Friday, August 29, 2008

You CAN Have it All! (Sarah Palin for V.P.)

I wrote a few days ago about Barack Obama's blunder in picking Joe Biden to be his Vice-Presidential running mate, and about how it presented John McCain a huge opportunity to blow the race wide open.

Well, McCain seized the opportunity and selected a near-ideal running mate in Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The knock on Governor Palin will be that she's a little inexperienced, especially at the Federal level and in foreign policy. But everything else is is upside. She's a woman, a working mom with five kids, and as a former mayor and current Governor she has more EXECUTIVE experience than Obama and Biden combined. She also has strong credentials as a reformer and for reaching out for bi-partisan solutions (she's a uniter, not a divider!). She has strong conservative credentials and values. It also doesn't hurt that she's a very attractive woman, and in fact is America's Hottest Governor.

Hillary! supporters generally came in two flavors. One group loves Hillary! because she is a doctrinaire, fire-breathing liberal who hews to Democrat orthodoxy as consistently as anyone. Sarah Palin isn't going to lure many of those voters into the GOP fold in November. But there's a significant portion of Hillary! supporters who have backed her primarily because she is a woman. To those voters Sarah Palin presents a unique opportunity (not available in the Democrat party) to advance the cause of women by putting a woman a heartbeat away from the Presidency. A woman in the White House, not by marriage, but on her own merit. John McCain and Sarah Palin don't need to sway all those Hillary! voters, or even a majority of them. But if 10-15% of those voters decide to cast their votes for the party that walks the walk on equal opportunity, Sarah Palin will be the next Vice-President of the United States.

Sarah Palin's position as Governor of Alaska and as the Republican nominee for the Vice-Presidency fulfills the promise that the womens liberation movement has been making to American women for a generation: You can have it all. You can be a good wife and mother and still have a career. You can be a wife and mother of five and become the Governor of Alaska and Vice-President of the United States. And look darn good doing it! Well, at least you can have all those things if you're a Republican!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

OC Domer Alaskan Cruise Report

Last summer it was the East Coast College Tour. This summer the OC Domer family went on a cruise to Alaska. It’s not like there has been any clamor for an explanation of the lack of posting from July 29th through August 8th, but that’s why OC Domer was pretty quiet for a couple of weeks. We went with my wife’s family (her mom, her brother and his family, her sister and her family, and the four of us), a total of eleven people in the group. We all flew to Vancouver on Tuesday, July 29th with the seven day cruise scheduled to depart for Anchorage, Alaska on Wednesday, July 30th.

Vancouver. The trip got off to a very exciting start. Just as we landed in Vancouver the cell phones started ringing with the news that a 5.8 earthquake had hit in Chino Hills, which isn’t very far from OC Domer HQ in Tustin. With visions of Northridge dancing in our heads, we all made calls to friends and neighbors to see how bad it was. Amazingly, very little damage was being reported anywhere, let alone in Tustin. So we all breathed a big sigh of relief and resumed our vacation, hoping against hope that a disaster wasn’t waiting for us when we walked back into our houses in eleven days.

We had reservations at the Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside, which put us in the heart of Vancouver along the water and pretty close to the cruise ship terminal at Canada Place. Vancouver is a great, cosmopolitan city, and I have very much enjoyed the short time I have been able to spend there. But it has one quirk that baffles me. Essentially there are no freeways in (or through) Vancouver, which means that after arrival at the airport there you are faced with a long, jerky cab ride along surface streets to your hotel downtown, or maybe a loooooong ride through the whole city on surface streets in your rental car if you are heading to destinations north of the city. There is no quick way into, through, or around Vancouver. Gives it character, I guess.

After check-in we wanted to do a little sight-seeing and enjoy the city. Having watched the weather forecasts closely, we weren’t surprised when we got soaked in the rain while walking around (in the jackets that we THOUGHT were waterproof and that we were counting on to keep us dry through a rainy week in Alaska). We walked toward the historic Gastown area, checking out the shops. There is a lot of merchandise on display for the 2010 Winter Olympics that are being held in Vancouver and Whistler, BC. I was surprised by a shop selling Cuban cigars, and just had to get one. After talking to the salesperson and being assured that I could take a Cuban cigar onto the ship in Vancouver as long as I didn’t take if off the ship in Alaska, I paid $18 for a Romeo & Julieta. I know almost nothing about cigars, and have only smoked a handful in my life. But forbidden fruit and all that. When I finally smoked it later during the cruise, I honestly didn’t think it was any different than any other cigar I’ve had. But then, I can’t tell good wine from bad (although I can usually detect bad beer!). We finished up the day with a big dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory on Water Street. Not fancy, but they had a table for eleven, fresh baked bread and good beer.

