I was nearly perfect in my NBA All Star predictions

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So the NBA announced the All Star reserves tonight after naming the starters last week. And before we get into the injustice that is the Danilo Gallinari snub, let’s take a moment to recognize how accurate my roster predictions were. In my mind, I only missed one per conference. If healthy, Chris Paul would have made it and I can’t be held accountable for the unpredictability of injury replacements. I’m counting Klay Thompson as CP3’s replacement, and he probably took Lillard’s spot. So, in my mind, the only ones I missed were Paul Millsap over Jabari Parker and DeAndre Jordan over Karl-Anthony Towns.

Jordan over Towns is a little easier to swallow. Towns has the splashy point totals, but Jordan leads the league in rebounds and field goal percentage and plays much better defense than Towns. DeAndre is even up over 50% from the foul line! It’s maybe the most shocking development of the season. To quote Rocky Balboa, anyone can change! And, without Paul, the Clippers wouldn’t have had any representation, which seems wrong for the 4 seed in the West. So I have no real problem with this. KAT will make plenty of All Star teams in the future. And to anyone saying I’m using alternative facts by saying I only got one wrong, in my original piece I said that I didn’t want to take four Warriors and that I agonized over which one to take, proving that I knew full well there was a good chance Klay would make it. So, really, I did call it. Anyone saying otherwise is just part of the liberal agenda trying to take me down! Very unfair!

Paul Millsap making it is a little more head scratching. Now, don’t get me wrong. Paul Millsap is a very good player. He’s versatile, unselfish, smart, and fundamentally sound. I’d love to have him on my team, and I think he can help anyone win. But this year he shouldn’t be on the All Star team. I hope people write this down, because this is rare. I actually admit I was wrong in my original prediction. I don’t know if I just overlooked him or what, but Joel Embiid needs to be an All Star. His numbers as-is are great considering he hasn’t played in two years and is asked to do everything for the Sixers. When you look at his eye-popping per-36 minute numbers and consider his defensive impact, he should be a lock. I mean, read this. He’s a beast. He’s the best center in the East already, and he’s getting better and healthier better every week. And, he’s the most entertaining player in the league. He’s a Twitter and Instagram legend, for crying out loud. At least let him do the 3-point shootout. Let him be a sideline reporter during the game. He’s got to be involved somehow. Ideally he’d be on the roster.

Brent Musburger announces retirement

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ESPN– Brent Musburger, one of the most recognizable and accomplished voices in the history of television, has decided to end his legendary play-by-play career at month’s end. Musburger, who has worked in the industry for nearly 50 years as host and play-by-play commentator – including the last 27 with ABC/ESPN – will call two more men’s college basketball games, punctuated by his final telecast, Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN (Georgia at Kentucky from Rupp Arena).

“But the next rodeo for me is in Las Vegas. Stop by and we’ll share a cold one and some good stories. I may even buy!” (Gee, ya think?)

You are looking live at some of the worst news to ever hit us here in the Brian’s Den. We’ve lost another legend. First Verne Lundquist retires, now Brent. The end of an era. Nothing could beat Brent’s dulcet tones calling the biggest college football and basketball games. He was my fall Saturdays and winter weeknights growing up. A true icon. A pillar of the announcing community. A gold standard by which all play-by-play/thinly veiled gambling allusions should be judged. But now that he’s old and recently had his millionth controversy in his thoughts on Joe Mixon, ESPN nudged this titan of the industry to retire. Sad!

Power Ranking: Top Five Current Play-by-play men

  1. Joe Buck- Come at me, haters!
  2. Al Michaels- The last legend we have left. We need to make sure Al stays around forever
  3. Don Orsillo- I will never forgive the Red Sox for what they did to him
  4. Sean McDonough- Another former Red Sox guy. Wish we still had him around
  5. Mike Tirico- Still can’t believe he says he’s not black

So tonight, pour one out for Brent. Remember the good times. Celebrate his career. Do not weep, for he would not want tears to be shed for him. Unless he bet on it. Good night, sweet prince.

