Fueled By Scotch

"I cannot call to mind a single instance where I have ever been irreverent, except toward the things which were sacred to other people." -Mark Twain

Great Moments in Super Bowl History

by christophergiblin

By Chris Giblin

Sunday’s Super Bowl was thoroughly similar to the one that played out four years ago in more ways than I ever could have imagined. It was a rematch with the same QBs going up against one another, with the same team winning under incredibly similar circumstances (game-winning TD drive at the end of the 4th quarter) and it was still a big upset. Maybe not as big, but the Giants were still pretty clearly the underdogs here. But you probably know all that by now.

Regardless, my favorite part of this Super Bowl didn’t happen on the field, nor did it happen during halftime or during the commercials. It was at some point during a cutaway from the action when NBC showed Tom Brady in three shockingly ridiculous poses in a brief slideshow the network had obviously photographed and then thrown together. Each slide tells us information for the sophisticated sports fan – telling us his name, number, position as QB, age, hometown and the fact that he has won two Super Bowl MVPs.

The poses are hilarious. Brady looks like a shitty 8-year-old Little Leaguer taking a photo-op for Grandma, and unlike the rest of his team, he’s actually enjoying having his picture taken, way too much.  (Thanks to Deadspin for throwing these up online)

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If I were a massive NFL linebacker facing the Pats next season (and that’s a big if), I’d just have a look at this photo above and feel motivated to give Brady season-ending injury, part 2. Why did he let NBC make him do this? Or was he enthused to cooperate? It seems like the latter. The other ridiculous picture, below, resembles the “success kid” meme, as pointed out by my friend Stewart Way as it happened on TV. Here’s both of those pictures (there’s a third Brady picture in this group – definitely funny but not quite as ridiculous):

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That’s my Great Moment in Super Bowl History for 2012, although I have to say it would have been even funnier to see Eli Manning featured in this kind of photo shoot. Honorable mention goes to Ahmad Bradshaw for what was clearly the least exciting, borderline depressing Super Bowl-winning touchdown run of all time.

 

A Bizarre Ending to the NFL Season, Plus Playoff Picks

by christophergiblin

Because my MLB playoff picks were so awesome

By Chris Giblin

It was a strange final round of games for every NFL team this past Sunday; forgive me for getting to it so late. Any other week, if I let it go this long, I guess I would have just let it pass, but this is my last chance to talk about the regular season, not to mention the fact that I truly found a lot of things this weekend to be disappointing, interesting or weird – a lot more so than most weeks. Here’s a list:

1. I Hate Mark Sanchez and the Jets.

This was what was going through my head while watching the Jets’ pitiful 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins to guarantee their own demise. Of course, since putting myself through the irritating process of watching the New York Jets fail one last time on Sunday afternoon, I’ve cooled off, and that’s not to say that I was particularly upset at the time either. I was mostly just exasperated and put into shock by the truly awful nature of Mark Sanchez’s interceptions and the overall ineptitude of the offense all afternoon.

The offensive line was called for offsides on countless occasions throughout the game, and once again, Sanchez’s passing game never took off. That is, until the very last drive of the year for the Jets, when they were down 19-10 with two and a half minutes left and no timeouts. The offense actually looked good for that small stretch of time – marching down the field with ease and cashing in a touchdown with a little over a minute to play. Unfortunately, the ensuing onside kick was easily recovered by Brandon Marshall of the Dolphins to seal up the game. Too little, too late for Marky Mark.

He did still manage to win the game for Miami though. Sanchez threw three particularly enraging interceptions throughout the game, all of which allowed for Miami field goals on their ensuing offensive possessions. What’s worse is that the Dolphins didn’t manage a first down on any of those ensuing possessions – the Jets’ defense was stopping up the Dolphins all day – the Dolphins already had the field goal range they needed thanks to Sanchez. He also threw one at the tail end of the first half, giving the Dolphins three points when they were trying to do that themselves. And he threw one on third-and-6 from the Miami 10-yard-line that was returned into Jets territory with 3 minutes left while the score was still only 16-10 Miami. Oh, and he was intercepted by the same lineman (Ryan Starks) twice. That’s just negligent.

