Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Jeff Dunham Show

I finally had a chance to watch the series premiere of The Jeff Dunham Show tonight on Comedy Central in its last re-airing. In its original airing, it was reported to have broken a ratings record for the network, having the biggest audience for a season premiere in Comedy Central's history at 5.3 million viewers. Jeff Dunham's Christmas special from 2008 still holds the top spot for any Comedy Central telecast.

The first episode incorporated four of his characters in different situations, sort of like the way Chappelle's Show ran (since they made a reference to it, I will, too). The first episode featured Walter and Jeff at a couples therapist, Achmed doing stand-up comedy, Peanut on a date with Brooke Hogan, and Bubba J meeting a man who likes guns and beer. Again, like Chappelle's Show, Dunham introduced the skits first while doing some comedy through the form of ventriloquism.

The whole show flowed smoothly, and the comedy was pretty good. I came in with a really open mind, so I definitely laughed out loud a few times. The thing that bothered me, which I guess had to happen, is when the puppets were standing alone without Dunham's hand in their backs. The puppets still moved, so I am guessing they filmed the scenes with Dunham beforehand and then digitally removed him rather than just animated the characters. It was weird to see them without their puppeteer on screen, however. With the skits created for the show, the characters were able to go outside of their usual roles of just talking, but they still stayed true to their personalities.

While I'm worried about the characters becoming stable with only a stable of seven available right now, maybe this will allow Dunham to try out some new ones and see if they stick. It looks like there should be a lasting audience as long as the material stays good. Finally, take a look at the size of that live audience! I will be looking forward to upcoming episodes of this unique show, which airs new episodes at 9:00 on Thursdays, repeated at 10:30 and various other times throught the week.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week 7 Football Picks

Totally forgot these until now, but it looks like I'm doing well so far. I was worried about picking so many road teams.

Packers (-9) @ Browns: also Survivor pick
Chargers (-4.5) @ Chiefs
Colts (-13) @ Rams
Vikings (+4.5) @ Steelers
Patriots (-14.5) @ Buccaneers (in London)
Texans (-3) vs. 49ers
Jets (-6) @ Raiders
Bills (+7) @ Panthers
Bengals (-1) vs. Bears
Falcons (+4) @ Cowboys
Dolphins (+6) vs. Saints
Giants (-7) vs. Cardinals
Eagles (-7) @ Redskins

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Week 6 Football Picks

This week looks fairly easy, but that's always when they get you. I've been doing uncharacteristically well picking games without the spread, being ahead of most of the pack on three different games, in the running for some prizes.

The Saints get to play both New York teams at home two games in a row with a bye week in between, so it's the Giants' time to visit the Superdome this week. It will be Eli Manning's first game there despite growing up as a football player in Louisiana. The Saints (-3) did better than I expected on defense against the Jets, so I think they will continue their good work this week, despite finally facing an established starter (previously: Stafford, Kolb, Edwards, Sanchez). Drew Brees has gone two weeks without throwing a touchdown, so that obviously has to stop against the Giants injured secondary.

The Jets started 3–0 after beating the Texans, Patriots, and Titans but then lost to the Saints and Dolphins. The latest game likely caused the defense to feel that they need to prove themselves. The Bills are in disarray and it's about time for Terrell Owens to go crazy, which just might happen while he has to face Darrelle Revis on Sunday. It should be a pretty easy road for the Jets (-9.5) if they do in fact get their defense back into its correct form.

Regrettably, it has to be another divisional rivalry for survivor this week. It's a rough week, with few clear good-bad matchups. The Eagles on the road against the Raiders would be the easiest pick, but I already used them against the Chiefs. The Packers are at home against the Lions, but they aren't the laughing-stock of the league this season. That honor falls to the Browns, who won the season's worst game last week 6–3 against the Bills. The Steelers (-14) are going to roll over the Browns, despite Pittsburgh's defensive injuries.

