Thursday, April 27, 2006

TO START, PRESS ANY KEY. WHERE'S THE 'ANY' KEY?!?

The Onion AV Club has two good Simpsons articles: an interview with Matt Groening, and a Guide To Simpsons Quotes For Everyday Use (most of which I already use with alarming frequency).

My horrible company has the "7 Habits of Highly Successful People" posters framed and hanging on the walls in our training/torture room. The only problem is that there are only 5 of the 7 "habits" remaining. It's that "Meh, that's good enough" attitude that got us where we are today. It just perfectly sums up why my company is so fucking dysfunctional.

Odwalla's Peanut Crunch bar is "NOW! SOFTER!" It's about time. Who wants a crunch bar that's crunchy? Dirty stinkin' Commies, that's who!

As far as I'm concerned, Keith Hernandez can say whatever he wants. He's Keith Hernandez! He won the MVP in '79! He should have gone down to the dugout and apologized to San Diego's massage therapist, and then kissed her, full on the mouth. Because, dammit, he's Keith Hernandez! (BTW, why was she in uniform--in case they needed her to bunt a runner over?)

When a person looks exactly like someone else, you call him a "dead ringer". So if someone sounds like another famous vocalist, is he a "dead singer"?

The Storm Track has some cool pictures of Tropical Cyclone Monica hitting the northern Australian coast, a Category 5 and possibly the most intense storm ever to hit the entire region. Watching The Amazing Race contestents run around Perth last night, I realize that I must go Down Under sometime soon.

I was reading "The Tipping Point" last night by Malcolm Gladwell, and it made some interesting points about what creates "social epidemics" and helps them spread. When talking about the increase in teenage smoking, it makes the interesting distinction that kids don't smoke because it's cool, they start the habit because "smokers are cool. Interesting stuff. Anyway, while I was reading this I had some droning trance music playing in the background, and I was pretty chilled out when suddenly I hear an airhorn go off. I jumped, thinking, WTF did that come from? Well, I forgot that I had a CBS Sportsline NHL GameCenter still open, and the "Audio Alerts for game events" box checked. The individual sounds are pretty funny, actually: airhorn = goal, whistle = penalty, buzzer = end of period. Just make sure you're not half asleep, they're pretty annoying. The baseball one no longer has the sounds, which was limited to "YER OUT!"

Oh, and try to watch one of the incredibly busy looking MLB GameDay windows during a live game: there's so much shit going on spread out over 10 different sections, and add to that interactive pop-ups, you don't know where to look. It's probably not good for you, like Battling Seizure Robots. Thank god for the compass next to the stadium diagram, I'd be lost if I didn't know that CF in Yankee Stadium is pointed NNE.

BTW, MLB blows. I bet the balls are juiced, the bats corked, and the stadiums filled with helium this year. Add this to the tiny ballpark dimensions and crappy pitching, and you've got more dingers to take everyone's mind off of the rampant steroid/HGH/cow hormone use. How else can you explain Jonny Gomes of Tampa Bay having 10 HR in a month? This guy couldn't hold Brady Anderson's jock.

Gotta go, the airhorn just informed me that Ottawa just took the lead.

WATCH HAVLAT!

ANOTHER NHL UPDATE: DEVILS DOG BLUE SHIRTS

The Devils scored on their first shift, and their first shot, only 68 seconds into Game 3 @ MSG last night and never looked back, beating #68 & Co. 3-0, to take a 3-games-to-none stranglehold on this series. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they've just run into a buzzsaw. Plus, they had Henrik saying he "wasn't seeing the puck" lately (which is pretty much the primary job of a goalie), Ozolinsh who can't stop screwing up (the "Ozolinsh Mob" at MSG weren't booing him each time he touched the puck, they were saying "Boo-ozolinsh"), Rucinsky fitted with a bent piece of PVC tubing on his thumb so he could play (I'm not kidding), and an ineffective Jagr skating with a newly fitted bionic arm that malfunctioned and tried to kill its maker (could be true). Jags certainly couldn't shoot the puck with his dislocated shoulder, so he was out there for inspirational purposes only, which didn't light a fire under the team. Overall, it hasn't been a good showing for this talented, young crew.

On the other hand, this is the Devils 14th win in a row, and Brodeur's 21st playoff shutout, both of which are pretty damn impressive numbers. You have to hand it to Lou for letting these guys loose on offense; ever since Elias came back in January it's been working fantastically (this isn't your old "boring neutral zone trap team", so you can stop calling the sports radio ass-clowns and complaining about it). As you may know, I want the Devils to win and I'm enjoying this, but in all honesty I was hoping for a long, hard-fought series. It actually got people in this "huge sports town" talking about hockey again for the first time in 9 years, and now we've already moved on to talking about the whothefuckcares NFL draft (which is, by definition, a discussion for LOSERS). Ugh. Oh well.

During the postgame show, Ken Daneyko, while plugging some gym that he opened in Hoboken, joked about who the Devils are going to play in the next round. So if they pull an '04 Yanks and lose this series, it will officially be known as "The Curse of Ken" or "The Daneykurse" (I can't decide). Game 4 will be played in the Self-Proclaimed World's Most Famous Arena on Saturday afternoon at 3PM, which I have decided is the worst time to attend (and watch) a game. It's especially shitty if you're in the Swamp, and it's raining so you can't even tailgate; on the other hand, it's perfect if you're in Manhattan if you have dinner reservations after the game. Okay, so being in New Jersey is the part that sucks.

Colorado won in OT last night (I saw the tying goal with under a minute left, but missed the Alex "Tanqueray Time" winner a minute into OT), and they're now up 3-0 in the series vs. the Stars, giving Marty Turco a 1-8 record in the playoffs. Philly phinally beat Buffalo, and it was as ugly as Brind'Amour but Carolina won 2-1 to finally show up in this series.

(Why have I started writing about the Stanley Cup playoffs on a daily basis, since I'm the only one who cares? I don't know. Unless someone leaves a comment saying that I should continue this nonsense, I'm going to stop blogging about this stuff for a while, because I'm boring myself. We need more comedy, and this is funny, but not "ha ha funny".)

* * *

Speaking of a lack of comedy, a personal note to Robin Williams: it's over. You had a nice run, winning an Oscar for "Good Will Hunting", being nominated for "Good Morning Vietnam" (and possibly other movies with "good" in the title), and doing some of the best cocaine-fueled work in the 80s, outside of Lawrence Taylor. But with the release of RV, a comedy whose piece de resistance is an exploding toilet, I think it's time to revoke your SAG card. Plus, you're dragging down funny actors like Cheryl Hines and Will Arnett, who have starred in some of the best TV comedies from the past few years. But hey, it's been fun, really. Good night, Vietnam! This is Mork from Ork signing off, nanu, nanu!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MIRACLE AT MSG?

For New York Rangers fans, it's probably a good idea not to watch tonight's Game 3 Rangers/Devils game, even though it's the first playoff game in MSG since Gump Worsley was between the pipes. If they win, then it's about time, now maybe they can tie it up Saturday. If they lose, then the series is all but wrapped up. Jagr said it would take a miracle for him to play tonight. I still think Messier is going to push him out to the ice in a wheelchair and he's going to score the winning goal in the final minute tonight, with the play-by-play by Al Michaels, naturally. Anyway, Henrik should be back, so stay tuned. (At least John Davidson won't whine about how far they had to sit from the ice in the CAA, as he did during the 2nd intermission at the Devils game, when the Rangers were losing 3-0; a rare case of unprofessionalism on his part).

I meant to mention this: after John Madden scored his hat trick in Game 2, Chico Resch revealed that a fan threw his toupee on the ice. No shit. I'm thinking the staples got caught up in the hat the fan chucked out there. Devils fans, there's nothing quite like them (thankfully).

Speaking of Gump, I saw something about him on OLN (when the Ducks game was mysteriously blacked out), and he's got some great quotes. Early in his career with the Rangers he was once asked, "Which team gives you the most trouble?" His reply? "The New York Rangers." He was also the second to last goalie to play without a mask, justifying it by saying, "My face IS my mask." Gump's like the Yogi Berra of hockey.

As for last night's contests, there seems to be an epidemic of double OT games, with Edmonton taking two extra frames to beat Detroit last night, in a 4-3 stunner. Since I missed it, here's Rob's special report: "It was 3 – 1 and the Oilers were cruising, I fell asleep and when I woke up it was over, but I missed the best part." Nice work, thanks for the update! The Flames, Sharks, and Sens all took care of business, and each lead their respective series 2 games to 1.

I don't have anything interesting to say, so here's a couple of videos. First up is A-Rod "cleaning his stick" during the Orioles game last Sunday. This is one at-bat ritual that I pray to god doesn't catch on. Rob dubbed it "M-V-Me Time".



This is why I can't watch baseball anymore.

The last one is a promotional video from Calgary Flames 1987-1988 team. Forget the mullets, it's good to see that the 70s porn mustache was alive and well in Western Canada in the late 80s. Holy crap, that's BRETT HULL!



YOU CAN'T TOUCH A FLAME WHEN IT'S RED HOT! RED HOT!
I have to go lie down now.

LATE UPDATE: I was this close to calling Jagr a little European sissy-boy . . . but apparently he WILL BE PLAYING tonight for the Rangers. What did I tell you . . . ?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

NO RUFF LOVE FOR FLYERS

That's right, Philly: Lindy Ruff thinks you're a bunch of idiots.

Everyone already knew this about the Flyers, but we don't get a chance to tell the press. TSN's Bob "Great White North" McKenzie is calling the Flyers' Gauthier's hit on Varek in Game 2 a cheap shot, and goalie Anne Esche (I loved her in "Six Days Seven Nights") picking a fight was embarrassing, and would have been more meaningful if he hadn't just given up 5 goals on 4 shots. Ken Hitchcock's response to the fact that his team was out of control? "Tell Lindy to fuck off, to mind his own fucking business." It's just what I've come to expect from the classy world of Philadelphia sports. Idiocy aside, their goaltending imploded, like it usually does in the playoffs. Apparently, they wanted to send a "message" for the Umberger hit, and all Buffalo wanted to do was send a message by scoring goals, which appeared to be the better strategy.