But I shouldn’t just blame Sanchez. Like I said before, the entire team on the offensive side of the ball didn’t seem to show up at all. Santonio Holmes pouted on the sideline and didn’t even watch the game during the final minutes. The defense was pretty strong but overall, they didn’t play like a team with urgency and purpose. It looked like they wanted to go home, so I’m glad that’s where they’ll be for the playoffs. Then again, even if they won, they wouldn’t have made it, but with all the other teams that needed to lose to get them a spot, they would have come painfully close.

All the right teams lost except for the Titans, who beat the Texans 24-23 after Houston went for two with only seconds left, going for the win rather than kicking the PAT to tie it and send the game to overtime, doing it because they already had their no. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs sewn up. Frankly, I’m surprised it was that close.

But as for Sanchez, as mediocre as he still is as a third-year NFL QB, he still managed to improve a bit for the third straight year. As a realist, I’m assuming that means his peak just isn’t going to be that amazing. We always knew he wasn’t going to be an NFL top five QB but he’s still struggling to get into the top 20. Of course there’s that other QB who came off the bench and was spectacular…

2. Matt Flynn… You can’t be serious

To anyone in their FF finals who picked up Matt Flynn for their last game of the season, kudos. But that’s probably none of you; we knew Flynn was supposed to be a great backup but didn’t expect him to be the best QB of Week 17. He threw for 480 yards, 6 TDs and one pick in the Packers’ 45-41 shootout win over the Lions. It’s a shame the Jets have two more years on Sanchez’s expensive contract because there’s no way he’ll ride the bench again next year after that. I’m sure there will be other more agreeable teams than the Jets who will express interest in Flynn, and ones without all that QB baggage.

In short, whether it was a fluke or not (and it couldn’t have been that much of a fluke since the vast majority of NFL QBs never have a game like that), Matt Flynn probably just got himself several millions of dollars for the coming years.

But also, with this game coinciding with Drew Brees dominating once more for the Saints, a game in which he led them to a 45-17 blowout of the Panthers by passing for 389 yards, five TDs and one interception, it seems like the MVP tide may have turned.

3. Drew Brees seems like the favorite for the MVP now

This was unprecedented a few weeks ago, and even now, I’ll find it a bit unjust to see the MVP Award go to Brees over Aaron Rodgers. That’s not to say Brees wasn’t incredible. He set the new record for single season passing yards with 5,476 while tossing for 46 TDs and only 14 interceptions. Those are, indeed, MVP numbers, and he certainly had an edge on Rodgers in Fantasy Football. But the fact is, Rodgers was still just a shade more efficient all year, putting up his 4,643-yard, 45 TD, 6 interception season despite being on a team with a defense that allows opponents to maintain the ball longer than just about anyone.

Mainly, I’d say Rodgers has two big things going for him and two going against him. For him, he’s gotten the Packers the top seed in the NFC and he led them to a win over the Saints on opening night of the season. Against him, he’s got Brees setting the passing yards record and, weirdly, that stellar game Flynn put up coming off the bench to close out the season. I don’t think that should really factor in, but I’m sure it will for some – the fact that even if Rodgers went down at the start of the year, the Pack would have still been in pretty good hands.

4. The Broncos look awful… and are going to the playoffs

The AFC West was incredibly mediocre this year. Three 8-8 teams and the 7-9 Chiefs. Someone had to make it in I guess, and that’s the Broncos and Tim Tebow’s all but faded magic, or luck, whatever you want to call it. They’ve lost three straight, looked pathetic in a 7-3 loss on Sunday and are somehow hosting the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday to start the playoffs. This seems to happen every year – one division churns out four non-playoff caliber teams and one gets in and gets rewarded with a home game anyway. It’s unjust and illogical – let’s not chalk it up to the division just being “really competitive,” because none of the teams had winning records outside their own division, or within it for that matter (they all went 3-3).

