Monthly Archives: December 2011

Packers vs Bears: Immaculate(ish) Redemption

Packers (13-1) vs Bears (7-7)
Date: December 25th
At: Green Bay
Outcome: 35-21 Packers
GAINED HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE FOR PLAYOFFS 

While I was glad to see several of our players back from injury and though I’m happy we won, nothing either team did was very impressive, almost as if both teams knew what the score was going to be before they even started playing. Which is surprising considering the Bears REALLY NEEDED to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive and the Packers REALLY NEEDED to win this game to ensure homefield advantage for the playoffs.

However, since this was on Christmas and I was watching a recorded playback of the game, alone, at midnight, after a long day of family and drinking, I have to admit that maybe I wasn’t QUITE as attentive as I normally am and that might have affected my impressions just a bit.

THE OPPONENT
…sucks.

Just kidding 🙂 The Bears defense did make Rodgers scramble a little bit every now and then, but it wasn’t enough to stop him from completing passes (if they had been around last week…maybe a different story).

On the offensive side, while they made a good effort to run the ball with running back Kahlil Bell, the Bears didn’t have much of a passing game, and the fact of the matter is that if you do not have some aptitude in both rushing and passing, you’re just not going to beat the Packer defense. If you only have one of the two, they focus on that and in the end you’re done for, no matter how much time you spend in possession of the ball. You got to keep them nice and confused. That’s how Kansas City won I’m pretty sure–we were all confused during that one.

THE DEFENSE
Same thing, different week.

The defense does what it always does–they stopped the Bears from running the ball, they intercepted some crucial passes (one of which was caught by Matthews YES!), and they shut down the drives in the red zone. What they didn’t do is what they never do–break up passes and stop third down conversions. So even though the Bears didn’t seem to have a very impressive passing game, the lack of coverage still allowed them to move down the field, but the massive wall of giant angry men kept their scored points down long enough for the Packer offense to put points on the board. By the time the Bears actually began scoring touchdowns, the difference in score was just too big.

After the Matthews interception they started playing "You're a Mean One Mister Grinch" before the commercial break. Made me think of this 🙂

THE OFFENSE
Better…but still…

Luckily, Rodgers looked a little less like a deer staring at incoming headlights this week. I’m not sure if it’s because they offensive line was looking a little more like it did in the beginning of the season or because his receivers were acting like professionals and not like newborn chimpanzees learning to walk without staring at their feet. Nelson and Jones both caught 2 touchdown passes, but the biggest surprise to me was Finley, who came out catching and opened the game with a touchdown after about four weeks of nothing but bobbles. Hopefully this is the start of an upward swing in his performance.

Side note: The Packers also managed to finish the game without committing a single penalty, which has got to be a first for the season.

INJURIES
None that I saw, which is a nice change from losing a man or two every week. In fact, several of our men returned to the field this week: James Starks (YES!) was back for the offense, and though I am not completely sure I believe I saw Josh Sitton bouncing around out there too. On the defensive side, Desmond Bishop returned after what feels like an eternity.

Still out are Bryan Bulaga, Chad Clifton, Greg Jennings, Ryan Pickett. My hope is we will see at least Pickett and Jennings return for the playoffs, but probably not before that.

NEXT WEEK: The Lions in Lambeau. Rawr! Let’s hope we can finish the season strong!

Regardless of how average this win seemed to be, it was nice to see the team smile again, and to know that we’ll be playing our games leading up to the Super Bowl on our own field. They always play so much better at home.

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Packers vs Chiefs: Insult and Injuries

Packers (13-0) vs Chiefs (5-8)
Date: December 18th
At: Kansas
Outcome: 19-14 Chiefs

Three weeks ago after the win against the Giants, I half-joked about betting $10 on the Chiefs to win, just in case. Now I’m sorry I didn’t. A pile of cash would’ve bought a lot of whiskey in which to drown my sorrows.

