Saturday, November 24, 2007


Law & Repetitive Disorder

Josh Marshall takes note of the continued dropping murder rate in New York City. It is on track to be fewer than 500 for the entire year -- and a small fraction of those are random, "stranger"-connected incidents.

Josh, however, points out how different the reality of New York City is from its televised counterparts:

As an aside, I think this gives more credence to a suspicion I've had since the late '90s: that the current low murder rates in this country -- particularly in New York City -- probably make the whole concept of the TV police procedural unrealistic. Can the two detectives at Law & Order really have one murder case to solve once a week? And all three series? Or what about the old NYPD Blue? The structure of the show was based on murders right and left for just the single precinct.
Josh could actually replace NYPD Blue with CSI:NY as the latest in the "NYC-murder-a-minute" category.

It's not just "unrealistic" -- it's increasingly unoriginal. Should anyone care if the Hollywood writers return to any television shows? Creativity has hardly been their strong suit on the small screen this year: An interesting un-interesting pattern has developed. Let's just say that there seems a certain level of redundancy in plot lines. Or one could say that there is a lack of originality in crime drama. Or that the shows are repeating themselves.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI:NY and Numbers (an FBI procedural set in Los Angeles) have all had episodes this year set in cyberspace where one of the characaters adopts an avatar to track down a murderer.

Shark (unprincipled L.A. prosecutor), SVU and Without A Trace (FBI missing persons unit in New York) have all had episodes set in the world of ultimate fighting.

CSI:Miami and CSI:NY both had Halloween episodes centered around the plot of "weird occurrences hamper investigators as they track a serial killer/mass murderer." (Perhaps the shared DNA of these two shows is causing them to become virtual clones: In another recent week, each show's episode centered on the death of a model in the middle of a shoot/promotion.)

Time Warner cable's TV guide preview also tells us that this coming week's "Miami" and "SVU" center around the death of a wealthy family's nanny.

This trend extends beyond the procedurals. Witness the "nerd-fest" that exploded this year.

Chuck -- affable geek working in an ersatz Best Buy ends up becoming reluctant undercover agent foiling bad guys for the NSA vs. Reaper -- affable geek working in an ersatz Home Depot ends up becoming reluctant underworld agent tracking runaway demons for the devil (the devil, the U.S. government -- same diff, right?) Both shows have the hormone-overwhelmed sidekicks who manage to accidentally mess up the hero's mission -- while the good guy's heart gets broken because of the pressures of the job.

Sad as it may be to consider, is it actually possible that the reality shows might be showing a bit more creativity in TV land? Again, if the writers never came back, would they really be missed?

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Open Thread

A shopping list thread?

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NFL Pro Bowl Balloting Update

The only early NFL Pro Bowl balloting results I can find are from last week (at Mile High Report). If anyone has a link to more current information, please post it in the comments section.

How does Tom Brady fall below Brett Favre and Peyton Manning in the Pro Bowl vote totals? Brady is having not only the best season of his career, but the best season ANY quarterback has EVER had.

I would buy the argument that "Favre is carrying his team", except for the fact he did NOT carry them last year. The truth is the Packers have surrounded Favre with enough talent this year that he CAN carry them.

As for Manning, he is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Aside from Brady and Favre, the other quarterbacks having a better year than Manning: Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, David Garrard, Jeff Garcia, and Matt Hasselbeck.

The Pro Bowl is NOT about who has had a better career, but rather who is having the best season THIS YEAR. No one is better than Brady this year.

Only the best tight end in the NFL this year and going back to 2004. But you wouldn't know it based on the Pro Bowl votes, which only rank him as the best in the AFC.

Jason Witten of the Cowboys has 238,598 votes, compared to Gates getting only 199,593 votes. Statistically, they are comparable. Not counting the Cowboys-Jets game, Witten has 55 catches for 696 yards and 5 touchdowns, whereas Gates has 54 catches for 729 yards and 6 touchdowns. So why is Witten worthy of more votes?

The truth is Gates is being underutilized by the Chargers (thank you Norv Turner) whereas Witten is being utilized to the best of his abilities by the Cowboys. Ask any NFL head coach or scout who they would rather have on their team, and Gates would win easily over Witten.

But there is a reasonable explanation for this voting anomaly: Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez has 59 catches for 690 yards and 4 touchdowns. These numbers are certainly worthy of Pro Bowl votes. Compare this to the NFC's second best tight end, Jeremy Shockey: 48 catches for 528 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Clearly, Witten rates a bigger edge over the second best tight end in his conference than Gates in his conference. Kudos to the Pro Bowl voters for recognizing this.

According to the Pro Bowl voters, Nick Folk of the Cowboys and Adam Vinatieri of the Colts are the two best kickers in the NFL this year.

