Trivial Opinions

My weekly trivial opinions on life, sports, movies and more!

Archive for January, 2009

Super Bowl Prediction

Posted by Jack Deus on January 26, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Prediction

There are many different ways to go about making your prediction for who will win a certain game, but there is only one absolute truth…no one knows for sure who will win until the game is actually played (putting aside players cheating/shaving points or having a gross mismatch, like an NFL team vs a PeeWee team). The reason everyone knows the definition of the word upset is because they happen with such great frequency. Given that upsets happen all the time, there are still things you can look at to help predict who will probably win the game. Here are some of these factors that might influence the Super Bowl and which team has the advantage in each.

1. Which team has the better defense? Statistically, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a much better defense when compared to the Arizona Cardinals, but you can’t just compare the defenses to each other because they don’t play each other. You need to compare the defense vs the offense it is facing as well. During the regular season Arizona’s offense averaged 365.8 yards per game (4th in the NFL) and scored 427 points (3rd) while Pittsburgh’s offense averaged 311.9 yards per game (22nd) and scored 347 points (20th). Quite the difference. Defensively, Arizona gave up 331.5 yards per game (19th) and 426 total points (28th) while Pittsburgh only gave up 237.2 yards per game (1st) and 223 total points (1st). In the postseason, Arizona has improved its defense, while Pittsburgh has remained as stout as ever. Basically what it comes down to is this: One of the best offenses (Arizona) vs the best defense (Pittsburgh) and a not so good offense vs a fairly poor defense that is getting better.

Advantage: Pittsburgh, by a fair amount, but not as much as it initially seems.

2. Which team has the better running game? In the regular season neither team was in the Top 20 in the NFL in rushing with Arizona finishing dead last, so a slight advantage to Pittsburgh there. In the postseason Pittsburgh’s rushing yards per game has increased by less than 3, whereas Arizona has an increase of almost 40 yards per game. Pittsburgh’s star running back, Willie Parker, was hurt for part of the regular season, so you would expect to see an increase in their rushing total with him back, but you don’t. Arizona’s running backs seem to have fresh legs, since they were used so infrequently during the regular season.

Advantage: Arizona.

3. Have the players on either team been here before? A decent amount of the Steelers’ players were on the Super Bowl winning team a few years ago, so they know what it is like to be under this microscope. However, that could actually come back to bite them. That Super Bowl was played in Detroit, so they didn’t really have much of an option but to concentrate on the game. This Super Bowl is being played in Florida, so there is a lot more temptation to go to a few parties, hang out at the beach, and generally not prepare as much for this SB as they did for that SB. For Arizona, Kurt Warner has played in two previous Super Bowls, and Edgerrin James played with a lot of good Indianapolis teams, so he is used to pressure filled games, too. I’m not going to research, but odds are there are some other players for the Cardinals that have played in a Super Bowl, too. Even if Warner is the only player for the Cardinals to play in a Super Bowl, he knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl, so he will get his team prepared. Also, the Arizona Cardinals are from, duh, Arizona, so the warm weather won’t mean as much to them.

Advantage: Pittsburgh.

4. Can either team play the “No one believes in us” card? The Super Bowl will be the fouth postseason game the Arizona Cardinals will play this season and it will be the fourth postseason game in which they are underdogs. Two of those four games were at home and a third (the SB) is at a neutral site. A lot of people, including yours truly, complained that Arizona probably shouldn’t have even made it into the playoffs because they just barely won a horrible division. Yeah, they can play this card.

Advantage: Arizona, big time.

5. Intangibles. Arizona has cheerleaders, Pittsburgh doesn’t. For those of you who read Tuesday Morning Quarterback on ESPN.com know that this could prove to be a big advantage for Arizona. Also from TMQ, “The three teams to have allowed the most points per game and reach the Super Bowl are the 2008 Cardinals, 2007 Giants and 2006 Colts.” See a trend? Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt and assistant head coach/offense line coach Russ Grimm both coached a lot of the players on the Steelers, so they have an advantage of knowing their opponent better than Pittsburgh does Arizona. Pittsburgh has been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated the last two weeks. Anyone familiar with the SI cover jinx? Arizona will have the best player on the field in Larry Fitzgerald.