And the rest:
Bengals (-5) vs. Texans: surprisingly good Bengals defense
Packers (-13.5) vs. Lions: another season of big lines for the Lions
Ravens (+3) @ Vikings: it's time for the Vikings to lose a game
Panthers (-3.5) @ Buccaneers: would be a much bigger line in Carolina
Chiefs (+6.5) @ Redskins: so little faith in the Redskins
Rams (+9.5) @ Jaguars: Bulger is back and the Jaguars were shut out last week
Eagles (-14) @ Raiders: the Raiders didn't even come close last week
Seahawks (-3) vs. Cardinals: that home stadium makes a big difference
Patriots (-9.5) vs. Titans: time for Brady to get right against this defense
Falcons (-3.5) vs. Bears: both offense and defense clicking for the Falcons
Broncos (+3.5) @ Chargers: the better team is the underdog on the road

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week 5 Football Picks

A little late and short, but here they are. Forgot to mention that week three won me $80 in my dad's office pool. :)

Browns (+6) @ Bills: questions on both sides of the ball for both teams
Steelers (-10.5) @ Lions: Stafford is out, and Lions look like losers of old
Cowboys (-8.5) @ Chiefs: despite Romo's struggles, this should be a blowout
Vikings (-10) @ Rams: many think this is a trap after the Vikings' short week
Raiders (+15.5) @ Giants: Manning will be limited and Giants back off a little
Eagles (-14.5) vs. Buccaneers: McNabb and Westbrook both back in the lineup
Panthers (-3.5) vs. Redskins: time for Panthers to get back on track against terrible team
Bengals (+8.5) @ Ravens: should keep it within a touchdown margin
49ers (-2.5) vs. Falcons: going back and forth on this close game
Broncos (+3) vs. Patriots: looking for the student to beat the mentor
Cardinals (-5.5) vs. Texans: should be a high-scoring game, but maybe only for one side
Seahawks (-.5) vs. Jaguars: great home crowd; Hasselbeck is back
Colts (-3.5) @ Titans: can't see the Titans beating an undefeated team
Jets (-1.5) vs. Dolphins: the wildcat is great and all, but it's Henne's second start.

Survivor pick is the Eagles routing the Buccaneers with all of their weapons in the game for the first time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

NHL preview, Rangers Top 10, Week 4

My NHL Eastern Conference standings prediction:
1. Capitals - solid forwads, Varlamov/Theodore tandem nice
2. Penguins - can't make it to the top in regular season
3. Bruins - will start slow, Thomas falls back a bit
4. Devils - How do they do it? Brodeur is back
5. Rangers - Gaborik, Lundqvist, and Staal lead the crew
6. Senators - rid of Heatley, counting on Leclaire and Kovalev
7. Hurricanes - just have a feeling Ward will do well
8. Panthers - young players are coming around
9. Sabres - Miller not quite strong enough. but Olympics starter
10. Lightning - still unproven in net and on defense
11. Flyers - goaltending issues and too many "depth" players
12. Canadiens - what a traveshamockery; midgets on top line
13. Maple Leafs - just toughnesss won't make the playoffs
14. Islanders - more decent goalies than proven good forwards
15. Thrashers - hope they play well early and Kovalchuk signs

Ten members of the New York Rangers were on the Late Show w/ David Letterman on Wednesday night to present the Top 10 List of Things Never Before Spoken By a Hockey Player.
10. Instead of fighting, why don't we work things out over brunch? (Donald Brashear)
9. Between you and me, I have no idea what the hell icing is. (Dan Girardi)
8. What this team needs is a skating kitty. (Marian Gaborik)
7. I really wish these fans would watch their language (Brandon Dubinsky)
6. High scorer gets to pick which Barbara Streisand CD we listen to on the bus (Chris Drury)
5. Forget all the goals and the awards, Gordie Howe has one nice looking butt. (Marc Staal)
4. For good luck, I lick the puck. (Christopher Higgins)
3. My real dream is to work at an insurance company. (Ryan Callahan)
2. Who could concentrate on hockey when Jennifer Aniston still hasn't found love? (Henrik Lundqvist)
1. I wish Letterman was on at ten. (Sean Avery)

I like numbers four, seven, and eight the best. Staal, Lundqvist, and Avery did the best delivering the lines, along with Higgins and Dubinsky doing a good job. Kitty! I'm guessing number three is an inside joke to the show that I missed, and number one is related to Jay Leno. Avery should have been given a better one!