In the NFC, I will grant the argument for Folk, since he has made 85% of his field goals. However, in the AFC, there are only two names we should be talking about: Rob Bironas (Titans) and Kris Brown (Texans). Both of them are perfect on their extra points, compared to Vinatieri who has missed two. Both of them have made over 90% of their field goals (Bironas has 92.3%, Brown has 91.3%), whereas Vinatieri has only made 76% of his field goals. Both of them are perfect on field goals beyond 50 yards (Bironas is 3/3, Brown is 4/4), whereas Vinatieri missed his only try from that distance (in fact, the longest field goal Vinatieri has made this year was from 39 yards).

I would even rank Shayne Graham (Bengals) above Vinatieri this year, although below the other two because Graham's longest field goal was from 48 yards. Graham has been perfect on extra points, and has been good on 95.5% of his field goal attempts.

How on earth does Wes Welker lead the AFC for kick returner votes? He is not even the best return man on his own team!

Welker does a good job returning punts for the Patriots, but Ellis Hobbs handles the kick return duties. Hobbs tied an NFL record with a 108 yard kick return for a touchdown earlier this year. Welker has no touchdowns returning kicks or punts this year.

Among the worthy kick returners, it is an easy choice between Joshua Cribbs of the Browns (with 2 touchdowns on 1475 kick return yards) and Leon Washington of the Jets (with 3 touchdowns on 946 kick return yards).

Among the worthy punt returners, Roscoe Parrish of the Bills is the clear leader in the AFC, with 330 punt return yards for a 19.4 yard average (which is almost worthy of a kick returner) and one touchdown, compared to Welker's 236 return yards for an 11.2 yard average and no touchdowns.

I hope that after the Packers pass rushing display against the Lions that their defensive ends get a little more respect from the Pro Bowl voters.

Even before that game, Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila were among the NFC leaders in sacks, with 9.0 and 8.5 respectively. The other leader is Trent Cole of the Eagles with 9.0 sacks.

So who is the NFC's leading Pro Bowl vote receiver? Osi Umenyiora of the Giants, with 8.0 sacks. While Osi is having a great year, Kampman or Cole both deserve more consideration. Each of them have had over 50 tackles this year, whereas Osi has only had 30. Even Michael Strahan of the Giants, who is having arguably his worst season, has 8.0 sacks and 37 tackles.

How does Dwight Freeney of the Colts merit ANY Pro Bowl consideration? He has had 3.5 sacks and 21 tackles. Even if you throw out Jared Allen of the Chiefs (9.5 sacks and 38 tackles) because of his suspension early this season, there are still plenty of better choices

Start with Elvis Dumervil of the Broncos (8.0 sacks and 23 tackles). Then look at Freeney's other bookend for the Colts, Robert Mathis (6.0 sacks and 27 tackles). How about Jason Taylor of the Dolphins (5.0 sacks and 30 tackles), Kyle Vanden Bosch of the Titans (5.0 sacks and 31 tackles), or Mario Williams of the Texans (5.0 sacks and 29 tackles)?

A year after the Chargers Shawne Merriman is suspended for steroid use, he is having his worst season. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Yet he still gets the most votes at outside linebacker in the AFC, even though his numbers (45 tackles and 5.5 sacks) are clearly less than two other outside linebackers, Mike Vrabel of the Patriots (50 tackles and 9.5 sacks) and James Harrison of the Steelers (57 tackles and 7.5 sacks).

So it doesn't matter that Merriman made his name while using steroids, while two better players who have NEVER been accused of steroid use get ignored?

I hate to pick on Tedy Bruschi, because his story is inspirational (had a mild stroke, a congenital heart defect, and was partially paralyzed). And the Patriots are having a good year. It can even be argued that his work against the run has made the Patriots a better defense this year. But his numbers (56 tackles and 2 sacks) are nowhere among the AFC leaders for inside linebackers.

Among the AFC's inside linebackers, Ray Lewis is probably still the best, with 92 tackles and 1.0 sacks. Even if you throw out Lewis based on his story versus Bruschi's, there are still other better choices.

Start with Gary Brackett of the Colts, with 87 tackles and 0.5 sacks. Then there is DeMeco Ryans of the Texans with 83 tackles and 2.0 sacks. Consider D.J. Williams of the Broncos, with 82 tackles and 1.0 sacks.

Last and certainly least, we have the punters.

While Mat McBriar of the Cowboys would not be my first choice in the NFC (I would take Andy Lee of the 49ers), at least McBriar is close enough to merit consideration.

However, in the AFC, how does the player with the easiest job in the NFL get ANY votes? Chris Hanson of the Patriots has only punted 22 times this season, for a net average of 36.2 yards. Granted, he has pinned opponents inside their 20 a total of 8 times (36%), with 18% of his kicks being touchbacks.

