Monday, December 19, 2011

Metrichead Reboot....Take 8 (or 80?)

2011 is coming to a close. As usual, I've made a verbal commitment to this I could not keep. It's hard. My writing skills have regressed as I've been out of college for more than five years. I'm no longer as creative or articulate a writer as I once was. (Was I ever, really?)

It's very difficult to keep adding content to this blog. I could do like some bloggers and post a roundup of links to interesting articles I've come across. But I'm not getting paid and time is money. There are those whose blogs make some money by selling ad space, but it sounds like more trouble than it's worth, considering the very little amount some make off blogger or WordPress.

It also seems as if every time I'm logging in, Blogger has added a new feature that I should check out. I have about as much experience editing a web page as I do lighting myself on fire. (ahem, not much) I see there's a new Blogger interface. Not interested in trying it. Does it do twitter feeds like Brendan Nyhan's? I guess I just like the classic Blogger look; not really into all the new interfaces/templates.

But come 2012, I should start posting more. I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I'm not one to use a calendar to start a new behavioral pattern. If it's January 1, or the 1st of any month, or even just a Sunday, it means nothing. I started going to a gym regularly in late August (years back). I think I made my first bike trek on a Saturday in the summer.

2012 starts on a Sunday. Maybe I should try this once. I have a feeling I'll break it, because I don't want to add content for the sake of adding content.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go back through and start deleting some old posts. Mainly, I'm just not proud of all the posts I've made. This is supposed to help me hone my craft writing. But I need some kind of motivation. College was easy because I had deadlines, and my best writing actually came as the deadline approached (weird).

So, here's to a better 2012. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Matt Stafford Is a Hungry Man

Stop the presses in Detroit: Matthew Stafford's streak of consecutive starts is now longer than Peyton Manning!

Okay, I may be pushing the logic just a bit here, but it is technically true. And it isn't like I didn't have a scare in the second half of yesterday's game against Tampa Bay. Stafford fell backwards as he lobbed a touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson. As Stafford threw, he looked as though he tore or broke something in his right leg.

Everyone in Detroit took a collective groan, until we realized about a minute later it was a cramp that had resulted from playing in the 87 degree heat. One pan along the sidelines on each side told you how hot it was in Tampa Bay, with everyone sitting underneath cooling fans with wet towels over their heads. Stafford was not immune to this.

Stafford finished the day throwing for three TDs and over 300 yards with one INT. Although the Lions won 27-20, the game really wasn't that close. Detroit controlled both sides of the ball and had possession of the football for over 20 minutes of the first half.

What we saw yesterday was how much of a command of this offense (and the team maybe) that Stafford has. If not for a couple of mental mistakes by Stafford - a bad throw that was tipped and intercepted by Aqib Talib and another bad throw that went incomplete - they should have scored in the high 30s.

This game was a statement for both teams. Detroit showed that they are poised to make a run at the playoffs, but they're going to do it one game at a time. Tampa Bay, although they lost, they showed that they have a bright future with Josh Freeman, even if they take a step back this year.

The Lions weren't perfect. Stafford could have thrown more than one INT. A drop by Brandon Pettigrew cost the Lions a TD and they settled for a field goal in the first quarter. The killer miscue for the Lions came from RT Gosder Cherilus who drew a personal foul after pushing a Tampa Bay LB when the play was whistled dead. It cost the Lions a chance to burn another 40 seconds off the clock, and could have allowed the Bucs to come back and tie the score. Hopefully as the season drags on, players like Pettigrew will find their rhythm and Cherilus will find a way to play with a cooler head.

There is no question though. When Stafford is under center, this is a completely different team. Kudos to the offensive line who kept him upright and didn't give up a sack during the game.

He has the look of a man who has a lot to prove. He's now only started 14 of a possible 33 games, and there are those who still doubt he will play or even finish a whole season. While they may not be the first thing he wants to accomplish, it will stand out if he does or doesn't come January.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On Tap: Lions at Buccaneers

Week 1 is underway in the NFL. Detroit heads to Tampa Bay to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This game is a test for both teams who are considered on the rise. Tampa Bay went 10-6 in 2010, but missed the playoffs thanks to a late season surge by the Lions who won their final four games to go 6-10.