Why does Harry Connick Jr. have a talk show?

As I spent yesterday trying to come up with some ideas for posts (maybe a new Burning Questions), I found myself flipping channels. Lost in the miasma of daytime TV, prospects were looking bleak. I thought I might have to settle for an uninspiring news story or movie trailer analysis. But then I saw something that shook me to my core. Something so shocking, so unexpected, I had to stop and take note. Harry Connick, Jr. has his own talk show. No, really, he does. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I decided I had to watch this spectacle. Results were absolutely wild.

I couldn’t believe what I was watching. How in the world did Harry Connick, Jr. get his own mid-day talk show? How many stars had to align for this to happen? Is he the least likely talk show host in history? I mean they tried to give Magic Johnson his own talk show, but at least he’s infinitely more famous than Harry Connick, Jr. He’s the definition of a D-list celebrity. This is like if someone gave the lead singer of Deep Blue Something his own show. I really wish I was in the room for this meeting. “Alright, so we all know Harry Connick, Jr. for that good Christmas album from the 90s and his memorable roles in Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. Well, what if he had a midday talk show?” What skills does he have that translate to talk show success? A slight New Orleans accent? Thinking about it, the person that greenlit this show maybe the most reckless and courageous man in the history of the entertainment industry. I mean, this show was a crazy combination of the most boring television I’ve ever watched and the most enthralling entertainment ever produced. I might have to become a regular watcher. I think my new life’s goal is to somehow be a guest on this show. Or better yet, his sidekick. He obviously had a jazz band with him but I didn’t notice a witty sidekick to help add mother-approved comedy for the 3 o’clock crowd. Hey, Harry, sign me up. I’d add some much needed spice to the bland gumbo that is Harry. (a little New Orleans humor to get on Harry’s good side. I can tell we already have great chemistry.) I can help take your show to unprecedentedly middling heights. I need my life’s work to be lost in the ether of daytime TV. Have your people call my people, Harry.

For All the H8ers

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The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl. Again. They’re going to face the Atlanta Falcons, and they are going to win. I’m sorry, America, but they just aren’t going away. So, before the next fake scandal comes just in time to distract them from the Falcons, and before you hear all the experts tell you that the Falcons admittedly all-time great offense will dominate the overrated Patriots defense (which just completely stifled the supposed most talented offense in the league), let me tell you, yes, you, who dedicates your entire life to hating the Patriots and anything involved with them, why you’re wrong. Because I’m a spoiled brat when it comes to the NFL. Because I feel like gloating. Because I want everyone who wants so desperately for this team to be out of the picture to feel like the idiots they are. But mostly, because I can.

It’s easy to forget after Brady’s career game against the Steelers super fast and resurgent defense that will definitely stop him, but there was a big-time Internet debate this week: Who has the worst offense left in the playoffs? Mysteriously, the Patriots, who lead the AFC in scoring and finished second to the Falcons in every other category among the four teams in question, were the most popular answer. After all, the Packers had Aaron Rodgers, the greatest quarterback of all time. The Steelers had LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger, who have never lost big games. Who do the Pats have? Tom Brady? Is he even good anymore? Everyone was so eager to get rid of the Pats that they abandoned all reason. They would have picked the Rutland Raiders, my high school team, over the Pats. Every excuse under the sun came out: They play in the worst division, (true, the AFC East is inhabited by teams the Patriots absolutely dominate, but the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets combined to go 7-5 against the NFC this year. To use Earl Thomas’ example, the NFC West went a combined to go 6-10 against the AFC. Weird.) they play in a conference full of pushovers, (sure, the bottom of the AFC is weak. The bottom of the NFC isn’t? And aren’t the Broncos (last year’s winner), Ravens (won in 2012 and constantly push the Patriots to the brink), and Steelers (won in 2006 and 2011 and had the greatest, most dangerous offense in the history of Western Civilization before this weekend) in the AFC? In fact, since the Patriots first Super Bowl win, the rest of the AFC has won five Super Bowls to the NFC’s six. That’s not exactly a domination.) and, of course, they cheat.

