Saturday, January 31, 2009

Craig's Top 50 Movies: Episode 2 - #40 through #31

Since I debuted the first Episode of the Craig's top 50 movies, I have had a few more movies pop into my head that had to make the list at the expense of some other movies who I had to bump out of the top 50, perhaps after I finish the Top 50, I will do an honorable mention for those films which didn't quite crack the list, but were very deserving nominees.

40. Cool Hand Luke - I'm pretty sure that this is the oldest movie that made the top 50. I'm only adding movies that I've actually seen, and this past summer I stumbled upon the opening credits of this movie and decided I'd take a gander at it, since I had heard great things. Let me just say that it was an excellent decision. Paul Newman is so cool in this movie, and it has aged exceptionally gracefully. It was made in 1967, but it is still awesome today. This story of a determined man who refuses to conform is truly a classic, and is incredible. If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor.

39. UHF - Not every movie on my favorite 50 movies list is a great movie in the classical sense. This movie by Weird Al Yankovic is clearly NOT a great movie, and yet it is. Tremendously underrated, it's goofy sense of humor may not be appreciated by all, but it is clearly underrated. It has Michael Richards of Seinfeld fame playing a character even more goofy and bizarre than Cosmo Kramer, and a superb cast of characters and goofy jokes, it holds a special place in my heart due to how much I loved it and Weird Al when I was a teenager. Definitely not a classic, but it makes my top 50 due to it having a lot of spunk, and due to the fact that it is massively entertaining.

38. So I Married an Axe Murderer - While Mike Myers has made some pretty big blockbusters with the likes of his Austin Powers and Wayne's World movies, his best film, in my opinion, is this slightly more subdued comedy about him meeting a woman, falling in love with her, and then wondering if she is going to kill him. It's a lot of fun, and features Myers doing his hilarious Scottish accent shouting, "Heed! Pants! NOW!" This movie makes me happy, and it's fun vibe earns it spot number thirty-eight.

37. Rain Man - Okay, so after a few movies that make it based more on silliness and humor rather than actually being GREAT movies, I'm getting this list back on track with a film that won the Best Picture in 1988. This movie stars Tom Cruise as a guy who's business is falling apart and he is doing all he can to keep it from completely collapsing and Dustin Hoffman as his forgotten brother who suffers from severe autism. This story of Cruise's character rediscovering what is important and falling in love with his brother is entertaining, powerful, humorous and sad at times, but it is truly a great movie. This one can be placed in the top 50 without even a hint of guilt.

36. Michael Clayton - This movie, starring George Clooney as a lawyer who "fixes" things for a large evil corporation is fantastic. It was nominated in the best picture category in 2007, and it deserved to be there. It is a bit of a thriller, but it also gets you very emotionally involved in it's outcome, and it's the rare movie that when it hit it's climax at the end made me want to audibly cheer for what was happening. Any movie that can touch me to the point that I literally want to yell and cheer makes the list, period.

35. Dumb and Dumber - Yes, this is a dumb movie. I know that. However, there are so many scenes in it that are beyond fantastic that it had to be included. Lloyd and Harry dueling with their canes while wearing obnoxious baby blue and orange tuxedoes at a ritzy party in Aspen may NEVER be topped.

34. Office Space - If you have ever worked a job in a cubicle, this movie is required viewing. It is so fantastic that words don't really do it justice. In fact, I may have it too low at number thirty-four.

33. Goodfellas - Since I have never seen The Godfather (Yes, I know that is a crime, but it's true.) This is the best mobster movie I have ever seen. Ray Liotta, Robert Di Niro, and Joe Pesci all turn in unbelievable performances, and this is one of the more gripping movies you will ever see. Landmark stuff, really.

32. The Sixth Sense - One of the creepier situations that I have ever been involved in was me going to see this movie in the theatre. I didn't know how the movie ended, and I made the mistake of going to see it alone. I walked out of that movie theatre and had to talk to a few random people that I didn't know to make sure that I got a response and people could actually see and hear me. On the off chance that someone reading this blog hasn't seen this film and doesn't know the ending of this movie, I will try to avoid spoiling the ending, but suffice to say, don't see it by yourself. This movie wowed me the first time that I saw it, and on the few times I have watched it since, I have still been quite impressed at how good it is, but nothing will top that first time.

