Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012-13 NBA Preview: Joy in L.A., OKC's White Flag, Boston Stranglers and Miami's Reign

It's about to be a good year to be a Lakers fan. Assuming everybody stays healthy - all eyes on Kobe's foot tonight - it's the most exciting team I've seen since 2003-04. Since we all know how that went, I'm also tempering my expectations and not talking championship yet.

But since Oklahoma City decided to blow up their core in the name of money, I'm saying the Lakers will be back in the Finals. By the way, Oklahoma City deserves props for not only reminding me of the 1995 Orlando Magic once again, but for scaring themselves into worrying about money instead of the immediate future.

At least the 1995 Magic had a chance to follow-up their Finals run with a great 1996 season that ended at the hand of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Sam Presti robbed this team of that chance by sending James Harden for a shoot-first old Kevin Martin, a talented rookie in Jeremy Lamb and draft picks. He also had the presence of mind to do this two days before the season. Genius!!

So the Lakers only have to worry about themselves and pray that everybody gels together. Steve Nash will do that just fine. Dwight Howard just has to be healthy and he'll dominate on the defensive end/rebounding side. Kobe just has to relax and stay healthy. Pau Gasol has to play like he did during the Olympics.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Week 9 UCLA/USC Report (And BIG News)

The UCLA Report (above) is a lot more fun considering we just watched the most exciting win of the season. UCLA's 45-43 at Arizona State is one to definitely hang your hat on and big ups to Kai'mi Fairbairn, Brett Hundley, Johnathan Franklin and the coaching staff for doing the Lord's work against the Sun Devils.

Meanwhile, the USC report (below) goes in on Lane Kiffin, his poor playcalling, his undisciplined coaching and wasting one of the greatest WR performances I've ever witnessed - Marqise Lee and his 16 receptions for 345 yards. A bit much? Nah. Long overdue if you ask me. He's no Pete Carroll - a coach who could win the games he was supposed to, recruit and develop talent and keep everyone focused AND loose at the same time.

Finally big news to share. I will be writing for Rant Sports this season for UCLA and USC hoops. It's a paid gig so I'll be glad to make some extra coin for the good folks over there. It's also a great way for me to stay focused as a sportswriter who knows the LA sports scene.

Here's my 1st story, a preview on UCLA's season. I'll be writing every day for them so every few days, I'll post several links in a separate entry here in case you can't keep up with them all on Twitter. I'm excited and truly grateful for this opportunity and you know how much I love hoops.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

13 Days - Avoid the Distractions

13 days left until the election and it's time to get serious. The debate theater is over. It's the final stage where we need to buckle down and shore up what's important in this election season. Unfortunately, the last act means all the clowns and hysteria has to run its course.

Case in point Sarah Palin's recent words on President Obama "shuck and jive shtick" towards his response to Libya. It's easy for me to get upset at her using that term but instead consider the source - Palin's begging for attention and hasn't been in the spotlight in a while. It's been proven that the administration called the attack "an act of terror" the day after and God forbid they show restraint, grieve for the families and let things shake out before playing the terrorist card even further.

But see, that's all a part of the game. Focus on the source making outlandish statements. Never mind more analysis on the issues or deciding if the source it's worth listening.

Ann Coulter calling the president a retard? Just another sign of her being an insensitive idiot who hides behind Fox News, her Twitter and whatever imaginary shield she thinks she has. She's got no merit and this latest statement shows her desperation and ignorance.

What's more problematic - Tagg Romney wanting to swing at Barack Obama or that he owns voting machines in Ohio. It's not even close. Considering how much Ohio has been a factor in the last 3 elections, that scares me more.

Monday, October 22, 2012

UCLA/USC Report (And Some Housekeeping)

As I introduce my weekly UCLA/USC report, there will be a change on the blog. The football wrap that I've written for 3 years will be discontinued and instead every Monday, I'll be uploading my video here on the blog. I enjoyed writing the wrap and finding cool tidbits, but I think to better focus myself as a writer, I need to invest more time in what works for me, which are short articles and videos.

I'll still be offering football-related thoughts as they come to mind, but they will be articles. Besides, it also frees me up to write something else on Monday or Tuesday if it comes up instead of being hamstrung to do the wrap.

Enjoy the video, where I salute Robert Woods and Matt Barkley's record-setting day against Colorado. I'm especially proud of Woods who I've covered since he was a HS junior. Here's a story I wrote about his work ethic and character back in high school.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Quentin Tarantino and Nas: If Pulp Fiction is Illmatic, Jackie Brown is It Was Written

Last night I was watching Pulp Fiction. Somehow it always seems to come on at night and it's led to me sharing some cool thoughts before. I got into a brief conversation on Twitter about it and right away, we mentioned how Jackie Brown was criminally underrated.

