Oscar Picks

Best Picture

Will Win: 12 Years A Slave

Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club

Director

Will Win/Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron

Lead Actor

Will Win/Should Win: Matthew McConaughey (Incredible)

Lead Actress

Will Win: Cate Blanchett (UGHHHHHHH so underwhelming)

Should Win: Judi Dench

Supporting Actor

Will Win/Should Win: Jared Leto (Fassbender, Abdi, and Co were all solid… Could have all possibly won in another year)

Supporting Actress

Will Win/Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o

Cinematography

Will Win/Should Win: Gravity

Film Editing

Will Win/Should Win: Gravity

Sound Mixing

Will Win/Should Win: Gravity

Sound Editing

Will Win/Should Win: Gravity

Visual Effects

Will Win/Should Win: Gravity

Original Screenplay

Will Win/Should Win: Her (Frightening. Thought Provoking.)

Adapted Screenplay

Will Win/Should Win: 12 Years A Slave

Makeup

Will Win/Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club ($250 total ARE YOU KIDDING ME)

Score

Will Win/Should Win: Gravity

Song

Will Win/Should Win: Let It Go

Animated Short

Will Win/Should Win: Get a Horse

Production Design (Make or break for your ballot)

Will Win: Gatsby

Should Win: Her

Costume Design (Make or break for your ballot)

Will Win: Gatsby

Should Win: American Hustle

 

 

Things I didn’t See

Foreign Language

Will Win: The Great Beauty

Documentary

Will Win: The Act Of Killing

Documentary Short

Will Win: The Lady in #6

Short Film: Live Action

Will Win: The Voorman Problem

Animated Feature

Will Win: Frozen

Mata

Juan Mata is far and away my favorite player at Chelsea. He’s a joy to watch. He’s a player to emulate. Chelsea fans are clamoring for Mourinho to keep him. However, if we truly love Juan Mata it is time for us to let him go.

Mata clearly doesn’t fit in Mourinho’s team. He’s a square peg trying to fit in a round hole at Chelsea this season. If you love Juan Mata, you shouldn’t just let him go reluctantly, but you should WANT him to be sold. His production last season speaks for itself. He is a player of immense quality, far too much quality to reside on any team’s bench. He deserves better. He’s only 25. It’s not unrealistic to assume that he can improve his game for a few more seasons. He deserves the opportunity to reach his potential, and he will never reach it at Chelsea. 

Mata deserves the best, but Chelsea too deserves the very best. Despite all Mata’s production last season, Chelsea finished 14 points behind United. This season (the one where Mata has been highly excluded) Chelsea has thrived and we find ourselves 12 points clear of United (That’s a 26 point swing since the end of last season for those that like math). Mata’s omission and the team’s marked improvement isn’t a coincidence. Not only is the team getting more results, but it looks better doing so. Oscar, Hazard and Willian are starting to link up very well behind the striker, but it is their defensive work-rates that have been particularly admiral. Willian and Hazard have flown back to help defend on the flanks. Oscar is flinging himself all over the pitch to make tackles. Mata just never has provided much when Chelsea lose the ball. People argue that he shouldn’t have to defend because of how much he provides offensively. Maybe he shouldn’t. Some teams would be okay with that philosophy… but he has to defend for a Jose Mourinho team.

Nobody can be bigger than the team. Chelsea was there long before Juan Mata came to Stamford Bridge, and will continue to be long after he exits. If you are a fan of Chelsea and a fan of Mata, it’s time to let him go. It’s best for both parties. Selling him to United may not be the smartest business move, but allowing him to depart is. It allows Chelsea to pocket some much needed money and for Mata to continue to develop. He’ll always be one of my favorites, but Mourinho seems to have deemed him surplus to requirements. Wherever he ends up, I’ll be rooting for him to excel (unless he’s playing Chelsea). I’m willing to let my favorite player go in his best interest… and more importantly in the best interest of Chelsea… If you’re truly a fan of Mata and MOST importantly a fan of Chelsea aren’t you willing to do the same?

National Championship Preview

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good; The Auburn Tigers are both. This is precisely why they will leave Pasadena with the crystal football on monday.