Tampa Bay's long-term future looks promising with 3rd year QB Josh Freeman. Freeman isn't flashy, but he makes few mistakes. RB LaGarrette Blount and WR Mike Williams were very productive rookies last year and TE Kellen Winslow is the perfect safety net for Freeman. Davin Joseph is an elite guard and will have his hands full with Ndamukong Suh.

But I suspect Tampa Bay will take a step back this year. It's not uncommon for teams in the NFL to pop up one year, fall back the next, and make a bigger splash the next year. Tampa Bay looks like one of those teams.

Detroit is back with Matt Stafford at QB. So far, Freeman has had the better career, but there's more upside to Stafford if he can avoid being upside down. Or just stay upside. Whatever. They face DT Gerald McCoy (selected right after Suh in the 2010 Draft) and CB Aqib Talib who didn't play against the Lions last December.

Detroit's running attack has been hindered with the loss of rookie Mikel Leshoure, but last year they had Maurice Morris and Jahvid Best who will both be in the game as the team's 1-2 tandem. They've also cut FB Jerome Felton as they plan on using TE Will Heller as an H-back while going with a base 2-TE offense.

The key for Detroit is the passing game. WRs Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson are the starters and rookie WR Titus Young is the third WR. Johnson could be the best WR in the NFL, but he'll need help from his other WRs if he can get more one-on-one matchups and not be double- and triple-covered all afternoon. Young is struggling, thanks to a hamstring injury that limited almost all of training camp. But their fourth WR, Maurice Stovall, had such an outstanding training camp, that he could supplant Young before the season's out, or maybe become part of an elite receiving corps with Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler as the two TEs .

The Lions' aren't Green Bay, yet. I'm still worried about the O-Line. Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola are entering their 11th seasons with Detroit. They aren't getting younger, but last year, Backus was finally starting to receive recognition despite having never been to a Pro Bowl. We'll have to see how RT Gosder Cherilus has recovered from his microfracture injury to his right knee and if Stephen Peterman can stay healthy. As of now, LG Rob Sims is the only sure bet on the line.

Backus received most the blame for Stafford's AC separation last year at the opener against Chicago. He allowed Julius Peppers to blow right by him and he nailed Stafford, giving him a third-degree AC Separation. If Backus and the rest of the line can protect Stafford and create holes for the RBs, this team will make some noise.

This game will be close.


Lions 23
Bucs 20

Football Is Back

There could not be a more unfortunate date for the NFL's 2011 season to kick off than on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. 9/11 reminds me of the fact that no matter how somber this commemoration is, I am thankful that I can still enjoy the things myself and millions of other Americans partake in - namely the kickoff of a new season.

My Detroit Lions are the buzz team of the 2011 season. Hopes are riding here in the mitten that the Lions will make a push for the playoffs. We're three years removed from the disastrous 0-16 season. Our team is no longer a laughing stock as evidenced by last season's performance; the games were close in most of the ten losses, but they put together a four-game winning streak at the end which included ending the 26-game road losing streak at Tampa Bay.

The lockout came and went. It ended in time for us to see that preseason will still take place, despite the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game - a game that by all means, showcases two teams' first strings for probably no more than a couple of series while the rest of the game we watch as they simply play out the string.

I was about 90/10 in favor of the NFL Players' position in the lockout. I believe that the NFL and its owners were trying to squeeze every single nickel out of the pockets of fans and players, and they overreached. The more we got closer to the starting dates of NFL Training Camps, the more I came convinced we would have a season. $9 billion in revenue is simply too much to walk away from for either side.

And so, as a fan, I am ecstatic football is back. I am an NFL fan first and foremost. The NBA? MLB? NHL? Couldn't care that much about any of them. College football? I'm a University of Michigan fan first, a Michigan State fan second, and state-based schools third. But I don't follow college football like I do the NFL.

Detroit plays the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa at 1:00. Even though I get off work at 8 am, I am making it a special commitment to get to my sister's house, sleep four hours, and enjoy me some football. It's become a tradition for the last five years. My crazy work schedule makes it difficult for me to come out to enjoy the games, because I have to wake up after only 3-4 hours of sleep, and waking up is next to impossible sometimes. But now that Detroit is poised to make a serious push for the playoffs, the NFL has scheduled them their first Monday Night game since 2001, as well as a couple of 4:00 games, making it much easier for me to come out and watch.

