.

But when it comes to baseball, which hosts a playing surface many times bigger than a basketball court? Well, the closer the better. We stage a ballpark revolution that puts more of us on top of the action. Foul territory and steep upper decks are the enemy. We want to feel like we're watching from the top step of the dugout.
'Duk closes by saying that lost revenue is the major preventative factor of this event, and he is right.  Although, I am not so sure that a small All-Star venue is the best bet.  If they want it that bad, then play it in a minor league park that holds 15,000 people.  Of course, there is no novelty in that whatsoever, since they already hold AA and AAA all-star games there, but if they really want it that bad......

Lattanzi Land 2.0

Today and yesterday, I spent some time overhauling the blog here.  It had gotten a little stale in appearance - using Blogger's 'standard' features. With all the time off I decided it was time to get a little bit of a makeover. On the right-side column, there is no longer my profile; I have an 'About Lattanzi' section instead.  Blogger now allows for permanent pages - something I took advantage of massively when I was blogging on Wordpress. Directly underneath the new logo are the links for the permanent pages - here is where I have placed the Super Bowl Countdown, any M*A*S*H related writings, as well as a 'Greatest Hits' section (why?  Because I could, mostly).  

Down the right-side column as well, there has been some re-arranging and the Labels section now has buttons.  I decided that I should use my HTML knowledge and spruce things up a little bit.  Hopefully the new look catches on and the readers like it.  I enjoyed revamping and I hope that it has staying power. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Minor Tweaking

I am going through the process of making some minor changes to the blog here. The most visible change is obviously the title. Hopefully you continue to enjoy the charged commentary and witty insights right here.

~ Josh

"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"

No, I am not shutting down the blog, but rather writing about the series finale of M*A*S*H. It's been some time since I wrote about the show, and since Super Bowl 44 allegedly broke the viewership record set by "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" back in 1983, now is as good a time as any to look back on it.

The M*A*S*H series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", was aired on February 28, 1983 to a record audience that would not be seen again for almost 27 years. It was the end of an era that begin during the early 1970's while America was still embroiled in Vietnam. By 1983, the country was fundamentally different; yet, M*A*S*H was still among the higher rated shows on television.

It was in its eleventh season and it had been decided after the tenth that the eleventh would be the last one. Ideas were starting to run a little dry and some of the actors felt it was time to move on. The ones that didn't (Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher) would go on to make the short-lived spinoff/sequel series AfterMASH. Once it had been decided the eleventh season would be it, work on the grand finale began. It would be a two and a half hour long show (including ads) that attempted to resolve everything and finally end the Korean War.

There are several story lines, but the major ones are thus: a) Hawkeye Pierce's recovery from an extremely traumatic even experienced, including time spent in a mental institution, b) Charles Emerson Winchester training Chinese musicians to play music by Mozart, and c) Dealing with a stray tank at the 4077th that draws enemy fire. The first two story lines mentioned here are extremely heart-wrenching and fit very well into the mode that M*A*S*H used in the final four seasons.

There is a little bit of everything in the two and a half hours - humor, tragedy, satire, a bug out, romance, sadness, elation, bitterness, and bittersweetness. The Korean War ends, but the cost of everything is vast - money, sanity, missed time, and lives. The resolutions of the characters come about - Pierce returns to his father, Hunnicutt no longer has to be away from his family, Potter goes into semi-retirement (only to go back to work again on AfterMASH), Winchester gets the position he coveted: chief of thoracic surgery at Boston Mercy Hospital; Houlihan takes time off to decide; Father Mulcahy, who had been made deaf by an exploding shell due to the aforementioned tank, decided to minister to the deaf; Klinger, in a twist, would marry a local woman named Soon-Lee and remain in Korea. They tear down the camp and lots of goodbyes are said and tears are shed. The final scene has always been touching, at least in my view - as Hawkeye is the last to leave in a helicopter, he sees the word 'GOODBYE' spelled out rocks - a 'note' left by BJ, who had left the chopper pad on a motorcycle moments before that.

So what do I think about it? I like it, but a lot of the issues that plague the later seasons of the show rear their head here as well. A little too much moralizing, too much melodrama, and the constant forgetfulness that M*A*S*H was a comedy series. I enjoyed the working in of the real-life radio broadcasts and the fire storm that forced the 4077 to bug out. The Hawkeye mental collapse was handled very well and demonstrated a very real effect of war on the human psyche. That said, the character of Hawkeye was extremely annoying as that plot line unfolded.

All in all, my one regret as a M*A*S*H fan is that they never did a true reunion show. Not the 30th anniversary stuff or the Memories of M*A*S*H show, but a 10 year 'look ahead' kind of show - where did everyone end up. Did Hawkeye ever find a woman that would get him to put her ahead of medicine? How did BJ re-adjust to civilian life? Did Margaret ever find happiness? Did Charles find love? These are the sorts of questions I wanted to see answered. Unfortunately, I have to read fan-fiction to satisfy these kinds of issues. The fan-fiction is outstanding, but even the authors of those stories know that it is fantasy and will never carry the weight that a reunion show would have.

"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" will forever be etched in memory as the biggest and perhaps most famous series finale in history. All television records are measured by it and all finales are measured against it. For a television show that spanned parts of two decades and an extremely sweeping time period in American history, it held its own very well. Most finales are utter trash (Full House, Roseanne), but M*A*S*H gets credit because it is ultimately the standard against which all are judged. It is a good finale for the greatest show in television history.

The Uselessness of Valentine's Day

I have celebrated St. Valentine's Day before.

I also felt extremely dirty afterward; so dirty, in fact, that I needed to take multiple showers to get the mushy crap off of me.

Fortunately for me now, I am married to a woman that does not care one iota for St. Valentine's Day.

Thank God.

We actually make fun of the day constantly; we call it 'V-D Day', since if you watch a lot of commercials, the whole purpose of February 14th apparently to get laid early and often. Buy her a Pajama-gram and maybe she'll let you watch her take it off! I don't ever call it 'V Day' because that would give credence to the disgusting and appalling abomination known as the Vagina Monologues. But 'V-D Day' fits (for most people who don't know, 'VD' is venereal disease, which is what it was called prior to the adoption of 'STD' for those kinds of conditions), for some obvious reasons.