Advantage: Arizona

Score Prediction: Arizona 23-Pittsburgh 19

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Affirmative (Re)Action

Posted by Jack Deus on January 19, 2009

For those of you living under a rock, Barack Obama is 24 (or so) hours away from being sworn in as the new President of the United States. Even though I voted for John McCain, I’m not disappointed that Obama won.  That is neither here nor there, though, because this post doesn’t really have anything to do with politics. Rather, it is my reaction to other people’s reactions of a black guy being elected to arguably the most powerful position in the most powerful nation in the world. I don’t consider myself a racist person, and I don’t think anyone who knows me thinks I am racist either, but some of the things I am going to say might come across as racist. Please, please, please don’t take them as racist comments, because they aren’t meant to be.

Before I get into the main body of my post, I want to address a term that really drives me crazy: African-American. I generally refuse to say it for three main reasons: 1) not all black people trace their heritage back to Africa (ignoring the fact that we all can trace our lineage back to Africa if we go back to the first humans-in which case I want in on some of those college scholarships that are only available to African-Americans), 2) I would venture a guess that most blacks living in America have never met their ancestors that came from Africa, have never been to Africa, and know very little about Africa, so calling them an African-American is more than just a little melodramatic and 3) it would be absurd and probably not ever cross someones mind to call me a European-American–even though I’ve actually spoken to my ancestors that came from Germany, visited Germany, and know a decent amount about Germany’s history–which is hypocritical and I really don’t like hypocrites.

And now that I’ve turned off a lot of readers…on to the show! Right after the election in November, my wife was watching The View on TiVo and I happened to be in the room for a few minutes and heard some things that really rubbed me the wrong way.

First, Sherri Shepherd was so choked up and blubbering on camera that I had a hard time understanding her, but what I was able to gather was that she was on the fence about who she would vote for until the end because she couldn’t decide whether she wanted to vote for a woman for Vice President or a black man for President more. From what my wife tells me, the ladies on The View talk about politics a lot, so she should have been one of the most well-informed voters on just about every issue, and yet she ended up making her decision based on the candidate’s skin color. I doubt she was the only person, either, she was just one of the few stupid enough to say it on national TV.

Second, Sherri said this was the first time she has voted. She is 33 years old, which means she ignored the opportunity to vote 3 other times. Why did she finally decide to vote this time? That is only for her to know, but my money is on the fact that a black guy and a woman were running for office. If Barack Obama was white and McCain had picked a white guy as his VP candidate, I would be willing to bet a whole lot of money that she would not have voted in this election either.

Third, Barbara Walters played a clip of Martin Luther King Jr’sI Have A Dream” speech and claimed that we, as a nation, have finally realized MLK’s dream, but I don’t think we have. (This is a discussion for later, but I think in some cases we’ve actually swung the other way and are being discriminating towards whites-an opinion I alluded to earlier with my scholarship comment.) The specific quote from the speech I want to look at is “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” There are two main problems I have with thinking we have finally arrived at that place: 1) according to most exit polls, over 95% of black voters voted for Obama, proving to me that at least some of them voted for Obama based on the color of his skin and not on the content of his character (please note that this statement is not a dig on Obama’s character, he seems to me like he has very good character) and 2) on the flip side of that coin, McCain took just about every southern state, some by fairly large margins, leading me to believe that at least some of the white voters voted not so much for McCain as against Obama (I point out the south because I imagine that is where the majority of white racists reside, but I know that they are everywhere, sadly).

In addition to these reactions to The View, I have a reaction to a comment that was made not only on The View, but on many different shows on many different channels by many different prominent black people. Not all of them said the exact same thing, but the basic gist of the comments they made was that Obama becoming president finally gave them the ability to tell their kids that they could be anything they want when they grow up, if they just work hard enough. I specifically saw Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, numerous politicians (I don’t know their names because I don’t follow politics and know very few politicians’ names), LeBron James and Kobe Bryant all say this. Kobe Bryant said something like “rappers, actors, or athletes are really the only thing we could tell our kids they could be if they wanted to make it big.” Really, Kobe? You really tell your kids if they want to make it big in life they can only be those three things? Obviously being a good basketball player doesn’t make you a good father.

