Football wrapup

Vandy: plays their worst game of the year, but saves it for Eastern Michigan and manages to steal a win. Bama: loses their second in a row, proving that while Nick Saban has effected change, a national title in the first year is probably too much to hope for. Cal: gets the win they had to get, on the road, against a ranked opponent – and winds up #3 in the nation for their trouble. Now every game is a trap game, all the way to November 10 and USC…it’s going to be a little bit more berserk than usual.

Moving on

Well, my job change is officially public. I don’t know what to expect, and I’m honestly trying not to expect anything. All I’m looking for out of this next job is a reduced amount of manual labor; everything else is up in the air and I’m amenable. I’m sure there will be plenty of people that will make me crazy after six months or so, but the whole “new start” thing should keep me going for some time.

The things I’m worrying about now aren’t related to health insurance, or salary, or anything like that, which I guess is a blessing – I’m worrying about where my coffee is going to come from and what lunch arrangements are like. Not that I eat a lot of lunch. I’m also hoping against hope that I’ll be able to stream Virgin Radio at work, which is something that has gone by the boards in recent months because of all the running around, phone time, and dockwalloping I’ve been doing lately.

At some point I’ll be doing a post on memories of working here, although I don’t know if it will be public. I might want to come back someday, after all. =)

My only OJ post

OJ is the national news media’s original sin. In 1994, we had a debate over national health care and a crisis in North Korea. And yet, CNN – the international gold standard for news, the channel that was in China long before and long after the June 4 slaughter, the channel that put three guys in a hotel in Baghdad while bombs rained down and fitted one of them with $100,000 sewn in a leather jacket to bribe his way out if needed – chose to spend literally every single day in live gavel-to-gavel coverage of a celebrity trial. In doing so, they lent their prestige and authority to the idea that this sideshow was something worthy of the kind of coverage given to outbreaks of war.

That summer, CNN destroyed news. You can draw a straight line from OJ to our current state, where “cable news” is nothing of the sort and “reality” television is the farthest things from reality imaginable. Now people actually think a bunch of yowling harpies or two screaming spittle-flecked morons equals news. Talking about what happened gets precedence over what happened. The fate of a bunch of coked-out sluts or some adorable missing moppet from another country leads the news. And now, the media totters on the brink of orgasm because they might get another crack at the whole OJ trial, with a whole new cast of characters and the irresistible lure of vengeance and retribution for having screwed it up the first time.

No. No, no, no, a thousand times no. Anybody who seriously considers themselves in the “news” business should want to vomit at the mere idea of devoting column inches or airtime to this copious horseshit. We. Are. At. WAR. Remember how September 11, 2001 was supposed to be the end of our frivolity and shallowness, how irony was dead and we would be devoted to the sincere and the serious? Well, it didn’t happen, and this is proof.

It’s not often I say this, but I mean it: if you disagree with me at all about this, keep it to yourself. If you seriously think OJ is important, worthy of news coverage, that it’s anything other than proof of our long slide into the abyss, then shut your mouth about it, bury it down deep, and never speak of it again, because if you honestly think it’s news, we cannot be friends. Period. Paragraph. The End. “I love OJ News” = “SHUT UP OR PISS OFF.”

I can’t believe this is the same !-ing team

1) Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I was wrong about the Jason Campbell pick – after sitting him for the better part of two years, he’s now at the controls with a reasonably sound line (at least until tonight completed the collapse of the right side), three talented receivers at once, two solid backs, and an offense committed to keeping it simple. And Jason Scramble (as he will inevitably be known after tonight) did just about everything you could hope for from a QB who is still in his first ten NFL starts.

2) I still think the Skins need a prototype pass-rusher. That said, the Gregg Williams system seems to work from the secondary forward: shut down the receivers and get coverage sacks, use mixed blitzing and hard-hitting safeties to make up for the lack of a standard front-four push, and keep enough guys moving in space to shut down screens, sweeps and outside runs. Last year it was a bust. This year? So far so good, it seems. Donovan McNabb was getting hit almost constantly. However, the most gratifying part was 4th and 6 inside the red zone with the game on the line: no blitz, tight coverage along the down line, and when the pass came over the middle into the arms of a receiver, LaRon Landry was there to de-cleat him (and knock the ball free) before one foot even touched the turf.

3) It’s not time to get cised yet (although God knows Bickel will be crowing about the Upersay Owlbay in the morning on 106.7), but this is an extremely promising start. Wins on the road at Philly have been hard to come by in the last decade-plus, and if we can beat the Eagles at their house, we can sure as hell beat Eli “White TO” Manning and his band of morons in New York. Hold serve at home, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t win the division. The fact of the matter is that any horrible NFL team who makes one good off-season of improvement should be able to contend for a playoff berth, thanks to parity scheduling.

4) Charles Barkley should be in the booth EVERY week.