So I don't ever have to waste a single cent on stupid bullsh*t like flowers, candy, cards, and underwear with hearts on them. I am a better man for it. I don't have to waste my time looking for 'perfect' gifts just to satisfy some cultural Pavlovian stimulus. Honestly, if you need Hallmark, Reese's, ProFlowers, and Vermont Teddy Bear to remind you to tell your significant other that you love him/her, then what does that say about your relationship? We don't need it, and rationally, I think we all know that. Unfortunately, February 14th is not a particular day where reason is in ready supply. And that's a shame.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Abolish the Winter Olympics

I hate the Winter Olympics.

I hate the Winter Olympics with a passion.

I don't think this is what the Greeks envisioned when they started these games many, many centuries ago. Figure skating, luge, bobsledding, and snowboarding were hardly events the ancients would have foreseen as opposed to running, wrestling, and even swimming.

I actually much preferred when they had the Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year; that way we didn't have to worry about it for another four years. This every other year nonsense has got to end. What better way to end it than to abolish the Winter Olympics?

Think about it - we wouldn't have the sham competitions like figure skating, the NHL season would never be interrupted, and we would never have to see THE athlete from places like Albania, Ethiopia, and Hong Kong during the opening ceremonies. Do-gooder countries like Canada could donate their money that would have been spent on the Olympics to the poor and authoritarian countries could use the money to continue oppressing their own people. It's win-win!

I don't think anyone would miss it. Sure, it may cause some anguish amongst aficionados of skiing and skating, but the rest of us would have plenty of time to get ready every four years for the real Olympics that take place, during each leap year.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled episode of American Idol.

On PETA

There is probably not a group or organization that pisses me off more than People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, otherwise known as PETA. Between their scare-mongering, guilt-tripping, and production of complete nonsense, there are a lot of things that would and should bother most people.

Before anyone gets upset with me, I am not going after vegetarianism and veganism. Those are personal choices that people make in regard to their food consumption and I have no problem with it. Unless....said people decide that they are going to make it their holy crusade to tell me why I am eeeeeeevil for eating meat. Then I say: shut up, that's too f*cking bad, and pass me another cheeseburger, some fried veal, and a plate of buffalo wings. Want me to leave you alone to your decisions of food consumption? Fine, then please extend to me the same courtesy. Thank you.

End of digression.

I get bothered because groups like PETA put more value on the life of animals than they do on the lives of people. Bambi doesn't deserve to die, but they will throw their lot behind groups like Planned Parenthood, whose goal is to try and procure as many abortions as possible. There's a twisted sense of values in this instance. So I will finish my rant right here...

I got some chicken cooking in the microwave. I guess I need to go eat my 'Holocaust on a Plate'.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Top Pet Peeves

These are things that just annoy the piss out of me. They aren't in any particular order, but I do provide explanation for precisely why they annoy me. Here we go...

1) People who go the speed limit or lower in the passing lane - this is rather self-explanatory, but it bears some rationale. I am a lead-foot driver. I like to speed. I like to do the Washington Weave whenever the time calls for it. When someone (like an old fogey) is sitting in the left lane at 50 or 55 miles per hour when the right side is moving faster and I just want to get by a bunch of cars, I get aggravated and that's when the ungodly language begins flying.

2) Commands that come in the form of a question - we have all done this and have definitely been on the receiving end of it: Do you want to take the trash out? NO, NOT REALLY!! I don't mind being given the commands, honestly. You need me to do something? Just tell me. Don't try to be all sugary-sweet about it. You won't insult me by command or order. You will insult me if you disguise the order through questions.

3) People who get offended when you give them your opinion after they solicited said opinion in the first place - shit or get off the pot. You can't have it both ways. Don't act all surprised and hurt when you knew it was a possibility that your preconceived opinion would not be affirmed.

4) The 'Green' movement - I will end up writing about this at length in many other places, but I can sum it up as such: yes, it's important to be a good steward of the earth, but at the same time you will not, I repeat, will not save the earth by using florescent light bulbs, driving hybrids, or using cloth bags at the grocery store. The complete fetishization of the idea that we as people are the problem just drives me up the wall. If we are so bad, then set an example and kill yourself.

5) Advertisements that portray men as stupid, incompetent, bumbling, or imbecilic - we have seen this in many places, where a man has to be restrained by the more mature female counterparts or is being shown as a complete fool in a store or can't figure out a common sense solution, et cetera, et cetera. Most glaring example is the drunk driving PSA where the cars are full of whatever fluid. Every single drunk person is a guy. Not a single woman to be found. Obviously, this must be because women do not drink at all.

6) People who think they are all of a sudden my doctor - being diabetic, I rue the day I told certain people about the condition. I know what I am doing in regard to my food consumption. I can have a piece of cake or a couple of cookies. It isn't going to kill me. However, that doesn't seem to stop certain individuals from telling what I should and shouldn't have. My own mother (who has been diabetic for over 20 years) doesn't even do this to me. That should be good enough.

7) Reality television - it sucks, period. Cheap trashy television keeps on coming back. It's no wonder I haven't watched network TV for a number of years. I wonder how much this has to do with the American consumer. Being in a quasi-free market society, if people don't watch, the show gets canceled. Maybe there really is a demand for crap like The Amazing Race or American Idol.

8) People who wear jerseys to professional sporting events of players or teams that are not participating - there is an exception made for retired players of teams who are participating. If I wear a Mike Schmidt Phillies shirt to a Phillies game, that's ok. Wearing a St. Louis Cardinals jersey to a game between the Phillies and Nationals isn't. When I went to a game between the Nationals and Mets last June, I wore a Wheeling Jesuit t-shirt; I would have felt the fool wearing something Phillies to the game.

9) Students using text-talk on submitted work - now, correct me if I am wrong, but we still speak English, right? Just checking. I haven't seen it too much; most students know better, but every now and then I see kids who don't spell out the word 'you' or they use '2' when they want to say 'to' or 'too'. Absolutely horrendous.