The week four Survivor pick is the New York Giants on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming off of a road shutout, the Giants are facing an even weaker team. While I don't expect back-t0-back shutouts, they should also be able to cover the spread of 8.5. For the rest:
Lions (+10) @ Bears: line so big when Lions showed they can play
Bengals (-5.5) @ Browns: the Browns are pathetic and line should be bigger
Seahawks (+10.5) @ Colts: surprised by how well Seneca Wallace played last week
Ravens (+2) @ Patriots: could go either way, but choosing defense
Redskins (-7) vs. Buccaneers: battle of underachievers
Titans (-3) @ Jaguars: no chance the Titans go to 0–4
Raiders (+9) @ Texans: no reason to trust the Texans defense, so high-scoring
Dolphins (+2) vs. Bills: not feeling good about this one with no Pennington
Saints (-7) vs. Jets: would have gone with the Jets, but two cornerbacks injured
Broncos (+3) vs. Cowboys: only for home-field advantage
49ers (-9.5) vs. Rams: Gore out, but 49ers will be upset about last-second loss last week
Chargers (+6.5) @ Steelers: probably decided by a field goal; Polamalu trying to play
Packers (+3.5) @ Vikings: Rodgers wants to beat his old mentor

Pacing break!,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Week 3 Football Picks

The Jets and Giants play at the same time this week due to Yom Kippur. The Jets were originally scheduled for the late afternoon, but people would not get home before sunset. The Yankees-Red Sox was also move to 1:00 for this reason. I'm taking the Titans (+3) over the Jets because their defense needs to get back on track. Kerry Collins will have a hard time throwing against Darrelle Revis, but he is a smart quarterback with good running backs behind him. The Giants (-7) should take care of the Buccaneers fairly easily. Derrick Ward has not done anything to emerge as the clear number-one RB and Byron Leftwich is only serviceable.

For the survivor pick this week, I go against my own rules and pick an in-division matchup, as the Ravens should blow away the Browns. I'm also taking the Ravens (-13) against the spread. Their rushing game and defense is dominating, as expected. They might even be able to knock Brady Quinn out of the game in favor of Derek Anderson. For the rest of the picks:

Lions (+6.5) vs. Redskins: good chance to break the losing streak with Redskins struggling
Rams (+6.5) vs. Packers: injuries to Packers should make this close; Packers win outright
49ers (+6.5) @ Vikings: 49ers have played well and could win this one behind Frank Gore
Patriots (-4.5) vs. Falcons: Patriots will definitely be out to avenge last week's close loss
Eagles (-9) vs. Chiefs: Michael Vick is back and the Chiefs are a mess
Texans (-3.5) vs. Jaguars: surprised this line is so low as the Texans should roll
Saints (-4) @ Bills: the Saints' traveling offensive show continues
Bears (-1) @ Seahawks: starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck out for the Seahawks
Steelers (-4.5) @ Bengals: Steelers have looked shaky, but should be in top form in division
Broncos (+2.5) @ Raiders: Raiders looked awful in a win last week, especiall JaMarcus Russell
Chargers (-6.5) vs. Dolphins: very shaky on this one, as the Dolphins could actually win
Colts (+1) @ Cardinals: also could go either way, but Peyton Manning performs in primetime
Panthers (+10) @ Cowboys: should be close with Cowboys winning outright

Monday, September 14, 2009

First football Sunday

To lead off the day's action that is important to me, the Jets were in Houston to face the Texans. I was very pleased with the way the team played, and they convinced a skeptical fan. I did not expect Rex Ryan's tough defense to show up this early, especially with two key players suspended and against one of the top offenses in the NFL. However, the Texans went the whole first half without scoring.

After a three-and-out on their first drive, the Jets offense got down to business in their second drive. The team looked very inconsistent, except on third downs, when Mark Sanchez went 3–4 for 43 yards, setting a tone for a good day on third downs. The only incompletion led to a Jay Feely field goal.

Two offensive drives later for the Texans, it looked like they were rolling towards their first points. Just after entering the red zone, Steve Slaton fumbled at the end of an 18-yard rush when Mike DeVito put his helmet on the ball. On the ensuing drive for the Jets, Chansi Stuckey had one reception for 20 yards and a second reception for 30 yards when he was left wide open for a touchdown; both of these receptions were on, you guessed it, third down.

