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2012 NFL ‘You’re The Man’ Rankings — Week 9

LOS ANGELES — It was Halloween this week; such an interesting “holiday.” Kids obviously still love it and department stores still set up months ahead of time with candy and decorations. Since I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve warmed to the idea of dressing up and going out to enjoy it with other adults. I still don’t feel right about it, but clearly I’ve participated and enjoyed myself. Past costumes have included Bill Belichick, Al Capone, Tim Tebow and Mr. Blonde. While I’m sure the Halloween celebration across the country has its own unique flavor, here it really is like another big holiday. City streets close off, neighborhoods go all out and parties are sponsored by liquor companies. Halloween takes people watching to the next level. It’s really interesting to me to see, with all the creative people in such a small area, what these artistic minds come up with in terms of intricate and unique costumes. It’s hard to explain but one of those things you need to experience to appreciate.

Let’s see who’s dressed up as The Man.

32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) (32) -- For the second week in a row, there will be no change in the bottom of these rankings and the three teams you’re about to read about have 3 combined wins. Now stop me if this sounds a little wacked: Jamaal Charles, who rushed for 233 yards in a game earlier this year, had just 5 carries for 4 yards this weekend against the Raiders, when you started Brady Quinn at quarterback. Romeo Crennel’s days are numbered in K.C.

31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) (31) – Saw some tweets floating the Twitterverse last night about how the Jaguars offense is better without Maurice Jones-Drew and how Blaine Gabbert looks better without MJD in the backfield. I hate to go all 2010 on everyone, but CHILD, PLEASE! If Blaine Gabbert can’t succeed with a Top 5 running back in the backfield that’s on HIM, not the Top 5 running back.

30.) Carolina Panthers (1-6) (30) – This week in “Let’s Blame Cam Newton For Everything”: 5th straight loss, 20-for-39, 314 yards, Zero TDs, 2 INTs and a 57.0 Passer Rating. Cam did conduct himself better at the postgame press conference

29.) Cleveland Browns (2-6) (29) – SOMEONE BREAK UP THE BROWNS!! Not sure if you saw this game on Sunday, but there was a monsoon in Cleveland and the only thing worse than Norv Turner calling plays dry is Norv Turner calling plays soaking wet. 7-6 is kinda setting today’s pass-happy game back a few decades, but that was a game made for Trent Richardson (122 yards, TD) and he delivered.

28.) Buffalo Bills (3-4) (27) – Let’s be honest, a bye week was just what the doctor ordered in Buffalo.

27.) Arizona Cardinals (4-4) (18) – You know how much I love stats. Here’s one for ya: three teams have started the year 4-0 and then lost the next four games. The 1993 Philadelphia Eagles, the 2002 Oakland Raiders … and the 2012 Arizona Cardinals. The ship, be a sinkin’. #FreeFitz

26.) Oakland Raiders (3-4) (28) – Don’t look now but the Raiders are only a game back of the Broncos for the AFC West division lead. OK, no one really thinks they have a shot, not with how Peyton Manning is playing, but still. This team was a mess a few weeks ago, and now Carson Palmer has strung together a couple solid performances in a row the #FreeDMC campaign has sunk faster a lead balloon. Which is a good thing. The league is better when the Raiders are competitive. Let’s hope this continues.

25.) Tennessee Titans (3-5) (24) – Heartbreaking loss by my brother Matthew’s team on Sunday after a third-straight win was lost when Vick Ballard leaped towards the pylon in overtime. Ballard’s amazing play aside, the Titans have looked much better in recent weeks. Hasselbeck has averaged a respectable 233 yards per and a TD in 4 starts, and has only turned it over twice in that span. Chris Johnson has averaged 102 yards in his last 4 games. So it’s coming back.

24.) St. Louis Rams (3-5) (23) – I have yet to travel abroad in my 32-year existence (I plan to get to it at some point, please don’t deride) but it appeared to me that the Rams left their game back in St. Louis. And did anyone find it odd that Wembley fans cheered for the Patriots? Ya know, U.S. Revolution and all that stuff?

23.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) (21) – So getting boat raced in the pouring down rain by the Atlanta Falcons is Juan Castillo’s fault, too, I’m guessing? Right, Andy Reid? And now we’re talking about Michael Vick being benched for Nick Foles? Seriously? Someone panicked in my fantasy league and actually picked up Foles. If Nick Foles starts a game this year I’ll be more shocked than that time I was shocked about something shocking.

22.) New York Jets (3-5) (19) – I’m not gonna say I predicted this, but I did pick up the Dolphins defense with Houston on a bye because I felt a Mark Sanchez game coming. And lo and behold: 4 sacks, a couple of turnovers, 2 blocked kicks, a TD and 29 points later and I had myself an upset fantasy win. And what’s with this news Tim Tebow is taking some actress? Yup, this’ll end well.

