Friday, December 24, 2010


The promised day has almost come: the 25th of December, when I receive many presents from my family and offer books in return. One good thing about being back in graduate school and earning almost no money is that you have an excuse to really cheap out on Christmas gifts. And believe me, that's the only good thing. In all other aspects of life, it's a rough go. The stipend I'm given is just enough to erase the pity you give people who earn no money, but low enough that it leaves you open to ridicule. Seriously, ask someone how much money they earn in a year. If they say none, you feel bad. If they say $14,000, you try to stifle a laugh.

But Christmas is where I get my revenge. I'm allowed to give my 18 year-old brother a used Where's Waldo book, endure his fake appreciation, and bask in the glow of my life situation. Later, there will be hushed conversations about my financial stability. Older women will frown at my circumstances. Meanwhile, I'll walk in from the other room wearing jean shorts, holding a bottle of wine and saying, "how do you open one of these things?"

And now that I've told you how much money I make, it's time for Ten Thangs.

1. Guys, I'm still undefeated in my bowl picks. Last night, San Diego State beat Navy handily, and I'm 6-0. My bowl pool has 43 players, and I'm one of only 5 who still has an unblemished record. Does this make me a guru? I don't know, but it's getting eerie how much I know about sports. Am I one of those savants who intuitively knows exactly who will win every sporting game ever? Will they be making a movie about me?

Probably 'yes' to all of the above. Before I become famous, though, you can benefit from my knowledge. Tonight I have Hawaii over Tulsa, and I have Florida International over Toledo on Sunday. If you make more than $14,000 a year, I suggest putting most of it on those teams.

2. Does it annoy anyone else how conservative all the service academies are in football? Army is the worst, but Navy's option offense severely annoys me. Announcers always bend over backward to talk about how disciplined these teams are, but what does that matter if they run the same 3 plays over and over again? A lot of people in my pool picked Navy, but I had not forgotten something very important: they lost to Duke earlier this season. I also didn't think they looked that great against Army, but I was certainly not picking a team who got beat by Duke.

Back on topic: it worries me that there's no creativity in the Army or Navy offense. Does this extend to wars as well? Is this why we keep losing? Should we make Bill Belichick and Nick Saban army generals? (Actually, does anyone out there doubt that Belichick would be the best army general ever? I would be scared shitless to fight in a war in the first place, but if Belichick was the opposing general I'd just send him a polite note asking him what injuries he'd like me to inflict on myself in lieu of dying.) I guess Air Force has kind of a creative offense, and their branch of the military is also the most creative; they fly planes! Of course you have to give them some individual control.

The theory slowly emerging here is that if Army and Navy used a little innovation in their football, perhaps their military might would also increase. Somebody present this to Obama. Speaking of this idea, here's an awesome Onion article from 2007.

3. Holy crap, Georgetown looks good. They took Memphis out to the old rail yard and made them drink a gallon of moonshine by the ticket shack. Freeman was awesome as usual, but I was almost more impressed with Julian Vaughan, the senior forward. He showed some real touch underneath, and he got aggressive when needed too. I'd die to have a player like that on Duke. Wait, not me...Miles Plumlee. (Just kidding! Christmas spirit for everyone!)

4. Baylor lost! These words will continue to make me happy after I learned to hate that team like no other in last year's elite 8. I hate Quincy Acy almost as much as I hate Kevin Garnett. I'm convinced the two are involved in some sort of mentor-apprentice relationship.

Also, this is the second big upset by a Pac-10 team this week. Is something going out west we should know about? Should I post a picture of UCLA cheerleaders? What?

5. Some questions for the law friends who read this blog. The guy who killed Nick Adenhart in a hit-and-run drunk driving accident was sentenced to 51 to life this week. I understand that what he did was horrible, but A) is that a normal sentence? B) Would it have been similar if he didn't try to run away? C) Would this have been the same if he hadn't killed someone famous? D) In drunk driving, does it matter that he killed 3 people instead of 1?

Obviously I'm not trying to take the guy's side or anything, and what he did was awful, but 51 years to life seemed like an amazingly long sentence, especially if the prison system is supposed to rehabilitate rather than punish.

6. This article on ESPN's MLB cannot be serious. Jayson Stark cannot be serious. It's supposed to be a 'strange but true' type piece about weird things that happened in baseball this year. Behold his first example:

It involves our man Ichiro Suzuki.

He got the most hits in the American League last season. No shocker there.

Yet he still, somehow, scored fewer runs than the man who got the fewest hits in the National League (among players who qualified for the batting title).


It makes no sense, but it's a 100 percent true fact. Here. See for yourself:

Ichiro: 74 runs, 214 hits
Mark Reynolds: 79 runs, 99 hits

Is baseball the Strangest But Truest sport ever invented, or what?

Spike, if you're reading this, please tell me I've gone insane and I'm hallucinating. NO EXPLANATION?

Dear Jayson Stark: there are two basic ways to score runs in baseball. Ignoring weird error sequences and balks by the defense, you can A) hit a home run, or B) have your teammates advance you to home plate with hits or walks.

B is far more common, especially for a guy like Ichiro who doesn't hit many home runs. Which means that to score runs, you rely on the hitting prowess of your teammates. I know you're a baseball guy, Jayson, since you write about it for a living, so you may have noticed that Seattle's offense this season was historically bad.

Hmmm...dependence on teammates...horrible, horrible the crazy mystery of Ichiro's low run total starting to unravel for you? Are the enigmatic stats beginning to merge and clarify in the hazy space they occupy in your brain?

Unbelievable. This guy writes for ESPN. "Strange but true!" indeed.

7. On the other hand, there are some awesome sports writers around. Like Joe Posnanski, who delivered yet again with an awesome "32 Worst Sports Endings" column.

8. Well, this would be crazy.

9. Lebron said something that wasn't totally stupid! In this article, someone prompts him to talk about the possibility of NBA contraction (which probably won't happen), and he's in favor. So am I, actually. Even reducing the number of teams by 4 might make things even more interesting. Despite the resurgence of the NBA the past two seasons, there are still too many uninteresting teams. On the other hand, I'm sure the union would not be thrilled to see people put out of a job. And I doubt a lot of owners are clamoring to be pushed out. As long all cities involved can financially support a team, nobody's going to initiation contraction just to improve the product. But it's nice to think about.

10. God, I'm already nervous for the Giants-Packers game this weekend. After the disaster against Philadelphia, I'm one of the few positive voices among Giant fans I know. I still think our defense is very good, and I think we can make a playoff run. But we have to recover from whatever emotional trauma lingers after the Meadowlands Massacre. This weekend is everything. If we win, we're all but in, and our first round opponent will likely be Chicago (extremely winnable game) or Philadelphia again (REVENGE!).

I'm super excited. I think this is going to go our way. I pity Aaron Rodgers, if he plays. We'll make him taste the cold Lambeau turf early and often. Ditto for Matt Flynn if he wants to try his luck. I expect the Giants to come out pissed and ready. If they don't, and we get embarrassed, I want Coughlin gone. Maybe Eli too. Time to start over. But I've promised myself to hold off on the pessimism; I think they'll prove themselves on Sunday.

Speaking of the Giants: on Thanksgiving, my family and I went to the Jets-Bengals night game at the Meadowlands. The game itself was boring, but the tailgating was fun, and so were the comments I got from Jets fans for wearing Giants gear. For your holiday enjoyment, a picture of me, my girlfriend, and my mom is below (we're not giving the peace sign, it's a #2 for a reason far too complicated to explain). Enjoy your gifts, and have a happy Christmas.

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