31. The Motorcycle Diaries - This movie about Che Guevara is intense, gripping, moving, inspiring, happy, sad, and epic. It's also remarkably good. Not too many movies you can say that about. This movie will make you want to be a better human being, which is pretty high praise for a film. I highly recommend it.

My first Nephew has hit the scene!

This strapping young man is my first nephew, and future middle linebacker for the Denver Broncos.
It's a good thing I have this blog, before it, I had never been an uncle, and now nieces and nephews are appearing all over the place. I am proud to announce my first newphew has entered the world. Jace Darnauer was born January 29th at 3:58 AM, and weighs in at a hefty 8 lbs 3.5 oz and 21.5 inches long.

From the looks of the photos, he is definitely a cutie, and I am very excited to get to meet him, hopefully soon. Congrats Kristi and Jeff, and welcome to the world Jace!

What an adorable little family you've got going there!

This is my favorite picture I have seen of Jace so far, get used to looking up to your Dad, little one, he's a great fella and is going to be an amazing Daddy for you!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Breaking down the Super Bowl into bite sized morsels of chewy goodness.

Okay, so were are only a few days away from the Forty-Third edition of the Super Bowl, and I have a few thoughts. First of all, can we do away with the Roman numerals already?? Seriously, how many Romans are even all that interested in football anyway? Why are we catering to this very small demographic? Arabic numerals are so much simpler and more elegant. Who would complain if we just went with Super Bowl 43? It's so much simpler than all these X's, L's and I's. I feel the world is ready for a Roman numeral-less Super Bowl.

If we are going to stay with the Roman numerals, could we at least spruce up the Super Bowl logo a bit this year? This years logo reminds me of an updated logo for some mundane product like Tide detergent. As far as logos go, this one puts me to sleep. Although, in a positive development, I am happy to say that next year's logo has been unveiled and it is beautiful...

Honestly, how good is that orange and blue logo going to look on the Denver Broncos uniforms in next year's Super Bowl?? I can't wait for how great that is going to look when Josh McDaniels leads the boys onto the field in Miami!

But I am getting ahead of myself, we haven't yet played this year's game. Amazingly, the Broncos are not part of the festivities. (Well, perhaps not THAT amazingly if you saw them play this season.) This year's game features the Pittsburgh Steelers and their legion of die hard fans and 5 previous Super Bowl championship trophies vs. the Arizona Cardinals and a handful of guys who got onto the Cardinals bandwagon because they thought that they would get a coupon good for two for one grand slams at Denny's.

The greatest discrepancy I see between the Cardinals and the Steelers is with their respective fan bases. Steelers fans are some of the most loyal and fantastic fans in all of sports, they routinely fill opposing stadiums with tons of fans clad in Black and Yellow waving their Myron Cope officially licensed Terrible Towels. They are everywhere, as the Steelers are one of the most popular teams in all the land, despite the fact that they can't seem to afford to put a logo on both sides of their helmets. There are rumors that Cardinals fans do in fact exist, but I have never met one, and I even lived in Arizona for a summer. There are a lot of people hopping on the bandwagon now, but if there is such a thing as a die hard Cards fan, I have yet to experience this phenomenon.

As for the teams on the field, all logic points to a Pittsburgh victory and by a sizable margin. I am officially on board the Cardinals bandwagon, though, and I keep hoping against hope that somehow all the logic that is staring me in the face about this game being a blowout is wrong. Since I comically underestimated the Cardinals this postseason by picking them to lose every single game that they played, there is a tiny mite of hope that I will continue to be wrong. My hope is that this is a close competitive game in which Arizona at least has a chance to win. My fear is that it will be over by halftime.

