Friday, January 06, 2017

The Great NFL MVP Robbery Of 2016

Up until this weekend Tom Brady was the favorite for the NFL MVP with the polls and the bookies. Seemingly out of nowhere, Matt Ryan is now hot favorite with both, despite his five losses.

Matt Ryan v Tom Brady
Something doesn’t feel right about this.

As of last week Tom Brady was the hot favorite for the NFL MVP award. I want to punch myself in the face for using this word, but nevertheless here it is, mysteriously, and despite a terrific final, winning, interception free game against Miami, in Florida no less, Brady is all of a sudden placing second to five game losing Matt Ryan of the Falcons.

Um, what?

Yes, Matt Ryan, who lost FIVE NFL games in 2016, has taken over the polls and indeed the betting for the NFL MVP race.

Let’s get one thing straight first, I like Matt Ryan, I think he’s a terrific player, and should Brady ever retire, I would love nothing more than for the Patriots to trade for Ryan and have him steer the good ship New England onto its next dynasty. Pie in the sky, obviously, I am just illustrating that I’m a Ryan fan and have been since his Boston College days.

Brady and Ryan's season stats are very close. They are almost identical actually, particularly if you average out Brady’s over a full, 16 game season. For example, if Brady played 16 games he was on a pace to toss 37 touchdowns. Ryan’s stats are a couple of points higher and that speaks to a very consistent season, however you can’t but take notice of the 7 interceptions.

Sam Monson of PFF wrote a brilliant article about Ryan a couple of months ago and reading it (and indeed watching Ryan) you come away with the impression he’s a super talented gun slinger who sometimes is a bit loose with the rock. Hence 7 picks and extrapolated out further, hence 5 team losses for the Falcons in 2016.

Some in the Ryan camp are apologetically using Brady’s 4 game suspension as a reason Matty Ice should take the trophy. They’re suggesting that Brady lost out on yards and TDs via the gap in games, and technically they are correct. The problem with that argument is you have to use it both ways. Matt Ryan lost 5 (Five!) games, Brady lost 1 (and in that loss they had the ball at the 1 yard line and probably should have at least tied the game).

Call it both ways, as they say.

For me, a major part of the MVP award is the value that player brought to his team and their success story, ultimately measured by wins. Matt Ryan contributed a great deal to a good Atlanta team but lost five games. I would openly wonder has an NFL MPV team ever lost as many as five games before?

Tom Brady has just as good a season statistically as Ryan, better in some categories, and only lost once all year long.

Last I checked it was Most Valuable Player, not 'Guy with slightly better stats in some categories but lost FOUR more games).

The good news is Brady will take this insult and put it to good use. Plenty of football yet to be played, but we could very well see Brady v Ryan in the Superbowl. If that happens, unless you're a Falcons fan, I can bet I know where your money would be.



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Amazing Bradley Lowery

Next time you’re sitting there worrying about something trivial, spare a thought for Bradley Lowery.


Bradley and the Sunderland mascot
Bradley, an incredible young man, is suffering from neuroblastoma, a cancer which attacks the nervous system. He has been fighting it for over 3 years now and has had some tough news from doctors recently, suggesting further treatment might be unsuccessful. Incredibly, Bradley, a huge Sunderland fan, has kept a warm smile on his face throughout the prolonged treatment. He’s a glowing young man, with an infectious grin, and he’s touching hearts and minds all over the football and extended World.

The outpouring of empathy for Bradley, from all corners, is a sight to behold, and hopefully something that keeps him and his family going, in their steep climb up a seemingly insurmountable hill.

Bradley meets Irish star Seamus Coleman

The support for Bradley’s fight kicked into a new gear in September, when Sunderland faced Everton in the Premier League. Sunderland had (and have continued to) done some great things with raising support for Bradley, and when Everton got involved, it seemed to really raise the levels of awareness around the UK and indeed globally. Everton deserve considerable praise for raising $200,000 towards the 5-year old’s cause.

Here’s Bradley on that matchday. If you’re a Dad, it gets hard to watch from the 50 second mark.



Maybe the thing about the footballing element is the way it has brought the absolute best out from our footballing idols. Sure, we love them, and our hopes and dreams rise and fall with them, but, try being a Sunderland fan, it’s tough work lately! However, Bradley’s fight has brought the best out of Sunderland’s players, and indeed from opposition players and teams. More than ‘the best’, it has brought empathy, humanity and touching shows of support on a grand scale.