5. (Probably inaccurate) Playoff picks

Giants, Saints, Steelers, Bengals

Bill Maher – Anti-Tebow Tweet Not Much of a Joke

by christophergiblin

Make no mistake, Tebow really sucked. Like, a whole lot.

By Chris Giblin

Tim Tebow was God-awful this past Saturday, and I’m not just saying that because he’s religious. I say this because it’s one way to aptly describe his performance during the Broncos’ 40-14 loss to the Bills, who finally snapped their woeful seven-game losing streak that had brought them from a promising 5-2 start to a shitty but familiar 5-9 record with two games to go. Just in time for Christmas, the Bills managed to take out their frustration at another failed season by feasting upon Tebow’s repeatedly inept attempts at running an NFL offense.

Tebow completed 13 of 29 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 34 more and another TD. These are actually pretty normal numbers for Timmy this season – the only difference was that his painfully inaccurate passing started coming back to bite him. The Bills picked off three of his passes, one of them for a TD, plus he fumbled twice, losing one of them.

All in all, it was a poor game for Tebow and the Broncos, who were coming off another loss in which they were roughed up against the Pats. Honestly, games like these were bound to happen. The Broncos really aren’t very good this year – I’m convinced that the run they went on in the middle of this season was a crazy anomaly. No joke, it really did seem like God was on their side when Tebow came in and won seven out of his first eight starts, making a dead 1-4 team into an 8-5 division leader. They accomplished this partially thanks to his late-game theatrics, which made the headlines and the highlights, but mostly, Denver did it in spite of him. I feel as though nerdy sports fans like myself won’t quite fathom the exact level of weirdness and inexplicability Tebow’s 2011 run was until we look back on it in a few years.

Regardless, the bizarre 7-1 run only increased the attention on one of America’s most controversial athletes, I suppose because he just seems more Christian than all the other Christian professional athletes out there. Over the course of this year, we’ve seen the religious Tebow supporters rejoice, while the nay sayers, whether they be agnostic, atheist or just logical, were in constant disbelief that Tebow was finishing another comeback again, somehow.

Atheist Bill Maher seemed to take Tebow’s inevitable failures these past couple weeks with glee. I’m not quite sure why – the guy hasn’t said anything the least bit controversial all year. He only talks about working hard, playing to win and the strength he’s found in his faith. All pretty boring stuff – at no time has he said this country’s liberals will burn in hell some day, or that abortion is akin to murder or anything like that, even if he believes such things. Anyway, here’s Maher’s tweet:

“Wow, Jesus just fucked #TimTebow bad. And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler ‘Hey, Buffalo’s killing them.’ “

It’s no secret that Maher loves making fun of the religious – as demonstrated in his film Religulous, a generally funny, smart film but also one that was obviously made to ridicule anyone who might want to believe in an After Life not filled with an eternity of nothingness. All this being said, I’m not offended by the tweet.

However, it is, of course, in very poor taste. I doubt any Christian in the public eye would be OK with someone saying they just got fucked by Jesus. Also, the second part just doesn’t resonate with me as a joke – which spells out the main problem of Bill Maher’s tweet: it’s really just not that funny or clever, and was obviously only made to get a rise out of conservatives, which it did.

Regardless of this, it’s pretty obvious that Tebow is a good Christian and a not-so-good NFL QB. I think we can all agree to that. Here’s what he tweeted after his Christmas Eve debacle, ignoring Bill Maher and everyone else talking about him:

“Tough game today but what’s most important is being able to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas everyone GB².”