The next morning my son went for a long run along the waterfront and around Stanley Park with his uncle, and my wife and I got out and took a nice long walk to Stanley Park as well. We had a few sprinkles in the morning and a threat of rain, but the weather held. Then it was time to get packed up and head for the ship. We were sailing aboard the Carnival Spirit, boarding anytime after 12:30 and heading out to sea around 5:00 p.m. The check-in procedure was surprisingly fast and easy, even with the security procedures, so were all aboard by 1:30, and our bags had made it to our cabins by 2:30.

The Cruise. I have been thinking about it a lot, and I think the best way to review the cruise is to write on the one hand about the shipboard experience on Carnival Spirit, and to write separately about Alaska itself on the other. I’ll start briefly with some thoughts on our ship.

The Carnival Spirit is a really big ship designed to carry (house, feed, entertain) over 2,000 passengers and nearly 1,000 crew members. The ship really does resemble a Las Vegas hotel. Rooms are very functional, but not spectacular. Food is abundant and diverse but not great. D├ęcor that is tastefully tacky. Entertainment is more Fremont Street than Las Vegas Boulevard. I don’t want to be critical of the ship, but I would rate the overall ship experience as a solid “good.” Not “very good” and certainly not “great.” The cabins (I can’t bring myself to call them “staterooms”) are small, but ours didn’t seem nearly as small as the cabin we had on a Disney cruise several years ago. Also, the cabins seemed to have a much better design, with plenty of storage for all our clothes and miscellaneous stuff. We made sure that everyone in our group had balconies, since so much of the Alaskan cruise experience is watching the scenery and wildlife while underway. Our cabin stewards were very good, and very unobtrusive. When we did run into them they were always very friendly, but they generally worked under the radar. They kept our cabin immaculate (including straightening and organizing all the junk that was scattered about each day), realized very early on that we go through a lot of towels, and never tapped on our door with the dreaded “housekeeping” chant when we were trying to sleep. The televisions in the cabins actually had real T.V. programming from home, although there was no ESPN (only available in the sports bar) and there was a puzzling line-up of local channels from Denver. But CNN and Fox News were both there.

The dining room experience was the source of some disappointment. We did get the “early” dinner seating we asked for (6:00 p.m.), but we were not all at the same table, instead sitting at two tables that were very close to one another. The tables are fixed to the floor and cannot be moved together. I went to the Maitre D’ on the first day to see if we could be moved to a single large table for eleven, but he was unable to help us unless we wanted to switch to the late dinner seating (8:00). This was frustrating since there were other large groups sitting at single tables all around us, and it wasn’t clear why we got hosed. So the Maitre D’ didn’t get any tip from the OC Domer group at the end of the week. The menus for dinner were good, featuring many fine choices, but short on dishes that many of the kids in our group were very eager to eat. They tried different things, but were rarely truly happy with the offerings at dinner. The quality of the food in the dining room was uneven. “Good” most of the time but never “great.” I think it compares well with the dinner you might get at a wedding reception for 1,000 people or at a pretty decent college dining hall. A recurring theme was food that wasn’t hot.

Breakfast and lunch were buffet style on the Lido deck. Lots of variety available, fair quality. And it was usually hot! The staff at the buffet was very friendly and genuinely eager to make sure that you got what you wanted. The issue at breakfast and lunch was the crowd. Everyone on board is eating at the same time, and seating was somewhat limited by the weather. On a normal warm weather cruise, a lot of passengers are going to sit out on the pool decks or other areas of the Lido deck for breakfast and lunch. In Alaska, where it is much cooler, more folks want to sit inside to eat and the indoor seating is really at a premium. Finding a table inside for a large group at breakfast or lunch was a problem we never really solved. We usually bundled up and had breakfast near the indoor pool and tried to ignore the chlorine smell.

The slate of scheduled activities on the cruise seems to have been pared back from a typical Caribbean cruise, as the primary activity (even on days “at sea”) is sight-seeing, including looking out for whales and other wildlife. I did manage to bring home the trophy for winning the sports trivia contest, which almost made up for the money I lost in the poker and blackjack tournaments. The ship had a pretty good casino, although it is clear that the purpose of the casino is to generate revenue for Carnival, not provide entertainment for the passengers. Heck, even the BINGO games were giving out paltry prize money compared to the revenue they were generating from selling the cards.

