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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Sports: NFL Week Eight Predictions 

For the season: 43-27 SU, 36-32-2 ATS

(3-4) Green Bay [-2] at (2-4) Washington: Brett Favre looks like he's starting to get the magic touch again. Bad news for the Skins.
Packers 26, Redskins 22
ATS- Green Bay

(4-2) Baltimore at (6-0) Philadelphia [-7.5]: The friendly confines of Lincoln Financial should the road jitters that almost cost Philly last week.
Eagles 27, Ravens 17
ATS- Philadelphia

(4-2) NY Giants at (5-1) Minnesota [-6.5]: Kurt Warner's soul missed a payment last week. The Devil collects on Halloween.
Vikings 34, Giants 20
ATS- Minnesota

(4-2) Indianapolis [-1] at (2-4) Kansas City: The Colts blew home-field advantage last week; KC fights for their playoff lives.
Colts 27, Chiefs 24
ATS- Indianapolis

(4-2) Detroit at (2-4) Dallas [-3]: REVERSE JINX ALERT! I'll take Detroit's 80% Roy Williams & Co. over Dallas' 100% Roy Williams & Co.
Lions 31, Cowboys 23
ATS- Detroit

(5-4) Jacksonville at (3-3) Houston [-1]: Start dreaming big in another sport, H-Town, and I don't mean the NBA, which opens next week.
Texans 23, Jaguars 21
ATS- Houston

(5-2) Atlanta at (5-2) Denver [-6.5]: Which Bronco midget is going to run laps around the shell-shocked Dirty Birds defense?
Broncos 28, Falcons 20
ATS- Denver

(6-0) New England [-3] at (5-1) Pittsburgh: The Pats keep facing -- and beating -- good teams each week. Yep, they're pretty good themselves.
Patriots 26, Steelers 21
ATS- New England

(1-5) San Francisco at (1-5) Chicago [-1.5]: Remember the days when this could have been an NFC Championship contest?
49ers 20, Bears 17
ATS- San Francisco

(1-6) Miami at (5-1) NY Jets [-6.5]: Seems like a trap game, but the Jets are for real. The Dolphins aren't nearly as good as they looked last week.
Jets 27, Dolphins 13
ATS- NY Jets


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Blog: Branching Out 

A new Texas-based group blog, the Lone Star Times, launches today, and I'm happy to say that I am part of what should be a fun and unique blogging experience.

I'm looking forward to reading the posts of the other 15 or so participants, some of whom I recognize, but most of whom I don't. Just during the pre-launch trial period, I've seen a lot of good content, and that should continue as LST grows.

My first few posts can be found here, here and here. Check it out and let me know what you think.


Politics: Presidential Supporters 

Just in case my endoresement isn't enough, head over to Baseball Crank. The Mad Hibernian has assembled a long list of public figures and groups, who have pledged support for the President. he offers his own endorsement, too.


Politics: Why I Support President Bush 

In lieu of a "Wictory Wednesday" post, I thought I'd use this final Wednesday of the campaign to briefly articulate the reasons why I will cast my vote for President George W. Bush on Tuesday.

September 11

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the entire country united behind the President. Save for a few ultra-radical loonies, we all stood together with George W. Bush in a patriotic embrace unlike anything else I have seen in my 27 years on this planet. President Bush gave us strong leadership in our nation's darkest hour. He never flinched or allowed his emotions to lead us into any hasty military reaction. Instead he provided strentgh and warmth to a nation that desperately needed it.

The War on Terror

Maybe it's not a "winnable" war, but with George Bush in the White House, I know that America will never give in to those who wish us destroyed. We did not start this war, and it may be a long before we finish it, but I am confident in President Bush's ability to lead us in this endeavor. It is worth mentioning, I believe, that since 9/11, we have not see another major terrorist strike on American soil.


Many disagree, and I respect their opinion, but I feel that the Iraqi War was warranted and the right thing to do. Our nation played peek-a-boo with Saddam Hussein for far too long, and based on the intelligence reports of the time, President Bush acted in the manner I would expect from any Commander-in-Chief. When America is threatened, it's not our nation's job to appeal to the U.N., or gain permission from so-called allies from the Old Country. It's our job to act. It's also in our best long-term interests to spread the torch of freedom whenever possible.


President Bush has never wavered in his support for our most important ally. We must continue to support and stand by Israel, as they face the constant threat of annihilation in the world's most volatile region.


President Bush consistently displays courage of his convictions. Even when I disagree with him, I know that he believes in the stances that he takes. That's worthy of respect. I also know that his beliefs are guided by his faith in God, and while that bothers some people, I think it reflects the kind of faith on which our nation was built. From the founding fathers to Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan, our nation's greatest leaders all placed their trust in the Almighty, and I believe that is one reason that America has prospered for more than two centuries.

Domestic Policy

Though I do take exception with some of the spending programs that the President has proposed, I support his views regarding issues such as taxes, education reform (namely vouchers), privatization of Social Security, and the right to life.

George W. Bush has served our nation well for four years. It has not been an easy time for our country, but I thank God that he provided us with someone that has put America first and helped to keep us strong. No leader is perfect, and I'm sure President Bush would be the first to tell you that there is much work left to be done. That is why I will cast my ballot in his favor, because I believe that another four years of the President's leadership is exactly what this nation needs.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Politics: Pick a Side! 

I spent a few minutes tonight perusing the Libertarian Party Platform. It's an interesting read, I admit.

I know several people that shun the Democrats and Republicans in favor of Libertarianism. To each his own, I suppose. Most of them seem as though they would lean more toward the Republican side, if forced to choose, but since I had never really read any of their literature to know for sure, I thought I'd check it out.

Upon reading their planks, my principal conclusion is: Libertarians are just a strange lot. They're not merely the "Republican Lite" that I expected, but they aren't necessarily Democrat either. It seems to me that the Libertarian Party is a collective group of fence-sitters, who would rather make absolute statements for the sake of making absolutes, than actively try to make a difference in society.

I'm all for Rugged Individualism, but in a land as prosperous as the USA, I find the LP's sense of Darwinistic "survival of the fittest" somewhat alarming. And while their ideas for separation of certain societal functions from government (e.g., education, healthcare, etc.) sound great on paper, I fear what our nation would look like if we ever put them into action. And what about their isolationist stance toward foreign policy? I'm not sure that's possible even if we wanted it to be.

The LP ideals, however, aren't really what bother me, per se. I'm more annoyed with the smug, obtuse manner in which their followers present Libertarianism as some utopia, as if modern society were an Ayn Rand novel. I hear Libertarians speak of their disdain for Republicans and Democrats as if their choice to elect Michael Badnarik over George W. Bush or John Kerry were an act of noble sacfrifice. "I can't, in good conscience, blah blah blah..."

It's all crap. I'll be the first to admit that the current two-party system in America has its drawbacks. It's flawed. It encourages petty partisanship as often as it promotes civil dicourse. It inherently creates gridlock and bickering at the expense of an over-burdened, tax-paying public. But you know what? It's what we have, and it's not going to change as long as people think that the solution is to waste a vote on a candidate that's so insignificant that for him to garner even a single percent of the popular vote would constitute the biggest moral victory in recent American political history.

An old adage states that change comes from within. There's a lot of truth to that. If Libertarians really wanted to change the system, they'd get involved with one of the parties that provides at least some manner from which to be heard. Is it a tough proposition? You bet it is. But come talk to me on Nov. 3, after Badnarik fails to garner enough votes to get elected mayor of Dallas, much less President of the United States, and tell me that my idea is any less sensible.

The thing is, I don't think that the hardcore Libertarians want to change anything. It's much easier to sit on the sidelines and promote yourself as the uncorrupted voice of reason, as opposed to getting in the trenches and making an actual difference. It's like in the Eddie Murphy movie, The Distinguished Gentleman. The local senior citizen party's chariwoman tells Murphy, "A Democrat can win. A Republican can win. A Silver Fox can only make a statement." Well the LP will likely fail to achieve even that.

Their candidate for the 2000 Presidency, Harry Browne, pulled 384,000 votes. That's less than four-tenths of one percent of the popular vote. Is that a statement? It was such a minute amount that it made little-to-no difference in the overall election results, save for possibly Florida, where Browne's 16,000 ballots was significantly more than the 600-vote difference between the two major party candidates. But then again, Pat Buchanan finished third there with 17,000 votes, so Browne wasn't even the bridesmaid in the gem of the 2000 election.

I've looked at Michael Badnarik's personal platform. He seems like a good man. But I cannot take his quest for the Oval Office seriously, and that's because he obviously doesn't either. If he did, he'd campaign in in a way that would give him the opportunity to share whatever vision he may have, with the American people.


Movie Review: Garden State 

Roughly twenty minutes into Garden State, I had begun to question the rave reviews that it has drawn. I get it, I thought. Zach Braff plays Largeman, your typical messed up twenty-something, estranged from his family, who left home behind and escaped to a new world, only to replace emptiness with more emptiness.

Then he meets Natalie Portman's Sam, and the rest... well, the rest turned me around 180 degrees. "Listen to this song," she says, thrusting a pair of headphones his way. "It'll change your life." The opening strains of The Shins' "New Slang" bleed through the headset and an hour later the viewer realizes how prophetic Sam was.

Garden State tells a tale that we've all see before. Boy meets Girl. Boy falls for Girl. Girl completes Boy. Boy falls in love. Girl falls in love. Boy and Girl live happily... ever after? That last part is open for debate, but it certainly not a reach. The beauty of Garden State isn't in its story, though, it's in its characters.

Braff and Portman play off each other beautifully. From a serendipitous meeting to a fairy tale ending, the pair's endearing chemistry captures the butterfly-causing attraction so often found in budding romances. Portman, with her bubbly charm and sweet-yet-not-too-innocent independent side, especially lights up the screen.

Then there's the soundtrack. Have you ever wanted to create a soundtrack of your life? Or least of a part of it? Braff does just that with the film's music, complementing its sense of apprehensive isolation with a mellow mix of acoustic melancholy.

Garden State appealed to me for many of the same reasons that I loved Eternal Sunshine. Both have flawed characters that elicit similar empathetic empotions. They're everyday people, enduring the same problems that we all face, and rooting for them is like rooting for ourselves. If pressed I'd say that Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet did it a little bit better, but come Oscar time, I'm rooting for both.



