Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bailout blues: the Stupid Party and the Evil Party

By Rick Morris

It's pretty pathetic when yesterday's fiasco in the House of Representatives most reminds me of prepubescent squabbling between my younger brother and myself -- neither one of us was even ten years old at the time. What excuse do these clowns have?

Specifically, I'm thinking of times when our family would be riding in the car, with my brother and myself in the backseat. He would flip me off or stick his tongue out at me or something like that -- and I'd reach over and start pummeling him. Shrieks and tears would ensue, my parents would whirl around and I'd be in trouble for "attacking my brother without cause."

In this example, Nancy Pelosi is my younger brother and the hapless John Boehner is the childhood version of me. Everything everyone has ever said about America having a "Stupid Party and and Evil Party" was also validated in the chaos yesterday.

You see, what San Fran Nan did yesterday, in delivering her hateful, petulant, double-crossing speech at the end that blew up this deal, is what she always does, and moreover, the only thing she should have been expected to do. It's what she is, it's what she does, and it's what she has always gotten away with -- she did become the speaker, after all. She's a product of the excreble anti-American values populace she represents, people who are (no joke) spending time and energy carrying out a vendetta that would rename one of their municipal facilities "The George W. Bush Sewage Plant."

John Boehner then did what the extremely youthful version of myself would have done with his reaction. Why, in a million gazillion years, would he ever admit that Republican votes on what was the right thing to do for the country in a severe national crisis could ever be swayed by something like this? Did he not know that he was setting up the Republicans to be mocked mercilessly by Barney Frank and the others who probably helped plot Pelosi's vile speech? She sought to blow up the deal and have the Republicans assume responsibility for it -- and she succeeded. It might not have been fair for me as a child to get in trouble because I was the one who got caught throwing punches, but life's not fair. And it might not be fair for Pelosi to get away with her evil plan to sabotage this fragile deal and blame Republican policies (ignoring, of course, her party's indulgence of Fannie and Freddie's excesses over the years), but again, that's life.

Moreover, in Boehner's feeble attempt to play chicken with folks who long ago proved their ability to run rings around him, he then told the cameras -- while the markets were still open, and plummeting like a rock, mind you -- that his members were already on their way out of town and that an immediate salvage effort was impossible. I sure hope this poor man's Mike Adamle doesn't ever encounter a would-be suicide victim teetering on a bridge, because within five seconds his efforts to talk the person down will have them jumping in despair.

When the historians look back at the extreme breakdown of this country's political process due to the unprecedented partisanship (yes, even worse than anything in the late 19th century), they will find no better example than this episode. All of the jerks on both sides who helped shut this thing down have blood on their hands in terms of how much worse they made this dire crisis. What is particularly galling to me is the born-again fiscal conservative nature of so many Republican hypocrites who never fought Big Government George W. Bush nearly this hard over the past eight years just because he had an "R" next to his name on the ballot and now want to draw the line. In that sense, they mirror perfectly former House Speaker Newt King Squish, who talked tough but surrendered to Bill Clinton on principle every chance he got. He famously killed the GOP's negotiating stance back in '95 by admitting to shutting down the government not on principle but because Clinton hurt his feelings. So this two-faced idiot, like Pelosi, should have been predicted to do what he did yesterday: lobby against this bill and undermine the republic just like he did through his inept four years as speaker.

This is a national emergency, demanding immediate action, and all that the jackals on both sides can do is argue and posture. Henry Paulson's initial bill was horrible, but it got hammered into something that was still very bad, but significantly better than doing nothing. While it's human nature to let the "perfect be the enemy of the good," what I've learned in the course of trying to build a business is the fact that often, the key to succeeding is to realize when you only have two bad choices and you have to avoid the worst of the two. The shameful children that we call congressmen have not learned and will never learn that lesson or anything else useful in the course of performing the jobs they are being vastly overpaid to perform.

This bailout is unpopular with the public, but they don't understand that Wall Street is the engine of our economy. If it collapses, it takes our entire system down with it. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a democracy, it's a constitutional republic (as my FDH Lounge colleague Nate Noy is fond of saying). We don't directly vote on these matters, we vote for these people to vote for us and then we hold them accountable. The cowardice involved in surrendering to the ignorant mob mentality is as shameful as anything we've seen out of Congress in decades, and that covers a tremendous amount of territory. Let me state this clearly: the entire system of commerce could collapse. Our currency could become meaningless and our country could devolve into anarchy and lawlessness as people fight to literally survive on a daily basis. The way the government's running the printing presses pumping out money anyway, we're already heading down the Argentinian path of pushing a wheelbarrow of caysh to the store to buy a loaf of bread.

As I said to a nervous friend yesterday, they'll pass something eventually. By the time they come up with a solution, it may well pass unanimously and with overwhelming public support -- but by that time, I'm likely to be driving around wearing an eyepatch clutching a rocket launcher. I pray that is not the case, but as a longtime student of our rotten modern political institutions, I fear that it is.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hey, Tony!

By Tony Mazur

Paul Hoynes, the Cleveland Indians beat reporter from the Plain Dealer, has a section in the newspaper where Tribe fans can ask him a Tribe-related question, and he'll answer it as honestly as he can (or at least that's what Larry Dolan says).

I've decided to answer these questions, just for fun.

Q: Do you see the Indians trading Victor Martinez during the off-season for pitching help and allowing one of their young minor leaguers (Beau Mills or Matt LaPorta) to take over at first base?

A: Are you talking about the same Cleveland Indians? Victor Martinez will be an Indian next season. Now Ryan Garko is a different story. If Eric Wedge starts Martinez behind the plate and Kelly Shoppach back him up next season, Garko is safe. This will probably be the case, even though Shoppach had a great year.

Q: The recent history of the AL Central Division
shows that you can be mediocre one year and division champions the next.
Am I being too optimistic in wondering whether the Indians can challenge
for the division in 2009?

A: The AL Central, just like the NFC North and the NBA's Eastern Conference, sucks. Period.

Q: In the Sept. 19 game against the Tigers, why
wasn't Gary Sheffield tagged out when he stepped off first base to
approach the pitcher's mound and Fausto Carmona?

A: Because it made for interesting baseball. I'm sick of players getting along. I love a good baseball fight, even though Carmona and Sheffield fought like women.

Q: Since Gary Sheffield has made threats to get
Victor Martinez and Asdrubal Cabrera on or off the field, shouldn't
they try to get a restraining order against him? Let a judge order
Sheffield to remain 200 yards from either of them. That way, Sheffield
couldn't take the field when the Indians play them, let alone be in
the dugout.

A: Are you insane, sir? What does it matter to you? I could care less either way. As should you.

Q: You haven't explained in your columns why
the Tribe is waiving people off the 40-man roster? Is it a cash-cutting
move? Is our depth and farm system so poor that these players were

A: John Hart had that system in tip-top shape. Now that Shapiro has taken over the throne, the Buffalo Bisons/Columbus Clippers are the Cleveland Indians. And to answer the question, of course it's a cost-cutting move. Shapiro made the mistake of signing these washed-up veterans to appease you and I (which never worked). After unloading our pricey veterans in 2008, the Indians went from the middle of the league to the bottom tier in team salaries.

