Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lattanzi Land Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Every year Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has the ability to elect retired (or deceased) players to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The rules are pretty straightforward – each member with a vote can place up to ten eligible performers on his ballot, and anyone who was named on seventy-five percent of the ballots wins election to the Hall of Fame.  I have proposed altering these rules in the past in an effort to streamline balloting, but it will never happen.  Anyway, I don’t have a ballot, and while I wish I did, considering that there are truly some clowns who hold them, that fact doesn't stop me from putting forth my choices for the 2011 Hall of Fame class.

First, I want to separate the weeds from the wheat. There are thirty-three players eligible for election by the BBWAA this year; some are holdovers from previous years (in which they had received at least five percent of the vote while finishing short of the required seventy-five percent), and there are quite a few newbies on the list as well. The first group of eligible players I name will be those who are most definitely not Hall of Famers or shouldn’t be considered as such at any point in time. I may or may not give an explanation for why I don’t consider them worthy.  All stats quoted are from Baseball-Reference.

After jump, we start with the HELL-No Class – these guys are only on the ballot because they met the bare-minimum requirements to be on it, i.e. they played for ten years and have been retired for five.  Every group will be done alphabetically, so there is no bias or hint as to who is favored over the others.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Politicians Found To Be Hypocritical...

Larry Elder is a columnist I enjoy reading - he is a libertarian (although I have major problems with that position), and I own one of his books: The Ten Things You Can't Say In America (Amazon).  He wants to know why people aren't breaking out the torches and pitchforks over the fact that the average price of gas has risen over $1.20 since Barack Obama took office, with the possibility of prices rising another two bucks in the next eighteen months.  We are paying over three dollars per gallon now for the first time since the summer of 2008.  During that summer, it had gotten up to four dollars per gallon, and then fell to around $1.75 by the winter.

From Elder's column after the jump...

Tucker Carlson = Moron

Really, Tucker?  Executed?

Seriously, Tucker Carlson thinks Michael Vick should have been executed for his place in a dog-fighting ring. You know what I think?  Carlson should be subjected to Singaporean-style caning just for wearing a bow-tie and for once hosting a show as horrendous as Crossfire.

UPDATE - I think bow-ties belong on three types of people: little boys, waiters, and musicians.  Exceptions are made for tuxedo events.  That is all. -- J.L.

He apparently was upset that President Obama had the audacity (not of hope, but just plain old audacity) to insinuate and suggest that when people do their time, they might *gasp* get a second chance! Sorry, Tucker old boy, I am with the President here - and how often will you see that happening?  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Instant Replay in the NFL

I am in favor of instant replay in the NFL.  

I cannot say the same in other sports, especially baseball, but in football, replay can be put to good use. However, there has to be major changes in the way replay is implemented in the NFL.  

I am calling for the abolition of the coaches' challenge system in the NFL.  In theory the notion of 'challenging' the call on the field works, just as in theory, communism works.  The reality, on the other hand, demonstrates serious deficiencies that ultimately mar the overall quality of the product on the field.  The NFL, after all, keeps telling us that they want to 'get the call right', but there have been several instances when a challenge could not be made late in the game (for various reasons), and a fairly egregious call was left in place.  Just a couple from this past slate of games...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eagles Post-Game Quick React

The quick reaction to the game is this - they deserved to lose the game.  It was abundantly clear through the night that they were sort of looking past the Vikings.  The game plan was fairly vanilla, and there was almost no attempt to involve LeSean McCoy in the offense.  He seemed to be an afterthought.  A couple of other points....

1) The turning point was Antoine Winfield's strip-sack and fumble return for a touchdown.  It happened with just over a minute to go in the first half and tied the game, when the Eagles looked like they were going to head down the field for a commanding 14-0 lead.  Instead, the Vikings changed the momentum, and the Eagles went into a hole from which they only peeked once during the 4th quarter.

2) The offensive line was terrible all night.  Michael Vick was harassed and was running for his life for a lot of the game.  Too many sacks, too many hits lead to a tentative attitude in the pocket and causes turnovers.

3) DeSean Jackson was a complete non-factor during the game.  

4) The defense was only present about fifty percent of the time.  When they needed a big stop in the 4th quarter (3rd and 10), they couldn't get it, and the Vikings went on to score what would be the icing touchdown.

5) One play that won't get a lot of mention was Akers' kickoff after the Eagles scored to make it 17-14.  It went out of bounds and gave the Vikings the ball at the 40.  A deeper kick changes the way the plays are called.  The chance of scoring when the field is 60 yards is inherently greater than when it is 80 or more.

More thoughts coming tomorrow.

Live Blog! 8 PM - Vikings vs. Eagles

Feel free to jump in and ask questions or make snarky comments. Beware, it may take a minute or so for me to 'approve' your comment. Enjoy, and everything begins at 8 PM! -- J.L.

Replay of Eagles vs. Vikings Live Blog

Monday, December 27, 2010


Last night, since there was no NFL game, there was only one thing left to do - watch The Sound of Music.

I have always had a soft spot for musicals.  They tend to be fun, breezy, and full of songs that we all eventually know by heart. They are completely unrealistic in so many ways; for example, who in real life will just break out into song at random intervals? That fact, though, is part of the charm of the musical.  It isn't meant to be a realistic look at life, nor is it supposed to provide some deep social commentary.  The musical as an artform is really part of a bygone era when going to see a film was about escapism.  That isn't around too much anymore; when a true musical is newly made, it sort of has the novelty feeling about it.

That being said - here are some of my favorite musicals after the jump.  Applaud or mock away.

Somebody Call George Carlin....

...because he is going to have to revise his "Baseball and Football" routine.