I have high hopes for this year's squad. Matthew Stafford is back and looking sharp. He has demonstrated that he truly is the leader of this team. Ndamukong Suh is in his second year and is looking more and more like he will become the best defensive lineman in all of football. Calvin Johnson has probably never looked more forward to a season than this one.

The Lions made some major moves in the offseason. They drafted another defensive tackle in Nick Fairley in the 1st Round, along with WR Titus Young and RB Mikel Leshoure in the 2nd Rounds. One of the two weakest areas on defense, linebackers, were addressed with the free agent signings of Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant. Tulloch, is a former Tennessee Titan who played under Coach Jim Schwartz when he was the Defensive Coordinator there while Durant was a solid LB for Jacksonville.

The team didn't do enough with its secondary, which looks to again be the weakest link of the entire team. They re-signed Chris Houston and added Eric Wright from Cleveland, and those two are expected to be the starters at cornerback. Free safety Louis Delmas, the only sure thing the Lions have in the secondary is back, while 2nd-year player Amari Spievey has made tremendous strides and won the starting job at strong safety.

I don't think the Lions are as weak in the secondary as most pundits believe. Houston is a solid No. 2 corner, while Eric Wright and Alphonso Smith (who lead the team in interceptions last year) can develop into solid No. 2s as well. the Lions are high on Aaron Berry and Brandon McDonald's development, and by year's end, they may not have a true No. 1 shutdown corner, but they could walk away with at least two solid No. 2s and two solid nickel corners. As long as the front seven can live up to their billing, that will help the back four tremendously.

It all rests on Matt Stafford's health. While they lost Mikel Leshoure for the year, which took away the 1-2 tandem of him and Jahvid Best, it is ultimately up to Stafford to run this pass-first oriented offense. He'll have an upgraded receiving corps with the addition of rookie Titus Young and Maurice Stovall. Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson remain the starting WRs while Brandon Pettigrew is the TE.

The Lions have chosen to go without a FB, and will use a base 2-Tight End offense, with TE Will Heller playing some form of an H-back, or a hybrid fullback. They will use Tony Scheffler as the 2nd TE in passing situations, giving Stafford quite an arsenal in the passing attack.

I see their schedule as somewhat soft. They can beat the first six teams the play - at Tampa Bay, Kansas City, at Minnesota, at Dallas, Chicago (Monday Night), and at San Francisco. I can see them winning all six games there, but most predict losses at at least Dallas and at Tampa Bay. Then they play Atlanta, which I think right now is their only sure loss.

After Atlanta, it's against Denver, Chicago, and Carolina. Denver is going to be weak because they're young and building a defense, and they're not settled on a QB (Kyle Orton is a good QB, but on a bad team, and probably not in their long-term plans). Detroit can beat Chicago twice, as I suspect the Bears will take a step back from last year's team whose season ended in the NFC Title game. They've got a lot of motivation to beat Chicago since they beat them twice last year (due to the account of referee interference, both games were given to the Bears). And Carolina? Please! Cam Newton will be lucky if he last four NFL seasons.

The final six games begins and ends with Green Bay. They play the Packers on Thanksgiving, then face New Orleans, Minnesota, at Oakland, San Diego, and finally head to Lambeau. I can see them losing to the Saints, Chargers, and at the Packers, which would end the season on a somewhat sour note losing the final two games.

Most importantly, I can see them splitting the season with Green Bay, and beating both Chicago and Minnesota twice, going 5-1 in the NFC North. I expect Green Bay to once again be the NFC North Champions and Detroit to finish in second place (with Chicago in third and Minnesota last).

With all that said, it's a reasonable expectation for the Lions to win at least ten games. They can even go 11-5. 13-3 is the absolute best they can do if everything goes their way, but I won't make that prediction.

Final prediction for the season: 10-6, and a Wild Card berth.

Super Bowl: Green Bay vs. New England - Tom Brady wins his 4th Lombardi Trophy.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Maybe I'll Close This Thing Out

It feels like unless you're somehow making money, or are in a career field where you do extensive writing, that there's little payoff in maintaining a blog.

I had an idea or two of things to write about, and although I felt I was off to a great start, by the second article I was failing to write a good sequel. I had written the previous article Chasing Ghosts and Gods with the hope of writing The Dark Knight to Batman Begins. Instead, the follow-ups were looking like The Whole Ten Yards from the The Whole Nine Yards.