Q: Granted CC Sabathia was holding up the Indians
for more than he was worth, but is owner Larry Dolan really so close to
the poorhouse that the team could not pay him if it would have helped
produce a contender for this season?

A: They could have paid him whatever he wanted, but they chose not to. I'd like to know where the money from the 455 sellouts is. I'd like to know where the revenue from last year's postseason went. I'd like to know where the money the Dolans are receiving from Progressive for the naming rights to the stadium.

Q: You said that the Indians won't have four
lefties in the rotation next year. You have to assume that Cliff Lee,
Fausto Carmona, and Aaron Laffey will be the first three. Jake Westbrook
probably won't be back in time, and I've heard Adam Miller is headed
to the pen. Everyone else in the pipeline (Jeremy Sowers, Scott Lewis,
David Huff and Zack Jackson) is left-handed. Are you counting Anthony
Reyes or do you think the Indians will pursue someone in the off-season?

A: You know you're in bad shape when you want to salvage guys like Anthony Reyes, David Huff, and Zack Jackson.

Q: If Pollyanna Wedge managed the Cubs, do you
think they would have finished third or fourth in the NL Central? If Lou
Piniella managed the Tribe, how deep would they go in the playoffs?

A: As hard as I've been on the Tribe this season, I can't fault Eric Wedge. A Major League manager does not do a lot. Neither does a head coach in football. The head coach or manager is surrounded by specialty coaches, helping the players with their expertise. We could have dug up Casey Stengal and the Indians would have a similar record.

Numbers Lie

By Tony Mazur

For those who've heard my voice on the STC/STN airwaves in the past ten months, you've probably listened to my anger towards the Cleveland Indians' organization. With the 2008 season over and done, and the Indians not in the playoffs, I can give my review.

But first, let's translate quotes from some of the media and team personnel (from the 9/29 edition of The Plain Dealer).

Plain Dealer: The Tribe's month-by-month record tells its story -- 13-15 in April, 12-15 in May, 12-16 in June, 10-14 in July, 18-10 in August and 16-11 in September.

Translation: The season was done in May.

Plain Dealer: So do the extended stays on the disabled list by Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook. As well as the trades of CC Sabathia, Paul Byrd, Casey Blake and Jason Michaels.

Translation: Rather than blame the front office for the mediocre season, we'll pretend that, if the trades and injuries never occurred, WE'D be in the playoffs instead of Minnesota/Chicago.

Eric Wedge: We had a lot of holes to fill.

Translation: We needed to find SOME way to put Andy Marte in the starting lineup.

Plain Dealer: They had to go 44-28 the rest of the way to break even.

Translation: The rest of the teams really had nothing to play for.

Eric Wedge: I'm proud of these guys. They could have made excuses, but they never did.

Translation: If it weren't for the Cleveland Indians, these guys would be flipping burgers at Hardee's.

Jamey Carroll: We had to overcome a lot. There were a lot of expectations on this club coming out of spring training. Then we lost Vic, Hafner, Fausto and Westbrook. Guys tried to step in and replace those guys and tried to do a little too much.

Translation: This team was so desperate for "veteran leadership" that they traded for me.

Plain Dealer: Bryan Bullington (0-2, 4.91) started Sunday's game in place of Cliff Lee. The Cy Young favorite couldn't pitch because of a stiff neck, but he's expected to be back at full health in spring training.

Translation: Cliff Lee sat out of Sunday's game because the Tribe's lackluster offense would possibly hurt his chances at winning the Cy Young Award.

The only words you'll read from the media about the Tribe is how they turned it around in the second half of the season. In August and September, the Indians were 34-21, a very respectable record. However, because that kind of record was not posted in the first four months of the contest, nobody gave a rat's rump.

This season for the Indians and the fans was painful. Sure, it gave Ben Francisco, Shin Soo Choo, and Kelly Shoppach the opportunity to hone their skills, but that shouldn't have been. Remember, this was the team that won the AL Central and took the eventual World Series-winning Boston Red Sox to seven games of the ALCS. Or was it?

Injuries played a factor for the Tribe, but that shouldn't be an excuse. Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez collectively hit 7 home runs and 69 RBIs in 464 at-bats. Yes, they may have been injured, but they weren't playing very well before they went down. "But Tony, what if their injuries were affecting their game before they went on the disabled list?" Well, then they shouldn't have let their team down. The same goes for Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona. They both sign big contracts, and spend the majority of it on the DL. See you next August, Jake.

Trading Sabathia was smart, but a little too late. I hear good things about Matt LaPorta, but in reality, the Indians let go of CC for some magic beans. The Brewers traded an unproven prospect for a Cy Young Award-winner. Now the Brew Crew is in the playoffs, and the Indians are at Hopkins International Airport, waiting on the next red eye home.

They also had to trade Paul Byrd and Casey Blake. Again, the Indians could have gotten a little more out of the deals, but it's been like this since 2002.

81-81 looks like a respectable record, but we saw how fraudulent this team is. That's what they get for attempting to pass David Dellucci off as a starting outfielder. After the Detroit Tigers spent a ton of money and choked in the regular season, don't expect the Dolan-Shapiro tandem to pull off a blockbuster move in 2009. Go Cavs.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

FDH Lounge Show #36: September 28, 2008

By Rick Morris

On this Sunday night’s 36th edition of THE FDH LOUNGE on SportsTalkNetwork.com (8-11 PM EDT), the show with the widest variety of content anywhere proves it yet again as we return from a brief hiatus.

After The Dignitaries of The Lounge make their Opening Statements, we delve into Part One of The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report as we break down a shocking weekend in college football. Then, Don La Greca of ESPN 1050 AM in New York joins us to talk about the subjects he covers on terrestrial radio (New York Jets, New York Rangers) and he’ll help us break down the coming hockey season by drawing upon his present broadcast work for NHL.com’s “NHL Live.” The remainder of Hour One will be filled with Part Two of The Pigskin Report as we turn our attention to the pros.

In Hour Two, Ken Palmer of Scout.com’s Giant Insider comes on to talk all things Super Bowl Champion. Did Eli Manning turn a permanent corner late last year? What’s the deal with Plex Burress? Can the team continue to thrive even in the absence of both of last year’s bookend pass rushers? We’ll hit all that and much more. From there, we examine the coming baseball postseason in detail. Whether or not all of the first-round matchups are known by then, we’ll still break down the possibilities and some tasty potential later clashes that we could see. Joining us will be our good friend Russ Cohen of Baseballology.

Hour Three is where your Dignitaries break down a very confusing world for you. First, we review all of the fast-breaking developments in presidential politics five weeks out from what could be the most consequential election of our lifetime. You never know what you’re going to hear on this program, as Dignitary Chris Galloway talked about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a potential future political superstar on the very first episode of The Lounge on January 14, 2007. Certainly, everyone will have thoughts about everything that has happened since we came before you last: the vice-presidential selections, the conventions, the first debate … and Joe Biden’s gaffe-a-day pace out on the campaign trail. Can he restrain himself from saying, “Nice outfit, toots!” at the VP debate this week? We shall see. Towards the end of the hour, we’ll put the Wall Street debacle in easy-to-understand terms as far as how we got here and what needs to be done, not just in the short-term future but also down the road.