21.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) (22) – I really hope during this bye week the Bengals figured out what’s going wrong with their defense that’s given up 58 points in their last two games.

20.) Dalllas Cowboys (3-4) (17) – No one gets blown out, comes back, only to blow the game in stupid fashion quite like the Cowboys. I know this has been asked all week, but the the hell, Tony Romo? It’s funny to me people are trying to figure out if he can ever lead the team to the Super Bowl. These guys like Romo and Rivers give us so much evidence that they are who they are. Romo blew a playoff game back in 2006. We had hard evidence 6 years ago! He’s never gonna get it and Dallas is never going to win with him. Period.

19.) San Diego Chargers (3-4) (14) – Groundhog Day in the NFL is every year around this time the talk around the league is how the San Diego is in the tank, Norv Turner and A.J. Smith should be fired and Philip Rivers isn’t as good as everyone thinks he is. Then the Chargers rattle off 5 wins in 6 weeks, save their season, finish 9-7 and sneak into the playoffs.

18.) Detroit Lions (3-4) (25) – Fact: I had no idea who Ryan Broyles was until the third quarter of Week 7. Fact: I picked him up and started him this week. Fact: He scored a touchdown for the second straight week. Fact: I won this week. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but Calvin Johnson has to be hurt or something. That’s the only explanation I’m accepting.

17.) Indianapolis Colts (4-3) (20) – Is that the play of the year from Vick Ballard? Take a look. Watch it again and again. Have you ever seen someone hit the pylon with his head?! A leap is one thing, but a leap, eskimo roll into the head off the pylon. Ridiculous. And don’t look now, but if the playoffs started today, the Colts are in.

16.) New Orleans Saints (2-5) (16) – Really surprised the Saints didn’t play better in Denver last week. Brees has looked a little off all season and that defense, I mean, I didn’t think there was a worse secondary than the Patriots, but good golly. New Orleans is porous. They couldn’t stop my high school, which has it’s Western Maine Class A semifinal playoff matchup this Saturday. Go Trojans.

15.) Minnesota Vikings (5-3) (13) – Pretty bad loss by the Vikings, at home, on Thursday night against the Bucs. This season, home teams have dominated the Thursday games and I was expecting more of the same. The Purple Pistol hasn’t looked great in the last 4 games, throwing 7 interceptions. I still think this team can make the playoffs, but a brutal schedule awaits. “Seriously? WTF” was all Jimmy had for me this week.

14.) Washington Redskins (3-5) (12) – This team is close, but still shows signs of not being that close. Alfred Morris has been out of this world good but you get the feeling against good teams they don’t know how to win yet. It’ll happen. My Good Friend Robert is too special.

13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) (26) – Yes, I have the Bucs jumping up 13 spots this week. Yes, that is a record in the 9 weeks of this poll (I think). Yes, this may be an overreaction. Yes, Doug Martin is fast, and yes, Josh Freeman has a snake named Eisen.

12.) Miami Dolphins (4-3) (15) – As much as I feel for Lauren Tannehill’s husband for getting injured, I’m really glad for Matt Moore, whom I always thought got a raw deal down in Miami. Good to see him come in and play well. And like I said earlier, big ups to that defense for getting me a win in fantasy this week.

11.) Seattle Seahawks (4-4) (8) – The SeaChickens better hope they win the NFC West and get homefield, because that’s the only way they have a chance of winning a playoff game. Never seen a team struggle so much on the road. They’re the Bizarro Giants.

10.) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) (11) – I don’t know who Jonathan Dwyer is or how much he weighs, but he sure looks like Jerome Bettis, doesn’t he? Runs like him, too. Could be dangerous for opponents going forward if they start playing like the Steelers of old.

9.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (6) – When you’re coming off a bye week, I generally don’t have much to say about you. But by no fault of their own, the Ravens have gotten skipped over by a few teams who just have that mojo working right now.

8.) Denver Broncos (4-3) (10) – We may be witnessing the greatest Peyton Manning season in his 15-year career. Call me crazy, but what he’s doing is incredible. I was on record, here and everywhere, that I thought Manning should have retired. Four neck surgeries. A season off. I didn’t think there was any way he could come back and be the Peyton we’ve known. All he’s done lately is 4 straight 300+ yard, 3+ TD games and has the Broncos in the driver’s seat in the AFC West.

7.) New England Patriots (5-3) (9) – The Patriots brought their full artillery to the motherland and put down a full musket whooping of the Rams. Tom Brady leads the league in passing yards (2,408) and Stevan Ridley is 5th in rushing (716 yards). Sure, we all say the former coming but no one saw the latter. If that maintains, and this Thursday trade for Aqib Talib pans out. Look out.