But if you only look at Hanson's averages and percentages in comparison to other punters in the AFC, he is still nowhere near the best in the AFC. There are 10 AFC punters with better net averages. There are four punters with better "inside the 20" percentages. There are 15 punters with lower touchback percentages.

For the best in the AFC, look at Shane Lechler of the Raiders (44.3 net) or Daniel Sepulveda of the Steelers (44.2% inside the 20, with a touchback percentage of 4.7%).


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Friday, November 23, 2007


Thanksgiving Day Pick Results

For those of you who made Thanksgiving Day picks in our Pigskin Pick'em this week, how hard could it be to pick three games? Especially when only one of the games was even mildly contested?

Here are the results:

EdMcGon - 3
SoloD - 3
Bill Barker - 3
David Stefanini - 3
Audio Dave - 3

Robert A. George - 2
BL - 2
J. Mark English - 1

I will admit in most years there is usually one upset on Thanksgiving Day, but there was only one game this year that was between even remotely close teams, the Packers against the Lions. Based on how both teams have played the last few weeks, it was hard to see how the Lions could pull off an upset.

As for the Jets or Falcons pulling an upset, it was hard enough trying to imagine those two getting off the ground, let alone beating the superior opponents they were going against in the Cowboys and Colts.


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving

Best wishes to all. Whether traveling or home with loved ones, have a wonderful holiday.

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Rudy & Hillary's "Secret" Obsession

So, aside from claiming the same state as "home" and being their respective party's national frontrunners, what do Rudolph Giuliani and Hillary Clinton have in common?

Secrecy, baby, secrecy. As in, "Why the heck should I provide information about who I might be beholden to in some way -- or might call into question my judgment?"

As several media outlets have discovered, getting the former mayor
to open up about his Giuliani Partners clients is like pulling teeth.

Meanwhile, Hillary has been, as usual, been cutesy about releasing her records from the
Clinton White House, including many connected to her healthcare reform task force -- despite requests from multiple organizations and at least one lawsuit.

This is ridiculous.

Giuliani and Clinton's rivals in their respective primaries must demand a complete accounting of the relevant records.

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Hope Springs Eternal

Never underestimate those Arkansas boys. The Mike Huckabee surge begins (in fact, it began with his second place showing at the straw poll several weeks back). Given the way Iowa works, I wouldn't be surprised at this point if the Huckster wins the caucases in January.

That would be disastrous news for Romney -- and great news for Rudy Giuliani who has basically given up on Iowa. The only thing keeping Giuliani from being the undisputed front-runner in the race is that Romney has been leading in both Iowa and New Hampshire -- and gaining ground in South Carolina. If he ran the table in the three early contests, that momentum could eat away at the leads Rudy has in the big states that vote on Feb. 5 (New York, Florida, California, etc.). However, divided results (Huckabee in Iowa, Romney in NH and Thompson -- though that doesn't look likely -- in South Carolina) would fit perfectly for the mayor.

Of course, there is always the possibility that a Huckabee surge could also work wonders for, uh, Mike Huckabee. The one thing keeping him down right now is money -- and that can be cured by a few positive polls.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 12 Picks

Per the Pigskin Pick'em rules, this week's Thursday games will NOT count towards the weekly or YTD standings. Feel free to pick them, but don't expect any credit for it.

With that in mind, here are my special turkey day picks:

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: While the Lions tend to play better on Thanksgiving, I can't pick against the Packers here.
New York Jets at Dallas Cowboys: This is where the Jets meet the earth.
Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons: Even with the Colts in a seeming death spiral, they should have no trouble with the low-flying Falcons.

Now on to my regular weekly picks:

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: This game is a coin toss. The Saints just seem a little healthier.
Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals: The Titans should take out their Monday night frustrations on the Bengals.
Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns: Another close game for the Brownies.
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars: I have to feel sorry for the Bills. The Patriots followed by the Jags is one of the toughest two-game stretches any team could pull.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs: The Raiders could pull off the win, but I can't pick it.
Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants: The G-men by a mile.
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams: Bad news for the Lambs. The Hawks are playing better.
Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This game could go either way, but I think the Skins are just a little better.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals: Did you ever think you'd see the day when the 49ers had no passing game?
Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears: While the Bears might get an upset here, I just like what I have seen from the Broncos lately.
Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers: This was a much better game last year.
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots: Just keep taking the Pats until Brady or Moss blow out a knee.
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers: If the Steelers lose this one, Tomlin should be fired. Losing to the Jets AND Dolphins in consecutive weeks would be inexcusable.

UPDATE: Due to popular request (ok, two people asked for it), I will post a special Thanskgiving Day winners blog on Friday. This will have no bearing on the regular Pigskin Pick'em standings, and is strictly for fun.