As I alluded to above, I really compare the shipboard experience with spending an entire week at the Luxor Las Vegas. It’s very new and exciting for a few days, but by the end of the cruise you’ve seen all there is to see, you’ve eaten all the free ice cream you want, and you’re ready to get off.

ALASKA! Of course the whole reason we were on the Carnival Spirit was to see Alaska. Although I had some ambivalence about being on a ship for a week, I’m not sure if there is a better way to see Alaska. It is such a big state, so spread out and in places very inaccessible, that the cruise is just about the best way to do it. The scenery along the inside passage is breathtakingly beautiful, and watching it glide by either from your own cabin balcony or from the rail on one of the upper decks is a wonderful way to pass the time. Despite our worries about the weather, we were blessed with the best weather Alaskans had seen all summer. Those sunny days rather than rainy, cloudy skies allowed us to see more of the scenery, and showed it off to its best advantage.

Our itinerary consisted of a cruise along the inside passage, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka, before crossing the Gulf of Alaska, entering Prince William Sound and spending several hours on the last day of the cruise in spectacular College Fjord. In my mind, I pair up Ketchikan and Juneau on one hand, and Skagway and Sitka on the other. The first two cities are larger and actually have an economy and industry extending beyond cruise ship tourism. Ketchikan is a fishing town. Juneau is the state capital and is thus a government town. Both welcome the tourists and have a build-up of typical tourist shops near the cruise ship dock, but beyond the tacky touristy area is a normal town that gives one some feel for “authentic” Alaska.

Skagway and Sitka are much smaller towns, and I got the feeling that if the cruise ships stopped coming, the towns would close up shop entirely. Each of these towns has a very quaint “downtown” area (two or three blocks long) that has shops in historic buildings catering to the cruise ship crowd, some residential areas nearby housing the folks working the tourist industry, and not much else. But each of these towns is very interesting to visit because of its unique history. Skagway was ground zero for fortune seekers during the Klondike gold rush. Sitka was the capital of Alaska when it was a Russian territory.

I mentioned above that a cruise ship is probably the best way to see Alaska. One of the reasons is that the towns are too small to handle the tourists any other way. As big as Alaska is, each of the towns we visited clings to the shoreline seemingly fearful of being shoved into the ocean by the mountains that loom over them. It’s ironic, but land is at a premium in these coastal towns that sit wedged in between mountains and the sea. The towns have very few hotel rooms and very few restaurants, yet they are inundated daily with anywhere from 5,000 to 12,000 cruise passengers. If all those folks wanted to spend the night in town (or indeed, just have lunch in town) there would be no way to accommodate them.

The towns are cute, but the fun begins when you get away from town and into the wilderness. The mountains, rivers, trees, and wildlife are the greatest show on earth, and the vast scale of the landscape is hard to comprehend. The only other place where I felt that the scale of the landscape was so intimidating was on a trip to the Canadian Rockies when we visited Banff.

In Ketchikan my son spent the day with his uncle and cousin on a couple of excursions. The first was a cruise aboard the Aleutian Ballad, a crabbing boat once featured on the Deadliest Catch television show but now rigged to show tourists what it’s like to work these boats in the waters off Alaska. In the afternoon they hopped aboard a floatplane and went looking for bears. The plane actually flies back into the wilderness near Ketchikan, lands near a popular bear fishing hole, and they hike in to get a look at the bears feeding on migrating salmon. The salmon weren’t really running yet, so our crew only saw one bear that day. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law, his son, and I went sea-kayaking near the Tatoosh islands. We rode a van about 30 miles north of Ketchikan, then took an inflatable boat another twenty minutes out to the islands, where we were fitted out for splash gear, life vests, and kayaks. Once we were all set our guide led the group on a 90-minute paddle all around these pristine islands. It was a lot of fun, the scenery was amazing, and it was so quiet. The stillness was so surprising. My biggest regret from our trip was that I purposely didn’t take my camera on the kayak excursion, since I have a history of flipping small water craft and didn’t want to risk losing or ruining my camera. I have always wanted to sea kayak in the great northwest and finally getting a chance to do it exceeded my expectations. According to our guide we covered about four miles during our paddling excursion.