6.) San Francisco 49ers (6-2) (7) – I know the Cardinals have gone in the tank since starting the season 4-0, but dang did the 49ers put the bang thing (@richeisen voice) on them this Monday. And nice of Randy Moss to dust off the cleats and show us some of that 2007 speed.

5.) Houston Texans (6-1) (5) – Arian Foster was out in California last week to have his jersey retired by his high school. That’s pretty awesome, but shouldn’t every player in the NFL have their jersey retired by their high school? It goes to figure if they made it to the NFL, they’re at least in the 99.9% of players who’ve EVER played at their high school? What in the hell took so long for Foster? What is taking so long Thornton Academy? Oh, right, I wasn’t any good.

4.) Green Bay Packers (5-3) (3) – Aaron Rodgers is still ballin’ out of control right now, and as long as that’s happening, who cares if the Packers only beat the hapless Jaguars 24-15?

3.) New York Giants (6-2) (4) – Only the Giants are good enough to go on the road and rack up a 23-0 lead against a division opponent who beat them earlier in the year. And only the Giants are bad enough to blow that lead and then hold on to win the game because the opponent’s star receiver’s fingers are an inch too long. They’ll probably win the Super Bowl again.

2.) Chicago Bears (6-1) (2) – Before the season we made preseason prediction on the Rich Eisen Podcast and for Coach of the Year, I said Lovie Smith and was laughed at. I said, if the Bears have a good season, which they could with a healthy Jay Cutler (they were on their way last year before he got hurt), then Lovie was going to get serious consideration. I think I’m sitting pretty at the season’s midway point.

1.) Atlanta Falcons (7-0) (1) – The Falcons showed no rust coming out of the bye week; going on the road and putting it down on the Eagles. Matty Ice (or the Mattural) strengthened his MVP campaign with 3 more TD passes as Atlanta remained unbeaten. It hosts the Cowboys this week in what will either end their season or keep their chatter on our tongues for some time to come. Please let it be the reaper (Frasier Crane voice).

Day Off Golf — An Underdog Tale

LOS ANGELES — There are hundreds of way to describe golf. John Feinstein called it “A Good Walk, Spoiled.” Roy McAvoy said it’s, “the greatest game ever invented.” Others call it a testament of will, determination and focus, with a little bit of skill and luck mixed in. I say, if you can play golf, you do anything. I’ve played countless sports at all different levels and golf is the only one that brings such frustration and joy from one athletic move to the next. Concentration is key, perfection is unattainable. One shot can be perfect and the next a disaster. It’s glorious.

On Tuesday, Esco, The Zach Daddy, Buy Or Sellz and myself hit the links for some off-day golfing at Rancho Park. Divots were made. Snacks were consumed. Curse words were yelled from the hilltops and no records were broken; only our egos. Laugh at our terrible swings, be inspired (to do what, I don’t know) and enjoy. But mostly laugh.

Here is our story.

Extra Butter — What I’ve Seen Lately

Everything Nic Cage touches turns to cinematic gold; it was no different for my old film review column.

LOS ANGELES — In my former life, I wrote film reviews for the Journal Tribune. The column there was titled “Extra Butter” because, well, I liked a lot of butter on my popcorn (#FatKidProblems) , so it seemed like a logical fit. The idea spawned one day by merely asking the managing editor if we run any kind of reviews, and when he said “no,” asking if I could do them (sometimes all you have to do is ask, kids). The first film I reviewed was “Casino Royale and I later won a Maine Press Association Critic’s Award for my review of Nicolas Cage’s masterpiece “Ghost Rider.”

Since moving to L.A., my well has run dry. I haven’t written one of these columns in nearly three years; that’s my bad. Every so often I feel like I should get back to it; clearly “The Town” would’ve been a nice return and I did write something about “Social Network” when it came out, but not in this vain, and since I still see a lot of movies, I’m going to make the effort because I always had fun with this column. Of all the ones I’ve written since I started really writing in 2004 – Local Celebrity, Game Point, Extra Butter, BrockAngeles and now this site – the film reviews are the ones I wish I had kept up, but fret not.

We’re back! Enjoy, leave me your thoughts and keep truckin’.

Known as the Godfather of Gangsta Rap, Ice-T took to the street to find out what’s made hip hop what it is today.

From Something To Nothing: The Art of RapThe first time I heard “Regulators” was as I was driving along the main drag in Ocean City, Md. with my family in the summer of 1994. I couldn’t get the beat out of my head all day. Later that night, my uncle asked what I was humming – Doo, doo, doo, doo-do-do-dooo – and I didn’t know what it was, it was just catchy as hell but my interest never went further.

