Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Toronto's politicians are not the smartest, as we already know. Today the school board's trustees approved, by an 11-9 vote, something known as a "black-focused school". This, apparently, is a good thing because, according to one parent, "seeing themselves [black students] in the curriculum, in their instructors is what's needed."

Now, I didn't go to high school in Toronto, but in neighbouring Peel region. In fact, some of you went to high school with me. I didn't think it was all that impressive that I graduated, but as I found out during the debate over black schools, it really was. You see, I didn't see myself reflected at all in the curriculum. Pythagoras was white, Niels Bohr was white, Shakespeare was white, the gym teacher was white, Wilfrid Laurier was white, Alfred Wegener was white, and so on. Despite this, I managed to learn the Pythagorean theorem, muddled my way through science class and excelled at history. I was even on the cross country team all four years, even though both coaches were white and didn't incorporate traditional Pakistani teachings on exercise into their coaching. It didn't occur to me to consider the race of those who expounded a particular idea, nor has it ever happened in four years of university, but I now realize that I've overcome immense obstacles all my life.

Black-focused schools will incorporate African world views and teachings, whatever that means, to teach students whose families may have been here for six generations or immigrated from Jamaica, Somalia or Nigeria. In other words, they may have little to no relation to Africa other than having had distant ancestors who lived there, but the idea that not all black people are the same is an outdated one in Toronto. The last time someone thought all black people were really the same, they arbitrarily drew borders between countries, resulting in some countless wars and massacres.

There are immense problems facing black youth in Toronto, but they have little to nothing to do with a lack of Afrocentricism in the curriculum, and much to do with poverty, family breakdowns and the insidious influence of gangsta rap. Addressing those issues is what's necessary to improve the embarrassingly high dropout rate for black students (nearly half). What the trustees and black schools advocates have done is superficial and laughable at best, dangerous at worst.
I wish to suggest, in a perplexing prolixity provided pro bono perhaps predictably, that Sunday's Super-bowl game between the Patriots of New England and the Giants of New York City, can be appropriately analyzed as analogous to the Assyrian empire of the 8th century BC and Michel Foucault's The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception. The Assyrian empire may, on the surface, appear to be not Syrian, much like the English words asymptomatic and asparagus, but it was, in fact, located in what is now Syria. The Assyrians are today best-known for having employed four-and-five-receiver sets on their way towards regional domination. They crushed opponents ruthlessly and were led by a slimeball of an emperor who aimed to win at all costs.

The Giants, needless to say, have no such historical parallel. They also come into the game as huge underdogs, and rightfully so. The Patriots are 18-0 and the Giants 13-6, though it is certainly worth noting that the Giants did not resort to cheating in winning any of those games. To the contrary, the Giants have sought to employ every legal disadvantage at their disposal, quarterback Eli Manning being the most prominent of these. Aside from the defensive line and running back positions, there is no area of the game at which the Giants are better. The Giants supposedly have momentum on their side after winning 3 playoff games on the road, but shouldn't New England have more after winning 18 games in a row, including a win over New York? The Giants are, as I intuited long ago, arguably the worst team to reach the Super Bowl.

The good news for all those who wish to preserve the integrity of the maxim "cheaters never win and winners never cheat" is--well, this is a game of professional football (don't let Eli Manning fool you) and anything can happen. The Giants do have a chance at winning this game. Any team that can pressure Tom Brady has a chance at beating the Patriots, as the Ravens and Eagles have shown. That keeps the game low-scoring, and low-scoring games against bad teams are close, if only by definition. The Giants must rely on their defensive line, which is very fast and as good as any in the league, and jam the receivers. We can assume that this unit will do the job. Is Eli Manning good enough to, then, complete his end of an upset? That requires a Brady-like performance: he needs to score touchdowns, not field goals, and he might need to score when he really needs to.