In Juneau the big excursions was a “float trip” down the Mendenhall River. The big attraction near Juneau is the Mendenhall glacier, which is about 20 or 30 minutes from town. Our trip consisted of a short van ride out to Mendenhall Lake, where we were all fitted for splash gear and life vests, then assigned a guide and a raft. After pushing off from the shore of Mendenhall Lake, we were treated to amazing views of the glacier as it worked its way down the mountainside and into the lake. From the lake we entered Mendenhall river which we rode for about 90 minutes back towards town, watching foe eagles and salmon along the way. As a raft trip this excursion was pretty tame, since it features only a short stretch of class III rapids, and since the guide did all the rowing. But as a way to get out into the countryside and see the glacier and experience the outdoors of Alaska it was a lot of fun. It was also one of the more reasonably priced excursions available in Juneau.

Skagway was a lot of fun. Our excursion that day featured a train ride on the historic White Pass & Yukon Route from Skagway (sea level), over the White Pass (approx. 2,800 feet), and into Fraser, Canada. From Fraser a short van ride took us back to the White Pass summit, where we all boarded mountain bikes (from the folks at Sockeye Cycle Co.) for a speedy downhill ride all the way back into Skagway. The scenery from the train was (you guessed it) amazing, and everyone had a lot of fun on the bike ride back to town.

In Sitka we had a more low-key day, checking out the historic sites of the town, before heading back to the ship for our voyage across the Gulf of Alaska. Because of the glorious weather, our crossing was smooth as glass. According to members of the ship’s crew, the southbound voyage one week before our cruise featured bad weather, rough seas, and a lot of miserable passengers. So we were very fortunate.

The last day of the cruise featured a Prince William Sound and several hours in College Fjord, which boasts more than a dozen glaciers, five of which actually reach the waters of College Fjord. The Harvard glacier sits at the head of the fjord and is over 1.5 miles long where it enters the water. We actually docked in Whittier, Alaska, late that night (midnight) less than an hour after sunset. As you get farther north, Alaska really is the land of the midnight sun. The next morning they kicked us off the ship there in Whittier, which really isn’t very close to Anchorage at all. But using Whittier as the turnaround point saves Carnival probably a full day of sailing the long way around all the way to Anchorage. That’s a lot of time and fuel saved. Plus, by docking in Whittier Carnival can rake in about $75 per passenger for the bus ride to Anchorage. That’s $150,000 in “transfer fees” per cruise.

But we opted instead to pick up rental cars at Avis (the only game in town – book ahead!) so that we could take a side trip to visit my wife’s cousin who lives with her family in Soldotna, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula. Our two days in Soldotna were a lot of fun. The cousin lives in a beautiful home on the shore of one of the many lakes in the area. Their floatplane is docked just a few yards from their front door. The plane is fitted for floats in the summer and skis in the winter. Those that wanted to got a chance to take a spin in the Piper Super Cub, which was a real kick. The kids paddled the canoe around the lake, rode the ATV out into moose country, and got to shoot pistol, rifle, and shotgun. For dinner we had halibut enchiladas on the first night, and moose stroganoff the second night. (I’m not sure that’s the real name of the dish, but it tasted like beef stroganoff with moose meat instead of beef. It was great!). We got to see a bear on the Russian River and see how sled dogs are raised. It was great to get away from the touristy Alaska and get a feel for how folks there really live. One thing that is hard to get used to is how late the sun stays up in the summer. You end up having dinner at 10:00 at night as the sun approaches the horizon because that’s when it “feels” like dinnertime.

After seeing Soldotna we drove to Anchorage (which is nearby in Alaskan terms, but which was a three hour drive in perfect conditions). We dropped our rental cars at the airport ($100 drop fee per car) and flew home to Orange County, utterly exhausted from our vacation. Once we got home we were very happy to learn that the earthquake hadn’t caused too much damage. A Little League trophy fell off a shelf and broke, a Lladro figurine fell off the mantel, some picture frames fell off the wall. We were very lucky and very grateful.

It was a great trip, and I’m so glad we all got the chance to see such a wonderful place. Although I didn’t take my camera kayaking, I did take it everywhere else. I took over 1,500 digital photos during our trip. I have culled through all of them and compiled by Best of Alaska 2008 slideshow which is embedded below. If you click on any of the pictures, it will take you to the online gallery where you can see larger versions of the images and flip through them faster (or slower) if you like. I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out, and I hope you enjoy them.

