Friday, December 18, 2009

34 Bowl Games - 34 Winners - Swampy's College Bowl Game Preview

It's that glorious time of year again where just about anyone with a stadium & a sponsor can host their own college bowl game. It wasn't always this way and once upon that time the bowl games actually meant something. Then cable television was born and so too were a countless number of craptastic games looking for any kind of an audience. This year there are actually 34 bowl games and it all kicks off on December 19th with the New Mexico Bowl and it all ends on January 7th when Alabama takes on Texas in the BCS National Championship game. Now I will admit that 34 games can be quite daunting for the non-football fan but that is why I am here to help. So without further ado, let's get to the plethora of pigskin that awaits us.

12/19 - New Mexico Bowl - Wyoming vs Fresno St.

One of Wyoming's wins the year was facilitated thanks to state snow plows & a police escort. That is how bad their opponent was and how much they needed to get to 6 wins to qualify for Bowl Season. Fresno St will win this game easily.

12/19 - St. Petersburg Bowl - Rutgers vs Central Florida

This basically a home game for UCF and Rutgers has done nothing but flop in big games this year. The Scarlet Knights start the season with a loss and end it with a loss too.

12/20 – New Orleans Bowl – Middle Tennessee vs Southern Miss

Middle Tennessee is probably the best 9 win team that no one has ever heard of and they will be the best 10 win team that no one has ever of after the game. And let’s face it, no one really loses when they get to go to New Orleans ?

12/22 – Maaco Las Vegas Bowl – Oregon St vs BYU

Nobody loses when they get to go to Las Vegas either and Las Vegas certainly loves the way the BYU fans travel. However, I just don’t see the Beavers taking a licking in this one.

12/23 – Poinsettia Bowl – Utah vs California

Utah certainly knows how to beat up & beat on BCS conference teams – just ask anyone in Alabama. Cal is more schizophrenic than a cougar I once dated back in the mid 80’s…..give me a moment please…..YIKES !

12/24 – Hawaii Bowl – Nevada vs SMU

Nevada runs the ball like they have a couple of Eric Dickerson’s & Craig James’ in their backfield. At least SMU gets a trip to Honolulu out of the deal.

12/26 – Little Caesars Bowl – Ohio University vs Marshall

Who cares who wins this game ? All that really matters is that once upon a time when I was a mascot for our local hockey team, I beat up the Little Caesars mascot. I hit him with a Domino’s box.

12/26 – Meineke Car Care Bowl – North Carolina vs Pitt

Pitt was just one kick & one catch away from playing in the Orange Bowl. This may be a relative home game for the Tar Heels but this ball isn’t round.

12/26 – Emerald Bowl – Boston College vs USC

A great matchup of two underachieving overhyped programs that looks great on paper. Not sure if they have ever even played each other before. You might think I am “nuts” but BC cracks open a win in this one.

12/27 – Music City Bowl – Kentucky vs Clemson

There is only two reasons to watch this game. The first is CJ Spiller of Clemson and the second is because it is the only game on that day. This game won’t even be close.

12/28 – Independence Bowl – Texas A&M vs Georgia

I lost interest in this game years ago when Poulan Weedeater dropped their sponsorship of the game. I lost even more interest when I saw the two teams playing this year. Just can’t ever pick the Aggies (unless they play Notre Dame) so the Bulldogs win this one.

12/29 – Eagle Bank Bowl – UCLA vs Temple

I think the last time Temple played in a bowl game they played in the now defunct Garden State Bowl and KC & the Sunshine ban were on the charts. This actually wouldn’t be a bad matchup if they were playing basketball. I just can’t see UCLA losing this one.

12/29 – Champs Sports Bowl – Miami vs Wisconsin

Wisco won’t be able to handle Miami’s speed and this game is going to be over early. Miami will be a team to be reckoned with 2010.

12/30 – Humanitarian Bowl – Idaho vs Bowling Green

The best thing about this game is that it is being played on the SMURF TURF ! Idaho started out winning 6 of the first 7 before they went 0 for November again. Despite the home field advantage, I am leaning towards Bowling Green.

12/30 – Holiday Bowl – Nebraska vs Arizona

I have no idea how to pronounce Ndamukong Suh’s first name but expect to hear it a lot as the Cornhuskers wear down the Wildcats out in San Diego.

12/31 - Armed Forces Bowl – Air Force vs Houston

I don’t think a platoon of F-16’s could help stop the bombing that Casey Keenum is going to lay down on Air Force. Houston is going to win this one in high scoring fashion.

12/31 – Sun Bowl – Stanford vs Oklahoma

How did such a crappy bowl game (El Paso – nuff said) get such a good game to watch. Should be fun to watch Heisman Almost Winner Toby Gerhart try to run on the Sooner D. Sorry Mom (she’s a Cal Grad) but I think the Cardinal win this one.

12/31 – Texas Bowl – Missouri vs Navy

Yawn – though it will be fun to see Navy try to avenge their loss to Mizzou from 1961. Look for Mizzou to throw, throw & throw and Navy to run, run & run.

12/31 – Insight Bowl – Minnesota vs Iowa State

I wonder how many people on the Insight Bowl Selection Committee killed themselves after they got stuck with this game ? The Big 12 is better than the Big 10 but I am picking Minnesota anyway because I got a speeding ticket in Iowa once.

12/31 – Chick Fil-A Bowl – Virginia Tech vs Tennessee

This game is a lot more interesting on paper than it will be on TV. I’ll take the Hokies because somebody has to win and I can’t see a former raiders coach doing that.

1/1 – Outback Bowl – Northwestern vs Auburn

A Big 10 surprise and a SEC disappointment for the first game of New year’s Day. Auburn shot it’s load in the Iron Bowl when they almost beat Bama. Northwestern should win this one.

1/1 – Capital One Bowl – Penn State vs LSU

2 teams that both had BCS Championship aspirations early on that just couldn’t close the deal when they needed to do it. I love LSU and have never picked against them.

1/1 – Gator Bowl – West Virginia vs Florida State

It kind of cracks me up that in Bobby Bowden’s farewell game as the Seminoles coach, he has to play in the “Gator” Bowl. West Virginia won’t roll over in awe of his career and the Mountaineers will kill them.

1/1 – Rose Bowl – Oregon vs Ohio State

Oregon was really one punch and one loss away from serious national title consideration. Ohio State is a team I have hated ever since I knew what football was. Go Ducks !

1/1 – Sugar Bowl – Cincinnati vs Florida

This could have been a much better game if Brian Kelly hadn’t run away to go coach Notre Dame. It does still have an interesting storyline in that you have Tim Tebow’s final game and you have a Cincinnati team that will either be out to prove that they don’t need their old turncoat coach or a you will have a Cincinnati team that rolls over from the controversy of it all. I think we will see the former since Mardy Gilyard is a real threat to score any & every time he touches the ball.

1/2 – International Bowl – South Florida vs Northern Illinois

This would be an interesting matchup in early September. It’s a reason to change the channel in January. I’m going with the underdogs from Northern Illinois.

1/2 – Papajohns.com Bowl – Connecticut vs South Carolina

I hate all Steve Spurrier coached teams and Connecticut has played well all season losing it’s 5 games by a combined total of 15 points. The Huskies have an intangible to play for that the Gamecocks don’t. I like Connecticut by a slice or two.

1/2 – Cotton Bowl – Oklahoma State vs Mississippi

The Cotton Bowl used to be one of the Big 4 Bowl Games but now it has been relegated to 2nd tier status but it always gets a fun game to watch. I like both teams in this game so I really don’t care who wins but I will be putting my bowl picks pool money on OK State.

1/2 – Liberty Bowl – East Carolina vs Arkansas

I really liked the way that East Carolina handled Houston in the Conference USA Championship Game to get here. I don’t see them having any problems whatsoever handling the Razorbacks too.

1/2 – Alamo Bowl – Texas Tech vs Michigan State

I like the San Antonio Riverwalk. I like Texas Tech. Not much else to say about this game other than it finishes off an extremely long day of football.

1/4 – Fiesta Bowl – TCU vs Boise State

In some ways this battle of Non-BCS Conference undefeated teams is a cop out because both of these teams would have beaten any BCS Conference team that they faced but in other ways it isn’t because this is a football fan’s dream matchup. Both teams can & do score at will. Both teams are exciting. Everyone remembers what Boise State did to Oklahoma and everyone should remember Billy Clyde Puckett & Shake Tiller – 2 of TCU’s most famous football graduates. This game could actually inspire Dan Jenkins to even write another football book – at least I hope so. I bleed orange & blue on both a college & pro level so my heart and my head both tell me to take Boise State.

1/5 – Orange Bowl – Georgia Tech vs Iowa

A nice placeholder/palate cleanser game between the main course (Fiesta) and the dessert (BCS Championship). Neither team truly excites me but both will show up ready to play but like I said earlier, I once got a speeding ticket in Iowa (Marengo – 1981 to be exact) so I will cheering for the Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech.

1/6 – GMAC Bowl – Central Michigan vs Troy

Where is the outrage & outcry over the Central michigan’s coach taking the job in Cincinnati ? Exactly. Troy is a team on the rise but Central Michigan has a QB that has found the end zone more often than any other QB in FBS history. Look for him to find it a few more times in this game as CMU finishes the season off with their 12th win.

1/6 – BCS National Championship Game – Alabama vs Texas

Based on their conference championship games, this should be a blowout of snoozefest proportions with Heisman winner Mark Ingram rolling the Tide over Heisman also ran Colt McCoy & the Longhorns but I don’t like o use comparative scores when looking at a game like this. I think both conferences are overrated & over-hyped but these are indeed the best teams from both. The Longhorns are 5 point underdogs and I fully expect them to cover the spread. I also think that based on Bama’s performance against Auburn that Texas has more than a fighting chance of pulling off the upset. I’m liking the Longhorns pulling it out in their final drive as time expires.

So there you go. 34 games. 34 winners. Check back often to see why there is a reason that Las Vegas loves me as much as they do.

