Monday, January 31, 2011

Underrated Television Shows

Some weeks ago, I wrote about the word 'overrated' and what it means.  Today, I want to discuss some television shows that are underrated.  These are shows that flew under the radar for various reasons, mostly having to do with other shows that had bigger stars and more media play.  Some of these are diamonds in the rough and others got some deserved praise but were then forgotten.  Let's begin with...

1) The Fresh Prince of Bel Air - In the era of NBC's "Must See TV" Thursdays and other high-powered programs, the Fresh Prince sort of hid away on NBC's Monday nights against CBS mainstays such as Evening Shade and The Nanny.  It has gotten a lot of airplay in syndication, but never got the praise it deserved.  It was a fun show that never got too deep (save the one or two 'very special episodes') - that was saved for it's Monday night compadre, Blossom.  Actually, come to think of it, every Blossom episode was 'very special', wasn't it?

2) Everybody Loves Raymond - The Barones are the non-dysfunctional dysfunctional family.  I call them that because there really isn't a whole lot wrong with them (aside from Robert's chin touching) other than the constant interference and butting in.  It's another show that gets a lot of airplay now in syndication, but even with all of its awards and high ratings through its nine seasons, it just sort of quietly faded.  I put part of the blame on the lack of a blowout final episode.  

3) Degrassi Junior High - Ok, don't laugh.  I know you are trying not to laugh.  STOP LAUGHING!!  Seriously, Canadian television series don't get their due.  Ditto for the various Canadian sketch comedy shows that aired on Nickelodeon in the 1980's (Turkey Television, You Can't Do That On Television) and others that got slightly more American airtime (SCTV and The Kids in the Hall).

4) In the Heat of the Night - Good writing and good characters made this charming southern police drama.  Carroll O'Connor was outstanding as Chief (later Sheriff) Bill Gillespie and once they got past the first season's stock scripts, the show took off.  It lasted about eight seasons on two different networks (NBC first, then CBS) but was placed in midweek spots (Tuesday/Wednesday), but never got the applause that so many other crime shows (Law and Order, CSI, et cetera) have gotten over the years.

Anything missing?  Anything anyone else wants to add?  Rules are - it can't be a show that *everyone* likes, and preferably, it should have been off the air for at least five years.  In other words, hindsight is a good tool.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Most Insignificant Game...

It's the week between conference title games and the Super Bowl Big Game, which means....

Pro Bowl!!!

Hooray!  Actually, it's amusing that they place the insignificant game in between the two most significant weekends of the season.  People complain that the Pro Bowl is irrelevant, but they never offer solutions to make it relevant again.  So I will do what others will not do - offer solutions to make the Pro Bowl relevant.

1) Make it an actual flag football game.  Hell, they play it like one, so they might as well change the rules to make it one.  No pads, soft fields, and a nerf ball to complete it.  

2) Two-hand touch.  Or perhaps instead of flag football, make it two-hand touch, like we used to play at recess.  Except we had it a little harder...playing surface, that is - we played on an asphalt parking lot in our school uniforms, or we played on the street.  There were no luscious grass fields.  Anyway, the rules could be like we used to do: two completions for a first down, one blitz per four downs, seven Mississippi count to rush the quarterback, shotgun is an automatic blitz, and so forth.  You could even have several games occurring simultaneously - sort of like a tournament.

3) Eliminate the game altogether and give the selected players a free vacation to Hawaii.  Oh wait, they do the latter already. I think if 'Pro-Bowler' were a designation like 'All-Pro', that is, completely on paper, no one would complain.  

Solutions!  What do you think?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is Albert Pujols Worth $300 Million?

If nothing happens this winter, it is entirely possible that Albert Pujols could test the free agent market.  Pujols has, however, indicated that he wants to spend the rest of his career as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and wants to get an extension done before spring training begins in about three weeks. To show his seriousness in remaining with the team, he said he would veto any proposed trade.  Being a ten-and-five player*, he is within his rights to do so.

The question becomes, whether with an extension or a pure free agent deal: how much is Albert Pujols worth?  The largest deal (mentioned in the linked article) was Alex Rodriguez's ten year, $275 million dollar contract with the Yankees.  Is Pujols worth that?  Is he worth more?  If A-Rod's deal is the standard, then Pujols should be getting at least $27-28 million per season.  The only hesitation I would have is giving him ten years on a contract. Pujols will be thirty-two at the start of next season, so I would probably give him eight years, $230 million.  Then again, I am not a baseball executive nor an owner. However, consider this: Ryan Howard has a $25 million per season deal; Pujols is clearly a far superior player to Howard (No one has to remind me - 'but you're a Phillies fan!!').

You be the judge

*Ten-and-five players have the right to veto any trade due to the current collective bargaining agreement. It says any player who has ten years of service time with the last five being with his current team falls under this designation.

Why Family Guy Is An Inferior Television Show

Every year for about the past five, my students express shock and chagrin at my answer to their question about whether I watch the television show Family Guy.  My response to them usually entails something along the lines of saying how much I dislike the show, how disjointed it is, and how moronic it is, and how it is generally inferior to similarly-themed show such as The Simpsons, South Park, and even Futurama and King of the Hill. The questioning students will then mutter something to the effect of 'you just don't understand it, Mr. Lattanzi.'  To the contrary, I understand just a little too well, which is part of the reason I don't care for it.  Allow me to elaborate...

Before I begin the criticism, let me concede this - Family Guy is a very popular show;  it has lasted a long time in its two incarnations. Obviously, that's not just because someone high up in the Fox Television Network has been threatened. I will also confess that I watched it and enjoyed a couple of episodes in the first incarnation of the series, but that's about the end of it.  
My first criticism begins with the writing of the show - there seems to be too much borrowing from other shows, and there is no real coherent plot to many episodes.  The characters are extremely static, and while that is a hallmark of any cartoon series, none of the characters in Family Guy have any redeeming qualities, as my brother reminds me often.   I am not expecting continuity, as very few situation comedies have it, but I would expect something that sort of ties together and presses with a major point.  Instead, what you have with Family Guy is something that appeals to an ADD generation.

The second criticism has to do with the over-reliance on cutaways and flashbacks.  This is an extension in part of the first criticism, but it becomes a sort of drug for the show.  It is a copout from having to write a completely coherent episode from a plot standpoint.  The writers on Family Guy just don't take enough time to develop anything - once again it comes back to assuming the audience has ADD.

