Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Top Ten Fantasy Football Busts To Avoid In 2012

My top ten busts to avoid for the 2012 fantasy football season. Why am I writing about fantasy football in May? That's my own business, you go mind yours (after you read this). Feel free to let me know what your busts are for 2012.

1) Maurice Jones-Drew. RB. Jacksonville Jaguars. My distaste for MJD is largely personal. When he condemned Bears quarterback for not being tough for sitting out the second half of the NFC Championship game two years ago despite Cutler's knee later being revealed to be badly torn, and despite pulling up lame himself late in the Jaguars' season, what he needed to do was apologize immediately. This year MJD is already creeping up as far as number 4 overall on many ratings, but I think you'll suffer if you use a high first rounder for him. He's grousing about his contract and has a history of pulling up on his team in non-competitive season. As no one believes Jacksonville will be competitive this year, let someone else waste a top five pick on this aging mighty might and take someone safer. 

2) Rob Gronkowski. TE. New England Patriots. A lot of winning in fantasy football has to do with predicting which players will outperform their ranking and draft position for that year, not reacting to what they did last year. Gronkowski helped a lot of people win cash last year, and I think a lot of people will use a super valuable second round pick to grab him this year. Let 'em. Keep piling up top tier running backs in those rounds and come back for a Tight End later. This guy is kind of a strange duck. If you do a Google image search on Gronk you see him doing a lot of things besides football, and I have a growing feeling it's going to catch up with him. The Evil genius who runs the Patriots has no compunction about tossing any player (besides Tom Brady) under the bus and bringing in the next man up. I think Gronkowski is too risky for a lot of reasons to take as high as he will be going. 

3) Matt Stafford. QB. Detroit Lions. How quickly they forget. Matt Stafford has a great fantasy season last year. he may have another great fantasy season this year. Or they may scrape him up off the turf week one and everyone who drafted him as high as he's set to go will be playing Josh Freeman against you when you meet head to head. If that's a chance you're comfortable taking this is your guy. Of course, any NFL quarterback can be injured any week, and statistics say most of them will be, but Stafford has a permanent meniscus injury that can't be operated on or healed with rest. The next time that knee pops out he may be done for good. Or he could throw for 5,000 yard and 40 touchdowns. But my opinion is if you want to go QB this early just go the extra mile and get one without a history of injury. 

4) Jermichael Finley. TE. Green Bay Packers. Somebody in Green Bay, or several somebody's, don't really like Jermichael Finley. Which would be alright if some of those somebody's weren't throwing him the ball. There was a lot of grousing about Finley at the end of last season that didn't hit the national media very hard, but he's not respected by his teammates. And Aaron Rodgers is not hurting for targets, especially with Jordy Nelson virtually replacing Jennings and Finley in a lot of games. If you didn't have to take Finley with a fifth round pick he might be worth taking a chance on as there will be literally dozens of touchdown catches to go around in Green Bay this year. I just don't think Finley will be getting many of them. There's a rich crop of Tight Ends this year. Avoid this bum.

5) Andre Johnson. WR. Houston Texans. WR1 is an essential position to fill on your roster, and if you look at the top of the WR rankings this year it's a little hinky. After Calvin Johnson you can't convince me Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings, and Roddy White all aren't facing the potential of having bust seasons for different reasons. I don't like any of them with a first or second round pick, so I'd advise skipping a wide receiver in rounds one or two and take running backs, or a stud quarterback if you want to go that route, then jump in in round three with someone like Brandon Marshall or AJ Green to anchor your wide receivers. I think they have equal, if not better chances of having a better year than the four I mentioned. In particular I think Andre Johnson is just too hampered by injuries and the Texans too reliant on Arian Foster to consider him worth the second round pick you'll need to give up to get him. Pass.

6) Frank Gore. RB. San Francisco 49ers. Sure, this guy is probably going to make everyone's potential bust list. With good reason. He's old. He got a huge contract. The 49ers acquired vulture supreme Brandon Jacobs. They have drafted a running back to replace him three years in a row. And after all that Gore just keeps putting up numbers. Because of that he should get the benefit of the doubt, but this is the NFL. When you go, you're gone, and this could be the year Gore is gone. he's dropping in the rankings and in mocks and should fall some more, but fantasy players have a habit of drafting older running backs like Gore out of habit. If you want to do that make sure he's fallen to at least the fourth round. That's right, fourth.