Be sure to tune in at 8 PM EDT on STN for the program that looks at every facet of the world that you care about: The FDH Lounge – accept no substitutes!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume I, Issue IV

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the FantasyDrafthelp.com blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

FDH Insider/Goon Squad September 24

By Rick Morris

Tonight’s FDH Wednesday night on SportsTalkNetwork.com features more of the sports variety we have long delivered.

First on THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER (7-9 PM EDT), we revisit our Top 5 Week 4 waiver-wire recommendations and other FDH updates for your edification and recommend to you a NON-FANTASY sports book to help you with your strategizing going forward (for once, we’re promoting something completely unconnected to us!) before we segue into our Week 4 game-by-game fantasy previews in our second half-hour. This will carry us all the way up to the last 20 minutes of the show, when we delve into fantasy hoops for the first time this year and point out the strategic similarities between what we’ve discussed with hockey the past few weeks and how to compile your hoops team.

Then, on THE GOON SQUAD (9-10 PM EDT), we refer once again to our FREE new download publication FANTASY HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY 2008, a joint production of FDH and Sportsology. We’ll stay on the topic of fantasy briefly as we emphasize to you an important article in our guide that deals with the factor of the schedule when assembling your team in your hockey pool. Then, toward the bottom of the hour and the rest of the way through the show, we examine the FDH standings predictions in the guide and talk about how we think the 30 teams in the league will fall out this year.

Be sure to join us for a Wednesday night that is jam-packed as always, brought to you by your friends at FDH!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Check out Footballology on Wednesday

By Rick Morris

We have received word from one of our content associates in the Friends of FDH Club, Russ Cohen, that some big doings will be posted on Footballology, the football division of Sportsology, on Wednesday. Specifically, interesting aspects of the Pay the Fan craze are going to be profiled in the form of interviews with founder John Hartman and "spokes-scorchcake" Carly Wrenn. Don't miss it!

NFL power rankings for Week 4

By Rick Morris

At this point, NFL teams seem to be broken into three distinct tiers, somewhat resembling a bell curve with the biggest, fattest tier in the middle. Teams are slotted mostly on what they have shown thus far, with a residual amount based on the perceptions coming into the season.

1. Dallas
2. NY Giants
3. Tennessee
4. Philadelphia

5. Green Bay
6. Pittsburgh
7. Buffalo
8. New England
9. Denver
10. San Diego
11. Jacksonville
12. Indianapolis
13. Carolina
14. Washington
15. Arizona
16. Tampa Bay
17. Minnesota
18. New Orleans
19. Baltimore
20. Chicago
21. San Francisco
22. Atlanta
23. Houston
24. Seattle

25. Miami
26. Cleveland
27. Oakland
28. Cincinnati
29. St. Louis
30. Kansas City

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Buy The Office Season 4 DVD

By Rick Morris

September is always a big month for NBC’s THE OFFICE, with the release of the previous season’s DVD and the premier of the new season. My previous review of Season 3, which can be read here (and should be read if you are unfamiliar with the show and want to learn more, because it’s a fairly broad overview of not just that season, but the entire show) indicated that I recommended the DVD heartily. For that matter, I called the program the greatest in TV history in my opinion. In short, Season 4 did not change my opinion about that last note one bit.

The top subplot throughout the history of the show had been the saga of Jim and Pam and their circuitous route from being close friends past a number of self-imposed obstacles to being more than that (which was summed up in the above-linked column). The challenge for this peerless writing staff was to portray accurately the reality that would come from surmounting the misunderstandings and failed communication. I said in my Season 3 review that I loathed the sitcom portrayal of such couples and thought that the “Sam and Diane/Ross and Rachel” formula was hacky and completely unentertaining. I had full confidence that THE OFFICE would not milk melodrama for the sake of melodrama and allow the new circumstances to unfold in as natural a manner as everything that led up to it. The writers vindicated my confidence, as Jim and Pam didn’t actually have any problems during the year (with the possible exception of whether or not Jim was going to propose in the season finale, a point that we will cover a bit later) and indeed, they were in the background more than they were previously as some other storylines got a bit more play during the season.

One of the greatest elements of the program is how the writers can introduce a new element or development into the show very quickly and have it fit neatly alongside anything that has come before. So it was with the continuing twists and turns between office branch manager Michael and his former boss-turned-crazy-live-in-girlfriend Jan – but so it also was with a love triangle that seemed to come out of nowhere but flowed quite naturally between militaristic salesman Dwight, his secret girlfriend in accounting, the severe Angela, and annoying preppie salesman Andy. Along with the promotion of former temp Ryan to become Michael’s boss in New York, these were the most heavily featured storylines of the season.

In terms of Michael and Jan, the last we saw of them at the end of Season 3 was the beginning of the live-in phase of their relationship. Michael had dumped Jan late in the season due to the fact that he could no longer absorb her abusive treatment of him. In the final episode, he reconciled with her for the “mature” reason that she got a breast enlargement and she was then promptly fired as his supervisor. He invited her to move to Scranton and live with him and Season 4 showed the consequences of that decision.

Deprived of the high-powered job, the only thing in her life that made her feel important, Jan unraveled completely in Season 4:

^ With her own completely self-indulgent spending, she contributed mightily to the poor financial picture that his idiotic spending habits had created.

^ She double-crossed Michael on several different levels during the course of her unsuccessful lawsuit against the company.

^ After Michael trapped some of the office couples into joining him and Jan for a dinner party, she and Michael jointly accounted for one of the most uncomfortable episodes in TV history when they slowly and painfully broke up over the course of several hours in front of their associates.

^ Before the breakup, Jan had herself artificially inseminated, a development that she was forced to reveal to Michael during the season finale.

Incredibly, with Michael’s strong desire to have children, the final episode seemed to foreshadow Michael taking Jan back for a third time. His search for a new girlfriend had floundered (with especially memorable moments in the “Chair Model” episode), but the final episode seemed to indicate a promising new direction. The longtime object of his hatred, Toby in Human Resources, was moving to Costa Rica and his replacement, Holly, showed signs of being the one woman on Earth who actually seemed to be a good fit for the frequently infantile Michael. But in the end, it seemed that Michael’s inclination was to go back with Jan and put aside his intrigue for Holly. Indications are that the direction of this storyline will be fleshed out early in Season 5.

While the Michael-and-Jan saga has roots dating all the way back to the pilot episode, the Dwight/Angela/Andy saga materialized suddenly early in Season 4. In the season premier, “Fun Run,” Dwight took it upon himself to (clumsily) euthanize Angela’s sick-but-beloved cat Sprinkles without her knowledge, and despite his desperate efforts to apologize for his destructive-but-well-meaning actions, she pulled the plug on their relationship. Since the overly assertive Dwight and the self-righteous Angela seemed to be such a natural pairing – a pairing of two people that other, normal people would not be able to tolerate for very long – one was left to wonder who could possibly step into the situation. Enter Andy.