The third and final criticism is based in the overkill of cultural references.  I don't mind them in and of themselves, but the thing that bothers me more than anything else is the notion that somehow just because we get the reference it means we should find it funny.  I would consider myself well-versed in television, movie, and music culture of the past 40-50 years, but not every reference made to something that happened on All In the Family or Star Wars is inherently funny.   

One reason a show like The Simpsons is superior and funnier is precisely because they can take a cultural reference and do something intelligent with it - it's not a one-shot Johnny type appearance that is never further developed.  Witness episodes such as "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" - it plays up the Beatles and in general the British Invasion throughout the whole episode, but does so in an intelligent and complete way.  There is a continuity within the episode, unlike Family Guy episodes which jump from reference to reference to reference with no rhyme or reason as to why.

Overall, if only one of these aspects were a problem, then the show would be better off than it is now.  However, since all three of these are a problem, the show suffers as a result.  Again, it is extremely popular, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good show.  Titanic was the highest grossing film of all time, but that's just because a lot of teenage girls thought Leonardo DiCaprio was cute in 1998, not because the film had anything to offer.  Likewise, Family Guy is popular, but not necessarily because it has anything to offer.  It has a lot of dick and fart jokes.

No wonder the teens like it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Metro Song

Since I was gone all day doing various things, I didn't have much time to post anything today. I do have this video - I heard/watched it this morning - it is very funny and so true.  If you have ever traveled on the Metro in DC, you can certainly sympathize with this.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Path Best Left Untouched

There are a few things in this story, or to be taken from the story that can be debated, but one of the most dangerous things involved here is the idea that a court can order a child into a public school against the wishes of his or her parents.

One's opinion about homeschooling is irrelevant here; the road this leads down is not one that I think many people want to explore.  If indeed having an education that is 'too religious' is grounds to order a student into a government-run public school, then what would be the grounds for maintaining any kind of sectarian education?

There's a reason people home-school and send their kids to religious educations - those forms of education reflect their values in some way and often (especially around here) it's because those are superior to the public education system.  Parents need to be left alone to be parents and make the decision as to what kind of education their children should get.  

Court-ordered educational forms - this is indeed the path best left untouched.

Double Snow Day and Other Ramblings

- I can't say I am too upset over the fact that school has been cancelled today and yesterday.  It has given me a chance to truly recharge after getting over a nasty cold.  

- The county, town, and complex did a much MUCH better job clearing away snow than they did last year when we had the famed Snowpocalypse.  Granted, there was less snow this time around, but no one was caught with their pants down and looking like they had no idea what the hell was going on.

- We lost power around 8:30 last night and got it back around 4:30 this morning.  Lots of people were not as fortunate.  I was out this morning and heard on the radio that there were still around 83,000 power outages as recently as 12:30 this afternoon (BGE customers). It was a pain to only have lighting from one candle in the whole house and not have any heat, but thankfully, we survived with no problems.

- There is more snow heading this way. From the looks of it, it will be an Alberta Clipper-type of system, which entails dry snow, unlike the extremely wet and slushy stuff we got last night. We've gotten our couple of snow days, now make it stop, please.  

- Bowling was cancelled last night; it wasn't as if I was going to be allowed to go anyway.  I would have been stranded in College Park, I'm sure, especially if the twelve-hour commute was any indication.  That's a lot of abandoned cars on the road.

- Stay safe and warm, all!  May the spring show up soon, and finally have a return to baseball season.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Greatest Washington Redskins Team Dies At 19

This is a guest-post from Dustin Holt, who collaborated with me on the Super Bowl countdown last year.  Enjoy!  -- J.L.

The hope for the return of 1991 Washington Redskins Super Bowl winning season died Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at the age of 19.

Born September 1, 1991, in Washington, DC when the Redskins defeated the Detroit Lions 45-0; the Redskins went 14-2, scoring a league high 485 points on their way to a 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI on January 26, 1992 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The 1991 Redskins were known as the last Redskins team to win a Super Bowl; fans of the team to this day believe the Redskins are only one player away from recreating that magical season.

Rated the fourteenth best Super Bowl winning team in the NFL Network's America’s Game countdown, those Redskins were considered one of the most underrated teams in the history of the NFL. Joe Gibbs won his third Super Bowl with his third different quarterback with the Redskins.

The Redskins' point differential of plus-261 is tied for third-best since the sixteen-game schedule began. They lost two games by a combined five points, and one of those came in the final game.

Quarterback Mark Rypien threw for 3,564 yards and 28 touchdown passes on his way to Super Bowl XXVI MVP. He was sacked a mere nine times. The 1991 Redskins were one of three NFL teams since 1950 to record forty more sacks in a season than they allowed.

Rypien threw 14 touchdown passes of 25 yards or more and completed 13 passes of 47 yards or more. Receivers Gary Clark and Art Monk each eclipsed the thousand-yard mark, gaining 1,340 and 1,049, respectively.

Earnest Byner ran for 1,048 yards while backup running backs Ricky Ervins ran for 680 yards and Gerald Riggs scored eleven touchdowns.

Kicker Chip Lohmiller scored 149 points, which was more than the Indianapolis Colts scored the entire season.

The 1991 Redskins defense was anchored by cornerback Darrell Green, defensive end Charles Mann and linebacker Wilber Marshall.

Since 1992, fans have longed for a return to the glory days of 1991 when they knew the Redskins would win each game. The Redskins have only won three playoff games the last 19 years, the same amount the 1991 version of the team won in 1991.

The notion of being one player away has caused the franchise to fall from the NFL’s elite to a middle of the road team as over-the-hill free agents were signed to extremely large contracts instead of building through the draft.

The Redskins may have righted the wrongs with the hiring of Mike Shanahan in 2010 but the franchise may never again see a season like 1991.

So today, that team lays at peace as the fans hold onto those magical memories. The 1991 Redskins were the best team in franchise history; instead of trying to burden themselves with recreating that magical fall, the fans ought to just remember.


Top Ten M*A*S*H Episodes

These are my top ten favorite M*A*S*H episodes of all time. Note that this is not a top ten list of best episodes of all time – trying to do such a list is inherently unfair for one person to do, considering there are 251 episodes and I don’t have a whole lot of technical expertise.

The methodology I pursued considered each season and narrowed it down to about twenty-five episodes, then to fifteen, and then to ten.  After getting to ten, the hardest part was trying to put them in the order of favorite, since, obviously, I like them all very much.  Anyway, here I present the Lattanzi Land Top Ten Favorite M*A*S*H Episodes. Let's begin with some episodes that came close to making the top ten, but for whatever reason didn't make it to the final cut.  There is no shame in being in the top fifteen of a 251-episode series!   

