Friday, August 20, 2010

NFL Season Preview: NFC West

And we come to the weakest division in Football, the NFC West. If each division weren't guaranteed a playoff berth for it's winner, this division wouldn't have anyone in.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals's have surprisingly been the best team in this division the past 2 years. In 2009-2009, they even went to the Super Bowl and came very close to winning it. The biggest question this season however, comes in the form of QB Matt Leinart. For the past 2 years, future Hall-of-Fame QB Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to become one of the more feared offenses in the NFL. His end-of-career resurgence almost led to a Super Bowl win for this team, something nobody would have dreamed of even 3 years ago. Warner retired at the end of last season, leaving the completely untested Leinart to run the offense. Although he was one of my favorite college football players ever, Leinart has been a huge disappointment as a pro. He is going to need to take an enormous step forward this season as a QB and a leader, or he's going to find himself out of the NFL and labeled a bust.

He has the weapons to succeed however. He has some great receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, a solid RB duo in Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower, and the offensive line is one of the better pass-protection lines in the NFL. If Leinart plays reasonably well, this team should win the division crown going away. If not, the 2 year run is officially over.

Never their strong point, the Card's D took some hits as key players left in Free Agency. Expect little resistance to running games and inconsistent pass coverage. Leinart is going to have to adjust quickly, because they Card's are going to need to score A LOT in order to win.

10-6, tied for 1st in NFC West

St. Louis Rams

The Rams are one of the worst teams in the NFL. They're slowly building through the draft, but have a long way to go. On offense, they're led by All-Pro Running Back Steven Jackson, and a some other guys. Literally, Jackson runs that offense as nobody else is even worth mentioning. Rookie QB Sam Bradford will eventually be a very good starter, but he's going to experience lots of growing pains this year.

The bright spot? The Offensive line is solid and young, and Steven Jackson should run for over 1,000 yards again.

What defense? Anybody playing the Rams can expect to put up 30 points with little resistance. The run D is awful, the passing D is worse, and expect lots of rookie mistakes as the Rams are very, very young.

3-13, 4th in NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

This is a team that can surprise some people. The 49ers have been very patient, slowly getting back into the fold, and this season they are poised to break out. Alex Smith helms the offense and finally looks like a good starting QB. Michael Crabtree is a stud WR who is going to wreak havoc with an entire season in which to work. Frank Gore is one of the best RB's in the game and runs behind a huge and powerful offensive line, including LT Adam Snyder (A friend of mine from High School). The offense will not be a juggernaut, but they will score and keep the team in the game.

This is the strength of the 49ers. Head Coach Mike Singletary stresses Defense and these guys respond. They don't have a bunch of flashy big names, but they play cohesively as a unit and can stymie some very good offenses. They are however, prone to the occasional lapse, which can cost them dearly (See last years game against the Vikings), but overall, expect a good year from this team.

10-6, tied for 1st in NFC West

Seattle Seahawks

A year of transition for the Seahawks results in almost entirely new personnel. (St.) Pete Carroll takes over as Head Coach after leading USC the most dominant run in college football history. With a lot of new faces, and a healthy Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks will improve on last year's dismal record. Don't expect this team to put up a ton of points, but TJ Houshmenzadeh gets some help at WR in the form of Mike Williams, who by all accounts is back and in the best shape of his life. We'll see what this offense does...

They had a great draft on D and will improve on last year's awful, porous D, but don't expect miracles, Hawk's fans. In 2-3 years, this team is going to be a powerhouse and a Super Bowl contender, though, this year, minor improvements should suffice.

6-10, 3rd in NFC West

Thursday, August 19, 2010

NFL Season Preview: AFC West

(Quick Thank You to Brittany over at Unexpected Surprises for featuring me today! So excited!!)

It's that wonderful time of year again! For the ladies, this means your husband turns into a mindless vegetable sitting on the couch every Sunday eating food so unhealthy the dog politely declined it. For the men, it's football season (And to a lesser extent, to the fathers, it's also the-kids-are-finally-back-in-school/activities-and-out-of-your-way season).

Football was invented by god to let us comfortably have man-crushes while geeking out on stats and numbers nobody really cares about.

For the next few days, I'm going to preview each division in the NFL and give predictions. Today, I start with the AFC West, Home of my San Diego Chargers.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos are historically a pass-oriented, offensive football team. This was primarily an effect of the fact that John Elway (greatest QB in NFL History) was at the helm from 1984 - 1999. The guy went to 5 Super Bowls, willing them on his own to the first 3. However, since his retirement, Denver has had to deal with the likes of Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler and Kyle Orton. All guys who I wouldn't pick to play QB in a pick-up flag football league, let alone the NFL. The Broncos have some problems.