So far the Avs are doing what I told them, up 2-0 against Dallas, and Edmonton is putting up a fight, getting a split in Detroit. Overall, I'm really suprised by Montreal; even though they went on a nice run to get the #7, I don't think they're all that great, though they have plenty of time left to prove that.

I'll be honest with you: I'm still afraid of the Rangers. Jagr's demise has been greatly exaggerated. They'll announce to the 174 press outlets in New York that he's not going to play tomorrow, but suddenly he'll limp out of the tunnel before the 3rd period like Willis Reed, with the Devils up by two, and score a hat trick. Plus, the Devils 13 game win streak has to end some day, and don't forget that the Rangers were the team to snap their 9 game streak back in February. Before you know it, this series could be tied up 2-2.

Canadians are so damn proud and provincial, you've got to love them. They're so busy with their maple syrup, Rush albums, and national health care that they apparently don't have time for hockey playoff series featuring non-Canadian teams. Well, excuse me if Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Moose Jaw, Yellowknife, Moncton, Thunder Bay, Halifax, and/or Mississauga are not represented in every NHL postseason game, but if that's what you base your viewing on, you're missing some good hockey.

(By the way, I feel sorry for people who come to this blog looking for hockey news, videos, and insight--I'm really just a buffoon who happens to enjoy hockey. The name of the blog was initially just a pun, and I could go whole months without mentioning hockey at all. If you did accdientally come here looking for hockey stuff, I apologize, but at least I hope you enjoyed your stay.)

WRIST SHOTS . . .
> Advertisement spotted at the Calgary hockey game: BOSTON PIZZA. Huh? I have NEVER had a good pizza in Boston, and Lord knows I've tried. But then again I've never been treated to an authentic Western Canadian pie, so it could be an improvement over what they've currently got.

> Despite what the commercials tell you, Coach K does NOT drive a Chevy truck, and Derek Jeter does NOT drive a Ford Fusion. How many suckers show up at the Ford dealership saying, "Gimme da car dat da CAPTAIN drives!" Phil "FIGJAM" Mickelson, however, does drive a Ford Fusion, because he's a sissy.

> I have a name for a new website for seniors looking to meet new people: carbondating.com.

> "The Sopranos" has had its good and bad moments, but there are few shows during which you can witness Ben Kingsley dropping f-bombs, Lauren Becall dropping f-bombs after getting punched and mugged, and Frankie Valli getting whacked. And that was just this past week's EPISODE. Oh and apparently David Chase's vision of a "gay bar" is a whole room of leather-clad extras from the Blue Oyster Bar scene from "Police Academy". Good times in Jersey.

> If you were to write a book about Manny Ramirez, what reading level would you shoot for? The Story of Manny Being Manny" by Todd Balf is, naturally, aimed at 6-7 year olds, which is the approximate mental age of Man Ram and the vast majority of the Red Sox Nation. The irony: they still may not be able to read it. He should start his own children's charity: MAN RAM'S KIDS!

> Hollywood seems to be suffering from a severe case of suckism. Therefore, I have chosen the two main stars for a new buddy movie (if Miami Vice is alreday filmed, that is): Gary Busey and O.J. Simpson. This should easily gross $75M the first week. Oh, and Hollywood: you're welcome.

Monday, April 24, 2006

NHL PLAYOFF HIGHLIGHTS: MADDEN 2006

DEVILS 4, RANGERS 1. Without Jagr, Ward, Kasparminus, and Henrik (Weekes played in place of him), The Rangers played hard tonight . . . but the outcome was the same, as they lost 4-1. The Devils third goal summed up how things have been going for the Rangers. With the score 2-0 Devils near the end of the 2nd period, the Rangers ended up with a 5-on-3 power play. They came close, with Sykora hitting a post, but a number of great clearing passes by Rafalski broke up their rhythm, and Pandalfo cleared the puck off the boards just as John Madden came out of the penalty box. Weekes seemed stunned and stayed in the net as Madden swooped in all alone to his left and tried to put it past him. Initially, he made the save, but as he moved the puck trickled between his legs and stopped precariously on the goal line. Ozolinsh came in to try to dig it out, and instead poked it in, with 0:06 remaining. This made it 3-0, and Madden would score again to make it a 4-1 final. It's now officially an uphill battle for the Rangers, who showed improvement tonight especially on the PK, and shut down the Devs #1 line, though it may be too late. Expect to see Henrik in goal, and Sandis outside selling pretzels, for Game 3 @ MSG on Wednesday.

NOTE: Those stupid thundersticks came back to haunt the Devils PR. When Madden scored his hat trick, hundreds of hats came down on the ice . . . along with hundreds of those stupid thundersticks, uninflated and still in their wrappers, and it stopped play for 10 minutes. Brilliant work, by both Devils fans and the Devils PR. Of course, if they just gave out towels, that wouldn't have happened.

Among the lousy names I've heard for the Devils/Rangers series: "The Tunnel Series" (Post), "Battle of the Hudson" (Daily News), "Border War" (MSG). You guys all suck, those are horrible. Stan Fischler added "Manhattan Meadowlands Mayhem" today. Shut up, Maven, and go Zamboni the Palisades ice.

BUFFALO 8, PHILLY 2. It was all Sabres in this one, as they built a 5-0 1st period lead and cruised to an 8-2 win (and a 2-0 series lead) behind hat tricks by Dumont and Pominville. As this was going on, I read some of the CBS Sportsline Glog (ugh):

1(st period) - 4:23
More USA! USA! USA! chants. This can't be encouraging for Esche's confidence at all. And there it is, Esche now comes out of his net to start a fight with Derek Roy at the middle of the ice. Esche has lost it for the moment. Roy went after Peter Forsberg, who skated by him and sort of sided him a little. It's all Buffalo in the first period. Esche gets a penalty that wil be served by Mike Knuble.

That's right, the Buffalo fans taunted Esche with "USA" chants, because he was chosen over Miller for the Olympics, and ended up sucking--and he got so frustrated that he picked a fight! Only in America! USA! USA!

MONTREAL 6, CAROLINA 5, 2OT. Yes, we have another double OT game, as Michael "Easy" Ryder scores, and the Habs take a stunning 2 games to zip lead in this series. (Road trip?)

COLORADO had a 3-0 lead in the first (giving them 8 unexplained goals in the series), but DALLAS finally woke up and scored 4 in the second. I just turned on OLN to see the conclusion, and the Avs just tipped in a SH goal to tie it at 2:04! I'm too tired to stay up for OT, but the Avs had better win this.

Peca, Hockey PlayerI didn't mention this from Sunday: have you ever seen a goal scored off of 4 skates and a post? I don't think I have either. Check out the highlights from Game 2, Detroit vs. Edmonton, from Sunday (it's the second goal shown). Detroit's Williams was behind the goal to the goalie's right, and tried to shoot it out front, but it went off the defenseman's (Bergeron) skate, back off his (Williams) left and right skates, hit the post, hit the goalie's (Roloson) right skate, and caromed in--just a ridiculous ping pong shot. I tried to describe on this blog in case the link doesn't work, and I think I failed miserably.

I'll close with a picture of Peca, who looks like a hockey player, or a hobo who lost a fight. Get that guy a hot meal and a cot to sleep on.

GAME 1 RECAP: WATCH JAGR!

April 22nd, 2006 was Earth Day, but it could have easily been renamed "What On Earth Happened To The Rangers?" Day. Game 1 ended up a Devils rout, as they cruised to a 6-1 win over the Rangers on Saturday afternoon. The first period was sloppy but closely fought, with each team recording a power play goal to make it 1-1, so it looked like we had a game. But the Rangers started to unravel about halfway through the second, taking bad penalties and playing undisciplined hockey, and they also got spotty goaltending from Lundqvist (who has given up 11 G in the last 2 games). Basically, everything that went right for them in the regular season went wrong, and all of the positive attributes that added up to their success suddenly evaporated. When the smoke cleared, they had handed the Devils 13 power plays, they cashed in on 5 of them, and Patrick Elias had an astonishing 6 points (2G, 4A). Sure, it's only one game, and I still think the Rangers can make this a series (personally, I root for good hockey over blowouts and sweeps), but that was a statement game for the Devils and they took care of business. We'll find out more tonight in Game 2, which is obviously a huge game for the Rangers. Jagr hurt his shoulder on the penalty kill with 4 minutes left (why was he on a PK late in a blowout anyway?), so he's questionable.

As for the scene at the Arena, it was an odd vibe; although it was about 20% Rangers fans in the upper deck, there was barely any tension in the crowd. I've been to playoff games with a lot more atmosphere than this one; in fact, I've been to regular season games vs. the Rangers with more electricity. Maybe Devils fans are getting jaded, or maybe they're just more reserved than the average hockey fan, but they generated very little noise in the cavernous Continental Airlines Arena. And when they made themselves heard, they would merely embellish every chant or song with the word "suck" (ooo, inventive), or chanting "Marty's better". What is the point of that chant? Who's saying he's NOT better? He's one of the greatest goalies of all-time, so it wouldn't even be worth the effort to debate. Also, Devils PR didn't help by passing out those irritating blow-up "thundersticks" which are, well, kind of loud and gay. Of course, as Rob pointed out, what's the point of spending money on PR if you're the Devils organization? You win three Cups and still don't get any press, so why bother? It's always going to be tough being the "3rd man in" the NYC area, because they'll never get the respect and attention they deserve.

We also happened to be sitting right in front of a guy (an NHL scout???) who screamed "Watch Jagr!" every time he was on the ice; thankfully, the Devils coaching staff heard this sage advice about this mystery player and did just that. This might be nitpicking, but there seemed to be an inordinate number fans with "personalized" Devils jerseys, featuring either their own name, or things like "Stanley Cup" or "Spanky" on the back, which always looks stupid ("Hey Ductus! Get your suit on! We need ya!"). I'm a Devils fan, but I'm not a fan of Devils fans, I guess. (Three of us avoided ridicule by wearing our black Barr Labs jerseys--of course, we forgot to bring a camera.) All things considered, that was probably my last playoff game in the Swamp. At least I left the parking lot in style, taking a couple of traffic cones with me. You'd think that without mass transit, at least traffic control would be good--but no. I hate that goddamn lot.