Truth be told, there's a ton of things I should cover: Obama, the debt ceiling, anti-Islam fever, and the upcoming 2011 NFL Season, which would include my thoughts on the Lions, personnel, and of course, the ugly lockout.

I should also mention that the biggest difference between this summer and the last 10 have been how much fun I've had. I've gone and seen four over the summer, all comic-book inspired (X-Men First Class, Green Lantern, Transformers, and Captain America). I've also seen the first five Harry Potter movies, and plan on seeing No. 6, The Half-Blood Prince tonight, just in time for me to go with a friend to see No. 8, The Deathly Hallows Part II before it leaves the theaters.

Yeah, it remains to be seen at this point.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chasing Ghosts and Gods

I've spent the better part of the last two years or so rethinking and re imagining my thoughts on God. You may call this daydreaming. For a while now, I've found myself fumbling towards atheism without ever accepting it as a truth.

Nobody can really be sure either way if God exists or not, and if so, what form. Is God an old white man in the sky (outer space, the universe, etc.), or is he a woman? Or is it even an anthropomorphic being? Very rarely does anyone ever hear God spoken of as an energy or an object.

I think it's all a waste of time to spend so much energy in trying to search for truth, especially when we live here on Earth. Earth is too small a place in this vast universe. And the universe is too small a place if you're an astrophysicist who thinks this universe is part of a larger multiverse.

Astronomy always leads me back to thinking about God. Where did the universe come? Does it have defined limits, or is it limitless? Was there really a "Big Bang?" Do I even believe in the Big Bang Theory?

Truth be told, I don't quite believe in the Big Bang Theory. I don't believe that there was nothing and then all of a sudden "Bang!" A hot gaseous atomic explosion that started as something less than a millimeter wide that has expanded for 13 billion+ years. I kind of think that the universe has always been there (or here), like it has no genesis. I also think that it just goes on to infinity, that there is no "edge" to the universe.

But I'm not an astronomer, just a daydreamer. I don't have to worry about being discredited in this area because I have no cred to begin with. For me, it's just my way of putting my brain on the treadmill.

(For what it's worth, I'm not a believer in Intelligent Design, Creationism, or even Young Earth Creationism - the difference between the 2nd and 3rd being that some Creationists believe God created the Earth and Heavens and then let Evolution set it in, whereas Young Earthers believe in the biblical accounts written in Genesis. More on this later.)

Needless to say, the size of the universe is beyond my imagination. That's the way my 5th grade teacher would describe astronomical bodies. Hell, the size of the Sun is beyond my imagination. I could only imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut that flies the first shuttle to approach Jupiter. Oh wait, I can't. It's beyond that.

But the whole size and scope of the universe (and multiverse) is beyond my imagination. Which makes me ponder if there's truly a God, then all that happens on Earth (the good, the bad, the rest) is so small and insignificant to the greater workings of the universe. Everything from prosperity to famine and euphoria to despair is simply meaningless in the grander context of the universe.

For everyone who credits God's graces for their fortunes, there are a smaller number of people who turn their backs to God, believing he's either cruel or doesn't exist, because a loving God wouldn't allow for such horrible things like war, disease, and poverty. But why does it have to be one way or the other? Rarely are alternatives to the two competing theories ever discusses.

Me personally, I've come to think that what happens on Earth is inconsequential because in a vast universe like ours, there has got to be life somewhere else. Just because we've never seen aliens from another world doesn't mean they don't exist. Hence, I can't be an atheist, because having not seen God, doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

Do you think on those other planets, there are all kinds of possibilities as to how they've evolved? Some worlds have created highly advanced, progressive civilizations while others haven't come out of a protoplasmic state and have remained that way for eons. There has to be millions of these types of outcomes all over the universe, and perhaps there are hundreds of thousands of different forms of life and civilization in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Countless lives, outcomes, etc. So much to ponder. So much creativity for sci-fi writers to put this stuff altogether and make a book, movie, or TV series of it.

So maybe God is out there. Beyond all of this. Maybe it's not that he, she, it, or they care about the fortunes and misfortunes that happen to us; maybe what happens here on Earth, good or bad, is so inconsequential, that it is minute to whatever is the grand design of the cosmos.

Off to ponder more.

Lazy Blogger (Again)

Hmm, so after months away, I think I'm ready to start writing again. For a few months before I lose all interest in writing again and go on another 6-12 month hiatus.