7) Roy Helu. Running Back. Washington Redskins. I actually like Helu a lot. But Mike Shanahan is nuts. he has that nuts face. Avoid this nut. Fantasy players have been operating on the past record of him picking out a running back and running him until his wheels fell off for too many years now. Apparently coach twitchy doesn't do that anymore. And it's likely he's going to screw with Helu, too. If he doesn't, I think Helu is a great fantasy option. But let me repeat the operative word here... insane. You can't afford to wake up on Sunday and not find out until after the game begins that your number 2 running back isn't even playing. That's what Shanahan will do to you. Don't let him. Let someone else fall into the Redskin/Patriot running back black hole. And speaking of finding your running back isn't playing after the game begins...

8) Marshawn Lynch. RB. Seattle Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch was a good story last year. It was hard not to root for him. Even if you were one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot who found out five minutes into week 7's game that his stat line wasn't moving. Even if you were hesitant to start him for a couple of weeks after that and continued to get burned when he went off. Lynch could could crazy go nuts this entire year. But that's not what his history says he will do. He got paid, so keep that in mind when you're trying to decide if you want to make him your number one running back. He plays for the Seahawks, so keep that in mind. And he's going in the first round, so it's up to you if you feel confident that Lynch has finally become the player he was always meant to be, but remember he's a career 4.0/yard ball carrier. There's some beast mode upside, and a lost of bust mode history of downside.

9) Steve Smith. WR. Carolina Panthers. Remember when Steve Smith was a fantasy stud? Then remember when Steve Smith became the other Steve Smith? Then remember when Steve Smith became a fantasy stud again? Well, I wouldn't take last year all that seriously in this case. Steve Smith had an awesome comeback season last year, and was Cam Newton's favorite target, but he slowed down considerably the second half of the year and if you played him he didn't help your fantasy team very much at all. I think that trend continues to start the 2012 season. I like Brandon Lafell as a sleeper and to take over as the Panthers' number one receiver. I also like NFL defenses to have solved a lot of the Cam Newton riddle in terms of giving up huge pass plays down the field. None of this bodes well for a 33 year old wide receiver on a team that might be in games enough to not be winging passes down the field the entire second half without concern. 

10) Antonio Gates. TE. San Diego Chargers. On occasion you'll see or hear a report that Antonio Gates is healthy and looking good, but the truth is even when healthy Gates appears heavier, slower, and less determined to go up and get the ball than he did when in his prime. It happens to everyone. Gates doesn't look good even when he's not dragging a lame foot behind him. Could he show no symptoms of an injury that is notoriously slow to heal, and in many cases never heals? Sure. But the point is even if he is fine he's no bargain when you'll have to take him, especially with nearly a dozen Tight Ends who might have crazy good seasons this year. May I suggest letting someone else venturing a fifth rounder for gates and waiting a few more rounds for someone like Fred Davis in Washington.

So, if you look at this list you might say "These are all great fantasy players," to which I would say "Yes, they are," but each one of them has the inherent risk for a myriad of reasons of being a bust. Either this may be their last season of significance in the NFL, or they are injury prone, or don't fit into the system, or may be replaced by a younger player, or even though they may have a good or even great season they just aren't worth the pick you'll have to give up to obtain them. Sometimes it's more fun to speculate than go with the obvious choice. There's one player on this list, Roy Helu, who walks that fine line between being a bust and a bust out player. But many of these players just are heartbreaks waiting to happen. Let someone else take them.

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The Brotherhood of Satan Is an Early 70's Horror Gem

At least I think this movie is horribly underrated at 4.4 on IMDB's rating scale. I've only been fortunate enough to see it once, and hell if Netflix is ever going to make it available. It's not as easy as it used to be in some respects to stumble upon largely forgotten "classics" like this one. I don't have television so I don't know, maybe they show the hell out of it every night. This movie is about a family that breaks down in a Southwestern town. 

I recall it does establish an eerie feel early on. You're like what the hell this town ain't right. 

This guy shows his pee pee dink. Old people and pee pee dinks. Scary stuff. The whole movie has a whole Race With the Devil in reverse feel. Somebody sure was into Satan in Hollywood in the late 60's and early 70's. I wonder if they still do that out there and just aren't very open about it. Anyway...

Get in your Ford station wagon with the fake wood panel finish and...

Check out the Brotherhood of Satan when it comes around. Better yet, buy a copy of The Brotherhood of Satan and send it to me, because no matter how much I pay Netflix I can't seem to get any good movies out of them. Is there any good reason they can't purchase older movies like this? They get paid and really seem to offer less and less selection all the time. If any company could stockpile a real selection of movies on demand I'd pay them a fair price. It's not the money I care about, I just really want selection.

March 26, 2013 update: I was lucky enough to find Point of Terror last week while I was working here at the Downtown office. Maybe I'll get lucky and something cool like mansion of the Living Dead of The Brotherhood of Satan will be on YouTube tonight. 