THE OPPONENT
By all accounts, the Chiefs are a pretty inconsistent team with a pattern prior to this week of lose 3-win 4-lose 4-win-lose. This week they had an effective strategy that targeted the Packers’ weaknesses. As I’ve said before, the only way to get around the Packers is to change things up and do something that they have never seen before so they can’t anticipate your next move. With an interim coach in his first week and a rookie quarterback starting his first game, I would say the Chiefs had a jump on the element of surprise, whether they meant to or not. Their offense was able to gain yards both through rushing and passing to multiple receivers, and their defense was able to penetrate the Packer offensive line just enough to knock Rodgers of his game. I’m not saying this is a team that can win all the time (obviously), but their game plan certainly hit the Packers in all their soft spots.

THE DEFENSE
As dynamic as the Chiefs were in their offense, they still could not overcome the Packers defense in the red zone, who kept the Chiefs’ scores to a series of field goals and allowed only one touchdown in the middle of the 4th quarter. And thank God–if they had been any less vigilant in the red zone, I probably would’ve gouged my eyes out before halftime.

Where the defense really struggled was on receiver coverage, something that has consistently been an issue this season. Normally, they compensate for this with an impressive number of interceptions, but in this game there was nary a one to be seen. Since Kansas City was not afraid to rush and run out the clock to avoid giving the Packers offense a chance to play, we desperately needed the defense to step up and rip that ball away from them. Even one interception might have made all the difference in the end.

THE OFFENSE
There’s only one word I need to describe the Packer’s offense this week: INCOMPLETE.

Not to diminish the presence of people like Newhouse and Grant, but...I think you see the point I'm making here.

First: With a half a dozen plus people out injured, our offense has been whittled down to almost nothing. The lack of protection from his tackles and guards gives Rodgers less time to make passing decisions. Furthermore, with both Starks and Saine out injured, Grant was the only really choice for rushing yards. The problem is that Rodgers’ handoffs are really obvious–I mean, neon sign obvious. Therefore, Grant rarely made it more than a few feet before he was stopped. In order to score, Rodgers had to be able to pass in a hurry and trust his receivers to make the catch.

I picture this almost every time I see Rodgers do a handoff. A little stealth would go a long way.

Second: Rodgers was not able to trust his receivers. Apparently Finley’s bad acts over the past few weeks were just the beginning because there were more incomplete passes in this game than there were in the rest of the season all together (I think).

Maybe I’m not giving the Chiefs’ defense enough credit, but I think that by the beginning of the fourth quarter, Rodgers was so panicked that they could’ve stood still and waved their arms and it wouldn’t have made any difference.

If this is what I had to choose from, I would panic too.

The drive to the second and final touchdown (which Rodgers ran into the endzone himself) looked more like the glorious Packers we all know and love, but by then it was too little, too late.

INJURIES
Mostly notable, Derek Sherrod sustained a big hit to the leg in the final minutes of the game and was carted off the field in a stretcher. Most recent news is that his leg is broken and he will not return to the field this season.

Also, Bryan Bulaga left the game with a sprained knee in the first half. Funny, but that did not register at the time. I guess I was too preoccupied with shame to notice. As of yet, there is no news on the severity of the injury or when we can expect him back in the lineup.

NEXT WEEK: The Bears back in Lambeau. Maybe with homefield advantage for the last two games we can gain back some of the respect that was no doubt lost in this game.

In a way, this loss is a relief. Now we can actually play some football games instead of worrying about our season record. However, I am afraid that this is not just a loss, but the beginning of a downward trend. We’ve lost a lot of our most essential offensive players, and I’m wondering: how many parts can you take away from the whole before it collapses like so many Jenga bricks? And, with the Packers sustaining an average of almost one offense player injured per game…and with a lot of the big guys already gone…how long before Rodgers is the one taking a hit he can’t walk away from?

I’m hopeful the loss will shake the Packers up and remind them what it feels like to seek a comeback, but I’m also worried that fire in the belly isn’t enough to compensate for lack of firepower on the field.

