Monday 8 December 2008

Blood and Thunder

Mastodon are described in various quarters as a 'sludge-metal' act meaning they play with a kind of stoner-esque crunchy sound whilst retaining the brutality normally associated with more conventional hard rock bands of heavier genres. Think a mix between early Metallica, Kyuss and Iron Maiden and you might have an idea of what I'm on about.

Now truth be told I was not a big fan of these chaps until about a week ago. Sure I owned both Leviathan and Blood Mountain but I'd never bothered listening to either album since after the first few songs I'd become disinterested with that 'noise' and wrap myself back into a comforting cocoon of Metallica and Lamb of God.

This all changed (as I mentioned, about a week ago) when this Georgian (that'd be the state, not the country) outfit arrived in Dublin to play Vicar St. After a spot of confusion whilst trying to actually find Vicar St. we managed to arrive having conveniently missed the usually dire first support act. The second support band turned out to be a 'rockabilly' (thanks to Dan for that term) side-project of Mastodons. And they were brilliant.

A downright bizarre mix of bluegrass and rock music coupled with equally strange stage theatrics automatically put Mastodon into my 'good guys' list. Here was clearly a group of musicians who don't take themselves overtly seriously and aren't afraid to mix things up a bit. Jolly good.

To be honest any band that writes a concept album based on Moby Dick automatically loses the right to take themselves as a serious outfit and Mastodon didn't disappoint. Sure the music was still suitably heavy (and ridiculously impressive) but there was an element of, dare I say, fun about it all. Whoever doesn't find the idea of a concert hall full of people yelling 'WHITE WHAAAAAALE' at the top of their lungs a little amusing needs their brain examined.

There is a major problem amongst rock bands that they too tend to take their music overtly seriously. Radiohead, for example. Mastodon are one of these brilliant groups that recall the good old days when rock was about having a laugh, getting drunk and falling over and encouraging your legions of fans to yell your admittedly hilarious lyrics at gigs.

0% pretentiousness 100% more White Whale

More power to them
Mastodon - Cover of Thin Lizzy's 'Emerald'. Recorded live @ Vicar St. Dublin 3/12/2008

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Piece Of Mind

My recent graduation from the esteemed UCD(D) got me thinking about the pros and cons of my college existence. What I liked (school of Classics, minimal hours, potential to become Indiana Jones) and what I disliked (school of History, the Business school and administration) are, I find, not really worth my ranting. The ultimate questions are; did I like my course? would I have preferred to do something else? just how screwed do I feel with an Arts degree? Was it all worth it in the end?

Well I won't lie when I arrived in college I hated it. The Soviet architecture, the legions of idiots, the Quinn school. UCD felt like an educational regression initially, a step back towards the swamps of ignorance. I never felt remotely challenged in first year. A feeling compounded by the school of History's plan to teach us the Leaving Cert. course again. In LESS detail then we had studied it in Secondary School.

Luckily for me, my other major Classics was run in a much more satisfactory manner. The courses were a progression from the LC. Not only that but there was a definite structure to the Classics programme. One could begin a basic module in, for example, ancient philosophy and then follow it through intermediate and advanced levels in 2nd and 3rd year. So one could pick and choose just which fields of Classics to specialise in. In stark contrast the school of History was a mess, a potluck of random time periods and subjects. The only constant module being the perennially uninteresting Irish history module.

However as the years went on and more and more people were left by the educational wayside Arts became a far happier place. A kind of survival of the fittest left a far more agreeable group in Classics and made History slightly more tolerable. In History I learnt to take the bad modules (British Empire) with the unbelievably good (medieval Japan, age of exploration Europe, Vietnam War). Classics, like a fine wine, only got better with every passing year.

In a way I'd come full circle from plans to burn the Arts bloc to the ground in first year to becoming the looming monolith's numero uno cheerleader by 3rd year. But now looking around at my friends and family in other courses (or perhaps more tellingly jobs) do I think I made a poor choice in picking Arts? I remember in sixth year when it was CAO time and I had positively no idea what to throw down on my form. I was told to pick a subject I like. Simple advice, simple answer; History and Classics = Arts.

Obviously the main argument levelled against Arts is the apparent lack of careers available after college. This is a valid point in many ways, an Arts degree is clearly not going to leave you in any way qualified to become a brain surgeon. I'll also freely admit that if you want a 'good' (good by definition being a high-paid job) specifically in Arts you will need a MA or PhD. On the flip side so long as you have a good enough degree you take your history and classics qualification and go completely off the Arty path into graduate programmes in Law or Business.

So whats the point of all this Arts malarkey if its just a stepping stone to something completely irrelevant to the study of old things? I've found the level of disdain held for Arts shocking throughout my time in college. Unnecessary and useless being two much used adjectives when describing an Arts degree. This common view stems from aforementioned 'no jobs' problem with Arts. Most folk can't understand why anyone should care what happened 50/100/500 years ago if it won't make you $$$$$$ in the near future.