Sports: NFL Week Seven Wrap-Up 

Looks like all of the baseball-watching came back to bite me this past week: 5-5 SU, 3-6-1 ATS. That lowers me to 43-27 SU, 36-32-2 ATS, for the season.

NFL Thought for the week:

- The Cowboys blow. Seriously, they're horrible right now. The most effective runner is Richie Anderson, who is as far from a workhorse back as you'll find. Vinny has been better than most will give him credit for, but when opponents send the house on third down -- because an inept running game has left you in a hole -- it's hard to consistently pick up first downs. On defense, they D-Line just can't get enough pressure to offset a secondary that might be the worst unit in Big D since Kevin "Pass Interference" Smith singlehandedly lost at least two games in 1997's 6-10 effort. Terrance Newman is having the mother of all sophomore slumps, and the Tuna is having to resort to scrap-heap pickups (i.e., Tyrone Williams) to plug in all the holes left from injuries. Not having Darren Woodsen is killing them as well.

It's not unusual for NFL teams to start slow and rebound at midseason, but this Cowboys team is on the respirator right now. Maybe Jerry Jones should bring in Phil Garner for a pep talk. That or a faith healer, to cure the walking infirmary that is their roster. Things are bleak right now, Dallas fans. But take solace, because even if there's no playoff berth at the end of that long tunnel, the worst that can happen is we get two high draft picks for 2005. Derrick Johnson sure would look good in silver and blue.


Politics: Charting the EC 

If you don't regularly read Gerry Dales, then turn in your political junkie card and get your ass over there right now. Today he offers a fantastic rundown of exactly what President Bush (and by default, Sen. Kerry) needs to happen next Tuesday, in order to keep (or claim) the White House.

Seriously, close out ESPN.com and go read it.


Monday, October 25, 2004

Politics:One of 'Those' People? 

I didn't see Fahrenheit 9/11 in the theater and I've been out of college for five years, so I don't come into contact with the loony left too often, thank God. An incident this weekend made me realize how lucky I am.

I was in Temple visiting my family, and an old friend, Rick, was in town as well. I rarely see him anymore, which is good, because we don't have much in common these days, and his tendency to try and act a lot smarter than he actually is annoys me to no end. But he ended up staying at my brother's place so he was around all weekend.

After the Texas win Saturday night, we all went out to eat, and for some reason the conversation shifted to politics. He had made several anti-Bush comments during the day, so I knew he was no fan of the President, but when I pressed him for a reason, I was literally shocked.

Rick: "Didn't you see Fahrenheit 9/11? Bush is an evil man."
Me: "Fahrenheit 9/11? Are you serious?"
Rick: "It was a great movie."
Me: "Your whole anti-Bush stance stems from a fictional movie from Michael Moore?"
Rick: "It's all true."
Me: "You do realize that basing a political opinion on a Michael Moore movie is like trying to use a Tom & Jerry cartoos to prove a Physics Theory.
Rick: "If it wasn't true then how come no one has sued him?"

At that point I stopped. I could have gone into a spiel about how damn near impossible it is to win a slander/libel lawsuit, but he would have just responded with an asinine rant about how he has studied law, even though his college experience was limited to a U.S. History survey course at the local junior college.

I knew that the Michael Moore disciples existed. I just never thought anyone that I knew would be among their ranks. Thank God he lives in Texas and his Jabba the Hutt-influenced vote won't matter anyway.


Friday, October 22, 2004

Sports: NFL Week Seven Predictions 

Fast and furious...

2004 thus far: 38-22 SU, 33-26-1 ATS

(1-4) Buffalo at (3-2) Baltimore [-5.5]: As long as there's no snow to distract Jamal Lewis, B-More should easily dispose of the Bills.
Ravens 23, Bills 12
ATS- Baltimore

(3-2) Detroit at (4-1) NY Giants [-6.5]: I refuse to believe that this NY team is for real. Believeing that about the Giants takes less of a leap of faith.
Giants 26, Lions 20
ATS- NY Giants

(5-0) Philadephia [-7] at (3-3) Clevelend: The Eagles are on the road, primed for a letdown game, right? Not against Clevelend.
Eagles 31, Browns 16
ATS- Philadephia

(4-2) Jacksonville at (4-1) Indianapolis [-9]: The Jags continue to get no respect. Then again, Peyton Manning will no doubt show little respect when he carves up their D like a butterball.
Colts 32, Jaguars 24
ATS- Jacksonville

(2-4) Tennessee at (4-1) Minnesota [-6.5]: Didn't Drew Brees firebomb the Titans two weeks ago? Randy Moss can sit this one out, Coach Tice.
Vikings 27, Titans 20
ATS- Minnesota

(4-2) St. Louis [-6] at (0-6) Miami: The streak isn't going to end this week, because that Rams offense is rolling right now.
Rams 26, Dolphins 12
ATS- St. Louis

(5-1) Atlanta at (1-4) Kansas City [-3.5]: How many games do the Chiefs have to lose before oddsmakers stop favoring them each week?
Chiefs 23, Falcons 21
ATS- Atlanta

(5-0) NY Jets at (5-0) New England [-6]: Some week soon I'm going to get the nerve to pick against the Pats. But not this week.
Patriots 27, Jets 20
ATS- New England

(2-3) Dallas at (2-4) Green Bay (-3.5): The only thing better, for a Dallas fan, than beating Washington and San Fran is silencing the cheeseheads.
Cowboys 20, Packers 17
ATS- Dallas

(2-4) New Orleans at (2-4) Oakland [-3]: At least we won't have to hear any more about the charade that was throwing Jerry Rice BS passes during garbage time.
Raiders 22, Saints 16
ATS- Oakland


Longhorns: Back to Football 

With no more baseball, I can finally turn my full attention to the Horns. Last week's win over Missouri was the strangest game I think I've ever attended. Texas jumped on top early, held on to win late, and produced not only a win, but the strangest stat line I've seen in all my years of watching the Horns.

PASSING: Texas-Mock, Chance 4-10-0-39; Young, Vince
3-9-2-19; Taylor, Ramonce 1-1-0-48.

RECEIVING: Texas-Sweed, Limas 3-27; Young,
Vince 1-48
; Benson, Cedric 1-20; Thomas, David 1-5; Jeffery, Tony 1-4; Matthews, Will 1-2.
Not weird enough for you? Remember that Young is the starting QB and Taylor is the backup RB, and a true freshman at that. I saw Taylor run, catch, throw and kick as a senior at Belton high school last year, but I never imagined that he'd get his name in a boxscore as the game's leading passer for the University of Texas.

Anyway, the win against Mizzou was as boring a close finish as I have seen. I had no doubt the Horns would hold on for the victory, even when the Tigers seems to grab the momentum on their final drive. Losing just never entered my mind.

That was last week. Tomorrow the Horns visit the plains of West Texas, and any orangeblood that tells you he or she isn't worried about losing this weekend is either stupid or lying to your face. Throw the records out the window when Texas travels to Lubbock; you can guarantee that the Red Raiders will put up a fight. Since 1992, the "we're not rivals" rivalry has flip-flopped more than John Kerry when the Horns and Raiders meet in Lubbock.

2002- Tech 42, Texas 38
2000- Texas 29, Tech 17
1998- Tech 42, Texas 35
1996- Texas 38, Tech 32
1994- Tech 33, Texas 9
1992- Texas 44, Tech 33

That means we're due for a win, right? If only it were that easy. The texas defense will have to improve on their ability to stop Tech's zig-zag, chuck-and-duck, organized sandlot ball attack, if they want to stay in pursuit of a BCS bowl bid. Mike Leach's system piled up 365 yards through the air in Austin last season, and an amazing 508 the previous year in Lubbock.

In short, Texas' effort against Tech will need to be similar to what they showed two weeks ago, when the Horns' secondary limited Heisman winner Jason White to 113 yards. That was a 250-yard improvement from the 363 he piled up the season before. Turnovers would be nice as well. Texas hasn't intercepted a Tech QB in either of the past two games, a span that covers 120 pass attempts.

That ends this week. Greg Robinson's new defensive scheme won't mug the linebackers and leave the middle of the field open to a myriad of crossing routes and dump passes. Sonny Cumbie will get his yards, but the Red Raider WRs won't waltz through the secondary unmolested. I expect a few guys in particular to have big games: safeties Michael Huff and Phillip Geiggar, and LBs Derrick Johnson and Aaron Harris. Someone is getting as pick this weekend, and I believe at least one of these four guys will absolutely level some poor Techie that tries to get cute over the middle.

So the Texas defense shows up? Tech still scores 30 points. You don't stop them in Lubbock; You hold them just enough to outscore them. Can the Texas offense do that? That's the question I struggle with. If Ramonce Taylor is the leading passer come tomorrow evening, then my friends, the Horns are looking at the wrong end of a blowout.

Run the ball. That's what we do. Run the ball until Ced Benson's "32" is tatooed on the jerseys of every Tech defender. But mix in a few passes, too. There's a guy named David Thomas that plays TE. He's pretty good. Run Cedric and run him hard. And just when they think he's about to barrell through them again, fake it to him and throw to Thomas over the middle. The play's worked against A&M and Arkansas. Where has it been lately? Only in Greg Davis' offense do successful plays find the wastebasket. Well find it, Greg, and put it back in the playbook -- on the third row of page one, where you might eventually see it.

I'd like to see us take a few shots down the field. I don't think we have to hit any deep balls to win, but it doesn't take a clairvoyant to sense the growing frustration from our younr recieving corps. Throw'em a bomb, if not a bone... or somesuch. But run Cedric until his cleats wear away. If he doesn't have more than 200 yards tomorrow, then someone's ass needs to be fired.

I think we get it done. It'll be tough. Texas Tech high school will be rocking with 40,000 strong, including 10,000 drunk fratboys. They love to beat Texas out there. It's like Christmas for them. Well I just checked the calendar. Christmas is still two months away. Tech fans will just have to wait and live with the disappointment.

Texas 38, Texas Tech 34


Sports: My All-Time Top Ten 'Stomach-Punch' Losses 

Bear with me folks, this is cathartic.