What I see in my nightmares. Hopefully next week I'll be able to draw Rodgers with that bear head mounted on his wall...but at this point it's too soon to tell.

The Joy of Hatemas

Personally, I LOOOOOVE the holidays (all five Os of it). Sit me down in the middle of a mall with a cup of coffee and an IPod full of yuletide tunes and I’m in heaven. However, I know that many people don’t share my love of the crazy Christmas season. For some, it’s the most woeful time of the year. Especially if everyone around them is walking around in a candy cane scented cloud of good cheer.

But never fear, my grinchy friends! I’ve got a list of angry, explosions-and-anger fueled diversions that are still holiday-appropriate. Add them to your holiday arsenal and whip them out when your elfy-type friends and loved ones (such as yours truly) gambol in your general direction with a glass of wassail and a brightly sugared snowman cookie and chirp, “Let’s do something CHRISTMASSY!”

Note: If the above image just sent shivers of disgust down your spine and made you want to hurl glass ornaments against your garage door, then you’re definitely in the right place.

MOVIES
The Ref (1994)

Denis Leary plays a cat burglar who gets trapped in a sleep Connecticut town after a botched Christmas Eve robbery. With the police closing in, he takes a middle-aged couple with marital problems (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) as hostages. But as their bickering and bitching continues regardless of the life-threatening situation, you start to wonder who the real victim is, especially once the rest of the family shows up for Christmas dinner. Also starring Christine Baranski and Glynis Johns.

 

 

 

 

 

This is probably the most blatantly Christmas-themed of the films I offer to you, but with Leary’s snide comments (not to mention filthy mouth), the fact that it’s Christmas only makes the bitterness that much richer and more enjoyable, not to mention frickin’ hilarious.

Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis stars as the iconic John McClane, a New York City cop on vacation in LA as he tries to reconnect with his estranged wife and daughter. However, the Christmas party at his wife’ company is hijacked by a group of terrorists (or so it seems…) led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). With all the employees taken as hostages, it’s up to John McClane to save Christmas…er, I mean, everyone’s lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, do you really need any more reason to watch this movie? It’s a classic, holiday or otherwise, and if you haven’t see it yet–for shame!

Psycho (1960)

A secretary (Vivien Leigh) hopes to gain a better life by stealing a large sum of money from her employer and leaving town. On her way to her long time and somewhat illicit lover, she stops for the night at the Bates Motel, run by unassuming hotelier Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Hilarity ensues!

And by hilarity, I mean murder, cover-up, investigation, more murder, and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s weird but true–Psycho is technically a Christmas movie! Maybe the best kind of Christmas movie for some of you, as no one learns a valuable lesson and there is not a flake of snow to be found (it’s primarily set in Phoenix, after all). The slate at the beginning of the film puts the first day of the story in the beginning of December, and if you look carefully during a few scenes, you can spy Christmas decorations. Take that, girlfriend-looking-to-cuddle-up-with-a-heartwarming-Christmas-tale! No Rudolph for you this year!

BOOK
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

This collection of six short stories depict a darker, more unusual side of the holiday season. The range in form, from straight narrative, to a holiday play review, to one of those family update Christmas letters you might receive with a picture of a smiling family. My favorite is “Dinah, the Christmas Whore”, mostly because it’s based on a real life occurrence (at least, it’s written to make you believe it is). It’s also the most sentimental story in the bunch, so if you’re looking for something harder, I would suggest “Christmas Means Giving,” which is a beautiful, biting piece of satire on consumption and one-upsmanship.

 

 

 

Holidays on Ice a small book, only 134 pages and about half the size of a standard paperback, but if I had to do it over again I would buy the audio version, read by Sederis himself. The stories are written as if they should read aloud anyway–more specifically, read aloud with Sedaris’s endearing deadpan delivery.

Besides, reading is a solitary activity, and holiday resentment just isn’t the same if you can’t share it with the people you love via audio transmission.