New York has won three playoff games by a total of 17 points, including its last two by a touchdown. They have beaten two of the four best offenses in the league in their stadia. However, their luck will run out on Sunday in what will be a close but relatively decisive contest. The crucial difference, I'm willing to bet, will be that the Giants will answer Patriot touchdowns with field goals. The Patriots, presciently named in 1959 for the nefarious 2001 legislation that gave the American government dictatorial powers of surveillance, will then win their fourth Super Bowl.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Since half of you are runners, it's only logical to post a link to Runnerville. It's partly the work of Matt Taylor, the creator of Chasing Kimbia.

Runnerville.com is a collection of voices and pens (err, keyboards) brought together to discuss the sport of running. It’s a conversation intended to engage, inspire, and prod the running community. It’s a dialog intended to encourage change. Running has reached the proverbial fork in the road. One path leads us into deeper obscurity, the other into the collective conscious of sports fans. We’re pushing for the latter.

While I'm talking about how interesting running is, it's only logical to post this video:



That's Kayoko Fukushi of Japan displaying superhuman grit. She led the race by two minutes at the 30 km mark, but faded horribly to 19th place.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I've always liked Plaxico Burress, even when people called him Plexiglass. Burress is about 8 feet tall and has arms made out of plasticine, as New England's Ellis (Calvin and) Hobbs, hardly a Leviathan at 5'9", discovered when Burress burnt him repeatedly last month. He's also been playing all season with an ankle that needs surgery, opting not to resort to other means of recovery as the Patriots' Rodney Harrison did.

Still, Burress burned himself badly yesterday when he supposedly said that the Giants' receivers are better than the Patriots. Burress and Toomer are pretty good receivers, sure, but New England's third-best receiver is really Wes Welker, winner of Howie Long's Scrappy White Guy Award. And he's better than anyone on the Giants, even if they didn't have Randy Moss' 1500 yards and 23 touchdowns. Jabar Gaffney, fourth on New England's depth chart, had five touchdowns to Amani Toomer's two. It might be that the Giants win the Super Bowl next Sunday, but this is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard, right up there with Union general John Sedgwick's last words: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's early in the year, but the best in the world is the best in the world. The highest pole vault by a woman this year was achieved this past weekend at the University of Toronto. I spent 44 minutes circling the infield where this happened to no avail today, but the results guy for the meet might have a thing or two to add.

Stuczynski, for what it's worth, is one of those people who are freakishly good at what they do but almost never found out. She didn't try pole vaulting until she was 22 (she's now 25). Her case still isn't quite as extreme as that of Elijah Lagat, winner of the 2000 Boston Marathon at the age of 34. He started running to lose weight at 26 and had run a 2:07 marathon within five years, less than a minute off the then-world record. So much for hurtling beer bottles at referees because they're getting in the way of your 8-year-old's NHL career.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Based on this, I'd like to devise a Tim Hortons challenge: run 3 km, eat a dozen donuts of your liking (no bear claws necessary) and then run 3 km again. I once had a donut-eating contest that failed miserably when I was only able to eat 3 double chocolate donuts, but that was just an off day. Still, the winner of the Krispy Kreme Challenge last year was able to run 4 miles and eat the dozen donuts in 24 minutes. Even if we assume blistering 5-minute miles on the run portion, he would've had to have averaged a donut every 20 seconds. I'm pretty proud of my running and eating abilities, but I don't think I could do this challenge in less than 45 minutes. It's a good way of getting in some mileage, however, so I'll try it next week and report back.

For a challenge that's easier on the stomach but no less daunting overall, we could do the challenge in reverse by working with nature. In this challenge, which starts in Wawa, ON, you would eat a dozen donuts, then run 500 km to the nearest Tim Hortons in Thunder Bay, where you would eat another dozen donuts. Someday, someone is going to put a Tim Hortons in this ungodly void and make themselves very, very rich.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

For the price of one competent statistician, or even one underpaid intern with Internet access, we could learn to treat child mortality with the same seriousness as terrorism. Almost 10 million children died in 2006 before reaching the age of 5. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are the obvious metric of tragedy as the worst thing to ever happen anywhere, ever, we can express the problem of child mortality as the equivalent of 9/11 happening each and every day. For those who take really terrorism to heart, the toll is like that of a dirty bomb wiping out the entire population of Toronto every three months. I'd even be willing to bet that more children die in one year from malnutrition and malaria than terrorism has ever killed.

