Archive for December, 2006

Packers on NBC, Badgers on ABC, Hey At Least CBS Has That Show With Erik Estrada Joining The Muncie Police Force!
December 29, 2006

Poor NBC. They had such a good thing going with their new NFL Sunday Night Football package and the whole ‘flexible scheduling’ thing. Granted the games didn’t always live up to the hype (the Saints/Cowboys blowout, for example), but at least they were all hype-worthy, unlike some of the yawners ABC’s Monday Night Football was accustomed to having.

Then came week 17. There are plenty of interesting games on the schedule this week, but since they all rely on the outcome of another game to determine whether they have playoff implications or not, NBC was forced to choose among a bunch of matchups that may be also-rans by primetime.

Makes sense, then, that they chose Green Bay at Chicago. The network gets the oldest league rivalry, two of the league’s most popular teams (including the one that plays in the #3 TV market), and, even if the game is a blowout, there are plenty of issues for John Madden and Al Michaels to pontificate at length about: Is this Favre’s last game? (Barring injury, it won’t be.) Can the Bears, despite a weakening defense and erratic quarterback play, go far in the playoffs? (No, they can’t.)

But will the game matter? Well, let me see if I can get this straight. Here’s the easiest road for the Packers if they want to extend their season:
A. On Saturday night, the Redskins beat the Giants.
B. On Sunday afternoon, the Vikings beat the Rams. (Yes, Packer fans, you have to root for the Purple. It’s painful, but you have to try.)
C. The Packers win on Sunday night.

But wait, I guess that the Vikings/Rams game won’t matter if the Packers win, the Giants lose, and Carolina beats the Saints. Or if the Packers win, the Giants lose, and Atlanta beats the Eagles.

The constant thread appears to be that the Giants have to lose. But there is a bizarre strength-of-schedule scenario that could send the Packers to the playoffs if they beat the Bears and the Giants beat the Redskins: For this to come into play, Arizona would have to beat San Diego, Detroit would have to beat Dallas, Miami would have to beat Indianapolis (what?), Minnesota would have to beat St. Louis, San Francisco would have to beat Denver, Carolina would have to lose to New Orleans, Houston would have to lose to Cleveland (what?), and Tampa Bay would have to beat Seattle. Oh, and I think Dustin “Screech” Diamond has to win a Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Ah, it’s just easier to hope the Giants lose. Which, luckily for the Packers, is very likely considering the Giants are in complete freefall mode, having lost six of their last seven games. But of course the Packers have to win. And, despite having clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Bears plan to play their starters. Remember last time the Bears and Packers played their starters, the Bears won by 26 points. At Lambeau. Sure, the Bears have cooled a bit since then and the Packers have improved, but anyone who has witnessed the Packers desperately trying to lose the last two weeks to the two worst teams not only in the NFC North but in the entire league can’t be too confident of their chances to knock off the Bears in Chicago. But by gametime it might not matter. Certainly NBC — not to mention Packer faithful — hope that it does. Prediction: Bears 20, Packers 7.

What will unquestionably matter — unless your feel that none of the Bowl games matter except the Championship Game — is Monday’s Capital One Bowl between Number 12 Arkansas and Number 6 Wisconsin. I’m most interested to see which running back — The Razorbacks’ Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden or the Badgers’ Big Ten freshman of the year P.J. Hill — has the bigger game. I’m betting that the Badgers defense will be more effective in shutting down McFadden. If that prediction holds, and given the clear advantage that Wisconsin has at quarterback — John Stocco is back under center while Arkansas rotates between the underwhelming Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain — it might be a very good day for the Badgers and their fans. Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Arkansas 20.

Before I get out of here to enjoy the holiday weekend, I wanted to send a thank you to Aras Baskauskas, who most of you probably remember as the winner of last year’s Survivor: Exile Island. Turns out that Aras took his Survivor winnings and started a company called Tundra Gear, which produces great-looking (and very warm) Russian winter hats with officially licensed college and NFL logo pins. Aras read my blog and sent me a hat, which I received just in time to show off to my family at Christmas. Everyone was very impressed by the headgear (did I mention it was warm and I was in Minnesota?) and wanted to know where they could get their own. Well, I told them and I’ll tell you. Check out www.tundragear.com for all the details. And thanks again to Aras. (Now if he could only send me an autographed picture of that season’s runner-up Danielle . . .)

Happy New Year. Enjoy the Bowl Games and the last weekend of the NFL. See you in 07.

I’m Bringing Sexy Back
December 21, 2006

OK, I didn’t think I would ever say this and I certainly never thought I would say this in public (if the only one who reads your blog is your wife, does it count as public?), but I’m beginning to appreciate both Rosie O’Donnell and Justin Timberlake. Note I didn’t say that I’m a fan. But they are definitely off of my “celebrities that need to go away” list.

Although I still don’t consider O’Donnell “funny,” I am continually impressed at her honesty on The View. Just days after questioning the logic of spending $6,500 a day on the search for two missing climbers in Mount Hood, Oregon — a question that, insensitive as it may seem to the families of the climbers, certainly needed to be asked — O’Donnell took on the boorish, conceited, humorless, and altogether worthless Donald Trump for anointing himself morally qualified to allow Miss USA Tara Conner to retain her crown even after reports surfaced that she had been drinking while underage and taking drugs. Trump didn’t appreciate the comments and threatened to sue, calling O’Donnell “disgusting,” and a “loser,” and saying he was going to sue her to take money out of her “fat-ass pockets.” I love a good celebrity feud, and these days no one is better at starting them than Rosie O’Donnell. I’m not sure if being so antagonistic is good for her ratings or her psychological well-being, but I don’t care. I love it when celebrities go after each other. Good stuff.