GAME
Angry Birds Seasons

You play as a group of birds (or a murder of crow…birds…if you want to be excessively irate and don’t mind pushing definitions just a bit). Several green pigs stole your eggs and hid them being a series of rickety structures and ill-placed rocks. Retrieve them by hurling your feathery squadron at the questionable strongholds.

The Holiday version of Angry Birds (entitled “Seasons Greedings,” in case you weren’t sufficiently irritated yet) functions like a 25 Days of Christmas calendar, with 25 levels for you to play as you count down to Christmas Day and the end of your torment. Play one level a day for extended catharsis, or play all at once to really blow off some steam.

As a nice bonus, if you acquire Angry Birds Seasons to expunge your Christmas rage, you will also have access to other holiday editions as well, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Just in case your hatred is the kind of gift that gives regardless of the season.

Merry Hatemas, Every One!

Packers vs Raiders: A Game of Technical Difficulties

Packers (12-0) vs Raiders (7-5)
Date: December 11th
At: Green Bay
Outcome: 46-16 Packers

Don’t let the score fool you–it wasn’t as boring as it looks.

THE OPPONENT

There was no way the Raiders ever had a real chance of winning this game with the way they were playing. Aside from the fact that the Packers struck first with an interception and a touchdown and just kept expanding their lead from there, the Raiders performance was just not strong enough to bring much of a challenge. Their running game was nearly non-existent, especially with Hawk back on the line this week. Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer managed to move the ball down the field via short passes down the middle (traditionally the glaring weak point in the Packer defense), but nearly every Raider drive ended with a choke in the end zone. Their startling number of penalties committed and interceptions suffered were just the disappointing icing on their cake of failure.

The Packers defense is an impenetrable fortress....with one minor exception.

THE DEFENSE

The Packers defensive line felt stronger and performed better than last week. Hawk’s return is probably partially responsible, but let’s not forget that the defensive line has been comprised mainly of newbies for the last few games, what with various people in and out due to injuries. Now that they’ve spend time on the field, they’re finally getting a handle on the game–newer players D.J. Smith and Robert Francois racked up one interception apiece this week. As long as they can fight off the complacency-due-to-awesomeness disease, I expect we will see the defense only get stronger over the last few games of the season.

THE OFFENSE

This was the week for the quiet offensive players to come out of their shells. With Starks out due to an ankle injury, Grant had a chance to shine, running the ball for two of the four touchdowns scored by the offense. Ryan Taylor, the rookie tight end, made his first career catch for the third touchdown, and Nelson contributed the fourth (in the traditional manner, of course). Everything was running so well that Rodger’s turned the field over to Flynn near the end of the third quarter and, even though the Packers didn’t score another touchdown and the Raiders managed to eke out a safety, it wasn’t enough. Flynn would have been physically and temporarily incapable of losing that game no matter what.

The only person who was conspicuously absent from most offensive plays this week? You know it –Jermichael Finley. He really only popped up once, in an tangled endzone catch that, after review, ended in a Raiders touchback.

If you ask me, it’s about time he was shelved for a little bit. He can stay on the field to distract the defense, but if he can’t make the catches, he doesn’t deserve the ball. Period.

An artistic rendering of Finley's missed catch. I like to call it the Yin Yang Reception. It makes you think: can anyone ever really "possess" the ball? Also Finley is super lame.

As you can see, it’s no miracle that the Packers dominated this game, and after a while it looked like it was going to be a long, slow march to an overwhelming victory. While that did end up happening, there were a lot of bizarre fumbles and catches to shake things up. Combine that with a review monitor malfunction in the third quarter to prevent review of said unclear events, and the game was at least eventful, if not surprising.

INJURIES

The big injury suffered in this game is on Greg Jennings, who limped off the field near the end of the third quarter. Latest news says Jennings has a sprained knee and will be out for a few weeks, but we should see him back for the playoffs.

In other news, Brandon Saine suffered a head injury in the first half and was removed from the game, but he should be back next week.