ESPN’s power index says Florida State is a 13 point favorite over the Tigers on a neutral field. Florida State boasts the Heisman winner and an average margin of victory of just under 43 points. Florida State’s schedule may have been easier than Auburn’s overall, however, in their biggest games against Duke, Clemson and Miami (although the Canes have fallen off the face of the Earth since losing in Tallahassee), they’ve shined the brightest winning by 38, 37 and 27 respectively. Jameis Winston has the offense scoring for fun to the tune of 53 points per game. Although Clemson is the only truly potent offensive attack the Seminoles have faced, the defense has been lights out allowing only 10.7 points per game. Against that Clemson offense that averages over 40 points each game, the Seminoles held them to 14 (they held Duke to 7 points and Miami to 14). The Seminoles least impressive performance and closest game of the season is the precise reason I expect Auburn to emerge victorious on Monday night.

The Seminoles struggled to put away Boston College 48-34 earlier in the season. The 34 points they gave up is twice as many as the next highest total (17 against NC State). The Seminoles managed to snag a 24-17 lead on a Hail Mary as time expired in the first half. They controlled the second half but didn’t manage to put away the Eagles until an interception late in the fourth quarter finally killed the game off. It’s no coincidence that this is the one legit rushing attack the Seminoles have faced and that this is the game the Seminoles have struggled the most. Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams rushed 29 times for 149 yards (BC as a team went for 200 on the ground), 90 of his yards in first half when BC was in the driver’s seat. Success can be had against this FSU team on the ground. A mediocre Boston College team that finished the season 7-6 proved that by jumping out to an early 17-3 lead in the first half by running successfully.

Boston College averaged 212.5 yards per game on the ground this season (20th in the nation), Auburn averages 335.7. In their last 8 games (Since October 12th), Auburn has averaged 394 yards per game on the ground. They’ve gotten better as the season has gone along. They are a far better team than the one that lost to LSU in Death Valley. Their star back Tre Mason has averaged 150 yards per game on 25 attempts and 2 TDs over that 8 game stretch (304 in the SEC Title Game). Boston College may be good on the ground but they aren’t great. This Auburn ground game is GREAT. It’s truly special. Gus Malzahn has turned a laughingstock into a legitimate contender that can go head to head with any team. If Boston College caused FSU problems, I expect Malzahn to drive Jeremy Pruitt and Jimbo Fisher to the brink of insanity.

Not only will Auburn truly provide a test for the Florida State defense, Auburn is the luckiest team I have ever seen. Chris Davis’ miracle return was a gift from above. I’ve never seen Nick Saban make a worse call. I’m convinced you could run that same dumb play call 1000 times and it would never happen like that again. AND THAT WASN’T EVEN AUBURN’S LUCKIEST PLAY! The Miracle at Jordan-Hare was even more ridiculous (Shades of LSU-Kentucky 2002, anyone?). All Georgia had to do was tip a horribly thrown ball down but the ball deflected into the hands of Ricardo Louis who raced into the end zone for the go ahead score. I have a better chance of running into Jennifer Lawrence and convincing her to go out with me than Auburn did of executing either of those plays… but they executed them.

Florida State is a fantastic team. They deserve to be in Pasadena. However, I fear they will be exposed on the ground. This Auburn team is very good, and what the lack in skill is more than made up for by their luck. It doesn’t ever seem to run out. They just might be “The Team of Destiny.”

2013 Year in Review

2013 was interesting year for me. This is a list of things that I did, saw, or experienced this year.

1. Had a bone in my hand snapped by a 6’6″ Romanian

2. Saw Grace Potter, Lupe Fiasco, Lecrae, and Old Crow Medicine Show in concert

3. Saw Star Trek Into Darkness, Ironman 3, Elysium, Lone Ranger, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Thor: The Dark World, Gravity, American Hustle, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in theatre.

4. Played indoor soccer at the Premier Soccer Center

5. Finished my first year at LSU

6. Worked at a dude ranch for the summer (Heart Six Guest Ranch)

7. Worked for over 30 straight hours in a kitchen preparing for/working a wedding

8. Saw Old Faithful erupt… twice

9. Wrestled a pig

10. Rode horses in the Tetons

11.Saw a grizzly bear, a black bear, an osprey, a bald eagle, moose, elk, bison, trumpeter swans, pronghorn antelope, beavers, a wolf, foxes, etc. in the wild

12. Saw an osprey and a bald eagle in a midair battle

13. White water rafted while a bald eagle soared overhead

14. Watched Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich contest an all German Champions League Final in a bar overrun with Bayern Munich fans from Germany

15.  Washed more dishes this summer than you probably have in your life

16. Made pancakes every Wednesday morning of the summer while staring at The Grand Teton

17. Made or maintained friendships with people from or currently residing in: Cambodia, Turkey, China, Nigeria, Jamaica, Cameroon, Angola, Czech Republic, Germany, Honduras, and Mexico

18. Made road trips to Dallas and Athens to see LSU play TCU and Georgia

19. Changed my major and declared a minor

20. Helped lead a community group

21. Helped serve breakfast one Sunday a month to a homeless community under a bridge

22. Turned 20

23. Rented my first house

 

I could continue but I’m blanking at the moment.