Closer to home, when it recently emerged that residents of Nunavut have a life expectancy of less than 50 years, all the headlines observed the fact that residents of Prince Edward Island live the longest. I hope I'm not alone in my shock that there are people in this country who have shorter life expectancies than the people of Somalia.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Today's NFC championship game was one of the most entertaining football games I have ever seen, though certainly not the best-played. It was supposedly the third-coldest game in NFL history, played in a wind chill of -30 C, though aside from steaming black guy breath, the weather was immaterial. The lead went back and forth, a spooked kicker added some drama and for a while, it looked as though this game might continue well into the spring. Somewhere around the time I started heaping unmitigated abuse on him, Eli Manning started to respond, in a bit of Tom Coughlin-like tough love. His numbers weren't fantastic in this game, but yours wouldn't be pretty either if you tried to throw a football with your bare hand in that sort of weather. (Parenthetically parenthetical note: I ran 17 km today with two pairs of gloves, wearing two more gloves on my right hand than Manning and Brett Favre combined.)

Probably more important than Manning was his fabulous phalanx of running backs and a stout Giants defense led by cornerback Corey Webster. Webster has now neutralized deep threats in two playoff games and effectively won a third for the Giants. The result is that the Giants keep hanging around despite my near-guarantee, like a bad cold. They certainly are a cold, of course, because they don't inspire fear in anyone, and yet here they are lingering three weeks later. As smart as Manning played and as good as the Giants are at applying pressure (they led the league in sacks), they certainly are the cold virus to New England's machine gun.

About the only good that came out of New England's victory over San Diego was that they beat Philip Rivers. Rivers has always struck me as an runty, inbred hick with fetal alcohol syndrome who gets into a fight with guys twice his size in gym class. Of course, I was rooting against New England as anyone with any trace of a moral conscience ought to have. This particular game ended when San Diego cut New England's lead to 14-12. It's not often that you score more often than your opponent and lose, but the ability to score touchdowns and prevent opponents from doing so has been crucial in New England's three biggest games all year. Indianapolis kicked two field goals when it needed touchdowns in a 24-20 loss, Jacksonville lost contact with the Patriots when it answered touchdowns with field goals, and San Diego produced a whopping 9 points from three drives inside the New England 10.

At any rate, now we have the machine gun against the common cold, the Gatling gun against the rhinovirus. I'm sure the Giants will find a way to lose this one and do so quite badly. On the other hand, the Giants, who really had no business even being in the playoffs and have less legitimacy than the University of Phoenix, have nothing to lose. Defensive co-ordinator Steve Spagnuolo can do his best to knock Tom Brady to the turf over and over, knowing the alternative is to lose by about 45 points. In the meantime, maybe the cold will linger a little longer, like a paper cut you don't realize you have.
Not all wind chills are created equal. A wind chill of -23 that's the result of 45 km/h winds with gusts of up to 60, as is the case here, is infinitely more lethal than a wind chill of -25 caused by a slight breeze. Living here is a lot like living on the moon, if you also consider this entry from June.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Quarterbacks and dynasties aside, this is really what it's all about on Sunday. Note the snow and note the short sleeves on Cleveland's rookie left tackle Joe Thomas. You may not be surprised to learn that Thomas' Browns won that snowcapped game in Buffalo, the Lake Erie Lake Effect Snow Bowl. The high on Sunday for the Giants-Packers NFC championship game will be -14 and a still-respectable -4 in Boston. Just about any game becomes worth watching when it's as cold as it is in Green Bay.

The San Diego Chargers, the surprising challengers in the AFC championship game, will come to Foxborough having won 8 in a row. Overall, they are 13-5 compared to New England's 17-0, though it's certainly worth noting that they didn't have to resort to cheating in order to win any of those games. Though they fight the good fight, the Chargers will find themselves outflanked by Bill Belichick's troops, much as the Confederate Army did under Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. The Chargers can be as dangerous as any team in football, the Patriots included, but they will have to play the perfect game and the Patriots will have to falter slightly.