In high school, the East Coast-West Coast war was at its height and a lot of my friends were big Tupac fans. I could never get into it. Leading up to my freshman year at Syracuse I worked at the beach as a grill cook and we listened to nothing but classic rock, so it really wasn’t until I got to college, living with a diverse group of guys, that my musical tastes grew. I became a quick fan of the beats of the day and the old school jams. Sure, I’m as white as a loaf of Wonder Bread but I can appreciate the skill it takes these greats of putting together rhymes. Now, it’s rare a song comes on KDAY that I don’t know.

So, when Ice-T came into the NFL Network studios recently to appear on the Rich Eisen Podcast and started talking about his documentary, “The Art of Rap,” I was immediately interested. The documentary was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, bought the first day, and hit theaters this past weekend. A meteoric path for a film of this nature. I went on its opening night and left not disappointed. Ice-T is not only the executive producer and director of the film but the interviewer of his subjects. He goes to New York (Melly Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Detroit (Eminem) and Los Angeles (Dr. Dre, Xzibit, Snoop Dogg) to talk to some of hip hop’s legends to find out their thought process and how they wrote their rhymes coming up. Ice-T wanted to get inside the minds of these artists, search for their inspiration, look beyond the cars, girls and jewels.

And he succeeded. It was remarkable to hear their tales, see them put pen to paper and create a story from either nothing or life experiences. Grandmaster Caz wrote a rhyme on the spot. Dr. Dre tried to take the audience inside the mind of a producer and offered some insight on working with Tupac. Eminem talked about being white MC in this game and his struggle. After a while the stories about the process got repetitive, though the highlite was each rapper performing a freestyle or reciting a few bars of another legend’s work.

The film did seem every bit of its 107 minutes and probably would’ve benefited from losing a few of the interviews, as well as some of the on-site, scenic transitions, which didn’t really add much. Though I was left wanting a tour or perhaps an entire “Cribs” episode dedicated to Dr. Dre’s ridiculous Hollywood Hills mansion. Jesus, the rap game has been good to him. KRS1′s story about his first battle is epic, too.

The biggest shock, besides the length of Melly Mel’s dreds, was that my girlfriend really liked it. I figured I was going to have to see it solo, but when I explained to her the premise, she was on board and even laughed a few times. An artist herself, she was really interested in the rappers comments on the process and mindset while preparing and performing. She was encapsulated with Mos Def’s segment.

Bottom line: This is a must-see.

Brockman Stamp of Approval: 4.25 out of 5 Mics.

That’s My Boy
Sixteen-year-old me would probably punch 31-year-old me in the face for saying this, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen an Adam Sandler movie in the theater; “Just Go With It” was getting some run on HBO a while back and I caught the last 3/4ths of it, but I think the last one I paid to see was his revamped version of “The Longest Yard.” It wasn’t great and neither is  his latest college try, “That’s My Boy,” which co-stars Andy Samberg and Leighton Meester.

Sandler plays as Donny Berger, who was a child pseudo celebrity for having sex with his teacher and fathering a son (Sandberg) at a very young age. As an adult, he’s a drunken, broke mess, and after his lawyer (played by Jets coach Rex Ryan) tells him he needs to come up with $43,000 to avoid prison, Berger turns to his son, now a successful banker. Though he doesn’t come out and ask for the money, he has a plan involving a hornswaggler of a talk show host (Dan Patrick) and an awkward reunion with his mom (Susan Sarandon) to come up with the cash. Along the way, he realizes he misses and loves his son and tries to do right by him by exposing his two-timing fiance. Of course, everything turns out well in the end but not without some absurdities in the middle.

Bleh. Sandler plays Berger as an ’80s hot mess who constantly has a Budweiser in his hand, is best friends with Vanilla Ice and thinks all the flash-in-the-pan ’90s catch phrases are still hilarious (they’re not). The film is set in Massachusetts, so his over-the-top New England accent is amusing to start and annoying by the end. Unfortunately, you can’t get away from it. I was laughing a lot of the time, however, I think it was more of laughing at the whole thing, not with it. The bachelor party stuff was kinda funny, though. Who knows.

All Sandler film reviews are essentially the same at this point, which is means I’m getting older and he just keeps making the same movie; yet we all keep paying for them, so who’s the dummy? People wonder why he routinely makes “bad” movies these days. The answer is simple: we’ve given him the blank check to do so. It’s our fault. And it’s going to continue.

Brockman Stamp of Eh: 1.5/5 Brews.

Men In Black III
It’s possible I’m at the tail end of my 20-year mancrush on Will Smith. I’m not as geeked as I used to be about his newest ventures or are a fan of him force feeding his kids down our entertainment-enjoying throats, but neither stopped me from enjoying the hell out of the latest installment of the “Men In Black” franchise.