Listen, at this point if you think they’re cheaters I’m probably not gonna do much to change your mind. I’ll just remind you of some facts: The rule violation that triggered Spygate was not the filming of opponents’ signals. It was the location they filmed it. Filming other teams was not, and is not, illegal. In fact, everyone else does it. The Pats just got busted for doing it in the wrong spot. That’s it. Was it stupid to do it after being told by the league not to? Yes, yes it was. But the huge fines handed down were the result of a new commissioner looking to flex his muscles, and the same commissioner facing pressure from the other jealous owners who were sick of the Patriots’ continued success in an era where it was nearly impossible, not the severity of the crime. It really wasn’t that bad, and, had it been, say, the Giants who had been caught doing it, nothing would have happened. There was no Super Bowl walkthrough video taping. There was no sinister plot to deceive the league and take advantage of the other hapless teams, as much as the dearly departed Senator Arlen Specter wanted to make you believe. (I try to be a good person, but every so often I think about spending the rest of my life being a huge prick and going to hell so I can finally give Specter a piece of my mind. Him getting involved was the most preposterous, unbelievable, and blatant example of overstepping your bounds and sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong of all time. He was just bitter his beloved Eagles lost in the Super Bowl so he thought there had to be a nefarious reason. It wasn’t the fact that the quarterback of his team spent the entire fourth quarter puking and still doesn’t know the rules to overtime or anything. It couldn’t be that.) And Deflategate, I mean… If you believe this was anything besides a witch hunt (even before the Giants were accused of doing the same thing and the league quickly cited the Ideal Gas Law as an explanation) you are a moron of colossal proportions. It was the biggest crock of shit in the history of this country. It was just a bunch of jealous, petty owners trying to finally get one over on the team that has spent the better part of two decades beating their brains in. It’s been confirmed that it was a sting operation! High ranking people in the league offices were involved, including Goodell! Could you imagine a group of NBA owners conspiring against Lebron because they were sick of him dominating? Could you imagine the outrage those teams would face? Would they be thrown in jail? They would certainly be forced to sell (look into this, Knicks fans). But, because the NFL controls the press and got out in front of this early, public opinion was already set before the actual facts came out. But, whatever, the Patriots cheat, everyone knows that. No one else does bad things. The Giants would never do things like intercept other teams’ radio signals, keep confessed wife beaters on the team for way too long, or deify a cocaine addicted, underage prostitute buying monster of a man. They’re a classy organization. The Steelers would never trip an opposing player on a kick return, employ a doctor at the head of an illegal steroids ring, rely on a quarterback who has been accused of sexual assault a million times, or not suspend a coach when he gets in a huge bar fight. They’re a classy organization. The Seahawks would never do something like have a giant PED epidemic, practice illegally, or keep players off the injury report all season. They’re a classy organization. The Ravens would never build a statue for a murderer, blame a victim of domestic violence for “her role in the incident,” or make a deranged psychopath who has been accused of everything under the sun, most notably pouring bleach on his kid a captain. They’re a classy organization not the Patriots. You get my point.

