Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Reflection On Last Night...

There is no doubt that last night was arguably the greatest single day in MLB's regular season history.

And I missed the first half of it.  

Actually, I didn't miss it so much as I watched them in a foreign land.  Wednesday nights are bowling nights for me and as such, there is one television set near our lanes.  At first, we had the Boston-Baltimore game on (since it was local and on MASN), but then my father remembered that the Phillies were playing on ESPN2, so we got the channel switched and watched the Philly-Atlanta game for a few innings, while following along with Tampa-New York, Baltimore-Boston, and St. Louis-Houston.

The Cardinals game was over almost as soon as it began - 5-0 after one inning?  Seriously?  So with everyone tied, the Braves would have to win to keep up with the Cardinals and force the one-game playoff for the NL Wild Card.  By the time I left the bowling alley, it was the top of the seventh inning in Atlanta and the Braves were leading the Phillies 3-2.  The Cardinals were cruising, and so were the Yankees, who had at that point a 7-0 lead on Tampa while Boston was holding on to a slim 3-2 lead in Baltimore.

After driving home in a massive thunderstorm where I could barely see the road at 9:20 PM, the Orioles and Red Sox were in a rain delay, the Cardinals and Yankees were still rolling, and the Braves still had the 3-2 lead with their ace closer Craig Kimbrel coming in to save it for Atlanta and force what looked like a winner-take-all playoff game in St. Louis the following night....

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Post: The Big Picture And "Perspective"

In a world filled with reactions to the Dallas-Washington Monday night game, we have one more, thanks to Dustin.  As regular readers recall, he collaborated with me on the Super Bowl Countdown from a couple years ago, which I consider to be one of Lattanzi Land's finest works, and would not have been able to do it without Dustin's great journalistic know-how and football genius.  Enjoy the piece!  -- J.L.

Life is filled with many twists and turns, peaks and valleys, and roller coasters.

Included in those twists (both good and bad) are sports. On Monday night, the Redskins lost a close game to their rival Dallas Cowboys in Arlington by a score of 18-16. The game played out to a familiar script for the Redskins with the offense bogging down in the red zone and the defense stopping Dallas until it mattered the most.

No, this is not a post of me analyzing the game, dissecting play-calling or pushing for John Beck to be the team’s starter next Sunday (although I do believe this should happen since Grossman still is the same old Rex Grossman).

This post contains some thoughts about reactions to the game. For the next few days, maybe weeks I will have interactions with Redskins fans, who will complain of ruined weeks; likewise with Cowboys fans, who are on the bandwagon in full force, and also fans of other teams, who know what is best to save the ol’ Deadskins.

Maybe I've matured over the years. Maybe marrying the love of my life shows me true value in this world. Or perhaps it’s a combination of maturity, professional success and personal happiness that brings me to the conclusion that I don’t give a damn what happened in Monday’s Cowboys-Redskins tilt.

Since I was born, the Redskins have accrued a 25-32 record against the Cowboys. Some of those were big wins and some of those were big losses. Redskin losses typically followed a similar pattern of anger and sadness for multiple days while growing up. Losses to the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles were taken the worst since they were followed by taunting from rival fans (though the worst losses were against teams the Redskins should have beaten only to fall flat after big wins).

As for Monday’s loss, a few minutes were spent in thought about the loss and then I pushed the game aside and moved on with my life. So the Cowboys beat the Redskins. Who cares? History has shown that the Redskins can beat the Cowboys and the Cowboys can beat the Redskins.

Losing to the Cowboys (or any other team) is not the end of the world. The Redskins will win again; the odds are in their favor. Does the game hurt playoff chances? We will find out at the end of the year.

I guess the big lesson is, though I am an fan, I have no control over what will happen in the Redskins game so why spend the next three days pouting on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (does anyone still use this?) or any other social media, blog, or chatroom.

Life is way too short and way too precious for me to throw away a few days in the fall and winter because a team that has lost 516 times in its history lost yet again. Maybe I'm one of the lucky few that are proud of the things I have achieved so I don’t need to vicariously live and die through a sports franchise like I once did as a young lad.

During the heat of the game, emotions run high and low, which is fine. But why bring those emotions with you for the next few days -- It’s only Week Three. It would be a lot more understandable if you are upset for multiple days when your team loses a playoff game or potential playoff-clinching game.

If you’re happy your team won, great. I’m glad you’re happy. Happiness is a quality people enjoy being around. What is sickening is when people are getting happiness by intentionally making others upset.

The ancient Greeks believed beating someone in competition was more honorable than defeating someone in war. The ancient Greeks were the founders of sports and believed in sportsmanship.

This past weekend I got a good view of sportsmanship during my softball tournament. Teams battled one another to get the win. At the end of the day, we shook hands, wished one another luck and moved on.

It sucks to lose, but it happens. Accepting defeat is not a weakness. Losing teaches one to excel and achieve victory. The greatness of sports is giving everything you have in competition without knowing if you will win or lose.

I guess I’m lucky I’m an athlete because it’s a lesson I've learned in defeat and in victory.

That’s why we keep score.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NFL Picks Week 3 Recap (And A Tangent)

So with the Washington loss last night and me giving the 'kiss of death' to the Redskins by picking them to win, I have fallen yet ANOTHER game behind Ryan in our picks competition. It wasn't a particularly good week for either of us, with Ryan going 10-6 while I went 9-7, which puts him ahead at 34-14 while I 'improved' to 31-17.  So not great...  

HOWEVER....

Watching the Redskins lose was a very positive experience - and the biggest reason for that is that I love to listen to Dan-Jazeera Radio ESPN 980's so-called "Monday Morning Quarterback Show" starring Andy Pollin and that 'lovable' Redskin homer, Kevin Sheehan.  Whenever the Skins win, Sheehan is utterly insufferable.  He acts as if it was a breakthrough and they are one step closer to winning the Super Bowl.  Andy usually operates as the voice of reason; when he becomes like Sheehan, though, the whole show just suffers.  