And that is the view for now from Behind The Shades and on the sidelines…..swampy abides….

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

2009 PNC Christmas Price Index - Swampy Style

Every year our friends down at PNC Bank take a couple of interns and assign them to update the Christmas Price Index. You all know what this is but just in case you don't, it is the present day cost of all of the items in the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas". This year, prices have for the most part gone up again and the total cost of what amounts to pretty much a bunch of useless presents comes in at a grand total $21,465.56 (+1.8%). Now if you were so inclined to order on the internet, you would also incur some extra shipping charges in order to keep your 23 different birds alive so you would be paying $31,434.85. Surprise, surprise - that is actually down 1.6% from a year ago but still just under $10,000 more than obtaining the gifts locally. Obtaining the gifts locally also means that you are being green (at least according to the emails I read from the "scientists" at East Anglia University) and that you are trying to be sustainable. If I could have worked in the word "umami" then I would have hit on just about every buzzword I have come to loathe hearing and could pass go and collect my $200.

But seriously, who has $21,465.56 to spend on Christmas nowadays ? (and if you do, please email me so I can send you my wish list) In this day & age it is better to conserve what little cash we all have so I have some suggestions on how to make "The Twelve Days of Christmas" a little more affordable.

One Partridge in a Pear Tree ($159.99 - $10 for the Partridge & $149.99 for the tree) - Now I don't know about you but I live out in the country and I have a lot of birds that fly around in my backyard and I have yet to see a partridge amongst them. In fact, I don't think I have ever seen a partridge in it's natural habitat. On "The Hills" you can see Audrina Partridge in her natural habitat (a bar) for free. Since we used Audrina last year, I decided this year to put a beer & an empty bindle of coke up in the White Pear tree in my yard as lure to catch a Danny Partridge. If I add a TV camera, I might actually get them both and have 2 for the price of 1.

Two Turtle Doves ($55.98) - another bird I have never seen in the wild. Do they live anywhere but in a birdcage anyway ? If we wait until February we could probably borrow a few from the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics but that kind of defeats the purpose of it being a Christmas present so I guess we will have to fall back on our old reliable plan and catch us a couple of pigeons from my window sill and coat them in white out. Let's just hope they don't try to fly afterward or it will be reminiscent of Les Nessman tossing turkey out of a helicopter on WKRP.

Three French Hens ($45.00) - I am sorry but I am not paying $45 for anything french. I will head over to ShopRite where I can get a much better deal on 3 oven roasted chickens for $5.99 a piece. They will certainly be less pretentious, won't smoke gauloise cigarettes and will be mighty tasty too.

Four Calling Birds ($599.96) - what the hell is a Calling Bird anyway ? Again, it's not by my bird feeder and if it had been, something probably would have eaten them by now anyway. So instead of Calling Birds, I suggest stopping by your local Cabela's and picking up some bird calls - preferably turkey at this time of year so you can get a good meal out of the deal as well.

Five Gold Rings ($499.95) - $100 for a gold ring ? Get real. I can do much better than that by talking to any number of the west african street vendors that crowd the sidewalks of NYC. No guarantee that the rings won't turn your fingers green but green fingers should help get you in a festive holiday mood.

Six Geese-A-Laying ($150) - the price of geese is dropping like a rock. Kind of like the rocks I throw at the Canadian Geese that desecrate my lawn. You want six geese a laying, I suggest you go to any golf course or park with a pond and you will find plenty of geese that you could layout with a golf club or a stick.

Seven Swans a Swimming ($5,250) I got nothing new for this one this year so here is last year's entry - "they are nothing more than big nasty birds with an attitude problem but I will admit that they are graceful to watch - Seven swans is overkill though unless of course you hit the discount rack at Dress Barn for the leftovers from the Bjork Collection".

Eight Maids a Milking ($58) nobody hand milks cows these days unless of course you are Amish. In order to update this one, I bet you could get eight breast feeding mom's to fill in if you just promise them a private spot away from prying & judgmental eyes.

Nine Ladies Dancing ($5,473.07) At a little over $600 a pop, these dancing ladies are a relative deal compared to the cost of the 9 ladies dancing between the sheets with Tiger Woods but none of us have that kind of money so I suggest heading over to your local strip club where for nine singles, you can get nine ladies to give you a quick dance on your side of the stage.

Ten Lords a Leaping ($4,413.61) Okay, I liked mine from last year so much that I am going to paraphrase it again this year - I am in manhattan and I probably have a much better chance of finding 10 queens a leaping around the Village than I do finding any lords a leaping but I am sure that you could find more than few rejected male dancers at a Broadway Cattle Call audition who would be willing to leap around for a couple of bucks.

Eleven Pipers Piping ($2,284.80) Last year I suggested rounding up the kids from the elementary school holiday concert that were going to assault us with their recorder playing but this year my suggestion is to get eleven cake decorators for free since they do "pipe" the frosting and they are all looking for that big break so they can be the next Ace of Cakes or Cake Boss.

Twelve Drummers Drumming ($2,475.20) It's too easy. Walk into any preschool or Kindergarten class with 12 drums and you will have 12 kids wailing away like it's the space jam drum solo at a Grateful Dead concert. You may need to pay for a bottle of Excedrin for the teacher but that is a lot cheaper than $2,475.20 even if you do shop at Duane Reade here in NYC.

So there we are - my suggestions for how you can creatively substitute cheaper alternatives for "The Twelve Days of Christmas". I know that my suggestions may not appeal to every one's taste but that is the great thing about this holiday, almost everything can be returned. Unless of course you got it from a street vendor because odds are he will be long gone by the time you come back to look for him.

If you have some other ideas, why not share them with me and my 2 or 3 spam bots that actually "read" this stuff.. You never know what you will find stuffed in your stocking or under your tree on Christmas morning.

And that is the view for now, from Behind the Shades.......come back next time when we discuss something totally unrelated to what you just read because I can never keep a logical train of thought going in my head or on paper....swampy abides....

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Annual Holiday Tips for Tourists Coming To NYC

All but a few of the leaves have now fallen from the trees and more often than not I have to scrape some frost from my windows as I venture out in the morning for my train. Halloween is forgotten except for the stray Almond Joy or Mounds in one of the swamprat’s pumpkin buckets and the wild turkeys scampering across the backyard have become scarce. It’s that time of year again, the holiday season has come back to New York and if you plan on coming to my fair city to see the lights & the sights, let me give you some words of advice…..

Don’t !!! Stay the hell away !!! You are just going to make my daily commute a living hell !!!

But considering that no one, most of all my wife & kids, ever listens to me anyway, I might as well be a nice guy (for once) and give those of you making the holiday pilgrimage to the Big Apple a few helpful hints to make your stay in NYC the best it can possibly be….

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving and that means that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be wending it’s way through midtown (and not down Broadway thanks to the Mayor For Life’s decision to give reserved seating to the tourists & the homeless in the middle of Times Square) with cheesy floats, high school bands, singers & entertainers that will leave you saying “Who the hell was that ?” and of course there will be the balloons. If they don’t have Underdog, then it isn’t a real parade in my mind but then again, I am old so that is probably why I have latched on to that particular character balloon. A word of warning though, just about every year some balloon, usually the Al Roker balloon, gets a little wild and hits a street light or a road sign causing stuff to break and fall on some dumb tourist’s head so if you are going to brave the elements and the crowds, look up to see if you are standing under something that could potentially put a dent in your cranium.

Now since we are speaking of Macy’s, lets talk about the windows and the famous Christmas displays that are behind the glass. Since early November you have been able to see the classic “Miracle on 34th Street” windows on the 34th street side (the 35th street side has the miracle of smelly dumpsters and bums so you can skip that part altogether). These windows show scenes from the classic movie starring a young Natalie Wood who would one day grow up to be the kind of woman you would want wearing only stockings under your tree but I digress…..the main windows and the ones that draw largest crowds are the windows that face out onto Broadway – right where all the singers stop to lip sync on Thursday. These windows will be the most colorful & complex and they will have music blasting as loud as possible. In fact, I can hear it over the music playing on the world’s worst iPod which come to think of it, may not be such a bad thing after all. Now as an added tip for you men, if you are tired of oohing & ahhing over the windows, turn around 180 degrees and look across Broadway & 6th where you will find the never ending loop of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Maybe Adrianna Lima will wink & blow kisses at you like she does to me. There are other stores in New York that have window displays and most of them are on 5th Avenue closer to Rockefeller Center but I never go north of 42nd street if I can help it so don’t look at me to tell you which ones to go look for like Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales, Tiffany, FAO Schwartz & the American Girl Store. I suggest you go wander around on your own and annoy the commuters trying to get to Grand Central instead of me.

Now speaking of Rockefeller Center, the tree is up and yes it came from Easton, PA this year (possibly the ONLY good thing to come out of PA this year). It’s 76 feet tall and will have 30,000 LED lights powered by solar panels. It hasn’t been lit up yet but that will come soon enough. If you haven’t seen the tree at Rockefeller Center before than you really should. It really is impressive. Especially since they augment the tree each year like a stripper augments her chest. It holds court over the world’s most famous patch of ice where for a ridiculous amount of money, you can put on crappy skates and have other tourists make fun of you while you pretend to be Peggy Fleming, Jojo Starbuck or Dorothy Hamill. Personally I think that the rink at Rockefeller Center is entirely overrated and you are much better off going to either the rink at Bryant Park or even better yet, (mainly because it is even farther away from me and my commute) may I suggest skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. True it is a Trump property and nothing says crap like a Trump property but the thought of skating among the trees & midtown skyline does it a lot more for me than over at 30 Rock.