San Diego will probably be able to pressure Tom Brady a little bit. Matt Light will face a very tough assignment all day in Shawne Merriman, as will the rest of that airtight Patriots offensive line. On the other side of the ball, it won't be hard to move the ball after putting up 411 yards against the best defense in the league last week. Still, New England isn't going to have a problem moving the ball, and will have fewer problems doing so than the Chargers. It's always important to score touchdowns instead of field goals, especially so since Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding is very erratic. The loser will be the one that falters most on offense, and it's easy to see the mouthy Philip Rivers doing that. If he even plays. The Patriots have too many receivers to stop, and they will score too many points for the Chargers to keep up.

I don't care what happened last week, I'm not going to pick Eli Manning to win a third straight playoff game on the road. The Giants could be playing the 1920 Grey Cup champion University of Toronto Blues under the bubble at Varsity Stadium, just up the street from here, and I wouldn't pick them. The Blues haven't won a game since I was in middle school and the stadium, with a seating capacity of 5,000, couldn't hold most first-year classes, but I still wouldn't pick Eli Manning to win again.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And now for some good news which is hilarious to boot, watch this moose get rescued from a frozen lake in Washington.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The front page of the New York Times trumpets, like something from The Onion, that "Americans cut back significantly on personal consumption" last month. It goes on to quote a woman who lives in Manhattan and shops at Saks but sniffs that "everything just feels more expensive to me now." Though the poor have suffered in the last year, "the wealthy have spent freely, keeping high-end chains insulated from the economic turbulence." Alas, in December, those people "held off on buying $300 designer shoes and $500 dresses." Tiffany is feeling the pinch, as are American Express cardholders, who charge an average of $12,000 a year on their cards but are having trouble paying it back.

The plight of Saks and Tiffany and their shoppers really is an awful thing, but all sarcasm aside, I get the impression that the writer thinks a decrease in consumption is a bad thing. Apparently the well-being of the United States is linked to the continuing purchase of Wiis, iPods, SUVs and oversized homes to store an Xbox and two SUVs. I see few reasons why a decrease in consumption is a bad thing. The lost jobs will be bad, sure, as will the effects on people who can't afford to buy things that actually matter, though the largest newspaper in America's largest city couldn't find too many of those. Still, the decrease in consumption itself is a good thing. Fewer people will be distracted by trinkets, baubles and other shallow pursuits. Fewer old cell phones, laptops and batteries will make their way into landfills in China, and fewer resources will be consumed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I said it wasn't going to be interesting at all, but I would have loved to have seen Green Bay's 42-20 dismantling of Seattle, if only to see a snowy game at Lambeau Field. Brett Favre, after all these years, still insists on carelessly throwing balls in the air and, somehow, they're still caught by teammates of his. This was football at its finest. Actually, the Colts-Chargers game was probably football at its finest, but that punctuated an immensely frustrating weekend of football which saw Bill "Beelzebub" Belichick's Patriots advance and Peyton "Mastercard" Manning's Colts eliminated.

There weren't too many surprises in any of the games. The NFL is supposedly very unpredictable, but you're pretty much guaranteed to be 3-1 by just picking home teams in the divisional round. Two road teams won on Sunday, but it would have been foolish to discount either of them. The Chargers, though they had won 7 in a row before this game, are mercurial, but can be very dangerous at inopportune times. I'm sure they'll reward my newfound fanship with all the ineptitude of allowing 400 yards of passing and none of the mysterious voodoo by which Billy Volek, Michael Turner and Vincent Jackson ate up the Super Bowl champions.

It's puzzling how the Giants managed to win. They left Corey Webster alone against Terrell Owens for most of the game. Owens had just four catches for 49 yards. As is usually the case after a Giants win, I'm still not sure how that happened. Dallas receivers were open early and often, but the Giants had a lot of success harassing Tony Romo with just four or five pass-rushers. I just hope someone somewhere is very rich after having picked a highly improbable Packers-Giants NFC Championship game.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Enter Adeel and a 50-something woman, down and out like a Mark Wohlers slider and smelling like raw meat.