Figures from across football have come to his support. There’s been terrific messages of support from Robbie Fowler, John Terry, Alan Shearer and many others. Check out some of the mentions on Bradley’s Twitter account.

I believe Bradley is getting all this attention from footballing icons and role models (and of course fans) because he himself is a role model. He’s a force of nature, remaining positive, happy and dignified despite the road blocks life has put in front of him.

He’s an amazing little man.

More about Bradley

Bradley’s family have a website which you can visit here, and you can find out more about the little guy there or indeed make donations towards his brave fight.

They also have a Facebook page here, where the brave family provide updates on the treatment he’s getting and also the support from around the World.

They are also on Twitter here.

You can also send your best wishes to Bradley at the below address. The great lad himself has asked for as many Christmas cards as possible.
  • Bradley's fight C/O 5 Attlee Avenue Blackhall rocks Hartlepool TS27 4BY.
Bradley Lowery

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Make Facebook Great Again.

Facebook is under more scrutiny than usual, and rightly so. The social network behemoth found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time to some extent. As the incredible cascade of media noise around the US presidential election peaked, Facebook in turn became the single biggest media delivery source on the planet Earth. At a time when it could have done a World of good, Facebook instead was a major purveyor in the worst kind of misinformation seen perhaps ever in Human history.


These statements are made entirely apolitically, by the way. I am a left leaning centrist personally, however I am not solely alluding to the deluge of right wing, fake articles that did the rounds on Facebook in the run up to November 8th. I acknowledge fully there were also fake liberal articles designed clumsily to do the same as their right leaning counterparts. Independent reviews have found that as many as 38% of the news articles on Facebook were fake right wing articles, with 16% leaning left. 

The fact is, Facebook has a big problem. Whether it likes it or not it is a massive media giant, and with that should come some responsibility. Instead, the Facebook board is essentially running around watching the flames build, putting its hands over its ears and singing loudly ‘there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong!’.

What exactly is the problem? In short, various groups are hijacking Facebook with landslides of fake news articles, and vast swathes of Facebook’s community of users are falling for it hook, line and sinker. News stories such as ‘How Hillary Funded Assassination Of American Soldiers In Iraq’ have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shares and interactions on Facebook. Months ago, well before the election, you might recall Facebook attempted to do something about this, and their editorial team started to remove some of the crazier articles. As noted, the majority of the crazy is right wing (shocker!) and therefore most of the deleted articles were right wing. Cue the uproar from the right wing community, ‘Facebook is preventing us from free speech!’

It’s important to keep in mind what we’re talking about here, these articles are absolute trash and many are being housed on fake newspapers such as the Denver Guardian, or the Boston Gazette, and being created in placed as far flung as Macedonia, where young college kids are building them to collect Google advertising money from stupid Americans clicking on their bait. That’s literally what’s happening.

The right made such a noise defending these trash ‘articles’ that Facebook panicked, and, seriously, fired their entire editorial team. Yes, fired them, security escorting them off the premises.

Why is all this happening? A clue to the motivation behind Facebook’s moves (or lack of) is the involvement in powerful billionaire Peter Thiel. You might remember him as the individual who had a personal vendetta against the Gawker media empire, and who financed Hulk Hogan’s ultimately successful legal battle against them. Thiel recently poured millions into the GOP presidential campaign, and has made no secret of this right wing leaning. In fact, he revels in it and is obviously starting to exert some serious pressure on the Facebook board to ensure it doesn’t become ‘too left’ leaning.

What are we left with? A stream of endless ‘Hillary killed my husband’ and ‘Hillary worships the devil’ articles lapped up by the less intelligent among us.

What can you, the average Facebook user, do?

The answer, as with most everything, is to look within and take accountability for your own space. We can whine and complain as long and as often as we like, but the fact of the matter is we are (generally) not helpless beings without the ability to enforce change in front of us. Quite the contrary. We can mold everything around us, including Facebook. You can complain all day long about the way Facebook does things, but, it’s a service, and it’s up to you to use it the way you want.

First things first, trim your Friends, no matter how painful. The election provided me insight into a couple of unsavory characters on my list. I have plenty of friends with right and center views that I respect immensely. Good people. I also had a couple of absolute clowns hiding in the weeds, thankfully the election reminded me, I don’t have to listen to certain people. Delete, delete, delete. You don’t owe a single person your Facebook space. Delete.


