Archive for November, 2010

I’ll Admit It — I Was Wrong About The Bears (So Far)

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Okay, okay … I was wrong.

There can’t be anyone that was more critical of the Chicago Bears — and coaches Lovie Smith and Ron Martz — than I’ve been in the past year.  I already spoke at length as to why I thought the pairing of Martz and erratic quarterback Jay Cutler was doomed to failure, and I was more than prepared as the season started to watch my beloved Bears crash into the NFC North cellar; when asked, I predicted to anyone who’d listen that I thought Chicago was a legitimate threat to finish behind the improved Detroit Lions.

Whoops.

Instead of planning for who they’re going to pick in next year’s draft, the Bears are fighting for the NFC title, and are only one game back of the 9-2 Atlanta Falcons for the best record in the conference.  Is it possible that Chicago might not only make the playoffs, but could host a game in January?  I never would have thought it was possible — and yet, here we are.

The reasons for the Bears turnaround are really pretty simple.  The defense has suddenly sprung back to life (the Bears have given up the 2nd fewest points in all of the NFL, just behind division rival Green Bay), giving up 8 points a game fewer than they did in 2009 and putting them in position to win every game they play, while also allowing only 80.5 rushing yards a game, 2nd-best in the league.  They’ve also been better at limiting backbreaking turnovers — or more so, Jay Cutler has been limiting them of late, having thrown only 3 interceptions over his last four games, all wins.

The Bears ... RUNNING THE BALL!!!

Martz’ pass-wacky tendencies have also been limited as the season as worn on.  After early losses in which the running game was nearly invisible, the Bears have focused on giving Matt Forte the ball and establishing the run.  In their 16-0 shutout win over the Dolphins two weeks ago, Forte and backup running back Chester Taylor carried the ball as astounding (for a Martz-led offense, that is) 36 times!  Defense and a running game that can control the clock and wear out defenses: that’s how the classic Bear teams of the past have won, and to a large extent, that’s how they’re winning now.

Can it continue?  I thought Chicago’s early-season victories were fluky — a win on the terrible Calvin Johnson TD-that-wasn’t call that should have resulted in a loss on opening day, and wins against terrible teams in Dallas, Buffalo, and Carolina.  Also, the Giants destroyed them in Week 4, and they have unimpressive losses against mediocre teams in Seattle and Washington — at home, no less.

Yet they did beat Green Bay earlier in the season, and the victory against Philadelphia this past Sunday in a game where Cutler played as good a game as he has in his time wearing a Bears uniform — as well as the impressive performance by the defense in limiting the damage done by Michael Vick — has made me, for the moment at least, a believer.  It’s been a difficult season for me as a Bears fan — I haven’t rooted for them to win, mainly because I believed (and deep down, still believe I guess) that Lovie, Martz, and Cutler all needed to go for the franchise’s future to be bright.

Is this a scene that might be repeated in January?

But at some point, the results on the field are all that really matter — and the Bears are winning — so, sucker that I am, I guess I’m along for the ride.  A question I asked recently of a friend was whether or not someone can “bandwagon jump” if it’s their own team they’re doing it with — I’m now going to find out.  I’m breaking out my Bears jacket from the closet and embracing this team, for better or for worse.  If  Cutler really has matured as a quarterback, if the defense continues to channel the great defenses of years past, if Lovie doesn’t foul it up and Martz can keep his worst tendencies in check — then in what’s been a wacky year already in the NFL, Chicago might just be for real.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Personal on November 25, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone reading here!  May you and your families have a safe, wonderful holiday.

What’s A Superman Movie Without Superman? Probably A Disaster Even The Man Of Steel Can’t Prevent

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies, Rants with tags , , , , , , , on November 24, 2010 by thelasthonestman

When it was announced that Zach Snyder — he of 300 and Watchmen — would be at the helm of the new Superman movie, I was on board.  The two films referenced above had their share of critics, but they were two films I found immensely entertaining.  On the latter especially did I think Snyder proved himself capable of putting a serious comic book movie (tights, powers, and all) on the big screen.

However, word that’s leaking out about the upcoming Superman project makes me believe that Warner Brothers still doesn’t get it when it comes to putting one of their flagship characters on the big screen, and more than ever, it means that the movie battle between Marvel Comics and DC Comics will continue to be won by Marvel.