Aside from a relationship with a high school girl that the oblivious Andy believed to be much older in Season 3, he hadn’t really made any romantic connections in Scranton since moving almost a year earlier. He set his sights on Angela when she loudly proclaimed her availability after shedding Dwight – a rare move on her part that risked acknowledging her secret relationship with the bespecled oddity. Motivated largely by spite, Angela decided to openly date Dwight’s former nemesis. Throughout the season, Andy remained in the dark about the former relationship between Dwight and Angela even as he wondered why she remained chilly towards him well after they had started dating. This culminated with Andy’s proposal to Angela in front of everyone at the office at Toby’s farewell party in the season finale. She reluctantly accepted, but spent the final scene of the season going at it with Dwight in an empty office as a flustered Phyllis accidentally barged in on them. With Phyllis’ long history of mistreatment at the hands of Angela, including Angela's angry jealousy in that very episode when Phyllis was chosen by Michael to plan Toby’s farewell party – well, it promises to be a very interesting start to the new season.

Like the love triangle, the promotion of Ryan ran on a storyline arc from the season’s first episode to the last. When Jim turned down the chance to replace Jan in the Season 3 finale in favor of the chance to work things out with Pam, Ryan emerged from a crowded field as the shocking choice for the position. A former temporary employee who had never made a sale since joining the sales staff, he was prized by the New York office for the MBA that he had just received and for his familiarity with trendy business buzzwords. It became clear early on in Season 4 that he was not completely secure about having once been the bottom-rung guy in Scranton and now being the boss of the entire branch. Early on, his actions ran from bragging about how much he was enjoying various aspects of the big-city life to hitting on Pam (hilariously and unsuccessfully in front of Jim, as he had not yet learned of their relationship – in an equally riotous callback to late in Season 3 when it was learned that he had unsuccessfully hit on Karen when she was dating Jim) to pompously discussing the merits of his new Dunder-Mifflin website. But as the season progressed, the website’s bugs became more problematic and Ryan’s new coke habit worsened, the big boss’s ugly behavior towards his chosen scapegoat of Jim became uglier.

Eventually, in “Goodbye, Toby,” the financial fraud that he committed to bolster the website’s credibility caught up with him and he was seen by his old officemates doing the “perp walk” on YouTube. Season 5 will auger yet another boss over the Scranton office having to deal with Michael’s antics.

So with the other elements of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton moving into the forefront, Jim and Pam receded somewhat into the foreground this year and did not have contrived drama thrust upon them by the writers. It was inconceivable that after everything that had transpired between them – first, as their feelings developed during her engagement to Roy, then their estrangement as she turned him down right before her wedding, then his return to Scranton with Karen on his arm just as Pam was ready to ask Jim for a second chance, then the near-miss of Jim almost moving out of town with Karen – that the characters would in any realistic universe have to endure the hackneyed TV cliché “obstacles” that insecure writers trump up because they fear their audience becoming bored with a happy couple. Fortunately, again, the writers on this show are a cut above, and when they ran out of natural external obstacles between the best friends, they let matters run their course in a logical manner. What this meant was that the two did not have a single moment of serious consternation between them over the course of the season. But the superior abilities of these writers kept them interesting in the absence of melodrama:

^ Having refocused his energies more in the direction of his job in Season 3 when he was trying to deal with his Pam-angst, he found himself struggling at various times in Season 4 to manage some professional setbacks and frustrations – even before Ryan started messing with him.

^ The external element of tension added by Ryan’s antagonism and threats toward Jim played in nicely in the latter part of the season as it became apparent that Jim was going to propose to Pam and would not do so if he could not do so with a secure job status in hand.

^ Pam’s own professional confidence flagged when she learned how far away she might be from her design dreams in the “Job Fair” episode, but in “Goodbye Toby,” she learned that she had been accepted for a three-month program at a prestigious institution in New York.

In the season finale, with Ryan’s exposed misdeeds having eliminated him as a threat to Jim’s job and with Pam’s three-month exodus looming, Jim prepared to give Pam the engagement ring that he revealed in a “talking head” segment that he bought only a week after they finally got together. Jim even augmented the “party fund” by springing for fireworks to go along with Michael’s over-the-top expenditures for carnival rides and an ornate food selection – but just as Jim had subtly maneuvered the ring out of his pocket, Andy hijacked the moment with his own proposal to Angela. For Pam, who had speculated to the cameras that Jim would take that night to propose, there was much disappoint, matching Jim’s own. With her about to go away to the big city for three months, the new season will begin by showing how she and Jim are dealing with the separation and the first even half-unsettling development in their relationship.

As noted in our recent preview of the current season of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, THE OFFICE and SUNNY are both characterized by an almost-complete breakdown of the traditional wall between writers and actors. Both shows feature cast and crew members who cross between different professional roles, and both shows seem much better for it in terms of everyone being on the same page creatively. I would strongly urge that any OFFICE fans acquire the Season 4 DVD available at Target, since it contains bonus footage of last year’s “Office Convention” in Scranton. Writers and actors appeared at roundtable question-and-answer segments with fans that were captured for that special edition of the DVD and if you ever wanted to learn a great deal more about the creative process of this elite program, you’ll want to watch this behind-the-scenes material.

In last year’s DVD review, we noted as well that the show’s greatness really flowed from its all-around abilities and the fact that it had successfully carried off every type of topic – from tragedy to comedy to relationship woes to human idiocy – completely flawlessly every time that it tried. This remained the case this year and the show even succeeded in adding wonderfully inexplicable layers to their different characters.

Perhaps the greatest example of this was the slow revelation over time that for all of the idiocy and immaturity that Michael projects on a daily basis, he seems to have odd and random bits of genius that materialize here and there:

^ In Season 2’s “The Client,” he shows himself to be capable of uncommon sales ability even in the face of difficult circumstances.

^ Michael has always nourished a seemingly inexplicable hatred for the quiet Toby, but as Toby’s secret crush on Pam deteriorated from the harmless and pathetic into something that caused him to direct passive-aggressive animosity towards Jim in Season 4, we saw that maybe Michael did indeed glimpse a darker side of the HR rep at some point.

^ For all of Michael’s clueless and often rude behavior that he exhibits on a day-to-day basis, it became clear that he actually had a firmer grasp on some aspects of the office than the level-headed Jim (i.e. the concept of every member of the office receiving an elaborate party to celebrate their birthday instead of a depersonalized monthly “mass party”).

Since even the most over-the-top characters have elements that humanize them or make them more three-dimensional, it’s hard to argue that this show is at worst one of the best on television today. I can’t urge you strongly enough to buy the Season 4 DVD (all seasons, actually) and to watch the new season that begins this Thursday night at 9 PM EDT on NBC.

NBA Power Rankings for start of training camp

By Rick Morris

1. LA Lakers
2. Boston
3. New Orleans
4. Utah
5. San Antonio
6. Detroit
7. Cleveland
8. Orlando
9. Houston
10. Phoenix
11. Philadelphia

12. Portland
13. Toronto
14. Dallas

15. Golden State
16. Atlanta
17. Washington
18. Denver
19. Charlotte
20. Milwaukee
21. Chicago
22. New Jersey
23. Minnesota

24. New York
25. Miami
26. Memphis
27. Indiana
28. Oklahoma City
29. LA Clippers
30. Sacramento

2008 NBA Predictions Version I

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Last year’s records are in parentheses.



