LeBron James and the Unwinnable Game

LeBron James cannot win.  It seems that this is true both literally (as in an NBA Championship) and figuratively (as in whatever he does, his critics are displeased).  Sunday, James participated in the NBA All-Star game.  His East team was losing by double digits (it should be noted that no one tries too hard in the first three-and-a-half quarters of this game) when he came onto the floor in the fourth quarter.  James' effort alone can be credited for bringing the East back and making a game of it.  Then, the last minute happened.

With East down by one point with 1:15 remaining, LeBron passed to a wide open Dwyane Wade under the basket.  The uncovered Wade fumbled the ball out of bounds.  Blake Griffin the scored on a put-back dunk at the other end with 37 seconds remaining to give the West a 150-147 lead.  (See?  I told you, no defense) After an exchange of free throws (Wade hit two of two and Kobe Bryant hit one of two) the East called timeout with the ball in their possession and 16 seconds on the clock.  What transpired in those 16 seconds has been the talk of the sports-o-sphere ever since.  The East inbounded the ball to James who hit Deron Williams for an open three point attempt.  This was clearly a called play by East coach Tom Thibodeau.  Not only was Thibodeau furiously drawing on his whiteboard during the timeout, but you could see the play develop (Williams faking toward the baseline and coming off a Dwight Howard screen) on the telecast.  Any shot by James at this point, despite the potential heroics, would have been a direct contravention of his coach's orders.

Williams' three was a terrible shot, well short, and it barely hit the rim.  It was so terrible, in fact, that no one was ready for the rebound, and it struck several players as they were getting their hands up and bounced high into the air.  Williams recovered the rebound near the left sideline with seven seconds left.  He got the ball to LeBron (after a second or two), who was at this point some 30 feet from the basket, beyond the top of the key.  With only seconds to play and the clock running, and with Kobe Bryant playing close defense, LeBron attempted a pass to Wade in the corner, despite Carmelo Anthony being more open and closer to him.  Blake Griffin intercepted the pass and the game was effectively over.

So let's look at what happened.  LeBron has been excoriated for not taking the last shot.  Interestingly, he was yelled at by Bryant on the floor in the immediate aftermath of the turnover.  Michael Wilbon suggested that Bryant knew that there was the potential for "a moment" between them, a mano-a-mano sort of confrontation, and was angry that LeBron seemed to shrink from letting it play out.  Perhaps, though, LeBron had Kobe's recent history in mind.  With 1:21 remaining (just prior to the Wade fumble), Bryant attempted (or, more accurately, forced) a 15 foot turnaround while well-covered at the other end of the floor.  He air-balled the (ill-advised) shot and gave the East an opportunity to win that a better shot (or, gasp, a pass!) might not have afforded them.  If not for Wade's subsequent error, the East likely would have won.

So the basketball world prefers Kobe's "heroics" despite the fact that it gave his team less of chance to win the game.   LeBron had the ball in a similarly closely-guarded situation, with only six seconds left, much further from the basket.  His decision to pass (despite the poorly chosen destination) increased his team's chances to win, despite several demonstrable errors by teammates (which are, of course, forgotten).  And yet we are consistently told that Kobe is the "winner" and "the one you want with the game on the line" and that LeBron "shrinks from big moments."  Despite the rhetoric, passing was the right thing to do.

But, just for fun, what if LeBron had shot the ball?  What if he had even made the shot?  Want to know what the story for the week would have been?  "It was just the All-Star game.  Let's see him do it when it counts."  A mistake made the game a defining moment.  Success would have been thought more meaningless than the slam dunk contest (which, by the way, is an event that James is often lambasted for refusing to appear in).  For LeBron James, the 2012 All-Star Game was the unwinnable game.

Movie Review: Hugo

Martin Scorsese's latest film is certainly a marvel.  Boasting the best use of 3D since Avatar, Hugo tells the story of an impossibly cute young orphaned boy (Asa Butterfield), living inside the walls (and variously-sized clocks) of a Parisian train station with an automaton, who meets a wildly precocious girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who hold the key (literally) to the great mystery of his life (and hers).  And really, that's the problem.  It's all just a little on-the-nose.  The A.V. Club, which I read more than I read my Bible, has a feature series called "Why Don't You Like This?" wherein two of its writers (one pro and one con) debate the merits of a piece of art.  Tasha Robinson's take on Hugo basically mirrors (and may have even influenced!) my own.