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The Sentinel: A Star-Studded Freakfest

What do Jose Ferrer, Ava Gardner, John Carradine, Martin Balsam, Chris Sarandon, Burgess Meredith, Christopher Walkin, Eli Wallach, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D'Angelo, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Dreyfuss have in common? 

The 1977 horror film The Sentinel is the answer. 

Ironically, one of the few people who appeared in this movie who wasn't a star or didn't become a star, WAS the star, Christina Raines, who is fine as a young model looking to rent a New York City apartment. This movie has legitimate scares. And a far above average story. 

The Sentinel. Magnificent. Soon after Raines moves in the weird stuff starts going down. And I mean weird stuff.

Beverly D'Angelo gets to it for no good reason at all other than it being Tuesday. These neighbors are weird. Did I say that?

One of the more chilling scenes I can recall in cinema history culminates with this little bit of nicety. Here's the deal: it's the gateway to hell. Says that on the box. This movie in entertaining in multiple ways, but the last ten minutes BRINGS IT...

Gateway to Hell opens, these freaks come spilling out. And yes, these are real human oddities. You will crap yourself. 

Lesson of The Sentinel. If someone offers to rent you an apartment in New York with antique furniture and shelves full of ancient books for $400/month.... run.

February 21, 2013 update: Google tells me this is one of my most popular blog entries, and it's almost entirely due to people thinking they are going to see dirty pictures of Beverly D'Angelo. You is some creepers out there in cyberland, but keep it up.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Magnificent Art of Jenny Mathews

If you're ever lucky enough to work with an artist like Jenny Mathews I highly recommend  it. When I heard she was available to work with me on our children's book The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company I was overjoyed. The results have been beyond my grandest expectations. But that should have come as no surprise.

In the past three years Jenny Mathews has drawn over 400 illustrations for her Tiny Drawing series. Drawings of trains, ships, wine bottles, goddesses, trolls under the bridge, mouth-watering drawings of meat, fauna, flora, and everything you can imagine. But why imagine when you can see her entire gallery of drawings here
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Top Ten Fantasy Football Steals of the 2012 Draft

After four years of fantasy football I'm starting to realize it's not always how well you draft, because almost everyone comes out of the draft with a reasonable chance to win, it's the players you steal far ahead of their actual performance that year that make the difference. Two years ago those who got Arian Foster in later rounds had an enormous advantage over everyone else, assuming the rest of their draft wasn't a disaster. So, this year, instead of going in with a plan to slot different positions at different rounds and stick to that rather blindly, I'm going to be trying to identify those players that later in the year will emerge as waiver wire must haves, but hopefully I'll already have them. It's a difficult balancing act, as any fantasy player knows, because you also have to start the season with a solid team, so gambling on fliers and players with upside is risky. I suggest compiling a list a players you want but are willing to wait for, that way you'll feel like you go a bargain. Here are ten I'll be looking at.

1) Greg Little. WR. Cleveland Browns. A lot of you are going to start this list questioning my sanity for this one, but the point of value is finding someone whose value is either overlooked or unrealized. The picture says it all about Greg Little so far. He was someone I was high on last draft season, having been burned by another North Carolina receiver, Hakeem Nicks, drafting him early on in my keeper league, then even managing to get him back at one point on the waiver wire, only to eventually lose him to someone else when he eventually did get hot. The point is to predict who might take that quantum leap and slot a niche where you feel comfortable taking them. If you get Little in rounds 9 or ten as a third or fourth WR I think you'll do well for yourself. Brandon Wheeden at quarterback might make all the difference in the world for this receiver with enormous skills.

2) Matt Schaub. QB. Houston Texans. Did Matt Schaub die? I would have thought he did according to where he's being projected to go this year and where he already is going in fantasy mocks. Anyone who took Matt Stafford in later rounds last year can attest that waiting to get a quarterback, then getting one who produces, is one of the greatest gifts your roster can have. Especially since there are so few running backs this year, I'm contemplating going heavy on running backs early and waiting for quarterback and tight end in most of my drafts. Schaub should rebound and have a good fantasy year for you. Rounds 8-9-10 seem like a bargain for him. With the rise in popularity of two QB leagues, you sure could do a lot worse than having Schaub as your number two QB.

