Saturday, September 30, 2006

NCAA recap, September 30

Wisconsin 52 at Indiana 17: I know Coach Hoeppner means well, but here's the thing: you can't make your team better simply by wanting it to happen. Writing "1-0 Big Ten" on a hat is nice, but it doesn't give you a better chance to win. Instead of "Defend the Rock," maybe IU's motto should be "One Step at a Time." Indiana is a bad, bad team this year. There's no other way to put it.

Purdue 21 at Notre Dame 35: I've got Purdue's defense in our Big Ten fantasy league this year. There were other defenses on the board at that point. I think I should have taken one. Selwyn Lymon had a huge game (7 for 229, 2 TD), so I guess I should have held onto him ... it's really the first game he's done well, though, and I think this was because the Irish collapsed on Bryant. Purdue really didn't stop either the run or the pass once again, so I really can't see them making much noise in the Big Ten this season, except that there are so many other bad teams in the conference, Purdue really could make it to a bowl.

Northwestern 7 at Penn State 33: Pat Fitzgerald will do all right with these guys, but he just needs a few more weapons. They were able to hang with Penn State for about a half, but that was it. Was Happy Valley really nervous about Morelli? He's played fine every time I've seen him (I did not watch the Notre Dame debacle, though).

Alabama 13 at Florida 28: I tuned in just in time to watch Alabama throw the game away. It was just like my NCAA 07 season - coincidentally, as the coach of Florida. My offense sucks, but if I just hang in there long enough, we force a couple of turnovers, get a couple of easy TDs, and rack up another win. Anyway, I guess Urban Meyer isn't a complete moron, huh?

Kansas 32 at Nebraska 39, ot: Interesting side note: this series is the longest continuous series in I-A. I didn't watch long enough to find out how it compared to other series overall.

I was going to write that some things don't change, but I'd forgotten that Kansas beat Nebraska last season, and guess what? They almost did it again. Nebraska dominated the game early, but apparently after I switched over to Michigan-Minnesota, Kansas came storming back, only to fall short in overtime.

Hmm. I guess Bill Callahan isn't an idiot either. Makes you wonder how many schools are struggling because they have no patience.

Michigan 28 at Minnesota 14: Someone please tell Mike Patrick that Minnesota's primary color is maroon. It's not red. It's not dark red. It doesn't even look red. I can't believe he's made that mistake more than once. Where's the producer?

Michigan looked pretty good, not great, but then again, they led pretty much the whole game in a place where it's hard to win, they had a big lead late, and they killed the clock when they needed to. The Wolverines may have avoided the post-big-game hangover they've had in the past. We'll see ...

Anyway, I guess Lloyd Carr isn't an idiot. Unless he loses to Michigan State, in which case, yeah, that's probably not a good thing

NFL recap, September 24

Yeah, I'm falling behind on these. Maybe it's because the Lions suck. Yeah, the Football Outsiders don't quite agree, saying they're the best 0-3 team in the NFL, but I remain unconvinced.

Random thoughts about commercials before we get to the games:
  • The Diet Pepsi commericals weren't funny last season either.
  • I don't think most people take "24-7" to mean "on the NFL network," but hey, good luck with that campaign.
  • If you still eat at Taco Bell, and you're not a) strapped for cash or b) really drunk, I feel sorry for you.
  • Message to Citibank: charging something to someone else's credit card is fraud, which is covered by pretty much every credit card company. Identity theft is opening a new account in someone else's name using information you stole from them. Not that it matters: your card is as bad as your commercials.


Green Bay 31 at Detroit 24: One of the reasons FO likes the Lions is that interception returns are basically random, so the TD hurt the Lions much more on the scoreboard than in DVOA. If you could take that mistake away, the Lions would have had a shot to win this game. However, you can't do that. It seems as though the Lions are going to have another one of those years where people say "They could have been 8-8 if such-and-such."

On a side note, I think we're all aware that this could be Brett Favre's last year, and with that in mind, can we maybe not go to a shot of him after every single play? I know he's still on the field. In fact, when the other team has the ball, I suspect he hasn't moved much from where he was in the last shot.

Or maybe that's it. Dish Network is rolling out the Favre Channel, which will be on 24-7. They'll simply run Packers games.