Now how do I suggest that you get around in the city ? Well that is simple. You can take the subway and miss the sights or you can take a cab and pay through your nose or you can walk and take the chance of me stepping on you on my way to & from the train. The one thing I forbid all of you from doing is riding in a pedalcab. I hate these people with a white hot burning passion that has sometimes been mistaken for a shining star in the eastern sky. If I find you in a pedalcab, I will not only have to beat you but I will also have to beat the pedalcab driver. (and completely off the holiday topic but on topic as far as it concerns pedalcabs, there is now a “Poledancing Pedalcab” working the streets of NYC. It started as a Halloween Float but is now available for Bachelor Parties at $200-$300 per hour – though I wonder what kind of lame ass bachelor party would hire a fully clothed poledancer to ride past them on the sidewalk) That being said, let me give you a couple of quick tips about walking on the streets of New York. Holding hands is fine but holding hands or linking arms 3 or more across is just plain rude & obnoxious. Expect someone to walk right through all of you. (It will most likely be me) Don’t stand in an aimless group on a busy corner clogging up the flow of pedestrian traffic. The Empire State Building will be there before 5pm and after 6pm so don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk & stare and stay the hell away as I try to make my way to the train. Walk & Don’t Walk signs are optional for pedestrians and stop lights are optional for bicyclists (or so they think – some SOB bicyclist actually punched me last week as he rode by me while I was jaywalking. If it hadn’t been such a lame punch I probably would have dragged him off his bike by his fanny pack and stomped a mudhole in him but I was feeling magnanimous so I didn’t.) Oh yeah, jaywalking is completely legit and expected so the only person that might hit you would be an out of town driver because cabs aren’t going to hit you since they don’t want to deal with the paperwork involved in hitting a tourist or the inevitable tv camera crews. Speaking of out of town drivers, please try to remember there is no such thing as “Right Turn On Red’ in NYC and DON’T BLOCK THE BOX !!!.

Back to the streets though, the shopping in NYC is second to none and there are stores for just about anything & everything that you could need or not need in your lifetime but during the holiday season, the street vendors come out in force. Some have licenses and some don’t. Some have real merchandise and some don’t. Some have stuff that “fell off a truck” and some are selling things boosted from your hotel room earlier in the day. Suffice to say, that Rolex you just bought for Uncle Lenny for $20 probably isn’t real and that DVD you got for a movie that just opened last weekend was probably filmed with a camcorder from the back of the theater. The best salesman I ever saw was back in the early 90’s before the widespread advent of cell phones - when a guy plopped his table down in the middle of Fulton Street and let everyone know that his gold was freshly stolen from Macy’s and you could call and check for yourself but guaranteed by the time you got back, he would be gone. Deals can be had and the price on the tag isn’t necessarily the price that you will have to pay and the best deals on everything can be found from the street vendors on Canal Street & Mulberry Street in Chinatown & Little Italy.

Times Square was once a den on iniquity and on every corner you could find hookers, pimps, con artists, drug addicts and bums but America's Mayor, Rudy Guiliani, started cleaning things up and had all the hookers, pimps, con artists & drug addicts relocated and he had all the bums killed. Times Square is now a boundless sea of lights and a mish mash cornucopia of stores that can be found in any mall in middle America. If you speak english, you are most definitely in the minority and all the character that the old Times Square had, has been sanitized and swept under the rug. I can also report that under self proclaimed Mayor for Life, King Bloomberg, the bums have returned to NYC like the swallows to Capistrano and that does leave a slight taste in your mouth and smudge on my shoe. Of course you can always take advantage of one of the free Charmin Holiday Port-a-Potties complete with Tuxedoed Attendant to take care of the smudge…..

Now speaking of taste in your mouth, while you are in New York I am sure that you will get hungry and that is a good thing as New York is home to approximately 1,000,000 places to eat so whatever you do, please skip McDonalds and other fast food chains and try to experience New York. You can go to one of the 3,000 Original Ray's Pizza Places or get a dirty water dog from a street vendor (trust me, I don't care how long it's been boiling, there is stuff in that water that could kill Godzilla) or to a Korean Bodega like my favorite, Sick Charlies on 40th, or to an irish pub for bad burgers and bangers & mash or to one of the 1,000 Original Frankie & Johnny's or to any number of 5 star restaurants or theme restaurants that seem to abound in midtown. The varieties are endless and the combinations intriguing so think twice about that Big Mac and go get some cuban chinese instead. And yes, there are street vendors that do have chestnuts roasting on an open fire but I ain't touching those myself......just like I am never touching the extruded meat from Rafiqi's Falafel cart but that is another blog for another time. As far as entertainment goes NYC offers the visitor a veritable melange of culture. People watch and check out the funky shops & markets in Greenwich Village & Washington Park. There are museums & art galleries out the wazoo. The Rangers & Knicks both play at Madison Square Garden and tickets are always available. You can tell by the number of scalpers working the games. I have absolutely no idea what the hottest shows on Broadway are these days but if you head over to the TKTS booth in Times Square they can help you. It's the booth under the giant glass staircase. If music is your thing than you have come to the right city because there are concerts every night and great acts working the nightclubs. I have no idea which of those nightclubs are the best but I am sure that I might have one reader or follower who might actually know.

And if being a freak is your thing, may I suggest craigslist.

Finally, I realize that the holidays are a time of giving and charity but a quick word of warning. Not everyone in the city asking you for $$$ is on the up & up. Beware of the red clad workers of the UHO (United Homeless Organization) with their card tables & water jugs. These leeches upon society pay $15 a day to rent the table & jug and they get to keep every last cent that they can collect during their shift. I have no problem calling them out when I walk by and one guy on 7th Avenue has a special 2 word greeting for me whenever he sees me coming his way. It makes me feel all warm & fuzzy.

In all seriousness there really is no place quite New York during the holidays. There is a vibe in the city that helps put an extra bounce in a New Yorker’s step as they step on you. Well that isn't true of all New Yorkers, most are friendly & helpful - though that guy who's offering to help you with your bag at the Port Authority probably doesn't work with the taxi drivers like he says and he will take off with your bag as soon as you let go. Don't expect a cab driver to start singing Silver Bells either but you will probably get a lot fewer "up yours" than you would on an average day. Hell, even the snow, when it comes, doesn't seem quite as dirty. So enjoy your visit to New York this holiday season. Just do me one favor, stay out of my way when I am trying to get to Penn Station to catch my train. I will cut you off, knock you down or step on you. If you have a rolling backpack, I will go out of my way to kick it but that rant is for another blog at another time too......

Now just because I talked about New York City during the holidays doesn’t mean that you have to talk about New York City during the holidays. We can talk about anything you want to talk about. You can pimp yourself. You can pimp your latest blog. You can pimp your favorite pilgrim, it doesn’t matter. As always, creative bloggobbling is not only allowed but encouraged and while there are relatively few rules in the swamp, the gators are slow roasting their turkeys so they have the time to be watching & waiting to snap up a few sides……

That’s the view for now from Behind The Shades…..quietly making whipped butternut squash, cranberry salad & mini corn muffins……swampy abides…..

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Dinner of Hope: Sunset on the Serengeti - a menu review

For the most part, this year’s edition of A Dinner of Hope: Sunset on the Serengeti came off without a hitch. The food was interesting & vibrant and the chocolate station at the end of the night had a longer line than the silent auction checkout. The only thing missing was yours truly as the Master of Ceremonies but you can’t have your cake & eat it too. Unless of course you made the cake and you live alone but then again that would be an entirely different blog for entirely different time but that is neither here nor there and what we really want to do is get to my review of the offerings that were presented by the various chefs. So without further ado….

Cocktail Reception-All authentic African foods7 passed HD’O
Charmain Sithappah, Bronx NYThe Seasoned Pot

Now I don’t have a full list of the offerings but I do know that the star of the hour had to be the pumpkin & spinach wrap that was served with a fig chutney. I will definitely be trying to emulate this bad boy come SuperDuperBowl Sunday. The various lamb appetizers were also good as was a small banana fritter that looked like a crabcake and did not taste like a plaintain. The chiken satay was just that and almost forgettable. All in all though it was a good start to the evening.

Oh I forgot – there were designer martinis – hot apple pie, pomegranate and something else but I quit drinking 21+ years ago and even if I did still drink, I wouldn’t have had one of those because as far as I am concerned a martini is gin with the word vermouth whispered softly over the glass.


First CourseWarm Sea Scallop with Corn and Acorn Squash Chutney
David Haviland Castle on the Hudson

A very nice opening dish. My scallop was quick seared to a golden brown on the outside and almost raw on the inside. The Corn & Acorn Squash Chutney was less of a chutney and more of a sauce most likely due to the inclusion of some ridiculous foam. I hate foam on my food. It usually looks like someone walked my plate too close to the dishwasher before it got to me. It was truly a very nice dish despite the foam and the sauce as opposed to chutney and it was well received at the table.

Second CourseVeal Cheek Ravioli with Braised White Asparagus
Scott Cutaneo Restaurant Equus, Bernardsville

Ladies & Gentlemen, we have a clear winner by knockout in the 2nd round. This was probably the best dish that I have ever had at this event and that dates back to 2002. the veal was tender and shredded finer than the finest pulled pork. The ravioli itself was huge and the lump of shredded veal cheek was slightly larger than a golf ball but as I now remember it, it was more like the size of a tennis ball and by the time I tell this story again, it will be the size of a baseball or small grapefruit. The other component of the dish that was knock your socks off great was the braised white asparagus. What a great addition to the dish. I may have to go out and buy some this weekend if I can find 5 minutes between shows of Willy Wonka to actually cook. Equus will be the next stop on our restaurant tour of the area once we finally get a chance to go out again.

Third CourseHerb Crusted Baramundi, Stewed Tomato, Fava Beans and Preserved Myer Lemon
Robert Albers, The Pleasantdale Chateau

A very nice piece of fish that suffered by having to follow the excellence that was the veal cheek ravioli. It was served with a Meyer Lemon Sauce that surprisingly played well off of the stewed tomatoes. The fava beans got more jokes about Hannibal Lecter than anything else. Ok, I was the one telling the Hannibal Lecter jokes but that is neither here nor there.

