Wednesday, December 4, 2002

THIS BLOG IS ON VACATION until Monday morning. Enjoy yourselves.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON TURF: Stuart Banner of the Volokh Conspiracy laments this year's demise of the St. Louis Rams' offense in a heartfelt post. Having twice seen said Rams defeat my Eagles in the past sixteen months, before this week's splendid reversal of fortune, I can't claim to have much sympathy for his viewpoint (except as a fantasy football owner of Marshall Faulk's in a keeper league), but I can add some explanation.

Stuart cites the Rams' injuries, and, yes, Kurt Warner hasn't had a solid hand in some time, and Marshall Faulk has been dinged up some. But the real story is a simple one: scheduling and realigment.

From 1999 through 2001, the Rams were in the old NFC West, and not only played their eight home games under the dome, but also had annual road visits to Atlanta and New Orleans. During each of those seasons the Rams played eleven games under climate-controlled domes on artificial turf, quite conducive to their speed-based game, and only five games per year exposed to the sky.

The results? The Rams were 27-6 indoors (.818 winning pct), but only 10-5 (.667) when forced to play under the same conditions that Saints Lombardi and Halas would have preferred.

With the new divisonal realignment of the Falcons and Saints joining the new NFC South, being replaced in the Rams' division by Seattle and Arizona, the Rams had zero dome road games this year.

So, what happens when the Rams are forced to play in natural weather conditions? The Rams are 4-2 at home, 1-5 on the road, the only road win being against the pathetic Arizona Cardinals.

The dome advantage is manifest this year in the Rams' wide receivers' stats. Torry Holt averages 2.3 more yards/reception under the bubble. For Issac Bruce, 4 more yards/reception, plus all five of his touchdowns are indoors.

In short, the Rams have been returned to the land of the mortals because they've been forced to take their turf-enhanced game into the great outdoors, and it just hasn't worked out for them. Fortunately, they'll have a nice, long winter to figure out what to do next . . .

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

THIS BLOG OWNS THIS STIZZORY: Now on MTV, it's Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, Mr. Dogg's new sketch comedy show. Fo' shizzle.
OF COURSE, AT UCHICAGO, THIS WILL BE DECRIED AS "INEFFICIENT": Kudos to the anonymous first-year law student at George Mason University for anonymously donating $19,200 to defray the $192 increase in tuition for 100 of his classmates.

The medieval Jewish philosopher Maimomedes claimed that there were eight levels of charitable giving, starting with those gifts begruding and incomplete, rising to those sufficient but where the donor takes public credit, ending with those anonymous gifts which allow the recipient to become free from the need for further aid. On his scale, this one's a '6', and should be applauded.
THEY'RE BACK: After intermittent post-election appearances, ABC's The Note column is back. It is the essential political news-of-the-day source. Chock full of links, and where else are you going to find add-it-all-up inside baseball like:

[J]ust in the last week, Kerry 1) got Joe Klein to fall deeply in love with him (starting the clock toward the day when Joe turns on him, just like he did with South Carolina Senate candidate Alex Sanders, former President Clinton, et al); 2) inspired unsolicited calls from various Republican operatives to political reporters both trashing Kerry's prospects and making it clear he's seen as somewhat formidable (luckily for us and our somewhat blunted holiday-time reporting skills, these calls were neither simultaneous nor immediately consecutive); 3) got Matt Drudge to attack him over his hair; 4) got the White House pool to throw a question to the president about him; 5) got non-aligned operatives buzzing about his candidacy anew; 6) had the courage to be the first out of the semi-announcement box this round, presumably believing he can raise enough money off of this kind of soft-launch to be able to save the fly-around until later for a second feasting at the trough; and finally, 7) decided it was okay to blow off the local media in favor of a national venue to announce his "exploratory" committee, raising the investigative hackles of at least one of the local papers.

The first primaries are only fourteen months away.
FINDING YOUR NICHE: Like most men of my generation, I'm an ESPN guy. But there's an exception: for pro football analysis, you cannot beat the writers at CNNsi. Between Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback columns and Paul Zimmerman's mailbag and analysis pieces, it's an insightful 1-2 punch that obliterates the repetitive, albeit amusing ESPN competition.