I had debated doing a post about the postponement of last night's game between the Eagles and the Vikings, but I woke up this morning and read the Philly papers and came upon this column (in the Daily News) by Will Bunch, called 'The Wimps Who Stole Christmas'.  The money quote is thus...
Ultimately, life is all about risk management, and the reward of football in the snow - so often a beautiful thing - means that thousands of fans, not to mention the players and coaches who seem disappointed and befuddled by this decision, were willing to take a few risks to see it. You know, a term that gets used a lot in the great political debate - overused, in my opinion - is whether America has become "a nanny state." Usually I'm on the other side (like when it comes to health care, in which . . . oh, never mind), but in this case I think here it's perfectly OK to channel your Inner Rush Limbaugh and say that "the nanny state" killed this football game.
Bunch is a garden-variety liberal, but he knows where it's at - the whole thing is worth the read.  I just found it to be ironic that all of a sudden the NFL was concerned about the public's safety in all this.  I wonder how much NBC played a role in this postponement; a postponement that happened with no snow in the air yet.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

NFL Picks - Week 16 Primetime Games

Here are the picks for the Primetime Games for Week 16. As always, you can place your picks in the comment thread.  Have an enjoyable rest of the weekend. -- J.L.  

Minnesota at Philadelphia (Sunday - 8:20 PM)

Ryan’s Take: I’m really afraid of this game. Somehow, someway, I have a feeling that Brett Favre will play. This will make the game closer and I’m worried about an emotional letdown after that epic comeback against the Giants. Even though with all this worrying, the Eagles are clearly the better team and Philadelphia will win on a strong effort by both sides of the ball.

Josh’s Take: I really hope that Adrian Peterson doesn’t play again. Toby Gerhart is a nice player, but is not nearly as dynamic as his teammate. This one has the potential to be played in some nasty weather. Vick and Co. are on, and the defense will show its mettle, albeit against an inferior offense. Philadelphia is victorious.

[This game has been postponed until Tuesday night, at 8 PM -- J.L.]

New Orleans at Atlanta (Monday - 8:30 PM)

Ryan’s Take: This is going to be a great game. National television with 2 bitter rivals is going to make this game so incredible. Atlanta does everything so well. They really don’t have any holes on their team. I think that New Orleans defense just got exposed against the Ravens. Atlanta will win because of Michael Turner ripping through the New Orleans run defense.

Josh’s Take: The Week 16 Game of the Year! Ok, maybe the hyperbole is called for. The Falcons are at least a year ahead of schedule and barring injuries will be a force with which to be reckoned for some time. The Saints, however, are still the defending Super Bowl champs. They still have an offense that would give anyone fits. New Orleans wins in a shootout.

Suing the Wrong Defendant, Or, Shooting the Messenger

This lawsuit is incredibly stupid.  In essence, the litigation charges that EA Sports is engaged in unfair practices because they have an exclusive license to make the Madden NFL series since 2006.   The suit going forward will potentially allow millions of people to demand their money back if it is successful.  The judge who allowed this to move to the next stage is grossly wrong, and here is why.

It isn't EA's fault that they have an exclusive license for third party gaming.  If the people who are suing had any inkling of intelligence and were actually motivated by justice rather than avarice, the target of their lawsuit would be none other than the National Football League.  It is the NFL that grants the exclusivity to the game developers.  As my brother (who sent me this link from astutely pointed out, nothing stops a console maker from developing their own games, with an NFL license; this should be another part of EA's defense.

The other part that bothers me about all this is the complaint about price gouging:
"We believe EA forced consumers to pay an artificial premium on Madden NFL video games," [Hagens] Berman [The one filing the suit -- J.L.] continued. "We intend to prove that EA could inflate prices on their sports titles because these exclusive licenses restrained trade and competition for interactive sports software."
Let's be clear: no one is forced to buy the latest edition of Madden NFL.  I'm not a lawyer, but common sense leads me to say that a video game isn't a basic need or a basic communications means (i.e. telephone landlines). To compare this implicitly to previous monopolistic practices is a patent act of dishonesty.  Why?  Because it is not EA's fault they have the exclusive license.

The solution is to sue the one who actually grants the exclusive license.  It won't happen, though, because I think they know they would lose...and lose big if they tried to take on the NFL.

NFL Picks - Week 16 Daytime Games

So far, both Ryan and I are 1-1 for our Week 16 picks.  I found it hard to believe that the Cowboys managed to choke the game away after the Cardinals (and the officials) gift-wrapped a victory for them.  Anyway, here are the picks for the daytime games.  Feel free to place yours in the comment thread. -- J.L.

Detroit at Miami (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: This is a tough game to pick for me. Miami has a sound defense, but has not QB play to support that defense. Chad Henne has not played well this year and it has really bogged down this offense to a degree that they cannot function at times. Detroit just came off their first road victory in 26 games and looked pretty good too. With their defense leading the way, Detroit goes into Miami and steal one from the Dolphins.

Josh’s Take: The Lions will show that they are still the Lions. It will be an incredibly ugly game no matter what. Miami squeaks by.  How, I don't know.  Just call it blind faith.

Baltimore at Cleveland (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: This is another tough one for me to pick. Cleveland is one of those teams that seems be able to pull games out of their butts. They have a great running game with Peyton Hillis, but seem to have little on offense after that. Baltimore has a ton of weapons on both offense and defense with players like Ray Lewis, Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed and Ray Rice. This is why the Baltimore will win in this AFC North battle.

Josh’s Take: This is the game that I will be forced to watch thanks to the NFL’s stupid rules regarding television viewing markets. That being said, I thought the Ravens’ game against the Saints was a revelation. They do have the offense to compete. Cleveland has been a (quasi) nice story this year, but in all honesty, there isn’t a chance that Baltimore doesn’t win this game. Yes, I am that confident.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

From the Gospel According to St. Luke:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David); To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

May everyone have a blessed and safe Christmas today.  For unto us a Savior is born!  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Enjoy the day and the time with your loved ones.  Merry Christmas -- J.L.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Do Christians Emphasize Christmas Too Much?