Let me delve deeper into that point. I know it is easier to sell a point (in this case, that you can be anything you want to be) when there is someone similar to you to point at and say “See, (s)he did it, and so can you,” but there are so may flaws in that argument I don’t even know where to start. First, just because someone else did it usually doesn’t make it more or less possible for you to do the same thing, no matter who you are. Second, Barack Obama is half white, so by that argument, a fully black person still can’t strive to be president. Sounds pretty stupid, huh? Third, even if Obama was 100% black, just because you are black too doesn’t mean the two of you share any other characteristics. Fourth, just because someone you identify yourself as being similar to has never done something doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Do you really think Obama’s parents told him he could only be a rapper or a baseball player when he was growing up? Probably not. They probably encouraged him to do whatever he wanted and strive to be whatever he wanted. Fifth, just because a black person had never been President before Obama, doesn’t mean other black people haven’t reached the pinnacle of other professions besides sports, acting, and singing. Oprah is one of the most powerful women in America and she is black. When she features a book on her show, that book is practically guaranteed to reach the top 10 in sales. Kofi Annan was the UN Secretary-General and he is black. Other countries, and not just in Africa, have had black leaders. Need more examples? Go to www.goodsearch.com and type in “famous black people” and you will find thousands of examples you can point your children towards if you think they should only identify with people of their own race.

One final point I want to make is about Obama’s acceptance speech. During his speech he stated “But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you.” He is referring to the American people when he says you, not just to black people. According to wikipedia, who pulled the data from the US Census Bureau, in 2007 America was approximately 80% white and 13% black. Would anyone watching the news coverage of Obama’s acceptance speech be able to guess anywhere close to those percentages based on the people they showed in the crowd? I seriously doubt it. Based on the people shown, the makeup of America is closer to 75% black, 25% white. Now, if the crowds gathered to watch this speech actually had that make-up I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but I don’t think there is any way that was the make-up of the crowds. There were just as many (and probably many, many times more) white people that were just as ecstatic as black people about Obama’s victory.

So, what conclusion am I trying to lead you towards with this post? Basically, if you really want to create and live in the world Dr. King was referring to in his speech, and I, for one, do,  stop mentioning race in any context, because in that world race doesn’t matter. The only reason Obama’s race is a big deal is because people keep bringing it up, making it a big deal. He is not defined by his race (at least he shouldn’t be) so bringing it up is pointless at best and socially destructive (because it leads people to continue to look at the color of his skin instead of the content of his character) at worst.

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The Name Game

Posted by Jack Deus on January 12, 2009

Part of my job involves me looking at a lot of names (along the lines of thousands a day sometimes). I’ve seen hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of names in my lifetime and yet some people’s names still amaze me. I can’t help but try to figure out what drugs these people’s parents were on when they thought “this name sounds good.” Do these parents try to give their kids a complex? Do they want to pay for a shrink? Are they really that clueless? A study was done a little while back showing that there may be a correlation between your initials and other aspects of your life, positively or negatively depending on the letters.I would imagine that a name could have a similar effect. As with anything, there are some names that are less potentially scarring than others, and obviously if the kid is strong willed they can overcome a bad name, but why take the chance? With that in mind I’ve created a list of 10 rules to follow to greatly reduce the risk of your child having issues when they grow older. Some of these rules only really apply in the US (see #5 specifically) because in other parts of the world some of these names may have positive connotations or at least not have negative connotations.

10 Rules for Naming Your Child

1. If you are thinking about naming your child after you, don’t. The kid needs their own identity, not to grow up in your shadow. There are thousands of good names for a child, they don’t need to share yours.

2. If your family has already started the (bad) tradition of passing along the name and you feel you must continue it, at least give the child a different middle name. This serves two purposes: one, they can use the middle name as their name if they want to get out of your shadow and two, there is much less risk of a mix up with credit scores, etc.