10. Lewisville 40, Temple 16 (1993): We were on the verge of a second consecutive state championship appearance, hoping to repeat as 5A champs. Lewisville ended that dream in the state semi-final at Texas Stadium, turning a 10-7 halftime lead into a second half blowout.

9. Buffalo 41, Houston 38 (1993): I just knew we'd see an all-Texas Super Bowl. It looked that way when the Oilers led 38-3. The Frank Reich did the impossible. Houston's run-and-shoot woes allowed Buffalo to storm back and win in OT.

8. Arkansas 88, Texas 85 (1990): BMW -- the Ultimate Scoring Machine, fell just short of driving Texas to the Final Four. Tom Penders' greatest team experienced their most heartbreaking loss to their biggest rival. If only that last second three-pointer had gone in...

7. Waco 14, Temple 7 (1994): After making the playoffs my first three years in school (worst season was a third-round exit to Dallas Carter in 1991), the Wildcats missed the playoffs altogether my senior year. Rival Waco beat us in Wildcat Stadium to claim the district title and keep us at home.

6. Oklahoma 14, Texas 3 (2001): Everything that could go wrong for us did go wrong. Still, with a few minutes to play we had the ball and a chance to drive for a go-ahead TD. Then Roy Williams did his "Superman" leap and next thing you know, it's 14-3 and the game is all but over.

5. Miami 46, Texas 3 (1991): The most deflating Texas game of all time. The "Shock the Nation" tour ended in shock and awe -- all from the Hurricanes. Miami racked up more penalty yardage than Texas had total offense. You knew it was over when the Canes (a) knocked out our return man on the opening kickoff and (b) converted a 1st and 40 on their opening possession. Ugly.

4. San Diego 2, Houston 1 (1998): Jim Leyritz was the Astros' kryptonite in the NLDS, and his HR in Game Three didn't necessarily win the game, but it certainly contributed to it.

3. Atlanta 5, Houston 3 (1999): I've written about Game Three of the NLDS plenty of times before. I just can't do it again.

2. Colorado 39, Texas 37 (2001): Even with the loss to OU, the planets aligned and every team that had to lose, in order for Texas to earn a spot in the BCS title game, actually did lose. All they had to do was beat a team that they had already beaten, 41-7, just two months earlier. Then Chris Simms played the worst game of his life. A late comeback failed and Texas snatched defeat from the jaws of victory... again.

1. St. Louis 5, Houston 2 (2004): Like I said last night, it's the ultimate.


Blog: Moving On... 

With no more Astros games to blog, I suppose I'll be shifting back toward more politics (and pop culture, of course) in the coming months.

It feels weird knowing that this wonderful baseball season has finally ended. It's disappointing, but in a sense, liberating. There's always the Hot Stove League, so this place won't be fully devoid of Astros updates over the winter, but the majority of content won't focus on baseball for a while.

Oh yes, and I have an announcement...

I'm embarking on a new blogging venture (adventure, perhaps?) here in the next week or so that I think will be both fun and rewarding. No specifics yet, but I'll post more about this development at the appropriate time.

The LM Blog will keep going, though, so nothing should change around here.


Astros: Thanks, Guys 

Destiny just wasn't to be, after all. This is the ultimate punch in the stomach -- the worst loss I've ever endured as a sports fan.

Still, this team came closer than any previous Astros squad to advancing to the World Series. Nothing could ever make me more proud of this ball club.

Congrats to the St. Louis Cardinals. Y'all were the class of the NL. Good job. Beat the Sawx. I'll be cheering for you.

More than anything, though, Thank You to to the 2004 Astros.

Thanks to Craig Biggio. Old legs or not, you scrapped your way through another season. You led off all year, setting an NL record for lead-off HRs, and tonight you gave us a lead that very well could have been the first of many series-clinching runs. It just wasn't meant to be. I hope you're back next year, but if things go awry, then I hope you know that you'll always be 1/2 of my favorite Astro. We'll see you in the Hall of Fame. 2600+ hits, three top ten MVP finishes, six all-star appearances and a couple of gold gloves? If that's not HOF material then screw Cooperstown.

Thanks to Jeff Bagwell. Arthritic shoulder or not, you scrapped your way through another season. You're the other 1/2 of my favorite Astro, and like Bidge, I know that some day I'll see you enter the Hall of Fame. An MVP award, a ROY award, and close to 500 HRs should do it. You were the cornerstone of this franchise since as far back as I can remember, and even if you never get to a World Series, your play this postseason silenced the critics that said Baggy couldn't get it done in the clutch.

Thanks to Carlos Beltran. I hope you weren't just a rent-a-player. Along with lance Berkman, you can be the Killer B's v 2.0. Nine postseason HRs? Amazing. Your two catches in Game Five? Amazing. The run that you helped spark -- the one that put Houston in the playoffs? Amazing doesn;t even begin to describe it. Please come back, Carlos. If you don't I'll understand. But no matter what, all Astros fans appreciate the contribution you made to this team.

Thanks to Lance Berkman. It's officially your team now, Lance. It's your hometown, too. Continue to do us proud. The only thing that kept you from legendary noteriety was the Beltran-Pujols show. But you'll be back. You'll be back. Someday we'll be back in this spot. Lead us to the World Series, Lance.

Thanks to Jeff Kent. You've probably played your last game in Houston, Jeff, but no matter what they say, you're an Astro. That Game Five HR will live forever. Someday I'll tell my grandkids how Jeff Kent grabbed his sack and launched a rocket into the Houston skyline.

Thanks to Roger Clemens. I'd love to see you back, Rocket. You left your heart on the mound tonight. One bad pitch. That was the differnce. But it happens to the best of them. We're not there without your 18 wins and countless innings of domination. Some people think Randy Johnson deserves the Cy Young? Screw that. RJ pitched for a losing ballclub with absolutely no pressure to perform. You carried the weight of the nation's fourth largest city everytime out, and you delivered a season that took our team to the brink of the World Series. We couldn't thank you enough.

Thanks to Roy Oswalt. The "experts" talk about Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Well this season proved that you belong in that echelon. Even if the Rocket retires for real this time, I have no regrets, because I know that the Wizard will lead a rejuvenated roatation into battle in 2005.

Thanks to Brad Lidge. Right now the Boston Red Sox are praying to the guy that Johnny Damon slightly resembles, because they don;t have to face you this week. Bily "the Kid" was great, but you're the best -- the best Houston has ever had. And you're only 27. Keep kicking ass, "Mr. Lights Out."

Thanks to Andy Pettitte and Wade Miller. You'll be back next year.

Thanks to Morgan Ensberg, Mike Lamb, Jose Vizcaino, Adam Everett, Brad Ausmus and Raul Chavez. The Killer B's get all of the pub, but all of you played a role in this year's success. I hope to see each one of you return in 2004, ready to take the next step.

Thanks to Brandon Backe. You were the fifth man that it took us five months to find -- the anti-Redding. If Clemens comes back, you'll be the best number five guy in baseball next year. If he doesn't, you'll be the best number four.

Thanks to Dan Miceli, Chad Qualls, Dan Wheeler and Mike Gallo. The bullpen had its ups and downs, but the ups outshined the downs, and anyone that wants to argue need only look at the fact that we played Game Seven of the NLCS tonight and stood toe-to-toe with a team that won 105 games in the regular season.

Thanks to Phil Garner. Scrap, you made this team believe they could win. Maybe you weren't perfect all the time, but I'd be damn happy to have you back in 2005.

Thanks to Gerry Hunsicker. The Hun brought us Beltran. He also brought us Petitte, which brought us the Rocket. And don't discount the impact from Dan Wheeler, another Hunsicker steal.

Lastly, thanks to Drayton McLane. Everyone wants a winner. For a decade you've had this team knocking on the door. Under your guidance we'll get there someday. I've met you numerous times. I've known your son since age five and I've played football in your yard. In short, I have all the faith in the world in your ability to manage this franchise. You're the best owner in Houston sports history, and someday you'll lead us to that World Series championship.

98-76. One game from the World Series. I'm not going to complain.

Again, congrats to St. Louis, you have a helluva ballclub. And thanks again to my favorite team in the world, the 2004 Houston Astros. In a few days, I'll offer my end-of-year review. But for now I just want to reiterate how proud I am of this club. You brought me a lot of joy this year.

Go Astros.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Astros: Our Time to Shine 

Here we go.

Game Motherfucking Seven.

I've waited 27 years for this night. The night that erases forever the haunting memories of Kevin Bass' shot that fell just short; of Jim Leyritz's blasts that did not; of Walt Weiss' greatest moment and Nolan Ryan's darkest one; of every other painful memory that I -- and every other loyal Astros fan -- have endured in a lifetime of following this team.

Tonight it all ends, because tonight we punch that ticket. The World Series is in our grasp, and no one -- not Keith Hernandez or gary Carter or Kevin Brown or Greg Maddux or that piss-ant Chipper Jones -- is going to stop us.

They have Pujols? We have Beltran. They have Murderer's Row? We have the Killer B's. They have LaGenius? We have Scrap Iron. They have the best fans in baseball? We have the biggest nuts in baseball. And oh yeah, bitches, we have The Rocket, ready to blow fastballs past your vaunted lumberjacks. Then we have The Wizard of Os ready to come on in relief. And if you still won't go gently into that good night, Light's Out will shut you down like he's done four times already.

They say not in their house? I say that tonight Busch IS our house. They say they're the best team in baseball? I say that they can claim whatever phantom title they want, just like in 2001, while we head to Boston.

This is our year, our time. Tonight Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio seal their bids for Cooperstown. Tonight Lance Berkman takes his place among the game's elite. Tonight a bunch of scrappy fighters finish the job they set out to do in August, when no one would give their odds a second look. Tonight we celebrate what's never happened before.

I believe.

Go Astros.


Astros: Destiny Redux? 

From ESPN's Daily Quickie.

So cliche, yet so perfect:

Roger Clemens ...

Starting for Houston ...

In World Series Game 7 ...

At Fenway.
Senior year of college, I had a Public Relations Campaigns course, in which our only assignment was to work on a PR campaign all semester and treat it like we were actual agency employees reporting to a client. On the first day of class, our prof came around and gave us all a slip of paper; it showed a cartoon of a cart leading a horse. We were to turn that in at the semester's end, after writing what we learned on the back.