Anne Hathaway + any movie = worth watching

The news that bothers me isn’t the rumored casting of Anne Hathaway as Lois Lane — not at all.  I absolutely love Anne Hathaway — I’d pay good money to watch her read the contents off the side of a milk carton — and I think she’s got the mixture of sex appeal, spunk, and sass to make her the perfect Lois Lane.  The two previous attempts at getting this character right on the big screen were misfires; Margot Kidder had the right personality for the first four films, but — as bad as this might sound — she just wasn’t attractive enough onscreen to make me think she could sweep the Man of Steel off his feet, and while Kate Bosworth is definitely beautiful, she looked too young for the role and had the charisma of a grilled cheese sandwich in Superman Returns.  Hathaway would take the best of what both other actresses brought to their roles to be the definitive big-screen Lois (though for my money, it’ll take a hell of a performance to top Teri Hatcher’s smoldering portrayal of Lois on the small screen in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman).

My issue is the supposed plot details that are being leaked, namely that we’re going to have a rehashing of Superman’s origin and a film that largely focuses on Clark Kent, with precious little Superman in it — or at least it seems that way from what’s being said.  According to the above linked report,  the film will focus on the Man of Steel’s alter ego as a young journalist as he helps people while not using his superpowers.  Supposedly, the audience will then watch as Clark Kent travels the world only to return to his Smallville home to learn his true origin.

To quote Bill Murray from the classic Scrooged:

Here’s a newsflash for the good people at Warner Brothers and Snyder as well:  We know the origin story of Superman.  All of us do, everywhere — men, women, and even children.  It might be the most famous origin of any fictional character in any medium.  And it was told tremendously in Richard Donner’s original movie, which everyone who’ll be interested in seeing this film will have already seen.  And you won’t do it any better than it was done there.

You're the Man of Steel -- Stop Crying!

And so far as the “finding himself and who he really is” nonsense — well, we’ve seen that too, again, mostly in the first movie (though similar themes were explored in the second movie as well).  A Superman who is unsure of himself and who can’t embrace his role as the protector of mankind?  This take has been tried before in the comics, usually to universal derision and scorn.  No one wants their Superman filled with angst, doubts, and a touch of self-loathing — while there’s plenty of characters that such an approach fit perfectly with, the Man of Steel is definitely not one of them.

What do audiences — both the die-hard comic-book fans and the casual viewers — want in their Superman movie then?  How about no more tired rehashing of the same things over and over again for a start — enough with Lex Luthor as the main villain already.  No more dumb bimbo sidekicks to the antagonist as comic relief.  No more ridiculous subplots involving children that might be the Man of Steel’s, or real estate scams as the bad guy’s motivation, or endless monologues from Marlon Brando as Jor-El.  No more Phantom Zone escapees.  It’s ground we’ve covered enough times already.

Instead, give us a bad guy who really can challenge the Man of Steel on a physical level as well as a mental one.  Brainiac would be a great start, coming to Earth to shrink Metropolis to add to his collection of cities.  Or Darkseid, in an attempt to enslave our planet under the rule of Apokolips.  Or maybe a classic interpretation of Bizarro, in the form of a weapon used by a smarter, less physical rogue like the Toyman.

Once we have a villain to build a story around, then give us action.  Plenty of it.  You have the most powerful being on the planet with an opponent who can match him toe-to-toe — let’s see them go at it.  While one would think that using this formula isn’t exactly rocket science, it’s worth noting that only one Superman movie has had anything resembling this approach in it (Superman II).  Add in some other thrilling action sequences that display the Man of Steel’s powers to their full effect (like the incredibly well-done Shuttle rescue sequence in the most recent movie, one of the only things about that film that actually worked) and presto — a winning formula.  Certainly, it’s a recipe for something better than the some of the bad-tasting films we’ve seen for a character that’s deserved far better.

Will Warner Brothers realize that before they end up with another big-budget debacle on their hands?  If early reports are any indication, you don’t need a Superman to tell you that the answer is apparently not.

What Does This Post Have In Common With Brett Favre’s Next Start For Minnesota?

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , on November 23, 2010 by thelasthonestman

The answer — they’re simply the latest in a long number of them.  Yep — that’s it.  This column in the 200th since I started my blog, and Favre’s next start is going to be the 296th in a row for the future Hall of Famer.  So what does that mean — or better yet, what should it mean?

Absolutely nothing.