As for the other series, there have already been two fantastic 2OT games, with Detroit prevailing in the first one, and Buffalo outlasting Philly. I thought the Sabres were going to blow it when Philly got the equalizer with less than 2 minutes left, but Briere eventually bailed them out. Campbell's hit on Umberger in OT (see below) is a classic.



Welcome to Playoff Hockey, rookie!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

LIVE FROM GAME 1: DEVILS 6, RANGERS 1

It's a party for Marty.

PLAYOFF NOTES

It's only day one of the playoffs, and Edmonton's Michael Peca already had a full stubble beard and a huge black eye that covered nearly the whole left side of his face. If you were going as a hockey player to a Halloween party, all you need a picture of Michael Peca.

Detroit survived in double OT against a feisty Edmonton team. Maltby's goal late in the 3rd that tied it up 2-2 was essentially bunted off the middle of his stick shaft. Fun to watch, and it was only the beginning. In other action, Ottawa and Calgary won, and Nashville took game 1 from the Sharks. Maybe I was wrong about them . . . ? Nah. Couldn't be.

OLN was running fishing commercials featuring "Bernie Nicholls - NHL Legend". Whoa, wait a sec. If he's a hockey legend, that makes Howard Johnson of the Mets a baseball legend.

Heading out to the Continental Breakfast Arena to see the Rangers vs. Devils. LET'S GO DEVILS!!!

Friday, April 21, 2006

2006 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF FIRST ROUND PREVIEW

It's been nearly two years, but the STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS ARE BACK. The NHL regular season was quite enjoyable to watch (for those who tuned in), as the new rules have increased scoring, and the zero-tolerance penalty calling has cut down on the clutching/grabbing/trapping style that bogged down the previous incarnation of this sport. Here at Open Hockey Blog, Ltd. we take pride in our incredible blognosticative powers, where we stated that the Devils would not make the playoffs (stated twice), Lundqvist would come back and win against Ottawa who had "nothing to play for", all Canucks teams minus the Leaves would make it, Phil stinks and DiMarco is a lock to win the Masters--my predictive powers are immeasurable. In light of that information, here is the official 2006 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF FIRST ROUND PREVIEW! (Place your bets, place your bets.)

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Devils vs. Rangers
Player To Watch: Brian Gionta, NJ
Since I will be at Game 1, this is the series that I'm most interested in. Despite a 100 point season, no one is giving the Blueshirts any credit around here since blowing the Atlantic Division. Well, neither am I, but I think they'll make this a series. The Devils have been a dominant team this calendar year, but they've had trouble keeping Jagr bottled up before. Maybe the flu bug that's hit the Rangers will keep them down (as if they needed any other bad news at this point). That won't be a factor, just an convenient excuse if they lose. It comes down to goaltending, and rookie Lundqvist is not 100% no matter what they say; it looks like it will depend on "Marty being Marty". Devils in 6.
Buffalo vs. Flyers
Player To Watch: Daniel Briere, BUF
This is a deep Sabres team who roll three quality lines, and the Phlyers never have good playoff goaltending (former lesbian Anne Esche is starting Game 1). I've know been saying "it's Philly's year!" in every sport since 1986, but uhm, it won't be this year either, so for the sake of brotherly love I should stop saying that. Naaaah. Buffalo in 6.
Ottawa vs. Tampa Bay
Player to Watch: Martin Havlat, OTT
Sens have looked impressive (is 25 shorthanded goals for a team a record?), while the Lightning Bugs have struggled all year and had to fight to get the #8 seed. Without Hasek playing, TB might steal a game at home, but that's it. Ottawa in 5.
Carolina vs. Montreal
Player To Watch: Eric Staal, CAR
'Canes are too deep (even without the injured Cole), and should take out the Habs and their young goalie, whose resembence to the new Batman won't help him. Brind'Amour is still as ugly as ever, which should give them the edge. Carolina in 6.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Detroit vs. Edmonton

Player To Watch: Henrik Zetterberg, DET
The Swede Wings are too damn good. It also makes me sick how Dr. Cox on "Scrubs" continually wears their jersey too (a show I otherwise enjoy). Hey, do any of the Oilers own oil stock? Sorry, just looking for a bright spot. Detroit in 5.
Dallas vs. Colorado
Player To Watch: Joe Sakic, COL
This is my upset special. While the Stars had the most points from shootout wins during the regular season, there's no shootout in the playoffs. There's also no crying in hockey, unless you're Mark Messier. Colorado in 7.
San Jose vs. Nashville
Player To Watch: Jonathan Cheechoo, SJ (god, I love that name)
Sharks are a scoring machine (Sharky's Machine? Sorry, awful reference), and the Preds' backup goalie will be eaten alive. Sharks in 5.
Calgary vs. Anaheim
Player to Watch: Miikka Kiprusoff, CGY
It's going to be duck flambé, as Calgary wins one with the Kipper. Calgary in 6.

RANDOM NOTES:
* The Devils were down by 17 points on New Years Day, and were never in first in the Atlantic until the 82nd game. Their 11 game winning streak to end the season is a record (not including shootout wins, they had 10 wins in a row, which is still a record).
* Some jackass named Scott Burnside at ESPN.com apparently disagrees with Pat Quinn's firing. I don't remember him from NHL 97 on my Sega Genesis, so I'm guessing that not only has he never skated in the NHL before, but he's probably been to zero games in Toronto--he's from the hockey-and-sports hotbed of ATLANTA, for chrissake. I hate the Worldwide Leader in Shit more and more with each passing hour. This is Karl's take, gleaned from his travels to YYZ and back last year: "They started grooming Paul Maurice for the job last year. Once Carolina fired him, he went to Toronto's farm system. Then the Leafs made no effort to improve this year's team, let some contracts expire, and gear up for a big 06-07 once they have a year under the "new NHL rules and marketplace" environment. People were furious last summer about all this while I was up there. People getting signed elsewhere, Leafs not making any moves, etc. Leafs ownership was very hesitant. Not a bad strategy really, limiting the potential liabilities. There was a lot of uncertainty when they were planning to get back on the ice, as to whether anyone would watch. Paul Maurice's a class act. I can see him up there for a very long time." Good stuff.
* HD programming note: One would think that this would be the best time for the NHL, in its "comeback year", to showcase the Second Season and broadcast all the games in full widescreen HD . . . but they won't. Here's the NHL's official statement: "The network will also take advantage of hi-definition technology, presenting one series in both the quarterfinals and semi-finals in HD, as well as both series in the conference finals. Games one and two of the Stanley Cup Final will also be available in hi def." ONE SERIES? AND TWO GAMES IN THE FINALS? What a joke. Of course, it doesn't say which games; the only ones I know for sure are NBC's Saturday and Sunday afternoon games (Rangers @ Devils 3PM 4/22, Oliers @ Red Wings 1PM 4/23). As for OLN, who the hell knows? They have the technology, but there are so many blackout rules, that I have no idea what's going to be on.
I'm almost to the point where I'm sick of even researching this stuff, because it's a joke how little HD is available. By 2015, we should be up to speed, at which time an even better HD format (1620 ultra-progressive!) will have been invented to replace this standard.
* The best part of OLN's increased "hockey themed programming" during The Quest for the Cup™: they're going to show the 1986 movie Youngblood. The synopsis: "A skilled young hockey prospect (Rob Lowe) hoping to attract the attention of professional scouts is pressured to show that he can fight if challenged during his stay in a Canadian minor hockey town." First of all, Rob is no Kevin Lowe when it comes to skating. Second, Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves (who apparently plays a French Canadian goalie) are co-stars. Man, I can't wait.
* Bill Simmons must have read my "Rearview Mirror" blog post, because his entire NBA article similarly quotes Pearl Jam songs. Bastard!
* Get your One Team, One Goal T-shirts before your team gets knocked out, rendering them obsolete and pointless!

MY NHL! MY CUP! MY HEAD HURTS!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOUR ASS AS YOU LEAF

The Toronto Maple Leaves have fired coach Pat Quinn. This is the one blognostication I happened to get right. Back on April 3, I said: "Expect him to be shown the door around 1:00 PM on April 19th", so I was roughly 24 hours off. Quinn was an old school coach who ran a team of thugs, and had no business being in today's NHL. Good riddance!

Speaking of blognostications, Rob V. told me before the baseball season started that the New York Mets are going to run away with the National League East division (yes, this was before they started 10-2). All I have to say is they have a new song called "Our Team. Our Time." and it's fucking awful (even the punctuation sucks). That sums it up for me; it no longer feels like "my Mets", but rather a product that's being marketed to a demographic that I don't belong to anymore.

* One of the villagers caught in the Danube River flooding in Romania told Reuters:"Life is a curse. Floods are a curse and God is angry now on the eve of Easter." Geez, lighten up, you're still alive! Oh wait, if life is a curse, then that's not going to help to console you. Eh, I got nothing.

* It's getting to the point that you need a glossary while watching the news to figure out what's going on. For instance, when did the term "suspect" become replaced by "person of interest"? Was there a very special episode of "CSI" that explained that? Because I guess I missed the announcement. By the way in France, "CSI" is known as "The Experts", because those French always have to be fucking different.

* I don't have a patio/deck that needs to be cooled by up to 20 degrees and shielded from the sun's rays, but dammit those commercials are so persuasive that I feel I must buy a SUNSETTER RETRACTABLE AWNING. Especially after Harry told me about the discount!

* VOICEOVER: From the network that brought you "Deal or No Deal".
Well, you lost me there, but okay, what now?
VOICEOVER: It's the most exciting show ever: Celebrity Cooking Challenge!!!
Good god, this country is mentally retarded.

* Apparently, Duke lacrosse merchandise is selling like crazy on ebay. Maybe that lady was right, life is a curse.