This morning was particularly bad because they refused to take any Cowboy fans as callers. While it is their show and they can do what they want, it is a wimp move.  You can't spend an entire week building up the so-called "Dallas Week" (which Cowboy fans just don't care about, by the way) and then take your ball and run away because your team couldn't hold on a 3rd and 21.  Grow a pair - and I am talking especially to you, Andy Pollin - because I expected better from you there.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

NFL Picks - Week 3 Primetime Games

The early games have been absolute crap so far.  8-6 for me (same for Ryan) in the day games.  I really need to stop picking the Vikings to win every week, but I can't help myself.  Anyway, here are the picks for the two prime time games. The MNF game should be incredibly entertaining, regardless of the outcome.  As always, your picks are welcome in the comment thread.  Enjoy!  -- J.L.

Pittsburgh at Indianapolis (Sunday, 8:20 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Steelers looked better last week, but they did face the Seahawks who make a lot of teams look good. The Colts looked better, but this team is really missing Peyton Manning. I think it will come down to the Pittsburgh defense making terrorizing Kerry Collins all game in helping Pittsburgh win this game.

Josh’s Take: Peyton Manning should have the MVP award already. The Colts are terrible without him and it looks like the rumors of the Steelers’ demise were greatly exaggerated. Pittsburgh wins on the road.

Washington at Dallas (Monday, 8:30 PM)

Ryan’s Take: The Redskins have a good defense, but offensively, I wouldn’t trust them, especially with “Sexy Rexy” as their QB. They look as if they need to figure a way out to stop Rex Grossman from trying to kill them. For the Cowboys, they had a huge victory last week against the 49ers. I think Romo-led Dallas wins their first home game of the year.

Josh’s Take: Living in the DC area means being subjected to all the “Dallas Week” BS. I know Nick will disagree, but the "rivalry" is more or less a fabrication on the part of the people here; people in Dallas don’t actually care about the Redskins or their fans other than being a twice-per-year opponent. That being said, it is an important game, but the Cowboys are playing at minimal strength. While I can’t trust Rex Grossman, the Redskins’ defense is more than adequate to punish the flimsy Cowboy offense. Hold on to your butts, but Washington will be 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the NFC East. And the world will start hurtling toward its own demise. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

NFL Picks - Week 3 Daytime Games

Ryan has a two game lead going into Week Three of this here 2011 NFL Season.  I still stand by my thought that I will wipe the floor with him in our picks.  These picks are for recreational purposes only and should not be used for gambling, since we don't do spreads. As always, your picks are welcome in the comment thread.  Enjoy!  -- J.L.

Jacksonville at Carolina (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Jacksonville is going to start their rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbart for his first career start against the number 1 overall pick in Cam Newton. I think that Carolina will finally put together enough plays to finally end up winning against a weak Jacksonville team.

Josh’s Take: The 1995 Expansion Bowl! The Jags are throwing a rookie quarterback into the water while the Panthers made that their plan all along with Cam Newton. Newton has had a couple of very good games in a losing cause, but the powers that be will allow him to taste victory as Carolina wins a game that will probably be closer than it should be.

San Francisco at Cincinnati (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Bengals have looked like a better team than I expected to see out of them with all the offseason changes this past year. I really don’t know what to think about the 49ers. They seem to have a good defense, but I don’t trust Alex Smith as a quarterback for a team. Even with saying that, I will go with San Francisco to win based on their defense stopping the rookies AJ Green and Andy Daulton.

Josh’s Take: This is a tough game to pick, being a rematch of Super Bowl 23 and all. However, this time around, Joe Montana will completely miss John Taylor in the end zone and Boomer Esiason will lead Cincinnati to victory! Also throw in the West Coast teams-can’t-win-1 PM-games-curse just for kicks.

The rest of the picks are after the jump...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Keep On Talking, Michael Moore...

Great Slogan.
Terrible Policy.
You are the best ammunition that your opponents have.  Seriously, 'patriotic Americans' will have to 'wait'  for services?  But I thought that's what state-run healthcare was supposed to avoid.  Enlighten me, please.

Of course, this is the same guy who essentially threatened other rich people that there would be riots eventually if they just didn't hand over all their money to the benevolent state.  Of course, I have never seen him offer to just write a check to the federal government, as he is able to do.

Just a couple of questions I need to ask.  Tell me, those of you who are sympathetic to Comrade Mr. Moore's principles - what exactly constitutes a 'fair share' of one's income to be paid in taxes?  And how come 70% of federal revenue from the top 10% of earners just isn't enough?  Why do at least 49% of American income filers pay zero federal income tax?  

Inquiring minds want to know.

Resurrection of Wednesday Night Bowling

On the blog I ran for quite some time a few years ago, The Strange World, I used to host a feature called Wednesday Night Bowling – in it, I would share the week to week progress of my team and my performance. I want to bring that back, although normally it would be posted on Thursdays rather than a Saturday.

Every Wednesday night from Labor Day week until mid-May, I bowl in a Knights of Columbus league. It is a five-person, mixed, handicapped, ten-pin league. We bowl three games against another team each week; high score + handicap is the winner of each game. A fourth ‘game’ consists of the cumulative pinfall + total handicap for all three games. Thus a team could win only one of the three actual bowled games, yet end up ‘splitting’ due to that one winning game having an extremely high pinfall.

Each bowler gets a handicap, with the lower the average, the higher the handicap. It is meant to be the ‘great equalizer’ between the teams with the more talented bowlers and those with less talented bowlers. The formula we use in the league to figure out a bowler’s handicap is the following…

Thus, someone who has a 190 average would have a handicap of 8; a 180 average would have a 16 handicap, and so forth.

We have six members on the Team and so we can rotate who has an off-night occasionally. The members of the Team will be known by their aliases. The usual lineup is the following…

1. Dad – my father

2. Mom – my mother. Is it weird that I bowl on a team with my parents? Not really, but it makes for an 
interesting dynamic on occasion since we are incredibly competitive people.