Woman: How much are these shoes?
Adeel: $160
Woman: Oh, that's a little out of my price range.
Adeel: Oh okay, how much did you want to spend?
Woman: I just want something light and flexible.
Adeel: Oh--
Woman: Do you have anything made in Australia?
Adeel: No.
Woman: I think I'd better go then. Do you carry boomerangs?
Adeel: No, we don't, sorry.

Woman walks out of the store in try-on socks, leaving her purse and boots behind.

Adeel: Excuse me! Ma'am? Excuse me? You forgot your purse! Excuse me!

Woman, about 30 feet out of the store, walks back.

Woman: Oh, there it is.

Woman walks out in the socks, carrying her boots and purse.

Exeunt

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Change might have been a good buzzword for this week. Clifford Orwin, a former professor of mine who was brilliantly illuminating so long as he wasn't directly dealing with the course material, wrote in Monday's Globe and Mail about Barack Obama. He has a very good point. There's nothing all that different about what Obama would do and nothing all that different about him, except for the fact that he's black.

Yet so far he has offered only vague promises to lead America in a new direction, without articulating that direction. We know that he's the candidate of change because he tells us that, over and over. He also tells us that he can accomplish change because unlike Ms. Clinton, he's a uniter, not a divider. He'll excel at working together with the Republicans at working together with the Republicans. Beyond that, what? I disagree with John Edwards but his appeal is that you know where he stands. Mr. Obama's appeal (especially to Winfreyites) is that you don't.

Unless, of course you take the trouble to look up his voting record as a state legislator and senator. You won't find anything new there, just your typical left-wing Democrat, as comfortable as an old shoe. His only distinction is a hypothetical one: His claim that had he been a senator in 2002, he wouldn't have joined Hillary Clinton in voting to authorize the Iraq war.
In lieu of a buzzword on this Tuesday, I wrote a haiku in honour of Joseph's return to serious running.

Joseph P. Wood
Lives in Alabama and
Ran near 90k

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The 2007-08 college football season was full of a lot of surprises, but LSU's 38-24 win over Ohio State is not one of them, proving once again that an 11-win team from the Big Ten is about as good as a 6-6 team from the SEC.

What is it about Americans from the United States of America and pointing out the obviously obvious? I was watching the LSU Tigers football team play the Ohio State Buckeyes football team in, of all things, a football game, when I noticed that the football commentators for this football game kept reminding me of the teams playing in the game.

A typical "analysis" might be to something like this: "Flynn is playing very well for this LSU Tigers football team against this Ohio State defense. He is not going to make too many mistakes against this Buckeyes defense and allow them to score points and get back in this football game versus the LSU Tigers. It's very important to Flynn and this LSU offense that they get down the field and score some points to give this LSU team a chance to win this football game against this Ohio State Buckeyes football team."
I'm still sore after watching the beating the Chargers and Titans laid on each other yesterday. Playing physical football is about as meaningful an idea as any of our fabulous Tuesday buzzwords, except when it came to this game in San Diego yesterday. It's rare to see that many plays for negative yardage in a game between two good teams. There were many, many painful hits delivered in this game, including this one on LaDainian Tomlinson. There weren't nearly as many hits laid on David Garrard Saturday night. My reaction to the latter went something like this:

"This is it, if they don't make this, that's the game. Oh--he's not going to make it, oh no, there he goes! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH SHIT! HOLY SHIT! OH MY GOD! WOW! WOW!"

I went 3-1 last week, foiled once again by the Giants, and Andre's enslaved monkey went 1-3. I don't think Andre will be able to watch Saturday's games, which is naturally where I will begin my predictions for the divisional round.

Seattle visits Green Bay in the Holmgren Bowl, a game that Bedir thinks 11-6 Seattle can win on the road over 13-3 Green Bay by two touchdowns. I disagree. Seattle's pass rushers are going to be a problem for Green Bay, and even though their vaunted cold weather advantage hasn't been there of late, they have enough offensive weapons to win this game. It's worth keeping in mind that Seattle might have lost Saturday's game after fumbling a kickoff inside its own 20 while down in the fourth quarter. As well, if Seattle has a ferocious pass rush, Green Bay has an impregnable offensive line. It's a little known fact that the Packers passed as much as the Patriots and allowed two fewer sacks. At any rate, this is the least compelling game of the week.