Someone should explain that to new Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier (as well as to a number of NFL analysts out there).  I say that because, like this blog, the NFL should be — and usually is — a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately affair.  And what Favre has done lately has been, in a word, abysmal.

The best chance for Minnesota to win would be for this pair to keep driving right on out of town -- together

I wrote yesterday about the possibility that Frazier might make the ballsy call to put his own stamp on the Vikings now and establish himself as the polar opposite of fired coach Brad Childress by benching a clearly washed-up Brett Favre.  However, in what was essentially his first move as the top man, Frazier was emphatic in throwing his weight behind Favre as his quarterback, a move that a number of  “analysts” have been supportive of.  Really?  I can’t imagine the people that say Favre gives the Vikings the best chance to win have actually, you know, been watching Minnesota and Favre play this year to come up with that reasoning.

In the end, does anyone actually believe that simply canning Childress while not addressing the elephant in the room in Favre’s crappy performance is going to solve the Vikings’ problems?  Especially when Favre has been the biggest problem in Minnesota this year?  And we’re not even talking about the problems that occur with the team dynamics when your starting quarterback is undermining the head coach behind the scenes — a fair assessment of what’s happened with the Vikings in 2010.  We’re simply talking about the performance of a quarterback who has a rating that leaves him ranked 32nd in the NFL — behind such stellar performers like Derek Anderson and Alex Smith.  Ye Gods.

We’re talking about a quarterback who’s leading the NFL in interceptions thrown (with 17), and anyone who’s watched Favre throw one crucial pick after another all year knows how they’ve killed the vikings all year.  Look no further than his terrible decision in the pass that was picked off in the red zone in the last two minutes of the first half of Sunday’s blowout loss to the Packers, a turnover that was likely the turning point that led from what might still have been a close game into an all-out rout.

As I stated yesterday, backup Tavaris Jackson is no Peyton Manning waiting for his chance — but there’s not really a lot he has to do to be better than Favre, does he?  If Farve wasn’t in the starting lineup, it might be easier for the Vikings to get away from the Farve-centric attack they’ve used for most of the season and actually start utilizing their biggest weapon, Adrian Peterson, more.  But Frazier’s immediate deference to the legend in his locker room as his unquestioned starter not only makes me think that he hasn’t been paying attention to Favre as the quarterback has driven a stake through the Vikings’ chances, it also makes me believe that we’re going to see more of the same the rest of the season — plenty of turnovers, plenty of losses, and plenty of excuses from people who have the evidence right in front of them for where the biggest problems lie, but who fail to take heed of them.

Quick Thoughts For A New Week

Posted in News/Current Events, NFL Football, Politics, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Being too busy to post on a daily basis — or even sometimes a weekly basis — makes it a pain to keep tabs with so many of the things going on around the world that I’d like to comment on when they’re still fresh on everyone’s mind.  But it is what it is.  That just means, instead of in-depth commentary from yours truly on any given subject, you’re left with more of the Cliff’s Notes version of what I think in its place.  But that’s better than nothing, right?  Right?  Nah — don’t answer that …

brad— In today’s news, Brad Childress is gone as the Minnesota Vikings head coach.  Like the firing of Wade Phillips a couple of weeks ago, this move seemed long overdue.  While it comes too late to save the Vikings’ season — frankly, even if it had been made weeks ago, Minnesota would still be headed for a seat on their couch come playoff time — replacing Childress with Leslie Frazier is a step in the right direction for the franchise.

It’ll be interesting to see if Frazier is able to put his stamp on the team or not — and the best way he could do that would be to sit Brett Favre in favor of Tavaris Jackson.  Jackson isn’t anything special, but Favre’s imitation of a turnover machine is absolutely killing the team, and the offense’s over-reliance on Favre’s arm — particularly in the red zone — has been a problem all season.  The best weapon the Vikings have is Adrian Peterson, yet Childress underutilized him all year.  Of course, that decision-making is why he’s unemployed today.

— Speaking of soon-to-be-unemployed head coaches, I was calling for Texans head coach Gary Kubiak to get the axe last year around this time — but he was brought back instead thanks to a meaningless late-season rally last year that left Houston back at .500 on the season.  And not surprisingly, here the Texans are again: 4-6 and pretty much out of the playoff hunt — again.   I have a feeling that even if Houston can put up a late-season winning streak to get back to .500 once more, this time Kubiak won’t be so lucky.