Scorsese is at his best (Casino, Goodfellas, The Departed, The Aviator, and on and on) telling gritty stories.  The only "grit" in Hugo is the glowing puffs of wonder that float around inside the train station, making you "wonder" if this story takes place on earth at all.  The "villain" (Sacha Baron Cohen) is so tame that there is literally no worry that everything won't work out just perfectly in the end.  I suppose that's the problem in the end: every descriptor needs quotation marks.  The crotchety old man who gets his heart softened by the wide-eyed moppet is crotchety for a reason so banal that it might as well be that somebody had to have his heart softened, as that is a requirement of movie of this type.

The film is not without its wonders, though...a slightly-more-than-a-montage about the goings-on at one of the first ever film studios is a joy, and the automaton doing its thing is fascinating, too.  Most beautifully, Scorsese proves that he still knows his way around a camera.  The performances are all good (Cohen's aside), though slight (Emily Mortimer is especially wasted), but everything is just too saccharine to be believed.  Kevin McAllister was more likely to succumb to the Wet Bandits than any character in this film was of breaking a nail.  It's beautiful to look at, but too beautiful to be real.

Hugo:  2.5 stars out of 5

Preach Tim Tebow Always...Use Words When Necessary

This story is actually from November of last year, but just came to my attention now, brought on by the recent Brady Quinn/Tim Tebow flap.  For those not in the know, GQ Magazine recently ran an oral history of last year's Denver Broncos season called The Year of Magical Stinking.  In it, many of Tebow's teammates and fellow NFLers offered opinions on the man, his season, and, of course, his expressions of faith.  Brady Quinn, another quarterback on the Broncos (and a Christian), is quoted on the subject of Tebow's public displays of faith, saying:
If you look at it as a whole, there's a lot of things that just don't seem very humble to me. When I get that opportunity, I'll continue to lead not necessarily by trying to get in front of the camera and praying but by praying with my teammates, you know?
In the wake of this becoming a "story," as anything regarding Tebow must, I was sent (ht DP) a link to this story about Kurt Warner, another famously and openly Christian quarterback, also commenting on Tebow's expression of his faith.  Warner says, among other things, that
You can’t help but cheer for a guy like that….But I’d tell him, ‘Put down the boldness in regards to the words, and keep living the way you’re living. Let your teammates do the talking for you. Let them cheer on your testimony.’...There’s almost a faith cliche, where (athletes) come out and say, ‘I want to thank my Lord and savior.’… As soon as you say that, the guard goes up, the walls go up, and I came to realize you have to be more strategic. The greatest impact you can have on people is never what you say, but how you live. When you speak and represent the person of Jesus Christ in all actions of your life, people are drawn to that. You set the standard with your actions. The words can come after.
This quote puts me in mind of the famous saying attributed to St. Francis:  "Preach the Gospel always.  When necessary, use words."  Francis, Warner, and Quinn all seem to agree that Tebow ought to let his actions speak for his faith, not his words.  Quinn sees the words as an annoyance, Warner sees them as flawed strategy, and Francis sees them as something like putting the cart before the horse.  They're all forgetting one thing, though:  If Jesus were accurately described by his followers' actions, no one would want to have anything to do with him!

Gandhi famously said, "I would be a Christian -- if I ever met one." This quote is commonly used to claim that Gandhi was an admirer of Jesus and his teachings and to point out the hypocrisy of Christians (e.g. we preach "turn the other cheek" but don't do it). In reality, though, this reveals that Gandhi didn't understand Christianity at all. Christianity is a religion founded on the idea that human beings can't live up to Jesus' teaching. That's the whole point. Jesus came to save a sinful humanity, not to author a life manual for people able to make good decisions. This is the error that Quinn, Warner, and Francis are making, too.  It's quite true that actions speak louder than words; that's why we must practically shout the Gospel for it to be heard over our undermining actions.

So here's hoping that Tim Tebow keeps talking about his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  His actions, no matter how noble, certainly won't illuminate Him.

A Sermon for Ash Wednesday


“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).
Let us pray. Dear God in Heaven, we ask you to join us here, and we trust that you are here with us. May my words be your words, and all of our thoughts, your thoughts. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Today, we gather together for a unique purpose. Unlike any other service in the course of the year, unlike any Bible study, any prayer group, any fellowship dinner…tonight we come together to intentionally disobey the Bible. Worse, we’re going to intentionally disobey Jesus Christ’s specific instructions! Toward the end of this service, I’ll invite you to come forward to receive the imposition of ashes. I’ll make a mark on your forehead, and then you’ll go to work. Everyone will know where you’ve been. They might not know what particular kind of church you’ve been to, but they will definitely know something about your spiritual life…your life of faith. So listen again to Jesus’ words: “Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven... But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4). So exactly what are we doing here?