3) Donald Brown. RB. Indianapolis Colts. I hear the collective groan, but once again, the point is to find someone on the scrap heap who has a comeback year. Donald Brown has probably burned every fantasy owner at one time. When he came out of Connecticut I was as excited as anyone. Skills, brains, and determination. All that and he was going to a team with touchdowns to spare. All he had to do was stay healthy and not spit the bit. Well, three years later it may be time for Donald Brown's brains, determination, and skills to pay off for fantasy owners. I'm sure by draft day it will be no secret to anyone that it seems he's going to be getting the ball a lot in Indy, but if you can make him your third running back in a round after the sixth I say you got a good deal.

4) Fred Davis. TE. Washington Redskins. This is a guy who looks mean. And without a real number one wide receiver option in Washington for RG3 to throw to, unless you buy into Pierre Garcon as a number one, it's quite possible Fred Davis will become RG3's go to receiver. A huge target in the red zone, Davis suppressed his own value with a drug suspension to end last season. But his loss may be your gain as a fantasy owner because I believe if you don't want to invest an early pick on a Tight End, pairing Davis up with someone like Brandon Pettigew or even Brent Celek in later rounds might allow you to stockpile wide receivers and running backs early and not lose much, if anything, at Tight End.

5) Jamaal Charles. RB. Kansas City Chiefs. This may seem like an odd choice because I realize you'll have to take him in the second round. But that's exactly what I think you should do. If Charles falls to the mid to late second round in your draft, and you can pair him with a stud number one running back, like Foster, Rice, McCoy, or MJD, I think you've got a huge leg up on the sparse running back situation this year and can then go out and start piling up wide receivers and get someone like James Starks or Donald Brown as your third RB. Of course there's the risk that he won't be fully recovered from his kneee injury, or that Hillis will vulture some goal line touchdowns, but Charles can score from anywhere on the field anytime he gets the ball. 

6) Kenny Britt. WR. Tennessee Titans. Here is another player who has broken my fantasy heart on many occasions. I've been on board since the beginning, giving up on him only to see him go apespit nuts in the first two games last year to the tune of 271 yard and three touchdowns. Will he recover from his kneee injury and do that again? I haven't a clue, but one of the most satisfying things in the world is when a guy you believed in finally pays off. If you can compile two wide receivers that make you happy early on, I say go for Britt and you may repaid. mightily.

7) Jay Cutler. QB. Chicago Bears. For two years now Jay Cutler was supposed to be my Matt Stafford. I've taken the tactic of waiting at quarterback, then drafting Cutler later, and both times I've been burned. Not because Cutler isn't a great quarterback, he is, but because Mike Martz is clinically insane. Martz is probably somewhere combing the beach for old vacuum tubes this summer, so it may finally be safe for Jay Cutler to drop back (not seven steps), look around, and see if he can find Brandon Marshall or rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery before an angry Giants' lineman can put him on his back. You know what, I'm going to take a chance on Cutler again. Third times' a charm. 

8) Torrey Smith. WR. Baltimore Ravens. Another player I was high on last year and never quite added him to any of my rosters, even in the rookie keeper league, but then again, neither did anyone else, really. He'll be available in your league, too, and I think is a very intriguing bargain after round six. If Kenny Britt is a gamble you're not willing to take, I think Smith is rather guaranteed to at least have a good season with probably some huge games. If he develops consistency, look out, you'll be dreading facing him. Probably one of those players it's better to just not get beaten by. 

9) Reggie Bush. RB. Miami Dolphins. Hard to see these words coming out of my brain, but with running backs being so scarce this year, I think Reggie Bush is a solid value in late round three or round four. If you want to get him as you second running back it gives you the option of taking a top tier wide reciver in round two. I don't think that's going to be necessary this year because of the pool of really good receivers you'll be able to get in rounds three, four, and five, but it's another way to go, and I don't see why Bush doesn't put up very big numbers in Miami again. Trust me, I drafted Daniel Thomas in my rookie keeper league last year, and he's a stiff, injured or otherwise. Bush is the man in Miami and a good value assuming you get him late enough. If you reach for him you're settting yourself up for heartache, but if you get him one round later, maybe even two, you might be singing his praises.

10) Percy Harvin. WR. Minnesota Vikings. Another guy you're going to have to invest a high pick in, but if he drops in your league, snatch him up because I think he's in for a monster year. Hypothetically, you could get a great value no matter where you take a player, even round one, as I did on Aaron Rodgers two years ago. Combine a good move like that with a good guess on a player like Arian Foster, and you're winning championships. Do this often enough in a keeper league and you might not get invited back to the draft.

There they are, ten players I think will be undervalued in 2012, even though a few of them are highly valued, and some of the rest will certainly start marching up the list by draft day. 

Ten Fantasy Busts To Avoid In 2012

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Top Five Children's Books of 2012 For the Youngest Readers

With the trend being for clever or snarky children's books, it's becoming increasingly difficult for parents to find books for children that are just heartfelt and sincere. here are five that were published in 2012 that are more than appropriate and worthwhile for young children.