Honorable Mention

15) Rally Round the Flagg, Boys (Season Seven)
14) Big Mac (Season Three)
13) Mr. and Mrs. Who (Season Eight)
12) Movie Tonight (Season Five)
11) Deal Me Out (Season Two)

Now on to the Top Ten!

State of the Union Reaction...

...actually, there isn't much of one, except to say that just from reading the speech, the President tried to sound as much a Republican as possible.  I wonder if that thought made him physically ill.  The usual boondoggles made their way in though - high-speed rail, green energy technology, federal subsidies, and the like.  No mention of entitlement reform or anything else that would actually sink teeth into the deficit problem we face - now thought to be the highest ever.

We'll see how this goes afterward.  Actions do speak louder than words.

Do As I Say...

Six months ago, I wrote a post about how President Obama desired federal employees to cut down on their 'carbon emissions'.  I also noted in that post that if the Feds were serious about doing so, they should cut down the size and scope of the government on the whole.

Channel 9 here in DC just ran a report based on Freedom of Information Act inquiries that show many federal agencies' headquarters running up electric bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars per month!  The Department of Labor was the most egregious violator with one month of (cuing Dr. Evil's zoom-in) one million dollars!  How did this happen?  They kept the lights on all night.  


Absolutely ridiculous.  Aside from bringing up the question as to why we even have a Department of Labor, Transportation, Energy, or Commerce to begin with, it's no wonder why people are pissed off at the Feds.  Double standards will always piss off people no matter who is the one exhibiting them.  The rest of us have to live within our means; we can't print our own money.  BGE, Pepco, and Dominion want their money now.

Politicians love to talk about 'common sense reforms'.  Here's one...turn off your damn lights when you aren't using them.  Too bad it will never happen.  It makes too much sense.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There's a State of the Union Tonight??? No!!!

You know what, I would never have guessed!  Cause you see, I have lived in a cave for the past five years and I burned my television and radios and this computer is only able to access this blog and nothing else.

Anyway, my over the top sarcasm aside - I just don't care.  The last State of the Union address I watched in its entirety was the 2002 version, in which George W. Bush unveiled the vaunted 'Axis of Evil' of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Guess he wasn't too far off now, was he?

Nick has a pretty good idea of what Obama is going to say (Complete text of the speech here).  Some gems include:
5) Don't forget to clap at everything I say
6) I'm in charge...and there's nothing you can do about it
I think the idea of mixed seating is utterly useless.  If the idea is to show 'civility', then is that the best we can do?  Have we dropped so far that we consider it to be a 'victory' just to be able to say 'look!  Democrats and Republicans can sit together at the same lunch table!'  Well, whoop-de-doo.   YAY!!!

I had actually considered live-blogging the speech, but I can't stand the constant stopping and restarting.  It's like sitting on the Beltway.  Actually, that's a perfect metaphor, considering that this is Washington after all.  I'll find something else to watch.  Then I'll read the transcript and comment on it here.  If you enjoy the theatrics of the State of the Union, then more power to you.  

I'll be watching some basketball.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Look At Teaching Styles

I remember being asked a few years ago when I was a rookie teacher to describe my style in the classroom.  Needless to say, I was at a loss for words (a rarity indeed!).  I hadn't really thought about it at the time, and said I would try to figure it out.  However it happened, it fell to the back burner and only in the past few weeks has it come about again.  

A lot of the style stems from the level in which one teaches.  In the elementary and middle school levels, structure is absolutely of the essence, given the way the day is spaced and having to keep the attention of the students.  I know for a fact that I would have an extremely difficult time dealing with the 5-12 age group.  I could probably do eighth grade, but that's about it.  College classes can be winged, as the professor can theoretically just talk for 50 (or 75) minutes and pick up the next time, with the responsibility of the students to keep up with what is going on.  Not all do this, of course, but the format possibility is there.

That brings us to high school - in which you find all the way across the spectrum from absolute structure to absolutely winging it.  The latter is a problem of sorts because high school through at least sixteen years of age is compulsory in almost every state, and this certain requirements are necessary.  The original question is - where do I fit into the spectrum?

As a (former) musician, I kind of see teachers as conductors of a band (or orchestra, if you prefer).  The differing styles sort of fit with differing styles of music.  The really structured course work is in a style of a classical symphony - very ordered and it is played the same way nearly every time, with little room for variation.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; certain disciplines actually demand that method, namely the sciences, mathematics, and foreign world languages. 

I see myself in the manner of leading a jazz band.  Don't laugh (or gasp)...I shall explain!  

Jazz, at least in my interpretation and taste (pre-Bebop - so prior to 1945 is what I like), has a structure that allows for a certain amount of improvisation.  A lot of jazz songs have a clear-cut beginning and ending with a particular beat and a particular key.  The improvisational aspect allows for going in your own direction provided you stay within a general framework (i.e. meter and key).  The solos that you hear in any 'standard' jazz song will never be identical twice, even if they are similar each time the song is played.  As many of you who have read this blog know, I am a big Benny Goodman fan.  If you listen to different recordings of 'Sing, Sing, Sing', you will see what I mean by the framework being present but with the solos varying each time.  

In my classroom, every unit/chapter and even every set during any given day has a clear beginning and ending.  The outline I give throughout is precisely this: the framework and key of the song.  It's the explanations that function as the 'solos'. Even between the different sections of students in the same course, the explanation will never be identical.  Much as the great jazz musicians changed up their solos in consideration of the venues, audiences, and moods, the explanations I give from section to section depend on the time of the day, the students, and their capabilities.  The outline is there, the framework and the 'key' of the course is there, but the solos will always vary - year to year, day to day, and even section to section.  

The reason I feel like I can succeed with this form is the fact that the subject matter, theology, is the kind of material where I have to be ready for anything and adjust on the fly.  This is true, especially given the kinds of questions I (and anyone who teaches this subject) get from the students.  No one (except a major smart ass) would question 2+2 = 4, but in this age of skepticism there are questions abound.  

Like all analogies, it isn't a perfect comparison.  I hope, though, that you get a little bit of insight into how I see what I do.  It is sometimes a tough job, but truly I love what I do and I hope to keep doing it for a very long time.

Any thoughts, comments, complaints, or disturbances?

Organized Opinions On Title Games

The Super Bowl is set, and I know absolutely that I will be rooting for the Green Bay Packers.  The four years I spent in West Virginia did enough to turn me against the Steelers.  Anyway, some thoughts on yesterday's games...