Secondly, curate your newsfeed appropriately. I spent some time a while ago ensuring I was, generally, following responsible and accountable journalistic sites. A tip; https:\\ImpeachClinton\Right_wing.org is probably not going to be accountable journalism, so you might want to go ahead and unfollow that. It’s quite simple to garden your Facebook weeds to the point where you are seeing a feed that’s at least close to what you’re looking for.

Third, when you are clicking on a link that looks suspiciously slanted (either way, left or right), think twice. There’s a massive difference in reading a well-researched, accountable article with associated journalistic standards, and reading click bait crap that’s designed simply to outrage you. There’s a very good reason the GOP went to great lengths recently to throw insults at levels not heard since Pol Pot at the media. Trump and his cronies didn’t want their lemmings reading The Washington Post, the New York Times or The Guardian. They didn’t want their pawns reading journalists who paid due diligence to their reporting, who researched their articles and exhibited journalistic integrity when producing their content. They wanted a riled-up mob reading right wing gutter press, where facts are few and integrity is nonexistent.

You simply owe it to yourself to stick to proper journalism. Why waste your valuable time reading some garbage, presented to you with the sole aim of getting you all hot and bothered, and, not in a good way?

When you complain about Facebook the fact is you're really commenting on how you, yourself, use Facebook. Like everything in life, you can mold Facebook to be exactly what you want it to be. Just a little fine tuning (stop clicking dumb article links, and whatever you do, don't click on the ads!) and you can enjoy a simple, easy to use and free social network relatively hassle free.

Do it. Make Facebook great again.



Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Would The Top Matt Damon Movies Be Better As DiCaprio Movies?

In May we hypothesized that the top box office hits for Leo DiCaprio would be better if they starred Matt Damon. This all came off the back of The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, comment that ''I believe every DiCaprio movie would be just a little better as a Matt Damon movie.''. At the time we ended up with a 5-5 tie between the two great actors but noted that;


In summary, does this 5-5 tie come anywhere close to proving Simmons’ somewhat outrageous comment? Not really, no. Not really, for two reasons. First, Damon only barely got the nod for most of his 5 wins. DiCaprio absolutely annihilated the suggestion with most of his 5 wins. For example, going back to The Wolf, there’s no way Damon improves on that performance, in any imaginary scenario possible. So, the 5-5 tie is at best a precarious position for Damon. The second reason? Simmons’ original hypothesis can only be fully fleshed out be visiting the same topic upon Damon’s movies. Could DiCaprio have made Damon’s top 10 movies ‘better’?



Well guess what, it's time to find out. It's time to put DiCaprio in ten of the most famous Matt Damon roles and ask, would Leo have done a better job than Matt?





Rounders


10. Rounders.


Rounders shouldn't technically be on this list. It sits currently at joint 32nd on Matt Damon's all-time box office list. The fact is however, despite its slow start at the box office, Rounders has become a cult classic and an essential Matt Damon classic. That out of the way, would DiCaprio in the Damon role improve Rounders? Well, it would definitely have been a different movie. Better? There is a goofy likeability at the heart of Rounders. Whether it's the fun, quasi sleazy, late-night-drinks soundtrack, Edward Norton's boisterous 'Worm' or John Malkovich's over the top Teddy KGB, Rounders might not be technically the greatest movie of all time, but it's a very, very likeable movie. Adding DiCaprio, instead of Damon, might have brought a level of seriousness and perhaps a depth, but that wouldn't have fitted in the context in which Rounders works. So, no, Rounders would not have been better had DiCaprio played Damon's role.


Matt Damon 1-0.


9. The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Ripley did surprisingly well at the box office, taking in almost $90 million, which back in the 90s was decent. It's a terrific, well paced and stylish movie, and, perfectly cast with Damon in the lead role. I say that last part with authority primarily due to one line, delivered early on as Damon meets Law on the beach for the first time. ''Dickie Greenleaf? It's Tom, Tom Ripley, we were at Princeton together.'' Here's the thing, if that's DiCaprio, and he's standing there delivering that line, you just know, immediately, that something is afoot. The audience knows, Dickie Greenleaf knows, we all know immediately that something is not right and this dude is up to something, for sure. With Damon's Ripley, you don't know. He's too goofy in those little yellow shorts and with that foppish hair, way too goofy, to be up to anything, surely? Damon's early innocence and goof lends itself perfectly to the Ripley character. Pushing DiCaprio into that role might have brought some extra menace, but at the cost of the innocence and believability of the Damon Ripley, so essential to the story.