This post is way too long, but I really left a lot out. If you are interested in Alaska or have any questions about our experience, please leave a comment below or e-mail me (click on my “profile” link to the right for e-mail address).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe Biden as "Change You Can Believe In." Is this a joke?

So the candidate for "change" brings us as his Vice-Presidential running mate the guy whose picture is in the dictionary under "Washington Establishment." Is Obama going to change his entire campaign message?

Barack Obama so loves himself that he chose as his running mate a higher-mileage version of ... Barack Obama. Both are guys who were elected to the Senate as young men with winning smiles and almost no real-world experience. Both are guys whose arrogance is only exceeded by their self-conceit.

I take that back - nothing exceeds Joe Biden's arrogance.

The "change" candidate - he's a uniter, not a divider - brings us a V.P. candidate who was protagonist in two of the most shameful and bitter partisan battles of our generation, the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

The selection of Joe Biden by the Democrat nominee also tells us a lot about the Democrats as a party. A ticket comprised of two sitting United States Senators, two Washington insiders, tells us that Democrats truly believe that Washington D.C. is the center of the American universe and the seat of all political wisdom. Democrats believe that the answers to all our nation's problems must proceed from Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Not from Main Street, and certainly not from Wall Street.

The other problem with two U.S. Senators on a ticket (or in the White House) is that Senators are used to solving problems using the tools of the Senate. There's no problem that can't be fixed with a committee, a hearing, a speech, or a new law. Senators operate by committee. They debate, they deliberate, they vote. They don't decide, they don't lead, they don't take risks. They mull issues over, staff them to death, read position papers, and table them. Senators aren't the stuff great Presidents are made of. That's partly why so few Presidents have come directly out of the Senate.

In addition to all of the above, Joe Biden also brings his considerable personal baggage of plagiarism, dishonesty, and hubris. Links to a couple of good pieces on that here and here.

In picking Joe Biden as his choice for Vice-President, Barack Obama may well have just handed the November election to John McCain. By picking Biden, Obama completely undercuts his most persuasive credential - that he is a candidate for change, bringing a new kind of politics to Washington. That just looks silly now. His ticket is now just another product of the Democrat Party establishment in Washington. There's no cross-over appeal there.

In picking Biden, Obama also manages to validate the campaign of John McCain. Two of McCain's biggest vulnerabilities are the charges that he's too old and that he's too establishment. Well Biden is nearly as old as McCain and has even more time in Washington than McCain. As an added bonus, Biden is on the record having said in the past that McCain is the only guy on the Republican side who is qualified to be President, and he's also said that Obama is NOT ready to be President.

John McCain can seize this moment and blow this race wide open if he can tap as his Vice-Presidential choice someone who is not a creature of Washington politics and who can provide some cross-over appeal to wobbling Democrats. He needs someone who has some youthful vigor (relative to him), and some executive experience either in the business world or as a state governor. If his choice were a woman who could woo unhappy Hillary! voters, so much the better. About the only way McCain can screw this up is to select another old, white guy from Washington. This isn't John McCain's first rodeo. He won't screw it up.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I grew up watching Gene Upshaw

Gene Upshaw, Hall of Fame left guard during the glory years of the Oakland Raiders, died late yesterday at the age of 63, just days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Growing up in Northern California, I was a Raiders fan in the era of John Madden, Kenny Stabler, Art Shell, and Gene Upshaw (among others). That was long before the Raiders had moved to Los Angeles, when the Raiders were very much blue collar, but hadn't yet picked up the gang-banger fans they acquired during their years in L.A. In those years the Raiders actually were the embodiment of the "Commitment to Excellence" for which they are generally mocked today, while the 49ers across the bay were an awful joke. Eventually the 49ers drafted Joe Montana and began their rise to glory, while the Raiders moved to Los Angeles, so my allegiance shifted to the Niners. But I will always remember the true grit of those Raiders, the physically imposing Upshaw and Shell leading the way for guys like Pete Banaszak and Mark Van Eeghen. Ken Stabler hobbling around on bad knees with seconds left in the game looking for Cliff Branch or Fred Biletnikoff.

Of course Upshaw went on to lead the NFL Players' Association for twenty-five years after he finished playing, and that's how he'll be remembered by many fans. But that's not how he'll be remembered by Raiders fans. For those of us who watched those great Raiders teams, Gene Upshaw will always be that guy battling in the trenches and covered in mud who defined what it means to be a "great" offensive lineman.