1) I agree with Steve Czaban that yesterday’s NFC Title Game is the game that changed Jay Cutler’s career. There was no discernible injury that forced him out of the game. I was always taught that the number one rule of playoff game injuries was this: if it isn’t broken, you keep on playing. Concussions are obviously different, but since we are talking about knees and shoulders and so forth. Cutler has a lot of explaining to do.  It has been revealed that Cutler has a sprained MCL. [UPDATE (4:51 PM) - Cutler has a grade two MCL tear, which is a little worse..]

2) I didn’t get to see the first half of the Green Bay-Chicago game, but I heard some of it on the radio, and it looked even worse on highlights than I imagined, despite Kevin Harlan’s colorful descriptions of the game.

3) The defenses of the winning teams were phenomenal for about two and a half to three quarters. It seemed that once the fourth quarter started, they let up, allowing their opponents to make the games competitive when they had no business doing so.

4) Don’t overreact on the play of Caleb Hanie, the Bears’ third string quarterback who was pressed into service after Todd Collins crashed and burned once Cutler went out. He was pretty much making it up as he went along and had the Packers actually gameplanned for him, he would have thrown FOUR interceptions instead of two.

5) I wondered most of the night where the Jets’ defense went. They couldn’t tackle at the line of scrimmage and when they did tackle, it was in the secondary when Rashard Mendenhall had already gained about seven or eight yards.

6) The Steelers were lucky that the Jets only got what amounted to a safety on the goal line stand. I believe that had the Jets scored on the fourth and goal play, the game would have turned out differently. Don’t underestimate how momentum works in people’s minds as a psychological issue. Sports momentum doesn’t exist in reality, but it does exist in perception. At that point, it would have been 24-17 with a lot of time remaining and the last thing a team and their fans want or need is for a big lead to be reduced down to one possession. It makes for a tense crowd and an even tighter team.

7) I have, for all intents and purposes, lost the picks game to Ryan. He took the Steelers and even almost picked the exact final score. I took the Jets, and that was my mistake. I should have known better. Alas, lucky for me we didn’t wager anything except our pride. He is ahead by one game over me with just the Super Bowl awaiting us.

8) Nick did a hell of a job marathon-blogging yesterday.  Check it out!

9) My first impression of the Super Bowl is that it will be a low-scoring, defensive struggle to the tune of 17-14. Each team will have a defensive touchdown and neither offense will be able to do anything. Therefore, the reality, I am sure, will be something along the lines of a 44-41 shootout with Rodgers and Roethlisberger both throwing for 350 yards and four touchdowns. All I know is, whatever I predict two weeks out at this point will be wrong.

Who would dispute that?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

NFL Conference Championship Game Previews

We have come to the day of the Conference Championship Games!  It's been a long season, but there are still three games to go.  Let's get to the previews and predictions of todays games between first, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, followed by the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFC Championship Game
Soldier Field
3 PM
FOX - Joe Buck and Troy Aikman

Ryan's Take: This is going to be a great game against 2 huge NFC North rivals. The Packers are, methinks, the most talented team in the NFL. They have a solid offense led by Aaron Rodgers and a great defense that can match up against any offense out there. The Bears, methinks, are a surprise to be here. I thought that they were a flawed team offensively all year, but Martz seemed to find a antidote for that. Their defense on the other hand has been fantastic all year. This will be a low scoring slugfest on the horrible field that they call Soldier Field, but the Packers will win this.

Green Bay 17, Chicago 10

Josh's Take: There has been a lot of talk about the 'rivalry' between the Bears and the Packers, and while it is true that they have played an insane amount of times against each other, I am hard-pressed to think of actual games in history that are memorable.  In fact, I don't think they have played each other in the playoffs too many either.  Packers-Bears just isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think 'rivalry', but I digress...

This is the type of game that is hard to pick, because there are aspects that make me lean one way or another.  The Bears have homefield, but the Packers are the 'hot' team.  The Bears have a better defense, but they also have Jay Cutler.  The Packers are the only team left with the ability to put up fifty points, but they could only muster ten against Chicago in Week 17 when the Bears had nothing for which to play.  This is the kind of game that comes down to a gut pick.  

I foresee a close game, but the Packers being able to make plays on defense.  Jay Cutler will morph into Jay Cutler that was supposed to show up every week before this, but hadn't - he's due.  Even with that said, the Packers' weakness will show up: allowing the other team to hang around.  It will have a similar ending to the Philadelphia game two weeks ago; the Bears will have their chances, but will ultimately fail.

Green Bay 27, Chicago 21

AFC Championship Game
Heinz Field
6:30 PM
CBS - Jim Nantz and Phil Simms

Ryan's Take: This game is going to be a blood bath. The Jets are a flawed team that is covered up by the excellent coaching of Rex Ryan. Rex seems to be a little cocky for my taste, but he puts his best foot forward and gets the job done. They have flaws on offense that haven't shown up the past 2 weeks and defensively, they are playing lights out. The Steelers on the other hand are a team that is good, but not great. Their offense runs through Big Ben and their defense is dominating, but without Polamalu, they aren't the same. This game will be decided in the 4th quarter like earlier in the season, but this time the Steelers win.

Pittsburgh 24, New York 20

Josh's Take: Is it just me, or are the Steelers and Jets being sickeningly sweet to each other this week? Contrast that to the Jets trash-talking the Patriots to death last week.  I believe it's just another set of mind games being played on both the parts of the teams and their head coaches.  I'd be willing to bet the New York papers don't have any fancy covers for today's editions, like they did last week (the brilliant Star Wars parody).

Another tough game, for similar reasons to the NFC game - the Jets have shocked two of the best teams in the NFL on the road in the past two weeks with different game plays and strategies.  There is no doubt they have the capabilities to do it this week as well.  Pittsburgh, though, has a different offensive system than the Patriots or the Colts, and I feel it is one that matches up well with the Jets' secondary due to its speed.  The Jets have a slightly better defense than the Steelers, but they are prone to gambling a little more, which could open them up to the big play.  Ben Roethlisberger already has a big game reputation, which means nothing ultimately from game to game, but it has a psychological effect on the other team.  

The game will be low scoring and tight, as that's the way both of these teams are built.  But it won't lack excitement.  The Steelers have the home crowd and it will be as cold as it can be for Pittsburgh in January.  The Jets have momentum and I think they will pull it off through a monster defensive effort and a timely score.  No, it won't be like the 1999 NFC Championship Game, though.  I thought the Steelers were on the ropes too much last week and let the Ravens give them the game as much as they actually won it.  So I am going to call it - the first ever all sixth seed Super Bowl.  