For some reason I read this ESPN blurb and it reminds me of that slip of paper. I got an 'A' in that class, partly because I didn't "put the cart before the horse." I'm not starting with tonight's Game Seven, either.

Would The Rocket starting Game Seven at Fenway be perfect? Maybe. But he's starting Game Seven at Busch right now, and while I realize that ESPN's job is to hype -- and over-hype -- "dream scenarios," I think I can safely speak for the Astros Nation that we're focused on the here and now.


Politics: A Few 'Good Guys' on the Right Side 

Today's e-mail update from the Bush campaign included an open letter signed by 24 athletes, most of whom are fairly well-known, voicing their support for the President this election year.

The fight against terrorism takes decisiveness. It takes continued support for our troops and first responders. But most importantly, it takes courage and inspirational leadership in the White House. In these critical times, our President has had the courage to stand up and do what's right.

For that and for his unwavering character, we choose George W. Bush as our President for the next four years. He is a leader we can depend on to make the tough decisions and the right decisions. Please join us in supporting a candidate of courage, President Bush--a leader who backs our troops defending our nation and shares our values.
Two of the undersigned names jumped out at me: Craig Biggio and Carlos Beltran, both of my beloved Houston Astros. Both inclusuions surprised me as Biggio hails from the Northeast, Beltran from Puerto Rico. Neither are conservative hotbeds.

Now I'm not big on celebrity politics. Most of the instances where celebs voice their idealogy are ill-timed, and the opiners are often ill-informed. But this is a little different. It's just a letter stating a case for why these folks think President Bush deserves to remain in office. If either of these guys used a postgame interview to snipe at Kerry or make a pro-Bush statement, I'd cringe a little bit. But this letter is an appropriate means for making a statement, and I'm glad to see that two of my favorite ballplayers share the beliefs that I hold.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Baseball: The Game Seven Before the Real Game Seven 

Yankees-Red Sox are on right now, and the Sawx hold a two-run lead in the first. No, I'm not live-blogging this thing, but perhaps I'll write about it at varying times throughout the evening.

To tell the truth, I'm pretty spent right now, emotionally speaking. I didn't even make my softball game tonight.

Oh, and the West Wing Season Premiere is in twenty minutes. That's actually more important to me than the outcome of this game. I meant to write a preview today, but with the game I didn't get to it. Looks like they're shaking things up in the bartlett White House this season. Hopefully that means some cool new Republicans.


Astros: Going to Game Seven 

Houston had their chance and Jason Isringhausen got the job done on his end. Two outs, men on second and third, and Lance Berkman at the plate in a tie ballgame? Izzy strikes him out.

I'd be lying if I said that I expected Houston to win today's game, but when they get chances to win a tough game, it's still disappointing to see this thing drag out another game. There's still light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, because the Rocket gets the ball tomorrow.

We're not dead yet. Winning in six games is for wimps, anyway.


Astros: Deficits and History 

Flynn at Redbird Nation -- quite possibly the best baseball blog out there, I would say -- lists the teams in the past 25 years that erased 3-2 postseason deficits en route to series wins.

The team up 3-2 has won 19 of them and the "down" team has won 17. I would have never guessed it was so even. When it comes to Game 7s, however, the scale tips heavily in one direction. Amazingly, the team that won Game 6, and forced the deciding game, has won 14 of those Game 7s. (That’s 82%, Einstein.) Win today, Cardinals, and history is very much on your side.
Something tells me that we would have never seen this post had St. Louis won on Monday night. I don't mind Cards' fans looking for reasons to be optimistic; in fact, it's kind of amusing to see that happen. "History is on out side." I would have thought merely having the best team in baseball would be enough.


Astros: Help Keep Carlos Beltran! 

Sign the Petition!


Politics: Wictory Wednesday! 

I received an e-mail on Monday from the Bush campaign (I get at least one or two a day, everyday) that made a worthwhile point:

Supporters should use the momentum to recruit two new George W. Bush supporters between now and Election Day. In the next two weeks, let's each try to get two new people to vote for the President who we haven't touched yet -- two in two!
Early voting has already started in most states and many of my friends have either cast their ballots already or intend to do so in the next few days. Two people may not seem like a lot, but if enough GWB supporters reach out and get two additional voters to the polls, it can make the difference in some states. Don't forget, too, that it's important to gain a mandate this time, which no president has had since George H.W. Bush garnered in 1988.

"Get out the vote" drives could likely determine the winner of this election. We can all do our part to help ensure that the President stays in the WHite House for four more years. Two people -- that's all it takes.


Movies: Best of 2004 

We're rapidly approaching the end of the 2004, which means that this is about the time moviegoers get inundated with the Oscar blitz. Thus, this list could change over the next two months. I'll update it after every third or fourth movie I see, most likely all the way through the Academy Awards in the Spring. For now, though, based on the twenty-six movies I've rated on IMDB, here is my top ten thus far of 2004:

1a. The Passion of the Christ
1b. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. Garden State
4. Miracle
5. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
6. Kill Bill Vol. 2
7. Friday Night Lights
8. Napolean Dynamite
9. King Arthur
10. The Butterfly Effect

Upcoming/already released movies that I want to see (and haven't mentioned previously).

I Heart Huckabees: Looks like a fun cast and a fairly off-the-wall script.

The Last Shot: A truth-is-stranger than fiction tale that sees the FBI finance a fake movie meant to bust the mob.

The Aviator: Howard Hughes' biopic, starring Leo Dicaprio as Hughes. For as much crap as he takes for being a pretty boy, I usually like his work.

If you have any suggestions, then please do fire away.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Astros: Looking Ahead to Tomorrow 

I don't envy Phil Garner right now.

His Astros are less than 24 hours from the biggest game in team history (of course every game from here on out carries that title) and if they don't win, then he's going to receive all of the blame, due to the fallot over whichever pitcher he selects to start Game Six.

Until this afternoon I thought that picking Pete Munro over Roger Clemens was a slam dunk decision, and I maintain that it is probably the correct one. But after reading some of the commentary over at the OWA Talkzone, I recognize that maybe The Rocket is indeed the better choice.

Both have their pros and cons:

Clemens PRO- This is exactly why Roger Clemens is here. He's pitched in big games his entire career. He's the grizzled vet that can put the team on his shoulders and lead them to victory. Even on three days rest he's probably better than a 100% Pete Munro, and if he can get even six innings in, Brad Lidge can come on to close the deal.

Clemens CON- Clemens would go on three days rest, raising the likely possibility that Houston's suspect bullpen might have to carry the brunt of the load if he only lasts five innings. Brad Lidge has shut St. Louis down thus far, but that just means that the Cards are due, right? And should Houston lose, a less-than-100% Roy Oswalt would have to try the same thing the following day.

Munro PRO- He pitched well last time out. In fact, Houston had the lead when Munro left. It wasn't his fault that the pen blew it. Besides, even if he doesn't win, a fresh Clemens gets to take the mound Thursday with everything on the line, and like I mentioned in the Clemens PRO, this is still what he's here for. Game Six, Game Seven -- it makes no difference -- The Rocket came to H-town to win a championship. He'll take the ball whenever Garner asks him to. Is there anyone you'd rather have on the mound in that situation than Roger Clemens?

Munro CON- Let's be honest. Yes Munro pitched well last time. No we didn't expect that from him. So can we really expect this journeyman stop-gap to repeat that performance against this team in this situation? Should he falter, now St. Louis would have the momentum heading into the pivotal Game Seven, and even though Houston would have The Rocket ready to fire, it seems almost like a classic example of putting all of your eggs in one basket, in a game where anything can happen.

It's a lot to consider, which is why I feel bad that Garner -- who has done an admirable job the past three games of disproving the criticism created in the first two NLCS losses. Should things go awry, and any realistic fan can see that a team as good as St. Louis would not have to pull off a miracle to come back and win this series, Garner faces the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't proposition of being second-guessed and ridiculed no matter what course of action he takes.

Looking at it from all the angles, though, my pick still goes with the youngster for Game Six. I just get the feeling that Pete Munro can get it done if the Astros bats come through for him. If he does not, then we regroup and run our best horse out there in what amounts to the dream scenario. It's not a comforting feeling in the regard that Game Seven represents the pinnacle of pressure-cookers (no matter the pitcher), but this is the best pitcher of my lifetime that we're talking about. If I have to have a win, I want Roger Clemens throwing the ball, so in that sense, it is at least slightly comforting.

Before the season, I predicted that Houston would defeat Chicago in Game Seven of the NLCS to advance to the World Series. I even took it a step further, imagining Clemens out-dueling Mark Prior for the win. Yeah, it was a homer pick if there's ever ben one, and around mid-July I felt like an idiot for letting my heart get in the way of my using my head.

I'm still confident that the Astros can win this thing before we get to that do-or-die scenario, but should it occur, I'll have at least gotten one-half of the equation right. And Jeff Suppan is no Mark Prior.

Go Astros!


Sports: NFL Week Six Wrap-Up 

7-3 SU, 6-4 ATS in Week Six. Not bad.

That brings me, for the year, to:

38-22 SU, 33-26-1 ATS

Once again with baseball I watched very little NFL action. I did see some bits and pieces of the Dallas game during commercial breaks, and save for the Testaverde fumble in the fourth quarter, I'm scratching my head wondering how they lost that game.

Granted my attention to the Boys has lagged so far this season (that will all change in another two weeks, I'm hoping), but I don't think they're playing bad football. They're simply making bad mistakes at the most inopportune times. The season is still early.

Right now I'm still plenty comfortable with picking Indy to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Minnesota doesn't look like an awful choice either, though they need Randy Moss to heal quickly.


Astros: Destiny? 

Now that I've had a good twelve hours to calm down from the hysterics that marked my last few waking hours Monday night, I think I can more rationally discuss Game Five.

Craig Biggio is fond of using the phrase "that's baseball" to explain this game's unexplainable. When they team couldn't win more than a few games in a row in June, we heard, "that's baseball." When they couldn't scratch together three runs a game in July, we heard, "that's baseball." Now when two unheralded starters hold the most potent offenses in the league to zero runs for 52 outs, does anyone really want to try and say anything other than, "that's baseball"?