Nobody does $100M movies like Smith, who returns after a 4-year big screen hiatus, and I’d expect this one will join his list of big money makers. It follows the formula of the previous MIB films; Agents J and K (Tommy Lee Jones) get into trouble and have to save the world with their badass weaponry. Only this trip around, J has to go back in time to save a young K (Josh Brolin) from an intergalactic warlord whom he put in prison 30-some-odd years earlier and who wants to kill him.

It has a “Back To The Future II” feel to it, where the future is one way, then the villain goes back in time and changes it, and then they have to go back in time to change the changes made by the villain. Only here there’s aliens and suits and Agent K is likable and it’s set in New York.

I don’t know if there’s going to be another Men In Black movie – I’m sure it’ll depend on box office numbers this time around – but if there’s not, this film was a good way to wrap up the series. We get some insight to J’s past, why he is who he is, and same with K, who as a young agent is lively, jovial and fun-loving but couldn’t be more opposite as an adult. As always, the special effects are really neat and the aliens and weapons keep getting cooler. You’ll really have fun with this one.

Brockman Stamp of Approval: 3.5/5 Ray Bans.

Dark Shadows
I plan to write an entire column on Johnny Depp’s appeal to women in the nearer future – honestly, I don’t get it – but for the time being I’ll stick to his newest vampire flick. Also, what is with every movie these days being about a) vampires; b) bows and arrows or c) zombies? ANYway, “Dark Shadows” is not good, but I saw it recently because the girlfriend is among the millions obsessed with the aforementioned Mr. Depp and for some reason she wanted to see this. I’ll admit the first time I saw the trailer, it looked amusing, but every time after my interest in it lowered exponentially. Actually, this flick made the second JD project we’ve seen together; our first date was “The Rum Diary,” which I liked and just recently found out she did not. So we’re even.

If you’re expecting something like “True Blood” or “Twilight,” you’ll be disappointed. There are some murders but no nudity and I think it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not. “Dark Shadows,” which also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, is about the Collins family, who owns the town and the fishing industry, only to lose it to another company who just happens to be run by the woman (Eva Green) who puts Johnny Depp’s character in the ground for 200 years. I think she’s a vampire, too, or she’s in love with Depp. Something like that.

The Collins family lives in a Wayne Manor-esque estate and each member has something strangely wrong with them. The girl from “Kick Ass” might be a werewolf, the doctor is a drunk, the dad is a deadbeat and on and on. The family is on the verge of bankruptcy and being run from the town, only Depp, the original Collins, can save them.

What’s worse, is that they’ll probably be a sequel because the family shrink (Helena Bonham-Carter) who’s thrown to the bottom of the ocean is still alive. Dum-dum-dum! Spare me.

Brockman Stamp of Eh: 1.5/5 Fangs.

Disappointment, Controversy Mire Epic Sports Day

LOS ANGELES — Late Spring is arguably the best time for sports. With the unpredictability of the NBA and NHL Playoffs, interleague baseball, the randomness of big boxing matches, tennis and golf Grand Slam tournaments, and even horse racing; if the sports planets all align there’s the chance for something special. So when the Devils beat the Kings last Wednesday to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals, and then the Heat beat the Celtics to avoid elimination in the NBA Playoffs the next day, the intergalactic sports Gods set up a potentially epic day like Saturday, June 9.

As it turned out, there wasn’t just two or three of the previously mentioned events planned, but all six. I mean, why wouldn’t there be. It isn’t often you get a horse going for the Triple Crown, a tennis great trying to complete the career Grand Slam, your favorite baseball team playing against the best young player since Junior Griffey, a potential Stanley Cup deciding game, an NBA Playoffs Game 7 and a big-time prize fight featuring who many consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. All in one day!!?! A sports guy’s dream.

I’ll Have Another’s bum leg kept it from a historical Triple Crown, Saturday, in New York.

However, when I’ll Have Another’s trainer Doug O’Neill pulled the horse, who already had a pair of stunning come-from-behind wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, on Friday morning after noticing signs of arthritis/tendinitis in its leg, the Gods proved they had other plans. We now know those were nightmarish ones, especially for those with northeast rooting interests, like myself.

We’ll start with the Red Sox, who are on the precipice of a disaster .500 season (seriously, Adrian Gonzalez, you suck). They got things going in the southern directional with a 4-2 loss to the hotshots from Washington (who would later sweep Boston after Sunday’s win). While I failed to watch a single inning of this contest, I didn’t have high hopes after Stephen Strasburg (6 innings, 2 runs, 13 Ks) and Bryce Harper (3-for-5, 3 RBIs and a HR) dominated the squad the day before. You know it’s a bad sign when I just expect a disastrous performance before a pitch is ever thrown; 2004 and 2007 seem soooo long ago.