Here's a link to Upshaw's player profile at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and another to an L.A. Times article on his life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 Is Just Making Crap Up

So I fire up my e-mail this morning, and polluting my in-box is an "important message" from one of my USC buddies. The only thing in the e-mail is this link to a article naming the "The Best (And Worst) College Football Coaches For the Buck." It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that USC's Pete Carroll is listed as one of the "underpaid" coaches, and Notre Dame's Charlie Weis is listed as one of the "overpaid" coaches. Of course, Forbes based its "determination" on Coach Weis' 10-year contract extension, "reportedly worth between $30 and $40 million over the length of the deal."

Here was my e-mail response to my buddy:


Forbes has been making fools of themselves lately, publishing a bunch of embarrassing sports-related articles. The one that got the biggest splash was their proclamation that Nick Saban is the "most powerful coach in sports."

Not Pete Carroll. Or Charlie Weis. Or Joe Pa. Or Coach K or Phil Jackson or Joe Torre. Nick "Total Failure in Miami who is a known Liar" Saban!

Thus, I take what Forbes has to say about college football not very seriously. The article you send is (1) yet another in a long line of cheap shots at CW, and (2) factually inaccurate. People have been wildly overestimating CW's salary ever since he signed his "Monster" contract extension. University tax records for 2007 showed that CW was paid just $598,000 in salary to coach the Irish football team. Incidentally, the University actually paid Ty Willingham $650,000 over the same period to NOT coach the Irish football team.

Yes, last year was tough. But at $500K Coach W is not overpaid.
It pains me a little to link to Mike Rothstein's work at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, because he's an idiot sometimes and I've called him out for it here at OC Domer. But his reporting on the Weis salary issue is right on the money and needs to get more play in order to debunk the widespread misinformation that is out there about Coach Weis.

[P.S., We still have a couple of spots open in the OC Domer fantasy football league. Drop me an e-mail (available through my "profile" link on the right) if you'd like to play.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brady Quinn Makes the Most of A Moment

Much like USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, the last thing Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson needs is an injury. Both quarterbacks have very talented back-ups eager to get on the field, and both are right to be concerned that if those back-ups ever get on the field it may be impossible to put them back on the sidelines.

Sanchez is re-habbing like mad from a dislocated kneecap in hopes of being behind center for the Trojans' opening game at Virginia. He doesn't want Mitch Mustain or Aaron Corp at the helm for a USC victory in Charlottesville, which would definitely put in doubt Sanchez' lock on the starting QB spot for the pivotal game against Ohio State (and the rest of the season).

Derek Anderson, on the verge of being cut from the Browns heading into regular season play last year, suddenly caught fire and his strong play in 2007 has so far kept Notre Dame star Brady Quinn on the bench. But Anderson suffered a concussion early in the second quarter of last night's pre-season game against the NY Giants, opening the door for Quinn.

Before leaving the game, the Browns had looked simply awful on both sides of the ball. Anderson completed 4 of 10 passes for 20 yards before being knocked out of the game.

Quinn took advantage of his opportunity, completing 7 of 12 passes for 124 yards and 1 TD. His passer rating on the night was 121.5. In the two pre-season games so far, Quinn is 20 of 29 for 257 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 93.6.

Anderson through two pre-season games is 8 of 15 for 40 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, passer rating of 81.2.

The Browns, who trailed the Giants 30-3 less than a minute into the second quarter, responded well to Quinn and were eventually able to close the scoring gap to 37-34 by the end of the game.

The Browns will certainly downplay Anderson's injury. They'll say that BQ was playing against second teamers. But Brady clearly helped his cause last night, because the next time Anderson struggles to move the team, the Cleveland fans will remember this Monday Night Football performance and the calls for BQ will intensify.

Click on this link for video highlights of Brady's performance.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tustin Vermin Ready to Defend Fantasy Football Title

The OC Domer Fantasy Football League is ready to begin it's second season, and league commissioner OC Domer is preparing to defend his title as owner of last year's champion, the Tustin Vermin. Right now I have four or five confirmed teams from last season, and one new addition for this season. That leaves me with four or five slots for new players in order to run a ten-team league.

The league is set up at I set it up as an auto-pick league, since there is no way I can coordinate a live draft for a group of ten random people who could be located anywhere in the world (even Poland!). I haven't set a firm draft time yet, but my tentative plan is to hold the draft right after this weekend's slate of pre-season games (maybe August 26th) so everyone will get a look at three weeks of pre-season action before draft day. Of course, with an auto-pick league you can make any adjustment you like to the default ESPN player rankings, which will allow the computer to draft your team based upon your preferences.