Fourth CourseHoney Laquered Sonoma SquabBacon Braised Cabbage-Mustard Spaetzel
John Halligan, The Park Steakhouse

Now maybe it’s just the events I go to or the time of year of some of these events but squab seems to show up on the menu more often than I would actually care for it to show up. It never seems to be prepared in the same way either. It almost seems like chefs don’t know what to make of it either. Unlike some others at the table, I am willing to bet that the squab wasn’t actually undercooked or raw but that squab is actually a denser, gamier bird and thus has an almost red meat appearance & appeal to it. While it was quite good, it really wasn’t ever going to be my first choice and I will admit that I did not finish the plate. The spaetzel was a little bland almost didn’t seem to go with the dish but the sauce was enough to cover for the spaetzel’s shortcoming.

Fifth CourseBraised Venison over sweet slab bacon with petite apples and Brussels sprouts
Richard Kennedy,The Terrace, Hilton at Short Hills

I hate deer. They are long legged rats in my opinion so they aren’t exactly tops on my list when it comes time to strap on the old feedbag. So despite my preconceived notions, Chef Richard Kennedy was able to deliver an entrĂ©e that I found to be quite tender & tasty. I also quite enjoyed the sweet slab bacon though it was considerably less than a slab and I also really liked the petite apples. My wife leaned over and stole all of the petite brussels sprouts so I can’t tell you if those were any good or not but considering my aversion to then in the first place, it was probably a good thing she did take them.

Dessert Buffet- Muslin tent with Amarula for coffee (an African liquer) and sumptuous chocolates
Balsamic Caramel : handmade carmel with aged balsamic vinegar ina dark chocolate shell, sprinkled with Fleur de Sel
Banana Cinnamon : dark chocolate ganache infused with Tung Hing cinnamon and banana puree
Cinnamon Clove : coffee in a dark chocolate ganache in cased in a colorful pyramid shape
Jacqueline : milk chocolate hearts containing green tea infused white chocolate ganache and flavors of lemongrass, caramel, coconut
Balsamic Dark Chocolate Ganache : infused with rosemary and flavored with 12 year old balsamic and organic honey
Olive Oil and Sea Salt Chocoalte : the signature chocolate of Donna and Company
Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache : flavored with ginger, coconut and African piripiri pepper
Chocolate Torte : flourless truffle cake with a mango filling
Chocolate and Cointreau Mousse : a mini chocolate cup with mousse
Diane Pinder, Master ChocolatierDonna Toscana Chocolates and Lounge

What can I say about the dessert other than the long lines at the chocolate station were well deserved and never ending. I didn’t get to try all of the chocolates but the clear winner in my jaded opinion was the Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache flavored with ginger, coconut & African Piripiri Pepper. It was sweet & creamy in your mouth and then the heat hit the back of your throat and exploded your senses. I am really hoping that Santa Claus finds it in himself to recognize what a good boy I have been this year and leaves me a few of those bad boys under the tree.

So that is my well sated review of the menu for “A Dinner of Hope: Sunset on the Serengeti” from Behind the Shades….swampy abides

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Dinner of Hope: Sunset on the Serengeti - a menu preview

It's time of year again and tomorrow night is going to be the 2009 edition of A Dinner of Hope: Sunset on the Serengeti. An evening of culinary delights benefitting Creative Heartwork (http://www.creativeheartwork.org/). This organization is near & dear to my heart as I was chairman for 6 years before resigning at the beginning of this year. Creative Heartwork, Inc.® utilizes the power of the arts to heal children and increase their capacities for wellness and future independence.

As I have in prior years, let me give you a preview of the courses & chefs for the evening (I don't have details on the cocktail hour other than the chef who is providing the Hors d'Oeuvres.

Cocktail Reception-All authentic African foods
7 passed HD’O
Charmain Sithappah, Bronx NY
The Seasoned Pot

First Course
Warm Sea Scallop with Corn and Acorn Squash Chutney
David Haviland Castle on the Hudson

Second Course
Veal Cheek Ravioli more description needed
Scott Cutaneo Restaurant Equus, Bernardsville

Third Course
Herb Crusted Baramundi, Stewed Tomato, Fava Beans and Preserved Myer Lemon
Robert Albers, The Pleasantdale Chateau

Fourth Course
Honey Laquered Sonoma Squab
Bacon Braised Cabbage-Mustard Spaetzel
John Halligan, The Park Steakhouse

Fifth Course
Braised Venison over sweet slab bacon with petite apples and Brussels sprouts
Richard Kennedy,The Terrace, Hilton at Short Hills

Dessert Buffet- Muslin tent with Amarula for coffee (an African liquer) and sumptuous chocolates

Balsamic Caramel : hanmade carmel with aged balsamic vinegar ina dark chocolate shell, sprinkled with Fleur de Sel
Banana Cinnamon : dark choclate ganache infused with Tung Hing cinnamon and banana puree
Cinnamon Clove : coffee in a dark chocolate ganache in cased in a colorful pyramid shape
Jacqueline : milk chocolate hearts containing green tea infused white chocolate ganache and flavors of lemongrass, caramel, coconut
Balsamic Dark Chocolate Ganache : infused with rosemary and flavored with 12 year old balsamic and organic honey
Olive Oil and Sea Salt Chocoalte : the signature chocolate of Donna and Company
Milk Chocoate Peanut Butter Ganache : flavored with ginger, coconut and African piripiri pepper
Chocolate Torte : flourless truffle cake with a mango filling
Chocolate and Cointreau Mousse : a mini chocolate cup with mousse


Diane Pinder, Master Chocolatier
Donna Toscana Chocolates and Lounge

Of course, all items are subject to change as you never know what may happen in a kitchen over the course of the evening and you don't have to watch Iron Chef or Top Chef to know that things can happen. Expect a review of the evening's offerings early next week.

There is also going to be a silent auction but don't expect me to be bidding on any of that Yankees crap that might show up.

Quietly pondering the inclusion of squab yet again from Behind The Shades.....swampy abides

Monday, October 26, 2009

Spicy Butternut Mango Soup or yet another swampy recipe using fruit

The following recipe was adapted (ie: stolen) from Everyday with Rachel Ray so obviously now it is considerably better than it was in her shill of a magazine.

And yes, for those of you who remember my other successful recipes from my allrecipes.com site, it does incorporate FRUIT……

Spicy Butternut Mango Soup

2 tablespoons of Vegetable/Canola Oil

1 Onion – chopped/diced

2 ½ lbs of Butternut Squash – cubed

2 tablespoons of Brown Sugar

2 teaspoons (heaping) of Chipotle in Adobo

3 cups of Vegetable Broth

2 Mangoes – chopped

1 cup of Buttermilk

Salt & Pepper to taste (I only use Hawaiian Sea Salt)

Garnish with whatever you feel like garnishing with – I garnished with a spoon myself

Directions

Saute the onions in the oil over low to medium heat until translucent. Add the brown sugar, chipotle in adobo & butternut squash cubes and stir until incorporated. (I like that word) Add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and then back to a simmer until the butternut squash cubes are soft. Add mango and let simmer a few minutes before pureeing in blender. Return to pot and add buttermilk. Serve & Garnish.

If it sucks, which it didn’t for me, then blame the editors of Everyday with Rachel Ray. If you like it, then it was my changes to the recipe that made it a success.

Looking at an empty bowl from Behind The Shades….swampy abides

The World Series - A Mets fan's biggest nightmare

Yankees vs Phillies. Could it possibly be any worse ?

As a Mets fan who works in NYC with a plethora of Yankees fans, having them win yet another one would be comparable to finding out your new proctologist is Kamala the Ugandan Giant.

Of course the only good thing about Philadelphia is leaving it. Hoagie Haven in Princeton makes better cheesesteaks too. (Try a #17 with the works, trust me) I have hated the Phillies & their arrogance almost as much as their hockey brethren, the flyers. That says a lot right there.

So I think the best thing for me with regard to this year's almost winter classic is to boycott & ignore it. Look for this blog to talk about anything but the World Series.

Looking at a bleak next 2 weeks from Behind The Shades.....swampy abides

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Fly Me ! I'm Swampy !" - my latest take on air travel

It was “up, up & away” for me again today as I was once again winging my way across the not so friendly skies. Back in the 1970’s, perky stewardesses from National Airlines innocently smiled and invited us to “Fly Me ! I’m Cindy !”. Flying in America was classy & fun. Nowadays however, common decency & decorum have disappeared and the airlines have grabbed their collective crotches like an erstwhile Michael Jackson while telling passengers to “Fly This !”. Air travel now has all the glamour & appeal of a bus trip to Gary, IN. By the time I land tomorrow night back in Newark, I will have achieved Platinum Elite Status in my frequent flyer program and all I can say to that is “whoop-de-doo !”. While it does mean that I will get a few extra perks when I do fly like warm cashews & wider seats, it also means that I will have spent way too much of my time on airplanes. I really don’t think that I am telling anyone anything earth shattering or that they don’t already know but it makes me feel good to vent and so vent I shall.

As I mentioned earlier, there was time in the history of air travel where flying was seen not as an entitlement but as more of a privilege. People dressed nicely and they were civil to each other. Now a great many passengers look like they just rolled out of bed and put on whatever didn’t smell that bad from the dirty laundry pile in the corner. Don’t even get me started on those folks that insist on taking off their shoes when they get on the plane. This isn’t your living room folks. Put them back on. I really don’t want to see & or smell your feet.

A quick aside, I read this morning that researchers at the esteemed Oxford University had successfully implanted a memory into the brain of a fruit fly that told it that tennis sneakers smelled bad. Why I ask ? I would think that any single cell organism or above on the evolutionary chain would be able to figure that one out. I do wonder if there is a way to employ this technology on those inconsiderate folks that take their shoes off on the plane ? But I digress…..