Final tally for the MAGIC AT MSG contest: congratulations to the Knicks, who lost 59 games, while Jagr scored 54 goals. It was a tight race, but I knew the K-men could stink up the place.

As for the NHL regular season, you have to love the names of the trophies given out for individual achievements, but how much teasing do you get when you win the "Lady Byng"?

Anyway, I think Jagr should win the Hart (MVP), since he and his 123 points (54G-69A) is the biggest reason the Rangers are where they are; as far as I'm concerned, Cheechoo (RICHARD winner, Most Goals, 56) and Thornton (ROSS Winner, Most Points, 125) cancel each other out. Ovechkin (52G-54A) looks like a cinch to win the CALDER for Rookie of the Year. Kiprusoff already has the JENNINGS (fewest goals against), so guess who I'm giving the Vezina?

Let's break it down:

HART (MVP): Jagr, NYR
CALDER (ROOKIE): Ovechkin, WAS
LADY BYNG (MOST GENTLEMANLY): Richards, TB
SELKE (DEFENSIVE FORWARD): Brind'Amour, CAR
NORRIS (BEST DEFENSEMAN): Lidstrom, DET
VEZINA (GOALIE): Brodeur, NJ
MASTERSON: Yzerman, DET
ADAMS (COACH): Lindy Ruff, BUF

I was going to do a Stanley Cup playoff preview, but I suck at predictions . . .

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

DEVILS WIN THE ATLANTIC DIVISION

DEVILS - ATLANTIC DIVISION CHAMPSI DON'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW.

After Philly beat the Isles, Ottawa beat the Rangers, and the Devils were losing 3-0 in the 2nd, I thought the Flyers had the division wrapped up. But the Devils came storming back and beat the Canadiens 4-3, and ended up winning the Atlantic Division! That was unbelievable, as they reeled off 11 wins in the row to finish the season. Now they host the New York Rangers in Round 1, and I will be at Game 1 this Friday (look for me in Section 222, Row 11, Seats 4-7). Sweeeet.

In other news, the Sabres spanked the Hurricanes 4-0 to knock them out of the top spot, and will play the Flyers in Round 1. They went on a mini-roll late, going 7-3 over the last 10 games.

Here are the full 2006 Stanley Cup Playoff matchups:

Eastern Conference
(1) Ottawa vs. (8) Tampa Bay
(2) Carolina vs. (7) Montreal
(3) New Jersey vs. (6) NY Rangers
(4) Buffalo vs. (5) Philadelphia

Western Conference
(1) Detroit vs. (8) Edmonton
(2) Dallas vs. (7) Colorado
(3) Calgary vs. (6) Anaheim
(4) Nashville vs. (5) San Jose

(To follow up from the previous blog entry: yes, the Devils for some reason were on TV on Channel 725, not in HD, even though the Isles game was probably using HD cameras. The Devils had to update it on their own site, because even THEY didn't know. I guessed wrong on most of the other games, since Nets on 701 and Yankees on 715 were BOTH blacked out because they were not home games, and they showed a non-HD broadcast on an HD channel--freaking Cablevision. Maybe one day in my lifetime all of this shit will finally be on HD.)

THE WILD WORLD OF LOCAL SPORTS PROGRAMMING

Someone just told me that the Devils game isn't going to be on tonight, at least on the Dish.  So I consulted my online internets to find out what is actually going to be on Cablevision.  You wouldn't believe what I had to go through to find out nothing.
 
1. My Yahoo TV listings say the Devils are on "GAME5", which is only available to NHL Center Ice subscribers. 
2. So I looked on the Zap2It grid (which actually indicates if a program will be broadcast in HD or not), and this is what I got:
 
725 FSNYHD - NHL Hockey: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Islanders (Sport - Events) (Live)
720 MSGHD - NHL Hockey: Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers (Sport - Events) (Live)
701 INHD - NBA Basketball: New Jersey Nets at Philadelphia 76ers (Sport - Events) (Live)
408 OLN - NHL Hockey: Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes (Sport - Events) (Live)
 
Okay, so the Isles (not in playoffs) will be on in place of the Devils (1 point out of first in the division) on FSNY HD (725).  INHD (701) is sometimes an overflow station for OLN, but Carolina doesn't have HD; it won't be tonight anyway since the Nets are on.  The Yankees game will probably be on YES HD (715), even though it's not listed anywhere.  One other HD overflow station is INHD2 (730), but I can't configure Zap2It or Yahoo to show it on the grid--but that doesn't matter, since that will be undoubtedly be the Mets/Braves game (SNY).
 
3. According to Newjerseydevils.com, the game will be on "FSN NY2", but I'm not sure what that is (but I know it will be an ugly SD station). Those overflow games used to be on Channel 60, but that's now SNY (SD version of the Mets game).
 
4. Cablevision.com, of course, says something completely different. It says Channel 72 is NJ @ MTL (and 725, even though I don't think Montreal does HD), and Flyers @ Isles on Channel 75. Huh?
 
5. So let's break it down:
Mets => 2 stations
Isles => 2 stations
Rangers => 1 or 2 stations
Nets => 1 station (or 2?)
Yankees => 2 stations
Sabres => 1 station
Devils => 0, 1 or 2 stations (?)
 
As usual, it's a crap shoot, and I won't know until 7:00 PM.  So the area team with the greatest number of championships in the last 10 seasons (uhm, not including the Yankees) may or may not even be on TV. 
 
What a disaster.  
 
First of all, Cablevision is a piece of shit cable company, but I hear they're all incompetent.  Second, it's time for the Devils to move somewhere less cluttered where they'd be appreciated.  I vote for New Brunswick, and not the one in Jersey.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I WANT YOU IN MY REARVIEW MIRROR

I can't tell you how many times I've driven in New Jersey, just minding my own business, when all of the sudden someone is right on my ass in my rearview mirror--this is how the Rangers must feel. Suddenly, the Devils are 1 point behind them with 1 game to play, after reeling off 10 wins in a row, and are trying to pass them in the breakdown lane. I hate when that happens. NY is at 100 points and holding, and will need to beat the Hasek-less Ottawa team Tuesday night to fend off both the Flyers and Devils (each at 99 points) to secure the Atlantic Division. It's funny how many frustrated Rangers fans are threatening to jump off the bandwagon after a 4 game losing streak, when they should really just be grateful that they're in the playoffs at all. Anyway, we'll find out if the Rangers get out of the fast lane, and let the Flyers and Devils pass them.

The East seedings are of course still up in the air, but if it should turn out to be Rangers/Devils, the tickets (currently on sale) should sell out immediately after the games conclude on Tuesday. NHL PLAYOFFS START FRIDAY. (Thankfully, the shootout will not be featured.)

UBIQUITOUS FOOD TREND THAT I'M OFFICIALLY SICK OF. In past years, it was the sundried tomato, balsamic vinegar, or goat cheese--ingredients that you simply couldn't escape. Last year, an inordinate number of dishes were garnished with asiago cheese. This year, chipotle is officially the most annoying food trend/ingredient. Enough already, it's played out.

EASTER MONDAY? Can anyone tell me why the "White House Easter Egg Roll" is held the day after Easter? No, I didn't think so. That's the government for you.

RECYCLING AWARD. To Hershey Foods, for coming up with candy coated Twizzlers bits for Easter, tiny chunks of licorice covered with different colored shells that made them look like irregular jellybeans. I guarantee someone came up with this as a way to recycle the little pieces of licorice left over during the manufacturing process, to cut down on the amount of waste. Genius! This "repurposing" is almost as insidious as the chicken nugget.

LOW POINT FOR VIDEOGAMES? I enjoy a good videogame every once in a while, and though I realize that everyone has different tastes, I have no idea who is clamoring for Rumble Roses XX, a wrestling game featuring scantily clad women. Okay, I understand the appeal, since the game features plenty of girl-on-girl action . . . but for some reason this chick is wrestling a panda. I have no idea why. Who is paying $60 for this? Even horny 13 year olds would probably find this silly.


View more screenshots for Rumble Roses XX

Friday, April 14, 2006

GREAT FRIDAY

I'm on the golf course, BITCH. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

MORE PRICELESS COMEDY WITH BOOKLESS

We get into these inane e-mail discussions frequently, and they're always funny (to me, anyway). We always joke about opening a business in Pomona, since there have been several niche stores that have tried and failed to capture the public's imagination, like Chocolate Junction (which we didn't even know we missed until it was gone) and The Greatest Gift (a Christian book store, which I thought was a slam dunk, but closed within a year or so).


From: Jeff
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 2:46 PM

They need to open up a Panera around here, that sh!t is good.
I'm thinking of franchising one in the old Chocolate Jesus Junction.


From: Bookless
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 2:49 PM
it is good.

funny, they have been out in columbus ohio where my sister lives for years.
i was always thinking it would be a gold mine around here.
Choc. Junction lives!!


From: Jeff
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 3:02 PM

We could call it "Our Daily Bread", and keep the Jesus vibe intact.
I want Peet's to open a coffee place around here. It would blow the doors off of Starbucks.


From: Bookless
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 3:03 PM

I like the cut of your jib.
you still have to work the CJ into the mix.


From: Jeff
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 3:47 PM

I know, Panera has been around for years, and they finally open one in Rockland County . . . in Nanuet? Didn't you read my letters? I wanted one DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM ME.
Chocolate Jesus Loaf? That sounds disgusting actually.
Jesus is my chocolatier.


From: Bookless
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 3:50 PM

WWJD?.....for a loaf of our tasty Italian Bread!!!


From: Jeff
Sent: Thursday, April 06, 2006 10:47 AM

Take this Freshly Baked 9 Grain Asiago Cheese Bread and eat it, for this is my body. Do this in remembrance of me. Only $1 extra for a cup of Jesus Java with sandwich purchase.

Sorry, I just thought of that last night while driving home, I had to share.


From: Bookless
Sent: Thursday, April 06, 2006 10:54 AM

STOP!!
that should be a skit on some show.
your 10th confession comes with the bagel of your choice.....FREE!