I honestly think that trying to dissect Game Five would cheapen it. So I'll make just a few comments and let it go:

- Brad Lidge v. Albert Pujols: their best against our best. I think it's a match-up that these two titans probably spilt on a long enough timeline, but "Mr. Lights Out" has had Pujols' number thus far. Still, I worried when the FOX cameras closed in on Pujols' face before that last strike. That sonofabitch has the Eye of the Tiger, and he scares me right now just as much as Barry Bonds ever has.

- When Jeff Kent crossed the plate, he stuck up a finger and clearly said, "one more game." This team knows they have work to do yet.

- Game Five will go down as the greatest game I've ever seen. Jack Morris outdueling John Smoltz in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series was the previous top spot-holder, but I'll take my team winning with a blast off the stadium facade over the Twins winning with a single.

- Carlos Beltran is more than a bat. Is there anything this man cannot do?


Monday, October 18, 2004

Astros: ONE MORE WIN, BABY!!! 

Holy Shit!!!

Jeff kent with a three-run bomb in the bottom of the 9th!!!

I heart Jeff Kent!

I heart Brandon Backe!

I heart Carlos Beltran!

Mad mancrushes all around! NTTAWWT!

Are you kidding me!?!?!?

3-0 Astros! 3-2 Astros! Meet me in St. Louis, bitches!


Astros: Pass the Pepto 

0-0 after four innings.

Breathe, Drew, breathe...

Two things:

1) Brandon Backe is a stud.

2) As nerve-racking as the slugfests are, the butterflies from a pitchers' duel are much worse.

more later...


Politics: I Wish I Had Said This 

Scott Chaffin:

And if you aren't voting for Bush and Western Civilization and the American Way, you've got more than a few screws loose. Anyone that can vote for the guy who thinks 9/11 is a nuisance, like whores on Harry Hines and Mafioso running numbers rackets, is two bubbles off level. Go ask the jihadis what they think of stem cells and improved health care and improved diplomatic relations with Ye Olde Europe. Pack some heat, so you have a chance to get out alive, infidel.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Astros: And We're Tied!!! 

No matter what happens the rest of the way, I think I can safely say that the 2004 Astros are my favorite club in team history. I loved the 1998 team -- the "Cardiac Kids" -- but the "Never Say Die" 2004 Astros are a roller-coaster group of gritty competitors that never cease to amaze me.

Left for dead in August, Houston roared back in September to get into contention. In a hole with six games to play, the Astros swept the division-leading Redbirds en route to clinching the Wildcard. With their backs against the wall after a Game Four loss in the NLDS, the guys went to Atlanta and mauled the Braves to win that first-ever postseason series. And after losing two winnable games on the road in the NLCS, they've bounced back to tie this series with a 6-5 win today.

This team just does not give up.

I think my affinity stems from spite. Spite is my favorite emotion (or whatever category of feeling it might be) and Houston's ability to do the things that people say they can't do exemplifies the same kind of "yes I can" spitefulness that I often use to motivate myself.

We're four games under .500? No sweat, let's go win twelve in a row. Everyone says we need to take two of three from St. Louis and hope the Giants lose twice to San Diego? Forget that, let's sweep the Cardinals and let San Fran worry about us. The talking heads on ESPN are saying we're the same old "can't get it done in the clutch" Astros? We'll stuff it down their throats and celebrate in the A-T-L.

Today was actually a double dose of their winning attitude. Roy Oswalt's shaky start left Houston in a 4-1 hole, but the Killer B's didn't panic. Home runs from Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran put the club in the lead and the much-maligned bullpen saved the day when Dan Wheeler and Brad "Lights Out" Lidge threw three innings of shutout ball.

The NLCS gets a fresh start tomorrow and a fully rested Brandon Backe gets to take another crack at that vaunted Cardinals lineup. Git'er done, baby!

Other thoughts:

- Does anyone still think that the Billy Wagner deal was a bad one? The pitchers we got from Philly haven't done much, but the move cleared the way for Andy Pettitte to sign, and even though he spent most of the season on the shelf, his presence brought Roger Clemens into the fold. Lidge is every bit as good as Wags, and there's no superlative left to describe The Rocket and what he's meant to this Houston team.

- Welcome to the bigs, Dan Wheeler. Nice to have you on board. This kid became an instant favorite of mine when he plunked Chicago's Derek Lee in his Astros debut, and now he's proven to be the best reliever in the NLCS not named Brad Lidge.

- Julian Tavarez is a prick. Was he intentionally throwing at Jeff Bagwell in the 7th? Probably not. But that dramatic display he put on afterwards was bush league. I remember watching Tavarez cry his eyes out in the 1995 World Series against Atlanta, and I hope the scene repeats itself either Wednesday or Thursday in Busch.

- Today on Astro Launch, GM Gerry Hunsicker told Milo Hamilton that Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman are two guys, around whom he's excited to be able to build the future of the club. I really think that Houston stands a decent shot to re-sign Carlos, despite the naysayers that are already penciling him into the Yankees lineup card next season.

- Houston has now won more games this postseason than in their last five trips combined. Should they go on to win this series, they would double their franchise playoff win total.

- NLCS: tied after four games. ALCS: nine innings away from a Yankees sweep. NLCS: Drama and fireworks every night (literal fireworks during Astos at-bats in Busch [league]). ALCS: Snoozers almost every night. Tell me again, which series has ESPN and FOX been pimping non-stop for two weeks? Good call, guys.

- Yesterday at the Texas-Missouri game, I talked to a few Mizzou fans who were, of course, Cardinal fans also. One told me that Houston was "done." I told him to put down the pork tenderloin and get the hell out of our tailgate. I was only half joking. Lots of Astros caps at the game, by the way. I "watched" the Stros on my cell phone, which promptly went dead in the 4th quarter. Fortunately I found a tailgate with the game on on my way back to our camp. Lidge shutting the door in the 9th drew the most raucos cheers I heard all day long, and Texas won a tight game, 28-20, against the North division leader. My "Let's go, Astros" chant during the 4th quarter, unfortunately, didn't really catch on.


Friday, October 15, 2004

Sports: NFL Week Six Predictions 

Same drill as last week. All lines from America's Line.

For the season:
31-19 SU
27-22-1 ATS

(0-5) Miami at (0-4) Buffalo [-6]: Miami's ineptness hurts the Cowboys' 2005 draft status (they own Buffalo's top pick).
Bills 23, Dolphins 13
ATS- Buffalo

(1-4) San Francisco at (4-0) NY Jets [-10]: Imagine Barry Bonds pulling double duty for San Fran; they'd still suck, but they'd at least be fun to watch.
Jets 30, 49ers 21
ATS- San Francisco

(3-1) Seattle at (4-0) New England [-4]: Smells like a letdown game; or maybe I'm smelling the leftover rotten eggs Seattle laid in last week's loss.
Patriots 20, Seahawks 17
ATS- Seattle

(1-4) Washington at (1-3) Chicago [E]: The word on Capitol Hill says that President Bush is set to veto Joe Gibb's Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Bears 17, Redskins 14
ATS- Chicago

(2-3) Houston at (2-3) Tennessee [-6.5]: What's higher? That spread or the oddsmaker that came up with it?
Texans 31, Titans 24
ATS- Houston

(1-3) Kansas City [-2] at (3-2) Jacksonville: Looks like I'm not the only Jacksonville doubter out there -- dogs at home to a one-win team?
Chiefs 26, Jaguars 23
ATS- Kansas City

(4-1) Pittsburgh at (2-2) Dallas [-3]: I hope the shoocks on the Dallas bandwagon can support the people that jump back on Sunday night.
Cowboys 20, Steelers 10
ATS- Dallas

(4-1) Denver [-2] at (2-3) Oakland: Anyone else hear the rumor that the Broncos and Raiders are holding a joint RB tryout Saturday afternoon?
Broncos 24, Raiders 20
ATS- Denver

(3-1) Minnesota [-3.5] at (2-3) New Orleans: I thought about making a Randy Moss cajun metaphor, but is there really any need for bad puns?
Vikings 34, Saints 16
ATS- Minnesota

(1-4) Tampa Bay at (3-2) St. Louis [-6]: St. Louis will have one -- and only one -- reason to celebrate this weekend.
Rams 22, Buccaneers 9
ATS- St. Louis


Longhorns: Picking Up the Pieces 

So we got beat last Saturday. In some ways it was much worse than the 12-0 score would indicate, but in others it wasn't quite as bad. You could say that OU dominated the Horns (and they did), but for all of their domination, Texas had a chance as late as the mid-fourth quarter to pull ahead.

I've avoided discussing the game all week, because no matter what stance I take I look like I'm either whining or piling on. Believe me, plenty of Texas fans are doing one or the other. Who wants to read anymore of that? You don't, I'm sure, and I don't want to write it.

The point is: Texas had a chance to end four years of frustration and they didn't get the job done. Now we're a week into year number five. As I wrote last week, however, this isn't the end of our season.

Yes Texas lost to Oklahoma again. Anyone care to remember what happened the week after each of those losses (home team in italics)

10/7- #11 Oklahoma 63, #10 Texas 14
10/14- #25 Texas 28, Colorado 14

10/6- #3 Oklahoma 14, #5 Texas 3
10/13- #11 Texas 45, Oklahoma St. 17

10/12- #2 Oklahoma 35, #3 Texas 24
10/19- #8 Texas 17, #17 Kansas St. 14

10/11- #3 Oklahoma 65, #11 Texas 13
10/18- #20 Texas 40, Iowa St. 19

Since 2000, Texas has only lost four times after the Oklahoma game:

2000- #8 Oregon 35, #12 Texas 30 (Holiday Bowl)
2001- #9 Colorado 39, #3 Texas 37 (Big XII Championship)
2002- Texas Tech 42, #4 Texas 38
2003- Washington St. 28, #5 Texas 20 (Holiday Bowl)

Two of those were in bowl games that we clearly had no interest in, one was on the road against a team who's whole season keys on that game, and the other a game in which our quarterback played the worst game of his life.