10) 'Gospel of Prosperity' types - guys like Joel Osteen and others who make it out that God must have been smiling upon you just because you found a $50 bill on the ground or you got the closest parking space next to the Target in a driving rainstorm. Hate to break it to you: it wasn't God who found that. It was just the way the ball bounces. Unfortunately, it plays to the touchy-feely way a lot of people want to view God. It doesn't quite work out that way.

When I have more to put down here, I shall do so...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'Spring' Break

Looks like we are going to be out until next Tuesday, which means I get essentially a two-week vacation, including Grandma's wake and funeral. I am not sure what this will entail for future days, since we only have 4 built-in snow days, and with this whole week going, we will have used 8. Spring break? Heh. Try winter break.

When I was a kid in West Orange, NJ, we actually got a winter break in the middle of February. I would spend it in South Jersey with my father's parents. I always had a good time, but in the end I would have to pay the price; I went to school until late June because of it. True story - my brother was born on the last day of Kindergarten - June 27th!

Hopefully, all of this gets resolved soon. I would hate to have to go to school until July 7th of this year, but alas, I will be teaching summer school at that time anyway. So it makes no difference to me.

The 'Green Police'

The Audi car company ran a commercial during the Super Bowl where the 'green police' functioned as the arbiters of everything that is good and decent in the world. As Jonah Goldberg points out, neither the liberals or the conservatives found it too amusing:
Some eco-bloggers disliked the ad because it reinforces the association of undemocratic statism and PC bullying with environmentalism. Perhaps that’s why the New York Times dubbed it “misguided.”

Meanwhile, some conservatives didn’t like it because it makes light of what they believe is actually happening. After all, in America and Europe the list of environmental crimes is growing at an almost exponential rate. The ad is absurd, of course, but not nearly as absurd as Audi thinks....

To me, the target demographic is a certain subset of spineless, upscale white men (all the perps in the ad are affluent white guys) who just want to go with the flow. In that sense, the Audi ad has a lot in common with those execrable MasterCard commercials. Targeting the same demographic, those ads depicted hapless fathers being harangued by their children to get with the environmental program. MasterCard’s tagline: “Helping Dad become a better man: Priceless.”
My view has been (at least in my adult life) that while we are called to be good stewards of the earth and carry out common sense ideas, the 'green police' is closer to reality than we would like to admit. Goldberg in his column essentially says the commercial fits into the Stuff White People Like crowd. Buying an Audi, with its 'clean diesel' (whatever the hell that is - is it like 'clean' coal?), gets one off the hook. Sorry, buying a 'green' car isn't going to save the world, just as avoiding plastic bags, Styrofoam cups, and incandescent light bulbs aren't going to save the world either.

Buying a hybrid car is the epitome of the attitude, 'look at me, I am making the appearance of caring about the environment'. If that is your attitude, that's fine, I won't tell anyone. That's the choice people make, but at the same time, let the rest of us live. If I want to use plastic bags and incandescent light bulbs, then I will, thank you very much.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Political Blogging and a Massive Digression

For the most part, I try to avoid blogging about political issues. Why? Because political blogging/column-izing is a dime-a-dozen operation. You can find anything to suit your particular needs in the blogosphere and on the internet.

Run of the mill liberal? Go read The New Republic, or Slate, or any of the blogs on the Washington Post or New York Times website.

Run of the mill conservative? National Review Online, Weekly Standard, and Red State will suit you just fine.

If you are more on the loony side (either one), you can read Andrew Sullivan, or The Nation, or Pat Buchanan, or WorldNetDaily.

For the record, I read all of these things (yes, even the loony stuff - though, more for the train-wreck-but-I-can't-look-away qualities), whether in hard-print or online. It's not easy to pigeonhole me into a nice and neat little ideological package, and I aim to keep it that way.

That being said - when it comes to the political stuff, there are two types of people I can't stand more than any other kind - posers (no, I don't spell it the French way) and victims.

When it comes to posers, the attempt to put on airs just pisses me off. In a lot of ways, I just don't care for posers in every day life either. If you are ashamed of where you came from and feel like you need to 'make it' by pretending to be more sophisticated, as if you are Eliza Doolittle needing your own Henry Higgins, that isn't my problem. I may be educated, but God knows that I don't come from high class people. I would rather eat at McDonald's or an IHOP than some 5-star restaurant. I would rather sit around shooting the breeze talking about whatever than touring a vineyard or a museum. I like my radio loud and obnoxious (I really, really hate NPR and its church-like hushed tones of broadcasting), and I like my conversation fast-paced and witty, similar to the earlier episodes of Gilmore Girls (but without all the chickification).

This is who I am - nothing more, and nothing less. If you don't like it, that's too bad. My mother taught me that not everyone is going to like me, and vice versa. I got comfortable with that idea by the age of 12, and haven't looked back since.

As for the victims - what. We have an entire class of professional victims in our society, and it is rather disgusting. Anything we say or do could be deemed 'offensive' by anyone and could cost us, especially if the 'offended party' is a member of an approved professionalized victim group.

Closer to home, is the mentality that 'it's not my fault' - best exemplified in our president, who seems to want to blame his predecessor for all the ills that are happening. Wah wah wah! I failed the test? Teacher's fault! (Yes, I have heard that numerous times) I robbed a 7-11? Poverty drove me to crime! I smoke 73 joints per day? I had a rough childhood! Try personal responsibility. No one made anyone fail a test, rob a bank, or smoke weed. People can avoid these problems. No, I am not advocating a pure 'pull yourselves up by the bootstraps' mentality; you can get help for these things so you aren't alone in conquering your issues. But it can be done, and if you continue to fall prey to it, you need to own up to your own responsibility in starting to begin with.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow Day(s)

So now we are sitting through the remains of the Blizzard of the Year Decade Century Millennium, and I have several thoughts about it...