To be fair, sometimes it's not just Favre. Producers have this fascination with a quarterback's eyes - there are way too many shots of a QB looking left and right that suddenly cut to the middle of a play. Yes, we know the QB looks at the defense prior to the snap.

Other games:
— Was that a J.P. Losman sighting? Does this mean Lee Evans will finally post the type of numbers that people predicting for him when he came out of Wisconsin?
— Maybe the Colts still can't stop the run, but it wouldn't surprise me if they eventually become the oddity, the team that wins a Super Bowl despite having weak rushing defense. Of course, they'll have to be able to throw the ball in the playoffs ...
— I told you so. Any team with Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington as QBs is not going to have to work about January flight plans.
— Things are starting to clear up for the Bears: Grossman might be the QB they've needed, Jones is probably the guy they want at RB, and if Berrian can be the complement to Muhammad at WR, Chicago might have an offense to help out their defense for the first time in a while.
— I wonder what Joey Porter had to say about Sunday's game?
— Tim Keown, a Page 2 columnist whom I enjoy reading, had something to say about coaches who keep long hours. Not what I was hoping to read – I've never considered long hours to equal better work, and if a certain jut-jawed coach isn't a good enough example of balancing home life and coaching, I don't know what else you need – but close enough. Hey, Chucky, the other way to raise the results-to-hours ratio is to get better results. Maybe you should work on that. Or maybe this is the Gruden that Raiders fans were hoping to lose ...
— No, the Texans wouldn't be much better with Reggie Bush. They'd be better if they'd been able to trade for multiple picks, but there weren't any takers. Houston needs help at a lot of positions, not just RB (and you can't count Davis; at the time, no one knew he'd be out for the year). Keep the Texans in mind when you listen to people talk about expanding further.
— Steve McNair isn't playing badly enough to cost the Ravens any games ... yet.
— Kurt Warner is playing badly enough to cost the Cardinals games. However, I doubt Leinart is going to make a difference at this point in the season, especially with the way that Dennis Green (mis)handles QBs. I don't see why he doesn't just swap QBs after each play.
— This just in: San Francisco doesn't suck (note to Texans: copy the 49ers' rebuilding plan) and Philadelphia might be really good. Maybe that McNabb guy is all right after all.
— Note to Mike Holmgren: NFL games are still 60 minutes.
— If you think Jake Plummer is the right guy to lead the Broncos, well, I'm not saying there's a better QB available right now, but I'll check back with you in January to see how you feel about him.
— The irony is that the last time the NFL saw offenses that were geared for Michael Vick's talents, not only would they not have let him play QB, they probably wouldn't have let him play, period.

Oh yeah, one more thing. When did ESPN start listing elapsed time of a score, rather than time remaining? How stupid is that? Do they realize the official time is the time remaining?

Friday, September 29, 2006

ESPN jumps the shark

(sorry, registration required)

Surprise, surprise. Sports fans apparently aren't willing to pay out the ... um ... wallet to get content that they could already get through their current vendor. Raise your hand if you want real-time access to scores. Next, put your hands down if you have Web access on your phones. Who's left? Not enough people to sustain the operation.

Apparently the people who like watching video content on their phones aren't sports fans either. I don't see the allure in watching highlights on my phone. If I want highlights, I'll watch them on TV, and not on ESPN360, Mobile ESPN, or whatever failed venture they'll try next.

ESPN is like every other market dominator. Once they achieved the position they sought, they wept, because there was nothing left for them to conquer, so instead of ruling their lands, they set off to conquer other worlds. Hey guys, why not work on improving your existing content? You could start with your MNF team ...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

S-M-R-T

Tonight, during the Tigers-Blue Jays game, Placido Polanco laid down a squeeze with Craig Monroe at third. Monroe took off with the pitch, Polanco bunted to the pitcher, sacrifice, run scores.

There are two types of squeeze plays: a suicide squeeze, where the runner takes off with the pitch, and safety squeeze, where the runner takes off on contact. The former is "suicide" because if the batter doesn't make contact, you're dead. The latter is a safety squeeze because you stay on the bag if the batter misses.

So the announcers are talking about how Leyland called for the safety squeeze one pitch after Toronto tried a pitchout. Um ... that's not a safety squeeze. Note that part about "with the pitch."