1) I Broke My Trunk
 I Broke My Trunk. By Mo Willems. Illus. by the author. Hyperion Books for Children.

Piggie is very concerned about his best friend, Gerald the Elephant, who has broken his trunk, and Gerald tells him a long, rambling story about how it happened. (A 2012 Geisel Honor Book)

2) Bring On the Birds
Bring on the Birds. By Susan Stockdale, Illus. by the author. Peachtree.

Rhyming couplets and clear, identifiable illustrations remind readers that birds vary in many ways, but all have feathers and are hatched from eggs. Colorful acrylics help provide just the right of information for preschool ornithologists.

3) Where's Walrus
Where's Walrus?  By Stephen Savage, Illus. by the author. Scholastic.

Walrus escapes from the zoo and cleverly disguises himself around the city; the zoopkeeper and the children reading the book search for him on each bold, bright page of this wordless book.

4) The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company
The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company . By Thomas L. Vaultonburg, Illus. by Jenny Mathews

When all the rhinoceroses at the local zoo escape in an effort to find their friend Rhino Jack, the smallest rhino wrangler in the world must find his lost friends and find a way to make them return to their home.

5) Mouse and Lion
Mouse & Lion. By Rand Burkert, Illus. by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. di Capua/Scholastic.

Mouse is the center of this retelling of a familiar Aesop’s fable.  Elegant illustrations place the story solidly in the natural world of Africa.

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Famous Crashes of NASCAR History #1 Dale Earnhardt

On Sunday, Feb. 18, 2001, at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Dale  Earnhardt as killed in a crash. It is the most (in) famous crash in NASCAR history.

Dale Earnhardt crash at Daytona, Feb. 18, 2001.

                                          Goodbye, Dale Earnhardt. Say hello to Elvis for us all. 

                                                                   See Famous Crash #3

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Theo Epstein's Theology 101 And Building Last Place Teams

I just checked to verify this, but at the exact instant I write this blog, Theo Epstein and his band of baseball savants, including his right-hand man Jed Hoyer, are responsible for building three last place teams. That's right, The Cubs, The Padres, and The Boston Red Sox are all in last place right now. All they need is five years and a billion dollars and they can build something really special. I think most of us could.

The sweet smell of... last place

And the builder of the last place San Diego Padres' franchise. Sure are pretty, aren't they?

That's all. Just wanted to point out that the general management of the Cubs has built three teams that are currently in last place.

Go Cubs, go. 

January 25, 2015: So, it turns out I was probably wrong about whatever I was saying here, and I'm really looking forward to the 2015 season. 

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Death Bed, George Barry, and Garwood Mansion

Even with all the new digital equipment it's not easy to make a full-length motion picture. It certainly wasn't any easier in 1972 when George Barry started filming Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. When one considers Barry never really finished the film, or even released it until 2003, you might wonder why he ever did it at all. He never tried to make another movie. But he sure as hell made the crap out of this one. And I, for one, am glad. If I tell you the title of the movie is Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, what's the point of getting into details about plot after that. Death Bed....

Oh, sure, Death Bed seems pleasant enough at first. Downright inviting, even. Clean sheets. Nice purple satin. 

Sure, everybody thinks they like sex and fried chicken until...

Did you read the title first, dummy? This movie proves that a lot of people just can't read.

Uhhh, Death Bed. The bed eats chicks, it eats gangsters, it eats a bunch of lesbians, it eats a few swingers who movie it out into the yard for an orgy. It eats chicken, it eats apples, it drinks wine.

It has some Pepto Bismol then

Eats this dipshit's hands. 

Death Bed. You'll never make a movie this good so don't knock it.  Oh, oh, shit, I forgot something...

The Garwood Mansion. Where Death Bed was filmed. 

As seen from the east side of the Detroit River

Demolished in 1983 after decades of being vandalized by school children. Another forsaken place lost forever. But immortalized in the film Death Bed: The bed that eats. Anyway, love this film and its surreal feel and especially love Garwood Mansion. 

One last shot of Garwood as we say goodbye. 

January 25, 2015: Really needed to do more text in these older blogs. Maybe say something about Patton Oswalt's comedy bit about Death bed or something. I'm constantly fascinated by director/writer/producers who only made one movie. Did they only ever have one idea, and once they realized their vision were satisfied. Did they learn how horrible and tedious the process of filmmaking is and start selling used cars instead? Did they just stop caring? I often wonder, because the creative process is so demanding you couldn't make a movie without really caring and being committed to it. 

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