1) The authorities are incompetent about snow removal. Streets are still a cot-damned mess and no one seems to give a solitary hoot. Why? Because the storm happened on a weekend. These snow storms actually give us a good indication about the private sector vs. the public sector and the results that occur. The private sector gets results; every business and shopping center parking lot I have seen since Friday evening has been relatively clean. The interstate highways have just gotten cleaned - 48 hours afters the storm ended.

2) Our apartment complex also is incompetent in snow removal - but not as incompetent as the government is about street cleaning. I can at least see some pavement in our complex, but I can't say the same about our street.

3) We are getting more snow tomorrow. 10-20 more inches, which as Dustin says, is like predicting the Redskins will win anywhere between 3 and 11 games. So what is coming, and in a 72-96 hour span, we will have gotten between 45-50 inches of snow. If I never see much snow again, I won't be too upset.

4) Cabin fever has run rampant. We have all been stuck inside - we were fortunate to be in our own home. Due to my grandmother's funeral on Friday, the rest of the family was stuck at my mom's house in Bowie for the weekend. They all finally were able to leave between yesterday and today. We were able to walk to the local Walgreen's this morning, but due to having to carry everything back, we didn't get much - the 'necessities' of life: buffalo wings, Diet Pepsi, laundry detergent, cat litter, and cookies. No real food, but at least we know Butterscotch will have a sweet smelling shitbox.

5) School has been canceled for today, tomorrow, and probably will be for the rest of the week as well. I would be shocked if we went to school this week at all. None of this surprises me. With the incompetence shown by the local jurisdictions who had all decided they would rather keep their thumbs up their asses, it's amazing that society is able to function in any way. The way they work, they probably dump the snow in the bus lots!

So...when do pitchers and catchers report?

Super Bowl Instant Analysis

I am going to channel my late grandfather and keep it short and sweet:

The Saints got lucky.

That's the end of the analysis. Thank God football season is finally over. Hopefully the 2010 season is the last one for a while.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Live Blog - 6 PM: Super Bowl 44! Colts vs. Saints

Replay of Super Bowl 44 Live Blog

Super Bowl Countdown #1 - Super Bowl XXV - Giants 20, Bills 19

Number one is finally here! We apologize for getting this out so late. Family commitments and obligations came up and had to be prioritized, but one thing we wanted to be sure of is that this would be out by kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com. Here is the Greatest Super Bowl Of All Time...

A truly great game is one where both teams perform at an exceptional level throughout the contest, matching the other team’s intensity and production. On January 27, 1991, the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills met in Tampa, Florida for Super Bowl 25 in a game where both teams refused to lose, yet one eventually did. The journey the two teams made ended at the same destination, but the roads traveled were widely divergent.

The New York Football Giants finished the season 13-3, good for the second best record in the NFC (behind defending champion San Francisco). They had actually started the season 10-0, but it looked like the Giants were not going to go very far when starting quarterback Phil Simms was lost to a broken foot, thus ending his season and putting the Giants' fate into the hands of seldom-used quarterback Jeff Hostetler. Even worse, also lost eventually was starting running back Rodney Hampton, forcing rusty veteran Ottis 'OJ' Anderson to fill in as the full-time starter.

Luckily for the Giants, head coach Bill Parcells did not put all of his eggs in the offensive basket; the strong suit of the team was in its defense. The attack on defense was led by pro-bowlers Erik Howard (defensive tackle), Pepper Johnson, and Lawrence Taylor (both linebackers). The defense worked so well that it finished second in yards allowed and first in fewest points.

Parcells' strategy was ingenious in its simplicity - sustain long drives on offense, do not turn the ball over, keep the opponent's defense ON the field and its offense OFF the field. The Giants turned the ball only 14 times in 16 games (an NFL record), which is an incredible rate, considering that some teams have turned the ball over half that many times in one game.

The Giants opened the playoffs at home in the Meadowlands with an easy 31-3 victory over the Chicago Bears, in a game where they rushed for nearly 200 yards and Hostetler did not have to throw the ball more than 17 times. He did throw two touchdown passes, but there wasn't all good news to be had - Rodney Hampton broke his leg and was finished for the rest of the playoffs. Up next was the defending San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Title Game. It was a defensive struggle that would prove victorious for the Giants (unlike the regular season defensive struggle), as Leonard Marshall knocked Joe Montana out of the game and eventually forced a late turnover. Matt Bahr kicked his fifth field goal of the game as the clock went to zeroes to send the Giants to the Super Bowl with a 15-13 victory.

Their opponent in the Super Bowl, the Buffalo Bills, had a punishing defense as well, with defensive player of the year Bruce Smith leading the charge with 19 sacks. Complementing him were pro-bowl linebackers Darryl Talley and Cornelius Bennett. However, the similarities end with the defense. On offense, the Bills furnished a no-huddle, quick-strike, fast-paced attack known as the 'K-Gun', which was triggered by quarterback Jim Kelly. Kelly had a vast array of offensive weapons including running back Thurman Thomas, receivers Andre Reed and James Lofton, and tight end Keith McKeller. Kelly finished the year with over 2,800 yards passing, 24 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions. He led the AFC with a 101.2 quarterback rating.

The Bills also finished 13-3, good for best record in the AFC, and despite losing Jim Kelly for the last two games (he was injured, ironically, in the same game against the Giants where Phil Simms got hurt), he was given enough time (including the first-round bye week) to recover for their first playoff game against the Miami Dolphins. The Bills raced out to a 20-3 lead, and although Dan Marino led the Dolphins back, cutting the deficit to 30-27, the Bills scored two touchdowns to win by a score of 44-34. The next week, in the AFC Title Game, a lopsided show for the ages occurred as the Bills slaughtered the Oakland Los Angeles Raiders by a score of 51-3. 41 of those points were scored by halftime and the Bills intercepted Raiders' quarterback Jay Schroeder five times.

Thus the stage was set for two teams with divergent styles to meet on football's biggest stage. Much was made of the fact that this was the first time that two teams from the same state were playing each other, but we beg to differ. We know that the Giants are really from, ahem, New Jersey. But we digress...