X-Boston 58-24 (66-16)

Y-Philadelphia 51-31 (40-42)

Y-Toronto 43-39 (41-41)

New Jersey 34-48 (34-48)

New York 28-54 (23-59)


X-Detroit 54-28 (59-23)

Y-Cleveland 50-32 (45-37)

Chicago 34-48 (33-49)

Milwaukee 34-48 (26-56)

Indiana 27-55 (36-46)


X-Orlando 55-27 (52-30)

Y-Atlanta 40-42 (37-45)

Y-Washington 39-43 (43-39)

Charlotte 36-46 (32-50)

Miami 27-55 (15-67)


X-New Orleans 58-24 (56-26)

Y-San Antonio 52-30 (56-26)

Y-Houston 50-32 (55-27)

Y-Dallas 44-38 (51-31)

Memphis 26-56 (22-60)


X-Utah 56-26 (54-28)

Y-Portland 49-33 (41-41)

Denver 35-47 (50-32)

Minnesota 32-50 (22-60)

Oklahoma City 26-56 (20-62)


X-LA Lakers 60-22 (57-25)

Y-Phoenix 51-31 (55-27)

Golden State 42-40 (48-34)

LA Clippers 26-56 (23-59)

Sacramento 23-59 (3844)


Boston over Washington in 4

Orlando over Atlanta in 5

Detroit over Toronto in 7

Cleveland over Philadelphia in 6

LA Lakers over Dallas in 5

New Orleans over Portland in 7

Utah over Houston in 6

San Antonio over Phoenix in 6


Cleveland over Boston in 7

Orlando over Detroit in 7

LA Lakers over San Antonio in 6

New Orleans over Utah in 7


Cleveland over Orlando in 6

LA Lakers over New Orleans in 6


LA Lakers over Cleveland in 5

MVP: Chris Paul

Rookie of the Year: Greg Oden

Coach of the Year: Nate McMillan


Southwest: 15 games over .500 (35 games over .500 last year)

Atlantic: 5 games over .500 (1 game under .500 last year)

Pacific: 3 games under .500 (16 games over .500 last year)

Central: 6 games under .500 (6 games under .500 last year)

Northwest: 7 games under .500 (18 games under .500 last year)

Southeast: 8 games under .500 (26 games under .500 last year)

NHL Power Rankings for start of season

By Rick Morris


1. Detroit

2. San Jose

3. Montreal

4. Pittsburgh


5. NY Rangers

6. Dallas

7. Washington

8. Philadelphia

9. Anaheim


10. Edmonton

11. Calgary

12. Chicago

13. Boston


14. Carolina

15. Ottawa

16. Nashville

17. Minnesota

18. Buffalo

19. Phoenix

20. Columbus


21. New Jersey

22. St. Louis

23. Toronto

24. Colorado


25. Vancouver

26. Los Angeles

27. Tampa Bay

28. Atlanta

29. Florida

30. NY Islanders

MLB Power Rankings for final week of September

By Rick Morris


1. LA Angels

2. Chicago Cubs

3. Tampa Bay

4. Boston

5. Chicago White Sox

6. Philadelphia

7. Milwaukee

8. NY Mets

9. LA Dodgers

10. Minnesota


11. Florida

12. NY Yankees

13. Toronto

14. St. Louis

15. Houston

16. Arizona


17. Texas

18. Cleveland

19. Detroit

20. Cincinnati

21. Colorado

22. Oakland

23. Baltimore

24. Atlanta

25. Kansas City


26. Pittsburgh

27. San Francisco

28. San Diego

29. Seattle

30. Washington

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Maybe God is a Tampa Bay Ray fan.......

by Ben Chew

Well, not many people thought that this would happen. Honestly, how many of you had the Tampa Bay Rays penciled in for the playoffs? Much less the possibility they can win the AL East among four other teams that almost have a combined payroll of more than 300 million dollars.

With their victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, The Rays have at least clinched a playoff berth for this October. Most of you are probably asking, “Who are these guys and how in the hay-ell did the Tampa Bay Rays go from a pumpkin to a stagecoach literally overnight?”

First off, for all you people who consider that hexes, curses, and just plain bad luck, you might point to the fact that the team dropped the “Devil Ray” moniker. They even brought in a priest to bless the new name and team. So it might be no surprise to you that since the “Devil” is dropped from the name, the team has gotten back in good graces with the karmic beings.

Everyone will also point to the influx of young talent of BJ Upton and Akinori Iwamura and an improved bullpen, specifically the acquisition of reliever Chad Bradford and former Angels closer Troy Percival.

However, there is one person who I want to point out: Tampa Bay Ray manager Joe Maddon who, ironically enough, was once thought to displace Terry Francona for the Boston Red Sox job back in 2004. Many sportscasters and writers comment that the team is distinctly reflected in their head coach, or manager, as the case may be, and Joe Maddon is one of those people.

Joe Maddon is a baseball lifer who spent over 31 years in the Angels organization and was there when they won the 2002 World Series. He was signed to the Rays in 2006 and has enjoyed the reaping of the rewards with the team. Maddon is ironically the least baseball-like manager if you were to pick him out of a line-up, he quotes Albert Camus and in his younger years was recruited by many Ivy League Universities to play baseball.

How can you not like this team? The young brash team with a few veterans, an older intellectual manager and a small-market franchise. Doesn’t this remind of a past World Series Champion? (For those who don’t know: see 2003 Florida Marlins).

In the end, the slogan that they have grown accustomed to might be the most simple of all. The slogan“9=8” is essentially that all nine players play nine innings and that team will be one of those eight teams into the playoffs. In a year that has been so unpredictable in baseball, maybe the only thing predictable is the Rays are winning the right way.

Friday, September 19, 2008

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume I, Issue III

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the FantasyDrafthelp.com blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

“Seinfeld on Crack” returns, don’t miss it

By Rick Morris

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, the weird and wonderful ensemble comedy on FX, returned for its fourth season tonight. If you have a healthy sense of humor, you need to watch this new season. Trust me.

I had been told about this show by friends for a long time, but with our FDH programming on Thursday nights for the past few years and the fact that I was already taping “My Name is Earl” and “The Office” on Thursday nights … well, that didn’t leave any room for checking out a show just based on hearsay. But then I stumbled upon the complete archives of the show at Hulu over the summer and I was blown away. I would strongly urge all of you to check these shows out as well; I’m only about 1/3 of the way through them, which really enthuses me inasmuch as I know that I have a lot of great hours of entertainment remaining to be consumed.

The show revolves around The Gang – a fraternal twin brother/sister duo, two male friends of theirs and the (as it turns out, non-biological) father of the siblings, played by Danny Devito in one of his trademark hilariously sleazy roles. They collectively operate a dive bar in Philadelphia and go through some of the most hilarious misadventures in every episode.