So… what all did you guys do this year?

Christmas Eve Rant

The NFL Playoff seeding system is DUMB. If Arizona (10-5) beats San Francisco (11-4) this weekend and New Orleans (10-5) takes care of business at home against Tampa Bay, we will see a team with 11 wins miss the playoffs. MEANWHILE, up north, the winner of Chicago (8-7) and Green Bay (7-7-1) will not only win their division, but have a home game. Green Bay could be hosting a home game with 8 victories. Arizona could be watching Green Bay on TV at home. Their 11 wins in this scenario? Pointless. That makes PERFECT sense. The logic there is actually FLAWLESS. In 2011, Denver won the AFC West and locked up the #4 seed at 8-8. Pittsburgh went 12-4 but was seeded #5. They had to play on the road at Mile High and lost to Tebow. In 2010, the Seahawks won the AFC West at 7-9. BELOW .500. Not even mediocre. Actually they were worse than mediocre (16 teams had a better record than Seattle that season). They got to host the Saints who finished 11-5. The raucous home crowd did just enough to see them to victory. Every year, it seems that a team that shouldn’t even be IN the playoffs is REWARDED with a home game. The current system encourages mediocrity. I don’t want to ever see an 11 win team sit at home, even if means the Saints miss the playoffs at 8-8. Put the best teams in the playoff, not the winner of a dumpster fire of a division.

Falling back in love with baseball

10 years ago, I had my heart ripped out and trampled on by Aaron Boone in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Fresh off my 10th birthday, I BELIEVED the Boston Red Sox were going to win the World Series for the first time since 1918. I stayed up well past my bedtime to watch every game. Game 7 is still deeply rooted inside my brain because of my emotional investment in that team. The Red Sox were 6 outs away from the World Series with a 5-2 lead. Grady Little then left Pedro Martinez in the game too long and everything soon unraveled. It was topped off by Boone’s walk off in the 11th inning.

One year later, I was overjoyed when I heard Joe Buck exclaim “Back to Foulke! Red Sox fans have longed to hear it! The Boston Red Sox are World Champions!” I felt like I was a part of this team. This group of idiots. I loved  this team and I loved this game. The Red Sox won another World Series in 2007… but I just really didn’t care. The short gap between titles made it less special than the 2004 title, but that wasn’t why I didn’t care.

In 2005 the first wave of suspensions for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) swept through baseball in the majors and the minors. I started to grow cold to the game I loved. Everyone was trying to beat the system.  In 2007, the same year the Sox would win their second World Series in 4 years, Sen. George Mitchell had released his findings on PED use in MLB. It was merely a confirmation of bigger rumors that had already been buzzing around for years. Mitchell released a list of names. A list of cheaters. Among them were many of the game’s biggest stars from my childhood.  Barry Bonds,  Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Andy Pettite, and Roger Clemens just a few of the many that were indicated to have used performance enhancing drugs.

I thought the Mitchell Report was the peak of my disappointment but I was wrong. In 2009, The New York Times reported that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz had tested positive for banned substances in 2003. This was what rock bottom felt like as a young fan. My two favorite players… cheaters… The most destructive duo in baseball in the early 2000s wasn’t doing it honestly. My heroes were allegedly just a pair of sham. I was angry. I was sad. I felt betrayed. I made a sign for Manny Ramirez when he came to play in Arlington. He threw me a ball. THIS is how he paid me back for my support? I hadn’t managed to watch an entire baseball game on television since 2007. This news in 2009 made me question if I’d ever even watch a MLB game again.

Here I sit. 2013. I just watched Koji Uehara strike out Matt Carpenter for the final out of the World Series, the Red Sox 3rd title in 10 years. I wasn’t overjoyed like I was in 2004, but I couldn’t help but smile as the team I loved as a boy celebrated like children. It may not have meant as much as 2004, but it meant more than the World Series in 2007. I hadn’t watched a complete baseball game since 2007 until the end of last year as I watched the Sox struggle under Bobby Valentine. I watched a handful this season. I watched heavily this postseason. I even found myself getting emotionally invested in a few games. I yelled at the TV when game three ended with the obstruction call… And tonight, I cracked a smile when I watched Koji throw that final pitch.