15 years after its release, it's still a great movie. A great movie about my city and a reminder that Pam Grier is a treasure of beauty/sass. But it's slept on by a lot of folks because the monster came before it. How do you follow up one of the most influential movies of the last 20 years? A movie that was getting high praise the minute it got released.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Electric Relaxation: Eminem Turns 40

Hard to believe that Marshall Mathers is 40 today. Craziest thing is that means he was 27 when the Slim Shady LP dropped. Since I just turned 28, that holds a lot more weight considering there's still a lot of living left in me.

I've watched Eminem from novelty act to serious MC to drug addict/questionable producer to serious MC once again. He's been one of my favorite rappers since I first heard "My Name Is" and everybody tried to rap it at school. While most of my friends loved the Marshall Mathers LP, my favorite will always be The Eminem Show because it was personal, dark and showed growing as a rapper with his skill and inspiration. Somehow he sounded overwhelmed, confident and hungry all at the same time.

People think Lil Wayne and Drake are superstars. But 10 years ago, Eminem was a real superstar. I remember when TRL was nearly shut down when he arrived. When he had the No. 1 movie and album in the country with 8 Mile. When Eminem Show was cranking out radio singles and album cuts on the radio all the time. When "Lose Yourself" was being compared to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and nearly every great song of the previous 10 years. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Night Massacre in the 619

I’m still feeling numb thinking about that Chargers game. Not angry, not frustrated, not even smarting from my teams (Dallas and San Diego) having a combined 4 straight stomach-punching losses. Just numb because this is a new low for a Norv Turner team and that’s saying a lot.

A 24-0 lead at home. Gone.  Fire to finish? Non-existent. Somebody as a calming, firm presence? Nowhere to be found. Philip Rivers looking like a steady leader? Nah man.

I left work with the Chargers up big at halftime. I was puffing out my chest thinking we’re going to see Peyton Manning locked up and owned by San Diego once again. I was wrong.

What I saw qualifies as the worst regular season Chargers loss in my 10 years as a fan. And that’s saying a lot considering there have been at least 2-3 gut-punching games a year. This was a slow descent from Mt. Everest to Death Valley with unbelievable mistakes that just symbolized this era of Charger football.

Football Wrap Week 6A: More Irish Luck

I now have another reason to dislike Stanford, a program I've never been fond of since their basketball team was a national power in the mid-90's. As I wrote last week, they were my new Great Hope to send Notre Dame fans back into reality.

But in the rain of South Bend - a scene fit for poetry - their old conservative ways caught up to them as they lost in overtime. Three points I have.

1. Why did David Shaw call for 4 straight run plays up the middle on the 4-yard line? No creativity against a stingy defense. No running Josh Nunes for a bootleg or spreading out the offense to fool the defense. Hard-headed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Flow Joe Biden vs. Young Paul Ryan

Joe Biden couldn't keep a straight face most of the time when Paul Ryan spoke. Neither could I (Photo by Evan B.)
I’m still shaking my head at what I saw. After a nice, respectable presidential debate, the kid gloves came off in the Vice-Presidential debate and the punches were swinging!

A tip of the hat to moderator Martha Raddatz. As opposed to Jim Lehrer, she set the tone and demanded respect from the jump. She also wasn’t afraid to assert herself to ask tougher questions, clearer specifics and be what I expect a moderator to be.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

RapGenius: Not Hating the Players but Hating the Game Once Again

I looked at RapGenius over the past year or so. At first I thought it was pretty cool – a site to break down rap lyrics. They hit me up on Twitter randomly to ask me to join their site, I told them I’d think about it. Since I love lyrics, I ended up joining and added my two cents to some of my favorite Ice Cube/Nas songs.

I don’t have a beef with the site per se. Because it’s all user based, anybody can comment on a song. That’s both good and bad because while there are some great breakdowns (see Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean), some of the reasoning is silly and immature.  When you post a new meaning, there’s a corny “Yeeeeah Boy” picture afterwards.

RapGenius has also succeeded in partnering with folks like Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Murs and Jean Grae to help breakdown their lyrics. The site admits that not every breakdown is approved by an editor so that’s pretty much carte blanche to allow anything. In our Wikipedia generation, it works even if it emphasizes current rap over old school joints that deserve to be deciphered more.

So what’s the big issue? Discovering that RapGenius got a $15 million investment and it’s the brainchild of three slang-talking, non-Black guys from Yale. Guys who got started the site on a whim and watched it grow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Football Wrap Week 5B: Mark Sanchez and the USC QB Curse

I start this week’s NFL wrap with a proclamation.