3. The Emperor – an elderly man who is our voice of sanity and humor when we aren’t doing particularly well

4. Me

5. The Captain – our anchorman and league leader in average last season. He is the son of The Emperor as well.

Our sixth bowler and regular member of the rotation is The Brother, so the entirety of the immediate Lattanzi family bowls on this team. His spot in the lineup depends on who is not there that particular week. When I started bowling seven years ago, I was that guy, so I am sympathetic to the uncertainty from week to week.

I don’t have a full recap yet, but we just finished the third week of the season, and my second week of the season (I didn’t bowl on opening night – had a previous commitment). So far the Team is 9-3, sweeping the night from the Electric Company (all the teams will also be referred to through alternative names, although if you are a member of the league reading this, you’ll get the references). I have started extremely fast – 582 and 653 sets in my first two weeks. However, I do believe the term for that would be…’unsustainable’.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Making Health Care More Affordable. Or Not...


It's for the children, of course!  

And I thought the administration wanted to keep health costs down.

Silly me.  Nothing to see here, move along folks.  All in the name of protecting the ozone, right?  Correct me if I am wrong, but the very idea of an inhaler is precisely that all the drugs go into the body and not the atmosphere.

More genius regulation!  We should all be so proud!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NFL Picks Week 2 Recap

Just as last week, Ryan went 12-4 and I went 11-5.  So as of Week 2, he holds a two game advantage over me in the overall standings at 24-8, while I am 22-10.  Good records, if you are a Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, that is.  

I shall still prevail!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

NFL Picks - Week 2 Primetime Games

By the time you actually read this, I won't know what our records for the day games are yet.  I will have been at meetings for most of the day, and so this particular post is a scheduled one rather than being posted in real time.  Anyway, hopefully the picks went well.  Enjoy! -- J.L.

Philadelphia at Atlanta (Sunday, 8:20 PM)

Ryan’s Take: This is Michael Vick’s return to the ATL as a starter and I think the place will be rocking. This is the Eagles 2nd road game in a Dome, so I don’t expect that they will have a lot of problems with those problems, but their defense will need to stop Michael Turner from running all over them this week. Atlanta needs to go back to their run and control the clock for them to get back to winning. I just have a feeling that Michael Vick will go off and Philadelphia will win this game.

Josh’s Take: I fear the Eagles’ run defense in this game, especially with a good RB like Michael Turner just waiting to be unleashed. However, Atlanta has shown already how overrated their trendiness is. Michael Vick’s return will be a triumphant one and thus Philadelphia wins.

St. Louis at New York Giants (Monday, 8:30 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Both teams come off losses that they would like to forget. The Giants lost a really badly played game against the Redskins and they just didn’t look good offensively. For the Rams, injuries really hurt them against the Eagles and I think it might be the same case for this game. New York will win this one.

Josh’s Take: The Rams’ injury situation will continue to hurt them, and with another tough opponent, the missing people will make a huge difference. New York wins a game that will be a little too close for comfort for quite a few people.

Five In A Row...

My fellow Phillies fans, we are living in the halcyon days of our baseball team.

I have always said that if someone came up to me in the year 2000, when they finished with 97 losses, and said by the year 2011, they will have the best record in baseball with five consecutive division titles, at least two NL Pennants and a World Championship, I would have laughed at them or gotten pissed off for mocking me and my fandom.

Now, though, I believe.

The Phillies won their fifth straight National League Eastern Division title last night in a convincing fashion against the St. Louis Cardinals, but as most of the team would say, the work is just beginning rather than ending.  But at the same time, there is something very special about winning the division in baseball.  Unlike football, where there are only sixteen games in a season, a baseball season is a long and slow grind: 162 games played over six months.  Constantly traveling and playing in hostile environments are regular features as well. Slumps and hot streaks arise over and over.  For these reasons winning the division is a cause for celebration; it never gets old or boring (except in Atlanta, where there are only about eighteen fans anyway).

There are twelve games remaining in the season - the Phillies are 98-52; they have gone 40-18 since I did my little update with seventy games remaining.  The franchise record for wins is 101 - barring any kind of catastrophe that record should fall with relative ease.  Just incredible to think about some times.  

These are good times.  Enjoy them, phans.  

We may never see a stretch like this ever again.    

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NFL Picks - Week 2 Daytime Games

Week Two early picks are here and running!  Last week's one game advantage by Ryan was just a fluke.  I am just setting him up for his inevitable collapse.  Anyway, your picks are welcome in the comment thread.  Enjoy!  -- J.L.

Seattle at Pittsburgh (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: The Seahawks look okay last week until Ted Ginn Jr decided to take over the game in the 4th. The Steelers looked horrendous last week against the Ravens and committed 7 turnovers. Their defense didn’t look good at and Big Ben was just horrible. Last week isn’t going to be this week and thus Pittsburgh will beat Seattle pretty handily.

Josh’s Take: I just can’t see a west coast team winning a 1:00 game in the Eastern Time zone, especially not one that is led by Tavaris Jackson against a good defense like the Steelers. Pittsburgh wins running away.

Oakland at Buffalo (1 PM)

Ryan’s Take: Both of these teams looked impressive last week in their games. The Bills totally dominated the Chiefs through every facet of the game. Ryan Fitzpatrick and company looked dangerous as an offense and they are about to go up against a Raiders team that played well defensively. I don’t know how their defense will play against this offense and take into account the cross country trip and the early start, I’m going with Buffalo here.

Josh’s Take: This is actually a tough game to predict. On the one hand, you have yet another west coast team playing in the Eastern Time zone, but two teams that played well last week. The Bills will be more rested and the Raiders could very well be due for a letdown. Buffalo wins ugly in a close game that will probably only take two and a half hours to play.

Friday, September 16, 2011

From Our "Trying To Have It Both Ways" Files...


In all seriousness, the problem is actually a curable one, believe it or not, and despite my harping to shrink the size of the federal government, there is a place in America for the post office. However...

If they are going to insist on being 'privatized', as so many people are eager to point out, then they can't be paying their employees like regular government employees, complete with the plum public-sector union contracts, full pensions, and 'Cadillac' health care plans.  And that's the real issue.  They need to make up their mind - be like a private company and act like one, or be a completely tax-supported entity.  Right now, they are just another corporatist entity like General Motors and Chrysler.  