That's the question asked by John Wilson in today's online edition of the Wall Street Journal.  His op-ed talks about the rising phenomenon of the 'anti-Christmas rant' - but from mainstream theologians, not the fringes (including that guy whose video I posted here).  The essence of this rant is that Christians tend to overemphasize Christmas to the detriment of Easter.  I can sympathize with the ranters.  Here is why.

I used to be one of those ranters.  I was one of those people who screamed 'idiots!  It's EASTER that is the center of our identity as Christians!'  However, as I become more deeply involved in my faith and in studying, I came to the realization that Wilson makes clear - that Christmas and Easter can never truly be decoupled from one another.  I always knew it intellectually, but to actually buy that notion took a lot longer.

Yes, I do believe that some people overemphasize Christmas and completely devalue Easter - usually those Christians who aren't extremely serious about their faith.  Those of us who are serious know, that while Easter is the reason we are Christians in the first place, you never get to that point without the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem.  Ergo, we must celebrate Christmas in an incredibly deep manner.  And besides, it is such a beautiful season; we would be cheating ourselves if we became grinches and started looking for pagans under our beds every December.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lattanzi Moment #7 - The Godfather Trilogy

Today's Lattanzi Moment discusses the Godfather Trilogy.  One point of emphasis I like to make in discussing all three is how the third film generally gets the shaft and should get a little more credit than it deserves.  Enjoy.

NFL Picks - Week 16 Thursday/Saturday

For the remainder of the NFL season, Ryan and I have been making picks on all the games for the weekend. Last week, Ryan finished 9-7 and I finished a paltry 8-8, bringing both of our records to 28-20. As always, you are free to place your picks in the comment thread. Here are the picks for both Thursday and Saturday nights' games. -- J.L.

Carolina at Pittsburgh (Thursday - 8:20 pm)

Ryan’s Take: Carolina actually got a win last week. I was so surprised that they won that I actually thought they might go on a winning streak….. then I found out they play the Steelers. Pittsburgh in a rout.

Josh’s Take: The Steelers are smarting a bit from their loss against the Jets last Sunday. The Panthers are on a high for actually winning their second game of the season. No Troy Polamalu this week for the Steelers? No sweat – it helps to play a craptacular opponent. Pittsburgh wins running away.

Dallas at Arizona (Saturday - 7:30 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Dallas has been 4-2 under the leadership of Jason Garrett and have looked good offensively through this run. Their defense has been playing like they did under Wade Phillips during this stretch of games. Even though Dallas’ defense has not played well, Arizona’s offense has been pathetic throughout the year. The only offense that Arizona has is Jay Feely. Dallas will win this game pretty easily.

Josh’s Take: The Cowboys’ defense looked pathetic against a bad Washington offense last week. Could this happen again with an absolute nobody as the quarterback? Perhaps, but I think this time, the Cowboys’ offense doesn’t slow down like it did against the Redskins. Arizona will make some noise, but Dallas wins. Merry Christmas from the NFL Network.  Assholes.

Social Network Christmas

Very awesome video.  Thanks to the missus for finding this.  It's a look at how the Birth of Christ could have occurred if it went on during this age of proliferated social media.  Enjoy.

Treating the Symptom, Not the Disease

Photo from The Examiner
Around here in our fair nation's capital, Metro has begun searching bags at random spots and intervals.  This is a treatment of the symptom, in which terrorists may use bags to place a bomb in a train.  What needs to happen is a treatment of the disease, which are the terrorists themselves.  This is the same problem we saw with the whole TSA debacle over the full-body scanners and 'enhanced' pat downs.  

In order to stop terrorism, you need to find the people responsible.  People place bombs and carry out acts.  Bags don't.  It's a similar phenomenon to reading news stories about how "SUVs" killed pedestrians.  No vehicle has ever killed anyone; it takes someone operating that vehicle.  Ditto weapons.  Of course, admitting that vehicles and guns in and of themselves don't actually hurt people would eliminate the narrative, but I digress.

These forms of security are just another form of scorched-earth policy that America has seemed to raise to an art form, mostly in the name of not offending people. In the meantime, they offend all of us.  Checking bags of old women and young children don't solve the problem.  You need to stop the people who are most likely to place bombs in bags on trains.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some "Deep" Thoughts on Christmas

"Christmas is a time when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ."  -- Bart Simpson

This has always been one of my favorite quotes in The Simpsons, because it sort of gives away how a certain segment of the population views the holiday itself.

Then you have Drew Magary's "10 Things That Christmas Would Be Better Off Without" on Deadspin.  Beware, lots of foulness emanates from that post, which includes such "deep" thoughts as...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Tracking" In Education

Education is always one of those tricky things to manage. We have so many students in the school system throughout the country that there is always a temptation just to throw everyone in the water and hope that they rise to the surface.

This article in Reason discusses the elimination of 'tracking', which is the practice of sorting students on the basis of their academic abilities. The argument against tracking is that every student in the school should receive the same education – and there is something to be said for that. However, there are certain fundamental assumptions that have to be made in order for this to work, assumptions that don’t stand up to scrutiny, such as....

1) Everyone has had the exact same educational background previously before coming to the current school.

2) Everyone has the exact same abilities.

3) Everyone has a ‘yearning for learning’.

In Praise, and Defense of Shorts

Shorts get a bad rap, I think. Oh sure, people say, it’s great to wear them in the warm weather, but you have to be brain damaged to wear them when it is cold!

I disagree.

See, I like to wear shorts in all sorts of weather – hot, cold, rain, snow, wind, fog, and the apocalypse (if it were to happen). I have been called stupid, moronic, idiotic, retarded, and (by my father), a cafone. I have been asked if I want to get sick, if I want to get pneumonia. 

Yes, I want to get a cold, and get pneumonia. 