Matt Damon 2-0.

8. Elysium.
At the heart of this exercise we're not judging a movie, we're judging whether one certain actor would do better if they replaced another in said movie. In this case, with Elysium, it's hard to argue DiCaprio wouldn't add a certain grit and tenacity to the Damon role. For whatever reason, Damon is oddly not given much humor, physical or verbal, to work with in Elysium, and that's kind of the point in bringing Damon into a role like this, see The Martian for a perfect example. In this role, with this script, in this movie, DiCaprio could do the robotic with aplomb, and might bring a little extra to the table while doing so.

Matt Damon 2-1.

7. The Departed.
When writing the flip side of this, putting Damon in the DiCaprio role, it was pretty clear that would work, and it's easy to recycle that sentiment and use it here. Damon would be great in the Billy Costigan role, and would bring a different kind of fresh vulnerability to it. On the flip side, DiCaprio would have made an excellent Colin Sullivan, and as we said previously, would have brought some serious extra menace to the role. I hate double guessing casting, particularly in a movie that's so good and which I enjoyed so much, but in this case, you have to suggest The Departed would have been even better had they flipped the lead roles.

We're at a tie, 2-2.



6. Good Will Hunting.
The temptation here is to say, 'No, nope, not even close.' However, you have to imagine DiCaprio in '97 to accurately asses if he could fill out this character better than Damon, and subsequently create a better movie. You think about that, and, you start thinking, 'well, maybe'. However, Good Will Hunting is built primarily on a couple of relationships, and in both of those, Damon excels. The movie succeeds not on the basis of this awful, awful trailer, not on the basis of the tongue in cheek humor or the love interest story line (at times pretty kitsch), but instead it succeeds on the interplay between Damon and Affleck and Damon and Williams. In both situations, Damon is superb. While DiCaprio might have done a fine job overall, Damon created something special in his relationships with Affleck and Williams. That almost father and son like bond that developed in front of us between Damon and Williams is a thing of beauty, and very hard, if not impossible, to recreate.


Matt Damon takes the lead again 3-2.


5. True Grit.
Grit is an unexpected gem. Jeff Bridges hammers home his credentials as an American Treasure, a truly brilliant performance, I'm going to go as far as saying the greatest modern Western performance to date. Damon's LaBoef flits in and out of the story at important junctures and provides some levity and a nice balance to Bridge's Rooster Cogburn. Introducing DiCaprio into this role could have upended that balance and changed the dynamic of the movie. Damon was understated, and I don't know if DiCaprio can do that, understated.

Matt Damon 4-2.

4. The Ocean's movies (all of them).
Bunching the Ocean's movies together makes sense as Damon plays the same character all the way through and those character traits solidify as he goes through the sequels. Damon brings his usual, affable, everyman goofiness to the role and by the time we get to the third part of the story, the movie is leaning heavily on Damon and sometimes squirmingly awkward situations. The fake nose thing for example, simply no way DiCaprio pulls that off without someone physically pointing a gun at him, or threating to melt a glacier or something. Damon's Ocean turn works because it's Damon, and because of his relationship to Clooney and Pitt. Stick DiCaprio and his somewhat lone-wolf persona in that mix and, who knows what you'd get. Whatever happens, no way you get him to do that nose gag. Just no way.

Matt Damon 5-2.
3. Saving Private Ryan.
A short but pivotal role, there's a certain vulnerability required to play Private Ryan. His scenes all involve Damon playing an Iowa farm boy type, complete with goofy laugh and a level of soft sentiment that not many could bring to that role. DiCaprio would have brought a steel and an edge, sure, but it might have been out of place here. Perhaps the easiest one to judge, no way DiCaprio improves upon the movie with his inclusion.

Matt Damon 6-2.