They come back from the break and are now discussing how it was a suicide squeeze (although Monroe did break a little late, it was way before Polanco made contact). My guess is that the little voice in their ears mentioned that it was not a safety squeeze.

All I have to say is HA!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Play of the what?

Ah yes, sponsored stupidity. I forgot. I'm watching Twins-Royals right now a) in the hopes that the Tigers can pick up a half game and b) because I have difficulty watching a well-produced football game, and ESPN, um, anyway ... it's the top of the eighth, and the Royals' announcers (not sure why, it's at Minnesota) just gave us the Ford Bold Moves Play of the Game.

This is stupid on a number of levels (for one, the way things have been going, the Bold Move should have been Kansas City demoting a player to AA), but the most obvious one is that it's the top of the eighth. In the only team sport not limited by time, you really shouldn't be awarding things before the game's over, whether or not you're afraid that people won't stay tuned after the game, especially not now. Let's face it: if you're watching a Royals game in the eighth, you'll probably be watching later too. Anyway, it's just stupid. If the Royals mount a late rally to win, the play of the game will be ... something completely unrelated.

Sponsors are idiots. It's not as bad as when it's a tie game, though. Those are the best, like during NCAA football when they announce the players of the game in a tie game in the fourth quarter, especially when it's clearly heading to overtime.

But that's all right. All these commercials help keep ticket prices down. What's that? They don't? Oh, well, at least they keep the price of Extra Innings down. What's that? ...

Celebration time

Fox sucks. They don't show it correctly (although they do show the magic number, which ESPN does not). Anyway, the champagne is flowing in Detroit, or to be more accurate, for Detroit, but in Kansas City. The team with the longest playoff drought in the AL loses to the team with the second-longest drought, putting them in (the Royals haven't made the playoffs since the '85 Series, the one with Don Denkinger; this is also why the teams in World Series, the cool game that kept your pitching and batting stats, had teams in red and blue uniforms).

Magic number: 6.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Idiot announcers

Bill Maas, for his comment about turnovers (that you remember the last one, but the others are equally important), is an idiot. He and his play-by-play guy were yapping over and over again about how a game can't end on a defensive penalty (St. Louis-Arizona), but I knew exactly what was happening. The punt returner called for a fair catch, and guess why? That's right. A free kick. So the TV idiots on the field had to get off the field, and the announcers were convinced that they'd make the punter kick again, not understanding that the penalty could simply be declined.

Fox apparently has no shortage of ignorant announcers. It was bad enough to get Ron Pitts again for the Detroit-Green Bay game. Dear Fox, here are some rule books, have your announcers study them.

So their next mistake was in insisting that the Cardinals had to be allowed their free kick, except that of course when the ref initially gave the option to St. Louis, he didn't tell them that if they declined the penalty, Arizona would get a free kick (granted, it would be about 75 yards, but you never know). So the refs explain it again, of course St. Louis accepts the penalty, kneels down on the untimed down, game over.

There are certainly some ex-players out there like Troy Aikman who actually understand the game. I don't see why the vast majority of the ones hired by Fox and CBS are idiots. And let's not even get into ESPN's crew ...

NCAA recap, September 23

Happy birthday, Peebs!

It was an interesting day in college football ...

Minnesota 21 at Purdue 27: For 30 minutes, it looked like Joe Tiller had stepped into the WABAC machine and pulled out a Purdue defense from the days when they actually had one. Fortunately, by the time they reverted to their current level of mediocrity, they had enough points to survive. The ESPN producer, in his finite wisdom, had Linda Cohn describing Purdue's start as their first 4-0 start since 2004. Um ...

Indiana State 14 at Northern Illinois 48: Didn't have to watch too much of this one. All you need to know is that a) that Wolfe kid is pretty good and b) Indiana State is a below-average I-AA team. So how did they get 35 on Purdue? Let's not think about that.

Rice 7 at Florida State 55: Caught just enough of this game to hear the announcers singing FSU's praises. The running game is fine, Weatherford is fine, blah blah blah. Uh, guys, it's Rice.

Connecticut 14 at Indiana 7: I'll never get those three hours of my life back. This was a bad game. Terry Hoeppner still has a lot of work to do in Bloomington. Over half their players are true freshmen or redshirt freshmen, so he's just starting to get his recruits into the system, but he's going to need a little bit more than talent. I'm not sure the wide-open offense he wants to run is going to work down there. Then again, it worked in West Lafayette ...