BLECH

MATCHES MADE IN HELL:
* Moby is co-producing Courtney Love's next album. Blargh. This is what the nutjob had to say about it: "A long time ago, Moby was Christian, and I had this fantasy I was Mary Magdalene and he was Jesus. I've always had a little crush on him. And I trust him. I'll talk all sort of shit, and he'll keep trying to focus me back on the music." Is this her talking without the heroin? I might have preferred her on it. She's also collaborated with Billy Corgan and Jerry Cantrell, among others. Yikes.
* I didn't think it possible, but I hate the Braves even more than I did before. MC Hammer has done a music video/commercial with the Atlanta Braves for the Turner South sports network, featuring the "song" "My Braves", I can't tell who is the biggest dork in this thing: Chipper "Larry" Jones, Phil Niekro, or Tim Hudson. I guess they couldn't find any other rap artists from the Atlanta area. At least they got two has-beens together for one last shot (ha ha). Definitely the highlight of my MLB Extra Innings free preview week.

* * *

I've heard Rocky Moselle talk about his "International Star Registry", and I've decided to find a new way to make money. I'm starting the "International Black Hole Registry", where you can name a black hole after someone! It's the perfect gift for that "special someone" that sucked you in with their strong gravitational pull, but that you slowly realized doesn't let light escape.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

THIS IS MY NHL BLOG ENTRY

What a dumb slogan the NHL came up with. My NHL--my ass. Although it's been fun to watch, I'll give them that.

Anyway, back on March 27th, I said that the Devils were going to miss the playoffs.

Well, they haven't lost since then, winning 8 straight to secure a playoff spot. In fact, in 2006, they're 26-9-4.

I'm not making any more blognostications.

Fresh off beating the Rangers 3-2 Sunday night (and there was a real playoff atmosphere in the CAA), the Devils had Carolina beat in regulation tonight, but they gave up the tying goal with 46 seconds left, before winning 4-3 it on a Gionta's redirection in OT. He now has 45 goals, one short of the Devils team record (Pat Verbeek, 1987-88). The Rangers dug a 3 goal hole they couldn't get out of, and lost to the Icelanders, with Jagr getting 2 As but no Gs. Unfortunately, Philly survived a scary Crosbying 4-3, and stay 2 pts ahead of NJD, 3 behind NYR. Right now, it's a long shot for that Rangers/Montreal series, but we could get Sabres/Devils if they stay hot.

WAY OUT WEST: I thought I'd be seeing more games now that I have OLN, but not so much (the non-HD effect). All I know is that San Jose is on fire, winning 5 in a row, and have probably secured a playoff spot. Jonathan Cheechoo (Chee-who? I've yet to see him skate) has 51 goals, most of them on passes from Tommy Chong--uhm, Joe Thorton, who has an untouchable 87 A. But the NHL's "Second Season" has a habit of snuffing out hot offensive teams. Elsewhere, the Ducks are in, Edmonton and Vancouver will be fighting for that last spot. Nashville lost goalie Vokoun for the rest of the season to a "blood condition" (?), so they have to rely on their backup, Mason, in the playoffs. Basically, Detroit and Dallas are scary good, but we know it comes down to goaltending in the playoffs, and Calgary's Kiprusoff has had a great season.

One last thing: will everyone please making a big deal over teams achieving a "100 point season"? Since there are no ties in the new NHL, someone has to win and get the 2 points, so point totals are completely meaningless when compared to previous seasons. Thanks.

UNFORTUNATE SPORTS NAMES: Alexander Semin of the Capitals. The headline "Caps bag another key Russian with Semin" conjures up a really horrible image. I hope to catch Semin soon.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I KNOW A WEB SITE THAT SHOWS MONKEYS DOING IT

I've been listening to the new Arctic Monkeys disc Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not pretty much non-stop since it came out. They're not the second coming of Christ, or even the Beatles, as NME would have you believe. But they are a bunch of fun, happy fret-slapping Brits (The Strokes UK?) and for a bunch of teenagers (the lead singer was born in 1986--do the math, he's barely older than Harry Potter), they sound pretty tight live.

Check them on SNL performing I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor and A Certain Romance; during the latter, the lead singer points out someone in the audience saying, "That man just yawned." What the fuck do you expect? This is Saturday Night Live, so he certainly wouldn't be laughing. Below is a video from KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic, performing The View From The Afternoon.

FIGJAM HAS SWITCHED TO WATER

We have a new winner. We weren't happy with the new phrases ("busted the condom", "screwed the pooch") that replaced "jump the shark", so Karl coined a new one: "switching to water". It's the line you use when you're done drinking for the night, and it works perfectly in this context. "Yeah, when Mulder left the show, 'The X-Files' totally switched to water." Nice.

So it turns out that I'm not the only one non-plussed by FIGJAM's second Masters win yesterday. Describing Phil's victory, Deadspin says: "Bland, safe, predictable, corporate, boring. He’s just another dopey tan white-guy golfer with a pretty wife, a history of gambling problems and a creepy smile." I knew these guys would have my back. And for the record, a Yahoo poll asking "Who's the best player in the world now?", 68% still say Tiger. So I guess the public perception is that the Augusta course took everyone down at the Masters, and not Phil; he merely just survived. So until FIGJAM eliminates Tigs head-to-head, outshooting him down the stretch in a major tournament, and then has his kids trample all over him in unadulterated glee, only then will he be the true #1. Anyway, hopefully we now have some sort of golf rivalry here.

I still think Phil should shave his head down to the skin, replace 20 pounds of fat with muscle, wear a real hat, wipe that goofy grin off his face, and start dropping f-bombs during every interview. Instead, he whined "Come on, for crying out loud!" like a little schoolgirl when someone snapped photos of him during his backswing on Sunday. It's just hard to get excited about him.

* * *

I had to include this link. It's a "recreation" of Game 6 of the World Series, Red Sox vs. Mets at Shea Stadium, using the original Nintendo game "RBI Baseball" synched with Vin Scully's play-by-play. I found myself sitting and watching for the full 9 minutes, thoroughly engrossed, wondering how it was going to turn out. Yeah, and I was watching it as it happened back in 1986. Sad. Well, I also used to play RBI Baseball way too much with my friend Chris Gerber back in the 80s, so it was extra poignant. I give this my highest rating: 9 thumbs up.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

2006 MASTERS WRAPUP: A BLOG ENTRY UNLIKE ANY OTHER

STINK EYE OF THE TIGERCongratulations to Phil "FIGJAM" Mickelson, winner of the 2006 Masters. I honestly didn't think he had it in him, but he held off all comers and took home the hideous green school boy sportcoat. (Check out Tiger's face in this low quality pic from my HD screen, in which he looked thrilled to be involved the ceremony; I call it "Stink Eye of the Tiger".)

No one was really a threat to challenge Lefty today, and he played bogey free golf (until the 18th, when it was all but decided). Although Tigs hit the ball well today (he hit a 3 wood 328 yards on the 10th fairway--yikes), his substandard Nike putter let him down (after a closing birdie putt on the 18th, caddie Steve Williams even jokingly grabbed it and pretended to break it over his knee--oh, the comedy). Everyone else self-destructed (Rocco sank three balls on the 12th to card a 10).

You might have sensed that I wasn't really rooting for Phil and his goofy ass smile. But I was also getting an anti-Phil sentiment from the CBS commentary. First of all, they were constantly gushing over how well Freddie and Tiger were hitting the ball, while saying "Phil isn't making any mistakes, and we expect him to, that's his game!". Dave Feherty at one point on the back nine said, "Well, 3 years ago we would have been wondering how Phil could lose this." (I was thinking the same thing, only 3 hours ago.) And they were constantly playing up the "Freddie would be the oldest to win a Masters", "Freddie is the same age that Jack was when he won 20 years ago" angle, to the point that it was sickeningly one-sided. I half expected a sappy Jim Nantz to kneel down and smooch his 46 year old ass at one point.

Overall, despite the commentators gushing over the golf course, and using the word "tradition" until it had lost all meaning, the CBS HD broadcast itself did not disappoint. You could even see the fat people in the crowd quite clearly, and there were a lot of them. How about you walk the course next time you're at a golf event?

BTW, if you haven't noticed already, if I root against someone (or pick someone to win), the opposite always happens. So shoot me an email if you're about to play in a big golf tournament, bowling match, darts competition, Scrabble game, it doesn't matter. For a marginal fee, I'll endlessly rip on you on this blog, virtually guaranteeing your victory (not a guarantee)! Good luck.

FIGJAM wins again, his second major in a row, and 3 of the last 9. Meh. Whadda ya gonna do? Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go "take care of" a few of my friends in Jersey (Rangers @ Devils, "The Sopranos").

2006 MASTERS: THIRD ROUND RECAP

Freddie hanging toughBREAKFAST AT THE MASTERS! Because of the 4 hour rain delay, the third round was cut up into three chunks, the last two starting at 5:20 PM Saturday and 7:45 AM Sunday. So I brewed a big ol' pot of Starbucks and settled in for the morning's play. Notes:

* The Top Five Are Alive! FIGJAM is the leader after 3 rounds at -4. They might have to see if there's a "48 Chunky" green jacket in stock in Butler Cabin.
* Couples did not start off well last night, but finished strong (two birds on the back, finished at -3) and will be in the final pairing this afternoon.
* I'm going to pretend that Lefty standing outside of the tee box ON ALMOST EVERY DRIVE doesn't bother me. Because it doesn't. Nope, not at all.
* Tim Clark and Chadster (6 bogies) both had leads at one time, but did not finish well.
* Rocco looked shaky, including losing his footing on an approach shot on the 15th.
* Weir, Olazabal dropped off the map, Singh and Goosen are sticking close. Ernie says: "Clapping time is over!"
* The 10th is playing as the second easiest hole on the course. The easiest hole? Phil's wife.
* It was reported that VJ works out twice a day. Twice? Are you kidding? What is his definition of "workout"? A three putt? He's got bitch tits, and doesn't look like he works out twice a WEEK.
* Speaking of, Tim Herron's considerable girth makes Phil look as svelte as Tiger. It gives the rest of us hope.
* Tiggs is only 2 back, and would be in the lead if his putting didn't suck: three straight bogeys, including a 3 putt on the 14th, and he hit one in the drink on the 15th as the ball was just sucked off the front of the green. Yes, it got sucked off, like you would if you spent a night with Phil's wife.