2. Bourne (All of them!).
Now we're getting to the good stuff. Let's ask it out loud, would the first three Bourne movies be 'better' with DiCaprio in the lead role? Thinking about what DiCaprio would have brought to the role, there definitely would have been an uptick in urgency and tension. DiCaprio walking swiftly down a Swiss street, or DiCaprio beating bad guys up in Waterloo station might have been edgier and somewhat tougher than the Damon version of same, but, it's not these scenes that set the tone for the opening Bourne trilogy. Instead, think of the elements that made Jason Bourne what he is. Think of Bourne waking up on a park bench in the snow, and discovering he could kick the crap out of Swiss Police officers. Think of Bourne and Marie outside the hotel, ad-libbing their way into a plan to obtain phone records (so simple, so human, so effective), Damon delivers a brilliant 'Oh, ok' moment when Marie gets the job done, I don't see DiCaprio getting that moment right. Think of Bourne in any of the more innocuous situations and it's hard to imagine DiCaprio duplicating the humanity in those parts. I contend it's those background building moments that make Bourne the success it is.

Matt Damon 7-2.

1. The Martian.
Good golly The Martian was a massive success. Over $230 million gross, $54 million on its opening weekend alone. They couldn't have thought it would be this successful. Sometimes a good movie just happens, kind of out of the blue. A large slice of that success is of course Damon's every-man, delivered so easily, with just the right level of humor at the right time. Damon is laugh-out-loud funny in several parts, and brings a great humanity to the role. I think we can all see where this is going.

Matt Damon wins, with a stunning, landslide 8-2 win over DiCaprio. The simple truth is that, no, the top Matt Damon movies would not be better with DiCaprio in the leading role. This doesn't mean either actor is necessarily 'better' than the other. In this case it just means that I believe Damon was very well cast in his top movies.
When we looked at the reverse a couple of months ago, we decided that a 5-5 tie was apt for the top 10 DiCaprio movies. This suggests Damon might be a slightly more flexible actor than DiCaprio, but remember the caveat, in the 5 that DiCaprio won, I suggested he won handily, easily proving the better cast actor in those cases.


What have we learnt? DiCaprio is well cast in over half of his movies, Damon perhaps even better cast in the majority of his. DiCaprio brings a seriousness, depth and edge to his roles, while Damon's everyman act is used to perfection in his top movies. Most of all, that's twenty seriously good movies and movie sets we're talking about, and the common denominators are Damon and DiCaprio.

Maybe that's all we need to know.


Monday, October 10, 2016

The Red Sox And Coming Back From Post Season Deficits

The Boston Red Sox are 0-2 down to the Cleveland Indians and you might be thinking to yourself 'Haven't we been here before?' Well, pat yourself on the back, you are correct. Recent Red Sox playoff history is littered with dramatic comebacks. Four in fact, three of which culminated in the World Series title.


The Red Sox don't really start their postseason title chase until they're in a hole

We might be stretching a little, but, you could reasonably conclude that the modern era Red Sox team has to be in a serious hole before it decides to start playing and go win the big one.

Here are the most recent examples of this.

2013 ALCS - down 1-0 to Detroit, won 4-3.
2007 ALCS - down 3-1 to Cleveland, won 4-3
2004 ALCS - down 3-0 to New York, won 4-3
2003 ALDS - down 2-0 to Oakland, won 3-2

The 2013 ALCS looked grim after game one. The big concern going into the series was the Tiger's excellent pitching. They shut us down in game one and had a big lead going into the eighth inning of game two.

Then this happened.




It's safe to say Boston's hopes were very low going into game five of the 2007 ALCS. Down 3-1 and looking dead and buried, the Red Sox turned it around completely and absolutely destroyed Cleveland 30 runs to 5 the next three games. Amazing turnaround, the size of which shouldn't diminish the scale of the comeback, from 1-3 down to 4-3 series winners.

What can you say about the 2004 ALCS, other than it was a great time to be alive. Not so much after game three, when things looked pretty gloomy, but the astonishing Red Sox comeback was a defining moment for the entire franchise, a beautiful gift to its lovelorn fan base. One we'll never forget.

The 2003 ALDS comeback over a good Oakland team is often overlooked as the Sox failed to finish the job and win the series. However, down 2-0 to a very talented, young, Oakland side, Boston dug in and came back with a 3-2 series win, catapulting them on to a historic showdown with the Yankees. New York took the '03 meeting, but perhaps Boston started to learn against Oakland that no deficit is insurmountable, and goodness did they put that to good use the following year.

Hey, things look bleak going into game three tonight, but as a great man once said..

''Don't let us win today''.

















Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The NY Giants Are 'Comfortable' Hiring A Man Who Hits Women And Children.