The Steelers defense is really good. The Cardinals defense has been opportunistic this postseason, but they are pretty pedestrian on the whole. The Steelers offense has been okay this season, although they have a hard time picking up short yardage plays when they need to, and their running game in general isn't that great. The Cardinals offense is the epitome of Jekyll and Hyde. At times, Kurt Warner and his cadre of stud wide receivers look positively unstoppable. With weapons like Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald they can be scary at times, and then at other times Warner looks like an old QB looking for a soft place to fall. Edgerrin James barely played in the regular season per the coach's decision, and in the playoffs he looks like a guy who is trying to prove that his coach was an idiot for not playing him in the regular season. Suddenly, the Cards have had a running game which makes their passing game even more dangerous. If the Cards are to have any chance, they need the good offense to show up.

Finally, and perhaps most impressively, we must break down the coaching match up. This year's big game features two coaches who also double as celebrity impersonators. The Steelers Mike Tomlin, who looks exactly like Omar Epps from the TV show House...

...and Ken Whisenhunt, who looks a bit like Woody Harrelson.

These guys not only both look like television stars, they also happen to be pretty darn good football coaches. Whisenhunt has the added advantage of having formerly been a offensive coordinator for the Steelers, so perhaps he has some inside knowledge of how to bring down Big Ben?

Perhaps...but I don't see it. I want so badly to predict an upset by the Cardinals, but I just can't see it happening. My heart wants to pick the Cardinals, but my head is over ruling my heart and telling it to stop picking football games and get back into my chest cavity and get back to pumping blood like it's supposed to be doing.

My pick? Make mine: Pittsburgh Steelers 31 Arizona Cardinals 20

That may be my prediction, but I'm still hoping against hope for a Cards victory. GO ARIZONA!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Craig's Top 50 Movies: Epsiode 1 - #50 through #41

My friend asked me at a lacrosse game over the weekend what my top five movies of all time were. That simple question turned into an extended conversation and then a quest. I had to set out a ranking of my favorite movies, however, stopping at a top 5 would not do. I thought that 50 sounded like a good number, and I set out to rank, because I like ranking things. Especially when it's a totally subjective subject matter, and I can't be proven wrong. (I'm looking at you, Arizona Cardinals)

So, I am debuting today my top 50 list! It wouldn't be any fun if I dropped all 5o all at once, so here are numbers 41-50. I will slowly dole out the entire list on the blog, so stay tuned!! This is definitely not a comprehensive list, and I'm sure I'll regret leaving out several films, but I put this whole thing together in just 2 days, so there are bound to be some omissions, nevertheless, I present movies 41 through 50 for your perusal and discussion...

50. The Dark Crystal - Extremely underrated film. This was a dark and brooding Jim Hensen muppets creation. It lacked the silliness and goofiness of the Muppets, but there was an engaging and fun fantasy story with compelling heroes and villains, and an awesome storyline that brought them all together. Plus, my dog got her name from this movie.

49. A Christmas Story - This movie is awesome. It is a story that is told by someone who actually remembers what it was like to be a kid. The hopeless scheming for a BB Gun is something that anyone who remembers what it was like to be a kid and have no money but desperately desire something for Christmas. It's worth having TNT on your cable system just for Christmas Day when they run this thing for 24 hours in a row.

48. Hoosiers - This movie makes you want to go play basketball in a small Indiana town, it's that good. I did feel for Gene Hackman's character in it, though. The people of Hickory treated him like garbage right up until the point that he brings the team together for one of the all time Cinderella story type runs. Then he's a hero. Jimmy Chitwood was a stud, by the way.

47. The Darjeeling Limited - This movie is bizarre, but in the way that has you thinking about it for days and smiling about it. It's extremely quirky, and I would not blame you if you hated it, but I loved it.

46. Rocky IV - The movie that ended the Cold War.

45. Pulp Fiction - Opened the era of the non-chronological movie, which is fun unless you're with someone who has a hard time putting it together, in which case you're trying to explain the movie the whole time you are watching it.

44. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, what else does one need?? While I recognize that most people are going to say that Raiders of the Lost Ark was the superior Indiana Jones film, this one is the one that does it for me. "We named the dog Indiana" at the end is a severely underrated movie ending quote. Plus there is, "You call this Archeology?" "Only the penitent man shall pass." "He chose...poorly." "He didn't have a ticket." Great movie for quotes.

43. The Royal Tenenbaums - This movie clearly isn't for everyone, but I enjoyed it's dark quirky sense of humor enough for it to make it in the top 50.

42. The Princess Bride - This movie has tremendous staying power, and has pretty much everything you could want in an adventure film...Guys in masks, Andre the Giant, swordplay, Rats of unusual size, a fire cloak, Billy Crystal, that guy who says "inconceivable" It really has it all.

41. Groundhog Day - If you are not amused by Bill Murray in this film, I don't know what to say other than there clearly is something wrong with you. I sometimes wish I could live some random day over and over again until I could get it entirely right. Think of all you could learn!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

You have to love outsourcing to India.

Do you have a job where in order to save money your company has lower level work done by people in India who are very intelligent and speak way more languages that you do, but don't really understand American culture and have a somewhat firm yet extremely floppy grasp of the English language?

Does working at this job require you to act like you are good at international relations and keep you trying to guess at what the people in India really want even though they are, shall we say, less than adept at expressing exactly what it is that they want??

I DO!!!!

It's actually a lot of fun sometimes, although usually frustrating, because even though these are highly intelligent people, English is not their first language, and at times that fact can make you want to strangle them from across several oceans. However, last week one of my Indian friends created a new word in the English language that I really liked, and think we should adopt immediately. That word is: Updation.

Updation: The act or process of bringing something up to date. As in, this leisure suit in my closet probably says that my wardrobe could use some updation.

I would like to thank my friend Jagadish (Seriously, that is his name, I'm not making it up.) for creating this word as the English language is in constant need of updation, and why not let it happen in south central Asia?? India rules.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nothing says blog credibility like Elephants.

You may have noticed the blog redesign. Some websites spend millions on their brand image, I change the background from white to gray, slap an elephant on the front and call it good.

Why an elephant you ask? Because, as I noted in the title of this post, NOTHING says credibility like a picture of an elephant. Plus, my daughter really likes elephants, and they are my favorite animal too, so it pretty much works. Perhaps someday I may go crazy with a llama or a platypus, but for now I am going to make due with the relative sanity of the elephant. I hope you approve, but if you don't, it doesn't really matter!

"The Universe According to Craig" - The same great coverage you've come to expect, now with 100% more elephants!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nothing like posting video predictions of something that already happened, but I did for two reasons:

1. My wife picked the games correctly before even taking a shower that day and I went 1-1. Just had to prove to anyone who didn't already know...I have no idea what I'm talking about.

2. My daughter gets just as many right as I do and the extent of her prep work involved playing with her potty doll.

Just for the record now...the impossible HAS happened, and the Arizona Cardinals are Super Bowl bound. In the most exciting game of the playoffs, they beat the Eagles 32-25 to win the NFC title and will be playing the Steelers who beat the Ravens in a game that was significantly less entertaining, almost painful really.

I am throwing my considerable support behind the Cardinals, because it's more fun to go with the underdog, because the novelty of the Cardinals being in the big game is fun, and because Pittsburgh already has 5 championships, and doesn't need another one.

Go Cards!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Championship Weekend Forecast:

Turn out the lights, the party's (almost) over.

I have heard that when the holidays end, may people go into a bit of a slump. All the waiting and anticipation for Christmas to come, all the preparations and the excitement over spending time with friends and family, all the Christmas trees and bright lights and presents and then, BAM. January. No more lights, no more excitement, no more carols, no more days off of work, no more reindeer, it all ends suddenly and all that is left is a long winter with little excitement in the near future. Depressing.

I do not experience this post holiday lull to this degree, sure I enjoy Christmas, but I don’t get so up for it that December 26th becomes a major bummer. I pretty much just get on with life, thankful for the Christmas that has passed. However, I am not without empathy for those with the post Christmas blues, as I experience my own version of this phenomenon at the beginning of February…the post Super Bowl blues.