— While we’re on the subject of comebacks, in the news this past week was the stunning declaration from AP that Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, looks to emerge victorious in her election campaign as a write-in candidate against Joe Miller, who previously beat her in the Republican primary.  Murkowski’s apparent victory would make her the first candidate to win a write-in campaign for the Senate since Strom Thurmond in South Carolina in 1954. But Miller and his supporters are not going away quietly, as despite the apparently clear voice of the Alaskan people, the Tea Party candidate has vowed to keep fighting, getting an injunction today in court to halt the election certification.

It’s an embarrassment to Miller, the Tea Party, and the Republican Party that though the result seems pretty clear, they’ll attempt anything in order to reverse the election outcome, such as attempting to disqualify votes for Murkowski due to misspellings of her name by one letter, or votes that reversed her name (Murkowski, Lisa) in the wrote-in space.  I’m wondering how many of Miller’s supporters supported Al Gore’s recount efforts in Florida back in 2000?  I’m guessing none.  The people of Alaska have spoken, and it’s been that they want no part of Miller as their senator.  Miller and his supporters — including Sarah Palin — should take the hint.

— Hopefully, I’ll be a little bit more active here again soon — free time permitting of course.  With the holiday season approaching rapidly, I hope everyone reading this stays safe and enjoys themselves this week and beyond.

In Dallas, It’s All Over But The Firing

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , on November 8, 2010 by thelasthonestman

If you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan, then it can’t get any worse.

Bartender -- line 'em up! It's "Wade Phillips Face"!

A good drinking game — and you probably need to drink if you’re a Dallas fan these days — would be to take a shot every time the cameras pan to a befuddled-looking Wade Phillips on the sidelines after another crappy Dallas play. The upside of the game would be you’re not likely to stay conscious past the first half of any Dallas effort these days.

That certainly would have been the case if you were watching the utter debacle that was the Cowboys shellacking at the hands of the Green Bay Packers last night.  A national audience watched owner Jerry Jones’ squad get outplayed in every way imaginable en route to a 45-7 defeat that represented the 2nd worst road loss in the franchise’s illustrious history.  The Cowboys dropped to 1-7, their worst start since the very beginning of the Jones regime, an 0-8 start in 1989.

Frankly, it wasn’t even that close.  Other than the emergence in recent weeks of rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant, there isn’t anything positive that can be taken out of the situation in Dallas.  The team isn’t playing hard, they’re still making stupid mistakes with astounding regularity on both sides of the ball, and after the claims by Phillips that the team was getting back to basics, they’re actually looking worse and worse with each passing week.  Other than that, though — everything looks great.

This season has been a lost one for Dallas for a while — certainly since Tony Romo went down back on that Monday night against the Giants.  Jerry Jones has never fired a coach in mid-season, but he has to feel the pressure to do so now — the Cowboys have passed from the realm of the inept to the outright embarrassing.  The problem is that firing Phillips isn’t going to change the culture that has been established around the team, a culture that has allowed poor play and sloppy performances to go without penalty.  The problem with the Cowboys begins at the very top, with Jones himself, and that’s why it’s going to be more difficult to change the atmosphere in Dallas.

Jones has always wanted the credit for the success of his team to go to him first and foremost;  that’s why strong-willed personalities like Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells never fit in with the owner, and why a mediocre head coach — but a “yes-man” if there ever was one — in Wade Phillips has remained in the top spot for as long as he has.  Phillips is a nice guy overwhelmed by his situation, and there’s no doubt he will be gone sooner or later — and that he needs to be in order for the Cowboys to regain some level of prominence.

As long as getting credit for his team's success is his primary concern, Jerry Jones is going to continue to be disappointed

However, who Jones eventually hires to replace him will tell a lot about how quickly Dallas will rejoin the NFL elite, and what their eventual ceiling will be.  Strong-willed coaches like Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden have been bandied about by hopeful Cowboy fans as their potential saviors on the sidelines, but it’s hard to see either of them willing to put up with the circus that is having Jones oversee, overrule, and overreach on every decision made from his owner’s box.  If Jones is willing to fade into the background and allow someone who knows what they’re doing to take full command, then Dallas’ future will be much brighter.  But if he goes the Wade Phillips route again, then Cowboys fans need to be prepared for more of the same in the future.