I shall give some examples why it is important; to preserve and understand our own direct past, there is nothing more important than understanding just where you stand in the world and how your immediate environment has been shaped. You shall find a greater appreciation for your own history and the achievements of your ancestors. Going further afield you could learn about the events and the people that have shaped the world (personal favourites being the shogun in Japan); leaders, explorers, scientists, theologists, generals etc. History is the means by which a student can learn the most about the world around them and preserve the truth for future generations.

With Classics the ideals and virtues of history can be expanded upon by the study of ancient art, architecture, poetry, literature, plays, law and philosophy. Ancient Greece and Rome were the cradle of our western society; there is arguably no better way to understand the western world as it exists today than by studying classics. Roman law forms the basis for common law throughout Europe to this day. They gave us government, philosophy, Christianity (in a way). The history and mythology of ancient Greece and Rome inspired men for generations. The ideals of their philosophy and the grandeur of their art and architecture survives still. If one wishes to comprehend the potential of civilisation, study classics.

I'm still holding out for becoming the next Indy though.

Sunday 23 November 2008

Discussions at Tusculum - Cicero

'For nothing that there is the slightest possibility of eventually losing can be regarded as an ingredient of the happy life'

'Moral good is the only good'

'We can disregard wealth, which I do not include in the category of good things because anyone, however unworthy, can get hold of it'

'Our customs have infected our characters with escapism and luxury and inactivity and idleness and inertia. Our false beliefs and dangerous habits have softened and enervated us.'

'For virtues can have no existence at all without happiness, and conversely, happiness cannot exist without any virtues either. Consequently, they will never allow happiness to give them the slip. On the contrary, they will hustle it along with themselves. Whatever agony, whatever torment, lies ahead, they will endure it together.'

'My shoes are the hard soles of my feet, my bed is the earth, my food is only seasoned by hunger - and I eat nothing but milk and cheese and meat. Come and visit me, and you will find me at peace.' - Anacharsis

'To have no job, to devote one's time to literature, is the most wonderful thing in the world.'

Thursday 13 November 2008

Back To School

Currently I am snowed under with postgrad application forms which I am moving through with all the speed of a knee-capped tortoise. In an attempt to break the monotonous cycle I've decided to enlightenment you cyber-peasants of the muzak that has been pumping around the house keeping me sane amidst the never-ending mountain of paper.

(I will freely admit that Armors' blog at got me thinking about this, but I've never been a huge fan of the hippity-hop)

I remember reading recently about one of the Deftones' members being in hospital for some reason or another which got me listening to their stuff again for the first time in an age and being pleasantly surprised by how much I still like their sound. They are an acquired taste granted, the musical equivalent of liquorice allsorts. Either you think of the Deftones as a delightful treat, offering something completely different from the usual batch of metal acts out there or everything about them offends your delicate conservative palate, in which case get out. now.

Album art (above): Around the Fur
Video: Back to School

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Master Of Puppets

Killing Machine

Alright I resisted playing the first Gears of War for as long as bloody possible for the simple reason that I knew I would get hooked and therefore desire the xobx 360 I simply could not afford. Unfortunately my will was not up to the task and my mate Seb and I ploughed through the first game with unbridled glee. Anyone with half a brain can probably pinpoint the main reason for the success of Gears of War.

'The realistic cover and advance gameplay?'

'The fantastic maps?'

'The story?'

'The characters?'

NO! you berk its the fact that you have a chainsaw on the end of your gun. This is a game that clearly realised that top of the list of priorities for the majority of frothing lunatics that cream themselves over fountains of virtually animated blood splattering across their tv screens are new and more visceral methods of violent debauchery. The ability to chainsaw enemies or if you're a pussy shooting then curb stomping them adds a whole deliciously vicious and worryingly satisfying element to gameplay.

Gears of War 2 continues with much of the same in a classic case of 'if it ain't broke don't try and fix it' although I do salute the attempt to vary up the action via numerous changes of situation/environment. Though well aware of the fact that I'm a relative n00b to GoW I did find this game to be considerably easier than the first. You almost forget as you charge like a bull through a matadors convention picking bits of Locust off your chainsaw that there is a gun attached to the bloody thing. Not that I'm really complaining though

Wherever I may roam

So my main reason (excuse) for neglecting my blogging duties is the fact that I spent a large part of my summer... actually ALL of my summer stateside in Boston MA. After graduating from UCD (with a II.1 incidentally) I found most of my friends discussing plans for postgrad courses/jobs (the horror THE HORROR). Needless to say I fled all the way across the Atlantic, away from this lunatic talk of responsibility.

I spent three months, from June to August, in Boston painting houses as a living. I quit that job a week earlier than planned but was (in hindsight) incredibly glad that I did so as it freed up enough time in August for me to visit Chicago for a week. After returning from Chicago in September I headed on down to NYC for 2 weeks, followed by a week in Toronto, a few days in Kingston and Montreal before heading back to Bean-Town and my flight home.