The USPS has a proud tradition, but they will be relegated to the ash-heap unless they make a decision.  A bailout and a maintenance of the status quo will just grease the skids toward complete insolvency.  Others like UPS, FedEx, and DHL will gladly pick up the slack.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

NFL Picks Week 1 Recap

After Week 1, Ryan is 12-4 and I am 11-5 on the picks for the year.  I still have the utmost confidence that I will DESTROY him over the course of the season.  I will keep the standings updated on the sidebar every Tuesday so you can see where we are.  

Victory shall be mine.  I hope...

Monday, September 12, 2011

They Are ALL Terrible...

Just browsing around on Yahoo and I stumbled upon this article (a Consumer Reports one via Yahoo) that compares all the different 'celebrity' pasta sauces.  I have had a few of them, but none can hold a candle to the sauces made by grandmother (meat sauce) or my mother (marinara).  Call me a homer and call me a snob, but that's the way it is.   

It's the same reason that I can't really be bothered to eat at Italian restaurants (especially Olive Garden), although the occasional hole in the wall 'mom and pop' restaurant can be good.  I have spent most of my life eating homemade Italian deliciousness and thus anything processed or quick-made in a restaurant or a jar is by nature going to be inferior.  I can appreciate effort, though, and as such I will enjoy anyone's attempt at homemade Italian food.  

Ragu and Prego, on the other hand, just make me want to retch...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Little Bit Of A Shift...

As many of you know, I don't generally use Lattanzi Land as a personal forum; I don't share a lot about my personal life other than the occasional little ditty here and there.  This blog is mostly for me to opine on whatever current issue that happens to strike me and thus leaves little room for personal details.  That all changes right now, at least for this evening...

Some of you saw my post written on New Year's Day where I wrote the following:
I hope that we have a child. People who know us well know our story; I won't elaborate here, but in time you will know.
Now is the time for that elaboration.

For the last year and a half, my wife and I have been trying to adopt a child.  We have been married for a little over seven years now, and no children have been forthcoming the normal way, so adoption became the next logical avenue to pursue.  We went through the process of being licensed by our home county to become both foster and adoptive parents.  The idea behind it was that we originally wanted to adopt an older child (ages three through nine) because the process of adopting an infant would be a) too costly and b) too long to complete.  

We ran into all sorts of complications during the licensing process itself - we hit the "Snowpocalypse" of February, 2010 during the actual classes and then later, our social worker who was responsible for completing our home study had to go on to bed rest due to pregnancy complications.  Finally, after starting the process in late September of 2009, in June of 2010 we were licensed by the county to be foster and adoptive parents.  We started inquiring about children, and then we began to wait.

And wait...

And wait...

We inquired about children and sent our home study out to other states.  We sometimes wouldn't get follow up responses afterward.  There were calls from social workers who obviously hadn't even read our profile or home study, such as one asking us if we would like to adopt a seventeen year old girl who had a two-year girl of her own! It was a frustrating time, but we were willing to endure a lot of it in the hopes that we would have a breakthrough.  That is, until a couple of things happened that sort of broke our back with the entire county system of adoption

The first came when we were in line this past spring to adopt a ten year old girl.  Everything seemed to be a perfect match; her social worker came to see us and we were interviewed.  All of those things went well and there didn't seem to be anything wrong until we got a call saying that we weren't chosen due to alleged factors that were never once mentioned at any point during the interview process.  It was sheer devastation for us and it took some time to recover.

The second event came early in the summer when we had inquired about a seven year old girl and had gotten a request for our home study and had gone some time without hearing anything.  My wife called and asked if there was any movement with regard to that child and she was told that they had decided on the placement "last week".  That was it.  We had gotten no calls and no contact.  Not even a courtesy call to tell us to get lost or that they weren't interested in us.  Sheer silence.  

What else could we do?  With all the children out there who desperately needed homes, not one could seemingly be found.  I don't blame the social workers - they are overworked and stretched out.  There are some changes needed in the foster-adoption system.  I won't delve into them right now, but let's just say that it has a lot to do with red-tape and over-regulation. It became clear to us that we needed to pursue a new path - that of adopting an infant.

This path has its own challenges - availability of infants and especially the cost of services in adopting.  We are well aware of these challenges and have developed a plan to meet them.  One of the major headaches involved is that we have to have another home study completed; the county home study is not permitted to be used for a private agency.  That alone sets back the larger process of finding a placement by a good three to four months.  But we have confidence that we will soon be able to welcome a child into our home.  We have always wanted to be parents - but to say that these past few years have been merely a test would be an understatement.  Nonetheless, we pray that we are on the right path set for us by the Lord, and that he will bless us with a beautiful little baby.

To this end, we have started a blog detailing our story - entitled To Grow Our Family. Please go and check it out.  We also started a Facebook page to help people stay up to date on the latest happenings on our journey toward adoption.  Please go to it and "Like" it, and tell your friends too!  Send them the link to this blog post and get the word out.  Any notes of encouragement are accepted and appreciated, as well.  

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I know it's a bit different than the somewhat caustic and occasionally cantankerous musings you get from time to time here, but this is something that is very close and dear to my heart.  I hope you can help share our story with as many people as possible.  And from here on, there will be periodic updates on our story as well.  

Again, thank you very much.

NFL Picks - Week 1 Primetime Games

I didn't get a chance to write up the game picks from the day games today.  So much has been going on here at the Lattanzi Land Headquarters, thanks to all the rain we have gotten from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee and other assorted storm systems.  Life has become a clusterf*ck as we have to assess water damage and such here.  But I have made a little bit of time to put together our primetime picks for Sunday and Monday nights.  Enjoy! -- J.L. (UPDATE [7:45]: With all the day games complete on Sunday, Ryan is 8-4 today, and I am also 8-4 -- J.L)

Dallas at New York Jets (Sunday, 8:20 PM)

Ryan's Take: The Ryan brothers will be facing off against each other to begin this season. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys react to the new defense that Rob is bringing in. It will also be interesting to see how Mark Sanchez will react to that defense and how the Jets will react to the Dallas offense and Tony Romo’s return. I think the emotions of the pregame and the day will lead New York to winning this game.