The New York Giants are reinstating kicker Josh Brown after his one game NFL suspension. Normally this would not be big news to those of us who aren't Giants fans, however in this instance this is very interesting. Sadly it's interesting for all the wrong reasons.

Brown is in the news because he was arrested for being abusive towards his now ex-wife. She has accused him of violence against her, her daughter and her two sons from another marriage on no less than 20 occasions. He has violated a protective order placed by a court of law on him several times, including once where he was arrested for this act. Among the more harrowing details, documented diligently by this Deadspin article, are repeated emotional abuses, verbal and physical assault on her sons and, most chillingly of all, attacking her physically while she was pregnant with their daughter.

Josh Brown can stand in front of reporters and act brave and sum his abusive behavior up by calling it 'Just a moment' (literally how he has defined 20 plus assault allegations, restraining orders and his own admission that he was at fault), but all that does is show he is not repentant for his actions and should not be of gainful employ in the NFL, in a league that allegedly champions integrity above everything.

If you bother to read through the quotes and details Brown is clearly a broken idiot, a dangerous coward, and doesn't really deserve column inches. What's really saddening and disappointing is the actions, or lack of same, of the NFL and the New York Giants, and, to a lesser extent, some of the press.

First to the latter. Mostly the media are busy reporting this from a football perspective, with little or often no reference to Molly Brown, Josh's ex wife, the lady who he abused emotionally and physically over a number of years, by his own admission.

One article, on something called 'Giants Wire' goes as far to implicitly blame Molly Brown for the situation, saying;



''As more and more information on the Brown’s strained relationship came out, it was eventually revealed that Josh had been on the receiving end of domestic violence himself, with Molly having allegedly kicked him in the ribs during one particular dispute.''




Molly Brown defended herself on one occasion and the idiot who wrote the above deems that fit to print in the context that Brown himself has admitted to attacking, emotionally and physically, his smaller, more fragile wife on multiple occasions? Pretty pathetic stuff.

Thankfully some of the media, not just Deadspin, are taking this seriously. Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News writes;

''The NFL suspended Brown for one game, a pathetic slap on the wrist but nonetheless an acknowledgment of his wrongdoing.''

That's of key importance to note. The NFL wouldn't have suspended Brown had they not thought he was guilty. The suspension is a clear message that yes, he was an abusive coward who attacked his ex wife.

That's where the real issues start. If someone is guilty of physical abuse of their spouse, is the NFL really saying that all that is worth is a one game ban? This is a league that pontificates about integrity at every given opportunity, a league that famously bans players four games for being 'generally aware' of tampering with footballs.

Finally, the Giants.

The Giants claim they have conducted their own investigation and with that in mind they say they are comfortable with their decision to sign Brown to a two-year, $4 million contract this spring. They are comfortable with hiring a man who has beaten emotionally and physically his then-pregnant wife? That's an unusual thing to be 'comfortable' with.

I don't know why they think it's important to justify this ugly lack of judgement on their part with a glib throwaway comment about their 'own investigation', perhaps the Giants need to be reminded that the court of law and indeed even the NFL are superior to them in handing down judgements and in both of these situations Brown has been deemed guilty of his actions.

I suppose we shouldn't be shocked that Eli Manning has come steaming out, full speed, in defense of Brown, this is a Manning we're talking about here;

“I’m glad to have Josh back. Support him and support your teammates through everything that goes on. Good to have him back on the team and kicking for us this week,”

You're glad, are you Eli? You're glad to have a man back who kicked and punched his pregnant wife? You're glad to have a man back who intimidated a small family over the course of years with threats of violence? That's something you're glad about?

Overall, where are we on this one? Well, the Giants and the NFL have basically taken a look at the Josh Brown situation, where he has repeatedly, over a number of years, emotionally and physically abused his ex wife and her children, and said they are 'comfortable' with that. Eli Manning has gone on record saying he supports this abusive, cowardly thug. Some publications are looking to place the blame on a frail, tiny woman who suffered for years at the hands of this cretin.

Where are we? We're probably exactly where you would expect us to be, in a society that's okay with this abusive, cowardly Neanderthal being rolled out on a weekly basis to play football.

We're exactly where you would fully expect, in this World.











