Friday, December 22, 2017

My five favorite Christmas movies

When it’s not sports, it’s movies for me. That isn’t often, but often enough to warrant this post. That’s why the Oscars always fall at the perfect time, at the end of February, in between the Super Bowl and March Madness. With the holiday season in full force, here are my five favorite Christmas movies.

5. Scrooged (1988): Bill Murray could play a role in almost any spoof and it would be funny. No shot this movie makes my five with a different protagonist.

4. Home Alone (1990): You know a movie is good when there’s multiple sequels that all stink after that. There are some exceptions for sequels, and Home Alone 2 is good as well, but the whole point of a sequel is because of how good the first movie was. Joe Pesci is the perfect bad guy, Catherine O’Hara nails the freaked-out mom role and Macaulay Culkin is your ideal troublemaker. What’s not to like?

3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): I’m not as well-versed in retro films as I am with retro athletes, but if you’re making a Christmas movie list, it goes without saying that this belongs on there. I do enjoy a lot of Jimmy Stewart movies and this is one of those movies that you never hear anyone say anything bad about.

2. A Christmas Story (1983): I don’t care how many times TBS shows it on Christmas. It’s a Christmas classic no matter what. Full credit to Jean Shepherd for authoring the story and narrating the voice of adult Ralph Parker. When you can buy the leg lamp online, that’s when you know your film has made an impact.

1. A Christmas Carol (1984): This is the motion picture version of the Charles Dickens novel and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. George C. Scott played a lot of roles in his career, but this is the one I always think of first when his name comes up. My list is bookended with a parody of this story, and then the actual movie because if you can appreciate the story of Scrooge then you can enjoy both. Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Breaking down the NFC after Carson Wentz’s injury

 It was the latest injury on a long list of premier players going down in the National Football League this season. The Eagles were the favorites in Las Vegas to win the NFC and play in the Super Bowl in Minnesota. But, the complexion of the entire conference took another turn on Monday when news broke confirming that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. It was what all Eagles fans feared on Sunday night and it means the team now turns to Nick Foles for the remainder of 2017.
                                                             Jeff Gross/Getty Images

So, now for the question everyone was trying to answer Monday and will continue to answer for the rest of the season. What does this all mean for the NFC and who will represent the conference at US Bank Stadium in February?

The short answer is your guess is as good as mine. Granted, there are teams that would be in better positions than others. During the last two months, on the heels of its defense and surprising play from quarterback Case Keenum, Minnesota has proven to be good enough to offset the loss of running back Dalvin Cook. New Orleans has been a model of consistency with its running game and improved defense, two things Drew Brees hasn’t had in a while. Green Bay would become a dangerous wild card in it were to sneak in as the sixth seed with Aaron Rodgers’ return looming. But none of those teams are the prohibitive favorites in the conference the way the Eagles were with Wentz, who was playing like the NFL MVP.

Of course, there’s arguments to be made for several more teams too. The Eagles could still get the top seed in the NFC, which would of course mean the road to US Bank Stadium would go through Philadelphia.  Seattle can move into first place in the NFC West with a win on Sunday against the Rams and Seattle is one of two teams to beat Wentz’s Eagles this year. Carolina just got a huge win against Minnesota and the NFC South is up for grabs after Atlanta’s victory over New Orleans last Thursday. Atlanta, by the way, won the NFC last year in case you forgot. The Rams are still in first place in the NFC West and are still very much in the mix for a first-round bye. Even Detroit and Dallas aren’t dead. Both teams sit at 7-6, and Dallas gets Ezekiel Elliott back in week 16.

When you think about all the teams that are in the playoff hunt in the NFC, it puts into perspective how impressive Wentz’s season was. The fact that the Eagles were essentially the unquestioned favorite in a conference as deep as the NFC is this year says a lot. While you could do a lot worse than Nick Foles as your backup quarterback, it’s obvious that the latest injury in a slew of casualties across the NFL this year has pumped some more life into the chances of the NFC’s other contenders. With 10 teams in the NFC over .500 after 13 games, there’s obviously going to be some teams beating up on each other on the way to the finish line. Whatever the combination is the of the six teams in the NFC that are playing into January, it’s unlikely that there’s a clear favorite then either. Yes, four of those 10 teams are going to miss the playoffs and we’ll know who has the byes and who won the divisions.  But with Wentz now out for the Eagles, you’d be better off picking a team out of a hat when the playoffs start and you’d have a one in six chance at being right. That’s how it feels now.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Stop babying Baker Mayfield

It’s rivalry week in college football. Then it’s Championship weekend next week followed by the College Football Playoff announcement. One week after that the Heisman Trophy is handed out. The heavy favorite for college football’s most prestigious award has been in the news this week for the wrong reasons.

Everyone knows what happened by now. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was spotted on the sidelines last week making an obscene gesture towards the Kansas players during the Sooners’ blowout victory in Lawrence. The ensuing response from Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley was to bench Mayfield for the start of this weekend’s regular season finale at home against West Virginia. Both Riley and Mayfield were emotional when discussing the discipline this week.

                                                     Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports
It wasn’t the first instance Mayfield made headlines for a celebration this season. After a major non-conference victory early in the year at Ohio State, the senior planted the Oklahoma flag at midfield in Columbus.  Of course, if you’re having the season Mayfield is, your actions are always going to be under a microscope. So, Kansas captains refusing to shake hands with Mayfield at the coin toss last week becomes a much smaller story. But, the bigger question here is why are Mayfield’s actions such a big story in the first place? If Ohio State didn’t want an Oklahoma flag at the 50-yard line, maybe it should have limited Mayfield to less than 386 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. Mayfield tossed three more touchdowns last week against the Jayhawks.

Obviously, it’s easier said than done to contain the best player in college football. But, why get so offended by a celebration or two if he’s playing like the best player in college football on that given day? Furthermore, what is Riley really accomplishing by not starting Mayfield this week? Everyone knows Mayfield is going to likely come in on Oklahoma’s second offensive series. The transgressions were very different, but in some ways this is reminiscent of when Texas A&M suspended Johnny Manziel for the first half of the 2013 season opener against Rice. Manziel threw eight passes in the second half, three went for touchdowns and the Aggies won 52-31.

The Sooners almost certainly have to win tomorrow and in next week’s Big 12 Championship game to make the College Football Playoff. Riley’s not going to leave his best player on the sidelines for too long tomorrow. Oklahoma is favored by more than three touchdowns and Mayfield’s probably going to officially seal the deal on the Heisman during the next eight days. Some have speculated that these celebration antics will hurt Mayfield’s NFL draft stock. Coaches and scouts can nitpick all they want, but nobody can argue with what Mayfield’s done on the football field this year. We’re all better off if we just enjoy the last few games of Mayfield’s college career, rather than getting caught up in something as trivial as Mayfield’s celebrations. And if Mayfield wants to enjoy himself as the book closes on what’s been an outstanding career at Oklahoma, what’s the issue with that? Riley’s discipline serves almost no purpose and the entire situation has been blown out of proportion. Mayfield is two wins away from getting to the college football playoff for the second time in three years and locking up the Heisman. He’s had a special career in Norman and that’s what everyone should remember.