A patriotic atmosphere greeted the teams as fans poured out their support for the United States military who had just begun war operations in the Persian Gulf region for Operation Desert Storm. It was fitting in many ways that both the Bills and Giants wore red, white, and blue. Super Bowl 25 got off to a great start long before the opening kickoff as Whitney Houston performed a rousing rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, which has gone on to become a best-selling record in its own right.

As for the game, the Bills received the opening kickoff and were forced to punt. The Giants game plan was simple: power football and control the clock - the other team can't score if they do not have the ball. The Giants' first possession demonstrated their intentions by driving 58 yards on ten plays in six minutes and fifteen seconds for a 28-yard Matt Bahr field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

The Bills then deployed their high octane offense by driving 66 yards in 1:23 and getting a game tying field goal by Scott Norwood. The drive was jump started by a 61-yard pass completion to James Lofton from Jim Kelly. Lofton had been their deep threat all year long, averaging just over 20 yards per catch during the 1990 season.

After a Giants punt, the Bills went to their vaunted no-huddle attack and moved the ball 80 yards on ten plays for the first touchdown in Super Bowl 25. Kelly was a perfect six for six on the drive, which included him completing four passes to Andre Reed for a total of 62 yards. Incredibly, the Bills never faced a third down on the drive. Eventually, from the one-yard line, Don Smith punched his way into the end zone for a touchdown and a 10-3 lead.

The Bills of that era were known for their offense but lost in the shuffle over the years of reminiscence was the fact that their defense was also very tough. As stated above, the unit featured prominently such pro-bowlers as Bruce Smith, Darryl Talley, and Cornelius Bennett., and throughout the first half, the Bills pounded Jeff Hostetler each and every time he dropped back to throw the ball.

After the two teams traded punts, the Bills were able to pin the Giants on their own 7-yard line. On the second play of their possession, Hostetler dropped back, stumbled, and was sacked in the end zone by Bruce Smith for a safety. The Bills lead 12-3 but they were able to avoid a major blow through some quick thinking by Hostetler; he saved a defensive touchdown from being scored as he protected the ball when Smith attempted to strip him. Two points are better than six, especially when a team has the defense the Giants possessed.

After receiving the free kick following the safety, the Bills could not muster even a single first down and therefore punted the ball back to the Giants, who started their drive from their 13-yard line with just 3:43 remaining in the first half. Jeff Hostetler began to mix it up a little, using runs from Ottis Anderson and David Meggett and play-action passes to move the ball into scoring position. In what is probably one of the most underrated plays in Super Bowl history, at least with regard to the final outcome, Hostetler drew the Giants to within 2 points, 12-10, with a 14-yard touchdown to Stephen Baker with 25 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Such a play can deflate the opposition, and with the Giants receiving the ball in the second half, they were very much in this game as the final seconds of the first half ticked off.

The opening drive of the second half saw the Giants with the ball at their 25 yard line. What followed was one of the most impressive drives in Super Bowl history as they managed to play keep-away from the high-octane K-Gun offense of the Bills.

At the start. though, the Bills held the Giants on the first two plays of the drive but the Giants responded by converting on four straight third down conversions in a drive that eventually led to a New York touchdown. Third down conversions for a first down may count just as much as first down conversions on first or second down, but the psychological impact should never be underestimated; it is like two-out runs in baseball - the defense is mere moments from getting off the field, but can't seem to close out the deal.

On the first third down attempt, the Giants needed eight yards when Hostetler hit Dave Meggett over the middle for a first down. Three plays later, the Giants faced a third and one and Ottis Anderson burst through the line for a 22-yard run that landed the Giants at the Buffalo 29-yard line. After two more plays, Hostetler was in the shotgun formation on a third and 13 play and completed a pass to Mark Ingram over the middle at the 26-yard line. A three yard pass when they needed 13 should have ended the drive, but Ingram broke not one, but five tackles to gain an extra eight yards to convert and give the Giants a first down. Finally, on third and four from the 12-yard line, Hostetler faked a hand off and hit Howard Cross, who gained nine yards to the Buffalo 3-yard line. Anderson finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run, giving the Giants the lead, by a score of 17-12.

The 14-play, 75-yard long drive lasted a then-Super Bowl record nine minutes and 32 seconds (which has since been broken by the Giants as well in Super Bowl 42). But even more importantly, it kept the no-huddle K-Gun offense off the field for more than an hour (in real time) and their rustiness would show.

Since the Bills had scored their second quarter touchdown, New York head coach Bill Parcells employed a two-man rush to flood Jim Kelly’s passing lanes. The scheme was not effective in pressuring Kelly but it did pressure the receivers in many instances as they dropped several passes after being hit hard by the Giants' defense.

The Bills remained out of sync through most of the third quarter, at least in the passing game, but then they utilized another weapon: Thurman Thomas.

After Bruce Smith tackled Anderson for a two-yard loss at the Buffalo 37, forcing a Giants punt, the Bills stormed back as Thomas ran wild through the Giants' defense in one of the most outstanding and spectacular efforts in Super Bowl history. Thomas would finish the game with 135 yards rushing and 55 yards receiving.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Kelly handed the ball off to Thomas on a draw from the shotgun formation, and Thomas scampered 31 yards for a touchdown. With the extra point, the Bills retook the lead by a score of 19-17.

When the Giants got the ball back, they went back to their power offense, which would frequent feature three tight ends, and they would hold the ball for 7:32. The 14-play 74-yard drive began with yet another third down conversation, this time a reception by Mark Bavaro from Hostetler.

The Giants drove all the way down to the Buffalo 3-yard line and were on the verge of putting the game away with a touchdown when Bills nose tackle Jeff Wright made a tremendous tackle behind the line of scrimmage on third down. Finally, the Bills were able to make a stop on third down as the Giants settled for another Matt Bahr field goal and a 20-19 lead.

The Bills were only able to get as far as their own 41-yard line and punted once again, which enabled the Giants to further kill the clock. Once Buffalo got the ball back after a New York punt, they were staring at 90 yards to the end zone with only two minutes and sixteen seconds remaining.