The Broncos offense took some heavy losses this off-season and training camp. They traded one of the best receivers in the NFL in Brandon Marshall to Miami, immediately making them relevant. They then went and drafted Tim Tebow, another awful QB, in the 1st round of the draft with future star receiver Dez Bryant still available. In Training Camp, they lost both starting RB's to injury and now are going with a guy from the practice squad.

Of course, Denver's O-line, thanks to a great zone-blocking scheme, produces 1,000 yard rushers like Antonio Cromartie produces children. However, without any kind of passing game, (TE Tony Scheffler is getting old) the Broncos are going to have lot's of trouble scoring points.

The Broncos are a slightly above average Defensive team, though losing sacks leader Elvis Dumervil is going to take a huge toll this season. They play decent pass coverage, but with Champ Bailey aging, they can't keep relying on his athletic ability. Needless to say, this could be a long year in the Mile High City.

6-10, 4th in the AFC West.

 Kansas City Chiefs

In recent history, the Chiefs have been known more as Kansas Shitty than anything else. To be blunt, they've been terrible. However, this year looks like a possible breakout season. With QB Matt Cassell having a year under his belt, RB Jamaal Charles running all over the field and Dwayne Bowe as one of the better young WR's in the game, KC is moving in the right direction. Not to mention the fact that they re-staffed the team with what was essentially New England's four-Super Bowl winning coaching staff. This is an offense that is going to be fun to watch and will sneak up on some very good teams.

Though the offense is going to be improved, the Defense has a few more steps to take before we call this team a contender. Drafting Safety Eric Berry was huge and he'll be a vocal leader out there on the field, but the D-line needs to get pressure on the QB more consistently, while the Linebacking corps needs to be able to stop the run occasionally.

This is a playoff team and Super Bowl 3 years.

8-8, 3rd in the AFC West.

   Oakland Raiders

The most hated team in football (at least for me) is the Raiders. Usually staffed with thugs and behavior issue guys, (not to mention the fact that their fans can't go 15 minutes without rioting) the Raiders have been terrible since 2002. However, they are much improved this year and could challenge for a playoff spot. At QB, releasing Jamarcus "Purple Drank" Russell was a long overdue move. They traded for Jason Campbell, who is a solid, though unspectacular QB who will be an enormous upgrade (At this point, I would have a better QB rating than Jamarcus) and a huge boost to their offense.

The offensive line is solid, they have 2 potential 1,000 yard rushers in the backfield and very good Tight End in Heath Miller. The only concern is the WR corps. Staffed by 3 2nd year guys, two of which did nothing last year, in addition to a few new faces, the Raiders have no proven receiver. Jason Campbell will find Heath Miller and Darren McFadden can be a scat back occasionally, but if the Raiders want to be considered a contender and make the playoffs for the first time in 8 years, they need the receivers to step up.

Though I hate them, I have no problem admitting that Oakland has one of the better Defenses in the NFL. This team can simply shut you down. Denver and KC will have a very hard time in their meetings this year, though San Diego has too many weapons for any D outside of Baltimore. The Defense will keep this team in games, and if the offense can capitalize, this could be the year the Raiders return to prominence.

10-6, 2nd AFC West, Wild Card berth

And now we come to the class of the AFC West, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are absolutely loaded on offense. QB Philip Rivers is in the MVP discussion, their enormous receivers are not only all over 6'3", they are big, physical and fast. TE Antonio Gates is one of the best of all-time. Rookie RB Ryan Mathews is going to be an enormous improvement over the aging Ladanian Tomlinson from last season. RB Darren Sproles is one of the shiftiest, quickest guys out there and will be used as a scatback often by Coach Norv Turner. The offensive line if not flashy, but they are hard-working guys who get their jobs done, and done well. This team can potentially put up 30+ points per game with little trouble.

The Defense, a weakness last season, is going to be much improved. The secondary is far more physical than in previous years, the linebacking corps is stacked with Shawne Merriman back, and the D-Line looks like they may have found 2 diamonds in the rough in Antonio Garay and Cam Williams. The Chargers need to get over the hump in the playoffs and bring a Super Bowl title to San Diego. If they can stay healthy this year, they're my favorite to win it all.

13-3, 1st AFC West, #1 seed in AFC.

Tomorrow, I'll preview the NFC West.....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trying out this Survey thing...

So, I know a lot of blogger's do these themed days, some of which have survey questions to get to know each other better. I figured I'd take part and see how it goes.

{one} who’s the funniest person you know?

Either my best friend, Chris or my brother, Keith. Both are ridiculously hilarious.

{two} were you a Michael Jackson fan?

Absolutely! The man was amazingly talented in so many ways. He could dance, he could sing, he was a musician, he could act (sorta) and despite all the vicious rumors, he was a great person.

{three} what was your favorite book as a child?