Seriously, why ask questions like this? It’s almost as if everything we have learned regarding how we catch diseases goes out the window because of some kind of visual device.  Okay, class, repeat after me: No one gets a cold because they are under dressed or because they stepped outside with wet hair.

Anyway, back to the shorts – they provide much better movement and are more comfortable than your garden-variety pair of pants, and thus are the clothing of choice for many of my outings.  Obviously, places like work and church are not conducive to shorts-wearing, but for most other outings, shorts are perfect!

Last night, I was in Target getting a few things, and it was pretty cold outside (mid-20’s). As I walked through there was a bunch of gasps and murmurs directed at my wardrobe (khaki shorts, hoodie jacket), and one kid even said “that’s the coolest guy ever. I want to wear shorts too,” to which his mother replied “if you wear shorts this time of the year, you’ll die by age 12.” Pretty harsh stuff. I wanted to reply, but it was probably better to hold my tongue there. It's just another example of letting the heart override what the mind knows to be true. There's nothing I can do about that. I will just go on wearing shorts, and once April hits, no one will ever say a word until November and round and round we go.

Long live the shorts!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lattanzi Moment #6 - "Miracle Of the New Meadowlands"

I wasn't planning on doing this particular moment, but because of the amazing comeback, it provided a natural instance to do this.  So here we have Moment #6.  Enjoy.

An Overrated Movie

There is a particular movie out there that is the tale of a simple man through the ragged landscape of twentieth century America. This movie does indeed have the ability to make us laugh and cry, but at the same time, it is incredibly overrated. Yes, I am indeed speaking about the delightful and occasionally wretch-inducing Forrest Gump!

Before you go all nuts – read my essay ‘In Defense of the Term Overrated’ to get a sense of the word itself, as this sort of builds on the theme.

It is true that Forrest Gump simply has gotten more adulation and praise than it deserved. Its rankings among the upper echelons of film and the Academy Awards it earned are also extremely ludicrous.

I’ll be the first to admit that I like the movie. It is a very good movie, but it is not a great movie. Tom Hanks did a good job as the title character, but it wasn’t necessarily an Oscar-worthy performance. In Hanks’ career, it wasn’t even in the top-3 performances he has had.

On one end, Forrest Gump is a collection of clichés. You have heard them – ‘Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get’. That’s it? That’s the ‘profound insight’ given to us? On the other end, the film perfectly represents America as the land where there are only two sides to every question. Personified within the two lead characters, you have Mr. Square (Forrest) and Ms. Perpetual Rebellion (Jenny).

The character of Jenny is one continuing cliché after another – the country girl who ‘grows up’ to become a porn-star, a hippie, a disco-doll druggie, and then finally ‘paying the price’ by getting what we are supposed to believe is AIDS – but not before she realizes the ‘error of her ways’ and settles down to marry Forrest. She is supposed to represent the ‘turbulence’ of America from 1965 to 1980, as if every single person in existence experienced this turbulence.  It truly is amazing that such a narrow existence has been projected onto the entire population.  Such is the power of media.

With Forrest himself, we are supposed to suspend our disbelief – after all, it was he who influenced Elvis to sway the hips and he who caught the Watergate burglars and inspired John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ (the worst song ever – but a different topic for another day), as well as provided the inspiration for the insipid yellow smiley face and the 'Sh*t Happens' bumper sticker. All from a guy who would be the village idiot, or, with the Ping-Pong skills, an idiot-savant.

You put all of this together, and it isn’t bad. But I want to know what is it that made it great. I just can’t see it at all. There are too many little things that chip away at the film to consider it one of the ‘greatest’ of all time. Forrest Gump – fine movie, worth having on the shelf, and even worth repeat viewing. But just not one of the all-time greats; quite the contrary – it is one of the most overrated films of all time.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

NFL Picks - Week 15 Primetime Games

Primetime picks are here once again.  Feel free to place your picks in the comment thread.  -- J.L.

Green Bay at New England (Sunday – 8:20 PM)

Ryan’s Take: New England has been the best team in football the past 6 weeks. Without Rodgers, Green Bay has no chance. Pretty easy decision here...New England in a blowout.

Josh’s Take: Aaron Rodgers has been ruled out. The Patriots are playing at home. Green Bay will be lucky to score ten points. New England runs away with this one.

Chicago at Minnesota (Monday – 8:30 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Minnesota has not been playing well at all throughout the year and has looked old. Chicago's defense has played well all season, but hasn't played a lot of good QB's. Now, they get to play Joe Webb. Chicago wins by default.

Josh’s Take: Just think, the Vikings are one bad hit away from having to use *Patrick Ramsey* as their quarterback. The Bears are smarting from the smackdown given by the Patriots last weekend. The game will be outdoors, which ironically, will benefit Chicago more than it will the home team. The Bears’ defense dominates and Chicago wins in a blowout.

NFL Picks - Week 15 Day Games

Every week for the remainder of the season, Ryan and I will be making picks for all the NFL games on the slate. So far for Week 15, we are both 1-0, having both picked San Diego to defeat San Francisco.  On to the picks!  Feel free to place your picks in the comment thread below. Enjoy! -- J.L.

Cleveland at Cincinnati (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: The battle of Ohio, or rather irrelevance. Both of these teams are playing out the season for pride and Cleveland has looked like the better team throughout the year. The Bengals seem to make too many mental mistakes to be able to win this game and Colt McCoy is coming back for the Browns. Cleveland will win.

Josh’s Take: Two bad teams, one of them has to win…ok, they don’t have to win. Peyton Hillis will not make stupid fumbles like he did against Buffalo last week and Carson Palmer has just looked bad. Cleveland prevails in a relatively low-scoring game.