In terms of a comparison to SEINFELD, the characters are all slightly younger, by perhaps 5-10 years, but the program really diverges from “The Show of the ‘90s” by how far they take their plots. Bolstered perhaps by the fact that the boundaries on cable are less stringent, the incidents involving The Gang are way further out than anything even George Costanza dreamed. Members of The Gang are equally greedy and stupid and they think nothing of throwing each other under the bus on the slightest provocation – indeed, they seem to draw some of their greatest joys from getting over on each other. Alliances among them are routinely formed and discarded according to the whims of the moment and they outlandishly take on each other with great relish.

I would think that most people who watch the show will be drawn to one character in particular, just as they did with SEINFELD. Personally, I find Charlie to be the most entertaining of the bunch, which is not surprising because I enjoy broadly-drawn, over-the-top characters. He’s probably the most stupid of The Gang, certainly the one who will take things to the furthest extreme in any given circumstance and to me he’s just relentlessly entertaining.

I’m noticing a trend with programs that I enjoy and I think it may have something subliminally to do with me being a writer and certain elements that may be popping out at me. Somewhat like my favorite show on TV, THE OFFICE, SUNNY is largely written by the actors involved in it; on THE OFFICE, some of the background characters are on the writing staff. After watching some of the behind-the-scenes footage from The Office Convention in Scranton last fall on THE OFFICE SEASON 4 DVD (a review of which shall be coming shortly), I learned a great deal about how unusual it was for a program to integrate both the acting and writing sides of the process as seamlessly as they do. SUNNY takes that approach to an even higher level, with the co-creators of the show being directly involved in the writing and formatting and acting of every episode. Of course, any show will flop without great material, but the processes involved in these two shows may have much to tell the television industry about how best to put together successful sitcoms.

At any rate, this program is gut-wrenchingly funny, although you could easily structure a drinking game around the number of times you find yourself exclaiming, “That’s just wrong!” as you’re viewing an episode. You can’t enjoy this show if you’re easily offended, but if you’re not, you’ll never find anything better on a comedy level. Don’t miss it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FDH Insider/Goon Squad September 17

By Rick Morris

Tonight’s edition of THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER (7-9 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com) focuses largely on the developing landscape in fantasy football. We start by reviewing the FDH Waiver Wire Commentary for NFL Week 3; these can now be heard on the SportsTalkNetwork each week as you are beginning your preparation for the following weekend. From there, we revisit last week’s issue about Week 1 and sample size and we check to see where Week 2 diverged from Week 1 – and where it was consistent. We will also take a look at the short-term Matt Cassel era in New England and about how our advice from last week was correct – and more importantly, why.

In our second half hour, we will start our process of breaking down each and every NFL game on the slate this weekend from a fantasy perspective. Toward the end of the show, we will examine some fantasy concepts regarding scarcity and value at different positions in the context of our brand new FANTASY HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY 2008, a joint production of FantasyDrafthelp.com and Sportsology.

On THE GOON SQUAD (9-10 PM EDT), we continue our examination of this brand-new guide and how it will help you in your hockey pool this year. We’ll look at some of this year’s overvalued players and undervalued players and also some specific insight for this year’s roto landscape. Then, in our second half hour, we break down the FDH season preview for the 2008 season from the draft guide and see where our hosts agree and disagree with the placement.

Be sure to join us tonight for all of the wide-ranging content you have come to expect only from the FDH Wednesday night lineup on STN.

FDH Lounge program returns September 28

By Rick Morris

We apologize for the short hiatus that THE FDH LOUNGE program has been on as of late … our September 14 program was cancelled due to scheduling issues with SportsTalkNetwork.com’s flagship affiliate, SportsTalkCleveland.com and coverage surrounding the Sunday night Cleveland-Pittsburgh NFL game. Planning for subsequent programs has been complicated by some issues that have mostly been resolved, and so we can tell you that we are resuming our every-other-Sunday-night-live schedule on the regular date of September 28, with the next edition on October 12. Aside from resolving an issue with a Cleveland Browns 4:05 start time on October 26, we are still right on track to be broadcasting to you every other Sunday in our usual time slot of 8-11 PM EDT and we appreciate your patience.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ned Yost Joins Willie Randolph in the Unemployment Line

By Tony Mazur

After a three-game sweep in Philadelphia, Milwaukee Brewers Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Melvin announced that manager Ned Yost will be relieved of his duties.

Back in June, New York Mets GM Omar Minaya controversially announced that Willie Randolph had been let go. The Mets, at the time, were below .500 and needed a shot in the arm. Minaya sent a message out to the players, giving them an ultimatum: You better get out there and play good baseball, or else you'll end up like Willie.

Now with manager Jerry Manuel, the Metropolitans have run off with the NL East, leaving Philadelphia and Florida in the dust. That, I believe, was a brilliant move on Omar Minaya's part.

The news about Ned Yost's firing comes as sort of a shock, since the Brewers have spent the entire year atop the National League Wild Card race. In understand that Milwaukee has struggled mightily as of late, now tied with the Phillies in the Wild Card, but is it really time to wipe the slate clean, here in the middle of September? At least Randolph's departure was early enough.

(It's funny. Ned Yost has a playoff-contending team and gets fired, but Eric Wedge has a team full of has-beens and never-will-bes, and he gets to keep his job for 2009.)

Personally, I feel this move is not a momentum builder, it's a buzzkill. I don't think a change of that magnitude should be made with the playoffs just two weeks away.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

So sick of excuses, Ohio State

by Ben Chew

Well fans, if you were to describe the brilliance of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Trojans of USC, many of you would describe it in expletives or the few choice words for the man in the sweater-vest.

However, I was live-blogging on a college football site and after the amount of crude jokes, an astute reader commented, “What excuse will Ohio State use for this debacle?” After awhile, I thought to myself, “Why should any team have the ability to make an excuse for themselves regarding a game or play?”

Just like Ne-Yo was quoted in his song So Sick, “He was so sick of love songs,” and in the spin of things, I am so sick of excuses. Albeit, Ohio State was sans Beanie Wells, it seems to me that many of the Big Ten backers will spin that as the major reason. Sure, that may have counted if the game was close but it wasn’t.

Ohio State fans also account for the extra week off for the USC Trojans as a possible excuse, but honestly, wouldn’t that just hinder the Trojans since they had the week off and didn’t play a game?

I’m not specifically calling out Ohio State fans, but all fans in general, stop making excuses for your favorite team. If that receiver drops a key touchdown that would have won the game, don’t say that was the reason why you excuse your team from losing that game.

In the grand scheme of things, there were probably many reasons why your team wasn’t able to pull out the victory. If you're a fan making excuses for your team, stop doing it. Unless you have the brilliance to build a time machine and go correct it, what is the point of making excuses?

In the end, you will probably be looked upon as having true pride for your team and understanding the brilliant possibility that the stars were not aligned for your team and you can’t always be perfect. (Well, unless you're Jessica Price, but that is another story for another post.)

A fulcrum game for a franchise

By Rick Morris

Few NFL games in September hold the promise of helping to shape an organization's future. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Oakland coach Lane Kiffin will be dirt-canned tomorrow. But that might not even be dependent on the outcome of today's Kansas City game (although, it sure would be funny to see Al Davis have to justify the move if the team could somehow pull off the big upset today), and it won't matter much anyway. While Kiffin is a promising young coach, that franchise is so hostage to the old days that the downward spiral (interrupted only by the "Chucky Days" of the late '90s and early '00s) will continue anyway.