It could be worse…

Things are not going well right now for Auburn and Tennessee. (“Aw, that’s a shame.”) Tennessee probably should be at 1-2; they’re bloody well not better than Cal, as proven on the field, and they’re definitely not better than Florida. (In fact, why a Florida team who returns from a national title with a better quarterback wasn’t even regarded as the best team in their own CONFERENCE boggles the mind.) But for Auburn to lose to South Florida, and then lose to indisputably the worst team in the SEC…well, let the fears and doubts and rumblings commence in the land of Tuberville. Five turnovers against Sly Croom’s Bulldogs should give them a nice shot of terror looking ahead to Florida, Arkansas, LSU, Alabama – hell, even Vanderbilt, who hung 31 on Ole Miss today, has to be considered a threat.

And then there’s Tennessee. Maybe David Cutcliffe is the answer to their offensive woes, but he can’t do anything about the defense, and Tennesse can’t stop anybody. 45 points given up to Cal and 59 more to Florida, and they still have to play a resurgent Alabama, a South Carolina team whose coach seems to own them, an Arkansas team that they can’t possibly slow down, and Kentucky, who may have the best pure passer in the conference. And let’s not forget – they lost their last home game against Vandy. The long knives are out for Phil Fulmer, because the Vol faithful have looked up from their corn dogs and moonshine long enough to realize that the man everyone else in the league refers to as “Jabba the Coach” hasn’t won a damn thing since the ’98 title – and didn’t win a damn thing in the four years he had Peyton Manning at the controls. 12 seasons out of 13 without so much as a conference title are an awful lot to try to wash away with a national championship that was won when the current seniors were in junior high.

Meanwhile, Alabama did the one thing they could never do under Mike Shula: come back in the 4th quarter. Let’s look at Nick Saban’s “Crimson Comeback” to-do list:

1) Beat the teams you ought to beat, and without making it exciting: done.

2) Get six points when you get into the red zone, not field goals – or worse: done.

3) Play the full 60 minutes without running out of gas, time or hope: done, as of tonight.

4) Beat UT and Auburn…well, at 11:45 PDT tonight, you have to say that one is looking promising.

And as for those aforementioned Commodores: 14-3 lead at the half. 200 yards passing and 57 more rushing from the QB. 3 touchdowns from the primary running back. Six sacks of the Ole Miss QB. Never lost the lead, even punching in the comfort-margin TD with under 2 minutes to play. They got the Rebels down and kept them down, they capitalized on turnovers, they recovered from mistakes. This was a critical checkpoint: if this is going to be the 6-wins-and-a-bowl season, this game was must-win. Now a week off, then Eastern Michigan at home, and then at Auburn – which, despite being a road game, has to be considered winnable after the events of the last two weeks. Given the resurgence of Kentucky, the Dores will probably need at least one conference upset (although the Kentucky game at home still has to be considered leaning Vandy’s way). On paper, there’s still every possibility of 8-4 given the right breaks, and given that Earl Bennett had 11 catches for 100 yards when everybody knew the ball was coming to him, you have to think he could make some of those breaks.

Obligatory Cal remarks: yes, 42-12, but Cal’s 3-0 record belies the fact that they have played two very shaky games in a row. They’re showing the classic tendency to start slow and play to the level of the opponent, which is the sort of thing that will bite you in the ass on the road in the conference. The defense is young and vulnerable, and Longshore still has streaks of inconsistency which should make the Zachary’s pizza sit uncomfortably in the tummy of any Old Blue. However, the Bears still have their secret weapon: Jahvid Best, who may be the fastest man alive. Three weeks in a row, Cal has run a play where everybody pulls right, DeSean Jackson gets double-covered, and the ball goes left to Best on a blind flip – and he shifts into Tachyon Drive and rips off fifty or sixty yards before you can even say “HOLY SHIT DID YOU SEE THAT.” Cal has so many offensive weapons that the temptation to just make everything into a track meet will be huge…but it’s an urge they have to fight, because at some point, you’re going to need to stop somebody.

Just ask Tennessee.

Well, I guess I can’t lose.

Vandy just scored their first touchdown of the day. Now they’re only down 24-10 to Bama. I’m sad to see a break in the great tradition of the late-game back-door cover by the Dores – it’s a world-class investment strategy most of the time – but the improvements in Alabama are obvious and significant. For one thing, they are finishing plays – no more of the sloppy second efforts that let teams squeeze out a couple extra yards on every play. For another, they’re converting in the red zone – every time they get inside the 20, they come away with points, which is something you could never count on in the last half-decade or so.

I’m glad I’m not there, though – it’d be tough in person to have to pick one or the other. Besides, it’s raining like hell down there.