Professional Writing From Fueled By Scotch and Friends

by christophergiblin

Just wanted to post a link to an article I’ve had published at City Limits Magazine in New York. At the very least, maybe this can give you somewhat of an idea of some of the things I’ve been up to outside this blog (believe it or not, Cosmo and I still aren’t able to pay the bills from writing for this site alone). With the recent full troop withdrawal to officially end the Iraq War, I did a profile of an Iraqi refugee in New York:

For An Iraqi In New York, U.S. Withdrawal Is Not War’s End

Also, here’s a story my fiancee, Jacquie Simone, just had published for Self Magazine today on the best female musicians of 2011:

SELF’s Top Fierce Female Singers of 2011

-Chris

The Hobbit Trailer: It’s OK To Be A Nerd Again

by christophergiblin

Don’t let TIME Magazine and other “professional” bloggers dump on what is sure to be a memorable experience

By Chris Giblin

Forgive me for using a hipster Lord of the Rings meme as the picture. It really has nothing to do with this post, or The Hobbit. But honestly, if you are even a bit of an LOTR nerd like me, your time might be better spent looking those up online right now. Still, I promise this won’t take too long. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the new Hobbit trailer:

I have to say, I’m pretty satisfied, and this is really just a first glance since we don’t quite get into the whole regaining the dwarf-kingdom/Bilbo finding the One Ring part of the story that drives the plot. But the plot doesn’t matter at this point – it’s still another year until it comes out and just seeing these new scenes from Middle Earth is like reuniting with an old friend. And I think that’s the most significant part of this trailer, that we get to see the Shire again, there’s Gandalf and Galadriel (looking suspiciously intimate with one another), the shards of Isildur’s broken sword and GOLLUM! His appearance at the end increases the tension exponentially – more movies should use him to close out trailers.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve never made it through more than half of The Hobbit, in book form of course, although I’ve read the trilogy (I also own the Silmarillion but stopped reading it when I realized it was like the Bible for Middle Earth. I still think that boosts my Tolkein-fandom a bit). So without that strong base of knowledge, watching this trailer didn’t give me all that much insight into what the story will specifically be about. However, it does a great job of bringing us back to the rich, layered world of Middle Earth, with its epic adventures, curious assortment of inhabitants and beautiful landscapes. Also, as demonstrated, it is the one place in which a bunch of strange, small men can sing of Misty Mountains and pines and have it be socially acceptable.

In many ways, it’s the same feel that the LOTR trilogy had, with a tiny person uprooted from a peaceful, sleepy life in green pastures to go on a journey to faraway lands of uncertainty and peril. It brings about an undeniable feeling of nostalgia for the films that finished being released in 2003, a quality that some pop culture writers for various media outlets have faulted in their analysis of the trailer.

I must admit that the reactions were mostly positive, but some negative reviews came from 3News in New Zealand and from David Chen of the slashfilm podcast, but I chose to focus on Gilbert Cruz’s brief column for the TIME Magazine blog, mostly because it’s a longer, more reasoned argument than most others, plus it’s a news source you’ve actually heard of.

Cruz mainly voices his concern that the new Hobbit films will fail to break new ground; that they will simply become a couple pieces of worn-out nostalgia that fans might eventually come to disdain, wishing the films had never sullied the reputation of the original trilogy. He doesn’t mention it, but the two most obvious examples of late shitty sequels/prequels are Star Wars and Indiana Jones. This is a legitimate concern, but with Peter Jackson at the helm and an actual novel providing the backbone of the story seem to guarantee that such a disaster will never happen.

Cruz laments the loss of Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) from the role of directing the two Hobbit films, saying he could have breathed new life into a series that needed new leadership. Although I agree del Toro could have brought an interesting new aesthetic to Middle Earth (he left the project after it was pushed back for so long), I have a hard time believing how little confidence Cruz has in Peter Jackson to tell another engaging story about Middle Earth, after writing and directing the best trilogy of all time – which was a daunting, intimidating undertaking to say the least.

I also think next year will be a good time to revisit Tolkein’s fantasy world. By then, it will have been nine years since the release of Return of the King, and we’ll be finishing our first year in 1.5 decades without Harry Potter saturating the fantasy section of popular culture (although I assume Twilight will still be around). It will be a great time to see one of Tolkein’s epic stories on the big screen.