League scoring is tweaked a little bit from the traditional to suit my tastes, so be sure to take it into account when preparing for the draft.

If you played last year in the OC Domer league and want to do it again, or if you have just been looking for a league to play in with a bunch of newbies (myself included), send me an e-mail (my e-mail address is in my "profile" linked to the right) and I'll have one of the league invites sent to you. My only request is that if you are a member of the league you commit to managing your team in good faith for the full season. We had at least one guy last year who just packed it in halfway through the season and stopped managing his team, which screws it up for everyone.

(NOTE: If your first reaction to the above post is that I really MUST run a live draft instead of the auto-draft, then you are way too into it for this league!)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Nostalgic Look Back at August 2007

When I was in school, I had a soft cover edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary with a tie-dyed, psychedelic 70's era cover. My kids use The definition of nostalgia is: "A sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time." The 2008 Notre Dame football season is almost upon us, and we are accordingly seeing in the blogosphere the traditional precursors of every football season: Pre-season predictions. Reading this year's crop of predictions and forecasts brings to mind a few thoughts.

  • First, I need to write my pre-season predictions post.
  • Second, I need to get a life.
  • Third (and the point of this post), I wonder how last year's crop of predictions held up?
I think it's essential to remind ourselves that no matter how earnestly we analyze the nuances of the recently released depth chart, how closely we watch the scarce practice video available, and how meticulous we are in reading the tea leaves on our opponents' off-season development, we know NOTHING about how the year will unfold. Until we see Armando Allen stiff-arm a defender and take it to the house, we don't know if he'll be better this year. Until we see Golden Tate catch a ball in traffic on a perfectly timed square-in route we won't know if he's picked up the offense. Until we blow the opposing D-line off the ball on 3rd-and-3 for an easy 1st-down conversion, and see the O-line pick up the zone blitzer and give J.C. plenty of time to deliver the ball to a receiver running wide open down the seam, we won't know if the O-line has matured sufficiently to give the Irish a real chance to win this season.

To satisfy my curiosity, I set the Wayback Machine for August 2007 and went back to see how my favorite bloggers did in forecasting how the 2007 Notre Dame football season would unfold.

I'm not going to exempt myself from this exercise. I wrote two fairly detailed posts last season on how I thought the season would unfold. The first post looked at my general overall expectations of the team, the second looked at my expectations for the Irish on a game-by-game basis. Looking back at last year's pre-season posts, there was good news and bad news for OC Domer. The good news is that I did a pretty good job of identifying the fact that the team's fortunes would depend on improved offensive line play:
Which brings us to the offensive line. I think most Irish fans are in agreement that the play of the O-line last season was pretty underwhelming. How often did we see Brady Quinn making plays with defensive linemen or blitzing linebackers breathing down his neck or draped over his back? Far too often. How many times, on fourth-and-short, did Notre Dame run a QB sneak? If your best power running play in short yardage situations is the QB sneak, your O-line is not getting the job done. How many times did Darius Walker make a spectacular run in just getting back to the line of scrimmage rather than taking a three-yard loss?

We don't have Brady Quinn at quarterback any more. We don't have Darius Walker, who could see disaster coming through the line and side-step it like a matador. We have three inexperienced quarterbacks who will need time to throw the ball. If they aren't given time, we will see interceptions, fumbles, and sacks. We have largely inexperienced running backs who will need actual holes to run through. If those holes aren't there, we'll see negative-yardage runs and fumbles in the backfield.

In short, Notre Dame's fortunes this year are riding on the offensive line. We have to be able to reliably run the ball for 4 yards or more on first and second downs. We can't be in third-and-long situations. Third and long means an all-out pass rush, with young running backs trying to pick up the blitzers, and a young QB throwing the ball down field to young receivers trying to find a soft spot in the nickel or dime zone defense. That is not a high percentage situation. We have to be able to mix pass and run as we choose to, not have it dictated to us by the down-and-distance situation. On short yardage, we don't want our young QBs running the sneak. We want to give the ball to TT, or Schwapp, or Aldridge, or Hughes and know that we can get two yards. Obviously, in the passing game, the QB will need more time to throw than Brady Quinn had last year. If the offensive line can control the line of scrimmage, if the Irish can run the ball with authority rather than finesse, then I think we can have a very good year.