I was a big fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I also liked the Indian in the Cupboard series.

{four} what’s the most delicious meal you’ve ever eaten?

Either a 4x4 from in-N-Out, or Filet Mignon.

{five} if you could eliminate on thing you do each day in the bathroom so you never had to do it again, what would it be?

Shaving. I hate shaving everyday, but I also hate looking like a mountain man.

{six} if you could ask Barak Obama one question, what would it be?
"Why are you so ridiculously awesome?"

{seven} what’s the best place near you to get a drink?

All bars are pretty much the same. I prefer a winery.

{eight} what kind of music can you just not stand to listen to?

Country. God, it's awful.

{nine} who and when was your first kiss?

First official make-out kiss was a girl named Denise Martinez in 6th grade. Her parents wanted her to marry me or something. I think it may have been a citizenship thing though....

{ten} what 3 things do you think will become obsolete in the next ten years?

1 - Republicans
2 - Gas-engine cars
3 - Blockbuster Video
4 - Computer Keyboards and Mouses
5 - CD Players
6 - Religion
7 - Marriage
8 - Filing Cabinets
9 - Myspace
10 - Sports networks not named ESPN

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Traditionial Marriage Perverts the Tradition of Marriage

A brilliant playwright recently sent this editorial out regarding Prop 8. I saw it on another blog I read and absolutely loved it. Probably the most well-written opinion about the gay marriage issue. Enjoy.

Traditional Marriage Perverts the Tradition of Marriage
by Jeff Goode (Californian)

About a decade ago, as a young playwright, I was hired to write a script for the Renaissance Festival of Kansas City. It was a period piece about knights and jousts and intrigues of the court, building up to a lavish royal wedding between a prince and a princess, restoring peace to the troubled land.

This was one of my first professional writing assignments, so I was really excited about doing all the research and making sure that everything was historically accurate, especially the royal wedding which needed to follow all the traditions exactly.

Over a summer of research, I learned a lot of surprising facts about the history of marriage and weddings, but by far the most shocking discovery of all was that the tradition of marriage-as-we-know-it simply did not exist in those days. Almost everything we have come to associate with marriage and weddings -- the white dress, the holy vows, the fancy cake and the birdseed -- dates back a mere 50 or 100 years at the most. In many cases less.

And the handful of traditions that do go back farther than that are, frankly, horrifying. The tossing of the garter, for example, evolved from a 14th Century tradition of ripping the clothing off of the bride's body as she left the ceremony in order to "loosen her up" for the wedding night. Wedding guests fought over the choicest bits of undergarment, with the garter being the greatest prize.

Savvy brides got in the habit of carrying extra garters in their bodice to throw to the male guests in hopes of escaping the ceremony with some shred of modesty intact!

It turns out that marriage, in days of old, was a barbaric custom which was little more than a crude exchange of livestock at its most civilized, and a little less than ritualized abduction at its worst. That's why you'll find no reference to white weddings in the Bible, or the union of one man and one woman. Because up until fairly recently, there was nothing religious about it.

You will of course find plenty of biblical bigamy, practiced by even the most godly of heroes-- Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon -- because that's what marriage was in those days. Even in more enlightened New Testament times, the only wedding worth mentioning (the one at Cana) is notable only for the miraculous amount of wine consumed.

In the 21st Century, we've heard a lot about the sanctity of marriage, as if that were something that has been around forever, but in reality the phrase was invented in 2004. Google it for yourself and see if you can find a single reference to the "sanctity of marriage" before the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions in that state. The proverbial Sanctity of Marriage sprang into being because opponents of gay marriage needed a logical reason to overturn an established legal precedent. And the only thing that trumps the Constitution is God himself.

Unfortunately, God is still pretty new to the whole marriage game (or he might have made an honest woman out of the Virgin Mary, am I right? Try the veal!)

The truth is that marriage has always been more a secular tradition rather than a religious one. Up until the early Renaissance, in fact, couples were traditionally married on the church's front doorstep, because wedding ceremonies were considered too vulgar to be performed inside the building: After all, there was implied sex in the vows and shameless public displays of affection. No clergyman in his right mind would have allowed such an unholy abomination on the premises.

But as times changed, ideas and attitudes about marriage also changed. So when people became religious, matrimony became holy. When people became nudists, clothing became optional. And so on throughout history.

And the wonderful thing about the institution of marriage -- the reason it has remained strong and relevant through thousands of years of ever-changing times -- is its unique ability to change with those times.

Marriage is, and always has been, a constantly evolving tradition that never fails to incorporate the latest shifts in culture and climate, changing social habits, fashions and even fads. (Because, seriously, that chicken dance is not in the Bible.)

Thus, in the 1800s when the sole purpose of marriage was procreation and housekeeping, marriage between an older man and a hard-working tween girl was considered perfectly normal. Today we call it pedophilia.