On the Jets first drive of the second half, Sanchez was 4–4 and both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington ran the ball, with Jones picking up the one-yard touchdown run. After a couple of punts, for some reason, the Texans thought it would be a good idea to go for it on 4th and 2 at their own 49 with just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter. An incomplete pass by Matt Schaub meant that the Jets got the ball, but they went three-and-out.

Sanchez's only big mistake of the game came in the early fourth quarter when he threw an interception to John Busing. Busing fumbled as he was getting tackled, but Dominique Barber picked up the ball and ran 48 yards for the touchdown. The Jets quickly recovered on their next possession: Keller had a 40-yard reception and Jones ran 38 yards for a touchdown. After lining up in victory formation at the end of the game, Sanchez first gave the ball to the referee, then realized he might want to keep it as a memento. 24–7

The Giants game at home against the Redskins seemed to be very similar, as Eli Manning was also throwing for conversions on third downs and the scoring started with a Lawrence Tynes field goal on the first drive. After a long rush by Clinton Portis to start the Redskins offense, Antwaan Randle El was sacked on a play where he should have thrown the ball away after receiving the toss from the quarterback. That stalled the Redskins on their first drive.

The Giants then drove down to the three-yard line and gave the ball to Brandon Jacobs on 3rd and 1 after failing to convert with Ahmad Bradshaw on the first drive. The first quarter ended with no gain, and the second quarter opened the same way, as Jacobs and the offensive line again failed on fourth down. The Redskins only gained three yards, which left the Giants in good field position after the punt. Manning made two completions on third down, the second going to Mario Manningham who avoided tacklers and racked up yards after the catch on a 30-yard touchdown reception.

The defense and special teams ruled the rest of the quarter. Corey Webster intercepted Jason Campbell, keeping his feet inbounds on the sideline. Andre Carter sacked Manning and forced a fumble. Osi Umenyiora made his presence felt in his first game back from injury sacking and forcing and recovering a fumble from Campbell and taking the ball into the endzone. The two-minute drill worked well for the Redskins, but it looked like they would only get a field goal before halftime. However, punter and holder Hunter Smith easily ran the ball in for a touchdown on a fake field goal attempt.

DeAngelo Hall intercepted Manning on the fourth series of the second half, running the ball back to the Giants' 11-yard line. It looked like the Reskins had that one play that would swing the momentum in their favor, but the defense held strong and Shaun Suisham kicked a field goal, and the Giants then answered with two straight drives that ended in Tynes field goals. The Redskins had a little over three minutes left to score 13 points and only used half of that time to score a touchdown on a pass to Chris Cooley, but they could not recover the onisde kick, which meant the Giants could use the victory formation. 23–17

Both teams were shaky against midde-of-the-pack teams, but that can be attributed to the first week of the season. They also showed the reasons why they can be considered good teams this year. The Jets have a tough schedule in the next few weeks while the Giants have it easier after the Cowboys in week two.

Personally, I am still alive with both of my suicide/survivor picks, Saints over Lions and Ravens over Chiefs. I did not do so well picking against the spread in week one, but I was not very confident in my picks. Thanks to Drew Brees for giving me over 60 points in a fantasy football league that awards half of a point for each pass completion and six points for a touchdown pass (Brees had six). No Adrian Peterson love for me, since I did not have a high pick in any league.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Central Connecticut State University?!

So that happened. Yes, the Lehigh Mountain Haws lost to the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils 28–21 in FCS football action. While I thought this would be an easy win, I did not realize how much turnover there was in the skill positions on our team. There were a lot of names that I did not recognize from the three years prior. Despite being picked to finish in a tie for third in the Patriot League, the Mountain Haws did not show much hope in this game.

The first half was full of mistakes, and CCSU looked like they were allergic to scoring, fumbling the ball on consecutive plays inside the red zone, losing the ball on the second one. Luckily for them, Lehigh could only go three and out on their second drive after throwing an interception on their first play of the game. The ball went back and forth without punts or scoring as the CCSU quarterback threw an interception in the end zone, the Lehigh quarterback threw an interception on the next play, then CCSU had another lost fumble. After all of that, Lehigh had a punt blocked, which led to CCSU's first touchdown.