But I think out of all the transgressions against the Patriots this week, the one that really got me going was the notion that Aaron Rodgers was suddenly the best quarterback of all time. Now, don’t get me wrong. He’s probably one of the six best quarterbacks ever. But best? Over Tom Brady? Because he made some good throws? Call me skeptical. Sure Rodgers is talented. He’s probably the most talented qb to ever play the game. He can do things that Brady could never dream of doing. Which is what makes Brady better. He’s overcome his obvious physical shortcomings to have the greatest and most successful career ever. This is his 7th Super Bowl appearance. Only four teams have that many. Rodgers has one championship and a growing resume of underwhelming playoff losses. He’s essentially a better version of Dan Marino. Why does he get such a free pass for kind of sucking when they lose? Brady gets raked over the coals when he doesn’t play well and they win. I keep hearing that Rodgers does everything on his own. That he has no help around him. While he obviously can’t do anything about the lousy defense, I was curious about the claim that he’s working with trash teammates. So, I did some research. I figured a good gauge of “talent” was draft position, so I took a look at every player that caught a pass this season for the Packers and the Patriots and calculated their average draft position (since there are 253 players drafted every year, I gave any undrafted player a value of 254). The Packers’ players averaged a draft position of 133. So a late fourth rounder. Not all that great. The Patriots stand at 172. A late fifth rounder. That’s a fairly significant difference. Well the random undrafted guys who catch one pass can skew the result, obviously. Well what about the cores of the passing game, the guys who caught at least 30 passes? The Packers are at 72. A third rounder. Not bad. The Patriots are at 158. A fifth rounder. A full two rounds’ difference between the main guys Aaron Rodgers is throwing to and the main guys Tom Brady is throwing to. I didn’t feel like doing that for every team, so I don’t know how it all compares, but don’t tell me Rodgers has no one around him when Brady is working with less pure talent than Rodgers is. But I think it’s just a case of Brady fatigue. Rodgers was the hot name, so he was advertised as the best. I guess I can understand it. After all, it happened last year with Steph Curry and Lebron. But it’s just so dismissive with Brady. There’s such a level of contempt that’s not there for any long-dominant player.

The true hatred for Brady is something I struggle to understand. Is his not a true American story? He could barely start in college. He was drafted 199 overall. Odds were against him even making the roster. He was behind an established starter who had no intention of giving up the position. He was a nobody. But, he got an opportunity. And he ran with it. And his maniacal drive and obsession with perfection lead him to get better and better and better. Aren’t those the qualities we celebrate in business? Isn’t hitting it big and marrying a super model every little boy’s dream? Is it just a case of jealousy? Whenever I ask people why they hate Brady, they just come back with some nonsense and settle on “he’s arrogant.” But he’s not. He’s the perfect teammate. He’s the perfect leader. He has never once taken credit for his success. He always defers to teammates in wins and takes the blame when they lose. And he’s one of the most charitable players in the league and a great dad. “He’s a crybaby and yells at the refs.” I guess you weren’t watching Aaron Rodgers scream at the officials the entire second half on Sunday. (Of course, it was after they were well beaten so it may have just been a way to try and save face and get people talking about how competitive he is.) Or when every other quarterback in the league does it. “He yells at teammates.” Only when he they mess up. (By the way, I hate when people get mad at qbs for yelling at teammates. He’s the leader of the team, of course he’s going to yell at people. He needs to make sure everyone is on the same page. I have no problem when Brady does it, just like I have no problem when Matt Stafford does it, just like I have no problem when Jay Cutler does it, just like I had no problem when Peyton did it.  Sometimes it’s the best way to get the best out of a player. The best leaders know what motivates everyone. That’s why the player you see Brady yell at the most is Edelman. It gets him going. Meanwhile, he hardly ever gets on Gronk’s case, because he knows that probably wouldn’t work. Brady’s greatest skill may be his leadership. He inspires supreme confidence in everyone he meets. I’ve obviously never met him (I think I’d die if I did) but I would take a bullet for him. I would willingly sacrifice my life for him if it meant he got to play another year in New England.) The arguments are all so tired and stupid. Tom Brady is the greatest football player ever. Period. End of story. Years from now, you’ll look back on your blind hatred of him with shame. He’s the greatest ever yet still the most humble. How can you hate that? How can you hate this level of self-made greatness? I count it as one of the greatest privileges of my entire life to have watched his career from day one. You should, too.