Pigskin Pick'em Rules:
1. Pick the straight-up winners of all this weeks NFL games (excluding any Thursday games). Picks will be accepted in the comments section of the following websites:
Politics and Pigskins, Ragged Thots, and American Legends. All picks must be posted by 1 pm Eastern Time on Sunday (otherwise known as "The Barker Rule"), or by the kickoff of the first NFL Saturday game on weeks when that happens.
2. The winner gets...bragging rights! (you weren't expecting money, were you?)
3. And new for this year: I will be keeping a running tally for the season, so the person who gets the most picks correct for the whole season, including the playoffs, gets...even BIGGER bragging rights! (and still no money)


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Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 11 Results

Yours truly wins again! Sort of...Robert George snuck in and tied me for the win. Couldn't stand to let me have the spotlight by myself?

The great irony here is that Bill Barker would have also tied for the win, except for picking his namesake team over the Patriots. Sorry Bill, that deserved mentioning!

This week's results:

EdMcGon - 12
Robert A. George - 12

Bill Barker - 11
Audio Dave - 11
David Stefanini - 10
J. Mark English - 10
SoloD - 9
BL - 8
FunkyPundit - 8

YTD results, with weekly wins in parentheses:

David Stefanini(2) - 94
EdMcGon(2) - 91
Robert A. George(2) - 89
J. Mark English(1) - 82
BL(2) - 74
Bill Barker - 69
FunkyPundit(0.5) - 56
SoloD(1) - 46
Audio Dave(0.5) - 28
Dave O'Leary - 21
Rigel - 17
Snave - 8
Mike - 8
Moose - 1


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When Gentrification Sucks

The longtime Park Slope establishment that was my local hangout for the eight years I lived in Brooklyn is facing its final months -- weeks? -- on Flatbush Avenue. Now that I'm living up in north Manhattan, I've only had the chance to head back to Mooney's a couple of times.

The news that it is about to become a victim of, as the article says, "the neighborhood’s now-familiar rent problems" is truly saddening.

Mooney's has been around for nearly 40 years. Over that time, this northern part of Park Slope/Prospect Heights went from being an undesirable "rough" neighborhood to what it is now -- an extension of Manhattan with skyrocketing property values.

Mooney's was a bedrock that helped make the neighborhood what it is today -- too expensive for many people to continue to live or work in.

It may be the capitalist way.

But it still sucks.


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Monday, November 19, 2007


Right Says Fred

After a lethargic start following an extended "preliminary" round, is Fred Thompson finally getting his sealegs? It just might be.

Some promising developments observed by National Review: Last week, the editors cite his clear views on Social Security, immigration and military size. And, today, Larry Kudlow shares his impressions from a recent televised interview with Thompson's on economic and fiscal issues. Most importantly (for campaign purposes), Kudlow describes Thompson's style as "energetic and forceful...more animated than I’ve seen him, and definitely a different person than the one I interviewed six months ago." (Kudlow, by the way, hasn't endorsed anyone. He also had a positive column on Giuliani last week as well.)

While Romney and Giuliani are the respective early-state and national front-runners, it may still be a bit early to count Thompson out yet.

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Thanks, Mom

Speaking of "Julia," I should note the weird role the show had in my life.

My mom is a registered nurse. Julia's son, Corey, was about the same age as I was. So, there was this odd feeling of looking in a mirror the couple of times I caught the show (I was in the UK for two of the three years "Julia" was on the air). The funny thing though is that Mom was actually a real-life TV nurse (as odd as that may sound) in the UK. She appeared on several episodes of a show called "Doctor On Call." Despite the title, it actually featured three nurses who would take phone cals where people would describe their symptoms and the nurses would give them basic common-sense diagnoses and solutions -- or tell them that they needed to go see a real physician. It was always a blast turning on the telly on the weekends to catch my mom dispensing medical advice. I get the feeling that such a show nowadays (particularly in the U.S.) -- and despite the reality-show craze -- might be subject to more than a little litigation.

In any event, today is my mom's birthday, so this is as good a time to say, "Happy Birthday" to Umilta George Sallion, who taught me the values of hard work, perseverance and having good friends in your life.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007


Who's The Mannix? Where's The Mannix?

Great Washington Post article on the lack of a DVD collection of the great 70's private-eye show "Mannix."

While the piece touches on what made Mike Connors such a cool, punch-'em-in-the-face, character, the most poignant part centers on Gail Fisher, the lovely actress who played Mannix's secretary Peggy. Along with other trailblazers such as
Diahann "Julia" Carroll and Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols, she opend the door for many African American actresses -- and fired up the hormones of more than a few young men of various backgrounds.

As the article notes, she died last year, after bouts with drugs, diabetes and emphysema -- sadly forgotten by most of the entertainment community.

Aside from the show's many other pleasures, allowing younger generations to catch a glimpse of Gail Fisher, is as good a reason as any to release an official "Mannix" DVD collection.

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Open Thread

Welcome to the Club Thread cruise.

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