Can Anything Good Come From Harvard? The (In)Auspicious Origins of Jeremy Lin


The Reformers, specifically Martin Luther, often talked about God working in unexpected ways. Luther called this work of God sub contrario, that is, "under the opposite." God, in other words, is most often found working in the thing that looks the opposite of what we would expect. As evidence, we can look to Biblical stories of Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, forgiving thieves on crosses (okay, one thief on one cross), and resurrecting the dead. Jesus' modus operandi seems to have continually confounded those among whom he lived. This idea of God working sub contrario perhaps finds its most concrete Biblical warrant in the account of the calling of the disciple Nathanael. Philip comes to Nathanael and tells him that the Messiah has come, and is from Nazareth. "Nazareth!" Nathanael exclaims, "Can anything good come from there?" (John 1:46) Two thousand years later, the billions of Christians who have lived would, no doubt, say yes.

In fact, we say that this is precisely the kind of place from which good comes. God brings Jesus from Nazareth in order to bring life out of death. We hold tight to this "Nazareth Principle" because we feel that we are from Nazareth; we are not special; we are dying, and we hope and pray that God can bring something good out of us.

Which brings us, of course, as everything these days must, to Jeremy Lin. A major factor in Lin's having become the current hot cultural story (totally overflowing the bounds of a simple sports story) is that his rise to prominence in the NBA has been so unexpected. He is said to have come "from nowhere." He is Asian-American, he was totally unrecruited out of high school and undrafted out of college, and he went to...Harvard. This is the extent to which God works sub contrario: he has made Harvard into Nazareth!  A commentator on one of the many talking-head sports punditry shows I watch (they are all the same...I just can't stop myself) made the point that coming from Harvard is in no other context seen as a detriment. Professional athletics may be the only arena (get it?) in which a Harvard pedigree causes an opponent to doubt your skill.

God is always working under the opposite. He always brings life out of death. He chose Peter, the often-faithless friend who denied him three times, to be the rock upon which he would found his church. He chose Harvard (the ivory tower of ivory towers) to be Nazareth when he needed it to be. God works under the opposite, bringing the savior of the Knicks and the Savior of the World from the places least likely, to show that he is God, capable of anything, even the salvation of sinners such as us.

Movie Review: Safe House

Safe House is a sheep in wolf's clothing.  Were it not brought to life by actors of the quality of Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard and Brendan Gleeson, one would question the need to bring it to life at all.  It looks like  a good movie...it sounds like a good movie...but once you get inside...it just isn't.  A story you've seen a thousand times, Safe House proceeds safely from one well-worn action thriller check point to the next, filling out the Mad-Libs card as it goes.  Car chase?  Check.  Exotic locale?  Check.  Neophyte who wants desperately to be involved but realizes he's in way over his head as soon as he is?  Check.  Potentially untrustworthy higher-ups and "corruption that goes all the way to the top?"  Check.  That last is an actual quote from this dire screenplay.

That said, I enjoyed the trees, if not the forest.  Reynolds plays a young CIA safe house "keeper" who all-of-a-sudden finds himself responsible for a notorious traitor to the United States.  A shadowy group wants the traitor dead, and the rest of the cast plays the support team trying to keep them both alive.  Young director Daniel Espinosa makes all the right casting choices:  Washington brings his considerable gravitas to this trifle; his Tobin Frost is classic Denzel: witty, gruff, with a confidence that overwhelms all those around him.  Reynolds is potentially an up-and-coming action star, if he decides to go that way (I've been saying this since Smokin' Aces).  Farmiga, Shepard, and Gleeson play CIA muckety-mucks who say things like "I can scramble an extraction team from Libya but that'll take at least 18 hours," and make it seem important, rather than just more action movie situation room babble.

But, unfortunately, babble it is.  I knew from the opening moments what to expect from this film, and every expectation was fulfilled.  The "surprise" bad guy is so obvious he might as well actually wear a black hat.  Washington's and Reynolds' character arcs are at least as obvious if not more so.  Gigli would have been enjoyable with this cast, and Safe House is enjoyable.  Safe House with a cast worthy of it (for instance, the cast of Monday Night Raw) would be an atrocity.