So there you have it. Hopefully I changed your mind a bit. Maybe not. Maybe this post is exactly why you hate the Patriots and their fans in the first place. I don’t even know if any point I made made any sense. I kind of blacked out when writing this. At the very least, I hope you have a greater appreciation for the dynasty you’re watching. But, as always, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking the Falcons are gonna win by 30. Good. More fuel to the immortal fire that drives the Patriots Express. Now either get on board or get off the tracks. I’d hate for one of my readers to join the long list of Patriots’ victims.

Championship Game Picks

Ahh, Championship Sunday. One of the greatest days of the year. The last true football Sunday of the season. Where legacies are forged. Where heroes are crowned and goats poop their pants under the bright lights. And, more often than not, the Patriots prevail. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After a near perfect week last week, proving to the skeptics that the wildcard round’s poor showing was, in fact, intentional, we’re back to .500 in the Brian’s Den. After we go 2-0 this week, assuring a winning record for the playoffs, the I’ll be able to flex my precognitive muscles in the Super Bowl. I would encourage the public to be on the right side of history.

Before we get to the picks, I want to give a shoutout to the moronic and incompetent Knicks owner James Dolan, CEO of the worst cable company ever created. I thought the worst part about being cursed with Optimum Cable would be the social stigma that comes with admitting to relying on such a second-class company, but I was wrong. In my area, Optimum no longer carries CBS. CBS! The first channel ever created. It’s basic cable. It’s pretty much free to have. Everyone in America has CBS. But Optimum is too cheap to pay the affiliates what they want. It’s stupefying. So now I have to watch the AFC Championship Game on my laptop. It’s embarrassing. I’ve never felt so poor and destitute. Hey James, I’m glad you run the worst franchise in sports. Have fun hanging out with Carmelo you kazoo-playing scumbag! Rant over.

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)

When I started thinking about this game, I only knew one thing for sure: I was betting the over. This game is gonna be a shootout. No one’s stopping anybody. Last one with the ball wins. Right? Well, I’m not so sure. In the media’s rush to see who can gush lovingly over Aaron Rodgers more in an effort to fill the fatherly void in his life and make everyone move on from Tom Brady (full post coming Monday. If the Pats win.), everyone has forgotten that the Falcons are one of the greatest offenses of all time. The Packers defense is so, so, so, so, so, so, so bad. They’re as bad as you can get against the run and the pass. The Falcons are as good as you can get running and throwing. This is a total mismatch when the Falcons have the ball. The Green Bay offense is 100% Rodgers at this point. What if he’s not perfect? It’s happened before. Did all those first round exits and underwhelming postseason losses suddenly not happen just because he made some crazy throws? Listen, I’m not gonna sit here and say he’s gonna have a bad game. He’s going to dominate. But the Falcons defense is pretty fast and can kind of rush the passer sometimes. They can do what the Cowboys did in the second half of last week’s game. All they need is one or two stops the entire game! If the Rodgers is off schedule early, this could get ugly.

PICK: Atlanta -4.5

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots (-6.5)

We all know where my heart lies, but what about my head? Spoiler alert: the same place. People are scrambling to sell that the Steelers can win and take down the big, bad Patriots. Sure they can win. This isn’t a Globe Trotters game. It’s not scripted. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to. This Pats defense is trash! Their stats are totally inflated due to the fact that they played almost exclusively crappy QBs, which they had complete control of, by the way. LeVeon Bell will rush for 400 yards while adding another 250 receiving yards! It’ll be over by half! Brady’s done! You know how many times the Pats have allowed a 100 yard rusher in a playoff game in the Brady-Belichick era? 4. In 32 games! Once every 8 games a running back has a big game against the Pats in the playoffs. Odds are that’s once every 3 seasons. They aren’t going to be caught off guard here. They know how to take away the opponent’s best weapon, and I’m pretty sure Bell qualifies. Ben Roethlisberger is been horrible in the playoffs. Outplayed by both Matt Moore and Alex Smith. And he’s garbage on the road. He’s on the road this game. The so-called greatest and most talented offense ever constructed couldn’t score a touchdown last week. They’re Facebook living locker room speeches. Everyone has the flu. It’s pure chaos in Pittsburgh. Plus, you may not have heard this, but Tom Brady owns the Steelers. 19 touchdowns and no interceptions against Mike Tomlin. The Patriots offense was better than this would-be juggernaut in every offensive category! I’m not super confident that the Pats cover. After all, Big Ben thinks the backdoor is always open and is a master of garbage time tds against the Pats. But, I would be stunned, dumbfounded if the Pats lost. Patriots vs. Falcons, book it.