Josh's Take: The Bee Are's (Brothers Ryan) meet up on Sunday night at the Meadowlands. Both teams have something to prove. The Cowboys are coming off a disappointing 6-10 season and are looking to get back to contention. The Jets need to do whatever they can to get over the hump of AFC Title Game losses. No matter what is going on at the end of the season, New York is the superior team and will flex their muscle against a recovering Dallas squad.

New England at Miami (Monday, 7 PM)

Ryan's Take: New England looks like it will be a good team. You can say that anytime you have Tom Brady as your quarterback. I like Miami’s defense to give the Patriots some trouble with their intriguing blitzes. I don’t trust the Miami offense, who will rely on Reggie Bush to be their featured back. The Dolphins will keep it close with their defense, but New England will win it pulling away in the 2nd half.

Josh's Take: I have New England going to the Super Bowl. Yes, I am insane. However, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady and they have a great offense. However, the Dolphins have a very good defense. Their offense, though, is very suspect, so the only way they make it a game is to harass Brady and get a defensive score or two. The blueprint is there from the last two playoff games the Pats have lost. Tonight will not be a repeat of those playoff games. New England wins by a comfortable margin.

Oakland at Denver (Monday, 10:15 PM)

Ryan's Take: Oakland could be a surprise team this year. They did finish 8-8 last year and swept their division last year. For Denver, they have talent on offense in Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd, who can beat anyone if they are on. I don’t know what to think about either of these defenses because of new schemes and losses to each respectively. I’ll go with Oakland because they will control the clock with McFadden and Bush.

Josh's Take: Oakland will just run all over Denver, I think. Denver's only hope is to get into a shootout and thus outscore the Raiders. With the Raider running game controlling the clock, it will be a tall order for the Broncos. Oakland wins in a fairly close game.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NFL Picks - Week 1 Opening Night

We are finally here! Last season, Ryan and I did our picks for each game, and this time we will be getting a full season of picks in. These are straight winners and losers; we do not pick against a spread nor do we gamble on any of these - we do this for family pride! Ryan knows that I am going to destroy him this season, and it won't even be close!

Anyway, there is just the one game tonight, as the NFL has decided that it needs to have an opening night extravaganza. NBC! Football! Actually, I'll be watching a baseball game, so I'll only be paying cursory attention to the FOOTball game. Your own picks are welcome in the comment thread, as well as any kind of non-incendiary trash talk. Enjoy! -- J.L.

New Orleans at Green Bay (8:30 PM)

Ryan's Take: This is a great game to begin the season with. You have the defending champions, the Green Bay Packers, facing the Super Bowl champs from two years ago, the New Orleans Saints. You have two high powered offenses facing off against each other with two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, leading them. I think that this game will be a low scoring one though with the Packers getting the better of the Saints to begin the year. Rodgers will be masterful and the Packer defense will shut down the Saints' offense and it will lead to Green Bay starting out the year 1-0.

Josh's Take: In the Season Predictions, I have the Saints defeating the Packers in the Divisional Round. Let's just call this game a warm-up and preview for that one. The Packers have a good defense (obviously), but everything I have seen and read about the Saints for this season has them playing out of their minds. Everything will be clicking for the Saints and the Packers will show up a trifle rusty. The Packers will recover, but it won't be enough to catch up to the Saints. New Orleans wins in a game whose score will ultimately be closer than it probably should be.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sheer Idiocy in L.A.

Los Angeles considering banning paper and plastic bags

I honestly don't know how else to describe this other than sheer idiocy.  Ok, so people like their reusable bags.  That's fine, they can have them.  They can also increase their risk of E-Coli and botulism if they desire as well.  I'll keep my plastic bags, thank you very much.

The irony always escapes many that plastic bags were introduced on the grounds of being more environmentally friendly than paper bags - because paper bags were being made from trees while plastic bags were made from recyclables.  Now both are made from recycled materials, and some want to eliminate both of those altogether.

Whatever happened to being pro-choice, anyway?  

Oh, right, never mind. Totally different subject, I forgot.  My bad.

NFL Season Preview - Prognostication Time!

Over the past week here, we have had previews about various aspects of the NFL. It is time for the most important thing - predictions! Ryan and I are both throwing in our predictions about how teams will finish, and how the playoffs will go down.  You will probably consider both us to be completely nuts.  Anyway, thanks for reading the NFL Preview here at Lattanzi Land, and tomorrow we will start with the first game prediction and preview.  Special thanks to Ryan and Nick for writing previews for us. And, as always, your comments are welcome!  Follow the link immediately below to continue reading after the jump  - J.L.

Monday, September 5, 2011

NFL Season Preview - The Washington Redskins

I am sure some of you are wondering why the hell I am poisoning this blog with filthy dirty Redskins talk (ok, some of you are cheering, I know).  Anyway, since I live in the DC metro area, it makes a lot of sense to talk about the local team, especially since they are a rival of the Eagles.  I present to you this preview of the Washington Redskins, written by my good friend Nick Caputo, of Caputo's Corner fame (be sure to check out his writing as well!).  Enjoy, and fire away in the comment thread -- J.L.

Anyway, Josh asked me to do a preseason analysis of the hometown Washington Redskins for the 2011 season. Before I go any further, I have to qualify this by saying that I am a die-hard Skins fan, and have been my entire life. I will attempt to be as objective as possible, and when you see my final record prediction, I think you’ll see my objectivity come to the surface. Let me start with a look at the offense.

The big story of course this offseason has been the quarterback “controversy” between John Beck and Rex Grossman. Some conspiracy theorists have claimed that coach Mike Shanahan is going with Beck or Grossman instead of a veteran like Donovan McNabb because the powers that be in the organization REALLY want Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick next year, so they’ll do their best to tank the season this year to get that #1 pick. I’m not going to entertain those sickening thoughts with any sort of analysis, so I’m going to take this quarterback battle at face value.