As for Timberlake, have you heard “Sexy Back”? Enough said. Plus, have you seen or heard “**** In A Box” from last week’s SNL? It’s obvious that this guy has a good sense of humor about himself and he’s actually producing music that doesn’t make me want to drive my car off of a cliff when it comes on the satellite radio.

What does this have to do with sports? Nothing. So let’s talk about the whole NFL Network thing. For me, the NFL is to blame. Not for not allowing Charter or Time Warner to put the network on its “digital tier,” but for the idiotic decision that only Milwaukee and Green Bay constitute the “home markets” for the Green Bay Packers. You see, the NFL allows local stations, like WISC-TV, in a team’s home market to pick up games that are otherwise not available on broadcast television. This means that when the Packers play on ESPN, local network affiliates in Green Bay and Milwaukee pick up the game. That’s not the case in Madison, but it hasn’t been much of an issue, because ESPN is readily available in Madison.

It’s a much bigger issue with the Packers/Vikings game airing on the NFL Network on December 21, since more people subscribe to Charter than subscribe to either DirecTV or Dish Network, and the NFL Network is only available on the satellite services and not on Charter. But no one would care if the NFL simply designated the state of Wisconsin as the Packers home market, which would be much more logical and reflective of reality than deciding that people outside of Green Bay and Milwaukee don’t care as much about the green and gold.

The NFL does admit to the statewide love for the Packers in another way: When WISC-TV gets a Packer regular season game (not often since CBS has the AFC package), the station is always designated a “constant” station, meaning that no matter how uncompetitive the game gets, coverage on WISC will not be switched from the Packers to another game. Usually this “constant” status is saved for home markets of the teams playing. So if Madison is seen as a home market in this way, why isn’t it seen as a home market for a Packer game on the NFL Network? It simply doesn’t make sense.

Having said that, I don’t have a ton of sympathy for people still complaining about not being able to see the Packers/Vikings game at Lambeau. The announcement that this game was going to be available only on the NFL Network was made months ago, giving people plenty of time to find a friend with DirecTV or Dish, make arrangements to go to a bar or restaurant with televisions tuned to the game (not like it will be hard to find one), or even to switch from Charter to one of the satellite services. Because even if you’re a Packer or Viking fan that sides with Charter in this dispute, the bottom line is Charter is not providing programming that you want to see that you can easily get elsewhere. And there is no end in sight to either Charter’s dispute with the NFL Network nor with the NFL’s plans to continue to air exclusive games on its network. There are a lot of losers in this battle over who gets to keep the most money in their pocket, but ultimately you don’t have to be one.

What To Watch This Weekend
December 15, 2006

Hey, I apologize for the lack of blogs lately, but I got trampled at Toys R Us trying to get my hands on one of the last Fisher-Price Kid Tough Digital Cameras. I just woke up after being fed a steady diet of Raspberry PEZ and Peanut M&Ms, which are apparently the only foods Toys R Us are licensed to sell under some bizarre agreement from the Wisconsin Grocers Association.

Anyway, hopefully you’ve got your holiday shopping done and you can relax this weekend in front of a LCD, plasma, flat-panel, or just plain-old TV for some fine sports programming. Here’s what I recommend:

Can’t miss the Pittsburgh @ Wisconsin game Saturday at 11 AM (ESPN). The Number Two Panthers at the Number Seven Badgers. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, their leader, Aaron Gray, may be out due to an illness. Of course, that’s fortunate for Wisconsin, plus the fact the Kohl Center will be wild as the Badgers try to upset one of the deepest teams in the country. This one could be the game of the year.

Then stay tuned on ESPN for the NCAA Division III college football championship game between UW-Whitewater and Mount Union. It’s a rematch of last year’s Stagg Bowl, which saw Mount Union win by a score of 35-28 despite a furious 21-point fourth quarter rally by the Warhawks. I like Whitewater in this one, if only because Mount Union’s been flaunting their championship all year and I’m tired of it.

Saturday night the NFL Network has its first Saturday game of the season as the Dallas Cowboys try to bounce back after last week’s beat-down at the hands of the Saints. The Cowboys visit Atlanta, and the good news for Michael Vick is that the NFL Network is likely to be more open to any obscene gestures, if only because it will bring publicity to their games, which most of the country still can’t see.

If you’re not a Packer fan or just don’t care to see a 5-8 team against a 2-11 team, you’re out of luck in the early NFL window on Sunday. Although the Jets visit the Vikings in an interesting interconference matchup on CBS, the network wouldn’t allow WISC-TV to carry the game as it conflicts with the Green Bay/Detroit game. So either head to a bar that has the NFL Sunday Ticket or get some shopping done. Then get home in time for Philadelphia at the New York Giants in a very interesting matchup with major playoff implications. Me, I’ll be rooting for the Eagles if only because Jeff Garcia and I are brothers in baldness and Eli Manning’s a jerk.

Then on Sunday night, try to stay awake during NBC’s awful pregame show to watch Kansas City visit San Diego. NBC is hyping this game as Larry Johnson vs. LaDainian Tomlinson, which is sort of like hyping a golf tournament as a showdown between Gareth Davies and Tiger Woods. The only people that care about Larry Johnson are fantasy football players who have them on their team. Everybody else will be tuning in to see if Tomlinson can continue what is shaping up to be the best season ever by an NFL back.

That’s it. Have a great weekend and be sure to catch me on C3K Live Monday morning at 8 AM. It’s a good reason to put off that pile of work another fifteen minutes.