Safe House:  2 stars out of 5

We Always Do the Hard Thing

Remember when President Kennedy said that we were going to the moon not because it was easy, but because it was hard?  Okay, I don't either, but I've seen it on TV a bunch of times.  That sentiment, though rousing, always seemed strange to me...I mean, why not do easy things?  That way, we might avoid things like Gus Grissom (and crew) blowing up on the Apollo 1 launching pad.  I thought of this upon reading a new piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education called "Do Sports Build Character or Damage It?"  The article is a lengthy (and very good) read, but one sentiment jumped out at me above any other.  Mark Edmundson, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, recalling his days as a high school football player, says:

I liked the transforming aspect of the game: I came to the field one thing—a diffident guy with a slack body—and worked like a dog and so became something else—a guy with some physical prowess and more faith in himself. Mostly, I liked the whole process because it was so damned hard. I didn't think I could make it, and no one I knew did either. My parents were ready to console me if I came home bruised and dead weary and said that I was quitting. In time, one of the coaches confessed to me that he was sure I'd be gone in a few days. I had not succeeded in anything for a long time: I was a crappy student; socially I was close to a wash; my part-time job was scrubbing pans in a hospital kitchen; the first girl I liked in high school didn't like me; the second and the third followed her lead. But football was something I could do, though I was never going to be anything like a star. It was hard, it took some strength of will, and—clumsily, passionately—I could do it.
The sentence that stands out to me is this:  "I liked the whole process because it was so damned hard."  It also put me in mind of the story of Naaman from 2 Kings.  Naaman is an Aramean army commander sent by his King to Israel to be cured of his leprosy.  Elisha hears of his plight and tells Naaman to wash in the Jordan and he'll be made clean.  Naaman has brought money and beautiful clothing to give in exchange for his cleansing, and he's outraged that he's told to simply go wash in the river:
Naaman became angry and went away, saying, "I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?" He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
Edmundson seems to be a Naamanite in his recollection of his athletic experience.  He liked it because it was hard.  If it was easy, it would have been wholly unsatisfying!  Ultimately, Edmundson suggests that sports both build character and destroy it, saying that 
Sports can do great good: build the body, create a stronger, more resilient will, impart confidence, stimulate bravery, foment daring. But at the same time, sports often brutalize the player—they make him more aggressive, more violent. They make him intolerant of gentleness; they help turn him into a member of the pack, which defines itself by maltreating others—the weak, the tender, the differently made.
The good things that he claims come from sport, though, are all derivations of the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" thesis of Kennedy's moon vision.  We do things that are hard because we cherish the acclaim that comes with success.  No one will sing our praises if we accomplish something simple.  Naaman is furious that neither his riches nor his intricate obedience are required to cleanse him of his ailment.  Athletes, in perhaps stretched metaphor, bristle when someone does something with a great supporting cast.  LeBron James has been excoriated for joining forces (the pathetic easy way) with Dwyane Wade in an attempt to win a championship.  How much more honorable to win one by yourself.

Christians are the same way.  We can't handle being given something for free.  We are like Naaman, incensed that our riches (our spiritual quality) and obedience are not only not required but, we are told, actually an impediment to our healing.  We struggle to retroactively purchase our salvation by becoming people for whom substitutionary atonement is not such a scandal.  We want to do something hard.  We want to earn God's favor.  We fear something easy, both because we don't understand it and because we've been convinced that something easy isn't worth anything.  Athletics has helped teach us this.  Naaman's servants have it right, though:  Having prepared ourselves to do something hard, shouldn't we be grateful that we've been asked to do something easy?  Having convinced ourselves that a righteous life (or a rigorous workout) is the path to God's (or the fans') love, shouldn't we be overjoyed to learn that God's love has been given to us for free?  Our resistance to our no-cost salvation belies an ignorance of the most crucial tenant of our faith:  While "no pain, no gain" is quite true, the pain was suffered by another, and need not continue.

The Rundown: Movies that Get Better with Age

The Royal Tenenbaums
I came out of the theater hating this movie.  I had seen and loved Rushmore, and so was excited to see Wes Anderson's next offering.  What I found clever and endearing in Rushmore I found intolerable in Tenenbaums:



Anderson is known for static camera positions and beautifully composed frames.  The first time I saw Tenenbaums, the lack of motion drove me crazy.  It's a movie where the camera barely moves, the characters barely move, and emotions are barely shown.  Barely shown, that is, until a volcanic ending when everything explodes out into the open.  Upon repeat viewings, this technique has begun to work on me.  The frenetic energy of the climax is made all the more intense by the slow-build immobility of all that came before.  And Gene Hackman is great.  His wry performance and perfect delivery get better with each viewing.