You see, since mid-August, I have been feasting upon NFL football. It’s my favorite sport, and I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking, reading, and watching football. Right now, we are in the midst of a great stretch, the playoffs, where every game is significant and the best teams are playing at their highest level with the most on the line. It is truly glorious. (It would be even better if my Broncos were part of the festivities, but like I said, the BEST teams are playing which precludes their participation.) But, as exciting and glorious as the playoffs are, the sad fact remains that as I write this, there are only three games remaining in the NFL season, and after this weekend, nothing but the Super Bowl. So, in this time of glory, I am already melancholy knowing that the long dark offseason awaits. The day after the Super Bowl is my December 26th. The offseason is so long and sad…let us enjoy the NFL while it is still around. In that spirit, here are my Championship Sunday predictions…

The NFC Championship game:
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals

Come on, I enjoy practical jokes as much as anybody, but hasn’t this whole, “The Arizona Cardinals are hosting the NFC Championship Game” charade gone on long enough? Let’s go ahead and get the New York Giants and do this thing right, eh? Wait? Seriously? The NFL is actually sanctioning this? Really? Okay, if you say so, I guess we’ll go with that…

I am going to write that out again because it’s been almost a week, and I still don’t completely believe it. Not only are the Arizona Cardinals IN the NFC Championship game, (Which by itself would be weird enough) but they are playing host. This thing is just goofy enough, that I am ready to fully embrace it. That’s right! I am throwing my support behind the NFC West Champion Arizona Cardinals. I sincerely hope that they win the whole thing. I want Larry Fitzgerald to go in the first two rounds of all fantasy drafts next year, I want Kurt Warner in the Hall of Fame, heck, I even love the color red. I’m on board the Cardinals train, now. I love AZ.

I am definitely more in support of this reformed train wreck from the desert than the Iggles for one simple reason. Philadelphia fans. I have met a lot of fans from opposing teams in my decades of going to Broncos games, but no single group of fans has ever been more obnoxious than the Philly fans when my brother and I went to a regular season Broncos-Eagles game in 2005. We are just walking to our seats, not talking any smack as I bear no ill will to the Eagles and a few of these nimrods run over to us and start yelling at us, questioning our manhood, and randomly berating us because we dared not have the same favorite team as them. Then at our seats, there were several Eagles fans nearby who were obnoxious throughout the entire game. They were mocking us, even as their team was falling behind by 28 points. The Eagles scored three quick touchdowns to make it 28-21, and the abuse was hot and heavy, even though they were still trailing. That was one of my most satisfying Broncos games, ever, though. Because after it briefly got close, the Broncos exploded and ended up winning 49-21. Finally, after having their team beaten into submission, at the end of the game they left quietly. That happy image of obnoxious people leaving the game sad still brings a smile to my face to this day. That is why I am rooting against Philly. Not because I hate the Eagles, I just want their fans to be unhappy because they were that insufferable.

That said, do I expect Arizona to win? No. No, I do not. Philadelphia has been riding a hot streak remarkably similar to the Giants last year, and I fully expect them to win, because I am not sure the world is ready for a Super Bowl in which the Arizona Cardinals are prominently involved. Plus, the Cardinals have been ridiculously fortunate thus far in the playoffs they have forced nine turnovers in the past two games. I don’t anticipate that they will continue to average four and a half takeaways against the Eagles. Because, unfortunately for the Cardinals, Jake Delhomme will not be involved in this contest for the Eagles. They played earlier this season and the Eagles dominated 48-20. Granted it was a Thanksgiving night game, and the Cards had a very short week and then had to travel to play the Eagles making it very difficult, and they are at home this time, but I don’t think they have what it takes. I think that the Cards keep it closer, but don’t do enough to win. Creating a situation in which a team that tied the Bengals represents the NFC in the Super Bowl. Weird season, eh?