But wait, it gets better. Lehigh returned the ensuing kickoff over 90 yards for a touchdown after it looked like the returner was going to have the ball go over his head. And this was all in the first quarter! Both teams managed to have sustained scoring drives in the second quarter, so the game was tied at 14 at halftime. After the band did their thing, spelling out 76 while playing "76 Trombones," CCSU scored another touchdown on another long drive in the second half. Lehigh answered right back again as QB Clark found a receiver that the defense lost so he could run uncontested for a touchdown. When it looked like Lehigh was about to take the lead for the first time with a pass to an open tight end in the end zone, Clark lobbed the pass so badly that it was intercepted. Instead, CCSU started at the 20-yard line and drove all the way for the winning touchdown.

The fourth quarter showed how the CCSU offense was killing Lehigh all day when they were not making mistakes: the quarterback option and other runs up the middle. Lehigh could not muster anything significant in the fourth and watched most of the minutes tick by when CCSU had the ball. The teams met at midfield for postgame handshakes without any ugly incident like was seen in Thursday night's Oregon-Boise State game.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My guest blog on Rangers Report

Rick Carpinello over at the The Journal News's Rangers Report blog was forced to take two weeks of vacation due to newspaper cost-cutting measures, so he took a cue from his colleague Peter Abraham, who runs the Yankees blog there, to let loyal blog readers fill in as guest posters during his vacation time. My post runs today and is as follows:

It is a bittersweet chance that some of us get to guest blog for a couple weeks. While it is great for us to be featured on the blog, it is only a result of newspapers cutting costs and giving their employees more vacation time. For my appearance, I don’t have any fresh opinion on the Rangers that hasn’t already been discussed here, so I’m going to take an overall look at the National Hockey League.

The 2004–05 lockout was devastating at the time, but the prevailing opinion was that the league could come back stronger than before. Why they couldn’t do this without canceling a season, we may never know. The biggest issue for Commissioner Bettman and the league was that they needed “cost certainty,” which was their code for a salary cap. Fans of the Rangers and other teams with high attendance probably did not see any problem with the 2004 NHL, but the less heralded teams were struggling, especially in places that gained expansion teams under Bettman’s regime.

In 2009, Bettman would like to have you think that everything is rosy with record-setting attendance numbers every season since the lockout. However, are we really in a much better position now? Revenue sharing was good common sense and should have been in place for a longer time before teams were absolutely hemorrhaging money. Despite what the NHL says, we can still see arenas with a lot of empty seats, especially the new Prudential Center (when the Rangers are not playing there), and the Phoenix Coyotes did not get any better financially, being forced to file for bankruptcy. Many of the seats are filled only due to ticket deals and freebies.

Before the lockout, the NHL did not have great television ratings in the United States and therefore had a contract that generated low revenue. Since starting play again, the contract has only worsened, moving the games on cable to a channel that players can’t find in hotel rooms and only having one game per week for ten weeks in the second half of the season on a broadcast network that focuses on only a few big-market teams. In addition, NASCAR is probably ahead of the NHL in popularity, but the NBA is falling back a bit. With four seasons passed since the new CBA was ratified, teams are now finding innovative ways to play with the salary cap so that the stars still get paid and the role players have to fight for every dollar or leave to play in the KHL.

At this point, the best thing that could happen for the NHL would be to bring in fresh ideas in the form of a new commissioner. Without any ties to Bettman, the new person in charge could make changes where Bettman held strong to defend his position. This could include moving one or two teams back to Canada and finding a better way to market the league and its star players, such as putting the two latest No. 1 draft picks on national television more than twice each (only one of these is in a Versus-exclusive window).

All of these problems that still exist will lead to more heavy negotiating in the next couple of years leading up to the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, especially as the salary cap will likely see its first drop after this upcoming season.

http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/2009/08/31/guest-blogger-spiderpig/

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

NHL National Television Schedule Released

The National Hockey League released their schedule of which games would be on national television in the United States and Canada today. You will see the typical large amount of games involving teams from the big markets airing on Versus and NBC, but an Eastern Conference finalist from 2009, the Carolina Hurricanes, did not make the Versus schedule at all. The two teams that they eliminated from the playoffs are on Versus 13 times combined (Bruins: 7; Devils: 6). I'm guessing the Blackhawks and Red Wings got to go over the limit of eight games per team because one of each of their games in being played overseas at the beginning of the season and not in primetime. The Hurricanes are part of NBC's flex schedule but have little chance of making the air unless the Bruins and Rangers are absolutely awful this season, making NBC choose Sabres vs. Hurricanes.