The most compelling game of the week is between the Jaguars and the Patriots. The Jaguars are everybody's darling right now. Bill Simmons from ESPN wrote before Saturday's win: "Turn on any sports radio station or TV show and if you don't hear someone say, "I'll tell you something, I love this Jaguars team" within three minutes, you should just call the police to be safe." Strangely enough, Saturday's road playoff win over the best defense in the league caused many to question the Jaguars. Yes, they blew an 18-point lead late in the game, but when media favourites in New England or Green Bay do this sort of thing, they're lauded for having the ethereal ability to "make plays" and "just win".

Oh, as for the actual game, it gave me hope to see the Jaguars sack Ben Roethlisberger six times. That's not as good of a performance as it seems, because the Steelers are absolutely atrocious at protecting the quarterback (47 sacks allowed against 21 by the Patriots). Still, the Jaguars can promise the sort of pressure which gave Tom Brady, and therefore the Patriots, a lot of problems against the Eagles and Ravens. Both those teams almost beat the Patriots, and the Jaguars have as many wins as both those teams combined. Jacksonville can also match the Patriots offensively, averaging 32 points over their last eight games, which is what the Patriots average. The Jaguars, like the Patriots against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, can slow the game down with their running game and trip up the Patriots. But because my heart has been broken too many times by impostors (Colts, Steelers) and false hope (Eagles, Ravens) this season, I'm going to pick the Patriots.

As for the other games, Indianapolis will win easily over the Chargers in a rematch of the 1995 wild card game where Jim Harbaugh and a young Marshall Faulk led the Colts to a 35-20 win over Stan Humphries and Natrone Means. Indianapolis, let's not forget, is the defending Super Bowl champion playing at home with 13 wins this season. In a regular season meeting between these two teams, the Colts did everything they could possibly do to lose the game and did lose, but only by missing a 23-yard field goal. This game should be very different.

It's rare to see all the home teams advance, so I'm going to grab the last seat on the Eli Manning bandwagon and predict an upset on Sunday. The Cowboys have struggled in their last four games since beating Green Bay, and the Giants are as hot as hot can be. The good news is that Eli Manning doesn't have to beat the Cowboys, he has a very good defense which led the league in sacks, and something like eight different running backs, none of whose names I can ever remember (Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Ottis Anderson). The Cowboys are no doubt the better team on paper, but not only the Giants are playing well, the Cowboys are sputtering as well.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

First there were the Jena 6, and now Louisiana has the Houma 2. Mike documents the plight of the Houma 2XL in his latest entry. Needless to say, as sport-eating and Chinese food are topics near and dear to my heart, I was already aware of the Double Whopper of a lie that had been served up to these men. My favourite part of the article is where one of the men says "I ain't that fat, I only weigh 277".

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cold runner: Like most people here, Mr. Chang had no desire to run in -35 wind chill when he first arrived in town more than 30 years ago. “I hated running,” he says. He wasn't keen on the whole town seeing him sweat either. “I was too embarrassed to run in the open like that, so I ran on a treadmill instead.”

On a -38 day in December, his brother finally convinced him he should try it. He overdressed in a heavy jacket and thick mittens, but by the time he'd shed down to an undershirt, he was hooked. Today, he heads into the cold for a run three times a week and sometimes brings upward of 18 people with him.

The hardest part about northern running is overcoming the initial shock of opening the front door. “It's like jumping into a cold pool,” says Corey McLachlan, 30, another avid runner. “Your first impression is to jump right back out.”


I can see how running daily in temperatures that cold can be a soul-destroying experience. A 70-mile week in Toronto with wind chills around -25 tested my limits physically and emotionally. Still, when I was in Whitehorse last winter, the very first thing I did at the end of a 90-hour bus trip was go for a 15-kilometre run in a wind chill of around -40. Once the novelty had worn off, of course, who knows what would have happened.