Given that this was my first time in the States I came home with quite a good first impression. I loved the town pride among Bostonians, the mix of cultures in NYC and the sheer size of everything in Chicago. Toronto was considerably smaller than I remember it being but atmosphere there was positively serene after the bedlam of Manhattan. And I know this doesn't make any sense but Montreal seemed more 'French' than I remember it being.

To be honest it is impossible for me to adequately convey just how amazing a time I had in North America and I'm not about to bore everyone to death trying. Not that America is perfect, not by a looooooooooooong way but it was definitely a worthwhile experience. Boston has since been added to my 'places I can see myself living in' (along with Vancouver, Edinburgh and London) list.

Hopefully normal service will resume here shortly

Best bits
1. Fenway Park - Boston, MA
2. Steam Whistle brewery - Toronto, ON
3. Old Town - Montreal, QC
4. The L - Chicago, IL
5. Central Park, NYC, NY
6. Brooklyn - NYC, NY
7. Financial district - NYC, NY
8. Southie - Boston, MA
9. Harbour islands - Toronto, ON
10. The Lakeshore - Chicago, IL
11. Beat LA! - Boston, MA
12. 9/11 - NYC, NY

Monday 24 March 2008

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Brett Favre Retires

Brett Favre is one of those sports personalites that you just can't hate. The man stayed with the Packers for 17 years, this franchise in the back of nowhere (otherwise known as Green Bay) where he has become almost deified by the population. He's had great success in his 17 seasons but always remained humble, grounded. He battled an addiction to painkillers and won. Last season he lost his father, came out against Oakland and blew the Raiders off the park. Then this year, despite everybody thinking that he was going to retire because the '07 season had gone so badly (4-12 record, career high interception rate) he came back and led the Pack to the NFC championship game before being beaten by ze Giants in overtime whilst breaking pretty much every QB record in the book during regular season.

What a hero

Wednesday 20 February 2008

The Autumn Wind

The Autumn Wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea
With a rollicking song he sweeps along
Swaggering boisterously
His face is weather beaten
He wears a hooded sash
With his silver hat about his head
And a bristly black moustache
He growls as he storms the country
A villain big and bold
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake
As he robs them of their gold
The Autumn wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun
He'll knock you round and upside down
And laugh when he's conquered and won

As far as Yank sports themes go this is pretty good

Music City Miracle

Buffalo Bills - Tennessee Titans
January 8 2000 - AFC Wild Card

Trailing 16-15 with only 16 seconds left on the clock in the 4th quarter the Titans are set to receive the kickoff then BOOM! there goes the dynamite

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Friday 1 February 2008

Overcoming those World Cup Blues

Put simply, this years Six Nations has the potential to be the tightest contest ever produced since the competition expanded to include Italy. The key phrase this year is 'rebuilding'. Every team in the tournament under achieved to some degree in the world cup (apart from England) and all are looking to start afresh with an eye towards the next world in four year's time. With tht in mind there has been a considerable shake-up not only in coaching staff but personnel too. Some countries have stuck to their old guns in the desperate hope that they will rediscover their form that was sadly lacking back in Autumn whilst others have bitten the bullet and draftede in a whole raft of young talent in a desperate attempt to wash off the murky stains left by a poor world cup. The net result of all this inter-squad activity (or lack thereof) with the return of a whole host of veterans looking for redemption after the world infused with unknown youth players makes this years tournament the most open I've ever seen from the off. There are so many untried elements entering the contest this year that it has the potential to be the most random six nations ever.

The Frogs have led the way, as long time coach Bernie Laporte, long accused of killing 'French' style rugby has left his job in charge of France to work for the French government. In his place new coach Marc Lievremont has retained only 11 of Laporte's charges from the world cup and has been given full licence to return France to their old style of play (think 'chaos theory' in rugby form). The terrifying thing about the French team is that unlike the other nations, the French 'veterans' or experienced players are for the most part hilariousy young. Unlike other teams in the tournament the French need not fret over development of young talent en masse. They just need to find some more to compliment the young players that have already shone on the world stage. As usual the pack is big and powerful, but without Pelous and Ibanez. With regards to their opening match against Scotland they have a virtually unknown (to me anyway) front row and a very young second row parner for new captain Nallet. If that front five works (and they'll be put to the test by a typically robust Scottish pack) the French could be a shoe-in to just walk away with this tournament. Their backline is world class, and their back three are electric although Heymans could be a liability at full-back.
If the youth step up and play well, France could do very well. They aren't helped by a tough opening weekend away in Edinburgh but if the Frogs come out of Fortress Murrayfield with any kind of win, they could prove unstoppable.