Those overseas games are not actually the premiere games of the NHL this season because they are being played after the first night of games in North America, which is rediculous in itself because of the compressed schedule due to the Olympics making these four teams have it even worse. Another change from last season is that these games are taking place on Friday and Saturday. Why would Versus choose to air the games that are taking place during the day on Friday when there will surely be less people watching than if they chose Saturday?

My predicted NBC schedule based on a limit of four games per team which I believe includes the Winter Classic and past experience with NBC:
January 1: Flyers @ Bruins (Winter Classic)
January 17: Blackhawks @ Red Wings
January 24: Penguins @ Flyers (obvious; Bruins @ Carolina? Yeah right!)
January 31: Red Wings @ Penguins (no doubt)
February 7: Penguins @ Capitals (no doubt about this either)
March 7: Bruins @ Penguins (guessing they don't want another Blackhawks/Red Wings game)
March 14: Capitals @ Blackhawks (intriguing)
March 21: Rangers @ Bruins (other choice is Sabres @ Hurricanes)
April 4: Red Wings @ Flyers (no other game scheduled)
April 11: Rangers @ Flyers (subject to change based on which playoff spots are up for grabs)
My least confidence comes with scheduling the Penguins four games in a row, but they are only on the schedule one other time, and that is against the Lightning. If NBC really wanted to mix it up, they could throw Hurricanes @ Thrashers at us on March 7.

Thanks to Puck Daddy (http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Winners-losers-in-Versus-2009-10-regular-season?urn=nhl,183899) and Puck the Media (http://puckthemedia.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/your-2009-10-nhl-on-nbc-flex-schedule/).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Free Agent Frenzy: New York Rangers

Let's take a quick look at the New York Rangers' major activity so far since the beginning of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, including a couple trades and some signings.

Added: Christopher Higgins, Ryan McDonagh, Enver Lisin (RFA), Ales Kotalik, Donald Brashear, Marian Gaborik, Tyler Arnason, Brian Boyle
Subtracted: Scott Gomez, Lauri Korpikoski, Paul Mara, Nik Antropov, Colton Orr, Fredrik Sjostrom
Re-signed: Ryan Callahan, Corey Potter
Still in limbo: Brandon Dubinsky (RFA), Nikolai Zherdev (RFA), Derek Morris, Blair Betts

It looks like General Manager Glen Sather is re-making the team yet again, but this time for good reason: to have players that fit new head coach John Tortorella's style. There is more optimism for scoring with the additions of Gaborik and Higgins while losing underachiever Gomez and his seemingly devastating cap hit. That trade also brought over the Canadiens' best prospect according to Hockey's Future, McDonagh, albeit another defenseman.

On the flip side, there is reason to be worried about the team's defense and especially the penalty kill because our top pair penalty-killing forwards, Betts and Sjostrom, have left the team. We still have capable players to play there, such as Chris Drury and Callahan, but some others are going to need to step up their games. Trading Korpikoski for Lisin weakened the penalty kill further and was another trade by Coyotes GM Don Maloney to acquire players that he helped draft when he was a member of the Rangers front office. Both players are reportedly threats to sign in the KHL, but Korpikoski quickly signed a two-year deal as an RFA in Phoenix.

The first head-scratching move came shortly after the great trade of Gomez. Orr was expected to be offered a big contract as one of the best enforcers in the league, going to Toronto for four years and $4 million. At the time, it seemed like the team could replace him for cheaper from within, but Sather felt the need to sign Brashear, a hated enemy for many years going back to his Flyers days, to a $2.8 million contract over two years, a cap hit $400,000 higher than Orr's! Ales Kotalik seemed like an underachiever in Buffalo where Lindy Ruff milks a lot of talent out of his unheralded players, so he is a risk at three years and $9 million. Brian Boyle may be the second-biggest bust from the 2003 draft behind Hugh Jessiman, but Sather only gave up a third-round pick in 2010 for the 6'6" center, so I am happy with that. Hopefully for my fantasy dynasty team, Boyle will score some goals and collect some penalty minutes for fighting.