Tuesday, September 06, 2016

On DeShon Elliot, Cheap Shots and Texas Football Fans

On Sunday Texas beat Notre Dame in what many are describing as an instant-classic type game, complete with several lead changes and dramatic incidents, perhaps none more so than in the third quarter when Notre Dame were threatening. Torri Hunter Jnr (yes, that Torii Hunter!) looked certain to score a crucial touchdown when he was hit by DeShon Elliot.

Here's the hit



Reviewing the social media and subsequent news reports, the hit was dirty. The general consensus is that the referees and the replay booth simply missed the fact that Elliot clearly made contact high, to Hunter's head, and the play should have been ruled 'Targeting'.

Naturally one group had a serious view the other way, a view they were not shy about sharing or defending. I shared the hit on Twitter shortly after the event, and commented that it looked very dirty, to me. I was instantly assaulted by a dozen or so Texas fans, who used various types of colorful language to disagree with me. They touched all the usual topics in their tweets, homophobia, racism and so forth. The usual. I dealt with Texas football fans before, when I had the audacity to suggest that Jonny Manziel was not going to work out in the NFL. Let's just say I know what to expect from Texan college football fans.

Out of morbid curiosity I browsed down through the acidic timelines of the knuckle dragging clowns that assaulted me on Twitter, just to see what level of cretin was behind the vitriol. Every single one of the dozen or so I reviewed had the following attributes. They were all white males and looked generally between 30-60 or so, although one kid looked like he was about 12. Our outlier! They were all unabashed Texas Longhorn fans, no shock there of course. Interestingly, and perhaps not wildly surprising given their pathetic usage of the English language, they were all clear Trump fans also, half of them belching this out for all to see on their Twitter biography.

What was most interesting of all, each and every one of them had a clearly stated view on the whole Colin Kaepernick mess. I will give you one guess which way they voted on that one. To a person, they rebuked the San Francisco QB for not showing respect with his actions. These angry individuals demanded respect to be shown to the American anthem.

Respect.

Just not in football. Just not to me. Just not to Notre Dame. Just not to Tori Hunter Jnr, who has been mocked relentlessly by Texas fans and described as a 'woman' for not 'taking his hit' and shutting up.

Respect would seem to have certain caveats added to it, if this little cross section (and I do apologize to regular, normal, nice Texan college football fans, I know you're out there too!) is anything to go by.

To finish, this was not a clean hit, by the way. It was a filthy hit, and emblematic of all the problems being experienced in both college and pro football. Tackling is the act in sports of taking a player down using your arms and body, wrapping the player up and bringing him to the ground. What Elliot did was pure thuggery, and if that's the way they're teaching tackling these days, football is going to last a couple of decades and then be gone. That's too dangerous, and there's simply no excuse for it.

Football could learn a lot from Rugby Union on this point. Rugby teaches tackling very well, and manages to be a very rough, manly sport while also generally assuring the safety of its players. They do this proactively and quite progressively, largely by teaching kids to tackle the right way, but also penalizing any hit about the shoulders or to the head region. All this and meanwhile the fan-base manages to continue to enjoy their sport without a reactive, knee-jerk complaint that the sport is turning 'soft'.

Times change, people, as does body size and the power and speed of modern athletes. The 'In my day' crew are simply showing how redundant and old their thinking is, it shouldn't take science to point out that playersare considerably bigger and faster now than 10, 20 and indeed 30 years ago. A big hit in the 70s is nothing compared to a big hit in 2016.

So funny that so many of those complaining about the softening of sports are 40 and older, in other words, generally not actually playing sports of putting themselves on the line. Added to that, those demanding respect for the national anthem have no problem showing disrespect to anyone that dares disagree with their opinions on what is a sporting tackle and what is not.

I'm not getting too wound up about this, as, first of all, Torii Hunter Jnr is apparently OK. That's the great news. On top of that, I know what side of the fence I am on in this discussion, and, I'm happy with it. Change, in life as it is in sports, is progressive and inevitable. The reason those Texas fans were so angry is, they are afraid of change, changes to their sport, changes to their society.

That is of course true except presumably for the 12 year old. He is just a clown.







Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jason Bourne Review

Looking at the mediocre reviews for Jason Bourne, you have to think perhaps this entry into the series is handicapped somewhat by the success of its predecessors. Forgetting the Jeremy Renner 'project', the four Bourne movies Matt Damon starred in are scored as follows on Rotten Tomatoes; 83%, 81%, 93% and a clear drop to 56% for the most recent effort.