The airlines certainly haven’t helped any with their nickel & diming of passengers with their increasingly petty & loathsome fees for “extras” like checking luggage. These obscene charges have resulted in larger & larger bags being considered “carry on” by a great many of my fellow passengers. Bags so fat that they can barely roll down the aisle. Bags so big that they can’t possibly fit into the overhead getting repeatedly jammed & jammed into the overhead thus holding up everyone else trying to elbow their way down the aisle so they too can repeatedly try to jam their bag into a too small space before some other schlub gets to it first. Don’t forget that indignant passenger with the oversized bag who barely makes it onto the flight who finds that all the overheads are already crammed to capacity with other passenger’s crap and they will have to actually gate check their monstrosity. I am sure that there is a special circle of hell for these people but I am not sure where it is because the gate has been switched 3 times in the last 15 minutes.

Another quick aside, since this is now the 2nd time in a week that I have had the pleasure of seeing “UP” on one of my flights, who took all the pictures of Carl & Ellie in the “Stuff I’m Going To Do” section of Ellie’s scrapbook ? But again I digress….

The nickel & diming really only starts with the baggage but also extends to the food that is ‘served’ on some airlines. Free is few & far between and what is free really isn’t going to get a Michelin Rating unless we are talking about how it resembles chewing on a tire. What they try to sell you isn’t much better so a great many people have taken to bringing every type of concoction they can get past security without it being classified as a missing Iraqi WMD. Just the aroma of what the folks in the row behind me 2 flights ago would have been enough to send a fruit fly in search of a rancid tennis sneaker no matter what had been implanted in their brains.

The one group of people I do feel sorry for in all of this mess are the flight attendants. Now I have never been on a flight where the flight attendant had actual control of the flight or where they had any say as to whether air traffic control was going to put the plane in an interminable holding pattern or where they had anything to do with your middle seat getting double booked but they do catch all of the heat. Listen people, it’s not their fault. Blame Mother Nature for the turbulence. Blame the airlines for overscheduling flights in & out of airports that can’t possibly handle the traffic. Blame your fellow passengers for not gate checking the bag that they stuffed Grandma & 2 of the kids into so they wouldn’t have to pay extra for a seat thus delaying the “pushback” from the gate. Blame the surly gate agent who has been yelled at by every other over entitled passenger for double booking your seat. Just leave the flight attendants alone. It’s not their fault that someone else grabbed the last pillow or bought the last bottle of overpriced Heineken. They want to get off the plane as much as you do. Trust me.

And that is the view for now from Behind The Shades……until next time, swampy abides….

Monday, October 12, 2009

Back from Orlando with thunks on Survivor, Football & a whole lot of what not....

So I spent 4 days last week in Orlando inside a convention center at an industry conference that was only slightly less painful than being boiled in oil & eaten alive by starving cannibals. At least I flew first class there & back.

My hotel was under construction when I got there so that meant no free appetizers, breakfast or snacks on the executive level. I would have been better off at a DewDrop Inn or a Motel Sixty Nine. I am getting so spoiled.

Anybody watch any football yesterday ? I am wearing my Memphis Musician tie today because I have some friends up in the beantown area who are singing the blues today. Guess that walking talking touchdown tossing Ken doll couldn’t beat the extra from Next of Kin and the rest of his motley crew in the seriously ugly brown & mustard uniforms. I did dig on some of the players twisting their vertical striped socks so they looked like barber poles. I liked the scoreboard at the end of the game better. If the sun were actually out today, it would be orange with blue streaks.

Finally watched Survivor this weekend and stop the presses, the idiots at FOA FOA finally won a challenge. Natalie, the blow up Barbie doll, who had yet to say more than one coherent sentence in the past episodes actually stepped up, talked & delivered. Russell may think he has that tribe under his thumb but I have a feeling that Jaison may be the start of an undercurrent of rebellion. Without his redneck minion from the other side of Hell, the outlaw hillbilly, Russell may find the going a bit trickier even for the holder of an immunity idol.

Over at Club GALU, Sister Detroit was actually making herself out to be even more of an outcast and even more disposable for the yoga crew than Shambo & her magnificent mulletness. I think the only thing that actually saved Shambo this week, beside the fact that she is a graduate of the Dr. Doolittle Correspondence Course in Conversational Chicken, was the fact that Club Monica & her itsy bitsy purple polka dot bikini was so pathetic in the challenge that her yoga crew had to save her from being targeted by Captain Dreadlock for elimination. And props go to Eric for finding the other immunity idol by using her royal mulletness’s hidden clues against her.

And don’t think we haven’t seen the last of that vagabond chicken either. I am willing to bet that it shows up in a few weeks when Russell sacrifices a goat or something….

(but seriously, nobody cares what I think – you should all just click now on the link to your left for the Bitchy Survivor Blog by ColetteLala – she slays & flays)

It has been my experience that most double standards are a one way street & I am heading the wrong direction.

I missed Top Chef this week but finally got it recorded last night so nobody tell me who was told to pack their knives. Of course that assumes that anyone is actually reading my blogs and we know that no one is because kharma is a bitch that way.

Protesters in the street outside my building ? Really ? Why ? Did they actually find out that I was back at work today? I may have to send someone down to find out. It is Columbus Day but that shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I think.

The Yankees beat the Twins and the Angels swept the Sawx. This is the best case scenario for us yankee haters in that the Angels have had their number this year with the exception of the final series in California. And by the way, they are still the CALIFORNIA Angels to me, none of this Anaheim Angels crap.

I love cooking in the crackpot on lazy Sundays. Threw in some pork shoulder with red & green peppers, carrots, butternut squash, sweet & white potatoes, apples, apple cider, some bbq sauce and some woostershistershiresauce. Dang tasty over some yellow rice. Guaranteed the wife & kids won’t leave an leftovers for me.

Dancing with the Wannabe & Never Were Stars is on tonight and I have read that the ratings are off dramatically. It is either because they have a mix of real nobody cares celebs or that Julianne Hough left the show. My $$$ is on the latter.

I had to scrape frost off my windshield this morning, guess that means that those final 10 habaneros I picked on Saturday were the final 10 habaneros I am going to get to pick this year. My garden was pretty much a disaster but I am just going to blame George W. Bush for it all anyway. It seems to be in vogue again.

I know I am few days late on this one but you can check my twitter feed if you want from Friday for verification but I did say that the Nobel Peace Prize did seem to me like it was a consolation prize or one of those pathetic little league participant trophies for losing out on the Olympics. I still can’t believe that the Power of 3 that was Barack, Michelle & Oprah couldn’t bring the games home to Chicago.

The weather is cooling and the boots are chilling but I do not have a boot fetish…

I really love watching Amanda from CHOPPED struggle on the Next Iron Chef – every time someone criticizes her she looks like she is constipated….

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving !!! (think they know they are celebrating 6 weeks early ?

This past Saturday was my fake ID birthday from high school. It says I turned 48.

And a week from today my sobriety will finally be old enough to legally drink.

I had 25 voicemail messages on my phone when I came in this morning. I really wish I had a delete ALL button.

A reporter from Channel 5 asked me if I thought the tickets at yankee stadium were overpriced. I told her you couldn’t pay me enough to go to a game. I don’t think I will be on the 10pm news.

It’s 3pm and there isn’t a realistic chance in hell of me actually doing anything productive in the next 2 hours. I already cleared out all the emails from last week and reassigned any real work I might have had. Now I am trying to figure out what to watch/listen to on Hulu before it is time to leave.

And on that thought, it is perhaps best to say that’s the view from Behind the Shades…..until I am bored again and you are looking to kill some more brain cells…..swampy abides

Thursday, October 01, 2009

just because I didn't feel like doing anymore work today

No one in my family wanted to walk through the front doors of the church with me last Sunday. Did they really think I was going to get struck by lightning ?

Of course the Pastor was more than happy to shake my hand after the service. I did make sure to check and see if I still had my watch on when he was done.

I have to sing & dance in the play my middle swamprat volunteered me to be in. This could get ugly. Damn you Youtube !

Isn’t just plain terrible that I HAVE to play golf for work tomorrow ? Yeah I know, you feel my pain.

Just watched last week’s premiere of FlashForward on Hulu – it was okay but certainly not worth ditching Survivor. I will stick to watching it online for now.

I made my killer vegetable cheese soup last weekend so now I need to come up with something else to make this weekend. I am thinking butternut squash or pork loin but really it will probably be more like Chopped in that I will open the Freezer and see what I pull out.

Speaking of Chopped, one of the female judges, the stern blonde – not fat Alex Guarnaschelli, is going to be one of the 10 competitors on The Next Iron Chef. I really hope she tanks but I have a sneaking suspicion that she will do well since she only lost to Bobby Flay by 1 point in Battle King Crab.

Speaking of Iron Chef, the Chairman’s nephew is paired up with Lacey Schwimmer on Dancing with the Wannabe Once Were Never Will Be Stars and he doesn’t look half bad. He should be getting some strong cult viewer dial-in support. I am torn between wanting him, Natalie Coughlin or Louie the Snowboarder to win. I think I want Louie to win because he is dancing with Julianne Version 2.0 and she is kind of cute and fun to watch.

Speaking of fun to watch, I m loving ABC’s Modern Family starring Al Bundy. I will boil it down in a nutshell for you, Al dumped Peg and got a trophy wife, Bud turned gay and Kelly got smart and married an idiot. How can you not watch this ?

How can you also not be watching college football. The season seems to be in one big shaker and the AP rolls out a new & completely different Top 25 every week. I guess the writers are waiting for the BCS computer to tell them what the rankings should really be. Just keep the Big 12 & The Big 10 out of the National Championship game – PLEASE !!!

Drop the Puck !!!!

Dianne Birch is one of my favorite free download finds from StarCrooks. Check her out if you get a chance.

Speaking of StarCrooks, I will miss the free coffee once our offices moves uptown to that deluxe apartment in the sky-yi-yi-yi….

Roman Polanski deserves to be in jail. Anyone who defends him & his actions obviously does not have a daughter. I have 2 and people like him scare me to death.