Player to watch: Winger Malzieu

Once again the hopes of England's rugby team lie solely on the shoulders (boots?) of one man. If Wilkinson plays badly, England do badly, if Wilkinson is injured, England implode. The Poms come into this years six nations with pretty much the same gameplan they left last years with. A forward dominated game focussed on a monstrous front 5 couple with a lumbering back row and supported by an absolute pack of retards filling numbers 9 and 11-15. The good news for England is that they uncouvered new, and potentially competent, players in the back row like Rees etc and should they get enough game time they will truly shine in this years competition. As I've already mentioned the tight five is big, heavy, slow and outside of set piece, useless.
Unfortunately there is still a very good chance of England somehow winning this tournament. Obviously they will be buoyed up by their world cup exploits and maybe Ashton will turn out to be a coaching guru. But I doubt it. His selection for the first game served to highlight the problems with English rugby in a stroke. Moody, big fast but ultimately stupid flanker whose tendency to give away idiotis penalties far outweigh his ability as a loose forward. And then Flood and Tindall in the centre. I feel sorry for Jonny boy. If you've ever wondered why he kicks so much, theres your answer. What about Tait? Or Hipkiss? I kind of hope England get trounced by Wales just to force Ashton to pick a lighter, faster, livelier team instead of this crowd of donkeys.

Player to watch: Winger Strettle (if he ever gets the ball)

New coaching staff, Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards. I approve. Wales have no need to bring in much newbies this year as they are still in a kind of development stage. Their squad is just entering the peak of its collective career and they boast one of the best backlines in the entire six nations. From 9 to 15 this team has class, creativity, pace, power and crucially, depth. The Leek-eaters are fortunate enough to have two number tens that Eddie O'Sullivan would gladly give his left nut to have as well two world class scrum halves to compliment them. Their centres Parker, Shanklin and Henson are beginning to come into their own and this year could see them truly stamp their authority on the international stage. And out wide it just gets ridiculous... Jones, Williams, Morgan, Byrne, Thomas, theres probably more I can't remember but my point is theres a lot of em.
Gatland's arrival should add a bit of composure to a pack that specalise in the loose and disrupting more traditional packs at every given oppurtunity. I've no doubt Wales will look to continue this policy of organised mayhem as it suits their backs but with a bit more structure at set-piece to secure ball. This is mainly (and has been for a while now) the front fives problem. Wales have had a tenacious back row for years now, if they could get their tight forwards singing off the same hymn sheet they'd be on fire. The return of the vets Thomas and the Ginger Monster Martyn Williams as inspirational talismans to player and fan alike leaves me thinking that this squad is capable of anything. An away game against a big England pack is a dauntng obstacle but as the likelihood of a grand slam this year is small even a close defeat would be good for the Welsh. Just as long as they don't get trounced..

Player to watch: Out-half Hook

My dark horse of the tournament. England and France at home this season. Could lightening (and rain and thunder) strike again as it did two years ago? In his first year in charge Hadden led Scotland to huge upset wins over the travelling French and English teams in Murrayfield and if he can achieve a similar feat this year Scotland have a real sot at the title. Away games to a potentially out of form Ireland team and Italy shouldn't worry them and their games against Wales are traditionally close-fought affairs. Like the last couple of years this Scottish team is built around a powerful engine room upfront. They have a big front five and their lineout is one of the best in the tournie. There have been some major changes in the back row as Taylor (injury) and Hogg have been dropped to be replaced by Callum and Barclay, two unknowns at this level. For Scotland to get anywhere these boys will really have to step up onto the international stage with a bang. Hadden's success so far as hinged on the hard hitting White coupled with the rampaging Taylor and Hogg. If this new back row fails to ignite the Scottish team they could flounder.
Behind the scrum there are new faces as well; Henderson and De Luca comprise a traditional big and heavy/small and jinky centre flanked by Walker and Webster on either wings with Rory Lamont(able) at full-back. Controversially Hadden has dropped Paterson to the bench and has selected Parks at 10 instead of the inform and infinitely more creative Godman. This is a back line that has been growing in confidence and ability or years now and although the loss of the other Lamont(able), Sean could be costly, there is a lot of potential in that Scottish backline to take some pressure off their pack. If the Scottish back row can play its usual rampaging part and the backline is able to get motoring behind their big pack this Scottih team can go places, dark horses