Nationals rookie Bryce Harper has lived up to the very high expectations he’s faced.

Shortly there after Boston’s “L,” the rest of the field that would’ve been an asterisk to I’ll Have Another’s historic Triple Crown (he was going off at 4-5 odds as late as last Thursday) took to the track at Belmont Park before a less-than optimally hyped crowd of over 85,000 (who bet over $15M). There was a group of us watching at The Daily Pint in Santa Monica for our friend Joe’s birthday or perhaps I would’ve skipped the race entirely. Back in the day, I wouldn’t have missed a big race. There was a harness racing track near my house in Maine and my buddies and I would roll over and lay some action down; always made it more interesting. Alas, I had zero interest, but the historic mile-and-a-half jaunt ended up being a dramatic race despite the favorite’s absence. Union Rags came from behind to claim the victory but will be a distant memory to what might have been. Legendary trainer Bob Baffert once again had his horse Place, as Paynter came up just short.

After falling in a 3-0 hole, the New Jersey Devils did their best to stave off elimination by forcing a Game 6. The Kings then won their first ever Stanley Cup on Monday.

Now, I’m not a hockey fan, but the hometown Kings being a game away from clinching the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s history, and with the puck dropping on Game 5 a half hour before Heat/Celtics Game 7, was enough to garner at least 30 minutes of my viewing time. Our now 5-man crew shifted over to Busby’s where we’d be able to watch both events and then possibly the Bradley/Pacquiao fight later on. The move proved to be a smart one as we posted up right in front of a TV with the basketball game on, with the hockey on directly behind us for easy viewing. I turned my head every now and again to check the score; we were updated on what was happening by the groans/cheers from the other patrons. There were mostly groans as the Devils extended the series with a 2-1 win.

Of course, my focus was solely on the Celtics, who were seeking their 3rd NBA Finals appearance in the five years of the Big Three Era and a revenge victory over Miami, which took out Boston in 5 games in last year’s Eastern Conference semis. It was a torridly-close affair but the Celtics managed to have a not-so comfortable 7-point lead at halftime, however, with just 12 minutes left to play it was dead even. The way Miami came back didn’t leave a good feeling in my gut, and as the time on the game clock dwindled it became apparent that the new golden era in Boston was coming to an unceremonious end. The Heat finished off the 101-88 win to advance to the NBA Finals against the youthfully athletic Oklahoma City Thunder and their dynamic and questionably fashionable duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. What made the loss even more obnoxious, was that suddenly we were surrounded by Heat fans, fans who were noticeably silent for the previous 36 game minutes. All that was left for me to do was lick my wounds, and devour my turkey burger, and prepare for the pugilistic showdown.

LeBron James finally had something to cheer about as he advanced to his second consecutive NBA Finals with the Heat’s Game 7 win over Boston.

I suppose we should have taken this has a sign of weird things to come, but the fight’s start was delayed by nearly an hour as 1) Manny Pacquaio, apparently a huge Celtics fan (finally, something to like about him) refused to get ready until the basketball game was over, and 2) Pacquiao, after getting ready, had to walk on the treadmill for a lengthy period of time to loosen up his calves, which he’s had problems with tightness in throughout his training camp. Meanwhile, the HBO announcing team was running out of things to talk about as everyone waited. It was beyond bizarre. Meanwhile, Bradley was gloved up and ready to go, pacing around backstage while Pacquaio went on with his shenanigans. The whole scene was bizarre, to say the least.

Manny Pacquaio dominated Timothy Bradley for a majority of their bout, Saturday, or so thought those watching who weren’t the judges ringside.

Finally, just after 9pm pacific time — only an hour or so after it was supposed to get underway — the boxers made their way to the ring, Michael Buffer did this overpriced thing (did you know he gets close to $5 million to be a boxing announcer for big fights?) and the dance began. It was clear from the get-go that Pacquiao was there to fight and quell the thoughts his 12-round triumph over Juan Manuel Marquez some months back wasn’t earned. The WBO champ was aggressive and closed rounds strongly, while Bradley tried to fight off Pacquiao’s his flurries. The challenger didn’t do a good job of it. Midway through the fight I tweeted out that a knockout was looming in the coming rounds. It never came.

Timothy Bradley had every reason to be smiling after Saturday’s split-decision win.