But John Latina had better make sure his resume is current. Because if the O-line fails to produce this year, he will be next year's Rick Minter.
The bad news for my 2007 pre-season analysis is that I thought the O-line would get the job done. In my game-by-game analysis I had the Irish putting up another 10-win season (including the Bowl victory):
At 9 wins and 3 losses, the Irish don't get selected to go to a BCS Bowl, and instead get to play in a respectable bowl game against an opponent they can beat. Having solved our big-play problems on defense, and having healed up from the brutal first eight weeks of the schedule, Notre Dame handily wins it's first bowl game since New Year's Day of 1994. [...] With young but talented players all over the field, and with new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown, the Irish basically win the games they won and lose the games they lost in 2006 (UCLA being the exception). But we don't get blown out by anyone. We aren't a Top 5 program yet, but at 10-3 overall, we end up just outside the Top 10 in the final polls of the season. Entering 2008 we are a Top 10 team fighting to become an elite Top 5 program.
Not to tip my hand too early, but my pre-season forecast posts for 2008 will likely be equally as absurd in their optimism as last year's posts.

How did everyone else do in August 2007?
  • The crew at Blue-Gray Sky put their predictions in a handy chart for us. The most pessimistic prediction was for an 8-4 season, the most common prediction was 9-3, and a couple of contributors had the Irish at 10-2 and one at 11-1 (regular season).
  • Blue-Gray Sky ran a pre-season reader poll that got over 2,000 responses (I'm not worthy!). Roughly 75% of respondents thought Notre Dame would win 9 or more games, with only 25% predicting 8 or fewer wins. Only about about 2.5% of voters expected 6 or fewer wins.
  • Subway Domer had a computer crash last year that threw him off-stride for a while in August, but he was able to offer us his insights on the 2007 offensive line situation:
    This will be a very physical line and as the line goes, so will our running and passing game. [...] John Latina wants a unit that is versatile and interchangeable, and finally with depth we may have that. [...] This unit may surprise a lot of "national" media outlets. On paper they have a small amount of total playing time, but will make up for it with a nastiness that was lacking from last years unit.
  • Her Loyal Sons offered up a game-by-game breakdown of the season and concluded:
    The regular season is wrapped, and ND has surprised the CFB world by pulling off an 8-4 season and a berth in a respectable bowl. More than anything, the team matured throughout the year, and with the incoming talent is poised to make a serious mark over the next 2 seasons. A national championship in ‘08-’09 isn’t out of the question, and everyone’s expecting one the following year. Based on his preseason comments, ESPN donkey pundit Mark May votes Charlie Weis Coach of the Year, which he wins.
  • Rakes of Mallow offered a very balanced, reasonably objective analysis that put the Irish on a 9-3 regular season. Only missed it by that much.
  • The fellas at Section 29, Row 48, Seat 10 should be recognized for an outstanding 12-Day countdown to the 2007 season, highlighting 12 keys to Irish success. Their #1 concern was the battle in the trenches:
    I hope you flip over your handle bars and knock your two front teeth in! You selfish son of a B&*&H!!! You're leaving me in the trenches, taking grenades John!!!

    This quote from America's consummate Notre Dame fan, Vince Vaughn, neatly summarizes the one thing on which success hinges for the Irish - winning the battle in the trenches, and not merely from one side. It isn't only that the Irish front line defense, reduced to 3 in Corwin Brown's new scheme (Justin Brown, Trevor Laws, & Pat Kuntz) needs to succeed against great running backs over the first two months. Or that the Irish offensive line must break in three new starters and so quickly and without missing a beat in front of an inexperienced quarterback. Either of these things would prompt huge concern for the Irish coaching staff and become a point of emphasis. The fact that both are paramount at the same moment demonstrates why the battles along the trench line will make or break the Irish season.
  • The Rock Report ran another fan survey, with over 3,000 responses, and used some fancy statistical analysis to come up with an overall "fan prediction" of an 8-4 season. As for the Rock himself, he predicted another BCS Bowl appearance for the Irish.
Ah, memories! Times were simpler then. There certain things you could count on in this world. Like blocking, tackling, and beating Navy. But life is more complicated today.

So, when you read a pre-season prediction, forecast, breakdown, analysis, etc..., remember how smart we all were last August and take them for what they're worth. But by all means, go ahead and read 'em. The blogs I mention above, as well as the non-probationary blogs listed to the right are all doing great work covering the Irish pre-season and getting the Notre Dame nation ready for kick-off.

Go Irish! Beat Aztecs!