Make mine, Philadelphia 31 Arizona 21

The AFC Championship Game:
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

This game is generally considered to be the better game of the weekend, but I question that. We are looking at two teams with suffocating defenses and competent but hardly amazing offenses. If you like low scoring, defensive battles, this will be right up your alley. If you don’t like games with the potential for a final score of 6-3, perhaps this won’t be your favorite game ever. It has the potential to be a classic or a snooze fest. I’m hoping for the former.

I like the Steelers in this game because I think they are peaking right now. They looked like a force of nature against the Chargers. The only thing that scares me is that Pittsburgh is due for a stinker game, as they haven’t laid an egg for too long, and they have a history of wetting the bed in Championship games at home that they should have won. Could I see that happening this time? Sure, because the Ravens are a quality squad and they have already played two ridiculously close games this year which the Steelers won late both times.

The reason I am not picking the Steelers to fall apart at home is because of how the Ravens played last weekend. The Titans are a very similar team to the Steelers, and the Ravens were dominated last week by Tennessee. The Titans killed themselves with several turnovers in the red zone, and just enough boneheaded plays that they managed to lose a game by all rights they should have won. Plus, if the referees had called a delay of game penalty when they should have, I’m not sure that Baltimore is even playing this weekend. A team can get all the breaks like the Cardinals getting nine turnovers or the Ravens getting ALL the breaks, but after awhile, these breaks tend to even out. You can only be lucky for so long, and I feel like the luck runs out on the banks of the three rivers for the Ravens.

I am calling it, Pittsburgh 16 Baltimore 13

Friday, January 9, 2009

Weekend Forecast:

The divisional playoff round is upon us, and with it a slate of three pretty good games, and one game that I imagine will not be as good. Get your popcorn ready, as these game will all be better than anything that Terrell Owens did all year.

Ravens at Titans – This game showcases two teams who greatly resemble each other. Both feature hard hitting defenses and offenses that do just enough to win. The Ravens are coming off of a convincing victory over the Dolphins who looked overmatched and smothered by the suffocating Ravens D. Ed Reed showed why he has to be considered the best safety in the NFL, and after scoring the first field goal on a turnover early in the game, it didn’t look like Miami had a shot in that game the rest of the way scoring only one more touchdown the rest of the way. The Titans may have peaked too early this year, as around week 12, they looked like a juggernaut, but they have come back to the pack a bit over the final month of the season. They basically didn’t even try in the season finale against the Colts, a game in which they lost 23-0. So they may be a bit rusty, and are over a month removed from playing their best football. Although Kerry Collins has been solid all year, he is still Kerry Collins, and as such, I don’t trust him to be able to play mistake free against one of the stronger defenses in the league. Granted, Joe Flacco is just a rookie, and the history of rookie QB’s in the playoffs isn’t stellar, but I think that he will do enough to let his defense win it for him. I see a low scoring, close game in which the Ravens do enough to move on to the AFC Championship game. My prediction? Baltimore 16 Tennessee 7

Cardinals at Panthers – This is the game I feel most confident about, which means that I am probably most likely to be wrong about it. I had a dream earlier this week that the Cardinals play the Giants and although the details of that dream are substantially weird, that matchup could take place if the Cards and Giants win this weekend. I don’t think that the Cardinals are going to take care of business on the road in the playoffs. Arizona is 0-5 in the Eastern time zone this season, getting blown out in many of those games. Despite being able to put it together enough to take care of Atlanta last weekend at home, I feel the Panthers on the road are a much stiffer test. To me, the Panthers are the team most likely to win it all this offseason. I’m standing by my prediction from when there were only a few weeks left in the regular season that they will be the team to lift the Lombardi trophy. I say they pass their first postseason test with flying colors this weekend by throttling the Cardinals. Carolina 34 Arizona 10