Here's Peter King on Sunday's Titans-Giants game:

Steve McNair showing such guts in winning it for the Titans. McNair was playing with a rib cage shot up with painkillers, thanks to an injury that forced him to miss a week of practice ... Tennessee down 26-14 ... early fourth quarter ... McNair leads the Titans on a 14-play, 72-yard drive to make it 26-21 ... Giants answer with a field goal to make it 29-21 ... Titans get it at their 19 with two minutes left ... McNair leads them 81 yards, capped off by a nine-yard strike to Frank Wycheck ... 29-27 ... Two-point conversion attempt ... Crowd on its feet ... But wait, what's this? McNair audibles on the two-point play ... Turns out he's calling a quarterback draw! What brass knuckles, or something, this man has! ... And he makes it! ... Tie, 29-29 ... Overtime ... G-men win the toss. Advance to the Tennessee 46 but have to punt ... From his 20, McNair completes four key passes, moving the ball to the Giants' 20 ... Joe Nedney's 38-yard field goal seals it ... Titans, 32-29. ... "This ranks with his best games," said Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher. I should hope so, Jeff.

That's just great, evocative writing.
SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN BUGGING ME: If conventional deterrence and economic sanctions seems to have worked with Libya and Col. Muammar Qadhafi, why can't they work in Iraq?

If you have any thoughts on this one, please email me. It's been stumping me for a while.

Monday, December 2, 2002

NO, WE DIDN'T HAVE THAT PICTURE: Among the Google searches that have brought people to this blog over the past few days, according to my counter:
Theo Epstein bachelor
darrell hammond comedy works
taylor hanson ezra jordan pictures
injury pictures for koy detmer
snoop izz
hayden christiansen penis
Steven Seagal's real-life fight accounts

Heh. Lot of disappointed people, I'm guessing . . . .
MORE THOUGHTS ON ASSONANCE: Back in June, I wrote a piece for my friends at the Volokh Conspiracy on Eminem and the literary device of assonance, the use of repeated vowel sounds in poetry. You can read that here.

I argued then that the brilliance of Eminem goes beyond the mad flow and the personal nature of the lyrics. He happens to be a master of using assonance, repeating the vowel sounds to make the lyrics resonate, to reinforce the mood. It's one thing to rhyme line-endings (my favorite? Probably the Beastie Boys' "Sometimes I like to brag/Sometimes I'm soft spoken/When I'm in Holland I eat the pannekoeken" from Super Disco Breakin') -- it's another thing all together to make every dominant vowel sound in a section cohere.

I figured it was time to revisit that analysis after the umpteenth playing of his new #1 single, Lose Yourself (from 8 Mile) on the radio on the way to/from Connecticut this weekend, because it uses the same tools to just the same powerful effect.

Two parts to focus on. As the song opens, watch the transition from eh's (and eh-ee's), which gives you a sense of nervousness, to the oh-ow sounds emphasizing being beat down. (Try saying these aloud for full effect.):

There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
to drops bombs, but he keeps on forgetting
what he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth but the words won't come out
He's chokin, how? Everybody's jokin now
The clock's run out, time's up, over - BLAOW!

Compare that to the last verse, which has three distinct vowel sections, from the angry ooh-aw-ay trios to the hopeful i's to the a long series of ah's at the end, each of which comes back to Em's desperation:
Tear this motherf*ckin roof off like two dogs caged
I was playin in the beginning, the mood all changed
I've been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage

But I kept rhymin and stepped right in the next cypher
Best believe somebody's payin the pied piper
All the pain inside amplified by the
fact that I can't get by with my nine to
five and I can't provide the right type of
life for my family, cause man, these God damn
food stamps don't buy diapers, and there's no movie
There's no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life
And these times are so hard,

and it's gettin even harder
Tryin to feed and water my seed plus, teeter-totter
Caught up between bein' a father and a primadonna
Baby momma drama screamin on her too much for me to wanna
stay in one spot, another day of monotony
has gotten me to the point, I'm like a snail I've got
to formulate a plot, or end up in jail or shot
Success is my only motherf*ckin option, failure's not
Mom I love you but this trailer's got to go
I cannot grow old in Salem's Lot
So here I go it's my shot, feet fail me not
This may be the only opportunity that I got

Whatever you may want to say about his politics, you can't deny the talent.
OR FOR THAT MATTER, A HOLE IN THE GROUND: Can you tell your arse from your elbow?