Player to watch: Scrum-half Blair

Italy are getting used to this top fligt system quickly; under-achieved in world cup so in with a new coaching staff. And Nick Mallet, the former Springboks coach, is not a bad man to hire. Other than a change in the front office this Italian team is essentially the same as the one that played in the last world cup. Unlike the other countries Italy simply do not have the luxury of cutting vast swathes of underperforming players. Their team is one of the more familiar looking ones released for this weekend, the only names I didn't recognise were the new hooker Gilhandrini (or something) and the new scrum-half ... (I don't remember his name but it probably sounds like a pasata sauce). Anyway it is a testament to how far Italy have come that they are no longer a back of randoms but that their team is comprised of instantly recognisable names from across the plains of European club rugby.
For the Mafia to do well, and believe given the openess of this years tournament they could do VERY well, they will look to bully their opponents around up front before unleashing what has become of the most explosive backlines in European rugby. Last year Mirco Bergamasco set the six nations alight. Along with centre partner Canale he will be loking to do the same this year. Bortolussi, Robertson and Dallan are a back three as good as any in the competition and are willing to run ze ball from anywhere.
No matter how well their backs play Italy's success always rides on that big pasta loving pack of theirs. As usual they'll have a monstrous front five who are eerily moblie in the loose and extremely dangerous at lineout time, Dellape and Del Fava being arch-poachers of opponent's ball. Behind potentially the best frnt five in the tournament are the potentially the best back row in the six nations. Mauro Bergamasco, Josh Sole and Sergio Parrise. These guys are IMMENSE and incredibly iprtant for Italy. They carry, they tackle, they steal ball, they are everywhere. All three possess a phenominal work rate and if they can stay healthy (Parisse and Begamasco were both injured earlier in this season playing for Stade) they add an icredibly potent weapon to the Italian's arenal.

Player to watch: Number 8 Parisse

Amidst all the talk of underachieving at the world cup the Irish rugby team stood out as THE example of a teams shortcomings on the big stage. Three triple crowns and four runners up slots in the four six nations tournaments prior to the world cup seemed to mean nothing as the most succesful Irish side in history crashed out in the group stages. The worst performance by an Irish side at a world cup ever. Now it is true that of the two teams that made it out of Ireland's group; France beat New Zealand went onto a semi whilst Argentina turned out to be the revelation of the entire world cup, losing their semi to the eventual winners South Africa before humiliating France again in the third place playoff for good measure. That still doesn't excuse a woeful Irish performance against Georgia and Namibia. Where France and Argy Bargy posted cricket scores Ireland scraped by. The Irish died with a whimper in France, broken and humiliated.
So naturally here we are with the exact same coaching staff and the exact same squad that lost to Argentina in our last world cup game, what could possibly go wrong? As though the IRFU's decision to retain steady Eddie wasn't bad enough O'Sullivan has rubbed salt into the gaping wound left by thw world cup debacle by sticking steadfastly by the same players that messed up in France. His initial dropping of the inform Leinster players Gleeson and Jennings I could take. But his decision to start the Easterbunny at 6 is mind boggling. Here is a player who has captained Llanelli to their worst Heineken cup finish ever (conceding 50 points at home on the last day), in the twilight of his career (and in clear decline) who our illustrious coach thinks desevers to start ahead of younger players who have been consistantly better than him? This is a cancer that has spread throughout the Irish team. The Italian coaching staff must be loving this; an old man at 6, a 6 playing 8, a hooker who has literally just returned from a neck injury, a full-back on one wing, a centre on the other.
Eddie's decision not select players like Jackman, Heaslip, Fitzgerald, Kearney etc shows a distinct unwillingness to select players based on form and given the rebuilding nature the other teams have adopted; a dangerous unwillingness to blood new players on the big stage. He is crippling Irish rugby. I have no doubt that this team can perform as it has in the past but that is beyond he point. O'Sullivan must seriously think about shaking up his selection policy; not simply to blood new players but also to remove this aura of complacency in the Irish squad. My brother showed me Eddie's team from his first six nations game in charge back in 2002. It is the EXACT same as the team this Saturday save for all the players that have retired.
The phrase floating around the six natins this year is 'rebuilding', apparently in Ireland we're still frozen in post world cup shock

Player to watch: Pray that Easterby gets injured

Tuesday 29 January 2008

Mystic Macka

With the NFL season coming to its close and the Heineken Cup I feel it is time for the post-season autopsy report on my predictions for this year. Now I couldn't find my NFL predictions for this year in any of my old posts but truthfully this is how I would have (confidently) called it at the start of the year:


Tampa Bay
The Pack

Which means I wouldn't have been that wrong at all actually (4/12 wrong).. then there were my playoff picks at the mid point in the season

1. New England
2. Indianapolis
3. Pittsburgh
4. San Diego
5. Tennessee
6. Cleveland

1.Green Bay
4.New Orleans
5.New York Giants

Not too shabby I think you'll agree 3/12 wrong is pretty good I think

With ze rugby I was kinda worse, Heino predictions for the knock out round were...

1.Biarritz Olympique
2.Stade Francais
3.Neath-Swansea Ospreys
5.Llanelli Scarlets
6.Leicester Tigers
7.Saracens (Best runner-up)
8.Toulouse (Best runner-up)

In reality...