Through the entire preseason, the quarterback play I would say has been above average. During the offseason, Beck talked a very big game about how this was “his team” and that he was going to be the starter. Grossman even went so far as to say the Redskins would win the NFC East. These two certainly talk big, but when the regular season starts, we’ll see if the play backs up the talk. So far in the preseason, it has not been that bad to watch. The Shanahans have been very mum about who would start every game, and probably will not officially reveal a starter until the day of the season opener September 11th against the New York Giants. However, all signs point to Beck being the starter. Nevertheless, expect him to have a very short leash.

Quarterback is by far and away the biggest question mark on the offense. However, the other positions do show a lot of talent, albeit some very raw talent. The offensive line looked shaky in the preseason, allowing several pressures, but Trent Williams and Jamaal Brown look to be a solid tackle combination to protect whomever is under center. Tim Hightower has impressed at running back over the preseason as well. Hightower comes from the Cardinals, the team with the worst running game in the NFL in 2010, and has a history of fumbles. Hightower was used mostly as a goal-line and a third down back in Arizona, but looks to unseat injury-plagued Ryan Torain as the starter.

Santana Moss is the veteran on a very talented yet raw receiving corps that has big play capability, but has yet to show enough consistency in route running and holding onto the ball. In recent years, most watchers of the Redskins have said that if the offense can score 21 points, they will win more often than not. This year may be no different, but with question marks at quarterback and an unproven receiving corps (outside of Santana Moss and an injured Chris Cooley), they may very well struggle to reach the 20-point mark.

Defensively, the Redskins made a move last season to Jim Haslett’s 3-4 base defense in an effort to create more takeaways. Early on, it worked out well, but from a scheming perspective, teams were able to beat it later in the season as the team started to collapse. This season, the team looks to improve on defense by addition through subtraction. Albert Haynesworth is gone, and Barry Cofield will play that all-important nose tackle position which, if he’s effective, will allow the linebackers to make plays both at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. The linebacking corps is the strength of the defense, led by London Fletcher and Rocky Macintosh in the middle, flanked by Brian Orakpo and first round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan. Both Orakpo and Kerrigan have made noise in opponents’ backfields, notably both sacking Joe Flacco in the preseason game against Baltimore.

In the secondary, the team will look once again toward DeAngelo Hall to make plays (already with a pick-six this preseason), but he will need help from both Kevin Barnes and Philip Buchanon as they both look to be picked on frequently as teams will try not to throw in Hall’s direction if they can avoid it. At safety, Laron Landry starts the season on the PUP list. Therefore, Reed Doughty will have to be the playmaker covering the deep middle, but he has a history of being beaten badly downfield. The defense will look to create turnovers, but they will be most successful if they can stop teams on 3rd down, a problem they had in the 2nd half of last season. Also, they need to avoid penalties. There were 2 penalties in the Baltimore game that occurred on 3rd and 4th down that extended drives that eventually led to touchdowns. If the Redskins want to have a chance, the defense will have to hold teams to a maximum of 17 points, especially if the offense will have trouble scoring.

Finally, on special teams, Graham Gano was perfect in the preseason, but will that translate into the regular season? Brandon Banks may very well rival Devin Hester in terms of returning capability if he’s healthy. He returned a punt 95 yards for a score in the final game against Tampa. However, with the kickoff being moved to the 35 yard line, how many chances at returns will he have? Sav Rocca seems to have finally secured the punter position as he has several punts in the 50-60 yard range in the preseason.

Admittedly, I like what I have seen from the Redskins in the preseason (3-1). The offense has played well above their heads; the defense has made plays (and more importantly takeaways), and special teams have not screwed up. However, the Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the preseason in 2008, the same season they went 0-16 in the games that mattered. I look impressed probably because the expectations are so low. My season prediction is 4-12. Yup, 4-12. I just don’t see the offense gaining rhythm when they have to play 60 minutes against a #1 defense. The defense will play well, but they will be on the field so long that by the 4th quarter, they will wear down and that’s where games will be won and lost. I hope for my sake I’m wrong, but the Skins are that team on the schedule everyone circles to be that “easy one.” You never want to be the fan of a team that is an easy one. Yet, if the set the expectations so low, it will be fairly easy (one would think) to exceed them.

Anyway, I know I’m a big long-winded, but I hope you enjoyed my preview of the Redskins 2011 season here at Lattanzi Land. Back to Josh.

Thanks, Nick!  Again, be sure to check out Caputo's Corner when you have a minute.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

NFL Season Preview - The Eagles' Defense and Special Teams

Over the next few days, we will be doing a look at the upcoming 2011 NFL season. Today we continue the preview by examining the defense and special teams of the Eagles. Ryan will be handling this one; regular readers know he is my cousin and my adversary in NFL Picks each week. Thanks for doing this. Anyway, scroll down to check out the last two days of offerings concerning the Eagles. Feedback in the comment thread is welcome, as always. Enjoy! -- J.L

Defensive Line

Trent Cole, Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin - This looks like the one of the deepest positions on the team this year. It will be interesting to see how the line works now with new coach Jim Washburn running the show. He will be bringing in the Wide-9 technique, which basically says that the line should attack the quarterback and react to the run. It has worked in Tennessee for years and I think it will work out for the Eagles. They have the players who can play in the system such as the newly signed Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins. Adding these players to a core group that includes Trent Cole, Mike Patterson, Juqua Parker, Antonio Dixon and Trevor Laws, this could be one of the best defensive lines the Eagles have had in years. I especially think this will lead to a big year for Trent Cole, who seems to be the perfect fit for this type of scheme. The team has reloaded on defense and are hoping that it will lead to bigger things for this season. I expect big things from this group this year and it will be imperative that they play especially well for the Eagles to play well on defense.