In the last 4 years, I guess I’ve had time to reflect and to heal. I’ve thought about the fallout from PED use a lot, especially in the last few months. What I’ve realized is that perhaps my disappointment was misguided. Ortiz was never actually suspended. He denied ever taking anything illegal. People outside Red Sox Nation will think I’m stupid, but now I’m believing that Big Papi has done it all honestly. I should have stuck by him. Even if he didn’t do it naturally, like my biggest hero of all, Manny, I still shouldn’t have let it sour the game I loved. The bottom line is that no matter how high of a pedestal we put these stars on, they’re still human. They’re prone to moments of bad judgment just like all of us. They’re deserving of the same forgiveness that we seek for our poor choices. For every cheater, there’s several guys who are doing it honestly and that has to be admired.

Baseball is too great of a game to let some truly great athletes’ poor choices ruin it. I feel foolish that I’ve missed the better part of 6 seasons now. I’m not saying that I’ll ever be the super fan I was as a kid. I don’t know if that hurt will ever fully go away… but I am trying very hard to love the game like I did as a kid. I’m not there yet, but I want to be. I don’t know what the next few seasons hold, but I’m all in. “America’s Pastime” is starting to feel like past times for me. Thanks 2013 Red Sox for reminding me why I loved this game so much and congratulations on another World Series.

Mr. Fuzz

            Every single time I pick up this round, rubber casing that used to be a basketball; I can’t help but to smile. The full grain leather cover is long gone. The days of shooting around with this ball are long gone, but I could never forget them. The sight of this old, worn, ragged ball leaves me wishing I could make more memories with it. However, when I clutch it closely, I realize that the memories it has helped make in years past are enough.

            It all started in 2000 with an oddly shaped present on Christmas morning. When I tore off the wrapping paper at the break of dawn that morning I was elated to find my first basketball. I’m not sure I was even done unwrapping presents when I went outside to the driveway to shoot the first of thousands of shots I’d take with this ball. My dad followed me out and indulged my excitement. Shot, after shot, after shot. A boy getting to shoot around with his father. It seems so simplistic and boring, but what is better than that? It’s incredible how tangible things have the ability to hold so many intangible memories and emotions that time cannot touch. Long after the object is used up and worn out, like my ball, it still is a valuable sentiment. In this sense an object gains true value as the monetary value depreciates. I wouldn’t trade the beaten, battered ball for a new one with Michael Jordan’s signature.

As I hold this shell of a ball and toss it in the air mimicking a shot, I remember all the games that were played by my friends and I. With that ball. In the driveway. Everything was simple and meaningless. My friend Scott and I played 1 on 1 until we couldn’t stand up. We were all silly children obsessed with a game. The biggest worry we had was when we had to race to retrieve my ball out of the ditch that parallels the driveway before it reached the drainage pipe that runs under my street.

Now we are a group of college students and even a married man. We’re scattered geographically and in walks of life. But at one time we were all kids that played with a basketball so much that it lost its leather cover and become a ball of fuzz (I then dubbed the ball Mr. Fuzz). And we kept playing with that ball of fuzz until it became the rubber casing it is today. The ball is my escape to that time of life. There was no burden of school in 2nd grade. When I pick the ball up it’s like I’m living that burden free life once more. It takes me back to my driveway no matter how far I am from home.

I’m sure the ball isn’t even an afterthought to my friends. If they saw it today, they may not remember it. But to me it’s everything. I can’t forget about it. The three or four times I’ve bought a new basketball since I received that one I know that Mr. Fuzz will be more special. We all have these items that take us back “to the good ole days.” For my friend Scott, maybe it’s the pool paradise that is his back yard where we swam every summer. For my friend Josh, maybe it’s the football he brought to every football game we played. For my friend Jon, maybe it’s the Playstation we wasted hours of time on. For me, it is a beat up basketball. It takes me back to a time and place near to my heart. I would trade many objects of my affection for the chance to actually go back to Christmas morning, reopen that package, and shoot with my dad in the driveway. Unfortunately, that isn’t physically possible. Fortunately for me, Mr. Fuzz takes me back in a way that no other object can.