Bradley, who we later found out broke his foot in the fourth round, fought admirably to close the bout, but by then most assumed it was a forgone conclusion he was the big loser. When it was finally over and Bradley’s cornermen lifted him up, Jim Lampley commented on the irony, since it appeared he was soundly defeated. It was even reported Bradley told promoter Bob Arum that he gave all he could but even then couldn’t defeat Pacquiao. It wasn’t until Buffer read the first score of 115-113 that I knew something was up. And even though the round went to Pacquiao, that someone could even think the fight was that close was ludicrous was not a good sign if he hoped to continue his 7-year unbeaten streak.

Then Buffer said the second judges scores; “115-113 for Bradley” and you knew right then Bradley was going to win. The final judge’s score of 115-113 for Bradley didn’t even need to be read but when it was there was a good 15-20 seconds of silence inside Busby’s while we all soaked in what we just heard and what that meant for Pacquiao, a sitting-in-jail Floyd Mayweather and the sport of boxing. What it meant for Bradley was a rematch (one that was already predetermined, ironically) and a bigger payday and a still unblemished record. Twitter was aghast with notions of a fix and it was tough to argue. Inside Busby’s, some clown in a LeBron James jersey was running around yelling his outrage to any one would listen. Many did not. On my drive home, I wondered what Mayweather’s reaction must have been when learning of the outcome. Surely a smirk was involved.

Maria Sharapova finally won her coveted French Open championship.

In the end, only Maria Sharapova was able to come through to win the French Open and complete her career Grand Slam. Still, she’s getting married to former Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic so a complete victory is not awarded in my book. On top of all the sports brokenheartedness, it was the first weekend in nearly three months without “Game of Thrones,” and it was the last for probably a year with a Mad Men episode.

So much hope, so much promise when the sun rose that day all for not. Sometimes stars shine bright but their alignment is a little off. Maybe next time.

Two Cities, Two Playoff Games, One Week: A Recap

Paul Pierce, center,  is looking for one last championship run with this group of Celtics.

SACO, Maine — Playoff games, by definition, mean more than regular season contests. First, in the sense that there are less of them (duh), which adds to the anxiety in the building; two, there’s a sense of urgency, at least among the fans, because the end could come at any moment; and finally, if those involved fail to win, they lose their jobs.

The playoffs are a BFD*.

It’s also important to remember all sporting events mean more to “us” than it does to “them.” “Them,” of course, being the athletes (see Beckett, Josh). Coaches probably care as much as we do, at least it appears so, but since I am neither a professional athlete or coach, it was just straight up pretty cool to attend NBA playoff games in both Los Angeles and Boston in the span of a week, recently.

The Celtics and Clippers. The complete opposite of the basketball spectrum. Seventeen championship banners hang in the Boston Garden; Los Angeles’s second basketball team has eight playoff appearances in 42-year history in three different cities. On the drive back to Maine after the 76ers’ 82-81 win I thought about the differences between the two venues, the crowds, the styles of the games themselves and, of course, the teams involved.

I had a parter in crime for each game and how we came to attend both started the same way: a simple IM/text which more or less read “game tonight?” For the Clippers, my buddy Eric and I decided to go at 10 a.m. the day of. It didn’t take much convincing on my part to get him on board. Once we got to downtown Los Angeles, we were full-fledged members of Clippers Nation.

The scene during warmups from The Mo and mine seats on the 200 level.

I’ll let @TheGhostMo take it from here:

Walking into the men’s bathroom at Staples Center, minutes before tip-off, I almost collided with three Orthodox Jewish men.  These weren’t your Larry David-esque Jewish men.  I’m talking real orthodox, complete with long curly side burns, yarmulkes, and formal suits.  I would have thought I was on the corner of Beverly and Hauser, except for one thing: all three wore bright red “LAC RISEN” t-shirts over their suits.  4,000 years of religion couldn’t beat out Clipper fever on this night.

These three gentlemen weren’t the only ones wearing the complimentary garb.  The entire men’s room bled red to the point that it wouldn’t look out of place on The Game’s album cover.  There was only one person who wasn’t wearing the shirt, who instead had it slung over his shoulder, trying to look cool.  That person was me.

I’m from Milwaukee. I grew up thinking it was commonplace to tailgate before every baseball game.  I remember seeing a woman wear a Green Bay Packers Mark Chmura jersey…to the courtroom for his sexual assault trial.  Every stadium in Wisconsin reeks of barley and hops and that’s the way we like it.

Since moving to LA, I’ve seen the Lakers play at home for every round of the playoffs, save the Finals. For the most part I’ve been disappointed.  Everyone at Lakers games wishes (or incorrectly thinks) they’re part of the spotlight, that they’re on par with Jack Nicholson.  People dress like they’re going to a club and stay hunkered on their cellphones like Obama is sexting them.