3. If you have a last name that is the same as someone who is currently uber-famous or someone historically famous, don’t give your child the first name of the famous person. Names such as Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, John Kennedy, Betsy Ross, and Martha Stewart will almost assuredly be associated with those famous people for the majority or entirety of your child’s life. While you may think you are doing your child a favor by naming them after someone famous, it is only serving to put your child behind the 8-ball because they will never come close to living up to their namesake. By the way, this rule applies to fictional names too, like Bruce Wayne.

4. Similar to #3, but much more important, is never, ever name your child after someone infamous. If your last name is Manson, don’t name your son Charles. If your last name is Stalin, don’t name your child Joseph or even Josephine. If your last name is Hitler, well you might want to look into changing that anyway, but absolutely don’t name your child Adolf.

5. Keeping in theme with the end of #4, try to avoid names that are strongly associated with other countries: Adolf, Sven, Wolfgang, Xioaling, Jorge, Abner, etc. While these names may have wonderful meaning in your heritage, most kids with these names are going to get made fun of, a lot. Do you want your child getting made fun of every day they go to school? Of course not. If you want to instill your heritage into your child, maybe consider using one of those names as the child’s middle name.

6. Most nouns, verbs, and adjectives are off-limits. Names like Sun, Moon, Star, Freedom, Echo, Rainbow should be avoided. The hippies popularized these names, but unfortunately the names did not die out like the hippy movement.  I say most because there are certain names that have become popular and aren’t associated with the original word anymore; names like Dawn, Robin, and Joy come to mind.

7. Keep the spelling of more common names. There is no need to spell your daughter’s name Amey or Allyson, or your son’s name Chrystopher or Bradlay because you want them to be different and stand out from the crowd. The only thing this is going to make them do is spell out their name EVERY time they tell someone what their name is. Speaking as someone who has had to spell out his last name to everyone he has ever met, do you know how much of a waste of time that is? Not only that, but when enough people spell a common name differently everyone gets confused, so the people with the common spelling have to start wasting their time spelling out their name for people, too. Giving your child a uniquely spelled common name could also lead to credit problems. What happens when your child fills out a credit card application and the person entering their name is in a hurry and types your child’s name the way almost everyone else spells it? Usually this can be fixed with little or no harm, but with tightened security for travel abroad it could lead to some major problems if your child doesn’t catch the error and their name ends up misspelled on their driver’s license or passport.

8. Avoid first and middle names that when combined with your last name make other words, especially if they make inappropriate words. For example, avoid Michael (Mike) if your last name is Hawk or Hunt.

9. If your last name is an adjective, avoid first names that are objects, especially if they make inappropriate combinations. Peter and Richard (Dick) should never be paired with Wacker or Licker. This rule can also be reversed, also. If your last name is a noun, such as Koch (even if you don’t pronounce it like a male rooster), don’t name your child Harry or Anita.

10. This rule seems the most obvious to me, but sadly I see it broken quite often. If your last name is or contains a first name, don’t use that first name when naming your child. Examples of names not to use: John Johnson, Peter Peters, Taylor Taylor. Seriously, I’ve seen all of these names before and can’t even imagine the ridicule they have to endure.

These “rules” are all my personal opinion, but I would like to think the majority of people out there agree with them. So, if you find yourself faced with the task of naming someone, please keep these rules in mind so that the someone you are naming doesn’t start off life on the wrong foot. There are so many things in life going against human beings being happy, why add one more?

If you are a parent who went against one or more of these rules, I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment and let me know what your child’s name is (first, middle, and last name) and why you chose that name.

If you have a name that goes against one or more of these rules, I’d love to hear from you, too. Post a comment and let me know what your name is (first, middle, and last), whether you wish your parents had given you a different name,  and what kind of trauma, teasing, or hardships you had to face because of your name. If you didn’t experience any of these things, let me know why you think that is.