Miami Vice
Being a huge Michael Mann fan (The Insider, Heat, Collateral), and knowing his involvement with the television show, I was excited to see the film adaptation.  This was a case of expectations being too high.  Mann's last three movies (aforementioned) had been such triumphs that only Citizen Kane-level perfection could have satisfied me (see also: The Simpsons Movie).  Upon repeat viewings, though, Miami Vice proves to be densely plotted, beautifully shot (on digital tape), and very well acted.  Mann coaxes good performances from Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx as the leads, but it's the surrounding players who give the film its weight and provide the best moments, making Miami Vice one of the greatly underrated crime thrillers of the last decade.

Apocalypto
Mel Gibson's Mayan tale was sold as an epic adventure, when really it's just the opposite.  The above trailer is for the DVD release, and advertises a simpler story than the longer theatrical trailer.  A stripped-down action adventure tale of a man desperately trying to rescue his wife and son while being pursued by baddies, Apocalypto was an incredible comedown from Gibson's previous film, The Passion of the Christ.  I had been (and continue to be) so moved by The Passion that Apocalypto felt incredibly slight by comparison.  As I watch it again and again, though, I realize that it's meant to be.  It's Frantic or The Rundown...a guy being chased, trying to save those he loves.  The action beats are all there, and the cinematography is, again, beautiful.  That seems to be a common denominator of this list: perhaps beautiful film-making requires an existing familiarity with the story to be truly appreciated.

The Dark Knight
I know, right?  How could I not like one of the best reviewed movies of all time?  I had really liked Batman Begins, and so, as is common on this list, was eagerly anticipating the sequel.  My problem with The Dark Knight upon first blush was that I thought it succumbed to sequel-itis: that is, doing the same things, just more, more, more, and bigger, bigger, bigger.  I thought the movie was overstuffed (see Iron Man 2, which hasn't yet gotten better with age) with at least one bad guy too many (Two-Face, in particular) and enough gadgets and vehicles to make your head spin.  I also thought that the morality play on the barges was a little overwrought.  After seeing the movie several more times, I like it much more.  What at first seemed to be a convoluted plot revealed itself to be intricate but understandable, the scene on the barges had depths I hadn't noticed, and the nihilistic anarchy of the Joker became more and more creepy.  I still don't like the fact that Aaron Eckhart's arc is tighter than a boomerang's flight path, but maybe I'll even like that, one more viewing in.

Intolerable Cruelty
I liked this movie immediately, and simply like it more and more every time I see it.  George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones square off in this Preston Sturges-style farce.  It's funny, it's warm, it's winning.  It also features Coen brother's regular Richard Jenkins giving one of the great line readings in the history of cinema (NBC Universal apparently won't let me embed the clip).

Burn After Reading
Another Coen bothers film, Burn After Reading is wispy-thin.  So slight that even the main characters don't have any idea what's going on in the movie or why it matters (and the cause of my initial shoulder-shrug and "meh" reaction), Burn nevertheless contains a great Brad Pitt comedic performance, offset by a hilariously overwrought John Malkovich one.  Ostensibly a tale of intelligence-service intrigue, it's really an opportunity for a group of comedic actors with impeccable timing (the aforementioned Pitt, Malkovich, and Jenkins, plus George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and J.K. Simmons) to show off their best stuff.

Movie Review: Chronicle


The "found footage" movement had seemed played out.  Started (arguably) by Cannibal Holocaust in 1980 and kicked into the mainstream by The Blair Witch Project in 1999, this film-making style has gone from an eye-catching way to convey immediacy to the audience to a way to create scares on the cheap.  Chronicle returns the format to its glorious roots.

Set in a contemporary Seattle suburb, Josh Trank's film follows three "friends" (the reality and tenuous nature of their actual relationship factors heavily into the plot) who discover a mysterious hole in the ground, descend into its depths, and come out with telekinetic powers.  Luckily for us, one of them (a creepy Dane DeHaan) has recently decided to start "filming everything" for sad and totally believable reasons.  Most "found footage" films suffer from a simple question that keeps cropping up in the minds of audiences:  "Why don't they just turn the camera off?"  Chronicle smartly gets around this by centering the film around the three boys' simply chronicling (get it?) their discovery and practice of their new powers.  Wouldn't you film yourself building a Lego structure without touching it?  When things start to go bad, it feels natural for DeHaan's cameraman to keep the tape rolling.