I’ll be back on the road again next week which will mean nightly updates from my hotel. Or maybe not. It really depends on how lazy I am.

The Broncos will upset the cowpokies in Denver on Sunday and my undefeated season prediction will still be alive and the sun in my world will still be orange with hints of blue.

My habaneros are finally kicking in even if they are late and that is the view for now from Behind The Shades……swampy abides…..

Monday, September 28, 2009

SURVIVOR - Episode 2 - 09/24/2009

Finally got around to watching the 2nd episode of Survivor last night so we need to quickly get my ignorant thoughts down before I go over and read the most excellent bitchiness that is brought forth weekly by ColetteLala on her blog (Click on the link to the left).

I said it last week and I will say it again, Mark Burnett has to be beside himself with glee because of Russell. The guy is pure evil and purely full of himself. He is obviously a student of the game and he already has the camp under his control. His proactive search of the camp for the immunity idol was pure genius. As was stuffing the idol down the front of his too small, too tight shorts/underwear because no one in that camp is going to risk getting caught by him looking at his package. He’s targeted 2 survivors and has picked them both off. His team however better start winning some challenges or it will be his head on a stake in the jungle instead of a pig’s.

Ben, the outlaw hillbilly, may soon surpass Russell as the most hated man on Survivor if he keeps up the cheap play, the ketchup sandwiches and the dissing of the Probst & his “sissy rules” at Tribal Council. Foa Foa may have kept him around for the physical aspect of the challenges but if he can’t stay in them and help them win, he is going to be headed for the Loser’s Lodge pretty damn quick and he can make his own ketchup sandwiches & Kool-Aid.

Not sure what Miss Detroit’s name is but she obviously doesn’t know that EVERYONE is playing for the same $1,000,000. I am a gentleman and was brought up to never hit a lady but if we are both on equal footing and we are both going for the same pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, someone is getting knocked down and it sure isn’t going to be me.

Does the long haired blonde on Foa Foa talk ? I don’t think she said a single word all episode. I also think that at Tribal, she obviously borrowed Heidi Klum’s Project Runway hairstyle. Don’t wrap it too tight darling, we wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.

Was the Outlaw Hillbilly’s trip of Captain Dreadlock really enough to get kicked out of a game ? It was no more egregious than some of the earlier hits and maybe a little less so than some of the facial blows that were delivered in the first 2 rounds. Props to the Probst for spotting it and I guess he had to call it after the warning but if it had been on the final point, I think he would have “swallowed his whistle” like any ref worth his salt.

I think that Captain Milquetoast over at Foa Foa must secretly be French.

I think Shambo is gone the minute she sticks her torch into the flame the first time her team goes to tribal. You can’t not catch fish and lose the snorkel mouthpiece and expect to survive. I guess her mullet must have scared off the fish or was it the wonderful gelatinous whiteness of her bikini clad body ?

Can I use Betsy’s name if I ever get pulled over in New Hampshire ?

If I ever saw Mike cooking in the kitchen of a restaurant I had walked into, my first thought would be “CHECK PLEASE !” He embarrassed New Yorkers everywhere with his pathetic attempt at being tough. Braiding the tip of your nasty ass beard does not strike fear in the hearts of your fellow competitors. Neither does a gut the size of jumbo Turducken. He got his bell rung and his ticket punched all at the same time – good riddance.

Burnett threw us a red herring in the previews for next week that showed Jaison & Captain Milquetoast possibly trying to subvert Russell in his quest for the $1,000,000. You just know that Burnett is not going to let this happen. He doesn’t believe in “fairplay” when it comes to getting ratings especially when you lose the week to FlashForward.

I’ll be back again next week for another 2 minutes & 17 seconds of commentary you won’t remember…

And that is the view from Behind The Shades……swampy abides

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Missives On What I Forgot Over The Weekend

Maybe it's just me but it would seem to me that FaceSpace, Twitless and the others of their ilk seem to be devolving into Anti-Social Networks.

I think it wouldn't be a bad thing to have Neil Patrick Harris as your personal emcee for your everyday life.

As I walked the recycling to the curb around sundown I noticed hundreds of dragonflies darting & swooping in the front yard. When I turned back to face the sun, I saw the clouds of gnats swirling in the air. The dragonflies were diving through them like sharks through a ball of baitfish.

I did battle with the overgrown thorn bushes encroaching on my new forsythias and based on the scratches on my arms & legs, it was a pyrrhic victory at best.

Today is The International Day of Peace. I am already going to have a hard time observing it and I haven't even gotten off the train yet.

And I swear I am going to punch the next person who hip thrusts the ID scanner when my hand is there.

I am wearing my compass tie today because there are more than a few people out there who need some direction.

I consider myself a TV watcher but I when they got to the movie & mini-series section of the Emmys last night, I was completely lost.

Speaking of LOST, Ben wins an Emmy. Or did he ? We won't know for sure until we see the outcome of Juliet whacking Jughead with a rock.

The judges on "Chopped" really, really bug me with their self importance & smugness. Come on already, you just asked people to create a dish with crap that was scrounged from the back of a forgotten cupboard or that you can't find in Whole Foods without a sherpa. Get over yourselves already.

When you see a cop badly out breath in Au Bon Pain and all they have done is walk in from their car parked illegally at the curb, you can't feel safe. Can you ?

Russell on the new season of Survivor is a psychopath. Mark Burnett is probably already scheduling another Survivor All Stars so he can bring him back again. I still say I could win but I also still say that mortgages don't pay themselves.

CBS Monday is almost a slam dunk except for the 10pm hour - I am hooked on Castle mainly because I am a wannabe mystery writer who is still struggling to complete his first novel. I also got turned off last year by Callie & Delko but I can forgive & forget once Delko is dead. I do hope we get more Eva LaRue this year. Either way, one of those 2 shows gets watched online tomorrow here at work....during my lunch hour of course.....

Speaking of watching TV online - thanks to really bad summer tv and limited channels in some of the flophouse I stay in while traveling, I have discovered Kitchen Confidential on HULU. It was a 2005 sitcom set in a fictitious NYC restaurant based on Anthony Bourdain and starring Bradley Cooper. It never saw more than 4 episodes get aired but all 13 that were filmed are available online. I bet Bradley Cooper is hoping that people don't find it even though it isn't exactly half bad. Of course it isn't exactly half good but it beats watching repeats of "The Colony" on Discovery.

And since we are talking about cooking, I made some of my killer easy applesauce last night to go with the fresh bread machine 9 grain bread and the Ham Shank with a pineapple honey mustard glaze that I had going. Too bad I had to take the middle swamprat to a church dinner for overcooked egg noodles and bland chicken noodle soup. We were really there to nourish our soul and not our bodies. I spent most of my time dodging the lightning bolts. The new pastor said he looked forward to getting to know our family but I know he really meant that he looked forward to getting to know my signature in the lower right corner of those green rectangular pieces of paper I keep on my desk.

No sooner do I make fun of Florida State than they go out and kill the # 7 ranked team. Of course having BYU & Utah both lose will help make Boise State's road to a BCS Wildcard Berth that much smoother. I hope.

Speaking of Broncos, my Denver Donkeys are 2-0 and headed for Oakland. I won't get my hopes or expectations up but I am suddenly feeling pretty good about that 16-0 prediction.

And isn't always nice to see the Patricheats lose ? J-E-T-S jetsjetsjets fans are living large today.

Nice to see Brandon Dubinsky is finally signed. Now drop the puck, we have trains to catch.

I definitely write more when I sitting at my desk than I do when writing on my blackberry on the train. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing but since I have virtually no readers and fewer comments, I think the point is moot.

Now I remember why I never wear these shoes. They squeak when I walk.

And I knew the FREE special edition of the NY POST, that journalistic bastion of truth, justice and all the news that is unfit to print was a fake because the kid who handed it to me knew how to speak English.

And that's the view for today from Behind The Shades....swampy abides

Friday, September 18, 2009

A quick blog before sundown

Well here it is. Another Friday afternoon and I have absolutely no desire to work. It’s also been so long since I have blogged that I seem to be out of practice and don’t have any lever ideas or ways to get started. I do know that at sundown Rusha Homa begins so the Big Apple is going to empty like rats off a sinking ship and my train is going to be packed so that should help to put me into a real peachy keen mood….

Speaking of peaches, I made an outstanding peach & blueberry cobbler a few weeks back and I posted a picture on Twitter but don’t ask me to do that here because quite honestly I don’t know how and I am too damn lazy to learn….

Since we are on the topic of food, I tried something called a Tennessee Tailpipe at Fat Annie’s Truck Stop the other day that will definitely be recreated on SuperDuperBowl Sunday. It was basically a deep fried pulled pork egg roll drizzled with a cheddar cheese sauce. Plan on my adding some chipotle somewhere into that mix…

Been traveling WAY too much recently. I am already Gold Elite for next year and Platinum Elite is within my grasp. Too bad a great number of my flights are on TurboProp planes so First Class means landing safely and not a bowl of warm brazil nuts & a hot fudge sundae. But speaking of flying, a comedian by the name of Jim Norton was on the new Jay Leno Show, which really is nothing more than the old Jay Leno Show which I never watched, and he did a routine about air travel that frankly I found to be neither new or original. But then again, that also a good way to describe my blogs as I haven’t written anything new & original in the 5+ years that I have been serially killing the brain cells of those unfortunate few that have actually read what I wrote.

Speaking of cereal, I read in my local paper that the kid that posed as Pimp to bust ACORN actually got his undercover video career started when he went to the food services department at his college posing as an irish student to protest the school serving Lucky Charms since they stereotyped irish people. I wonder if Mike Wallace started the same way ?

Speaking of the Irish, isn’t it fun watching Notre Dame lose football games at the last minute ? Isn’t it even more fun being a fan of a team that wins in the last minute like the Patricheats did against the Buffalo Jills or even better, like my Donkeys did against the Bungles with the “Immaculate Deflection” ? Major kudos to Brandon Stokley for running along the goal line and burning off even more time. And since we are talking about football programs that basically stink, let’s not forget Florida State. They haven’t been relevant since Jen Sterger was a B cup and they are going to get blown out by BYU this weekend too.