Unless Vince Young turns the ball over five times tomorrow and Phillip Geiggar runs into the punter to keep a Mizzou drive alive in the fourth quarter, we're not going to lose. Texas, for whatever reason, turns it up a notch once they lose to OU. It defies logic; you'd think they'd peak when playing the Sooners, not the week after, but it's been the case for four years.

I saw an interesting post from Kris at Dummocrats, whose taking a break from politics to talk football. She says:

Missouri at Texas: Last week was the first time I've watched Longhorn football. I was completely unimpressed. I think they are a very poorly coached team. In their loss to Oklahoma, they committed way too many costly personal fouls. Not only that, they just gave up during Oklahoma's final drive. I don't think it's a question of their talent, it's a question of their heart and discipline. And that is a direct reflection of their coaching. I'll take Missouri in an upset.
She's right that Texas is a poorly coached team, at least in regard to the unimaginative offense that showed up in the Cotton Bowl. I think our defensive scheme worked well. Adrian Peterson went Rashaan Salaam on us, but what did he do in the red zone? We gave up the run to stop Jason White and the Sooner passing game that torched us a year before, and we did it well. White barely threw for 100 yards. So I'm not going to discount the gameplan that Greg Robinson devised, which incidentally kept us in the game for three-and-a-half quarters, despite not putting any points on the board.

Heart is also not a problem for this team. Derrick Johnson, for one, is all heart. He's going to win the Butkus in a landslide and he's going to make some NFL team very happy next April. We just made too many mistakes (e.g., fumbles at inopportune times) and tried to be too vanilla with the playbook.

In short I'm sure that Kris is not alone in her assessment of Texas football, and some of the points she mentioned are true, which is alarming as they came after one viewing. But I would go so far as to guarantee that Missouri doesn't come close to beating Texas on Saturday.

We've been here before. Four times. We've beaten better teams than Missouri, on the road, after worse losses. Sure they have Brad Smith and he's talented, but he's not any better than Arkansas' Matt Jones. We'll contain him. Look for Derrick Johnson to have yet another big game.

Anyone that expects Texas to half-ass it on Saturday just hasn't watched enough Mack Brown football (and I can't really blame them). With the Oklahoma monster in the rearview mirror, the Horns will come out this weekend and make us all wonder "where that was last week." The offense will move the ball, the defense will make the stops, and we'll continue on in the season like we never even went to Dallas a week ago. Sure we'll probably drop another game somewhere along the line, but it won't be the Missouri Tigers on the other end.

That's Texas Football for you, for better or worse.

Texas 31, Missouri 16


Astros: The Morning After 

This series should be tied. Period. As good as St. Louis is -- and they might be the best I've seen in a long time -- this series should be tied.

From the eleven men left on base to the invitation-to-all-second-guessers decision to pithc Dan Miceli in the 8th, instead of Brad Lidge, to pinch-hitting Eric Bruntlett to bunt in the 6th... they all add up to an 0-2 deficit in the NLCS.

I can almost see Garner's logic with Miceli. But the more I think about it, the more I think how pointless a move it was. Look at it this way:

Bottom Eight... you bring in Lidge to face Pujols-Rolen-Edmonds.

Top Nine... you get to send Beltran-Bagwell-Berkman to the plate.

Now maybe Lidge gives up a jack like Miceli did. Maybe he gets them in order and the Killer B's go quietly the next inning, and St. Louis gets to Lidge in the bottom of the 9th.

"Maybe" is something that you have to live with in the postseason. And I don't think you can let "maybe" dissuade you from taking a chance, considering that taking a chance is what got you to this point in the first place. Plus maybe he sits them down in order, like he did twice in the last week of the season, and Beltran opens the 9th with a home run.

With the heart of your order coming up, it makes no sense to hope that St. Louis doesn't score on Miceli, and then hope that the offense gets you a lead for Lidge. Lidge is probably going to have to pitch two innings anyway, so to ensure that you get a chance to hit with the game still tied, followed by a decent enough chance to protect a lead, the only option that even makes sense there is pitching Lidge in the 8th.

The other managerial decision that baffles me still is using Bruntlett to bunt. Why? Adam Everett and Roy Oswalt are both much better choices in that situation. Either of those guys most likely gets down the sacrifice, leaving two men in scoring position for Biggio. I know that Bidge struck out swinging, but with guys on second and third, he probably approaches the at-bat differently. At the very least I bet he produces a sac-fly.

Managerial blunders or not, the Astros simply left too many men on base to win. A team like St. Louis does not continually give you opportunities, and when theyget their own, they take advantage.

What now? I think this series is still winnable for Houston. I expected an 0-2 hole heading back to Minute Maid. Now we throw Roger and Roy in the two most important games in the last 16 years of the franchise, and frankly, this is why we signed Roger, for this situation. He's the hammer. He has to put this club on his shoulders and carry them in Game Three. If he can do that, and Roy can follow suit on Sunday, then who knows what can happen?

I know the stats -- teams that lose the first two games of an LCS win XX% of the time (don't know the number, but it's low). How many of those teams had a six-time Cy Young recipient and a 20-game winner starting those next two games. None, I would guess. This series is headed back to Busch, folks. The only question is if we're arriving up 3-2 or down 2-3.


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Astros: NLCS Game Two 

So I was sure we'd get rained out tonight and I went to happy hour. After beer number four, someone comes up and says Biggio is batting (I had been checking every 5-10 minutes on my phone to see if it had started, so I must have just missed it) and I sprinted to a TV in time to see Carlos go deep.

My dream scenario is still that it starts pouring before the end of the 5th and they have to postpone until tomorrow, when Clemens can finish off Game Two. That;'s not going to happen of course, but oh well. 2-0 Astros in thr 4th. Let's just win this tonight.

4-4 Mid 7th

I'm hyperventilating with every pitch, and with Morgan Ensberg's clutch RBI single, I'm not sure whether to be happy or just relieved. Still, I find myself damn near tearing up during the 7th inning stretch rendition of "God Bless America." What a game. What a series. What a country.

St. Louis 6-4

The Stros battled, but what can you say? Dan Miceli couldn't get the key outs until he had already ceded two bombs. Houston failed to get men home when they had runners in scoring position.

We're down 2-0. I think we probably all expected this to be the case (or at least likely). We just need to take two in Houston to have a chance. Hell, this sucks, but it's not panic time just yet. I'd offer more "analysis," but I'm drunk, tired and depressed. This game can really suck sometimes.


Astros: Rain Rain, Don't Go Away 

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but postponing Game Two would be delightful. And since Rocket and Roy's arms are still sore... let it pour, let it pour, let it pour.

Yeah, that was horrible. So was four innings of relief work from the Astros bullpen last night.

The weather report shows light rain in St. Louis right now. That won't affect tonight's Game Two playability, I don't think. But should it start to rain harder and force a postponement, then maybe that's a sign that the BBGs are smiling on Houston's World Series hopes.

Pushing Game Two back to Friday means that Phil Garner can shelf Pete Munro until at least Game Four. Rocket could take the mound fully rested on Friday, with Roy opening the homestand on Saturday. It doesn't change a whole lot -- Munro is going to have to pitch at some point no matter -- but it does mean that should Houston extend the series at least as far as Game Six, they'll get to throw Clemens again on normal rest.

Maybe it's pansy of me to hope for a rainout, but I don't care. I want to go to the World Series. How we get there is of little concern.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Astros: NLCS Game One 

Keys to the Game for Houston:

1) St. Louis is going to score runs. Don't get discouraged if the Cardinals jump out fron early. The Houston bats must scratch out runs everytime they get a chance.

2) Brandon Backe needs to give us at least five good innings. No unnecessary walks or hit batsmen.

3) Defense must play sharp. This offense is powerful enough without giving them gifts.

4-2 Houston, Bottom 4th

You hate to say "what if" when your team has a two-run lead, but that strange botton of the 1st was ripe for it. Berkman loses what should have been an easy liner and Walker ends up on third. Then instead of pitching away from Pujols, Backe challenges him and the ball ends up in the St. Louis bullpen. Then Edmonds quietly grounds out to short. At best the Cardinals should have one run right now. Still, I think it could take up to eight runs to win this thing, and that might be a conservative estimate. The only thing that mattwers is that Houston needs to keep scoring. Every pitch is an adventure when you're facing a lineup that has about as many holes as pre-drilled bowling ball.

A few observations thus far:

- FOX's Thom Brenneman actually says "BIDGE-ee-oh." Good job, Thom.
- Brandon Backe looks like "The Miz" from MTV's Real World.
- I should have bought more than a sixer.

St. Louis 10-4, end 6th

You make mistakes to the best lineup in baseball and it doesn't take long to see a 4-2 lead turn into a 10-4 deficit. Such is baseball.

I'm not giving up on our offense, but damn... that's a lot of ground to make up. Still, as I mentioned in the keys above, you can't get discouraged as an Astros fan. I meant that for this game, but it holds true for the series as well.

Even in St. Louis takes a 2-0 lead in the series -- and that's likely when you look at it with an objective eye -- Houston has Rocket, Roy O and Backe -- who pitched a pretty solid game on three days rest -- taking the mound in Houston. The Stros swept the Redbirds twice this season, and honeslt, even if they can just manage to get it to a Game Six, I feel somewhat optimistic about our chances.

It doesn't look like this was our night, but at the risk of sounding like I'm making excuses, it didn't really have to be.


Politics: Quote of the Year 

John Edwards:

"When John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again"
While they're busy creating medical miracles, could the Kerry campaign cure the arthritis in Jeff Bagwell's shoulder? I might even switch my vote.


Politics: 'Required Reading' 

Stephen Green links to an essay that he suggests everyone read.

I concur.


Astros: Comparing the LCS Rivalries 

Has anyone noticed that Boston and New York are playing in the ALCS this season? FOX has only pimped it in about 300 commercials in the past three days. Surely there's at least three people in America that aren't aware of the ALCS's cosmic significance by now.

I kind of like the fact that Houston-St. Louis is flying under the proverbial radar. Astros fans and Cards fans know what's at stake, and I honestly couldn't care that ESPN spends 45 minutes discussing the Yanks-Bosox, while giving the NLCS a cursory glance.