(You may be detecting an anti-Phil vibe. See if you can pick up on it, it's subtle.)

FINAL ROUND @ 2:30 PM! Smoke 'em, Clarkie!

Smoke 'em, Clarkie!

Saturday, April 8, 2006

HOCKEY UPDATE

SCRATCH MY BACK WITH A HACKSAW! Jagr has just scored his 53rd goal, a Rangers record, vs. the Bruins. Current tally: Knicks Losses 54, Jagr 53.

I'm rooting for a Rangers/Habs playoff series (I smell ROADTRIP!!!), but also a Devils win against Montreal tonight. I'm so conflicted.

My NETS post was the kiss of death: they just had their 14 game win streak snapped by the Cavs, whose team scored 7 straight points to take the lead in the final 1:30, and win by 6. The NBA sucks, it's so sloppy and awful to watch. I'm going through NCAA withdrawal, and this doesn't help. That's the last time I post anything about it. Ugh.

2006 MASTERS: THIRD ROUND

As predicted, play has been suspended at the Masters due to rain, for the 5th year in a row. The leaders hadn't teed off yet, though Furyk had made it through 12, and was at -2 for the day, before they stopped.

As I recall, because of rain last year the leaders had to finish out their third rounds on Sunday morning. When play resumed, Tiggs was out of his mind: he shot 7 birdies in a row, to post a cumulative round of 65 and go from -4 to -11. Of course, none of this was televised, and won't be this year either, if they follow a similar schedule. Thanks, Hootie!

2006 MASTERS: SECOND ROUND RECAP

The best thing about the CBS HD broadcast: its refreshing lack of graphics. While watching the Players Championship, you have stat boxes all over the screen: length of the shot, the distance to the green, scrolling leaderboards, the hideous blue overlayed "FedEx reliability zone" (hitting it in the middle of the fairway gives you a better chance to score? Who knew???)--the sporting event ends up almost completely obscured by graphics. However, the Masters doesn't have any of that, except the occasional leaderboard, which lets you see the course in all its glory. Yeah, maybe CBS leans toward hyperbole when talking about "golf's hallowed ground", but they're not that far off. It's a beautiful and historic course, and the HD broadcast is certainly doing it justice.

(One observation: I don't understand why most highlights/rebroadcasts are shown in 4:3 and not in their initial 16:9 widescreen format. For instance, last year's Masters was most certainly in widescreen, so why show the replay of Tiger's famous 16th hole chip in 4:3 with gray bars down the sides? Do they cheap out and not record it in 16:9? It's got to be money. I also have to find out if all the cameras are owned by CBS, because then they have no excuse.)

As we hit the halfway mark, just a few notes about the 2nd Round:
* Veeger came back to the pack with a rollercoaster 74 on Friday. They said something about a three-putt double bogey being "uncharacteristic", but who are we kidding? It was completely characteristic! VJ having a lead after the 1st round, now THAT was uncharacteristic.
* Freddie had a nice round to stay 3 back of the leader, the Chadmeister General.
* FIGJAM had two birds and two bogies, including one in the drink and two putts that lipped out, to break even and stay at -2. He's tied with Els, Howell, and the two Clark(e)s.
* Goose, Tigs, Weir and Crenshaw are all hanging close at -1.
* Meanwhile, Oberholser collapsed and looked very shaky dropping 6 shots behind. Furyk hit a nice putt on 18 to barely make the cut, and Olazabal and Bjorn just snuck into paycheck territory as well.
* It really is a shame about David Duval. He was the #1 ranked player in 1999, and everyone thought he'd be up there with Tiger Woods as one of the top players on the PGA Tour for years to come. Now it seems like he can't even compete with the big boys anymore, and his 5 year exemption from his 2001 British Open win is up this year, so this may be his last Masters. He's only 34 so maybe he can turn it around, but shooting a 10 on the 3rd hole yesterday (before having a nice back 9) doesn't tell me he's ready to do that yet.

Looks like rain today in Georgia, but most of the spectator's umbrellas have been put away (as I check the "Live from the Driving Range" camera), so it shouldn't be a complete washout. Maybe it will be just enough for the greens to slow down for Saturday, which is typically "Moving Day".

They're already underway in the Third Round! Good show, Hensby!


UPDATE - 2:00 PM: Rain has suspended play.

NON-GOLF RELATED STUFF

Just some random things on my mind that have nothing to do with the Masters . . .

Here's a story we're going to be following closely as both the Rangers and Knicks wrap up their record setting seasons at MSG. Which number will be higher: Jagr goals or Knicks losses? Right now, we're at 52 for Jagr and 54 for the Knicks. Jagr's personal record is 62 (1995-96 while on Pittsburgh, with Mario setting him up), he's tied with Graves for the Rangers record with 6 games remaining. Initially credited with his 53rd goal against the Bruins, he admitted to the ref that it wasn't his. Jagr said in an interview afterwards: "I said I didn't touch it and it wasn't my goal. Can you imagine if they would give it to me and after the game you guys would ask me the stupid questions over and over and over forever?" Meanwhile, the Knicks all-time loss record is 59, most recently accomplished in 1985-86 (with a rookie Ewing), and with 7 games left they can still beat it. They're going down the wire, it's neck and neck!

While we're at it, even though I hate the NBA, I have to admit that I like the Nets, who are in the midst of a 14 game winning streak (the team record is 15). They can't handle a big man like Shaq, but they should make some noise in the East, if they didn't peak too soon. Rob said it best: what other team can brag about having a guy like Richard Jefferson as their THIRD best player? Naturally, the ass clowns in the New York media spend more time on the craptacular Knicks, instead of the East's #3 team. Great.

I felt bad for the Maine Black Bears hockey team on Thursday night, who had to play their FROZEN FOUR game against Wisconsin at the Bradley Center IN Milwaukee. Yikes. So what did they do in front of a crazy pro-Wisconsin crowd of nearly 18,000, which amounted to a home game for the Badgers? You got it, they lost 5-2. They had a great run, but it was bad luck to have to play on neutral ice that wasn't so neutral. I don't understand how they choose the host city, but if I can remember correctly the last few Fours were in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Moose Jaw. Okay, I don't really remember. But why not include some places that aren't already sold on hockey? How about different NHL towns like Columbus, Nashville, or Boston? I see that the next four will be in St. Louis, Denver, Washington and Detroit--Ford Field? Why not Joe Louis? Anyway, BC plays Wisconsin in the finals today at 7 PM on ESPN (but only after the Masters is over).

Remember how everyone complained that Veterans, Riverfront, Busch, and Three Rivers Stadiums were all bland all-purpose cookie cutter stadium designs, and that they all looked the same? Well, thanks to the "Camden Yards Retro Resurgence", the new Phillies, Reds, Indians, Braves and Cards stadiums all look the same. Add to that, due to be completed in 2009, Mets Stadium (marking the death of non-corporate stadium names like "Shea"), an "asymmetrical" shaped "throwback" design that resembles the old Ebbets Field from the outside (Ebbmets Field?). First of all, the Dodgers have been in L.A. longer than they were in Brooklyn, so the nostalgia is lost on pretty much everyone. Second, why not try to encorporate the one unique thing about Shea Stadium into the new design: the tallest scoreboard in baseball? Nah, instead, we'll make it look like every other new "old" stadium.

The most painful thing about each new baseball season is trying to figure out what the hell the stadiums are called. When Twins/Blue Jays were on INHD the other night, they said "Live from Rogers Field" . . . and I had no idea which team's dome they were referring to. Well, I found out that it's Toronto, who apparently no longer play in SkyDome. Ugh. I refuse to keep up with these corporate naming rights. Anyway, in HD the turf looked positively atrocious, like a patchwork quilt stitched together using pieces from lesser stadiums.

Injury of the Month: Yankees P Carl Pavano, bruised left buttock, 15 day DL. I was initially behind this guy, but now I think he's just an ass.

BRIEF BEER REVIEW: Brooklyn Pilsener. We tried this to kick off the 2006 Masters on Thursday. I have to admit that it's the least of the Brooklyn brewery's offerings, which we've come to expect a lot of. It's not horrible, it's just that I prefer a pilsner with a little more bite to it.

"Deadliest Catch" was a good show (according to Rob), about the dangerous life of Alaskan crab fishermen, which to me looks like a cross between "Bassmasters" and "The Perfect Storm". But what's the reason for a second season of "Deadliest Catch"? How can you have a deadlier catch than the first one? What do you call it? "Deadlierest Catch"? What's next, "Digging Clams 2: Dig Harder"?

I enjoy the show "Lost", even though it can be tedious at times. However, the fan sites that surround this show, and the associated forum postings, are so irritating to the point of Comic Book Guy-esque smugness, and the dizzying amount of geeky overanalysis and rampant speculation is mind-numbing. In one recent episode, a "secret map" was found written on a door when illuminated with a blacklight. Naturally, fans attacked this little tidbit like a wild pack of rabid dogs and posted their "decoded" versions of this map. This picture sums up my hatred for these sites:

Sweet Jebus, that's fucking crazy.

Friday, April 7, 2006

2006 MASTERS: SECOND ROUND

The second round of the Masters is here! Can Veeger stay on top? Can Tiger get in the red? Will DiMarco, Daly and Olazabal bounce back from rough first rounds and make the cut? Will Phil eat fruit or a supersized chili dog at the turn? This afternoon's notable tee times:

12:57 M. Weir, R. Goosen
1:08 J. Olazabal, D. Toms, L. Donald
1:19 V. Singh, A. Oberholser
1:30 T. Woods
1:41 F. Couples, J. Furyk

I can only watch the leaderboard on my computer as it updates, so here's what I see so far:

UPDATE - 12:50 PM
* Mark Hensby: -5 thru 16. Good show, Hensby, ol' boy! Where were you yesterday, Gov'nuh?
* David Duval: +8 thru 6. After carding a double bogey on the 1st, and a 10 (TEN!) on the par 5 2nd, I have to say that he'll "miss the cut comfortably".
* Bohn, O'Hern, C. Campbell making a charge.
* Ernie looking good early, -3 thru 8.