New York 14, Pittsburgh 13

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Recap

Thanks for reading the various thoughts today.  As always, if you have anything you want to share, you can either drop it in the comment threads or email me.  Just in case you missed it, here is what I spent this Saturday writing...

1) January 22, 1973 - An Infamous Day - a look at the Supreme Court Case Roe v. Wade.

2) Abortion - Not Just A Single Issue 

3) The Use of the Word 'Choice'

4) The Exceptions

5) The 'Personally Opposed' Canard

6) Abortion As Birth Control

What To Do: A Final Reflection

All through today, I spent time covering the various aspects of abortion, its background, and how people tend to rationalize such a grotesque act.  All of that being said, the question becomes: what can we do?  

It has been suggested that overturning Roe v. Wade would stop everything.  That is not true.  It would indeed be a good first step, but keep in mind that it would return the issue to where it was on January 21, 1973 - with each individual state.  Through the late 1960's and early 1970's, four states had allowed abortion-on-demand (New York, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii) and the other forty-six had restrictions of varying degrees, including thirty that had complete bans.  

Simply banning abortion likewise won't solve the problem that we have - as having almost any law would attest.  There is a much deeper cultural and spiritual problem that needs to be solved.  Pope John Paul II called it the 'Culture of Death'.  We need to dig deeper into some of the issues which include...

1) The decoupling of sex from procreation
2) The rabidly libertine attitudes of our modern society
3) The overarching selfishness we exhibit
4) The devaluing of human life in all stages
5) The lack of recognition of a higher purpose in life

Some of these are related to one another; others stand alone.  Together, however, they form a perfect storm that has fueled the mentality and culture that has enabled close to fifty million unborn children in this country to be wantonly killed over the past thirty-eight years.  It is going to take time to reverse, because the mentality didn't just show up overnight, but it has to be done, and the pace needs to be picked up.  

We also need to help the women who have been affected by their decision.  We need to pray for them and listen to their stories.  While many had reasons for getting an abortion that are labeled selfish, many also had major regrets in having done so.  I believe that a lot of women were sold a bill of goods in regard to the procedure and were led to believe that abortion would be a panacea.  Experience would go on to show otherwise in many cases.  

It all seems a bit overwhelming, but I think we can get there.  We have to get there, or else there will be none of us left.  That's the kind of future that is chilling to think about.

Lord, have mercy on us all.

Abortion As Birth Control

The most infuriating aspect of abortion is the fact that it tends to be used as a form of birth control.  Close to 92% of all abortions are done for this particular reason (according to the Guttmacher Institute via InfoPlease).  The 'exceptions' spoken of earlier, especially rape and incest, account for less than one percent of all abortions (13,000 out of about 1.32 million).  Health exceptions account for just over six percent.

There are myriad other solutions that are inherently better than killing your unborn child, including abstinence.  Yes, not having sex is actually a pretty good way to avoid this problem in the first place.  Shocker, isn't it!  Giving up the child for adoption is another avenue.  

Too often, the reasons for aborting one's children are entirely selfish in nature.  11% reported having an abortion because it would 'disrupt education or job'.  8% said because they simply wanted no more children.  26% said it was because they wanted to 'postpone childbearing'. 21% said it was because they couldn't afford a child.  14% cited 'relationship issues', and 12% said they were 'too young to have children'.  Apparently, they were old enough to have sex, though.

What these numbers tell me is that people want the physical pleasure of sexuality but not the consequences of said sexuality.  Unfortunately for too many people, sex has been decoupled from procreation.  In a way, it's related to the no-fault divorce mentality = if it doesn't work out, I can always.... 

The 'Personally Opposed' Canard

This is another one we hear quite often - "I am personally opposed to abortion, but there shouldn't be a law restricting it."


Just as a mental exercise here - let's substitute anything that is considered a historical crime or evil and see how it sounds.  You can try substituting rape, slavery, murder, robbery, kidnapping, and so forth.  

How did that work out?  If you are opposed to something, you aren't going to just sit passively by and whistle away while more of that particular action occurs.  If you are in favor of it, you are in favor of it, end of story.  Mario Cuomo was the one who first put this sort of sophistry into action in a speech at Notre Dame in 1984.  Such an attitude led to such vapid statements as 'stop legislating morality!', which ignores the irony that all law is legislated morality.

The notion of being 'personally opposed' then led to the mantra about abortion being 'safe, legal, and rare' - something that Bill Clinton chanted many times on the stump.  Well, some stories in the past few days have especially put the 'safe' and 'rare' parts to rest...

1) 41% of all pregnancies in New York City are aborted.  Forty-one percent.  Nothing 'rare' about that by any stretch of the imagination.

2) Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist, was arrested and indicted for killing already-delivered babies and contributing to the deaths of some of the women.  This is what people screamed would happen if they didn't legalize abortion back in the early 1970's.  Illegal and unsafe indeed.

The Exceptions

Quite often, you will hear a politician or some other public figure state that he is opposed to abortion 'except for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother'.  These people are often lauded as being part of the 'middle-ground' or perhaps as part of a 'compromise' position.

I disagree.

I oppose all abortion, no matter what.  Yes, this includes the so-called 'exceptions' listed above.  Will some consider this 'extreme'?  No doubt.  But I like to think of it as being consistent.  Why should some murder be elevated the level of acceptability and not others?  

How many times have we heard that children should not be punished for the sins of the father? How is an unborn child any different?  Why should the unborn suffer because of what his father and/or mother did?  We bray on and on about the innocent in our justice system, but neglect those who are the ultimate innocents.  Those children did absolutely nothing wrong.  

Don't misunderstand, though.  I am completely sympathetic to the hardships that come with horrific crimes such as rape and incest.  That child, though, is still a creature made in the image and likeness of God and thus should have a chance at life, even if his mother doesn't want to raise him due to the psychological reminder.  The right thing to is give the child up for adoption and let that child have a chance to live.

The 'health of the mother exception' is an interesting one, but too often people have it fall into a false dichotomy, that is, an either/or proposition.  It's one thing to treat the condition or disease and the baby happens to be killed (principle of double effect); it's another to directly abort the child in order to treat the mother's condition.  However, people who support this would be more likely just to ditch the baby.  No, there should be a good-faith attempt to save both mother and child.

The Use of the Word 'Choice'

The term 'choice' is one of the most loaded and emotive terms to be found in our society, especially once the prefix 'pro' is placed in front of it.  Who can be against 'choice', right?  How can we deprive people of their 'choice' or their 'right to choose'?