What followed was one of the most impressive demonstrations of grit (Fast Forward to about 9:30) ever seen. From their own 10-yard line, the Bills used a combination of short passes, Kelly scrambles, and two long Thurman Thomas runs to bring them all the way down to the Giants' 29 yard line with eight seconds remaining. At any point in the drive, it could have been over, but Kelly and Thomas refused to allow the Bills to die, and while the two-minute drill was ideal for their style of offense, the Giants were not just going to allow them to drive down the field in a normal way. Trickery and common sense had to prevail, hence the Thomas runs and the Kelly scrambles. Quick hits and even quicker thinking made a Bills' victory possible. It is possible to argue that had the outcome been different, this may have gone down as the most impressive winning Super Bowl drive of all time, even more so than Super Bowl 23, 36, or 42.

So despite the great defensive game plan (Bill Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the Giants; his game plan is actually on display in Canton at the Hall of Fame), and the overwhelming advantage in time of possession (40:33 for the Giants, including about 22 minutes in the second half alone!), the New York Football Giants were in very real danger of losing the game as Buffalo made their last minute dash across the field to the Giants' 29-yard line. With eight seconds remaining, Jim Kelly spiked the ball and stopped the clock, setting the stage for Scott Norwood to attempt a 47-yard field goal. Players on both sidelines were holding hands and praying for their side to end victoriously. On the right hash mark the ball was placed and the kick had the distance, but Norwood pushed it wide-right and the Giants only needed one kneel-down to become champions, by a score of 20-19. Ottis Anderson was named MVP of the game by virtue of his 102 rushing yards and a touchdown.

There are many reasons why this game was placed at number one on our list. Firstly, it featured a clash of styles that actually worked - no one team dominated; the see-saw nature of the game made it compelling and entertaining. Secondly, it was a clean game - no turnovers by either team in any circumstance. The closest instance was the safety, but Jeff Hostetler may have done more for his team in being sacked in the end zone than anything else. Thirdly, the ending - this is what people will mostly remember this game for, but the most important aspect of the ending is that it was a straight up or down finale - the Bills would win or lose as a consequence of the field goal. Unlike Super Bowl 36 or 38 when the worst that could happen was overtime, Super Bowl 25 was going to break someone's heart on that play, regardless of outcome.

Just as the two teams traveled divergent paths to get to Super Bowl 25, they would also follow divergent paths after this game. Buffalo would be AFC Champions for three more consecutive seasons, but losing in all of their Super Bowl appearances. The Giants would not be serious contenders for the championship again until the beginning of the 2000's, culminating in their upset victory over New England in Super Bowl 42. Ironically, two of New York's assistant coaches and proteges of Bill Parcells would face off against each other that game - Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin. The tentacles of Super Bowl 25 reach long and far into the present day, and between the context, the game play, and the final result, we are proud to name Super Bowl 25 as the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

We would like to thank everyone for taking the time to read our Top 10 series. We thoroughly enjoyed doing this and hope everyone enjoyed reading it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Frances M. Vinansky - January 6, 1932-January 24, 2010

This is the original text of the eulogy I gave at my Grandmother's funeral on Friday, February 5, 2010. The delivered text deviated slightly from this prepared text.

Grandma died on Sunday, January 24, 2010 – that is at least what the paperwork says, anyway. It could be argued that she was gone long before her body decided to shut down, but I would say that is being unfair both to her and to the human spirit. Part of her will live on so long as we are willing to honor her memory.

Yes, it is true that she suffered an immense amount of pain. For good or ill, that pain is part of life, and unfortunately, Grandma herself was not blameless; she was not completely a victim in all of this. She did not do all she could to take care of herself. We tried our best to help, but as most people can attest – change has to come from within. She is at peace now – no more suffering, no more agony, no more pain.

I say these things not to cause further anguish, but to remind us of the fact that the image of her deterioration is one that is going to dominate our memories. Even I, the oldest of seven grandchildren, find my old memories fading from time to time, especially having spent the better part of 15-20 hours with her most weekends for nearly two years.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Her indomitable spirit lives on. Her spirit of generosity, her quick wit, her service to God and country, and her devotion to, and love of family – three children, their spouses, and especially her grandchildren – her angels, as she called us. We learned a lot from her and because of her. She pulled some crazy stuff that will forever be in our minds. I would like to share some of these experiences.

Grandma taught me, for example, how to use Grandpa’s things when he was not home and how to put them back exactly as they were before he returned.

I learned from Grandma’s weekly calls when I was college never to put my drink down at a party, lest some guy stuff it with roofies and try to date-rape me.

When I was four, Grandma took me to McDonald’s and bought me two balloons. When we returned to her house, I let the balloons go and said ‘Grandma! Look!’ She replied in a reprimanding tone that since I hadn’t taken care of the balloons, they were going back to McDonald’s to find another kid who would!

Once, she took Aaron and I to see the Lion King (I was about 12), and we had to make a stop at Sears or some similar department store at the mall. She went in and bought the most grotesquely large purse I have EVER seen in my life. Why did she do this? So she could sneak a six pack of Coke, a big bag of chips, two bags of M&M’s, and several candy bars into the movie theater!

Then there was time when she and Grandpa got some kind of buy one, get one free meal deal coupons in the mail for the Pizza Hut. She got the idea that they should pose as an unmarried couple and meet up for dinner and bring their grandsons to meet the other, just to be able to split the check and use two coupons. Oy! And it worked! It was the only time in my life I ever called Grandma ‘Fran’ – that is, other than to mimic Grandpa’s calling to her when I was a kid.

The last memory to share comes from only about six months ago. Paula and I were over the house in Bowie to have dinner to celebrate my birthday and our anniversary. I was helping Grandma get ready for dinner by taking her to the bathroom and getting her adjusted at the table. I remarked that she was having a good day and doing a good job and then she looked right at me and said ‘oh good Lord, Joshua, you are really full of [you know what] shit.’ I was a bit taken aback by this comment and I said a tad defensively ‘Grandma, what are you talking about?’ She said in response ‘you aren’t fooling me, and your eyes are STILL brown!’