Eagles at Giants – What a slate of games we have set for this Sunday! The great thing about playoff football is the high intensity, high quality football that we are treated to, the bad part of it is that as of the moment of this writing, there are only seven NFL games left this season. Savor each one, as the offseason lasts a loooooooong time. This game should be a great one, as the Eagles have raised their game in the final month and they needed every break to make the playoffs, as they BARELY got in. I mean, when you need the Raiders to win a road game to get in, and it happens…you must living right. Conversely, for much of the season, the Giants were considered the class of the NFL, and they fell off the pace some in the final weeks. I keep going back and forth on this game, as I can easily see a case for the Iggles continuing their hot streak and the Giants have cooled from their earlier season hot streak and without Plaxico Burress they are not nearly as scary, but I have to say I think the G-Men find a way this game. Will I be surprised if the Eagles win? No, but I am picking the Giants in a close and entertaining game. New York 27 Philadelphia 24

Chargers at Steelers – As a Broncos fan, this is the game I am most interested in this weekend, because if I can’t cheer for my team after their epic collapse, I can get a measure of satisfaction from seeing the Chargers lose. I keep lamenting the fact that the Broncos would be in if the Chiefs would have just been able to recover an onside kick, but then I remember that I would have had to endure watching them lose here in Denver to the Colts by four hundred points, which would have been even more embarrassing than losing a three game lead with three to play. I am obviously rooting against the Chargers and for the Steelers in this game. One: I really dislike the Chargers now due to the incredibly boorish Phil Rivers. Two: I picked the Steelers to get to the Super Bowl, so they need to win this game to make that happen, obviously. I am going to put aside my personal feelings about this game when I make my pick, and I’m going to go ahead and predict….a Steelers victory. The Steelers defense is ridiculous. Not in a Denver Broncos, giving up 448 points kind of way, but rather in a “Dear God, hide the women and children, it’s the Steelers D” kind of way. They are simply awesome. They gave up less than half of what Denver did this year, which is extremely impressive. I am a little worried about Rothlisberger’s condition for the game, I hope he can play as I feel he gives the Steelers their best chance for a win, but fortunately, Pittsburgh has a solid backup in Byron Leftwich who could also get it done, if need be. Ladainian Tomlinson being out should help, as Darren Sproles is solid, but I think that the Steelers can contain him easier than they could a healthy LT. The previous game this season between these two was a weird affair, ending in the NFL’s first ever 11-10 final score. I feel a few more points may be scored this game, but I think that Pittsburgh cools off the Bolts and sends them home unhappy. Pittsburgh 21 San Diego 17

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dream a (weird) little dream...

Memorial Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas: Future home of the NFC Championship Game?

I had a dream so vivid and clear last night that I still remember it here at work a few hours later. If dreams come in High-Def, this one definitely cost extra on my dream-cable subscription. Not only was it clear, but it had tons of details that are both random and also strangely applicable to life in America today as a football fan, only the details are completely bizarre and random in the traditional peculiar way of dreams.

The basic premise of my dream was that the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals were playing a football game of some significance in the small Kansas town in which I went to college: Manhattan, Kansas. This would be weird enough to be playing an NFL game in a college town in Kansas, but at least Manhattan is home to a Big 12 school with a stadium (Wagner Field) that can hold over fifty thousand people and houses big college games each fall. However, this dream was even odder in that they were playing this game in Memorial Stadium, the old football stadium built in the 1920’s with a maximum capacity at it’s apex of only 20,000 people and a stadium which today looks more like an ancient ruin than a sports venue. At the time I was going to school there in the late nineties, the stadium was merely a glorified park, and the most intense games that took place there were pickup games of ultimate Frisbee. I haven’t been to Manhattan in years, so it’s possible that it’s been renovated or used for events since then, but in my memories, it was pretty much not a stadium anymore and is DEFINITELY the least likely place for a significant NFL game to take place.

However, in my dream, the Giants and Cardinals were going to play a game there. In the annoying way of dreams, I was never provided with details as to how or why it was decided that hosting an NFL game in Memorial Stadium was a good idea, but despite this aggravating lack of explanation, the game was going to take place. In real life, this would be a logistical nightmare, as the amount of people crowding a small Kansas town for an NFL game would cause unspeakable gridlock and parking would be impossible, however, in my dream my friend Doug, my wife and I decided that we would drive to the game, even though it was less than a mile away. There was plenty of parking and the streets were practically deserted. We found parking right near the stadium and walked right in. We arrived late to the game, because I was insistent that I balance my checkbook before we left for the game so we didn’t arrive at the game until midway through the second quarter.