That's because the NLCS is about baseball. It's two teams that want to win a championship. The ALCS is about hype and TV ratings. It's two teams that want to want to win a title, but more importantly, keep the other team from winning a title. It's about Evil Empires and ignorant curses and everything BUT baseball.

Houston-St. Louis has become one of the NL's best rivalries since the two teams were placed into the same division in 1994. Since 1997, one of the two has won every division title except one (2003), yet neither has advanced to the World Series in that time. One of these teams will do so this year.

2004 is about redemption for these two teams. St. Louis can exorcise the ghost of Don Denkinger, while the Astros do the same with the ghost of Fred Brocklander. Maybe the Cardinals can quit thinking, "what if we don't fall apart against Atlanta in 96," and maybe Houston can stop wondering, "what if we get it to Mike Scott in Game Seven back in 86."

The NLCS is two class organizations looking to climb to the top of the mountain. The ALCS is which "best team money can buy" can come up with the better t-shirt: "Jeter has AIDS" or "Pedro, who's your daddy?"

Give me the NLCS any day of the week. FOX can have their series and their ratings, but I prefer substance over style. And when it's all over, give me the Cardinals or the Astros sticking it up the east coast's ass in the World Series.


Astros: Back to Square One 

The celebration has ended; it's time to play ball! They're already making plans for the World Series up there in St. Louis, but does that bother me? Not really.

The Astros have ridden an "us against the world" mindset all the way to the NLCS, and that big pile of lumber in the middle of the Cardinals' lineup isn't going to scare our guys any more than the Atlanta mystique did. Even if the BBGs stop smiling on us tonight, Houston's going to give it their all, because what do they have to lose?

So we have Brandon Backe (5-3, 4.30) pitching tonight. His numbers on the whole aren't impressive. But he got the job done against Atlanta on Saturday, and he also held this very same Redbird squad in check for five innings on Sept. 28, when Houston was fighting for their playoff lives. He'll give five good innings, even if he does allow a few runs. But expect the Astros to score a few of their own

That's the thing that no one is talking about. All you hear from the talking heads is that the Astros can't start Clemens or Oswalt until the third and fourth games of the series. Brandon Backe and Pete Munro will pitch for Houston? Well that must mean that the Cardinals are going to roll.

Why is that? The Cards don't exactly have Schilling and Pedro over there. Woody Williams (11-8, 4.18), Matt Morris (15-10, 4.72), Jeff Suppan (16-9, 4.18), and Jason Marquis (15-7, 3.71) are solid starters, but they aren't going to shut you down.

Remember Jaret Wright (15-8, 3.28)? Remember Mike Hampton (13-9, 4.28)? Russ Ortiz (15-9, 4.13)? These guys were just as good as anything St. Louis will send to the hill, and Houston only battered them for an NLDS-record 36 runs. And before we throw the bullpens into the mix, remember that Atlanta's overall team ERA was actually .01 better than St. Louis, so it's not like Houston just waited and beat up on a bad bully.

St. Louis has a clear edge on the offensive side. Their modern day Murderer's Row, when healthy, is every bit as potent as those guys in pinstripes that won a few rings back in the 20s and 30s. They hit for average and power, and they call all run the bases. But Houston has a few of those guys, too. The Astros lineup doesn't have to be better than St. Louis to win this series, they just have to be better in four games. They're certainly capable of that.

The key to this series will be patience. Don't get discouraged when St. Louis starts to pile up runs, because they're going to pile up runs. If the Cards jump ahead 5-0, keep battling. Houston can get to these pitchers. And if they drop the first two games on the road, then don't get down, because Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt can erase that deficit at home this weekend.

This series will not be won or lost in St. Louis. If Houston wins even one of those games, then we've got as good a shot to win this series as we could hope for. The Cardinals are a good team, but they're certainly beatable, despite what Julian Tavarez might say:

"We don't look at the Houston Astros like this is a great team. They are good but we are better than them. We are the best because we've got 108 wins. We've proved it. We are the best."
Last time I checked, those 108 wins don't mean anything anymore. The only way to prove that they're the best is to go through an Astros club that has won just as many championships in the last twenty years as St. Louis: zero.

The pressure's on St. Louis. They're the team with baseball's best record. They're the team with the so much offense they can't even get all of their sluggers on the field. Houston has nothing to lose. By all accounts they probably shouldn't even be here.

But they are here. And they're ready. Play ball.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Movie Review: Friday Night Lights 

There are two different ways to look at Friday Night Lights. Those who have read Buzz Bissinger's book will no doubt judge the movie in terms of how true it remains to the bestseller. Moviegoers that have not read the book (and they should be ashamed of themselves) will be more likely to judge it in terms of how FNL relates to other football movies -- for instance, Varsity Blues. As I have read the book twice, I can really only speak for the former.

First off, the "movies based on books always disappoint" crowd can rest easy. Though the film isn't a cover-to-cover adaptaion, director Peter Berg sticks close to his cousins's storyline, wandering only on occasion. Berg changes portions of the plot for dramatic effect and for brevity, but it remains mostly true to the real life saga of the 1988 Permian Panthers.

That Permian squad fought adversity through the course of a grueling fifteen week season. In their struggle to capture a state championship they faced long odds and high expectations. And what of the outcome? Was it a successful one? Well it's really up to each individual spectator's perspective to determine for his or her self. Berg's movie shows that, just as Bissinger's book did.

FNL depicts football-crazy Odessa as it was and how it mostly still is. The city shuts down for Mojo games and the teenage warriors are not just football players, they're heroes to both the children that adore them and the adults that live vicariously through them. And even when it seems like FNL goes over the top with its depiction of the idolatry of Texas high school football, it remains grounded in a reality that defies its own unbelievablity.

That sense of realism is what I enjoyed best about this movie. It's easy to use a story like FNL and a place like Odessa as a catalyst to criticize and ridicule. Some backwoods Texas town emphasizes football too much? Hey, let's make a movie trashing them and everything they stand for. It's just the kind of garbage that MTV pulled with their abomination of a football movie, Varsity Blues.

"Ah don't wont yer lahf," VB's Ivy League-destined star Johnny Moxon tells his dad, just before leading a team revolt against evil coach Bud Kilmer in the season finale. FNL doesn't do that. Berg depicts the Panther players as they were in the book. He shows their sympathetic side as well as their flaws, and thank the Lord, he uses actors that can accurately pull off a West Texas drawl.

Friday Night Lights does misfire at times; some of the book's charachters go unmentioned, while others aren't fully developed. Chalk that up, however, to the impossible nature of cramming 400 pages into two hours, as opposed to a script that substitutes Hollywood chicanery for creative ambition.

The only exception that I really have with FNL is its glaring neglect of the racial divide that plays such a key role in the book. Berg takes a few stabs, most notably in the almost literal retelling of the pow-wow between the Permian and Dallas carter coaching staffs, immediately preceding the story's climax. The remainder of the movie, however, fails to adequately address the issue.

Overall [warning: cliched sports metaphors ahead] Friday Night Lights scores more than it fumbles. Berg takes a well-documented story and treats it like a winning gameplan, avoiding the temptation of calling one too many audibles. I'd rank it among the best sports movies I've seen. 8/10


Blog: Question for Bloggers 

Do you mention your blogging on you resume?

I don't think this site is quite professional enough for that, but I'm curious whether anyone else out there would do so.


Sports: Does Derek Jeter Have AIDS? 

Why do I consistently get hits on here from Google searches for "Jeter has AIDS"? It happens in flurries every time the Yanks and Sox meet.

Being a simple non-Easterner, I am lost. Someone give me the scoop.


Astros: Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 

In the excitement of last night's victory, I forgot to mention anything about the funniest side story of the Houston-Atlanta NLDS.

Look at poor Rafael Furcal after last night's game.

I'll bet he wishes he had one of these right now.

Don't drop the soap, bitch.


Sports: Week Five NFL Wrap-Up 

6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS

For the season that brings me to:

31-19 SU, 27-22-1 ATS

Because of the trip to Dallas and the baseball playoffs, I watched very little of the NFL this past weekend. Therefore I don't really have any thoughts to share on the Week Five action. Come to think of it, I haven't even read Peter King's MMQB yet.

As long as the Astros stay alive, the NFL (and even NCAA) will have to take a backseat.


Monday, October 11, 2004

Astros: Meet Me in St. Louis!!! 

Astros 12, Braves 3! Astros win NLDS 3-2!

Astros radio play-by-play man Milo Hamilton:

Enjoy it, Astros! And Astros fans, enjoy it! There's a reason to celebrate, but there's more work to be done!
Astros radio color man Alan Ashby:

That monkey's just taken a big blow to the head!
My series MVP: Carlos Beltran 10/22 (.455) 4 HR, 9 RBI, 9 R

That's clutch, folks. That's why Gerry Hunsicker persuaded owner Drayton McLane to open the wallet and bring Beltran into the fold. But while Beltran has been the spark that propelled Houston to playoff heroicism, he didn't do it all alone.

Here's to two guys that have been the heart and soul of this club for more than a decade: Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

The critics lambasted Houston's dynamic duo for past playoff failures, and perhaps rightly so. But this time around, Bags and Bidge proved anything but easy outs. Comparing their previous postseason performances to their respective 2004 NLDS showings is like comparing Jessica Lange with Jessica Alba (and I ain't talking about acting ability).

Craig Biggio 1997-2001 (14 games): 7/54 (.130) 1 XBH, 4 R, 1 RBI, 0 HR
Craig Biggio 2004 NLDS (4 games): 8/20 (.400) 3 XBH, 5 R, 4 RBI, 1 HR

Jeff Bagwell 1997-2001 (14 games): 8/46 (.174) 0 XBH, 3 R, 4 RBI, 0 HR
Jeff Bagwell 2004 NLDS (4 games): 7/22 (.318) 4 XBH, 5 R, 5 RBI, 2 HR

As an Astros fan of more than two decades, tonight is the culmination of many years of heartbreak. It only took a few thousand games, a few hundred-thousand at-bats, and who knows, maybe a million pitches. But the Astros have finally won that elusive playoff series.

Beating the Braves fittingly brings a sense of closure to Houston's postseason futility. Atlanta isn't going anywhere; they'll likely continue to be a thorn in the Stros playoff side, but at least for one year, we're the better team.