The performances are good (DeHaan is joined by Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan), and while some of the writing is a little predictable (the boys' first foray into flight leads to them almost getting hit by a plane) and there's a little too much amateur philosophy that doesn't go anywhere, the mostly playful conversations the protagonists have with each other seem real.  It's the interplay between adolescence and power that is the most interesting part of Chronicle.  Like the "It's a Good Life" episode of The Twilight Zone, Chronicle posits that, if supernatural powers existed, perhaps children (or angsty teenagers) are the LAST people we'd want to have them.

Chronicle:  3.5 stars out of 5

Cut the Blather: A 10 Point Super Bowl Preview

With two weeks between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl (ostensibly to let injured players heal) the hype machine goes into overdrive before the big game.

• ESPN really has to scrape the bottom of the barrel to give some of its NFL analysts credibility. On their NBA studio show, to give a measure of perspective, Michael Wilbon introduces himself, and says that he’s joined by Jon Barry, “Hall-of-Famer Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson”, and Chris Broussard. That seems appropriate. On the NFL set, though, everyone’s gotta have something. Stuart Scott actually mentioned that he’d played for one day in an NFL mini-camp before introducing Merril Hoge, “who once rushed for more than 100 yards in consecutive playoff games.” Really? In that case, Wilbon would like to introduce you to Jon Barry, who, um, played in the NBA for a time, and I’d like to introduce myself, who once ate nine ice cream sandwiches for breakfast. And yes, I’m prouder of that than Merril Hoge should be of his twin 100-yard performances.

• What’s with the “demo field?” Nothing is more awkward than three large men in Brooks Brothers pretending to block, pass, and tackle on a 30×60 piece of Astroturf in the parking lot of Lucas Oil Stadium. They bump each other’s lavaliere mics as they rub off one another, and take throwing the little six-inch out way too seriously. I’m looking at you, Trent Dilfer, with your exaggerated follow-through and your cuff links.


• I’m finished with the mind-numbing debate about “which quarterback I’d rather have” on Sunday, Tom Brady or Eli Manning. Every single time I hear the question discussed, it always comes down to the “analyst” actually wanting Eli’s receivers, or defense, or running game. If you’ve got Generic Team A and you’re playing Generic Team B and your life depends on the outcome? You’re taking Brady.

• Rob Gronkowski will play, but he’ll be pretty limited. There. Consider that story fully reported. No more speculation without information; it’s worse than taxation without representation. Bill Belichick is famous for monkeying with injury reports…he’s definitely not telling Chris Mortensen how Gronkowski’s really feeling.

• I listened to Peyton Manning’s interview with Trey Wingo (best name in sports journalism…or, ever) the other day, and was struck by his presence. He seems so much more a “man” than Eli does. Eli has definitely played his way into “pretty darn great quarterback” status this year, but he’ll never have the sheen of Brady (FIFTY touchdowns in one season! Three Super Bowls!) or the value of his brother. I don’t agree with NFL Magazine’s assertion that Peyton was this year’s NFL MVP due to the Colt’s winning a mere two games without him, but their performance does seem to suggest that he should have been NFL MVP every other season of his career.

• Chad Ochocinco is pretty funny. He told a group of reporters at media day (who apparently questioned his almost total lack of contribution to the Patriots offense this season) that he never said he was any good; it was something that the media put on him. This from the guy who donned a “Future Hall of Famer” jacket after a touchdown when he was in Cincinnati. All of his antics aside, I hope that Chad has a big game on Sunday, and that he’s humble about it. This season seems to have humbled him…I’m surprised he hasn’t gone back to Chad Johnson, who was one of the most feared receivers in the NFL.


• What’s the deal with the Patriots trotting out the Verne Troyer All-Stars? Danny Woodhead is listed at 5’8″, Julian Edelman is listed at 5’10″, and Wes Welker is listed at 5’9″. These are all major contributors on a Super Bowl team! Edleman plays both ways! I think, on the road, that these three use Gronkowski’s game pants as a group sleeping bag. And yes, I felt like a treasure/rainbow joke was over the line.

• If the Patriots win this game, the rarified air that Brady breathes gets even more rarified. He joins Montana and Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with 4 Super Bowl wins. And Brady will have done it without Rice, Taylor, Craig, and Lott and without Harris, Swann, and the Steel Curtain. He’ll have done it on, well…pure Bradyness.

• If the Giants win this game, Eli becomes a really nice guy and pretty darn great quarterback with two Super Bowl rings, and Peyton plays until he’s fifty, or as long as it takes to win another one.

• That “Ferris Bueller” Super Bowl ad with Matthew Broderick makes me sort of sad.