Changing the game

So Fred Thompson announced last night. On the Tonight Show, which – let’s face it – hasn’t been funny since Johnny Carson made the greatest exit of all time (he left, and that was it. Gone. One crowd-popping cameo on Letterman’s new show and that was it. Class.). Ol’ Fred Dalton Thompson thinks he’s just the guy to pull an Ah-nuld and ride a wave of acclimation all the way to the White House, where he can be a folksy take-no-guff Commander in Chief who can complete the Rednecking of America.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

Believe me. I have two degrees in this shit. Once upon a time, I was a University Graduate Fellow at Vanderbilt, and I was really, really good at this, and the older I get, the better I was, but you can trust me. Ask anyone I know who told them nine months ago to keep an eye on Mike Huckabee.

Anyway, Thompson has no shot. He’s riding a wave of Reagan nostalgia among the True Believers, but there’s no future in that, because Reagan was changing the game; he was unlike any other GOP candidate in 1980 – or 1968, for that matter. Reagan was sui generis. Thompson is sui generic. He is exactly the same as every other Republican candidate; he is in fact distilled essence of 2008 GOP. He’s got a half dozen pat phrases, a couple of sure-fire zingers, and a meaningless do-nothing stint in electoral politics. And that’s all. There is nothing there that separates him from, say, Tommy Thompson or Sam Brownback, other than the name recognition that comes with a handful of mediocre movies and a role on the TV Series That Will Not Die, No Matter How Many Times I Go To Church And Weep Tears Of Blood In Prayer. When nuclear war finally comes, all that will be left is cockroaches, a few Cassidys from Mount Ephraim, and Law and Order. But I digress.

The bigger mistake is that he has completely dissed Iowa and New Hampshire. He has no organization, no ground troops, he’s done nothing to shore himself up in the Big Two states. Now this is not necessarily a bad idea in and of itself – Iowa and New Hampshire are inherently bad for the process, and someday, their power will have to be broken. And the way it will be broken is when one party has a tremendously charismatic candidate, with tons of money and a good staff, who can make himself a contender without bothering to devote any special attention to Iowa or New Hampshire. If, say, Bill Clinton were eligible to run again, and had all of Al Gore’s Google shares sold for liquid cash, he could blow off bothering to campaign ANYWHERE. He wouldn’t, of course, because he needs to campaign more than Dean Martin needed another drink, but he could. If Reagan rose from the grave, and had left instructions in his will to take Boise State, App State and George Mason in a parlay, he would win every primary without setting foot in a single state. The point is, you can only alienate the frontrunning states if two conditions are met:

1) You are a sure thing.

2) There are not so many candidates that pulling 31% counts as a landslide.

Those conditions are not met. Thompson isn’t leading anywhere; hell, he’s not even close to breaking away from the Rudy-Mitt-McCain pack. He’s stayed in it to this point for the same reason that the “Generic [other party]” always looks so good: because people can’t resist the ol’ tabula rasa. When you can dream of your perfect candidate, of course you love him – but when he comes to life, he invariably has bad skin, a phony streak a mile wide, an annoying tic you never noticed, and eventually, a spot of trouble involving a dead girl or a live boy.

So I hope Fred had a grand old night talking to the Mighty Chin last night. Ten years from now, we’ll look back on it as the high-water mark of the Thompson campaign.

Still trying things…

…among them the new version of MarsEdit. This blog is normally written in ecto, but a new version of the only other client that has ever tempted me at least warrants consideration. So here it is.

Meanwhile, I am still recovering from Saturday. Easily the greatest win I have been a part of at Cal, possibly excepting the first Axe in 2002. But in terms of a game that I attended in person and which staked the flag for the Golden Bears nationally, this is hands-down the biggest yet. My voice is back, although I think I am skating on the thin edge of a sinus infection. I have not yet gotten over the glee of all those orange-clad morons moping back on the BART. Yes, I am sure that there were some fine folks in attendance from the Volunteer State, but they were buried somewhere under a pile of hicks in orange whose mission in life was to fulfill every possible stereotype of the South. Loud, obnoxious, bigoted, ignorant in the extreme, and drawling unintelligibly. And ladies – do your research and don’t wear heels to a game taking place in a stadium more than 500 vertical feet above the damn BART stop. Almost as fun as winning the game was watching the UTards slowly realize that getting back to the hotel meant taking public transportation. Through Oakland. At NIGHT.

We went to Half Moon Bay this weekend. I forgot how much I love fog. I mean, fog cheers me up. It’s like I have some sort of reverse-SAD, where all the bright summer sunlight and heat makes me psychotically miserable, and I need cold and overcast to feel whole again. Although I think my powers are starting to return, as they do every fall, more or less…time to add the “September Songs” playlist back to the iPhone.

I’m also toying with a new target: 1000 words a week, including at least one post of not less than 500 words. To force me to write in both burst and longer formats. And hell, maybe at least one 1500-word feature piece per month? If I’m serious about teaching myself to write again, I have to, well, put some words down. And learn not to start sentences with “and” all the time.