Washington at Dallas (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: This game was going to be a good one, until Shanny decided to bench Donovan McNabb. I still can't believe they are going to give "Sexy Rexy" a chance to start. This just proves to me that the Redskins are the worst run franchise in sports, next to the Islanders. Dallas has been looking better and they will destroy Rex and Washington with a good pass rush and have a couple of turnovers along the way.

Josh’s Take: Mike Shanahan’s vindictiveness guarantees that the Redskins lose this game. True, Donovan McNabb hasn’t played that well, but anyone is better than Rex Grossman. The Cowboys have been worlds better over the past few weeks and in this ‘battle for last place’ in the NFC East, Dallas will crush Washington.

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Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to do so!

-- J.L.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In Defense of the Term "Overrated"

Mention that something or someone your conversation partner likes is overrated and invariably you’ll get a stern lecture about how it isn’t true and ‘how dare you’ mention that the thing or person you brought up is ‘overrated’. He/it is good, very good, your sparring partner says, and it is a crime, nay, a sin to even think that person/thing is overrated.

Well, I am here to say that it is a bunch of hooey, malarkey, BS, crap, doo-doo, and so forth.

The term ‘overrated’ is applicable to many aspects of our society – persons, places, or things. It is simply defined as being something/someone who is given more praise/adulation that he/it deserves. Where people screw up is when they use the term as a synonym for ‘bad’ or ‘awful’ – as in ‘the quarterback threw four interceptions in yesterday's game. He is overrated.’ This is an incorrect usage because it has no context whatsoever. It has to be known prior to the game that the quarterback was being hyped and failed to live up to expectations.  It is a similar mistake as when people think 'mediocre' means bad, when it really means 'average'.

In fact, just because something is overrated doesn’t mean it is bad. Sometimes, it can be a good thing. The best example is the movie Forrest Gump. It is a very good film – well made, shot, etc. It just isn’t a masterpiece or as great as people make it out to be. I always considered Michael Vick (pre-Leavenworth) to be an overrated football player. He is good, but he isn’t God, and a lot of people were willing to overlook his previously-less than stellar passing skills and hype him highly on the basis of his Houdini-like escapes from opposition pass rushes.  Now, it's easier to actually think of him in underrated terms. 

I write this because it is important that we have an honest discussion on what ‘overrated’ means. Too often, people use terms that they don’t define correctly and as a result, the conversation get skewed from the start – all on the basis of unknown terminology. The Lincoln Memorial in DC is a tad overrated, as are most of the monuments in the city. They are nice to visit – once. Chain restaurants are overrated. The Toyota Prius is overrated, just like a good number of SUV’s are as well. None of these things or places are as good as the hype. You might even think my writing is overrated.

And you might be might be overrating your intelligence.  Who knows?

12 Degrees (or so) of Suing McDonald's

Some time ago, I did a list of my top pet peeves. However, one thing that did not get on the list (and should have) was frivolous lawsuits.  Recently, we have talked about Skoal settling due to death from mouth cancer, a settlement that stemmed from a lawsuit against that company.  I have made my distaste known for these kinds of actions - no one forces anyone to buy Skoal, or cigarettes, or in my case, Coca-Cola.

Now, in California (shocker, right?  I mean, who didn't see that coming?), a special-interest group is suing McDonald's on behalf of a woman, claiming that "the company's meals with toys unfairly entice children into eating food that can do them harm."  As it turns out, the woman/mother who is the plaintiff's representative, is not a disinterested party at all.

All of this got me to thinking - considering that this woman was abrogating her own responsibility of parenthood.  She should have just taken this advice when dealing with her children.  Anyway, it got me thinking, how many other things could and should people sue long before they get into McDonald's to actually engage in the, ahem, freely-willed action of eating their food?  So I have compiled a list here after the jump...

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Worst Ad of This Christmas Season

This just grates on me every time I watch.  So naturally, I am posting it here.  Am I a masochist, or what?  It is a complete butchering of a great Christmas song in the name of rank commercialism.  I originally was going to put the Hyundai Christmas carol ads (especially Up On the Housetop) as the worst, but a rolled up piece of paper singing completely off-key trying to get us to go to HHGregg....let's just say I am not in a hurry to go to their store.

McNabb Done in DC

In news that has sort of reverberated through the DC metro area, the Redskins have decided to bench Donovan McNabb and start Rex Grossman instead this Sunday at Dallas.  It's the sort of move that just announces to the world that the Redskins are through with McNabb.  Hence, all the talk about, and the subsequent signing, of his "contract extension" was pure Kabuki.

However, I don't know what Mike Shanahan thinks he is accomplishing by putting out 'Sexy Rexy'.  Seems to me that he is a bit vindictive in that regard.  This is just yet another misstep in a season full of them.  McNabb does give the Redskins the best chance to win, and quite honestly, no quarterback would survive with that offensive line.  Let's face it, the Redskins just aren't a good team.  Once again, they need a fall guy.  It was Hunter (The Punter) Smith after last week's debacle against Tampa and today it's Donovan McNabb.  If Shanahan were serious, he would look in the mirror and accept a lot of the blame.  The Redskins are not a 'one player away' team.  They need serious rebuilding, and they aren't going to get it with Mike Shanahan.  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NFL Picks - Week 15 Thursday Night

For the remainder of the NFL season, Ryan and I have been making picks on all the games for the weekend.  Last week we were both 10-6, bringing my record to 20-12 and Ryan's to 19-13.  Feel free to place your picks in the comment thread.  Here is the pick for Thursday night's matchup -- J.L.

San Francisco at San Diego (8:20 PM)

Ryan's Take: I thought this would be a game between two division leaders at the beginning of the season, but it turns out they are both teams chasing their division leaders. San Francisco looked very formidable, but they were playing the Seahawks, so it doesn't really matter. The Chargers also looked really good last weekend, but they played the Chiefs without Matt Cassel. Now, they play each other to stay in playoff contention. My pick will be San Diego because they are more talented and this loss for the 49ers will bring an end to the Singletary era in San Francisco.