UPDATE - 3:53 PM
* Today's low round (so far): 67. Oh, Hensby, you've done it again!
* Veeger with double bogeys on 4th and 5th! Wow, that puts him 2 back.
* Weir and Figs staying close, Tiggs not rallying yet (E thru 8).
* Smashing, Chad! Muffy called to tell you she loves your 5 under par round!
* Top 44 make the cut, which is currently projected to be +4 (Bjorn, Daly, Monty on wrong side of the fence). You knew DiMarco wasn't even going to make the cut if I picked him. Kiss of death. Sorry, man.

Swedish sissy boy Henrik Stenson sold out his caddie, saying his club selection cost him some strokes yesterday. Shut up, you big baby.

Gary Player shot a 79 yesterday, and is on pace for the same today (+6 through 13). I'll probably never do that, and he's doing it at the age of 70. Give it up for the Black Knight!

2006 MASTERS: FIRST ROUND RECAP

CBS' HD broadcast lived up to the hype (which might be a first in sports), as Augusta looked stunningly gorgeous on the first day of the Masters. It sounded great as well on the Dolby Digital 5.1, with a good mix of ambient noise and excellent commentary. Of course, the commercials are about 10 times louder than the golf, but I can live with only 4 minutes an hour--couldn't Martha Burke have another flareup so we could go ad-less?

I was just disappointed that it only started at 4 PM. I guess they're afraid of "overexposure", but it's hard to do that when a sporting event is only 4 days a year. My dream is to have a separate HD channel for each hole, and lord knows the technology is already here! It might be hard to have commentary for all 18 holes, but I could do without constant talking anyway. Maybe someday . . .

As for the actual golf, I didn't know Veeger the Ornery Fijian had a round like that in him, let's see if it can keep it up (some Yahoo idiot actually wrote 'Jivay Singh of Fiji' in a photo caption: hey guys, do a little research!). Along with him, all the other big names played well: FIGJAM, Goose, Serge, Woods, Weir. David Love III made the biggest turnaround, after launching a 9 iron into the bushes and triple-bogeying the 12th, he reeled off 4 straight birdies to get back to +2. John Daly also had a rough morning: he ran out of smokes on the 5th hole (you can only carry 13 in your bag).

BIGGEST SURPRISES: Ben Crenshaw in the hunt at -1; Chris DiMarco not at +4.

UGLIEST ATTIRE: We've come to expect the clownish palette of Serge's wardrobe, so his crisply tailored tangerine pants (custom made by Adidas?) weren't unexpected. Even Darren Clarke's lavender hues at least camouflaged him against the flowery backdrop of Augusta. However, Geoff Ogilvy's spotted pink Puma should be made extinct, because it was hard to look directly at.

BEST COMMENT: When mentioning a golfer who did not have a good tournament, he was described as "missing the cut comfortably." That's an incredibly nice way to say he stunk up the course. That's golf for you.

And with that, the Second Round is underway! FIGJAM!


Photos courtesy of AP

Thursday, April 6, 2006

CAN I GET AN AMEN?

I just found out that my browser at work cannot broadcast "Live From Amen Corner" because I need to update my Flash player (and I don't have admin priviledges at work). I knew I should have stayed home.

Anyway, happy spring everyone, THE 2006 MASTERS IS HERE!

Amen Corner - http://scholasticus.org/archives/000116.html

ESPN has a good interactive leaderboard (click on Amen Corner link) with an embedded live video screen using WMP. (It's not working for me right now, however. I'll wait until 10:30.)

The numbers have been crunched, and the MPI (whatever that is) has chosen VJ as the winner, FIGJAM 2nd, and Tiggs 3rd. Man, I hate these stats. This is the kind of asinine crap you see in baseball, not golf. I don't know what jackass came up with this (since there's no explanation in the story as to how they got these numbers), but if it's as shitty as the BCS, it's going to be proven wrong on Sunday.

Here's a scary story: Lehman unhurt after car shot
Tom Lehman was unhurt when a bullet was fired into the car he was driving in Augusta, Ga., late Tuesday. A local man was arrested. Lehman is expected to play when the Masters begins on Thursday.

Welcome to Georgia, Home of the Drive-By!

***

UPDATE - 11:42 AM

In the early going, Pampling, Campbell and Beem are playing well, a lot of people at even par, Woods just teed off, he's at +1 after 4. I have a feeling a -2 or -3 will be the best anyone does today.

My Live @ Amen Corner is not working. I'll have to wait until 4 PM to see some golf, but it will be in HD and not crappy streaming video, so it will be worth the wait.

At 08:30:45, I made the joke: "Early Masters leaderboard: D. Duval +1. Plus one, after one??? It's over, Davey! Someone picked him as a 'dark horse' winner. Are you kidding me? Who was that, his wife? His shrink?"

Now, Duval is already at +10 after 12. Yes, it's already over for him. Did I call that or what? Not a stretch, I know.

* * *
UPDATE 3:54 PM

Veeger ended up at -5, due to a great bogey-free first round of 67 (if that putt on the 11th had dropped, even better), and Rocco "Help The Judge Find His Checkbook" Mediate finished a stroke behind, and Shoulderholster one behind him. Tiggs finished even; after getting a eagle on 14th, he ended up with a double bogey on the 15th to give it right back.

TIME FOR HD.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

MASTERS UPDATE

Tiger on the 13thWe're less than a day away from the 70th Masters Tournament in Augusta, and the course changes seem to be dominating the pre-tourney buzz. Tiger Woods was trying to be diplomatic and saying he "wants to be invited back", but he's not happy with the changes, saying they didn't need to "to mess with" the 4th hole, and he liked the 7th, now 40 yards longer, the way it was. Kenny Perry is vocal about them too, saying that length is going to be an issue, and that the greens are going to be difficult to hold, with Stimpmeter reading of 12 to 14 (of course, he's not even playing, so he should be quiet). Add to that the fact that the conditions have been dry in Augusta all week, and there's no sign of rain this weekend, it should be fast and firm.

Apparently, tournament co-founder Bobby Jones didn't like trees and rough, but that's what they've added to this historic course in the past few years to "technology proof" it. Bobby couldn't be reached for comment, and neither could good ol' boy Hootie Johnson, who reportedly could fucking care less what you think. Meanwhile, John Daly looks like he's in shape, and that shape would be "round". Have another free bucket of Hooters wings, Mr. Daly!

Bjorn would the Masters winner wear a sweater like this?Some players have resorted to club changes to get an edge: long-haired, geeky-visor-wearing lefty FIGJAM has decided to go with two Callaway Fusion FT-3 drivers (one to give him a power fade, and another that draws) and will be driving a Ford Fusion while using a Fusion razor; Els is going with a seldom-seem-on-tour 5-wood for the 240 yard 4th hole. I don't think the length is going to be the biggest factor, it's going to be accuracy: keeping drives in the fairway, and hitting greens in reg. Straight hitters with good short games, like Olazabal, Donald and Weir, should do well. I just hope it doesn't turn cartoonish like the U.S. Open in Shinnecock, where the greens were like glass.

This is the only major tournament where former champions have a lifetime invitation to play if they choose. For the first time in over 50 years, old timers Jack and Arnie are skipping this one, but Gary Player will be competing in his 49rd Masters (you can even bet on him to win it all, at up to 5000/1 odds). This year is also the 10th anniversary of Greg Norman's famous collapse. His first round was a course record 63, and after three rounds he was 13 shots up, and 6 shots clear of the nearest competitor. However, he suffered a meltdown in the final round, going from 6 up to 2 down over the first 12 holes, ending with a brutal 78 to give the win to Nick Faldo in a playoff. I remember feeling genuinely bad for the Shark.

DiMarco on the 7th holeROOKIE TO WATCH: Henrik Stenson, a 29 year old Swede who is a long hitter (going with a 4 iron on the aformentioned 240 yard 4th) and played well at the 2005 PGA until late (I remember shrugging when seeing his name on the leaderboard). I think he should be pumped after the Swedish hockey team won gold back in February.

INTERESTING NOTE: Players in the field of 95 will be representing 21 different countries this year, a Masters record.

_______________________
PGA STATISTICAL LEADERS
Money Leader: Rory "Dolan's" Sabbatini - $2,219,295
Total Cuts Made: Bo "Linus" Van Pelt - 9
Average Drive: Bubba "Burgers" Watson - 319.32 yards
Average Putts: Scott "Walk" Verplank - 1.687
Driving Accuracy: "We Want" Fred Funk - 78.4%
Scoring Average: FIGJAM - 69.15
Greens In Regulation: FIGJAM - 73.4%
Scrambling: Brian "I'm Not" Gay - 67.7

OFFICIAL WORLD RANKINGS
Rank Player Country Avg. Pts.
1 Tiger Woods USA 18.09 795.80
2 Vijay Singh Fij 8.72 558.09
3 Retief Goosen SAf 8.28 430.49
4 Phil Mickelson USA 8.13 374.05
5 Ernie Els SAf 7.07 332.35
6 Sergio Garcia Spn 6.58 309.41
7 Jim Furyk USA 5.60 263.01
8 David Toms USA 5.54 288.10
9 Luke Donald Eng 4.86 257.75
10 Chris DiMarco USA 4.72 240.82
11 Adam Scott Aus 4.70 230.25
12 Henrik Stenson Swe 4.33 225.41
13 Colin Montgomerie Sco 4.25 234.00
14 David Howell Eng 4.17 224.96
15 Darren Clarke Nir 4.16 199.87
16 Jose Maria Olazabal Spn 4.07 228.10
17 Kenny Perry USA 3.94 169.39
18 Davis Love III USA 3.93 196.72
19 Geoff Ogilvy Aus 3.93 219.87
20 Chad Campbell USA 3.89 210.29

2006 MASTERS PREVIEW EXTRAVAGANZA!

10th Hole - CamelliaThe Masters is finally here! It's an annual rite of spring, and this year I'm thankfully going to be able to watch it in full high definition splendor. The Augusta weather is supposed to be spectacular (sunny/80), and the azaleas, dogwoods and magnolias should be in full bloom as the players tee off at 8:00 AM on Thursday.