No, I speak of tonight's Browns-Steelers game in terms of the future of the organization being at stake. Cleveland faces one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this year -- not as difficult as Pittsburgh's, but the Steelers are an established power facing down those teams -- and they knew coming in that they had a brutal 1-2 punch at the outset with Dallas and Pittsburgh before facing two extremely winnable games in Baltimore and Cincinnati. The Browns were so completely decimated by Dallas last week -- never, ever, has a 28-10 score so wildly misrepresented the scale of an arse-whipping -- that they come into the Pittsburgh game on an even lower ebb than thought imaginable. And for a team that has lost nine straight to their hated arch-rivals (the game before that having been a trouncing orchestrated by the bane of ignorant Browns fans everywhere, Tim Couch), low confidence was already a given -- even before the injury rash that has continued to spread.

Now, the blowout in last season's opener -- ironically, against Pittsburgh -- shows the limited capacity for drawing long-term conclusions off a single game inasmuch as the Browns won 2/3 of their remaining games, albeit against a sub-CFL level schedule. But the team has to rebound tonight to have a chance against the Ravens and Bengals the next two weeks. SportsTalkNetwork.com President Paul Belfi agrees with Browns GM Phil Savage that this game is a must-win for Cleveland. I disagree. But it's certainly a "must keep it close" game.

The Browns must snap the string of blowouts they have suffered at home to Pittsburgh in recent years, games that leave only overall-wearers reeking of Mad Dog and cigarette smoke waving their Terrible Towels in the stands by the fourth quarter. Much as the 2008 season must be a consolidation year building towards a legitimate playoff run in 2009 if the team is to be taken seriously in the NFL, tonight's game must be a consolidation game for the next two weeks. If the Browns cannot beat Baltimore and Cincinnati, they will be eaten alive by the remaining schedule, and they cannot hope to win those games if they are destroyed tonight.

Now, by Savage turning up the heat for tonight's game, he is signaling his awareness of the reality that the Savage-Crennel team cannot indefinitely remain a united front if the franchise does not become a winner. Sooner or later, at some point, a GM or coach must be held accountable for a team's performance: the GM if the talent is insufficient or the coach if the team underachieves. I believe firmly that the latter will be the case if push comes to shove; while my friend Ken Becks of Gridiron Evaluations rightly points out that this team's depth is not what it should be four years into this administration, the starting lineup (when healthy) has few definable holes on either side of the ball. Some of Savage's draft picks have found their way into Romeo Crennel's doghouse over time (hello, Travis Wilson!), which puts even more of an impetus on the head coach to prove that he has other players on the roster worthy of playing time. So Romeo Crennel is offficially "on the clock" if the team gets blown out tonight.

If the team gets boatraced tonight, they'll need a split of the next two games at a bare minimum for Crennel to hang on, but the "death watch" will be in full effect. With a Monday night showdown against the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants up after that, Crennel could take on the "Butch Davis stench of death circa late 2004" at that time. Only a short week would stop him from being fired after a Giants blowout if the unraveling proceeds as it might -- and again, he won't even make it to the Giants game if the team is 0-4. With Washington and Jacksonville up next, the Crennel era in Cleveland looks almost certain to be coming to an end by October if the team is humiliated tonight. So indeed, the need to keep tonight's nationally televised game close makes it a fulcrum game for one of the league's most storied franchises. Suffer a beatdown tonight and Romeo's going to go home to a house where fans will have already tacked up a "For Sale" sign.

Palin Derangement Syndrome great for McCain

By Rick Morris

As somebody who was reluctantly for John McCain before I got fully on board when Sarah Palin joined the ticket, I stated in this very space that the McCain people were blowing it earlier this summer with the "kitchen sink" approach to fighting Barack Obama. It was reminiscent of the desperate approach to fighting Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. While I sympathize on an emotional level with the frustration in not being able to get people who are hynotized by a candidate to open up their eyes, elections are not won and lost on emotion and petulence. Much to my delight, this is a lesson now being learned the hard way by the Obama campaign and their advocates in the online moonbat community.

Slurs, disproved rumors and all means of slime are being cast in Palin's direction, and they have been since her appointment to the ticket on August 29. They have picked up a new intensity, however, since her bravura acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention the next week. Leftists have been loudly soiling their drawers ever since and chucking the contents in Palin's direction.

What they do not realize right now is that the American people have made up their minds on Sarah Palin the person. Barring something completely unforseen coming out, like her being exposed as a secret mass murderer of Eskimos over the last two decades, the personal perception of her isn't changing. When I advised the Republicans that their only negative advertising aimed at Obama that would work would involve hitting him on issues, I meant it. And even though I'm not for Obama, I'm giving the same advice here as an analyst: winning a compare-and-contrast on the issues is the only thing that will work in the super-high stakes climate of 2008. I'm under no illusion, however, that the Obamunists will stop peddling their stories about how Palin is an adulterer, a sex offender, someone who faked the birth of her own child or whatever the talking points of this week are that emanate from Chicago. But they pursue this line of attack at their own peril.

Hitting Palin personally will probably have even less effect than what the Republicans were able to do to Obama (and I admit, they were slightly more successful in roughing him up than I thought they would be). Michael Reagan wrote an extraordinary column in which he said that he was always dubious when people told him that "another Ronald Reagan" would come along -- but that he changed his mind after hearing Palin's speech in St. Paul. The explosion of support that her candidacy is generating for the ticket proves this. I saw a very insightful cartoon the other day that showed her pulling an elephant out of a grave. She is certainly the greatest natural leader that the Republicans have had on a national ticket since the Gipper's re-election campaign of 1984 and she helps the party appeal to non-traditional constituencies (i.e. women not already of a conservative leaning). The more Obama's dirt-mongers now perched in Alaska try to churn out scummy personal attacks on her, the more the American people will reply, "There you go again!"

So as a Palin partisan -- keep it up. Please!

NCAA game of the year postmortem

By Rick Morris

Since NBC's The Office is my favorite TV show, I end up reading quite a fair amount about it on the Internet. Of particular interest to me is the psychology that the writers use in crafting the characters. It's often noted that Jenna Fischer's Pam Beesley is dumbed-down aesthetically, yet she is sexually harassed by many in the office. I once saw a characterization of her as "office hot," and that reminds me of what I see in Ohio State right now. Ohio State is "Big Ten good," and we see where that gets them in the grand scheme of NCAA football. Not that far.

The difference between OSU and other elite teams from the SEC (and obviously, now, USC) in terms of speed, especially at non-traditional positions such as defensive end, is immense, and yet that in and of itself does not account for the gap between the Big Ten and the rest of the big boys (incidentally, my FDH Lounge colleague Chris Galloway has a theory that high schools in California, Texas and Florida churn out faster players because the weather is less likely to contribute to a sedentary lifestyle that could grip even really good athletes in the Midwest in the harsh winters -- that makes more sense than anything I can think of in that regard). Coaching plays a part as well. Jim Tressel has suffered some key losses off of his staff in recent years, including Mark Dantonio, who was the defensive coordinator on the 2002 national championship team and now coaches Michigan State. The Trojans always had their key players in position to make plays last night, Ohio State not so much. Taking better advantage of the talent that is available is just as important as hitting the Sun Belt to recruit for superior speed.