Linebackers

Moise Fokou, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney - This is the going to be one of the weak links in the defense to begin the year. I was hoping that with all the spending the Eagles did, they would spend some on a veteran linebacker. Juan Castillo seems to believe in these guys. He really believes in Casey Matthews and is relying on him to be our starting middle linebacker. He may not be the fastest, but he is smart and knows how to position his body to make a play. He will struggle early in the year due to the pace of the game, but as time goes on I think it will turn out well for the D. Fokou is going to be the weak side linebacker in Castillo’s new scheme. He is a good linebacker who will have to worry mostly about run-stopping in his new role. The biggest role for this defense will be the strong side linebacker, which Jamar Chaney will be playing. He showed a lot of potential in the middle last year and he will now in charge of covering the tight end. He is going to be the one the Eagles count most on and hopefully he lives up to what the Eagles expect. If this group can be consistent, this Eagles D will only get better.

Secondary 

Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman - This is the deepest position the Eagles have on defense. With all the uncertainty that the Eagles had in the secondary last year, especially at cornerback, the Eagles decided to spend money on that position. First, they traded for Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie from the Arizona Cardinals and they didn’t stop there. They made the biggest signing of the FA period in Nnamdi Asomugha. Adding them to Asante Samuel, they made one of their biggest weaknesses into their greatest strength within 2 days. This secondary will be one of the hardest secondaries to throw on this year. Asomugha is one of the best cover corners in the league and will only make the Eagles better. For the safeties, it is a different story. We are going to be relying on two 2nd year players in Coleman and Allen and Allen is coming off of an injury. I question what will happen with the safeties, but with the cornerbacks I think they will play better than expected. The cornerbacks are what make this group and will help the safeties throughout the year. We have talent, we just have to worry about the play of the safeties and that is a legitimate concern.

Special Teams 

Alex Henery, Chas Henry - The Eagles are taking a risk in their kicking and punting combination with two rookies. Henery was drafted in the 4th round of the NFL Draft, so that was the writing on the wall for David Akers. He attended Nebraska and has played in any type of weather you can think of. He has a booming leg, but can get inconsistent on technique. As for Chas Henry, he played at a certain university that I go to (UF!!!) and won the Ray Guy Award last year as the best punter in college football. He also has a strong leg and is very accurate with his punts. I really think he will be a major weapon for the Eagles' Special Teams this year. Also, did I mention he was a Gator? Anyways, it is a risk to come into a season with two rookies, but if Andy believes in them, then I guess I can’t question it.

Perfect Example of the Fallacy Of The Pre-Determined Outcome...

The Hill, a journalistic publication in DC, has a blog called the "pundits blog" (yes, they channel their inner e.e. cummings and don't capitalize - but that's bone to pick another time), and some guy named Brent Budowsky wrote a post called 'If Al Gore Had Won', meaning the 2000 election.  Some lowlights highlights...
Instead of our current deficits, the Clinton-Gore budget surplus might well have continued under President Gore, instead of the deficits that ballooned under President Bush. The pro-growth and pro-jobs policies of Clinton-Gore, which were ended by President Bush, would have been continued by President Gore.
I am not so sure about that.  One thing that Gore did in his campaign was distance himself from Clinton in all ways, including economically.  Gore always had a little more of the 'true believer' in him, as opposed to Clinton, who was a masterful politician and knew when and where to give in.  As one who campaigned for Gore in 2000 (yes, odd to read, isn't it?), I was very disappointed that he didn't just come out and say "I will continue to pursue the policies that gave us this period of prosperity".  He probably could have won handily with that, but part of me knows that Gore at heart disagreed with the Clinton policy of engaging and compromising with the Republican congress.
The pro-earth policies of President Gore would have made a substantial dent in pollution and taken the offensive against climate change. Gore would have still won and deserved the Nobel Prize, as a world leader of nations.
The line "taken the offensive against climate change" may be true, but as we have seen with the latest kerfuffle of the Obama administration withdrawing EPA regulations, it would have completely devastated the economy long before now.  Interestingly, no one was calling it "climate change" in 2001 (it really picked up around 2006 or so), so this is a complete projection on the part of the author.
Reducing income inequalities, which have shamefully skyrocketed under Bush and Obama, would have been a major priority under President Gore.
I don't remember this being a part of his platform, but I have no doubt he would have given lip service to the notion, just like Obama is now, despite both positioning themselves as the defenders of the poor against the eeeeeeevil Republicans.  Gore is just as much a corporatist as Obama is; all one has to do is examine the subsidies his 'carbon trading' company has gotten recently.

The point coming back to the title of this post is that the author of it is so certain that events A, B, and C would take place had Gore been elected.  That makes fundamental assumptions that just can't be made - it's no different than fallaciously assuming events would be different in a sporting event had X, Y, Z occurred.  Would things have been different under President Gore?  Probably, but to say precisely what would have been different is ultimately a futile exercise.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

NFL Season Preview - The Eagles' Offense

Over the next few days, we will be doing a look at the upcoming 2011 NFL season. Today we continue the preview by examining the offense of the Eagles.  Scroll down to check out yesterday's ten questions concerning the Eagles. Feedback in the comment thread is welcome, as always. Enjoy! -- J.L

Quarterback

Michael Vick (Vince Young) - Vick did extremely well last season after stepping in for an injured Kevin Kolb, but what remains to be seen is the ability to have sustained success.  The biggest fear I (and many of my Eagles brethren) have is the idea that he will get hurt for a long time and then we'll be back to 2005 (the Mike McMahon 'era').  Vick is a dangerous weapon who has worked hard to get back up to a high level of play.  His one weakness is still found in that he just doesn't read blitzes well; he has a tendency to run right into them and thus takes more sacks than he probably should.  Hopefully, some extra film study will help ease that tendency.  My only advice is - don't get hurt.  I have not a lot of positive things to say about Vince Young, except that he should be damn grateful to Andy Reid and Co. for making the Eagles the NFL's reclamation project.

Running Back

LeSean McCoy (Ronnie Brown) - Shady had a breakout season last year with his first 1,000 yard campaign, but more importantly, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry.  I wouldn't count on him getting much more than about 250 carries this season, but if the Eagles jump out to leads by the fourth quarter, that number and his 5.2 YPC could become a much bigger factor.  I like the signing of Ronnie Brown to back up McCoy.  He's solid and can catch passes out of the backfield, as well as run the wildcat, if Andy still has that idiotic notion in his playbook.  