I feel like we should remember Grandma in many ways. We are all going to miss her very much. We have all learned a lot from her, but I think the most important lesson we have picked up in the past couple of years is that you cannot put a price or a value on human dignity – it is a gift given to us by our God who made us in his image and likeness, and she had it until the very end. I would like to thank my mother in a special way for not allowing that dignity to be removed.

As we say our farewells one last time, let us remember Fran Vinansky close to our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Let us never forget what she means to us. May she rest in peace and may her soul find eternal happiness in the Kingdom of God. We love you and miss you. Goodbye, Grandma.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Super Bowl Countdown #2 - Super Bowl XXIII - 49ers 20, Bengals 16

Over the next two days, Lattanzi Land is continuing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - we are proud to present #2...

Great moments are often born from great opportunity and preparation. On January 22, 1989 in Miami, the Cincinnati Bengals seemed to have taken advantage of their opportunity in Super Bowl 23 to knock off the two-time Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers by taking a 16-13 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the game. Few thought that it would get to this moment, but it was a long journey to one of the most exciting finishes in Super Bowl history.

The Bengals reached Super Bowl 23 by dominating the 1988 NFL season with a league-best 12-4 record. They were led by NFL MVP Norman 'Boomer' Esiason (from the University of Maryland), who threw 28 touchdown passes and 3,572 yards. The Bengals featured a balanced offensive attack that included wide receivers Eddie Brown and Tim McGee as well as running backs Ickey Woods, James Brooks, and Stanley Wilson. The offense was perhaps best known for successfully executing the no-huddle attack installed by head coach Sam Wyche.

The defense was led by assistant coach Dick LeBeau and possessed All-Pros Tim Krumrie at nose tackle and David Fulcher at safety. With this impressive combination of offensive and defensive power, the Bengals were able to reach Miami with convincing wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills.

Their opponent in Super Bowl 23, the San Francisco 49ers, entered 1988 after a disappointing upset loss at home to the Minnesota Vikings in the 1987 playoffs. In that game, Bill Walsh replaced quarterback Joe Montana with Steve Young, who led the 49ers to two late scores despite the loss.

As the new season began, much of the speculation was that the 1988 season could be the last in San Francisco for the great Joe Montana. Montana battled injuries throughout the season as he and Young split time as the starting quarterback. After a 6-5 start, the 49ers rallied to win four of their final five games to win the NFC West with a 10-6 record. The surged was led by an increasingly healthy Montana, who was finally beginning to heat up late in the season.

The 49ers delivered a little payback in the playoffs first by crushing the Vikings 34-9 in their opening game and then stunning the Bears in Chicago by a score of 28-3 in a game that exhibited strong winds and a wind chill in the minus 20s. With the win, the 49ers became the first road team to win a NFC title game since 1979, when the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In each playoff game, Montana threw three touchdown passes and Jerry Rice continued his All-Pro season by catching five touchdowns, three against the Vikings and two against the Bears.

Heading into the game itself, there were many story lines to follow. Could Montana win a third Super Bowl since 1981? Could the Bengals stop Jerry Rice? Would this be the final game for the great 49er head coach Bill Walsh? Walsh had taken over the 49ers in 1979 and built them into a consistent and perpetual winner and champion. Speculation was mounting that he would retire after Super Bowl 23, win or lose. Yet another intriguing storyline was the coaching matchup - Walsh would facing off against his former assistant Sam Wyche who was quarterbacks coach for Walsh when the 49ers won Super Bowl 16 after the 1981 season (ironically also against the Bengals).

As the game approached on that January Sunday, two things happened. First, race riots broke out in Miami as a police officer shot a black motorcyclist. Parts of Miami were up in flames, including the area near the Bengals' team hotel. Bengals player Solomon Wilcots remarked, 'We had just come back from seeing Mississippi Burning and we find Miami burning'. Secondly, viewers learned that Bengals running back Stanley Wilson would be suspended for the game after being caught using cocaine in his hotel room the night before the game. Wilson, who had been in trouble with the NFL before f0r drugs, would never play another down in the NFL again.

To add to the apparent doom and gloom, a heavy thunderstorm pounded Miami several hours before the game. The storm in the sky, though, was just a foreshadowing of the approaching storm on the field.

On the game's third play, left tackle Steve Wallace, Montana’s blind-side protector, broke his ankle when Montana was pushed into his leg. After the 49ers and Bengals punted, the Bengals also suffered a devastating loss when nose tackle Krumrie suffered a broken leg while trying tackle 49er running back Roger Craig.

The 49ers offense, though, was not broken as it moved seemingly at will - gaining close to 200 yards in the first half. But each time the 49ers moved close to scoring position the Bengals made key sacks to end 49er drives. The 49ers were only able to muster three points in the first half because place kicker Mike Cofer missed the shortest field goal in Super Bowl history (and the shortest possible field goal there is since they moved the goal posts back in 1974), 18 yards.

The Bengals' offense controlled the clock with power running from Woods and Brooks. Esiason was not that sharp all game but used his trademark play-action fake to fool defenders and complete passes down field.

Despite the entertaining first half, the halftime score was only 3-3 after Bengals kicker Jim Breech tied the score late in the second quarter.

The Bengals offense opened the second half with a drive that appeared destined to produce the game’s first touchdown. Mixing hard-nose running and some accurate passes from Esiason, the Bengals moved the ball 61 yards in 13 plays. After completed four of 12 passes in the first half, Esiason completed three of four on the drive for 54 yards. The drive eventually stalled and Breech split the uprights with a 43-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 6-3 lead.

The Bengals forced the 49ers to punt on their next possession but linebacker Bill Romanowski stole the Bengals' momentum by intercepting an Esiason pass on the first play of their drive, giving the 49ers the ball deep in Cincinnati territory, at the 23-yard line. The Bengals defense made a big stand and stopped the 49ers on three plays and Cofer came on to make a 32-yard field goal to tie the game at six late in the third quarter.