Personally, having seen it twice, I think this disparity is a little unfair. I'd grade Jason Bourne (2016) at around 75%, not too far off the three Bournes that came before it (again, dropping poor old Jerry R into the waste basket).

Sure, there are a few aspects that drop the score a little from the 80s-plus, but there is also a lot to be excited about within.

To duly note the drawbacks.

On pure look-and-feel it's immediately recognizable this isn't Identity, Supremacy or even Ultimatum. Identity and Supremacy reveled in small details, travel and even the details of human emotions, such as romance. Ultimatum had more of a Global feel about it and I suspect the most recent entry into the series is doubling down on this aspect further. Bourne has done extremely well on a Global scale, and I would imagine this has the producers grinning from ear to ear, and laughing all the way to the bank, too. Remember, it took some time for Identity to become popular, I think they took no chances here and stripped out some nuance in order to land a wider audience from the get-go.

The dialog is a little clunky also, it has to be admitted. This is not a Coen brothers movie, that much is sure. Again I think this suggests the producers wanted this Bourne to be as popular in say, Germany, as it is in Italy, Turkey and China. There were three or four moments where the characters deliberately repeated themselves to really nuke a point home to the audience. Depending on your level of frustration with Globalization and Hollywood movies, that point could prove a stickler for you.

One somewhat unusual complaint, if you've seen it, did you notice how Bourne has apparently drawn a line in the sands of style and reverted back to outfits that would have been at home in 70s adaptations of the series? The Bourne movies are all about progress, in technology, political thinking and spy-craft. They have also always been pretty slick and stylish. This Bourne, however, is very much your Dad's Bourne, a thick, heavy looking leather jacket, jeans any 57 year old would feel comfortable in and a haircut that would be at home in 1950s America. The jacket in particular is an odd choice. I would like to know the wardrobe team's reasoning there. A heavy leather jacket in Greece on a hot summer's night? That doesn't seem wildly functional to me.

Whatever happened to this Bourne, the stylish one?


Those relatively minor complaints out of the way, on to the good stuff.

First, the audacious set pieces, of which there are several. You won't find any spoilers here, suffice to say this Bourne is perhaps the most ambitious in terms of pure, raw action of all the entries to date. The opening, sprawling, set piece in Greece, during what presumably was meant to be an anti-austerity riot, is so good it could double as a news broadcast on the turmoil in Greece. The director, Paul Greengrass, is brilliant at these set piece action segments and he really shows of his skills in Bourne, be it Greece, Germany, England or, finally, in Las Vegas. Bourne is, above all else, an astonishingly raw action movie.

There is nuance to be found, among the action shots. The second time I saw it I caught sight of Bourne showing off his light fingers, quick hands, as he tooled up for a mission. Very gentle and yet super detailed stuff, something you might miss at first glance. There's plenty of detail like that, and the movie has a very contemporary feel, with references to Edward Snowden and Facebook (called 'Deep Dream' in this case).

The central performances are what sets Bourne apart from any recent action rival. Matt Damon delivers as always, even if he has less dialog than ever before. He probably utters about 37 words throughout the entire flick, but he pulls off the physical side of things in robust manner, almost as if someone dared him to make a Bourne movie in his later forties.

Tommy Lee Jones is very good, as you would expect. His semi defeated, worn down and World weary CIA director is very grounding among all the whizz bangs. His underling is played by Alicia Vikander and this is a typical Bourne franchise piece of casting. A good actress pulling off a stylish outing of a clever, balanced and well drawn out character. We just don't get that in movies these days, particularly not in action movies largely aimed at men. Think about it. They could quite easily have lined up one of the usual lipstick actresses for this role, and perhaps added a few dollars to the final take. Instead they went with craft, and, the movie is obviously better for it.

Finally, I really enjoyed British actor Riz Ahmed's turn as the creator and CEO of 'Deep Dream', clearly 'Facebook' in this story. He's perfect for the role and brings a nice energy to same.

I think it's clearly a good sign when you see a movie twice and it's better the second time. The little nuances and attention to detail really shine. Jason Bourne, the movie, manages to stay edgy, relevant and still throws around a few punches, easily keeping one or two more bullets in the chamber. If anything, I left this one thinking, we're setup nicely for a good final chapter. Here's hoping Damon and Greengrass keep their grasp on the franchise steering wheel, as long as they do, we're in good hands.








Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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