2.London Irish
7.Perpignan (Best runner-up)
8.Ospreys (Best runner-up)

So painfully wrong, 4/8 of my knock out selections were right but none of em in the right places. This is essentially why I am not a gambling man

Ready For Business

The Giants arrived in Arizona for the build-up to the Superbowl yesterday with the entire team clad in black suits; a mark of solidarity and a message to the Patriots that the trip to Phoenix was not simply a vacation following their surprise victory in the NFC championship game, they're all business. And classy, definitely classy. First blood to New York

Saturday 26 January 2008

Here's to you Mr. Tomlinson

I never said anything about the NFL championship games last week primarily because of my extreme disappoint at the Giants beating the Pack. Belicheck could just start his second stringers against New York and we'd probably get a better game.

Anyway the Giants D turned up and shut down the Packers rushing offence, forced Favre to pass and the old man can't do absolutely everything by himself. Still, considering Green Bay had no ground attack its a credit to how dire the Giants are that the game was even that close.

In the AFC New England eventually pulled out comfortable winners against a battered San Diego outfit that really were in no condition to take on that Patriots team. Rivers could barely move in the pocket, Gates was operating at around 50% of his usual usefulness and L.T. was a spectator for the entire game after playing in the first couple of series.

As far as el Superbowl goes my brain is screaming Pats for the win, it is the glaringly obvious choice BUT New England have been shaky all post season. They were rattled by some teams in the last few weeks of the regular season (including the Giants) and they look like they've lost some of their swagger. The Giants on the other hand are peaking right now. The defence is doing all the hard work and they've got a couple of backs to carry the majority of the offensive responsibility so Eli doesn't have to. The more time the Giants can keep Manning from HAVING to throw the ball the better chance they'll have.

Still need a miracle though

Monday 14 January 2008


Bravo good sir, bravo

Walking Amongst Giants

From personal recollection, there always seems to be one kind of random team in the final four of the NFL playoffs. A team that is capable of being unbelievably good or diabolically poor. New York are this years bogey choice. Last week I don't think I was alone in expecting another postseason implosion from Eli Manning but it never came. The game against Tampa went pretty much to plan and the Giants uncharacteristically kept true to the script and advanced to meet up with division rivals Dallas for the third time this season.

Now the Cowboys had already beaten the Giants twice this season and despite worries earlier in the week, star wideout Terrell Owens was fit to play. Dallas may have been going through a rough patch but most would have picked America's Team over lesser Manning. I know I did. But I was wrong, the OTHER young QB capitulated this evening; Romo was completely unable to deal with the mounting Giants pressure and since his O-Line had been on the pitch for soooooooo long (they had a 10 minute TD drive in the first half) they tired as the game closed. With fatigue came the inability to block. This led to a hilariously porous offensive line. Which led to Romo being hounded and hurried. In turn this led to Romo throwing a pick with 9 seconds to go inside the Giants 20.

So Manning survives another week and will lead his Giants to Lambeau field to play old man Favre and the Pack on their home turf. I reiterate; either the Giants will click and pull out a frankly historic performance out of their asses OR lesser Manning will bottle in spectacular Rex Grosman fashion and New York will be thumped in a humiliating and reasonably embarrassing fashion.

The B-Team

I think I'm ready to admit that San Diego are a viable Superbowl team now. Not only did they beat the Colts in Indy but by the end of the game they didn't have Rivers, LT or Gates. Granted Rivers went out later in the game but LT was gone early and Gates, although he did play, was nowhere near 100%. San Diego needed the B-Team to step up and step up they did indeed.

Jackson and Chambers made up for Gates absence in the passing game whilst Turner was an ample replacement for LT on the ground. The defence helped out too, picking off Manning twice and doing just enough to keep the Chargers out in front until the end despite Peyton throwing for just over 400 yards. Linebacker Cooper had an exceptional game with 15 tackles and CB Cromartie (the interception machine) was unlucky to have an 89 yard pick six called back for a pretty lame holding call.

If the Chargers allow that kind of yardage through the air against the Pats next week though, I'd expect Brady and Co. to punish them much more than Indy. San Diego need to sort out that pass D and pray to god that their starters are ok. It worked out fine in the end today but to go whole playoff game against this New England team without your starting RB, QB and primary receiver will only ever end embarrassingly

Sunday 13 January 2008

Guns Of The Patriot

So much for Jacksonville being the only team capable of stopping New England. Credit to the Jags though they managed to match the Pats score for score until the end of the third quarter when the New England defence finally forced them into a field goal situation which left the score 21-17 Pats. On New England's next series Brady marched his team down the pitch and picked up another TD, 28-17. Now eleven points behind the Jags were never going to recover and New England ran out eventual winners 31-20.

For the first half the Jags made the Patriots work though, young QB Gerrard, in his rookie playoff campaign did extremely well going 12/14 in the fist half, nearly perfect. Unfortunately for Jacksonville Tom Brady was perfect in the first half and then again for most of the second. He went 26/28 in the game! The two incomplete passes were also drops by his receivers on very catchable passes; not Brady's fault. That level of perfection in the playoffs is quite frankly ridiculous.