Josh's Take: At the beginning of the season, this was supposed to be an easy pick - San Diego never loses in December, and San Francisco plays in a completely crappy division with not a lot of competition. And while the Niners played inspired ball last week...let's remember it was against the Seahawks, whose own coach (Pete Carroll) should be on the hot seat. The Chargers will be a whole 'nother story and eminently more difficult of an opponent. San Diego wins the game and puts them closer to winning the division, especially if Kansas City has to keep trotting out Brodie Croyle every week.

Two INCHES of Snow!!

I don't care much for snow.  Ok, it's nice to have an off day here and there, but it is a royal pain in the ass whenever we get just a dusting of snow.  The comedian Bill Engvall said that in Texas if they had an inch coming, shut the state down.  I can't say that Maryland (at least the middle of it, anyway) is any different.  I complained about the drivers in other places on this blog on a normal day, but throw in some snow, and the aggravation factor multiplies by ten.

The drive home was "fun" because of that X factor of snow.  People driving at 25 miles per hour, even as the snow is nothing but a bunch of powdered sugar blowing across the roadway, and as always, uncleared side streets.  Just 100 yards away from my front door, I nearly introduced my car to a tree as I tried to turn and the car wouldn't turn, sliding straight through and finally coming to a stop on the ramp leading up to the sidewalk.  Granted, the skidding was at 10 miles per hour, but since I don't handle driving in settled snow well* (it's a long story - maybe I'll share some time), it sort of threw me into a panic.  Anyway, I'm home safely, and I hope the snow will stay the hell away!!

*I am aware that I admitted my panic while driving in snow while making fun of others who drive slowly.  In a heavy snow, I am that way too, but when you can still see the pavement, there is no excuse.  If no pavement is visible, all bets are off.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Last Word On Cliff Lee...Probably

Some final thoughts on the Cliff Lee deal; things I didn’t cover in the most recent Lattanzi Moment below. Then, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

1) How bad must the Yankees (as an organization) be feeling after all this? They were left in the dust in so many ways. The big free agent prize now is...wait for it...Carl Pavano!  As a public relations issue, this has also been a debacle. Between the revelations that Kristen Lee had issues with the fans, their reaction to the signing, and Brian Cashman’s non-panic panic, the franchise is in a bit of disarray, no matter what they are saying publicly (Lisa Swan over at Subway Squawkers has some good takes here and here). Schadenfreude can be nice sometimes. I don’t hate the Yankees (as I mostly save my bile for the Mets), but for a franchise that seems to get their way quite often, it’s nice to say that they don’t always come out in front.  They will still be contenders, but this kind of event takes a little bit of the luster away.

2) The cultural shift with the Phillies as an organization in the past decade has been unreal. David Cohen (of The Good Phight – where I post on the game threads as “Wandering Moses”) wrote a very good take on this phenomenon – he dates it to the last five years; I would go back to the 2001 season to see the seeds of this – the rise of guys like Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell, and then the signing of Jim Thome before the 2003 season was another watershed moment. The opening of Citizens Bank Park gave the Phillies a serious home and a money-printing mechanism, and all of a sudden, they are contenders and now have gotten to the point where players want to come to Philly, for less money than other teams have offered. How the hell did this happen? I said before the 2010 season – it’s just a very odd feeling to be the favorite.

3) I had said yesterday that anything less than winning the World Series in 2011 would be a disappointment. I was wrong. My friend Nick said it would be an abject failure – and you know what, I agree. This may well be the only year that the Phillies have this rotation. Oswalt has an option for 2012 and may not be back. Hamels could be traded for his final arbitration years. Year to year, anything can happen. Injuries could happen. This is why I try not to take for granted that the Phillies will forever be good. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lattanzi Moment #5 - Cliff Lee Signs!

This had to be done in audio form - the printed word just couldn't do justice (in my opinion) to the glee that I feel about this particular move.  Kudos to the Phillies organization and to Ruben Amaro, Jr. for getting this done.  I'll have more on this in the coming days - in print, because there was so much to say, but I don't like to go much beyond 7 minutes or so.  Thus, here is today's Lattanzi Moment...

Nationally Secured Fatness

If you need something to show that just unequivocally demonstrates precisely the wrong attitude to have in the relationship between individuals and the state – this is it.

“We can’t just leave it up to the parents”? Seriously??

And by the way, apparently childhood obesity is now a national security threat? I think I would take it more seriously coming from defense hawks, but otherwise it’s just rich coming from people who see it as a noble goal to try to reduce the size of the armed forces of this country and would rather spend money on social programs than on defense. But alas, move along folks…nothing to see here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Losing Faith = Losing Your Mind

These kinds of stories only happen when a people start losing their faith. As much as certain critics like to make fanciful pronouncements about a ‘Christianist’ conspiracy (Andrew Sullivan) or how America is headed down the road to a theocracy (Kevin Phillips), stories about guys wanting to make bombs to protect his family just in case the supposed 2012 Mayan doomsday prediction comes true.

…all of the hubbub over December 21, 2012 would never have occurred if we truly had stuck to our Christian roots instead of buying every last pagan scenario - or worse -projected pieces of Christian theology onto pagan scenarios.

If the supposedly professed Christians of the world were serious about their faith, then none of this stuff would bother them. Instead, all of this shows what materialistic quasi-pagans the so-called Christians of the (Western) world are. Obviously, they don't take the Lord's words seriously in any meaningful way - they believe some obscure broken tablet found in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico with more gusto than they do the promises of Christ. Strange people indeed.

The way I see it, people like Sullivan and Phillips have nothing to worry about, and they even misconstrue the nature of American Christianity. American fundamentalism is not conducive in any manner to an authoritarian structure. There are only two religious groups conducive to forming such a style of rule in America, and guess what, the Catholic Church is not one of them. Why? Mostly, it is because the Catholic Church transcends national borders.