Fun facts about the tournament:
* It has been played at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA since 1934, and is rich in history, due to the fact that it is the only one of the four majors that does not change its locale.
* This year, it's a 7,445 yard long par 72 (nearly 500 yards longer than it was 5 years ago);
* Jack Nicklaus has won the most titles (6);
* Amen Corner, one of the most crucial sections of the course encompassing the 11th, 12th and 13th holes, was named after the jazz tune "Shouting at Amen Corner" by clarinetist Milton Mezzrow, and coined by writer Herb Wind in the April 21, 1958 edition of SI;
* The defending champion gets to choose the menu for the traditional Tuesday night Masters Champions dinner. This year, Tiger Woods went with a spicy menu, including salsa, guacamole, stuffed jalapenos and quesadillas for starters, and steak and chicken fajitas, Mexican rice and refried beans for the main course, with apple pie and ice cream for dessert. (Okay, so he's not a gourmet.)

Here are the official Masters TV broadcast times:
Thursday, April 6 4:00 - 7:00 pm USA (LIVE)
Friday, April 7 4:00 - 7:00 pm USA (LIVE)
Saturday, April 8 3:30 - 7:00 pm CBS (LIVE)
Sunday, April 9 2:30 - 7:00 pm CBS (LIVE)


12th Hole - Golden BellThere's also going to be live streaming video coverage from Amen Corner on the Masters.org website (holes 11, 12, 13) during the following times:
Thursday, April 6: 10:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Friday, April 7: 10:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday, April 8: 12:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday, April 9: 1:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.


This is similar to the brilliant live coverage from all the par 3s at the 2005 PGA Championship. Should be good!

Naturally, no one ever mentions the HD schedule: not CBS Sportsline, Masters.org, ESPN, PGATOUR.com, nobody! Ugh. So here's what HDSportsGuide.com says about HDTV viewing:

2nd Annual HDSportsGuide.com Early Round Masters TV Watching Guide
It starts at 4pm ET on both Thursday and Friday. The high definition coverage will be on both UniversalHD and the CBS Television HD Network (Analog CBS will be showing normal programming at this time). Because fiber optic lines were buried throughout the course at Augusta a few years back, this is the best high definition golf coverage we will see. This is mainly because the need for the use of standard definition wireless cameras around the course has been minimized. Enjoy!


Thanks, I will! Thank god someone isn't asleep at the wheel.

So who's going to be alone atop the leaderboard after it's all over?
Here are the current Bodog odds as of 10:55 PM ET on 4/5/06:

13th Hole - AzaleaTiggs: 2/1
FIGJAM Mickelson: 9/2
Ernie: 9/1
The Goose: 17/2
VJ Martha Singh: 12/1
Chris "Repair Your Ball" DiMarco: 23/1
Jose Maria Bob Loblaw: 24/1
Luke "The" Donald: 25/1
Serge "Los Pantalones Feos" Garcia: 25/1
David Toms: 28/1
Jim "Hitch" Furyk: 30/1
Adam "Great" Scott: 33/1
Davis "Crazy In" Love III: 36/1
Paddy "Whiskey" Harrington: 42/1
Mike "Canuckelson" Weir: 43/1
Darren "Hideous Pants" Clarke: 50/1
Henrik "Not Lundqvist" Stenson: 50/1
Rory Sabbatini: 80/1
"Full Of Himself" Monty: 90/1
K.J. "Bok" Choi: 90/1
Scott "Walk" Verplank: 90/1
Stuart "Don't Eat At" Appleby(s): 90/1
Freddie: 85/1
"My Name Is" Lucas Glover: 110/1
Thomas Bjorn "Again": 120/1
John "Seven Meals" Daly: 130/1
Mark "Good Show" Hensby: 150/1
Field (Any Other Golfer): 10/1

* No surprise seeing the defending champ at the top. Although his dad's fight with cancer may be taking an emotional toll on him, you should never count him out. His focus and accuracy off the tee early will indicate if he's in the hunt for his 5th green jacket. I think he's going to come up short this year.
* Has anyone ever won the Masters AND the previous week's tournament? Probably not, and I don't see Phillis doing it either. The only thing he proved with his -28 BellSouth blowout win is that he's a pressure player: a low one, like atmospheric pressure.
* Els isn't quite back to form yet after his knee surgery, VJ looks tired and his putting has been typically atrocious, and Goose has been uncharacteristally shaky down the stretch in the past few majors (especially the 2005 PGA).
* Serge is way too high on this list, and he's been too inconsistent.
* My dark horses: Luke Donald and Darren Clarke.
* Chris DiMarco, last year's playoff runner up, is a solid all-around player, and he's my 2006 Masters pick.

Augusta National satellite view

Here is a hole by hole analysis of the famous course:
No. 1, 455 yards, par 4 (Tea Olive), Rank: 7
A slight dogleg right with a deep bunker requiring a 327-yard carry off the tee. The bunker now has a tongue in the left side, so anything that barely enters might be blocked by the new lip. The tee has been moved back 20 yards, and trees were added on the left side.
No. 2, 575 yards, par 5 (Pink Dogwood), Rank: 16
A dogleg left that can be reached in two by the big hitters. Fairway bunker on the right comes into play, but it’s difficult to reach the slope, which shortens the hole. Green guarded by two bunkers in front.
No. 3, 350 yards, par 4 (Flowering Peach), Rank: 14
One of the best par 4s in golf, a hole that hasn’t been changed in 23 years. Big hitters can drive the green, but not many even try because of all the trouble surrounding the L-shaped green that slopes severely from right to left. Most players hit iron off tee to stay short of four bunkers on the left side.
No. 4, 240 yards, par 3 (Flowering Crab Apple), Rank: 3
Tees moved back 35 yards into the woods behind the third green, and tee slightly elevated. Should be a long iron for big hitters, fairway metal for others. Deep bunker protects right side of the green, with another bunker left. Club selection remains crucial because of the deceptive wind. Green slopes to the front.
No. 5, 455 yards, par 4 (Magnolia), Rank: 5
The hole was lengthened by 20 yards four years ago, and the fairway bunkers extended 80 yards toward the green. Bunkers are so deep that players can only see the sky. Green slopes to the front.
No. 6, 180 yards, par 3 (Juniper), Rank: 12
An elevated tee to a large green with three tiers, with significant slopes marking the three levels. Getting close to the hole is a challenge. Hole has not been changed in 31 years.
No. 7, 450 yards, par 4 (Pampas), Rank: 13
This hole’s changes likely will get the most attention. The tee was extended by 40 yards, and some trees were trimmed slightly on the left side. The tee shot is through a chute of Georgia pines, played to the left-center of the fairway into a slight slope. Green is surrounded by five bunkers.
No. 8, 570 yards, par 5 (Yellow Jasmine), Rank: 15
An accurate drive is important to avoid the fairway bunker on the right side. The hole is uphill and features trouble left of the green. No bunkers around the green, just severe mounding.
No. 9, 460 yards, par 4 (Carolina Cherry), Rank: 11
Tee shot should be aimed down the right side for a good angle into the green, which features two large bunkers to the left. Any approach that is short could spin some 60 yards back into the fairway.

No. 10, 495 yards, par 4 (Camellia), Rank: 1
A long hole that can play shorter if drives catch the slope in the fairway. Difficult to save par from the bunker right of the green. The putting surface slopes from right to left. Has played as the most difficult hole in Masters history.
No. 11, 505 yards, par 4 (White Dogwood), Rank: 4
Amen Corner starts here. Tee has been lengthened by 15 yards, and more pine trees were added to the three dozen on the right side, tightening the fairway. A 300-yard drive is required to get to the crest of the hill. A pond guards the green to the left and a bunker is to the back right. The safe shot is to bail out short and to the right in a swale.
No. 12, 155 yards, par 3 (Golden Bell), Rank: 2
Perhaps the most famous par 3 in golf, and the shortest hole at Augusta. Club selection can range from a 6-iron to a 9-iron, but it’s difficult to gauge the wind. Rae’s Creek is in front of the shallow green, with two bunkers behind it.
No. 13, 510 yards, par 5 (Azalea), Rank: 17
An accurate tee shot to the center of the fairway sets up players to go for the green. A tributary to Rae’s Creek winds in front of the green, and four bunkers are behind the putting surface. From tee to green, there are about 1,600 azaleas.
No. 14, 440 yards, par 4 (Chinese Fir), Rank: 8
The only hole on the course without a bunker. Even if the drive avoids trees on both sides of the fairway, the green has severe contours that feed the ball to the right.
No. 15, 530 yards, par 5 (Firethorn), Rank: 18
Tee has been moved back about 30 yards and to the left about 20 yards. A cluster of pines is starting to mature on the right side of the fairway, making it critical to be straight off the tee. The green can be reached in two with a good drive, but a pond guards the front and there is a bunker to the right. Gene Sarazen made a double-eagle from the fairway in 1935, the shot that put the Masters on the map ("Shot Heard 'Round The World).
No. 16, 170 yards, par 3 (Redbud), Rank: 9
The hole is played entirely over water and eventually bends to the left. Two bunkers guard the right side, and the green slopes significantly from right to left. Pars from the top shelf of the green on Sunday are rare. Woods’ chip in 2005 made a U-turn at the top of the ridge, trickled to the cup and paused two full seconds before dropping for birdie.
No. 17, 425 yards, par 4 (Nandina), Rank: 10
The tee has been extended 15 yards, making the Eisenhower Tree to the left of the fairway more prominent and 210 yards from the tee, requiring another accurate tee shot. The green is protected by two bunkers in the front.
No. 18, 465 yards, par 4 (Holly), Rank: 6
Now among the most demanding finishing holes in golf, this uphill dogleg right is protected off the tee by two deep bunkers at the left elbow. Trees get in the way of a drive that strays to the right. A middle iron is required to a green that has a bunker in front and to the right.