What may be even more remarkable than Brady's near perfect play is the fact that during his immaculate display Randy Moss caught only one pass for fourteen yards. In the entire match. Not only that but RB Maroney went for over 100 yards. And I thought New England didn't have a running game? In contrast Jacksonville's own rushing offence was well contained by the Pats, Jones-Drew and Taylor held to just 66 yards between them on the day.

This game has to finally bring an end to the accusations that New England have no ground attack; its simply not true. Maroney and Faulk just get forgotten in the midst of the Brady-Moss hype; they are an extremely dangerous and capable pair of backs. Moss' relatively quiet game against the Jags highlighted that when pushed to, the Pats can pound the rock as well as anybody in the NFL.

With Moss occupying most of the Jag's defence some of the Pats 'lesser' offensive names got some limelight. Stallworth, Gaffney, Welker and Watson all cashed in on the Jacksonville fear of Moss. Double covering the big guy just left his mates open and freed up the rest of the Brady bunch to showcase their ability.

I thought if Moss was smothered and New England forced to run, they may bottle. That maybe a good ground game would outpace their linebackers but no, that didn't happen. And the Pats were only too ready to deal with the double/triple coverage on Moss. The Jags may have been the last team capable of even keeping up with the Pats scoring machine for 2 quarters. This team is unstoppable.

Return Of The Pack

There are few moments whilst watching sport when it is permissible to dance around like a lunatic, for example; Leinster/Munster winning a big game in the H-Cup, an English club doing poorly in the H-Cup, when Ireland beat England at anything, if England get beaten by anyone at anything and perhaps most recently watching the Irish cricket team's Odyssey unfold in the last world cup (memories of a Jamaican bobsleigh team spring to mind).

Everyone has their own personal vendettas in this regard, their own private list of teams that they would love to see embarrassed and humiliated (preferably on home turf) on a regular basis. When it comes to the NFL the target of this sadistic (albeit irrational) mentality happen to be the Seattle Seahawks franchise. I can't really explain why this is. I've never been to Seattle, from what I hear its lovely.

Its not that I particularly dislike any one player either, they're all equally worthless. They have some good defensive players too, I like defence. But not this one. My problem with Seattle is that when you get right down to it, they are decidedly average; neither spectacularly impressive or shockingly poor yet ever present in the post season party. That guy that just stands in the corner quietly doing nothing before going home early without leaving much of an impression on anybody.

Every time I have seen Seattle in the playoffs this is exactly what happens; they arrive with the same amount of pomp as every other team, maybe win one game, then get thumped and head back to the North-West with a whimper. Same thing has happened again this year. Three TDs for old man Favre as well as three for the 200+ yard rusher Grant the (we don't have a running offence) Packers are looking good to make the Superbowl right now.

They came back from 14-0 down to destroy the Seahawks 42-20. Although Seattle are pants, that's still pretty impressive, clinical if you will. I'm telling ya, Green Bay's aggressive pass offence under Favre coupled with this new found running game allied to an already intimidating defence; there is NO reason Green Bay can't go all the way. I have serious doubts that Eli (lesser) Manning or Tony Romo could beat this guys, the Pack for the Superbowl methinks

Monday 7 January 2008

Lights Out! I want to sleep...

This may have been one of the worst playoff games I have ever seen. And this was mainly the fault of only one team. The Titans, having realised that they had no real offensive ability with which to dismantle San Diego's defensive unit and that their own defence was woefully unprepared to deal with the Chargers offence decided to try and bore the Bolts to death. Two early field goals gave Tennessee a slim lead which they clung onto for dear life but that was never going to be enough as San Diego finally began to get the ball moving on offence in the second half.

Credit to the Titans, they did manage to keep Tomlinson under wraps for most of the game but in the end it was the Chargers running back who played a pivotal role in swinging ze game the way of the Californian outfit. The first TD came off a playfake which pretty much the entire Titans linebacker corps fell for leaving WR Jackson free to make the catch from Rivers at the two and wrestle his way over. The second TD was run in by LT himself. Although hit mid flight over the line of scrimmage he had the presence of mind to pop the ball over the line for the score in comical fashion before celebrating in an equally comical fashion.

Their inability to get the running game going could be a source of great concern for the Chargers with FB Lorenzo Neal out and now Antonio Gates uncertain for the next round at Indy. Granted they managed pretty well through the air today with Rivers passing for close to 300 yards and two receivers going over 100 yards receiving. But the Colts are better. They won't leave receivers as hideously open as the Titans did and although the Chargers O-line did a good job of blocking the Titans pass rush the Colts D-line will prove much tougher opposition. The Chargers will need their own defence to step up as well. They creaked against the Titans running game early on and ye they dealt with the Tennessee passing game but compared with Manning's elite in Indy the Titans pass attacks is pathetic. The Colts have a better offensive line, better receivers and a better QB. I know San Diego beat them in the regular season but that was with a lot of help from their special teams, twas in San Diego too.