PICK: Patriots -6.5

New England Patriots vs Houston Texans

The new Power Rangers trailer looks awesome

I don’t think it’s breaking news when I say that I’m a huge Power Rangers guy. Love Power Rangers. Seen about a million episodes of Power Rangers and may be among the preeminent Power Rangers scholars in the world (sad, I know). I am all in on this movie. I think it looks awesome. I admire the will power to resist making the black kid the black ranger. I only hope that they kept some of the Mighty Morphin tradition going and bullied and oppressed the blue ranger because he’s gay in real life. I’ll save my treatise on why Mighty Morphin is far from the best edition of Power Rangers (it’s in Space) for when this movie comes out, which can’t come soon enough. I just hope for his sake that Jason David Frank got a cameo or something. I’m sure he wasn’t too busy.

NASA plans on sending a rover to Mars to collect possible life samples in 2020

source–  As early as July 2020, the 1-tonne, 6-wheeled vehicle will blast off from Florida, carrying 43 such tubes on a 7-month trip to the red planet. Once it arrives, the rover will drive across the Martian surface and fill each tube with dirt, rock or air. Then it will seal the tubes, place them on the ground, and wait — for years, or possibly decades — for another spacecraft to retrieve them and fly them back to Earth. It will be humanity’s first attempt to bring back part of the red planet.

If all goes to plan, these will become the most precious extraterrestrial samples ever recovered. Tucked inside one of those metallic tubes could be evidence of life beyond Earth in the form of a microorganism, biominerals or organic molecules.

(Most of the article is just boring stuff about how much they love keeping things clean.)

I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. How can NASA be so foolish? How can they not see what the result of this experiment will be? Has no one seen a movie or watched tv?

This all falls on this Adam Steltzner guy. Either he’s just as naive as NASA is and has no idea what’s coming, which shows a level of gross negligence not seen since the green lighting of Speed 2: Cruise Control. Or, he knows exactly what he’s doing and should immediately be locked up with no chance of parole.

Because this life they’re going to bring back? It’s not coming in peace. The fact that it’s probably just microscopic organisms makes it even more dangerous. These life forms are either carrying deadly diseases (best case scenario), or capable of acting as a symbiote that can control people’s minds. Ever heard of Venom and Carnage? I guarantee Steltzner has. I’d be shocked if his end goal wasn’t using these lifeforms in some kind of power play. Maybe he allows himself to be controlled, inevitably enhancing his physical abilities; or maybe he contains the lifeforms and waits to infect important people, knowing the devastating effect the symbiotic relationship has on long term health. The fact that none of this has occurred to NASA is a huge red flag. Does he already have a way of controlling people? Is he blackmailing the entirety of the NASA board? Or perhaps he himself is an emissary of Mars and is trying to slowly bring his brethren to Earth for a hostile takeover.

I’m not going to stand for it. I’m prepared to march on Cape Canaveral on the day of the launch to protest. Someone needs to stand up for our species, and I’m willing to lead the movement. Unless, of course, the Mars faction wants to cut me in on their plans. I’m not a fool. I know when I’m outmatched, and humans generally don’t have much of a chance against extraterrestrials. I’d be an asset to the Martians. I know how humans think and have no problem selling them out if it means I wind up on the right side. Then, once I’ve ascended through the ranks, I’ll take out Steltzner during the final battle to prove I was secretly with the humans all along. I’ll be a hero. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’m going to protest at all. I will do everything in my power to ensure this launch takes place. Science must move forward!