The reason the term is loaded is because it raises the question - choose what, exactly?  If one were to take a poll asking if they were in favor of 'choice', I'd be willing to bet he gets a lot of people to answer in the affirmative.  Once he explains what is meant by that delightful euphemism - I would also bet the support for 'choice' would drop precipitously.  

The truth is this - everyone likes choice - we all like having the ability to choose what clothes we wear, what food we eat, who our friends are, where we worship, if we worship, where we go to school, and so on.  Choice is also a fundamental aspect of our existence as moral beings - everything we do involves choice.  We can choose to do the right or wrong thing, such as robbing the bank, lying to our parents, using drugs or killing an unborn child in-utero. Murder of all sorts is a choice.  

The 'choice' to kill an unborn child can be made, but that choice shouldn't be given a free pass under the law.  It shouldn't be given a pass of consequences; robbing the bank, lying, and doing drugs don't escape consequences.  

What's also interesting is the fact that the biggest proponents of unrestricted 'choice' (including Planned Parenthood and NOW) get all bent out of shape if women exercise their 'choice' not to have an abortion and instead have the child.  The reaction from those parties exposes the hypocrisy regarding usage of the term and further demonstrates that 'choice' is not a two-way street.

Previous Posts

Abortion - Not Just A Single Issue
January 22, 1973 - An Infamous Day

Abortion - Not Just A Single Issue

I have to confess, I alternate between being amused and getting aggravated with people who accuse others of being 'single-issue minded' when it comes to abortion, especially in the political arena.  I hate to break it to the accusers, but if there was ever an issue, this is it. Society cannot function freely in any meaningful sense if the most vulnerable of such a society are not protected.  

The unborn fit that description better than anyone.  The 'viability' argument has lost a lot of its steam, and so has the 'blob of tissue' argument, especially in light of medical and scientific advances in the past twenty years.  Ultrasounds and the development of other technology can detect a heart beat as early as six weeks.  To say that the being in-utero isn't a unique creature with his own beating heart and genetic code is to wantonly deny and ignore the advances being made.

Likewise, another source of amusement and/or aggravation is the caricature by supporters of abortion of those opposed as not 'caring for them after the children are born'.  I have yet to actually see evidence of anyone who is opposed to abortion to actively say 'as long as the child is born, then he's on his own!'  Actually, the source of the caricature comes from the fact that many of those who are against abortion also tend to have problems with the government being the nanny, day-care provider, and restaurateur.   

As shocking as this may be to hear for's actually the parents' duty to take care of their children.  There are plenty of private institutions that can and will provide assistance to those who seek it.  

January 22, 1973 - An Infamous Day

Thirty-eight years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 7-2 decision in the case of Roe v. Wade that struck down all state and local restrictions on access to abortion.  The opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun cited the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a means of protecting 'privacy' and thus any attempt to restrict the practice would be extremely difficult.

The decision in Roe v. Wade established 'viability' as the point up to which abortion could be performed without any kind of restrictions, which was said at the time to be up to 24-28 weeks into gestation.  Ever since, abortion has been deemed as a 'fundamental right' on par with free speech, the right to a speedy trial, and the right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Actually, come to think of it, the 'right' to abortion supersedes any of those above rights, since there are movements to stifle free speech, to allow searches without warrants, and to ban all firearms.  Abortion has become a sacred cow for some individuals and they have the Supreme Court to thank for that.

In the decision, there were two dissents, Justice Byron White and Justice (and future Chief Justice) William Rehnquist.  There was a companion case to Roe released on the very same day - Doe v. Bolton, where White made his starkest comments against the decision to allow unrestricted abortion:
I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court's judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes.
He's right, even a cursory reading of the 14th Amendment says absolutely nothing about the 'right' to terminate a pregnancy.  Even the most ardent supporters of abortion have admitted that Blackmun's opinion falls way short of what good constitutional law and interpretation ought to be.  Others said that they should have built up abortion consensus through the political process rather than through an overreaching federal court system.

No matter what, the outcome has allowed a great moral evil to continue nearly unchecked for almost forty years now.  Today, I will be writing several pieces outlining my thoughts on abortion, the movements concerning it (pro and con) and what can be done to slow it done and eventually eliminate it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Even Gross Can Be Funny....

Robbers snort cremains they thought were cocaine

Reading through this story, it's hard not to be grossed out, but at the same time, the fact that these young men (19, two 18-year olds, and two minors) snorted cremains of an old man and two Great Danes just makes me laugh.  I find it incredible that they thought it was coke - I guess the public education system in this country really is broken.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011


You have heard of Truthers and Birthers.  Let's introduce another term...

Twenty-Twelvers.  Or perhaps shortened to '2012ers'.  George Lucas has outed himself as one of them, believing that the world will end in 2012.  I have written my opinion of the topic elsewhere (here and here), but I will say it again - only when people have nothing to believe will they go for malarkey like this - just as G.K. Chesterton observed many decades ago.

Twenty-Twelvers...there's plenty more where they came from.  

*UPDATE* Lucas said he was 'just kidding'.  Don't know if I buy that or not.  People tend to walk back stuff just a bit if there has been an outcry or a collective whiskey-tango-foxtrot reaction.  Stay tuned...  

McDonald's Hot Coffee Redux

It's Hot!
This is one of the things I complain about concerning society = the abrogation of personal responsibility.  It has become an absolute epidemic. 

No, you can’t possibly blame the one who actually commits the act of stupidity, such as the young woman who fell into a mall fountain in Pennsylvania.  It would just be too much to ask!  Gotta find someone or something else to blame.  Perhaps the mall ownership put the fountain there just to trip her up or something.  Maybe it really is Bush's fault.

Now, she has gotten herself a lawyer! For what, inquiring minds wish to know? To, ahem, ‘conduct an investigation’ into her not paying attention to her surroundings while she was looking down texting the mall's negligence.

If she wins any lawsuit, we will all be worse off for it. Good grief.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Roll That Baby Back

I say...good.  When it passed last March, I foresaw only bad things. Most of the predictions in that post have come to pass.  I hope the Senate actually has the cojones to take up the bill.  If they are truly convinced repeal won't pass in the Senate, then what's the harm of putting it up for vote?  

Actually, the harm will come to the 22 23 Democratic senators who are up for re-election in 2012 if they have to put their name to a vote rejecting repeal.  Ergo, it will never come to a vote in the Senate during this session of Congress.

The next thing to do then is to defund the monstrosity.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Conspiracy Theories Are Fun...