NEXT WEEK: The Chiefs in Kansas City. After firing their head coach, do they have a shot? And what of the Packers? We’re already in the play-offs with a first week bye, but one more win means we’ll play all our play-off games at Lambeau. Can we do it?

If this week is any indication…absolutely.

One Man’s Trash…

Would you pay $500+ for a roomful of someone’s abandoned crap? No? Well…would you like to watch a show about people who do?

Storage Wars
Format: Half hour televisions show
Category: Reality
Premise: In California, when the rent on a storage unit lapses for 3 months, the contents of the locker are sold in an auction setting. Storage Wars follows five habitual auction-goers as they bid on units and uncover buried treasure…and sometimes, trash.
Original Broadcast Channel: A&E
Off the Wire Location: Netflix (season 1); most recently aired episode available on the A&E website (season 2) along with bonus scenes.

I’ve always been iffy on A&E programming, mostly because the majority of it walks the line between exploring a niche group of people that live lives you never thought existed, and simply exploiting people in weird and unfortunate circumstances (Hoarders and Intervention specifically come to mind).

I did, for a brief period, watch Gene Simmons Family Jewels, but I stopped after one season. It was just too sad.

In a way, Storage Wars does capitalize on misfortune in so much as the stuff left behind most likely belonged to people who fell on hard times. If you can get past that aspect of it, the show is very entertaining and thoroughly addictive.

The format of the show is split into 2 parts: the auction and the appraisals.

1) The Auction
For the first third of the show, the location is introduced (these auctions take place in various towns all over California), the lockers are surveyed and then sold. Unlike a regular auction, where you know exactly what you’re buying and what it’s worth, these bidders are only allowed to stand at the entrance of the unit and look in, without entering or touching anything in the unit.

Because 4 of the 5 main characters make their livings reselling the items they buy, bidding is more about intuition and luck than about blindly throwing money around–since they have to resell the stuff for a profit, it’s essential that they spend as little as possible.

Given these restrictions, the auctions can get pretty competitive, particularly when Dave Hester (consignment store owner and most established of the quintet) decides to bid on units not because he wants them, but just to drive the price up. This is particularly irksome to independent reseller Darrell Sheets, and very troubling for couple Jarrod and Brandi Schulz, who own a smaller thrift store and can’t afford to pay so much most of the time.

The  fifth man in the game, Barry, is a senior oddball new to the storage locker auction world who’s really just their to find that one awesome collectible, which makes him less aggressive and therefore the most fun. After all, this is the guy that has brought a little person on stilts with night vision goggles and psychics to the auctions to help him score the right locker.

From the left: Barry Weiss, Brandi Schulz, Jarrod Schulz, Dave Hester, Darrell Sheets, Brandon Sheets (Darrell's Son).

2) The Appraisal 
After the auction is over, everyone who bought a locker digs through their piles of empty plastic bags and IKEA furniture hoping to find the big score. Sometimes they make their money back, and sometimes they don’t, but it’s the truly unexpected discoveries that make the show worth watching. Some of the best finds include:

  • A painting with thousands in $20 bills taped behind it
  • A cache of vintage flare guns
  • A box of bones
  • A wardrobe full of suits that once belonged to rap producer Suge Knight.

At the end of the show, the profits for each person are tallied and a winner is declared. It’s a small thing, but it provides a nice sense of closure and at times, justice. Not to point out anyone in particular (Dave), but it’s disturbingly satisfying to see people lose money if they’ve been acting like a jerk.

Storage Wars is an interesting look at a part of American commerce that you would otherwise never know about. The speed of the auction makes it more exciting than other appraisal programs (Antiques RoadshowPawn Stars, etc) but the real draw of the show (and the draw to the life of a Storage Warrior in general) is the dream of finding hidden treasure and reaching a big fat payday simply by showing up, yelling really loud, and digging through a little bit of garbage.

Hmmm….that sounds a lot like what hobos do. Except they don’t have to pay for the privilege.

One word of caution: The theme song is really cool, but also SUPER catchy and it will be in your head for days after you hear it. Proceed with caution.