For thousands of years marriage was essentially a business transaction between the parents of the bride and groom. But in the last century or so, we've finally seen the triumph of this new-fangled notion that marriage should be about a loving relationship between two consenting adults.

Followers of the Mormon faith can tell you that the traditions of their forefathers included a devout belief that polygamy was appropriate and sanctified. But modern Mormons generally don't support that vision of happiness for their daughters.

And during the Civil Rights era, when opponents of interracial marriage tried to pass laws making such couples illegal, we came to realize that they, too, were wrong in trying to redefine marriage to prevent those newfound relationships.

Always marriage has triumphed by becoming a timely celebration of our society, rather than a backlash against it. It's strange, then, to see "tradition" used as a weapon against change, when change is the source of all its greatest traditions.

Just ask the white dress: In 1840, Queen Victoria of England married Prince Albert wearing a beautiful white lace dress -- in defiance of tradition -- in order to promote the sale of English lace! The image was so powerful that practically overnight the white wedding gown became de rigueur for the well-heeled bride. And then it became de rigueur for every bride.

By the dawn of the 20th Century, the white dress had also inexplicably come to symbolize chastity. (Even though blue was traditionally the color of virginity --"something borrowed, something blue...")

And the new equation of white with virginity eventually achieved such a rigid orthodoxy that older readers may remember a time when wedding guests who happened to know that the bride was not perfectly pure would have felt a moral obligation to demand that she change into something off-white before walking down the aisle.

Fortunately, as cultural norms eased during the Sexual Revolution, a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" policy took hold where all brides were required to wear white regardless of their virtue and the less said about it the better.

In recent years, as a generation of divorcees have remarried and a generation of young people have entered wedlock with some degree of "experience", the pretense of a connection between literal virginity and the bridal gown has become entirely obsolete. A colorful journey for a custom which has always seemed iron clad, even as it was evolving over time.

And not all traditions have to do with changing sexual standards. The long-time custom of pelting the newlyweds with birdseed did not exist before the 1970s when animal-lovers realized that songbirds were bloating on dried rice that they found on the ground after the former custom.

Economic times have caused families to rethink the age-old convention of the bride's father paying for the entire ceremony -- a last vestige of the days of dowries when a young man had to be bribed to take a free-loading daughter off her parents' hands -- that well-established custom has gradually given way to a more humane approach to sharing the financial burden.

Even religious traditions of marriage have experienced constant metamorphosis over the years. As more interfaith couples have wed, we have seen the emergence of multi-disciplinary ceremonies where couples have chosen not to follow the out-dated tradition of rejecting one or both of their faiths as a prerequisite of holy matrimony.

One of the most beautiful weddings I ever attended was between a young Jewish fellow and his Catholic fiancé, whose mother was born in France. The ceremony was performed by both a rabbi and a priest with intertwining vows in English, Latin, Hebrew and French. A perfect expression of the union of their two families, yet one which would have been unthinkable just a generation before.

But, again, marriage has such a long history of changing with the ever-changing times, that the last thing we should expect from it is to stop growing and changing. We know today that marriage is not a rote ritual handed down by God to Adam & Eve and preserved verbatim for thousands of years. It is, rather, an expression of how each community, each culture, and each faith, chooses to celebrate the joining of loved ones who have decided to make a life together.

Christians do not expect Jesus to be central to a Buddhist wedding, nor do Jews refuse to acknowledge Lutheran unions because they didn't include a reading from the Torah. Marriage is what we each make of it. And that's the way it always should be.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the traditional marriage argument is that it seeks to preserve a singular tradition that has, in fact, never existed at any point in history.

Because, honestly, which traditional definition of marriage do we want our Constitution to protect?

...The one from Book of Genesis when family values meant multiple wives and concubines?
...Or the marriages of the Middle Ages when women were traded like cattle and weddings were too bawdy for church?
...Since this is America, should we preserve marriage as it existed in 1776 when arranged marriages were still commonplace?
...Or the traditions of 1850 when California became a state and marriage was customarily between one man and one woman-or-girl of age 11 and up?
...Or are we really seeking to protect a more modern vision of traditional marriage, say from the 1950s when it was illegal for whites to wed blacks or Hispanics?
...Or the traditional marriage of the late 1960s when couples were routinely excommunicated for marrying outside their faith?

No, the truth of the matter is, that we're trying to preserve traditional marriage the way it "was and always has been" during a very narrow period in the late 70s / early 80s - just before most of us found out that gays even existed: Between one man and one woman of legal age and willing consent. Regardless of race or religion (within reason). Plus the chicken dance and the birdseed. Those are okay.

But there's something profoundly disturbing about amending the Constitution to define anything about the 1970s as "the way God intended it."