...except when they are destructive (H/T to Jonah Goldberg at The Corner).

Just a weird read.  Apparently, the US armed forces are under the control of the eeeeeevil Catholic Church and its subsidiaries.

Carl Olsen (via Mark Shea) has a good quip:
But you have to admit that if Hersh is correct, this means that the Vatican is far more devious and savvy than anyone could ever imagine. After all, many journalists have spent the past several years telling us about the ineptitude of the Vatican and the lack of control by the Pope within the Curia, and now we learn the Catholic Church is actually running the entire U.S. military! Impressive.
Indeed. Indeed.  That's the fun part.

But what Goldberg said at the end of his post rings true as well:
Oh and here’s the depressing part. He gave this speech in Qatar. So you can be sure the Arab press will pick it up and take it seriously.
 And there's the destructive part.

Random Ramblings On An Off-Day

On this lovely off-day, I have a few thoughts and ramblings that popped into my head over the past couple of days.  Almost none of these have anything to do with each other.  Here we go...

- I actually thought that Prince George's County had grown some cojones in their decision to start with a two-hour delay today for schools.  Not that it mattered to me, I was already off.  The missus, however, had to get up and got ready to go to work on the notion of a delay, only to see school be called off around 7:15 this morning.  In other words..PG is who we thought they were.

- As I was attending Mass on Sunday, this thought popped in: why is it that no matter where we go in this country for Mass, the cadences and flow of the communal prayers (Confiteor, Gloria, Creed, and Our Father) are exactly the same.  It's quite interesting, because it supersedes any cultural or language line.

Baseball Writers = Our Beacon of Morality

Over at HardballTalk, Craig Calcaterra has a post up commenting on a writer by the name of Jim Reeves who says, in essence, that it is the duty of the BBWAA to ensure that the Hall of Fame is 'as clean and pure as possible'...

Calcaterra comments:
I guess I’d rather have someone with a Hall of Fame vote err on the side of taking it a bit too seriously than to believe that it’s a joke or a goof. But come on. “Sacred responsibility?” “Clean and pure?” You know that you’re dealing with mission creep of the first order when that kind of rhetoric is being tossed around about baseball.
He is right, of course, but I would like to add the weird theologian angle on this as well.  Would we be discussing this sort of thing fifty years ago?  How about thirty?  For all the complaints that our society is in danger of becoming a theocracy (and believe me, it isn't), such things as the ESPN Dallas column would never occur in a time when the sacred was not being devalued.  No one would be elevating something as trite and insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) as a sports hall of fame vote to that of a 'sacred responsibility' unless it is needed to fill in a vacuum left behind.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jazz in Carnegie Hall

In this day and age, to have a jazz concert in Carnegie Hall in New York would probably not raise many eyebrows; jazz is acknowledged as one of the major strands of American music.  In 1938, though, to have jazz being played in a place that was only considered to be a classical concert hall was almost unthinkable.  It was under those circumstances that Benny Goodman blasted jazz onto the stage in the mainstream American consciousness.

73 years ago, yesterday (January 16, 1938) was the famous concert of Benny Goodman and his orchestra at Carnegie Hall.  I own the recordings of it - they are pretty good for a third-hand re-mastering job. Another thing to note was that Goodman wasn't alone; the concert functioned in some ways as a Who's Who in Jazz - Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, Harry James, and Teddy Wilson.

Confessions of a Pizza Snob

I am piggybacking on Nick’s recent post about his pizza experience during the weekend, but I wanted to share my exuberant snobbery about pizza. Some may wonder how anyone could be a snob about such pedestrian swill as pizza, but I assure you, not only is it very possible to be a snob, but I actually embrace such a position. Allow me to give some background…

I spent six years in my youth living in the suburbs of New York City, in West Orange, New Jersey. Even though I was going on eight by the time we left and moved to Maryland, the experience with the pizza there in north Jersey and New York had been imprinted on my soul.

The Banished Words of 2010

Every year, Lake Superior State University publishes its list of words they believe should be banished from the English language - usually due to their ubiquitousness, wrong use, and just plain annoyance.  My thoughts on the 2009 list is here.  I will be the first to say that I am guilty of using some of these words.  Anyway, on to the highlights...

'Epic' - last I checked, unless it was referring to long poetry that had heroes and so forth.  This one gets on the list, methinks, because of its overuse and stupid use - 'that was an epic fart' -- 'his test score was epically bad' - really, that's the best we can use it for?  The remains of Homer are probably vomiting somewhere.

'FAIL' - it was funny for a while, but the proliferation of the term in everyday speech was similar to fingernails on a chalkboard.  It is actually easier to say 'failure' and it sounds better.  

'Back Story' - I was always taught to use the word 'history' or 'background'.  The adding of 'back' to the word 'story' is precisely the sort of unnecessary terminology that we in America are fond of throwing in - similar to the proliferation of the the prefix 'pre', which was a major complaint of George Carlin.

'The American People' - this is a condescending term that seems to be used by almost anyone who is involved in politics, regardless of political affiliation.  Granted, I am not in favor of identity politics, but we are also not monolithic by any stretch of the imagination.  It would be much easier to say 'Americans' or some reasonable facsimile thereof.  The American People demand change!

Any others that should be added to this?  Put them in the comment thread.

Quick Hit Playoff Thoughts

Now that the NFL's final four are set, and some of these games were pretty good. - let me channel my inner Peter King and let you know what I think I think...I shudder just at having written that last sentence...

1) I haven't seen such a meltdown like the Ravens' for quite a while - the most recent one was most likely the Giants' choke job against San Francisco during the 2002 playoffs.  21-7 lead at halftime and with the prospect of adding  to the lead.  Ray Rice's fumble on third down and Flacco's punt interception to Ryan Clark were just some of the symptoms of the meltdown.

2) I can't believe the Ravens allowed that 58 yard pass on 3rd and 19 around the two-minute warning.  How many people did they have dropped in coverage?  Seven?  Eight?  The whole idea of dropping that many back is precisely to keep front.

3) Aaron Rodgers is a beast.  Period.  Atlanta is shown to be a fraud.  Rodgers had the best performance ever for a Packers QB, which includes Bart Starr and Brett Favre.

4) James Jones finally caught the pass right before the half, unlike in Philadelphia - although the catch in Atlanta was much more of a circus catch.

5) To use the cliché - Seattle is who we thought they were.

6) I picked the Patriots, and wanted them to stick it to the Jets, but I have to say, watching the Patriots get beaten in their own building was sort of exciting in itself.  