Should be a good one

The Buc Stops Here

If one Manning rises up the football ranks does this mean that the other has to die? Or at least lose? We may find out next week when older (and so far greater) Manning and his Colts go up against the Chargers. Younger (and until proven otherwise, lesser) Manning will still around next week too after his Giants dominated a pretty poor Tampa Bay team 24-14.

Sure Manning played well today, and the running game looked competent enough but the fact of the matter is that this Tampa Defence is a spent force. It has been the backbone of the franchise for years but at this stage is looking the worse for wear. With their D unable to contain Eli (a phrase I never thought I'd use) the Bucs needed big plays from their offence which just never materialised in the face of immense Giants pressure. An injury to Galloway early on robbed Tampa Bay of their only legitimate deep threat and despite a valiant effort reserve running back Graham managed little in place of the injured Cadillac Williams. The running game was non-existent and the porous offensive line let the Giants defence bully Garcia and the Bucs' passing offence all game long.

The Giants will in all probability go into Dallas full of confidence, especially if the rumours that T.O. is out for the Cowboys turn out to be true. I'm still not entirely sure lesser Manning is capable of taking the Giants the whole way to the promised land and next week will be a true test of his credentials. The game against the Cowboys has the potential to devolve into a high scoring offensive affair which so not only will New York need a BIG game from its defence (especially its D-line) but Manning may have to step up and play the game of his life.

Still at least he's going up against fellow young QB playoff bottler Romo and not old man Favre.

(pictured above is Camilla Decesare sp?, she's Bucs' QB Garcia's wife)

Sunday 6 January 2008

The Twelve Playoff Labours Of Pocket Hercules

1. Win Wildcard [Done]
2. Win Divisional game
3. Win Conference
4. Score a receiving TD [Done]
5. Score a rushing TD [Done]
6. Score a TD on special teams [Nearly done]
7. Rush for over 100 yards
8. Go for over 100 yards in the air
9. Get 100 yards on the ground and through the air in one game
10. Win Superbowl
11. Be Superbowl MVP
12. Be hilariously short, stocky and fast [Done]

Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jags beat Pittsburgh last night even though they did try their level best to throw the game away in the second half. Kicking the go-ahead field goal with around 40 ticks left on the clock Jacksonville now advance to play either New England or division rivals Indy depending on which team wins the Chargers-Titans clash this evening.

After all of five minutes careful consideration I compiled the above list to act not only as a method of measuring Jones-Drew's progression towards 'legend' (n the true Munster sense of the word) status but to act as a barometer of the Jags offensive prowess throughout the playoffs. But mostly I just want Jones-Drew to see more game time and get more ball.

Its pretty good to see Jacksonville progress, they get kind of jipped by having the misfortune of sharing their division with the Colts. That pretty much guarantees the Franchise a wildcard berth every year no matter how good a season they have. Sharing a state with the Bucs and the Dolphins (however shit they may be) as well as two prominent college teams robs a lot of deserved limelight for the Jaguars too. About time they got their due.

Granted Pittsburgh aren't the REAL kings of the AFC North (Cleveland anyone... *cough* and Baltimore *cough*) Jacksonville, by most reports cos I didn't get to see this game, dominated. Heres hoping they get the Colts in the next round and humiliate them too.

Please don't draw New England... please?

I hate Seattle, I truly do

I began writing this post with about two minutes left in the Redskins - Seahawks game with Seattle up 28-14 (correction 35-14) and my fury rising steadily. I'm not usually a fan of either team but I love the underdog so naturally I was gunning for Washington to pull the win out.. but sadly it wasn't to be. And there was the whole 'gonna win it for Taylor' thing which, as cliche as it may have been, would have been unreal. No unfortunately the potential for a feel good playoff journey on the Redskins emotional rollercoaster has been swiped from us all by those bastard Seahawks.

Don't get me wrong I'm not just angry about Seattle advancing purely because they knocked out the Redskins. Oh no, my grievance runs far deeper than that. I don't like Seattle because they are ALWAYS in the playoffs. Not only is their omni-presence tedious but it is, in my opinion, completely unjustified. Their team (unlike Indy or New England, two other constants in the post-season) are devoid of any real talent, their division is hilariously weak, and this year their schedule was equally weak. Over-hyped, no-talent, boring beyond belief... they have no redeeming features as a football team. Even the Dolphins have Jason Taylor at least.

To put this in a 'soccer' context its kinda the equivalent of having this team you hate with a passion (irrational hatred is welcomed too I don't discriminate) that gets dumped in some absolutely pathetic group in the Champos league drawing several unknown teams from the depths of eastern Europe, pummeling them into submission and waltzing into the knock-out stages fresh as a daisy. Now imagine that happening every year. Its sporting injustice I tell ya.

Fuck the Seahawks

Booo Seattle

Screw Microsoft

And that Starbucks malarkey

...but thank you for Frasier