Other moves were minor or expected. Arnason will compete for a spot with the Rangers, but will likely be shown the way to Hartford with a two-way contract, needing to pass through waivers first. Callahan was re-signed for a decent amount as a restricted free agent and will be expected to compete for a spot on the second line and hopefully stick there if Zherdev is not brought back to New York. Potter can serve as the seventh defenseman or a good presence on the Wolf Pack. Antropov's agent wanted too much money, but he is a big body and could be missed. Mara clearly didn't have a place here under Tortorella. Dubinsky is almost a lock to be re-signed and Morris could stay if he takes a big pay cut; I think he will definitely return if Rozsival or Redden is traded as is rumored as part of a package for a number-one center; hopefully, that package will not include Dubinsky.

There is still cap room to play with and at least one move to be made, unless Sather and Tortorella are comfortable with relatively inexperienced centers around captain Drury. Overall, fans should be happy with this offseason's moves but still not expect too much progress with Redden and Drury still on the roster if they continue to vastly underperform their contracts.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

First days of work as a cameraman

It started on Friday with an exhibition game, but I only practiced my camera skills for a couple of innings. From watching baseball for a long time, I could figure out what I needed to do. For the first home game of the regular season on Tuesday, the Force faced off against Jennie Finch and the Chicago Bandits. Luckily, it was an easy start, camera-wise, with clouds in the sky and Finch throwing a perfect game, so there wasn't much to do when the home team was batting. We were told that we did a good job under the pressure of the league's (National Pro Fastpitch) and MLB.com's (our online streaming partner) watchful eyes.

Game two was a bit more difficult and even colder than the first night, as the temperature dropped below 60°. Rain was in the forecast, but the game just started with some clouds in the sky, enough to block out the sun again. As the raindrops started to fall, I had a little trouble with the rain sleeve for my camera, but I had it attached well after an inning or two. Luckily, I had come prepared with a jacket as heavy rain started to fall in the sixth inning and my head got soaked. With one out in the top of the seventh, which would be the last half-inning because the Force were winning, it looked like there would be a rain delay as the first-base umpire consulted with the one behind home plate. However, this was only a short break as the "grounds crew" poured dry dirt between first and second. The game would be over a few minutes later as Kat Osterman induced the final two outs in her complete game for the Force.

There was supposed to be another game tonight, but the heavy rain had left puddles on the field that forced postponement and a doubleheader scheduled for Friday. The local television station was set to broadcast these two games and use their video feeds for the stream, so I don't know if I will be doing anything for the six hours that I have to be at the stadium, except for taking down the outfield fence at the end of the nightcap. Saturday's game is being played in York, Pennsylvania, so my group of interns does not have to work that night.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Summer class

The professor was not kidding when he said that 15 weeks were compressed into five during the summer, in this case for Applied Microeconomics. The first of two tests in on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. after only two weeks of the course. Unfortunately for me, my Wednesday afternoon is already booked with doing set-up in Allentown for the Force, so I wil have to get all studying finished by Tuesday night. This should be fun!

I'm looking forward to being able to watch game five of the Stanley Cup Final after missing games one, three, and four; I watched some of four the next day on NHL Network. This has been a good series to cap off a good playoffs overall, which I have missed by being in Portugal, doing work, and spending time with good friends. Good thing that two of those things were time well-spent with others rather than watching television by myself or with my dad.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Journey from Patterson to Edgewater Park

Late Saturday afternoon, I had to journey from Patterson, NY to Edgewater Park in the Bronx for Lauren's 22nd birthday party. My parents needed me in Patterson even for such a short time just to help out moving stuff around the property. I was driven from Patterson to the Southeast train station on Metro-North where I caught the 4:13 train. I had to switch to a local train at North White Plains, leaving at 5:11. The conductor announced that only one door would be opening at my destination station, Williamsbridge, where I arrived at 5:37. It was like disembarking from a ship as this long and narrow platform extended from the one station platform to the front door of the train and passengers walked single-file to exit onto the platform. I then walked along Gun Hill Road where there were many hostile drivers who would honk at practically nothing and I was the only white person around, aside from one Mustang driver. When I reached Bronxwood Avenue, I sat at the Bx8 bus station on my 12-pack of beer and waited for the 6:08 bus which would take me to Edgewater Park, where I arrived around 7:00. It was funny how the demographics on the bus changed as the bus traveled southeast in the Bronx.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NHL ECF Game 4: Penguins @ Hurricanes

The Hurricanes face elimination as they trail three games to zero. Goaltender Cam Ward is 5–0 when facing elimination and he has never lost a playoff series.