7) Deion Branch complaining about the 'classless' Jets was ironic.  Mr. Pot, might I introduce Mr. Kettle?  I also think it's time to retire the term 'class' (in this context) and all of its derivatives.  They are terms that get thrown around frequently but the meaning of it has been lost over time - sort of like the word 'community'.

8) I didn't know Braylon Edwards could do that kind of gymnastic moves.  Especially for such a big guy.  

9) Tom Brady looked utterly lost last night.  I have to say, I don't think I have seen him running for his life in quite some time.  The Jets' defensive gameplan was one for the ages, but the Patriots had too many self-defeating mistakes - the fake punt gone wrong and the slow fourth quarter drive come to mind.

10) Santonio Holmes is the Gary Clark of this generation - he can drop the easy 3rd and 5 dump pass, but will make the difficult diving or corner catch.  Super Bowl 43 showed this, and last night further enhanced that idea.

11) T.J. Houshmandzadeh needs glue for his hands.  Actually, forget that, he needs to actually use his hands when catching the ball.  If that had been me, my dad would have been on the phone with me within twenty minutes of the game's conclusion yelling at me that he taught me not to use my chest to catch a ball.  

12) Green Bay at Chicago and New York at Pittsburgh.  Two games will be tough and possibly ugly.  

Check us out at the end of the week for previews and predictions for Conference Championship weekend.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend - Sunday Games

Through the regular season, Ryan and I had made picks on all the games on the slate. The NFL playoffs are now here and we aim to bring about more insight and thoughts about each game. Last week, we each went 2-2. Here, we present the picks for the NFL's Divisional Round. As always, you are free to place your picks in the comment thread. Enjoy! -- J.L.

Soldier Field
1 PM, 
FOX - Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston

Ryan’s Take: The Eagles should be playing in this game, but I digress. The Bears have the better defense that will have their fun with the Seattle offense. Seattle won’t be able to do what it did last week against the Saints on offense or defense. The Chicago offense will be average, but that’s good enough to win this game.

Chicago 17, Seattle 7

Josh’s Take: I have no basis in reason for this pick. I am going with my rotund gut. I want to see an NFC Title Game in Seattle (which will require a Green Bay victory as well) just to listen to people whine and bitch about a 7-9 hosting such a game. I was one of those who bitched when the 9-6-1 Eagles had to travel out to Arizona to face a 9-7 Cardinals team in the NFC Title Game. So I’m probably not an unbiased source here. Anyhow, that’s the way it is. The Ospreys Seahawks are going to the NFC Title Game – Jay Cutler will become the Jay Cutler we all know and love.

Seattle 20, Chicago 17

Gillette Stadium
4:30 PM 
CBS - Jim Nantz and Phil Simms

Ryan’s Take: As I have thought all year, the NYJ are an overrated team. They seem to get overlooked because of Rex Ryan’s big foot….. I mean mouth. Anyways, he is a good coach, but the best coach of this generation is going to be on the other sideline, Bill Belicheck. Tom Brady is also on that sideline too. I feel like they have one more run in them and beat the Jets.

New England 34, New York 21

Josh’s Take: The Jets are suffering from Foot in Mouth Disease, or is that Trench Foot? I can never get those right. Anyway, between the ramblings of Antonio Cromartie and the threats of Bart Scott toward Wes Welker, they just keep shooting themselves in the foot. With the great offensive threat of the Patriots, the Jets can ill-afford to play foot-loose and fancy free. Alright, alright, I’ll stop with the bad foot references. Anyway. I want the Patriots to win 56-3, but it just won’t happen today. Alas, the Jets just aren’t in their league. The Patriots will definitely put their best foot forward. DAMN IT!!

New England 31, New York 14

Saturday, January 15, 2011

NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend - Saturday Games

Through the regular season, Ryan and I had made picks on all the games on the slate. The NFL playoffs are now here and we aim to bring about more insight and thoughts about each game. Last week, we each went 2-2. Here, we present the picks for the NFL's Divisional Round. As always, you are free to place your picks in the comment thread. Enjoy! -- J.L

Heinz Field
4:30 PM
CBS - Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf

Ryan’s Take: This is going to be a hard hitting slugfest between 2 hated division rivals. These 2 teams hate each other, literally. Baltimore has a lot to offer on offense, but hasn’t had much a lot of success this year. Joe Flacco has been a good quarterback this year, but it seems they tried to put too much pressure on him to carry the offense. If the Ravens are going to win this game, they will need Ray Rice to have a big game. The defense will also have to have a big game, but I don’t believe in those corners against the Steelers wideouts. The Steelers offense will need to have an efficient game. Ben Roethlisberger will have rely on Rashard Mendenhall to help control the pass rush, but in the end the Steelers defense will win this game for them.

Pittsburgh 24, Baltimore 17

Josh’s Take: Seems as if every time these two teams get together, it’s a close game. This matchup will be no exception. The Ravens’ defense played very well against Kansas City, but the Steelers are a much different animal. Ben Roethlisberger seems to be able to pull himself out of trouble whenever he is surrounded and the fact that the Baltimore corners will have a struggle against the Pittsburgh receiving corps will spell the ultimate doom for the Ravens. I must say, I don’t really want either of these teams winning – outside the other NFC East teams, if there were ever a game that was like being confronted with your choice of STDs, this game is it. So which one is it? Syphillis (Baltimore) or Herpes (Pittsburgh)?

Herpes 21, Syphillis 16

Georgia Dome
8 PM
FOX - Joe Buck and Troy Aikman

Ryan’s Take: This game will be the game that decides the NFC champion, methinks. This is an interesting game, Atlanta has the best record in the NFC, while Green Bay is the most talented team in the NFC, methinks. If the Pack can run the ball, this will really swing the game in their favor. They have the best defense in the NFL and it will help shut down Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense.

Green Bay 31, Atlanta 21

Josh’s Take: This guy Starks that the Packers all of a sudden decided to unleash just in time to gash the Eagles last week…

I know. I know, I’ll stop being bitter.

Anyway, I had thought Atlanta was going to be the NFC’s rep in the Super Bowl as recently as a few weeks ago. Then the Monday night game against New Orleans happened. Mike Smith turned into Andy Reid, and now I believe the Falcons are doomed. The Packers are peaking, and while they demonstrated a weakness last week in letting the Eagles hang around, the defense once again will slam the door on another home team and become yet another sixth seed playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

Green Bay 28, Atlanta 24

Check back tomorrow around noon for the picks to the Sunday games. -- J.L.