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Holiday Story

Posted by Jack Deus on January 5, 2009

Gather round kids, and Jack will tell you a story of a fateful Christmas Eve rescue…

A husband and wife were driving home from a family Christmas celebration with their hungry and screaming five-month-old daughter when all of a sudden there was quiet radiating from the back seat. The babe had fallen asleep, apparently forgetting her hunger for the moment. “Want to drive around and look at some Christmas lights?” the husband asked, turning to his wife.

“Sure, but you just missed the turn-off where the really good lights are,” she replied back.

“That’s OK. We’ll get off at the next exit and drive around there, instead.” A moment later, he did just that.

They drove for a few minutes, discussing the best route to take, while the soft melodies of Christmas music played on the radio.

All of the sudden, a tiny black something darted in front of the car and the husband applied the brakes and swerved to avoid running it over. “I think that was a kitten,” he said. “I going to turn around and go get it.”

The street he was on was normally very busy, but luckily at 9:00pm on Christmas Eve there was hardly a car around.

He spotted the kitten on the center median and hugged the car to the pile of snow that was currently serving as the shoulder. He waited for two cars to pass, got out and jogged to where the kitten sat.

But it didn’t sit for long. When the man came up to the kitten he held his hand out and called to it in the way every kitten likes, “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.” This kitten didn’t like that and took off up the median. The man gave chase, hoping the kitten wouldn’t be stupid enough to run out into the street. It wasn’t. Just as two cars were approaching their position, the kitten darted out into the street.

From the median, the man made eye contact with the drivers, and pointed at the kitten. The drivers didn’t have time to swerve, but they did their best to keep the kitten centered under their cars. This turned out to be much safer than if the cars had swerved causing the kitten to be centered under the wheel.

To make sure the kitten got out of the road, the man ran at the kitten, making as much noise as possible, trying to get it to run into the relative safety of the the side of the road opposite where he parked his car. His planned worked perfectly, as the kitten ran out of the street and up a telephone pole, just out of the reach of the man.

There they were, the kitten 8 feet up a telephone pole, frozen, shivering and scared out of its mind and the man, trying to figure out how to get to the kitten so he could warm, calm, and comfort it. The man saw a way to get up to the kitten, but once he got the kitten down, how would he keep it warm and more importantly how would he keep it from clawing his face off?

He took of his coat and the sweatshirt he was wearing below it, put the coat back on and laid the sweatshirt on the snow. He put his cotton gloves on, stepped on a bolt protruding from the base of the pole, and reached up to grab the kitten.

If you were watching the man trying to rescue the kitten, what happened next you would have missed if you blinked, it happened so fast…The man wrapped his hand almost all the way around the kitten’s midsection (it was that small)…He pulled the kitten backwards off the pole with his left hand…As he dropped off his perch, he brought his right hand towards the kitten to get a better grip…The kitten squirmed, writhed, arched its back, and pushed its way out of the man’s hands…The kitten fell to the ground, landing on top of the snow (on its feet of course)…The man dropped to his knees in the snow and grabbed at the kitten with his left hand…The kitten jumped away from the man’s left hand…Right next to the man’s right hand…The cat opened its mouth…And bit the right hand…

Even through the glove the man felt pain. But he knew if he didn’t grab the kitten now it would run away and he would probably never catch it, so he wrapped the fingers of his right hand that weren’t being bitten around whatever part of the kitten he could grab and swooped his left hand in for more support. He leaned forward to where his sweatshirt lay, and very carefully and very quickly set the kitten on top of it and wrapped it up.

Feeling the warmth of the blanket, or perhaps knowing it was defeated, the kitten stopped squirming. The man walked to where his wife had pulled the car around, opened the door, and they drove home.

Afterward:

I called every Emergicare around to see if any were open so I could get some antibiotics only to find out they were all closed, of course. Luckily, there was one that was open the next day, Christmas. I stopped there in the morning and got the antibiotics prescription. A little less lucky, but still convenient, was that there was a Walgreens open to fill my prescription.

The same night I rescued Jaws (the name I have given the kitten) the Nebraska Humane Society met me to pick him up. They should be calling me sometime today to let me know if I need to go get treated for rabies or anything else the antibiotics wouldn’t have taken care of. I’m pretty confident I will be fine.

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