Wide Receiver

DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant (Riley Cooper, Steve Smith) - In all honesty, I believe this is one of the best receiving corps the Eagles have ever had.  There are many threats to be had - Jackson is your deep threat.  Maclin is your medium threat who can also go deep.  Avant is your possession receiver who has absolutely no fear of going over the middle whatsoever.  I love what this group is capable of doing, and with at least a credible threat of McCoy/Brown running, the passing game ought to open up even more. I do worry about the health of the receiving corps.  Jackson is a little guy whose body can't take that much of a pounding; Avant, as you may recall, was knocked out cold during Jackson's miracle punt return at MetLife Stadium last year.  Maclin has been afflicted with the 'mystery illness' and it remains to be seen how he is able to play once the season starts.  If the offense has to rely on Cooper and Smith, it will be a step below.  Hopefully everyone stays healthy.

Tight End

Brent Celek (Clay Harbor) - Celek had a major off-year in 2010 after putting up very good numbers in '09. He seemed distracted and dropped a lot of passes in 2010, so a big part of the offense will rely on him getting his stuff together and taking some of the pressure off the receivers and running backs.

Offensive Line

Jason Peters/Todd Herremans (Tackles), Evan Mathis/Danny Watkins (Guards), Jason Kelce (Center) - As with any good offense, the line is the linchpin.  It has seemed somewhat leaky over the past couple of years, and with Andy's penchant for focusing on the line, we should see more improved play from the offensive line.  As a general rule, offensive lines on the Eagles for the past twelve years have been set up for pass blocking, but linemen prefer to run block. Maybe they'll get more of that this year. We can hope, anyway.

Friday, September 2, 2011

NFL Season Preview - Ten Questions About The Eagles

Over the next few days, we will be doing a look at the upcoming 2011 NFL season.  Today we begin the preview by discussing and examining ten questions surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles, since they are our favorite team here at Lattanzi Land.  Feedback in the comment thread is welcome, as always.  Enjoy! -- J.L.

1) How much will the lockout affect everyone (not just the Eagles)?

This is sort of the great unknown - and yet it is sort of a known as well.  It was generally understood when the lockout (and the Lattanzi Land Moratorium) ended, the adjustment period would end up spilling into the season itself.  Free agency would be a madhouse; new players trying to learn offenses and defensive alignments would be short on time, and draftees would finally get to work with coaches.  Conditioning has also suffered, with more 'little' injuries (strains and the like) occurring.  The only ones who seemed upset that the lockout ended were the veterans who wanted to see training camp get wiped out so their jobs would be guaranteed without any sort of young competition.  

2) Do the Eagles believe the Hype?

Vince Young had been somewhat misquoted on the whole 'Dream Team' business, but in our 24/7 media universe, it is the norm, for good or ill.  The answer is officially they do not believe the hype.  No doubt we will continue to hear all the right things about going to work every day and playing hard to win games.  I can't help but think that some of these players on the Eagles do buy into it.  The issue will be forced if they start the season in an exceptionally slow manner (.500 or less in the first four games), and the hammer will be dropped with all the schadenfreude the media and rival fan bases can muster.  For the sake of all Eagles fans, I hope they are confident, but not getting completely sucked into all the media-driven emotivism.  Just remember, Eagles - the media builds up, and the media rips down.

After the jump, we will have more questions...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

NFL Season Preview Outlook

Just as we have done with Spring Training the last couple of years, we will now do for the upcoming NFL season. The first game is played in a week, and as such, the time for it all to start is coming up on us pretty quickly.

The plan is to do something each day for about the next week that will talk about the team we follow, the Eagles, and then later, the NFL at large.  Right now, this is what the schedule (barring any kind of interruption or hurricane) will look like...

Friday (9/2) - Ten questions about the Eagles
Saturday (9/3) - The Eagles' Offense
Sunday (9/4) - The Eagles' Defense and Special Teams
Monday (9/5) - A Look At the Local Rivals - The Washington Redskins 
Tuesday (9/6) - The Rest of the NFL
Wednesday (9/7) - Predictions and Prognostications
Thursday (9/8) - Preview and Picks for Opening Day

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Federal Family? Just Gag Me...

In the news lately has been word that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has been trying all it can to avoid using the word 'government' and consistently replace it instead with the term 'federal family'.

Wow.

Now, in fairness, the term is not new at all (it debuted in 1999), but there seems to be a particular urgency to use this term more now. The linked story said that the purpose is to try and make it (FEMA and the government at large) seem softer and gentler.  It also said that the term could evoke images of 'Big Brother and organized crime'.  

That's partially true, in my view.

But the more important aspect, I believe, comes through the overuse of the word 'family'.  It reminds me of the word 'community' - both are things people are supposed to do rather than necessarily just talk about.  We hear all the time in the media about 'the (fill in the blank) family', but those are just concepts that have no basis other than just to either be a talking point or to make people feel warm and fuzzy about themselves.  Some concepts are just moronically contradictory, such as the 'international community'.  What does that even mean?  

Now, if I hear someone at school talk about family - that's legitimate, because I have seen it in action time and time again.  But that's the other thing - there is a completely local element to it that has a meeting place and ritual to it and so forth.  The idea of the federal government as 'family', however, is patently absurd.  It completely misses the whole point of government, which is to provide certain services for its citizens; in other words, it is supposed to work for us, not be 'members of the family'. I have no doubt, though, that part of the rationale all the way back to 1999 was to deliberately obscure that distinction.

Do I think the federal government is too large?  Absolutely - all it takes is twenty to thirty minutes of reading this blog to figure that out.  Do I think there is a place and role for an agency like FEMA?  Yes, although the Paul-bots won't like that answer, oh well. Unfortunately, the language gets butchered in such a way that the distinctions and definitions of things get blurred, usually by design.  But despite that, there is still a place for the government to operate and for emergency agencies as well.

Just don't try to make anyone call them 'family'.

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