Speaking of getting blown, I had the misfortune of stepping out onto my hotel balcony in Myrtle Beach this week to enjoy the view only to be distracted by the site of 2 old people going at it hot & heavy with the lights on in the building across the way. I guess those little blue pills must actually work because 11 minutes later when I finally got all of the bleach out of my eyes, I glanced over again and they were still going at it. I called housekeeping and had them send up more bleach.

And finally, as I was driving to the airport (no – they weren’t still doing it) I passed “WICKED STICK – a John Daly Signature Golf Course”. My first thought was stripper poles for flagsticks, Hooters girls working the beer cart and you get to quit after 16 holes…..

And with that, I should probably quit too…..that’s the view for now from Behind The Shades…..swampy abides…..

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The 2009 I Hate Your Favorite Team NFL Prediction Blog

Tailgates are being oiled, grills are being stoked, mischievous mascots are up to no good, pom-poms are being pommed, cheerleaders are wearing as little as possible, drunken fat dudes are painting themselves in their team colors and I still hate your favorite team. Welcome to the Behind The Shades edition of the 2009 NFL Prediction Blog.

For the true football fanatic, the time between the end of the SuperDuperBowl and the first Thursday night game in September is almost sheer agony. Sure you have the “intrigue” of the NFL Draft (Will Mel Kiper’s hair move ? Will Chris Berman use the entire dictionary & a thesaurus to boot ? Will someone get left in the green room long after everyone else is gone ? Has anyone learned how to dress like an NBA draft choice ?) followed by training camp (Who is holding out ? Who is fighting who in the drills, sidelines & bars ? Which unheralded rookie will be the flavor of the week after a breakout 4th quarter in the first preseason game ?) followed by your Fantasy Draft (Which team name is the worst ? Who is going to be picked first ? Who is going to pick the first player who was either arrested or found dead over the offseason ?) but those are all just time fillers until Hank Williams, Jr asks us all “Are you ready for some football ?”. Over the next few pages, because I have a lot of educated opinions & facts to spew, I am going to tell you exactly how the season is going to lay out, unfold & progress. In the many years that I have been offering this service I have yet to be wrong, so with that caveat in place, why don’t we have at it ? The first kickoff is getting closer by the minute.

Now in my world the sun is orange with tints of blue and God looks a lot like John Elway. With that qualifier in place I am once again going to predict that my Denver Broncos will run roughshod over the AFC West and the rest of the NFL on their way to a perfect 16-0 season and another SuperDuperBowl title in Miami. I will give you all a minute to call your bookies in Vegas so you can get your $$$ down as quickly as possible before the odds plummet. Now that you are back let me explain. I am a true fan. I am a true orange & blue fan. I go into every week of the season believing my team will win. I never think they will lose until the clock hits 0:00 and the final gun sounds. So 16-0 sounds perfectly rational to me at this point. Hearing Roger Goodell announce next spring “With the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select….” sounds more realistic but that too is somewhat flawed in that my stupid Donkeys have already traded away their # 1 pick in the this year’s draft so all our losing will come to naught.

In the real world, the sun is yellow and in the AFC Worst it is tinged with blue lightning bolts. The Chargers, loathe that I am to say it, are obviously the cream of this curdled crop of football teams. Their late season run (combined with my donkey’s collapse) confirmed that this team has the tools to win the division again. LTD is going to be a man on a mission as he tries to prove to his detractors that he isn’t old, injured or done. If he does falter, the Bolts do have Darren Sproles but there is a question as to whether he can actually live up to the week to week workload. Luckily for both of them, San Diego does have Phillip Rivers at QB and yes, I would trade Eli Manning again today for him. The Broncos are a team in shambles & disrepair. The whole crybaby saga between Jay Cutler & new coach Josh McDaniels was enough to make anyone sick and now star wideout Brandon Marshall is trying his hardest to get in on the act too. The Donkeys still have a suspect defense thanks to drafting yet another running back. Combine that with either Kyle Orton or Chris “Splenectomy” Simms at starting QB and it is going to be a long season in the Mile High. In Kansas City, the Chiefs faithful are already being tested as their new QB, the walking talking touchdown tossing Ken doll’s stand in - Matt Cassel, is already getting banged up. Maybe the chiefs should let him sit out the opener in Baltimore just to be on the safe side. They aren’t making the playoffs this year anyway so a loss that keeps your franchise qb from being decapitated isn’t going to hurt. They also just fired their offensive coordinator and the new head coach, who’s name escapes me and really is irrelevant anyway, is taking over his duties which is never a good portent for the future. As for the Raiders, well when I went to Oakland to talk to Coach Tom Cable about his chances this year, he threatened to punch me out so I left. Suffice to say, the raiders would have trouble beating Notre Dame.

Over in the AFC Least, Bill Belicheat could probably find a way to steal 10 wins for the Patricheats if he had Boy George at quarterback so I fully expect them to run away with the division now that the walking talking touchdown tossing Ken doll is back from his season ending knee surgery and has married a real life Barbie. There is nothing in the division that should be able to stop them. Especially since Belicheat is above the rules. Down in Miami they are going to be wildcatting it again this year (for those who don’t know, the Wildcat Formation is this year’s featured flavor of the month and even Grandpa Odin up in Minnesota has split out wide in a preseason game) but I don’t think that C-H-A-D chadchadchad is going to be catching anyone by surprise this time. The Fish would have a better chance in the division if they got one of their new owners (Hello Serena !) and lined her up as an outside pass rushing linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. The J-E-T-S jetsjetsjets have a new coach, a new quarterback and 2 disgruntled running backs. Combine that with a first round pick who is already bringing back memories of Blair Thomas & Johnny “Lame” Jones with his lack of preseason production. The J-E-T-S jetsjetsjets will get plenty of press in NYC but the back page of the Post will still belong to Eli & Company. The Bills added T.O. for one year this past offseason because no one else was willing to touch him. I personally wouldn’t touch him with a Hazmat suit. He really is the classic example of subtraction by addition. Add in the 3 game suspension that Marshawn Lynch has to serve to start the season and the Bills are going to be lucky to be playing catch-up all season long.

The AFC North is going to come down to 2 teams – The Steelers & The Ravens. Cincinnati will only be heard from whenever Chad Ochocinco twitters & tweets which based on his tweet count maybe be more than any of us will ever care to hear about the Bungles. The Brownies are finally going to start their overrated former Notre Dame quarterback, Brady Quinn, who better be better at tossing footballs then he was throwing Subway sandwiches in that ad a few years ago. The Steelers may be defending SuperDuperBowl champs and Big Ben may have stayed off the motorcycles but I don’t think they are going to be strong enough to hold off Ray Lewis and his crew of felons from Baltimore. Joe Flacco isn’t showing any signs of a sophomore jinx through the preseason and the 3 headed running back they have in RiceMcGaheeMcClain will have football fans remembering the days of 3 headed Broncos running backs. These 3 will be better however. If Ray Lewis can stick to killing people on the field instead of off the field, this team could be headed for Miami in February.

The AFC South will probably be the only division in the AFC that will have some intrigue from top to bottom. Any of these 4 teams is actually capable of winning the division and any of the 4 teams is actually capable of falling completely off the map. Last year the Texans were the Flavor of the Month and then went bad like mayo at a hot bbq in August when fragile Matt Schaub went down yet again. That was okay last year because they had Slingin’ Sage Rosenfels as their backup qb but now he’s up in Viking land backing up the Ancient One so when Schaub goes down (like now), they are screwed. Andre Johnson is still a man among boys at WR but Steve Slaton will be this year’s fantasy football bust. The Jags were supposed to be the other contender last year but they played like Fred Taylor’s groin and were never in it. Now that the groin has gone to New England, fantasy owners are happy because it means the UCLA bowling ball that is Maurice Jones Drew will get all the meaningful carries but it really won’t matter in the long run because as long as any team has David Garrard as their starting qb, they aren’t winning the SuperDuperBowl. The Titans got a surprise last year in that Kerry Collins drank from the Fountain of Youth instead of from the Fountain of Booze and stepped up admirably when Vince Young flaked out. They have a crew of no name receivers, two more than capable running backs in Chris Johnson & LenDale White (who goes after the endzone like he goes after a cheezburger) and a decent defense but they always seem to come up a yard short. The Colts have America’s pitchman, Peyton Manning (who has actually shown a hell of a talent for self deprecating humor – we will see him on ESPN or NBC in a few years), at qb and as long as he is upright and can throw the ball downfield to whoever is running under it, the Colts are going to be contenders in the division. I just don’t think they have what it takes to get the job done anymore and that this is a team that is on the downhill side of their once promising run.

