Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Enjoy the Show

24 is back on TV, and not surprisingly, controversy has followed with it, with the show coming under attack from two camps: those claiming it's anti-Muslim, and those who claim that the show is "right-wing propaganda". Both claims, of course, are patently ridiculous--the "good guys" within the political administrations have been Democrats since Day 1 back in 2001--in fact, the only Republican president that the show has had turned out to be one of the "bad guys". And the claims of anti-Islamic bias either haven't seen the show or purposely ignore characters like the former-terrorist-turned-terrorist-hunter, the head of the Islamic group who goes undercover to get information for the FBI, or the Arab-American who works directly for CTU with Jack Bauer. Maybe if these people were a little more concerned with the Arabs who were playing terrorists on September 11th, or those who play terrorists in Israel and Iraq now, they wouldn't have to worry so much about their portrayal on 24.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

2006 Giants Postmortem

The conference championships are upon us once again, and once again, my New York Football Giants are nowhere to be found, as they haven't been for the last six years. At least I got to watch the Saints knock the hated Eagles out in a Reading, PA bar--albeit one with enough other folks rooting for the Saints that I was disappointed there weren't more people there to rub the loss in to. (It probably saved me a beating, though--there was a higher concentration of gold chains, IROCs, and mullets
this side of a Jets pregame tailgate party or Shea Stadium.)

Nonetheless, that was a small consolation after the performance of my own chosen team since early November--from 6-2 with talk of a playoff bye, home field advantage, and a Super Bowl appearance to 8-8 and just barely squeaking out the last wild card playoff seed with a less-than-impressive win against the horrible Redskins, then an early exit from
said playoffs in the first round. Here's my take on what needs to be improved for next season.

Offense: Eli Manning definitely took a step backwards that became much more pronounced when #2 receiver Amani Toomer went out for the season with a knee injury. He has a tendency to overthrow receivers, and gets away with some throws that he shouldn't (and won't, in the long term) because Toomer, Plaxico Burress, and Jeremy Shockey are taller than many other receivers. One thing's for sure, he won't continue to improve with Kevin Gilbride (that would be the Chargers head coach who brought the world Ryan Leaf as the quarterbacks coach. Gilbride is rumored to be in line for the vacant Giants' O.C. post, where I think he'll do much less damage than he did as Manning's QB coach. Failing that, he needs to be fired outright. Tiki Barber gave us a great final season, but Brandon Jacobs also proved that he deserves a shot at being the #1 RB next year. He reminds me of a stronger Rodney Hampton--I just hope his career can last a bit longer. The offensive line played well right up until Luke Petitgout went out for the year with a broken leg, and the pathetic Bob Whitfield stepped in, combining the physical breakdowns of a veteran with the hotheaded personal fouls of a rookie to prove once and for all that the Giants still need to add depth on their line. Burress was (rightfully) seen on giving up on plays after Manning threw interceptions, and Shockey at times seemed to be the only one who cared about how this team's season turned out despite putting up mediocre-for-him numbers. Overall grade: B-

Defense: The defensive line was so banged up at one point this season that first-round DT bust William Joseph was starting games at defensive end. Despite that, Osi Umenyiora was his typical solid self (when healthy), as was Fred Robbins. The two rookies on the line, Barry Cofield and Mathias Kiwanuka, both made good contributions--Cofield was an every-week starter, and Kiwanuka proved he has the physical tools to be one as well, so long as he shapes up his mental game. The linebackers played well enough, with the exception of Carlos Emmons, but they have enough talent there that they shouldn't need to go looking for a free agent replacement, provided they can hang onto all of the 'backers they've got right now. The secondary--well, that's a different story. Sam Madison reminds me of Will Allen with worse hands. McQuarters has the speed to be a nickel corner, but seems lacking as a starter. It's still too early to judge Corey Webster, especially as he can't seem to stay healthy enough to stay on the field. The safeties were average-to-below-average throughout the year--Gibril Wilson still hasn't lived up to his rookie season, and Will Demps started out below expectations but played better toward the end of the season (when the rest of the team started to slump). Coordinator Tim Lewis is gone. Hopefully, he's taken his soft zone coverage and lackluster blitz schemes with him. Overall grade: C

Special teams: From a kicking standpoint, Feagles was his usual outstanding self (hopefully we've got one more year before he retires to a life of family and golf) and Feely was reliable (appearing to have overcome his Norwoodesque performance in Seattle last year). The Giants lacked a standout kickoff returner, but they were surehanded, as was punt returner Chad Morton, at least until his injury. Coverage was about average, with tackling being somewhat below average. Overall grade: B

As a team, I'd give the Giants a B- grade overall for the year, avoiding slipping down into the C ratings only by virtue of the fact that they made the playoffs--which is more an indictment of the NFC than a credit to the Giants organization. Hopefully, new general manager Jerry Reese and some new coordinators and assistants can get a little more out of the talent that they have and improve some of their weaker areas--in the era of the salary cap and league parity, there's only a small window to make the Super Bowl before needing a major overhaul, and the Giants' window is closing fast.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Hip Hip Hooray For Christmas Vacation

I'm back at work this week after 11 and 1/2 days off for the holidays (God, I love working in academia.) So I took a little vacation from this here blog thing, too, while I was at it, and...wow, did I miss out on the Christmas of celebrity deaths for me to comment on. So here goes--because better late than never.

James Brown--The Godfather of Soul. What more can I say? I can't claim to be his biggest fan or anything even close, but I'm very familiar with his work, and a lot of songs that I enjoy were at least indirectly influenced by him. At least he outlived Apollo Creed.

Gerald Ford--God rest the soul of a former President. He was before my time, and he was able to see the country safely through the period between Watergate and the late '70s gas crisis.

Saddam Hussein--Rot in Hell, motherfucker. The only negative I can think of about his execution is that I wish the Iraqis who carried out his execution had at least been wearing uniforms and actual hoods instead of fatigues and ski masks. I'm not big on death scenes (you'll never see me browsing rotten.com or ogrish.com), but I did watch the YouTube vid of Saddam's execution, and didn't even flinch, but it looked like he was about to be beheaded by Al-Zarqawi instead of executed by a legitimate government. But hey, who am I to tell another country how to carry out their executions? May your 72 virgins ram you up the ass with a strap-on for all eternity.