First Period: The Hurricanes are playing well, but they can't afford to keep making turnovers, especially with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby on the ice, which is over three-quarters of the time in this game because they are rotating with the open spot on the fourth line. The Hurricanes are 7–0 in the 2009 playoffs when Eric Staal scores a goal, and he scored the first goal on a quick wraparound, but the Penguins came back to take the lead 2–1, with their second goal coming on a deflected shot by Maxime Talbot that floated over Ward's glove.

Second Period: Crosby makes a beautiful pass off of another turnover to let Bill Guerin potentially put the Hurricanes away for the season. The Hurricanes had 16 shots on goal in the second period, but not too many quality chances. A sign held up by a fan said "Miracles Cam Happen" and it will take a miracle for the Hurricanes to win this game. I fully expect them to come out strong in the third period despite Marc-Andre Fleury stopping every opportunity after the first soft goal.

Third Period: Carolina came out with a valient effort, but it's more of the same from Fleury in goal. I was more interested in watching Livan Hernandez finish his 127-pitch complete game for the Mets, giving up one run as the Mets scored six, paced by Gary Sheffield's three-run home run. When I turn back to hockey, the Hurricanes still can't find the back of the net and the Penguins are going back to the Stanley Cup Final after scoring an empty-net goal to make it a 4–1 victory.

Side note: The end of the NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 2 was unbelieveable. That's the only word I could utter after Hedo Turkoglu and LeBron James traded buckets in the last second.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dodgeball

Alumni Dodgeball at Allen-Stevenson on Thursday was a blast for the second year in a row. This time, we got to use real dodgeballs (small kickballs) so we could leave some bruises and feel pain. There was plenty of pizza, beer, and Gatorade to go around to help heal the wounds. :) Seven people from my class (2003) were there, and I got to hang out with four of them afterward for the first time in years. We played pool at one of my friend's favorite places, and a 30-ish woman watched our first game then wanted to play with us for the rest of the night; it was an odd situation, especially for a late Thursday night, but she might be seen again.

All of this came after what seemed like another waste of two days, this time trying to actually sell the advertising space because owners weren't there, stores didn't have money, or they just weren't interested. I've got to get it done next week!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A waste of two days

Instead of being in Pennsylvania and trying to sell advertising time for my summer job with the Philadelphia Force, I had to sit in 60 Centre Street for two days just to wait to tell them that I did not have the time to serve in their trial. Oh, the wonders of jury duty. Hopefully, I can be useful next time.

Lehigh Choral Arts in Portugal and an introduction

First, an introduction: I'm Brandon Franz and these are my thoughts on my interests and activities.

I was on tour with Lehigh Choral Arts from May 6 - May 15 in Portuguese cities Lisbon, Sesimbra, Palmela, √Čvora, Cascais, Sintra, and Estoril. We sang at three different churches and a palace, and as Doc said, each performance was better than the last. I thoroughly enjoyed them despite singing much less pieces than members of University Choir. The last performance was moving and sounded great.

The best day in Lisbon was after we were dropped off at Rossio Square for a free afternoon and evening. I had a liter of beer with lunch, we found a free wine tasting store after that, then two bottles of beer, and another liter with dinner at Republica de Cerveja, the Republic of Beer. The beer that runs Portugal is Super Bock. Another defining quality of Portugal is their hamburgers with mystery meat and an egg. For a foreign country, they sure produce some great hamburgers, especially at four in the morning.

Sergio was a good tour guide, taking us through churches, palaces, and city tours. Most of the group took his suggestion to atttend a soccer game, in which Lisbon's worst team out of three, Belinenses, lost 5-0 to Braga in Liga Sagres, the other beer that had high sponsorship in Portugal.

I had two casino experiences: in Lisbon, I lost 70 euro; in Estoril (apparently the biggest casino in Europe), I won 20 euro, both times playing roulette and discovering video roulette. I also found 20 euro on the ground one day, so that's a decent total. There was graffiti everywhere, except on public transportation, it seemed. It was a great trip that we were able to enjoy because we stayed in one hotel the whole time and had some free time to work with, both unlike in China.