The tie lasted but a few seconds - only until the ensuing kickoff, in fact. That moment, lightning struck as Stanford Jennings returned the kick 93 yards for the first touchdown in Super Bowl 23, which gave the Bengals a 13-6 lead.

With the 49ers trailing once again, Montana, Jerry Rice, and Roger Craig came right back and moved the Niners 71 yards in just two plays. Montana hit Rice on the first play for 31 yards then completed to Craig for 40 more which moved the ball to the Cincinnati 14-yard line.

In his four Super Bowl appearances, Joe Montana never threw an interception, but on the third play of the drive, his pass nearly quashed the 49ers' championship hopes as Bengals cornerback Lewis Billups dropped what would have been a drive killing interception in the end zone. He had read the play so well that it looked like he was the receiver looking for the crossing route. Alas, viewers all around the world and in the stadium learned why Billups played defense as the ball hit his hands of stone and fell harmlessly to the ground.

Billups thus learned the hard way never to give Joe Montana a second chance. On the next play, Montana took a three-step drop and found Rice along the left sideline who then dove into the end zone for a San Francisco touchdown. The 49ers scoring drive went 85 yards in only four plays to tie the score at 13 with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game.

The Bengals were forced to punt on their next drive and the 49ers moved quickly down field on the heels of a leaping 44-yard reception by Rice between two defenders that reminded many of Lynn Swann's famous circus catch in Super Bowl 10. When the drive eventually stalled, Cofer was called onto the field but his 49-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. Two missed field goals by Cofer leads to speculation now about how that played into the offensive strategy toward the end of the game.

The Bengals took over and marched 46 yards on ten plays, which featured an 18 yard completion from Esiason to receiver Ira Hillary on third and 13. The 49ers eventually held the line at their 23-yard line and Breech came out and hit his third field goal of the day from 40 yards to give the Bengals a 16-13 lead with just over three minutes remaining.

With the Bengals in charge, hopes were fading for Bill Walsh especially when a penalty on the kickoff forced the 49ers to start their drive on their own 8 yard line - 92 yards away from victory with 3:10 left in the game. It would seem that a touchdown would be required as Cofer had proven himself completely untrustworthy from short (18 yards) or long (49 yards) distances.

For nearly a quarter of a century, the Super Bowl had been searching for this sort of scenario: pro football’s best quarterback taking pro football’s best team the length of the field for the winning touchdown in the final minutes. In Super Bowl 23, Joe Montana and the 49ers finally delivered (watch this muted, unless you want to listen to play by play in Japanese!).

With the Bengals rushing only three men and covering the sidelines, Montana hit Craig and John Frank over the middle on the first two plays of the drive to move the ball to their own 23-yard line.

Montana then fired to Rice for a seven-yard gain but Rice was able to step out of bounds at the 30-yard line. Two runs by Craig moved the ball to the 35-yard line and got the 49ers another first down.

The 49ers crossed midfield on their next play when Montana hit Rice for a 17-yard gain to the Cincinnati 48-yard line. Wyche, who was wearing a wireless microphone for NFL Films for the game, was heard saying “this is déjà vu” on the sidelines during Montana’s final drive. A year earlier in the regular season, Montana had thrown a touchdown pass to Rice on the final play of the game to beat the Bengals.

Montana continued the march, hitting Craig for a 13-yard gain and another first down. The quarterback threw an incompletion on the next play, and on second down, an ineligible-receiver downfield penalty moved the ball ten yards back to the Bengals' 45-yard line.

On second and 20, Montana began the process of ripping out the Bengals hearts with a 27-yard pass to Jerry Rice over the middle in triple coverage. Rice ran a simple crossing route, caught the ball between three defenders at about the 33, split the defenders and ran another 15 yards to the Bengals 18-yard line with less than a minute remaining. Fellow receiver John Taylor getting caught behind the defense was the only thing that kept Rice from scoring on that play

Rice’s catch was his 11th of the game, which gave him 215 yards; both are Super Bowl records. Montana then ran to the line without calling a time out and hit Craig over the middle for an eight-yard gain to the Bengals ten-yard line before Montana called time out with 39 seconds remaining.

With Wyche and the Bengals anticipating the next play to go to Rice, Walsh crossed up the Bengals and used Rice as a decoy. He lured three defenders into the corner of the end zone and opened up the middle as Montana dropped back and fired to John Taylor for a touchdown over the middle with 34 seconds remaining.

Montana drove the 49ers 92 yards in 11 plays in only 2:36. For his outstanding performance Rice was named Super Bowl 23 MVP. Montana was 24 of 36 with a new Super Bowl record 357 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Some of the story lines that were a source of speculation were answered with absolute certainty.

Jerry Rice was absolute unstoppable, and truly worthy of that MVP. When the opposing team is willing to use three defenders to make sure you don't get the ball - that's frightening. Rice and Roger Craig combined for 392 of the 49ers' 452 yards of total offense. Craig also became the first running back to have over 100 yards receiving with 101 on eight catches.

Bill Walsh did retire after winning his third Super Bowl. He was replaced by defensive coordinator George Seifert, retaining some semblance of continuity that is all too often neglected by NFL teams.

Montana won his third Super Bowl as a starter and he, along with Rice, would win a second consecutive Super Bowl the next year against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 24. The 55-10 massacre was the fourth and final Super Bowl title in Montana’s Hall of Fame Career, in which he earned his third Super Bowl MVP. Montana threw a then-Super Bowl record five touchdown passes, three to Rice, which is a Super Bowl record. Rice would win a third Super Bowl with help from fellow Hall of Famer Steve Young in Super Bowl 29, which was also held in Miami.

Super Bowl 23 was great in many ways - the vindication of the 49ers, the grit of the Bengals, and the constant back and forth punches that were thrown. Many moments occurred where one team could have knocked out the other and yet, both teams just kept getting up. and like the orphan Oliver Twist, asked for more. Great games don't necessarily have high scores, but great individual performances, a massive show of grit, and a compelling show land Super Bowl 23 as #2 on our Top Ten List of Greatest Super Bowls.

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