Over in the NFC Least you have a division full of teams that I just can’t stand. Dan Snyder has made the redskins unwatchable with his ego & checkbook constantly getting in the way. Jason Campbell at quarterback also makes the redskins unwatchable. Clinton Portis is only watchable now when he is embodying one of his many different personalities. I do own Santana Moss in one of my fantasy leagues so I guess I do have to watch the redskins on Monday mornings in the boxscores but that is going to be it. The Iggles were probably the least disagreeable team in the division once you got past the fact that they were from Philadelphia. I mean the only good thing about Philly is leaving in my book. The cheesesteaks are overrated and the cream cheese is meh. I prefer Neufchatel myself but that is beside the point and totally irrelevant at this time. The Iggles could always be counted on to screw with the Jints at some point in the season and the wars with the cowpokies were always interesting for the number of fans that got arrested, booked & tossed in the stadium pokie. Then they had to go sign Michael Vick. Woof. I wonder if the Iggles play in Cleveland this year. That would be a fun game to watch just for the reaction of the Dawg Pound. No matter how good Michael Westbrook is at RB, he is going to break at some point and McNabb can’t shoulder it all alone – he’s too old & broken for that. The less we say about Jerry Jones & the cowpokies the better. The best thing to happen to them over the offseason was Tony Romo dumping Jessica Simpson. As for the cowpokies new stadium, well, we all know that Jerry Jones is compensating for his shortcomings with the size of his video screen hanging over the field. I hope every punter in the league aims for that thing and that they hit it over & over & over again so that Roger Goodell finally has to tell Jerry to pound sand and raise it. I also need to go back to Dallas to visit so I can give the new Texas Stadium the same single digit salute I gave the old one oh so many times in the past. Now I was brought up in a J-E-T-S jetsjetsjets household so I was taught to hate the Giants (Jints) from an early age. Having all my friends as jints fans made it easier and the fact that they stunk made it even easier still. I continued my hatred of the jints through college and into my years in Denver when I got to watch them beat my Donkeys for their first SuperDuperBowl victory. I reveled in their blowout at the hands of Ray Lewis and the rest of the felons known as the Ravens. I had an even tougher time watching when they beat the undefeated Patricheats even though I wanted the patricheats to lose because the thought of having to live with SuperDuperBowl winning fans (who are also almost ALL Yankees fans too) was almost enough to make me ill. I did enjoy last year when Plaxico shot himself in the leg and I am glad that Gaptooth Strahan finally retired. The jints player I can’t stand the most is the one that is lionized the most often and that is Peyton’s little brother. I really wanted to see the Williams sisters beat them in that oreo commercial. As an aside, now that I think about it, Venus looks like she could be a pretty decent nickelback in an end of the game prevent situation. Have I talked about the jints enough yet ? Can you feel my love for them ? Good, let’s move on.

The happiest person in the NFC North to see Grandpa Hornhead (or Odin or whatever name we finally agree on for the qb that just won’t retire) was probably the new crybaby in Chicago. Da Bears stole an all-pro caliber qb to go with a strong defense and a solid running game. Too bad he doesn’t have anyone to throw to at WR or TE. The Monday Morning Quarterback & Brett Favre Fellatilist (until this season) Peter King of Sports Illustrated actually picked Da Bears to go to the SuperDuperBowl this year. I am picking Crybaby Cutler to break his leg in week 1. Minnesota may have the best RB in the game in Adrian Peterson but the Vikes also have Grandpa Whatever we wind up calling him and you just know that at some critical point in the season, he is either going to break down or throw and interception. The Vikings are going to contend in the Black & Blue and may even make the playoffs but Miami will not be their final destination this year. Green Bay may actually be the most solid team in the division this year. Aaron Rodgers had a year under the microscope and now the spotlights are shining elsewhere in the division. Ryan Grant & Greg Jennings offer more than a 1-2 punch on offense and the defense usually has some dreadlocked defensive back that can hit & make plays. Look for the Cheeseheads to steal the division from the other 2 teams. Notice I didn’t include Detroit ? the Lions may have finally gotten rid of that football idiot Matt Millen but it is going to be years before they are even close to being good again. From a fantasy standpoint, Calvin Johnson is truly godlike and the absolute ONLY reason to even watch this miserable team.

The NFC South is going to be a crapshoot again this year and in a good way for football fans. The Atlanta Falcons are the favorite due to Matt Ryan at QB, Michael Turner (everyone’s # 1 or 2 fantasy pick) at RB, Roddy White at WR and new offensive toy, Tony Gonzalez, at Tight End. The big question is whether the defense can go all Dirty Bird against the high powered offense coming out of the Big Easy. Speaking of the Saints, Drew Brees is one pass happy MoFo who almost caught & passed Mr. Isotoner Glove’s single season passing record and he didn’t have Marques Colston for a good part of the year and he is also still stuck with Jeremy Shockey at Tight End. Reggie bush still hasn’t proven that he deserve all the outrage for not being picked #1 in the draft a few years back which is probably due to his involvement with the publicity seeking attention whores that are the Kardashians. Pierre Thomas has quietly become a quality back and has made fans in the bayou not miss Deuce & his injured knees as much as they did in the past. The Carolina Panthers are a team that never seems to fall too far by the wayside but are also a team that can’t seem to get it finally done either. At least Steve Smith hasn’t gone all Tom Cable in preseason this year and punched anyone out on his defense. Julius Peppers leads that group and for a relative bunch of no names, they do know how to hit & play. DeAngelo Williams had 18 TD’s last year and there is no reason to think he won’t keep finding the endzone this year. Jake Delhomme is still at QB despite how much fans hate him. It seems like he has been in the league a long, long time and that is about all I can say for him. Down in Tampa, QB is one spot where the Bucs have a big question mark. Byron Leftwich is now going to be the starter but Josh Freeman is going to be looking over his shoulder. The rest of the Bucs are a pretty non-descript group which was fine when Jon Gruden was coaching because he enjoyed keeping the spotlight on himself and not his players but now someone, maybe Earnest Graham, is going to have to step up and carry the load for the Bucs to have a chance. They could play spoiler in the division but I think they are going to be looking at a last place schedule next year.

Out in the NFC Worst, the obvious pick is the defending NFC Champs, the Arizona Cardinals but I am not too sure about that. I think Kurt Warner’s glass slipper may not fit him as well this year but as long as he keeps upright long enough to chuck it downfield, both Larry Fitzgerald & Anquan Boldin are threats to haul it in and take it to the house. Tim Hightower is legit at RB and beanie Wells could be a nice 3rd down option for now. 9-7 may actually win this division. Word out of Seattle is that Matt Hasselbeck is upright again and with TJ Who’syourmama now at WR & a potentially healthy Edgerrin James at RB combined with the (stolen from Texas A&M and why would you steal anything from an Aggie ?) 12th Man could result in them having a legit shot at returning to the top. In SF the Niners have a coach in Mike Singletary who can probably suit up and still rip the head off the opposing QB. In a street fight I would even give the edge to Singletary over his East Bay counterpart, Tom Cable, with the Raiders. Alex Smith has been an absolute bust at quarterback (he’s backing up Shaun Hill for god’s sake – bet the Niners can’t wait to shed Smith’s salary cap hit) and no matter how good Frank Gore has been in the past, he can’t do it all for this team. Their only saving grace is that the St. Louis Rams round out this division. Bulger ? Boller ? Does it matter ? All the Lambs can hope for is that Steven Jackson stays healthy and that everyone else in the division sucks. They are a hopeless franchise that won’t be the worst in the NFC only because the Lions are still supposedly playing pro ball.

So now that we know how the regular season is going to turn out, how do I see the Post Season unfolding ? Let’s take a look….

In the AFC, the real challenge is deciding who the 2nd wildcard team is going to be. I see New England & San Diego getting the top 2 seeds based solely on how they will feast on their divisional opponents and pump up their records. Baltimore & most likely Indianapolis will win the North & South respectively. The two wildcard teams will be Pittsburgh and Houston – just squeezing out the Titans (and making everyone in Houston feel some Oiler Pride – LUV YA BLUE – in the process). Of course the ravens will add some black to that blue in the first round as they kill the Texans and the Steelers will beat the Colts in what is really the beginning of the end for America’s pitchman. That would set up the Patricheats hosting the Steely McBeams and the Chargers hosting the Ravens. Now I may be wrong but I haven’t been yet so I see Belicheat & The walking talking touchdown tossing Ken doll beating Big Ben & Troy Polamalou (the Head & Shoulders guys with the Michael Jackson voice) up in New England and the Ravens committing a couple of felonious assaults out on the west coast to set up what should be a classic cold weather, bad weather AFC Conference Championship game. Hard to bet against the Patricheats but I would since I see the Ravens lowering the boom defensively and the 3 headed running back combo pounding it along the ground until the kid from Delaware proves that you don’t have to go to a big school to be a winner. The Ravens will head to Miami as the AFC Champs.

In the NFC, the picture is a little cloudier. Kind of like the stolen cable we had in our frat house my junior year in college. Trying to pick a Number 1 seed out of this mish mash is kind of like throwing darts at balloons at the carnival, you know you are going to hit something but probably not the balloon you aimed for because the weighting is off. I went into this with one team in mind and came out with another one at the end. Unlike the AFC, none of these teams is getting fat & happy on their divisional rivals but I do see New Orleans & Philadelphia (provided Westbrook stays healthy and Vick doesn’t get bit by a dog or the Philly Fanatic) sneaking into the bye week while the Packers & the Cardinals will get to host wildcard games. The Black & Blue Division will spend most of their time beating on each other and I think that in the end, the Falcons will take advantage of that and steal the 6th spot while the Giants will outlast the Cowpokies and take the 5th spot. I see the Pack handling the Falcons as Brett contemplates retirement again from his Mississippi abode and the Giants will end the charade that is the Cardinals. In the next round I see the Saints rouller-ing over the Giants as the ghost of Archie Manning makes Eli do stupid things down on the Bayou while up in Philly, the pack continue their unlikely run. The Conference Championship game will see the revelers on Bourbon Street implode with ecstasy as the Drew Brees finally leads the Saints to the SuperDuperBowl.

And speaking of which, Landshark Stadium in Miami will be rocking & rolling as the impenetrable defense of the felonious Ravens meets the pass happy airborne attack of the Saints. The Ravens, as a franchise, have been here before and they know the taste of victory having savored it in the past. The Saints have only been here as fans in the stands but I am feeling as good about them as I am my SuperDuperBowl menu (which this week just got the addition of Tennessee Tailpipes from Fat Annie’s Truck Stop on 33rd between 6th & 7th – wow). A lifetime of pain & suffering will finally be lifted as the voodoo witch doctors spread some gris gris on Ray Lewis and the Saints emerge as champions by a final score of 23-17 in a game that America watches until the end and not just for the commercials.

So there you have it. Take it to the Bank. Take it to your Bookie. Take it to Vegas. Print it out and follow along this season as each comment unfolds in real life. Remember, I haven’t been wrong yet.

Of course the season starts on Thursday and then all bets are off.

From behind the shades……swampy abides…..