Mark Sanchez has thrown for less than 50 percent of his passes in every start this year. His passes were inaccurate Monday night. His decision-making was suspect. At this point, there’s nothing that says he should be keeping his job. But he is because the alternative is a cult hero in Tim Tebow who isn’t much better.

I don’t care if Sanchez went to two AFC title games and has no help around him. He’s not a NFL starting quarterback right now and he’s barely a capable game manager. But to be honest, it’s not his fault. It’s the USC QB curse.

In the 10 years that USC has been relevant, all of their quarterbacks haven’t panned out well in the NFL. Matt Leinart? Mentally wasn’t ready despite his gifts. John David Booty? Barely got any burn. Sanchez is next in line and unless something changes, so is Matt Barkley.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Football Wrap Week 5A: Notre Dame - Why I'm Not Thrilled They're "Back"

I guess it’s gotten too much to ignore. Notre Dame keeps on winning and we have to keep pretending they are still relevant because of their legacy.

I keep hoping teams will knock them out and remind folks that this isn’t the 80’s or early 90’s. But each week, they keep winning and the old echoes of South Bend keep getting louder and louder.

They beat Michigan State. They made Shoelace Robinson look silly in defeating Michigan. And now, they destroyed The U. A game that had to make all the former Miami players sick as the Irish scored 34 unanswered points.

This is the highest Notre Dame has been ranked since 2006.  5-0 is 5-0. I respect it. But I don’t have to like what it represents. Some Notre Dame fans getting high and mighty and pretentious. Media types saying Notre Dame is back.

Full disclosure. One of my last college friends was a proud Irish fan. A good acquaintance from college is a proud Irish fan. I don’t hate all fans. But I guess I dislike them the same way people dislike the Lakers, Yankees, Duke and all those hateable teams.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quick Thoughts on Obama-Romney I

So I just finished watching the 1st Presidential Debates. I avoided most of the feedback and post-debate analysis until I watched. Here's what I thought.

-The biggest loser in the debate wasn't a candidate. It was moderator Jim Lehrer. A respected voice in media who had no control of the debate and appeared to be walked over many times by Mitt Romney (more on that later). I felt like his voice was disregarded and as moderator, it's your place to be law and order. He appeared too old and outdated to handle a debated with forceful candidates.

CNN's Candy Crowley had better be on her game in 2 weeks as moderator. I respect her as a fair voice so it's up to her to set the tone and maintain it. Watching Lehrer made me long for Will McAvoy's debate format in "The Newsroom"

-Mitt Romney's biggest gaffe to me came when he spoke on the federal government's role in public education. He said that states and local governments should do more than the federal government. But then he said that in supporting federal bills for disabled/lower income students, he's in favor of giving that federal money directly to the parent to decide where the child goes to school. Ummmm isn't that federal government taking a BIG role in a child's education??

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Football Wrap Week 4B: The Blues (Saints, Cam, Tony Romo and Me)

2012 hasn't been kind to the Saints. They lost a thriller in the NFC playoffs at San Francisco. Then came Bountygate where the NFL accused of them of paying for big hits. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the whole season. And now the bottom has dropped out at they've fallen to 0-4.

If anybody is singing "Wake Me Up When September Ends", it's Drew Brees and Co. But on second thought, they might be singing Louis Armstrong "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" as they sleep on this week.

Clearly they're a team lost in the ocean. They've been in almost every game but something has fallen apart for them. Against Green Bay, they lost on a missed kick. It's the kind of loss that'll sting worse because it's almost a sign that it's going to be harder after this. Or it has to get better.

But chances are, it won't get better in the playoffs. They just gotta worry about getting back to .500
and that won't happen til November. The only thing they'll enjoy is when Drew Brees throws for a TD for his 48th straight game on Sunday for a new NFL record. Then sit back while my Chargers bring that kitchen sink to NOLA.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Football Wrap Week 4A: CFB on Steroids, Geno Smith and a Top Ten?

What happened Saturday in college football can only be described as football on steroids. An offensive explosion that showed how the game has changed up to this point. Some of the crazy numbers.

1) 5 guys passed for over 500 yards. Only 1 had done it all season so far. There were 6 performances last year total. So we’ve reached that by Week 5.

2) 2 guys had over 300 receiving yards in the SAME game. 4 more guys had 200+ receiving yards on the day.

3) Tennessee and Georgia combined for 95 points – 4 more than West Virginia and Baylor had combined after THREE quarters. Who said the SEC played defense?

Even as Beat ‘Em Down Month finally ends, that’s ridiculous. We’re seeing guys set passing records at crazy rates. You can blame the rise of the spread offenses that’s even trickled down to the HS level (and also the number of offensive geniuses in CFB).