One encouraging note for Buckeye fans last night was the liberal use of Terrelle Pryor and Dan Herron. Tressel has long favored less-talented upperclassmen "because they paid their dues, dagnabbit!" But last night showed that Tressel is coming along, however belatedly, to the notion that the best players must be on the field regardless of tenure. In that regard, don't be surprised if last night's game proves to be rock-bottom for this team in terms of perception as a national power. With proper corrective measures, this team could make a legitimate run by Pryor's junior season in 2010.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

OSU/USC: Intersectional game of the year

By Rick Morris

Tonight's OSU/USC game has lost some of its appeal because of the Beanie Wells injury, one that Jim Tressel indicates will keep him out of tonight's game. The Bucks' remaining chances in this game come down to a handful of players:

^ Ray Small must be the explosive #3 receiver in the slot that the team recruited him to be. If he's ever to register as "The Poor Man's Ted Ginn," tonight's the night.

^ "Little Animal" must play at a Butkus level tonight, causing at least one turnover as he did in the Texas game two years ago.

^ Dan Herron and Brandon Saine must bring some explosiveness out of the tailback position. The less Mo Wells, the better. The underclassmen aren't nearly as big as Beanie, but they are super-dangerous in space, especially Saine.

^ Terrelle Pryor must provide "Tebow-esque" play off the bench for Ohio State, especially since the other play from the QB position will probably be pedestrian at best.

The scenario exists for an upset, presuming all of the above. But like most observers, I just don't see it under the circumstances. OSU covers the 11 1/2 point line, but just barely, 28-17.

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume I, Issue II

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the FantasyDrafthelp.com blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11 -- remembering a guy I hardly knew

By The FDH New York Bureau (Note: This is posted by Rick Morris. We received this from our humble, behind-the-scenes contributor and wanted to post it for all of our readers. It is an excellent human perspective on what was both the most consequential day of our country's history during our lifetimes and also a mosaic of countless individual stories. We hope that it is a much-needed reminder of what this country went through on that day.)

Hardcore listeners of the FDH Lounge have heard my name dropped in from time to time when Rick credits me with getting on a particular guest or coming up with an idea for the show. I'm not much for attention, or even blogging, but I kind of felt that sharing this story would be a good thing.

Yesterday, I attended a memorial service at my alma mater for the 27 graduates of the College who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001. They were being inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. When I walked over to the service, I was handed a program of the events of the day. I read down the list of the names and was surprised to see the name of a guy I graduated high school with.

His name was Mark, and although I knew he had died in the tragedy, I didn't know we were at the same college at the same time, graduating the same year. I remember being in homeroom and different classes with him back then but I barely knew the guy, for no other reason that we just ran in different circles. In fact, if he were alive today and we bumped into each other he probably wouldn't have even known who I was.

At the conclusion of the service, which was very well done and respectful with members of the FDNY and colorguard present, along with a bagpipe player, they unveiled a lasting memorial with the names of all the honorees engraved on it. After the dedication, they invited the family members of the victims to come up and place a rose at the base of the new memorial. When I saw the members of Mark's family, who I didn't know at all, get up and receive this honor for their son, I made a decision that I was going to go up and speak to them after the service was over.

Now, granted, this was no easy thing for me. I didn't lose anyone close to me in those attacks (although I did know of one other guy who did die in them). I mean, what do you say to someone who's son has basically been murdered? I approached a tall man who looked to be Mark's brother if I had to guess. I introduced myself and said "I went to high school with Mark. I just happened to see his name in the program and I just wanted to say I'm sorry for your loss". He thanked me and then called his parents over. He was Mark's older brother, Al. "This guy went to school with Mark", he told them.

Mark's parents came over and before I said anything immediately shook my hand, I explained to them that although I didn't really know him, I knew he had died, and I didn't know we had attended the same college. When I looked into Mark's Father's eyes, a real sadness came over me. I said I used to work in the World Trade Center, I was in the middle of New York Harbor when the planes hit, and if a plane had hit the water that day I would not be here most likely. My wife was pregnant with our son at the time, and I would have never seen him be born if I had died that day, so 9/11 hits a little close to home for me.

I asked Mark's Mom if he had any kids since I knew he was married from reading his obituary. She said no, but was happy to tell me that his wife Nicole had remarried. I asked, "How does that make you feel?" She said, "Hey, she's young, she has to get on with her life". There was not a hint of any kind of hard feelings from her about that. I learned a couple of things about Mark from his Mom. She said that he didn't even work in the World Trade Center, he was actually located across the street, and was up in Cantor Fitzgerald for a meeting. He had just gotten his Broker's license. The plane cut through the building making it nearly impossible for those who were trapped on the top floors to escape the tower he was in.

What she told me next was quite unbelievable - "His brother Al (the tall man who I first spoke to) is a fireman...and he was off that day. The one who wasn't the fireman was who we lost". (The New York City Fire Department lost 343 members that day). She also even mentioned that Mark's ashes had been recovered and where they had been spread. I have to tell you, this woman did not cry one time in front of me as we were talking, she seemed to be at peace with where her son is.

In the course of speaking with the family, Mark's Dad must have shook my hand 2-3 times. I could tell that they were happy and appreciative that someone new, someone, anyone, wanted to let them know that their son was remembered, that he wasn't just another name on a long list.

I told them, "My Dad died back in 2001 also, not in the attacks, but on an operating table. It was a total shock, and I always remember that after the wake and funeral were over, all the phone calls stopped. All I was left with was loneliness." What I wouldn't have given for just one person to come out of the blue and want to talk about my Dad, or just offer me some sympathy. I had friends who didn't even show up at the wake, and didn't even call when I spread the word that he had died. I didn't get that support, but it didn't stop me from giving it to someone else.

Mark's family told me that today there will be a memorial service at our old high school. I won't be able to attend that, but it's good that every year they also honor all their former students who lost their lives that day. At our 20 year reunion in 2010, I'm sure he will be mentioned, as he was the only member of our graduating class to die that day.

We parted company, but not before getting a nice hug from Mark's Mom and a hearty handshake from his Father and Brother.

Meeting an actual family who lost their son on 9/11 is something that I'll probably never forget, nor should I. I'm currently going through my share of problems - my Mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer, and I've been going through a separation, I'm even having a problem with a co-worker at my job, but all of that dosen't matter to me quite as much today, because as a close friend once told me..."Every day above ground is a good day".

One more thing...If you happen to see a soldier in fatigues walking around in an airport, in a mall, at a game, or just down the street sometime, if possible, walk up to them and thank them for serving us. I started doing that about a year or so ago. You have no idea how much that means to these men and women. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have what we have, and who knows, my own son and/or daughter may become one of them someday.

(Hey, somebody's gotta defend our right to make bad fantasy draft picks,

Ok, I'm gonna slip back behind the FDH curtains now........ ;>)