Friday, January 04, 2008

In honour of the Iowa caucuses today, I would like to present a video of my favourite moment in US electoral history. I can't believe the "I Have a Scream" speech was almost three years ago.

On Saturday in this city, Rutgers will play something called Ball State in something called the International Bowl at something called the Rogers Centre. Ball State, according to Google, is located in Muncie, Indiana, which doesn't tell me much. Rutgers, I know, is located in New Jersey, which sadly tells me too much. The Ball State Cardinals tore up the Mid-American Conference, finishing second in its west division to Central Michigan University. Central Michigan, as we all know, narrowly lost 51-48 to Purdue in the Motor City Bowl. The game was no doubt thrilling, but a fictitious Purdue player was fictitiously quoted as saying: "never in my wildest dreams did I think it would all end here in Detroit with a narrow victory of Central Michigan in the prestigious Motor City Bowl. Hollywood wouldn’t accept a script like this."

College football bowl games, I'm told, are steeped in tradition and some other things, but you probably couldn't pay me to watch the Papa John's.com Bowl (sic) or the Poinsettia Bowl (sic) between Utah and Navy. Meaningless, obscure bowl games are yet another reason for why Division I football needs to switch to a playoff. Imagine if the World Cup of soccer was decided by writers and coaches voting on the teams they liked most, pairing the top two in the final and then pairing the remaining 30 teams in quasi-final games. Would you really watch Cameroon take on Paraguay in the 27th-place game?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

This week's buzzword is Iowa. Iowa is the buzzword.
It took eight years, eighty races and six inches of snow on the ground, but I finally won a race. I am the 2008 Hair of the Dog 9k champion and I have the trophy to prove it. I attribute this victory to wearing short sleeves, shorts and spikes, as well as the Alex-induced good luck from the Kingston dirt on my spikes from three years ago.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A long, long time ago, I correctly predicted the outcome of every single game in the NFL playoffs, except one. The only game I picked incorrectly was one where the Giants blew a 9-point lead with 90 seconds to go. Ever since then, I've lost the magic touch, and compounding my problems this year is the fact that I have to pick against the Patriots. At any rate, these are my picks:

There is nothing more boring than a first-round game between two NFC teams I never watch and don't feel comfortable having in the playoffs. Therefore, I won't watch the Redskins and Seahawks, but I feel comfortable saying that Todd Collins, the man who replaced Jim Kelly in that magical season ten years ago, will not win a playoff game.

The game I will watch will be the Jaguars at the Steelers on Saturday night. There was a preview of this game two weeks ago, and the Jaguars won. Other than the fact that the Steelers won their division and are therefore playing at home, there is nothing to suggest that the Steelers should win this. I like watching the Steelers and used to consider them a Super Bowl candidate, but they've lost three of their last four and allowed an average of 28 points in that stretch. The Steelers are the better team on paper but they've struggled offensively of late and the Jaguars ran them over with their Taylor-Jones-Drew ticket.

The Giants may have played the Patriots tough, but good men often display uncanny resolve in the face of unspeakable evil. Eli Manning threw four touchdowns Saturday night but I have seen him throw 35 incompletions in a game, a modern-era league record, and then follow it up with a seven-completion, two-interception game the week after. The Buccaneers have the second-best defense in the league and a creaky but passable offense led by former CFL great Jeff Garcia who is having a very good year (13 touchdowns against 4 picks). I've never understood how the Giants managed to win ten games, and I don't see how they'll win this.

The last game of the weekend is between the Chargers and Titans. This is the easiest game of the week to call: the Titans are a team that doesn't have any business being in the playoffs, the Chargers have won only one more game but I think are a threat to get to the Super Bowl. Keep in mind that San Diego has virtually the same team that won 14 games last year and was Schottenheimered out of beating the Patriots in the playoffs last year. The Chargers have won 10 of 12 after a 1-3 start and have allowed 17 points or less in 9 of those games. If the Ukrainian-born Igor Olshansky, second baseman Luis Castillo and drug user Shawne Merriman don't inspire fear in the heart of opponents, then LaDainian Tomlinson (18 touchdowns) surely will. The Chargers will win and win big, with probably the biggest margin of the weekend.