When we did finally arrive at Memorial Stadium, it was full but not overflowing. Another odd thing that I noticed when we arrived at the game was that the entire crowd was decked out in Denver Broncos gear; this was odd for two reasons. Reason #1: The Broncos were not playing and Reason #2: In eastern Kansas when little children utter the words Denver Broncos their parents will wash their mouths out with soap. That is to say, the Broncos are not a popular team there, so the idea that the townsfolk would show up anywhere in Broncos gear is a highly unlikely proposition.

The stadium was not packed and it was relatively easy to get to our seats. We even moved up a few seats to be closer to the field, although we didn’t have the best seats in the house as we were sitting behind the end zone. When we finally showed up to the game (with me being happy because my checkbook was, in fact, balanced) the score of the game was Giants 10 Cardinals 9, but the Cardinals had the ball inside the 20 of the Giants and looked about ready to score. The game was in a delay when we arrived and although the details were sketchy on the precise details, the gist of what I was able to discern from my dream is that it was in a delay because an Arizona player had just made a big play to get their team into the red zone (that’s inside the 20 yard line for you non-football fans) and to celebrate this big play, he had released some type of iridescent sparkly dark red liquid all over the field, so the game was being delayed to clean up the mess. The mess was nearly cleaned up when we got into our seats, and the referee was explaining that there was a penalty against this Cardinal’s player for excessive celebration. After the penalty was called Tom Coughlin, the coach of the Giants, angrily rushed out onto the field and declined the penalty because he said, “Players should be allowed to celebrate.” At this point, I remember yelling out loudly, “Man, I love Tom Coughlin!” (A few points of clarity from me now that I am awake, I do NOT believe players should be allowed to celebrate by littering the field with iridescent goo, I cannot imagine that Tom Coughlin would decline a 15 yard penalty at any time but especially when his opponent was 13 yards away from a touchdown, and finally I do not actually love Tom Coughlin.)

After all the penalty declining and iridescent goo clean up was completed it was third down and eleven, for some reason. And no, that doesn’t make sense, but if you’ve read to this point, you will have to concede that making sense was not a high priority for this dream. Kurt Warner dropped back to pass and the Giants sacked him and he fumbled and the ball was recovered by the Giants who ran the ball back eighty yards for a touchdown. At this point the entire stadium erupted in cheers, as for some reason a stadium full of people from eastern Kansas who were decked out in Broncos gear were apparently all Giants fans. After the extra point, the lights went out in the stadium, and the glow from the street lights that stayed on created a strange glow on the field, which I realized was not a field at all, but was actually more like a wrestling mat type surface. I noticed this odd fact, but thought nothing of it. At this point, I realized what a great photo opportunity I had, so I turned to the guy behind me to ask him to take a picture of my wife and me. The guy behind us was in a tussle with a toddler at first, but he agreed to take my picture, so I had to wait until he got the child under control which he quickly did. After the commotion died down, I went to show him the button he would need to press in order to take the picture, but as I went to do so, my alarm clock went off and the dream came to a screeching halt.

So that was my dream, and much like Pharaoh needed Joseph to translate his dreams about the sheaves of wheat and the fat and skinny cows, I feel the need to understand what this all means. In real life the Cardinals and Giants are both playing this coming weekend, although not against each other. Does my dream mean that they will both win and end up in the NFC Championship? I doubt it, as I think the Panthers will defeat the Cardinals, but wouldn’t it be weird if it ended up that they DID play each other in the NFC Championship game? Why was the game in Manhattan, Kansas? How come they were playing on gym mats? Is memorial stadium going to be used for an important NFL game in the near future? So many questions, when in all likelihood, I just had a weird dream after eating too much Peppermint Popcorn before bed. I don’t know, but I can say without a doubt that this was the clearest I can remember a dream, even if it makes ZERO sense.