Milo is right, there's still work to be done. But for one night, Astros fans can simply bask in the glory of victory. Tomorrow we worry about the Cardinals. Tonight we clebrate the memory of a fallen star with the thrill of the greatest win in team history. We'll miss you Cammy, but your boys won this one for you.

Enjoy it, Astros.


Astros: Sad Day For the Astros Family 

Win or lose tonight, heartbreak marks the Astros organization today. Ken Caminiti, who was as much a part of the Stros' heart and soul in the early 90's as Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, died yesterday at the age of 41.

I fondly remember watching Cammy man the hot corner in the Dome on those overachieving Houston teams of the pre-Drayton McLane regime. Man, he could play defense. Cammy made the spectacular look routine. His glove was the place where doubles went to die, and now, sadly, he's the one who is gone.

Steroids no doubt played a part in the offensive numbers that led to his 1996 NL MVP award. They played an even bigger role in the off-the-field problems that marred the end of his career. Despite his flaws, however, Cammy will always be one of my favorite Astros.

For whatever reason I'm also reminded of Darryl Kile's untimely death, just two years ago. DK also came up as an Astro and spent his early years helping to mold the club that now sits on the brink of doing what they've never done before. I know that DK's death weighed heavily on Bags and Bidge, just as Cammy's no doubt does today.

As I sit here now, staring at my computer screen, I don't even know what else to say. Cammy was a great Astro and a great ballplayer, and I only hope that the thoughts and prayers of Astros fans everywhere can help his family get through this ordeal. Win or lose, it's going to be an emotional night for the Astros faithful.

Rest in Peace, Cammy. We're going to miss you.

: Jason at Home Plate in Space has a moving tribute to Caminiti.


Blog: Playing catch-up 

I'm tired, I'm cranky, and I'm so far behind at work that thinking about it makes me more tired and cranky. So hopefully I can get back to blogging this afternoon, but I would ask that all five of you out there bear with me at least through today.

A few brief thoughts to cover the past four days:

- Texas/OU weekend, win or lose, leaves you physically, mentally and emotionally drained. It's bad when you win, worse when you lose, and completely debilitating when you lose five times in a row.

- Didn't see the debate; Hard to think about the election right now.

- If the Astros lose tonight, its going to depress me ten times more then the Horns' loss did on Saturday.

- Friday Night Lights was almost as good as I had hoped it would be. I'll have a review at some point this week.

- I really need a new job: Writing, PR, Marketing... something.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Blog: Weekend Updates (or Lack Thereof) 

I'm on the road for Big-D (with a layover in T-town) in half an hour. So, unless Matt decides to post anything later tonight, this place should be quiet until Sunday night or Monday morning. I'm taking my laptop (aka glorified calculator) with me, but posting via dial-up has to be a pain in the rear end.

Two things to remember this weekend:

1) Go Astros!

2) It's [enter random time] and OU STILL SUCKS!

I'm out.

p.s. Anyone still looking for Texas-Oklahoma tickets might try here before trying here. There are tickets to be had for under $200.


Sports: 'Friday Night Lights' 

Tomorrow I intend to see the film adaptation of Buzz Bissinger's 1989 bestseller, Friday Night Lights.

I first read the book six years ago, and I've spent the past week re-reading most of it, because I wanted to comment on the book before I see and review the film. Unfortunately I just don't have the time write any in-depth posts today (ESPN has lots of detailed content if you'd like to re-familiarize yourself with the story), so I'm going to try an abbreviated preview.

Friday Night Lights hit home with me. My hometown compares in many ways with Odessa, and the football program in Temple has enjoyed much of the same success. Reading the book reminded me a lot of my own experiences watching Wildcat football as a child, and seeing a community rally around a team for ten-plus weeks each Fall.

The genius of FNL is that it tells the story of Odessa, but moreso it tells the story of Texas. On a given Friday night, you'll find that same fervor -- that same passion and pride -- in hundreds of towns across the state, all of which absolutely bleed the color that marks their team's uniforms.

I saw it up close with Permian in 1992 and 1993. A home-and-home series produced what might have been the best high school game I ever saw (Temple's 20-14 win en route to the 1992 state championship), and the atmosphere for both games was electric as you'll find in any stadium at any level.

Texas High School football, in most places, really is the magical experience that Bissinger portrays. It's often the dark reality that he dicusses, too. But altogether it's a reality that I wouldn't want to ever trade for anything.

If Peter Berg's movie is even half as impactful or moving as Bissinger's book, then Friday Night Lights should prove to be one of 2004's best movie-going experiences.


Astros: The First Time 

Houton sends Roy Oswalt to the hill today to battle former Astro Mike Hampton. It'll be a match-up of Houston's last two twenty-game winners (Hampton in '99, Oswalt this season).

Should Houston win and take a 2-0 lead in the series, it will mean they've accomplished a number of "firsts":

- their first 2-0 lead in a regulation postseason series (they Astros blew a 2-0 lead to LA in a best-of-three "division" series during the strike-shortened 1981 season).

- their first postseason with multiple wins since 1986.

- their first time to take an opponent to the brink of elimination since the NLDS began in 1995.

- their first time to ever win two road games during a single postseason.

I don't expect Atlanta to lay down today. The Houston bats will have to continue the torrid hitting display that they showed yesterday, and Roy O will need to be on top of his game. If Houston can get to the 8th with a lead, then don't be surprised to see Brad Lidge go two innings to try and shut them down.

Today is a must win. Call it the most important game in franchise history if you'd like, but make no mistake: the Astros do not want to come home with a split and send Brandon Backe to the mound on Saturday.

Git'er done.


Sports: NFL Week Five Predictions 

Pressed for time today, so all games get a one-sentence comment. Lines from America's Line.

25-15 SU
21-18-1 ATS

(0-4) Miami at (3-0) New England [-12.5]: Maybe if this game were in Miami... the Phins could cover.
Patriots 28, Dolphins 9
ATS- New England

(2-2) Cleveland at (3-1) Pittsburgh [-6]: Steelers get their record in "games against teams they hate more than Osama" back to .500.
Steelers 20, Browns 16
ATS- Cleveland

(2-2) Oakland at (3-1) Indianapolis [-9]: Can Amos top 100 in Indy? Zere(no)oue (sound it out).
Colts 34, Raiders 20
ATS- Indianapolis

(2-1) Detroit at (4-0) Atlanta [-6.5]: They don't call Roy Williams "the Legend" for nothing.
Lions 23, Falcons 21
ATS- Detroit

(3-1) NY Giants at (2-1) Dallas [-3.5]: The State of Texas will be electric this weekend...
Cowboys 24, Giants 21
ATS- NY Giants

(2-1) Minnesota [-4] at (2-2) Houston: ... but H-town doesn't have the voltage to keep up with Randy Moss.
Vikings 26, Texans 20
ATS- Minnesota

(0-3) Buffalo at (3-0) NY Jets [-6.5]: zzzzzzzzzz... zzzzzzzz... zzzzzzzzzz... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
Jets 20, Bills 14
ATS- Buffalo

(1-3) Arizona at (0-4) San Francisco [-1]: Can San Fran win "4" before they lose "9"?
Cardinals 16, 49ers 13
ATS- Arizona

(2-2) Baltimore at (1-3) Washington [E]: Memo to Gibbs: follow Kansas City's gameplan from this past Monday and hope for similar results.
Redskins 27, Ravens 24

(1-3) Tennessee at (1-3) Green Bay [-3]: The Pack will win again at Lambeau eventually, right?
Packers 23, Titans 16
ATS- Green Bay


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Astros: Keep on Trucking 

9-3. Sure it's just one game, but let's take a closer look at today's Astros win, comparing it to series past.

1997 v. Atlanta

Gm1: L 1-2
Gm2: L 3-13
Gm3: L 1-4
HR: Chuck Carr

1999 v. Atlanta

Gm1: W 6-1
Gm2: L 1-5
Gm3: L 3-5
Gm4: L 5-7
HR: Caminiti (3), Ward, Eusebio

2001 v. Atlanta

Gm1: L 4-7
Gm2: L 0-1
Gm3: L 2-6
HR: Ausmus, Castilla, Ward

Ignore, for a moment, the 1999 series; you'll see that in six losses during the 97 and 01 sweeps, Houston scored a total of eleven runs. They also went deep just four times. Today the Astros homered four times and put up nine runs.

No, this is not the same Houston team that cowered in fear at the sight of a tomahawk in years past. The Stros pounded out thirteen hits in all, and they looked like a team ready to give their critics -- as well as their past failures -- a big middle finger.

Other thoughts from today's game:

- I realize that no one outside of Texas and Georgia cares about this series. But can we do just a little bit better than Jeff Brantley and David Justice in the broadcast booth? Brantley was a fromer Astros rival, and Justice -- a former Braves all-star -- showed his pro-Atlanta bias about as subtley as Chris Matthews shows his Democratic party affiliation.

- Juan Cruz blatantly beaned Carlos Beltran. Don't try to convince me that a pitch right into Carlos' ribs just "got away" from Cruz. He didn't have a difficult time spotting the next three pitches on the outside corner against Bags. If Houston jumps out big tomorrow, Larry Jones better get a fastball in the middle of his back. I'm sure Dan Wheeler would be happy to deliver it.

- Again, the lack of national interest dooms this series to non-primetime broadcasts. But couldn't they at least start an hour later or something? The ridiculous shadow that engulfs the infield wreaks havoc on the hitters during the early part of these games. If no one is watching on tv anyway, then what does it matter if it overlaps the Fox broadcast.

- 1300 The Zone in Austin actually pre-empted their crappy (and originally named) "Afternoon Show" to give the Stros some playoff radio coverage. God forbid the show's twelve hardcore fans miss Chad Hastings doing his annoying voices. That has to stick in the craw of co-host Kevin Dunn (yeah, the guy from Real World: New York that kept blowing off the brunette with the thin hair), who is a noted Cubbies fan.

- I'm not 100% sure that Astros play-by-play man Milo Hamilton would survive a Houston series win.

- When Brad Ausmus goes deep to spark a rally, it's impossible not to think that the Stros are destined to have some postseason success.

Let's git'er done again tomorrow.


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