The two groups are the LDS Church (Mormons) and Islam. The Mormons are peculiarly American in nature and have a rigid authoritarian structure that the Catholics could only wish they had. The Mormons were a state religion and still maintain a quasi-official status in the State of Utah. Islam (as multi-lithic as it is) in its purest form is meant to be a complete structure: religion, culture, politics, law, science, and so forth. It is overwhelmingly unlikely that either structure would ever be imposed in a pluralistic society such as America’s, but with an increasingly secular society, a vacuum is created, and something has to fill the void.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Live Blog! 8 PM - Eagles vs. Cowboys

Replay of Eagles vs. Cowboys Live Blog

NFL Picks - Week 14 Primetime Games

Prime Time picks are here!  Feel free to join in with your picks in the comment thread.  Make sure you join our Live Blog for the Eagles-Cowboys game at 8:00 tonight.  -- J.L.

Philadelphia at Dallas (Sunday, 8:20 PM)

Ryan's Take: How bout' them Cowboys? They have been playing harder and better for interim coach Jason Garrett. Even saying this, they still give up too many yards on defense and rely on the turnovers to bail them out. This is also true for the Eagles defense. It hasn't been the same since Asante Samuel got hurt in the Giants game in Philadelphia 3 weeks ago. The secondary has not been particularly good at all and no pass rush at all. The Eagles have been bailing out this defense the past 2 games with the best offense in the league. Michael Vick has been great this year and players like Lesean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin have stepped up this year. The offense will lead the way and Philadelphia will find a win and forget what happened their last year.

Josh's Take: It's primetime! It's Sunday Night! The Cowboys have been looking better ever since Jason Garrett has become the head coach. Even with a backup quarterback and some major players injured, they have looked like the ship has been reoriented in the right direction. The Eagles have battled injuries of their own and will be playing without Asante Samuel once again on defense and without Winston Justice on the offensive line, a guy who has quietly silenced his doubters. The Eagles will be getting Juqua Parker back, so the defensive front should be a little better for this game. I think this is the game that once again shows why Jon Kitna is a backup QB and Michael Vick will once again dazzle in primetime as Philadelphia completes the Texas Two-Step in consecutive weeks.

NFL Picks - Week 14 Daytime Games

Every week for the remainder of the season, Ryan and I will be making picks for all the NFL games on the slate. So far for Week 14, we are both 1-0, having both picked the Indianapolis Colts to right the ship once again. On to the picks! -- J.L.

Cleveland at Buffalo (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Tough game to pick. Both teams aren't the best teams in the league, but they both play hard. I like what I've seen out of both teams, but since I'm not sure that Colt McCoy is going to play, I'll go with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Buffalo.

Josh’s Take: Cleveland is the best of the “bad” teams, and for what it’s worth, they have been screwed a couple of times. I can see their defense shutting down the Buffalo offense, whatever that may be. The Browns will score enough points to win, and Buffalo will allow just enough to lose. Cleveland wins in a close one.

Green Bay at Detroit (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Interesting game to see on Sunday. Detroit has been in almost every game they have played this year and they seem to get better as the games go on. For Green Bay, they have Aaron Rodgers, who in my mind can do anything on the football field that he wants. Though the Packers don't have a running game, they won't need one and Green Bay will beat Detroit in Ford Field.

Josh’s Take: This is a dangerous game for Green Bay. They cannot afford to be a one-half team today against a Detroit team that is looking to stick it to them. Detroit can put up some points, but if Aaron Rodgers is on, and I think he will be, the Lions won’t be able to stop the Packers enough to win the game. Green Bay wins in a quasi-shootout, like a 35-24 type of game.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Best Christmas Special (UPDATED)

Now that we are in the Christmas season, we need to dig deeply and try to answer the truly tough questions, such as what is the best adult beverage to have with Christmas dinner, and how much candy is too much to have before dinner.

But the toughest question of all, in my humble opinion, is this: which Christmas television special is the greatest? Full-length theatrical films aren't included in this, so no Miracle of 34th Street, It's A Wonderful Life, or White Christmas will be included.

I speak of seasonal television shows - ones that you know you will only see from Black Friday through Christmas day.  I have prepared a list of some nominees for us to sift through, with the idea that we can have a vote of some sort to determine exactly what the masses believe is the best one.  If you believe I have forgotten one, by all means, throw it in the comment thread and I will add an update to the bottom of this post.  The candidates are after the jump...

Spoiled Brats Scream....

There have been riots going on in London because the British government is going to raise tuition for higher education in that country.  Quite honestly, all this shows is the sense of entitlement that certain people in the world have.  We are already seeing this happen on a smaller scale in California over budget cuts to the educational system.  I guess the one thing they never teach in the schools anymore is basic economic principles, such as the following:

1) You can't spend more money than you have and expect to skirt repayment of the money you had to borrow.

2) There isn't an endless source of money.

Likewise, so much of the spoiled attitude comes from the fact that someone else is paying for the services or goods they are receiving.  As I tell my students all the time, they would all be straight A students if they actually had to work to fork over the money to pay their tuition.  No one is going to waste their own money on something as important as education, not at the cost that it is today.

Someone else's, though?  Yeah! Sure!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Suffering the Fools

Driving in the Baltimore and DC metro areas can always be an adventure.  Those of you who are from around here know some of the fun things - the Washington Weave, the curves of the Beltway in Montgomery County, the Southeast-Southwest Freeway (known to outsiders as...NASCAR), and the Springfield Interchange.  No matter where you go in the region, it seems as if the fools are always out in full force.  Today was no exception.