That’s why I hadn’t put on my shirt on yet.  Because I figured the Clippers’ playoff scene would be more of the same.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As I exited the bathroom, an almost certainly intoxicated man grabbed my shoulder.  “You’re putting the shirt on, right???”  At that exact moment, I felt something hit my shoe.  I looked down and saw an empty plastic bottle of tequila rolling past.  Smiling, I threw the shirt on with glee and gave the stranger a massive high five.  I’ve never felt more at home in this city.  #LobCityBaby

That the Clippers won in overtime only added to the hysteria. It almost felt like we were back in the 315, head-to-toe in blue and orange; it was that type of crowd, which hasn’t been said for a Clippers game in, I’m guessing, ever. Sadly, there were no more LA games for us. Baby Brother edged the Grizzlies in 7 games only to be swept at the Spurs’ hand in the next round. Oh to what next year will bring, and if Chris Paul and Blake Griffin stay with the team beyond then, there could be many more years of postseason chances for the Lobbers.

A week later, in Boston, on the other hand, I expected 19,000 Sullys, Tommys and extras from “The Town” to be drunk, loud and drunk. I also didn’t expect to get a free T-shirt upon arrival. Matt, whom I called upon to attend the day before (along with my bro-in-law, who I convinced to call out sick from work) and is as just a big of a Celtics fan as me, said we’d get towels. He was correct. We also got placards with a gigantic “3″ on it, presumably to hold up after someone on our team hit a 3-pointer. Fans are such sheep. I grabbed two of each.

@mrouellette and I had seats almost as good for Celtics/76ers Game 2.

It didn’t matter that we were sitting in the upper deck behind the basket, just being part of a legendary Celtics playoff crowd was something to behold. From the “Dee-Fence” chants on big possessions, to “Let’s Go Celtics!” on others, it was beyond loud at times and abrasive at others. A hot start by the home team became a faded memory by the third quarter when the 76ers took the lead. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around there wasn’t a butt in a seat and the roar when Avery Bradley hit a 3 with just over two minutes left to put the Celtics up 1 could be heard all the way in Worcester.

But, in the end, the sea of green couldn’t will the home chaps to victory, as the 76ers eeked out the one-point win — Kevin Garnett drained a meaningless 3 with no time left that surely only the gamblers cared about. I always enjoy the scene after games in Boston; everyone bitching about this and that, and the T-shirt vendors selling rubes at LeBron James, the Heat and my favorite, an homage to Greg Steimsma, the Celtics enthusiastic backup center. They’re cheap, and I’ve bought some in the past after Red Sox games. Matt got a couple and we made our way home.

The 90-minute or so drive back home after game in Boston, especially after a loss, is a lot like driving home from Las Vegas. You and your buddies usually just sit in silence, maybe make a Dunkin stop and it isn’t until you hit the Maine border before someone speaks up. Usually it’s an expletive about the game; kinda like how you curse the tables in Vegas by the time you hit Barstow.

Back in Los Angeles, the games start three hours earlier and those wearing Green are few and far between. With Game 7 vs. Philadelphia set for Saturday, and the Lakers car flags replaced by finger pointing for their early exit, I’ll take solace that we have at least one more game.

I’ll be there in spirit.

* – Big. Fu^king. Deal.

The Crossover — Episode XXIII

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, left, and Vice President John Elway, right, hope that Peyton Manning is the true savior in Denver this season. The Broncos signed Manning to a 5-year contract March 20.

LOS ANGELES — Sundays at the NFL Network are a beast all their own. The energy and buzz in the building can be felt from studio to newsroom and behind the scenes as one-by-one the games come to a close and the highlite shows go on the air. That feeling has without a doubt carried over this year into the offseason.

That’s why I was excited to finally track down my Sunday partner in crime for the last two NFL campaigns, Justine Brown, and have her on The Crossover to talk about one of the wildest weeks the NFL offseason has seen in quite some time, possibly ever. And she KILLS IT. (click here to listen)

From Peyton Manning finally deciding the location he wants to finish his career – Denver?! – to penalties levied against the Saints for their Bounty Program of the last few years to yes, wait for it, Tim Tebow being traded to the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! What could happen next is anybody’s guess and we break all that down.

Of course, Justine is a huge hoopster, so we analyze the NCAA Men’s Tournament as we hit Sweet 16 weekend, talk about the upcoming Syracuse/Wisconsin matchup and if we really think Kendall Marshall’s injury is going to derail North Carolina.

We finish up the show with a little NBA talk as we near the end of the shortened season, re-live Linsanity and wonder if Dwight Howard can really be The Man in Orlando or another franchise. To close the show, we look back on how the both us, two small-town kids, came to land in Los Angeles and find our own niche and enjoy ourselves is this crazy place.

As always, thanks for listening, and spread the word!

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