The Overreaction to A Single Packers Loss

by christophergiblin

By Chris Giblin

The Packers lost to the Chiefs Sunday, 19-14. I can only assume Cosmo is stricken with grief over this awful turn of events.

This was the first loss for Green Bay in 19 games, a streak that encompasses the last two games of the 2010 regular season, three NFC playoff games, last year’s Super Bowl and the first 13 games of this season. Aside from Sunday, the last time the Packers lost was a year ago yesterday – when they lost a bizarre game to the Patriots by a score of 31-27 while Aaron Rodgers was sidelined with a concussion. The last time they lost with Rodgers playing QB was Nov. 28, 2010 against the Falcons, a game they somehow lost 20-17 although Rodgers threw for 344 yards and rushed for 51 more. That’s 20 wins in a row with Rodgers at the helm, and by the way, they also won four straight before that single loss to Atlanta.

That seems like some pretty ruthless domination to me, and it should to you too if you have any familiarity with professional sports. And although it’s always overly simplistic and lazy to pin the success or failure of an entire team on its quarterback, Rodgers’ overall performance these past couple years with Green Bay have shown how, at times, it isn’t entirely foolish to view the QB position as the end-all position on the field.

Of course, year in and year out, certain NFL teams are able to reach the top of the standings and go deep into the playoffs despite a starting QB that leaves plenty to be desired. This year, the superb 49ers defense is allowing Alex Smith to “lead” the team to an 11-3 record. Mark Sanchez has been dragged along by the Jets’ defense and running game over the past couple seasons to reach two straight AFC Championship Games, and they’re inexplicably within striking distance of another playoff bid this year. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl with the Ravens once.

Some teams are able to prove that the QB position isn’t everything, and of course, it’s not. But the way the Packers win games goes against that mode of thinking. They don’t have a single running back you’d want to start for your fantasy team and their defense is pretty shoddy too, with their only saving grace being their above average skill at forcing turnovers, plus maybe that celebration Clay Matthews does if the defense is ever able to actually accomplish something. Even the receivers aren’t such an amazing group aside from Greg Jennings – they drop easy passes all the time. Without the near-perfect passing of Rodgers, I wouldn’t expect them to reach the postseason.

The Packers are also facing a bunch of injuries right now, and the ones to their offensive line and elsewhere on the team might lead them to a state of pretty stark vulnerability heading into the playoffs. But the fact is, all their flaws and Sunday’s loss aside, this team is most likely going to have the best record in the NFC and gain home field advantage in the playoffs with the best quarterback in the league. That’s a pretty favorable position.

Such things might seem pretty obvious, but I just find it hard to believe how quick everyone is to point out the flaws of a team that just lost for the first time in a full calendar year. Several columnists from across the country have referred to a “blueprint” that the Chiefs just demonstrated in their victory over the Pack. These give simple instructions to defeating the team, with steps that essentially entail, “keep the ball on offense for as long as possible,” “don’t turn the ball over,” and “pressure Rodgers,” as though Green Bay opponents don’t try to do these things every week – the Chiefs were clearly just the first one to succeed in a very long time. There’s also ESPN blogger Kevin Seifert lamenting their lost bid for “greatest team of all time” status, as well as a bleacherreport story claiming they should now fall from the top spot on the NFL Power Rankings. Frankly, Seifert is jumping the gun by a sizable margin – we need to see how this season and the next few pan out before making a judgment on this team. As for bleacherreport, it’s hard to get your stuff read on that site without saying something that goes against logic (although that could also often go for ESPN too).

But honestly, let’s have simple common sense prevail in football analysis. Yes, the Packers have flaws, but so do all the other teams who are having great seasons. The Pats (11-3) and the Saints (11-3) have shoddy defenses. The 49ers (11-3), Ravens (10-4) and Steelers (10-4) all find ways to disappoint offensively. The Texans (10-4) are the Houston Texans. So let’s keep the Packers as our Super Bowl favorite, Aaron Rodgers as our MVP and not get carried away in thinking they’re going in the toilet just because, like any other NFL team, they’re not invincible.