I leave home every day at 6:00 AM, because it's 29 miles to school and it takes approximately 45 minutes to go from door to door.  Driving down MD 3 (Crain Highway) in southern Anne Arundel County, the speed limit is usually 45 or 50 miles per hour.  I was going about 60 and all of a sudden behind me is some Lincoln Navigator whose driver is flashing his lights at me.  I can't change lanes, as the other one is occupied, and I can't really push my poor little Saturn any faster, so I sit at 60 and pass the car on my left and then the Navigator cuts in the next lane and speeds off.  Once it passed me, the license plate gave an awfully good insight into the behavior of the driver flashing his lights at me...


No, really.  This is not a parody.  I am guessing the owner/driver of that Navigator lacks any kind of self awareness to realize the comedic effect of his vanity plate, especially when gaged against that sense of entitlement.  

Don't even get me started on the morons who decide to drive like idiots because it....wait for it...FLURRIED this afternoon!  Good God.  Ok, I've had enough ranting for one afternoon.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lattanzi Moment #4 - Slacktivism

Today's Lattanzi Moment discusses Slacktivism - quite the ugly phenomenon of the internet and social media age.  It's a disease that afflicts many, regardless of who you are and where you stand on the issues.

NFL Picks - Week 14 Thursday Night

Last week, Ryan and I did picks on the whole slate of NFL games.  I went 10-6 and Ryan went 9-7.  For the remainder of the season, we will do our picks.  You are welcome to put your picks in the comment thread.  -- J.L.

Indianapolis at Tennessee (8:20 PM)

Ryan's Take: This is a tough game to pick. Both teams have been struggling on both sides of the ball. Tennessee just got manhandled by the Jacksonville Jaguars because they couldn't stop Maurice Jones-Drew from running all over them. The Colts just lost to the Cowgirls due to Peyton going interception crazy the past couple of games. In the battle of struggling teams, I have to go with the Colts because I believe Peyton will finally right the ship and find a way to beat the Titans.

Josh's Take: I feel like this is Indy's season on the line.  I said on Sunday that the Dallas game was the "Colts' last stand.  If they lose this game, they are in massive trouble."  They are in massive trouble right now and I might consider them finished, especially if Jacksonville wins this weekend - there would be a two game deficit with 3 games to go.  On the other hand...Tennessee is playing worse than any team in the NFL right now, save Carolina.  Desperate teams and desperate times both.  Peyton Manning can't afford any more turnovers, and while he may have one or two, I believe the Colts will win fairly handily.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Rise and the Problem of the Jewish Roots Movement

There is a growing trend in the Christian world that is interesting and disturbing at the same time. The trend to which I refer is known as Jewish Roots or Hebrew Roots. Please try to remember that what I say here has nothing to do with traditional Rabbinic Judaism or its current and past practitioners, but rather what certain segments of Christianity think should be used and borrowed  from Judaism.

One of the points of separation between Judaism and Christianity in the Apostolic age (prior to the year 100 A.D.) was a dispute over the role of the Torah. There was a group of Jewish-Christians who said every Christian (especially the Gentiles who were converting) needed to be circumcised and also needed follow the ritual and ceremonial commands of the Torah (the moral code remains, however) in order to attain salvation. This position was thoroughly rejected by the Council of Jerusalem (summarized in Acts, chapter 15) and further dismantled by St. Paul in his epistles to Rome and Galatia. That series of events blew open the door to Gentile conversion and started the inevitable separation between the two faiths.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Skoal Settlement...

The news came out today that the parent company of tobacco labels Skoal and Copenhagen will pay a settlement of five million dollars to the family of a man who died from mouth cancer seven years ago.  This was in response to a lawsuit, but by settlement, they won't have to admit liability.

Ok, this is just stupid.  

I am sorry.  I don't understand why these lawsuits ever actually get in front of a judge.  If I start a bad habit that is completely within my control, then I shouldn't be able to sue the company for my not being able to stop.  The cigarette lawsuits of the 90's are another example of stupidity winning out.  Technically, under this mindset, I should, as a diabetic, sue the Coca-Cola Company for my condition.  Hey, they kept marketing to me and God knows that my Coke habit (pardon the pun) was very much responsible for the state in which I am.  

The way I see it, the litigious mentality we have and the notion that we aren't responsible for what we do is just another example of how Calvinism has so thoroughly infiltrated our culture. Despite the fact we as a society are not particularly religious anymore, the tentacles of Calvinism still run so deep that they manifest themselves in many different ways.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lattanzi Moment #3 - Jayson Werth

The current Lattanzi Moment takes a look at the Jayson Werth signing by the Washington Nationals.  Don't worry, I am not upset by this, and I say as such toward the end of the commentary.  It looks at the issue from a baseball, economic, PR, and fan's standpoint.

Don't Know What Is Scarier...

The fact that now the U.S. Department of the Treasury has an actual page that shows how people can just make donations to the U.S. Government


That the mailing address is approximately six blocks away from my place of employment.  

You decide!

H/T to The MCJ, which, by the way, is one of my absolute favorite sites for snark and Episcopalian inner works.  

Always remember, Uncle Sam wants you...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

NFL Picks - Week 13 Primetime Games

Pittsburgh at Baltimore (8:20 PM, Sunday) - as the story written by Dustin below intones, the Steelers have not lost to Baltimore since 2006 when Ben Roethlisberger starts the game.  The area around here has been nutty all week long, on talk radio and on television.  Pittsburgh's offense is struggling a little bit, but their defense has been very good.  As always, Baltimore's defense is good.  It is going to be a low-scoring, defensive slog.  However, this is the night when Baltimore wins against Roethlisberger.

New York Jets at New England (8:30 PM, Monday) - this is a game I have been salivating over for some time.  The Jets were a surprise last season, but they seem to have come together a little more this season.  New England has been a perennial contender this entire decade and they have the home field and a premier quarterback in Tom Brady.  The matchup will be the Jets' receivers against the Patriots' secondary.  I am going to take New York in what should be a hell of a battle.