I heard the announcers mention that they're putting $55 million into the athletic complex down there, which is nice, but the crazy thing is that they're going to enclose one end of the stadium (to make a horseshoe). Why on earth would they do that? When was the last time tickets were hard to get in Bloomington? 1988? The only thing worse than playing in a half-full concrete sandbox is playing in a third-full concrete sandbox. Good luck with that. (Before you send the hate mail, my folks had season tickets to IU games for quite some time, so I've seen a lot of games there, and yes, it really does suck. At least the campus is nice, and the tailgating was good before they cracked down on it.)

Notre Dame 40 at Michigan State 37: Do you think Louisville is happy about John L. Smith leaving for the Michigan State job? I'd say so. Wow. What a choke job. I don't think there was a way to lose the game at the end that the Spartans didn't try. Naturally, all the Irish fans around here were delirious, at least the ones that were still out at 11:30 (any chance the NCAA would try cutting down on commercials instead of plays?).

You do have to give Notre Dame credit for sticking with their game plan and chipping away at the Michigan State lead, but I can't help but think that John L. saw the tapes of the Michigan game and thought "Hey, if we get a halftime lead, I'm going into a shell in the second half." That only works if you have a solid defense and a QB who doesn't make many mistakes.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

NFL recap, September 18

Hey, like I said, I had a bad weekend, and not just because a certain team that used to be called the Spartans played like, well, what John L. Smith's boys have resembled at times ...

So, games that I watched ... it was my first full week of Sunday Ticket at home (because I was on the road for week 1):

Detroit 7 at Chicago 34: Yeah, it was that bad. I switched over after the second quarter because I couldn't take it any more. It wasn't so much the Lions' inability to move the ball (at least Kitna is accurate - completing about 75% is pretty good) as it was their inability to stop the Bears. The three-yard TD drive didn't count against the defense, but the four drives from the Bears' side of the field did.

When the guy who is arguably your most talented player doesn't see anything wrong with celebrating a first down when the game is already out of reach, and later explains it by saying that the score doesn't matter to him, you've got problems. (Question: if it had been Mike Williams instead of Roy Williams, would he even have finished the game? Would he still be on the team?)

People are piling on Kevin Jones again for not getting 100 yards. Well, the two teams the Lions played had pretty good defenses, I think, and the Lions' O-line hasn't shown it can do the job consistently, so I don't see why you'd expect him to run the ball well.

Up next: Green Bay. Detroit's favored by somewhere in the neighborhood of a touchdown. What does that say about the most talented team of which Favre's been a part?

Houston 24 at Indianapolis 43: Yawn. The most important thing that happened here was that Vinatieri aggravated his groin and might or might not miss some time (he must have brought Bill Belichick's disdain for the injury report with him from New England). The Outsiders may just be right about Joseph Addai (and my fantasy teams hope so), because he certainly looked much better against the Texans than Dominic Rhodes did. Then again, it was the Texans.

News flash for commentators: you aren't always going to notice when a DL is having a great game, so please stop telling us how Houston needed to draft Reggie Bush. Houston didn't need a player, they needed a lot of players, but couldn't find anyone to take the #1 pick, and they would have looked really dumb if they'd have taken Bush and if Davis had stayed healthy. Teams don't generally run the mid-80s Cleveland offense these days, although you might wonder if maybe Atlanta is or could be doing it ...

Other notes from week 2:
— I don't think Michael Vick can play 16 games as an option QB without getting hurt, but we all agree that he can't be a conventional pocket passer, so what's the harm in trying?
— Hey, don't blame us, Cleveland. You wanted another team.
— So, Cleveland's not very good, and Green Bay's pass defense is very bad. Next week, we find out that apparently New Orleans was under water for a while, and lots of people stayed in the Superdome. I bet they skip the part about how large sections of the city will never be rebuilt partly because certain presidents are great at making promises and awful at coming through with the money to pay for them (end political rant).
— So, Daunte Culpepper makes bad decisions in the pocket. You don't say?
— Um, no, Minnesota's not that good, but they're in the NFC North, so they don't have to be. Split with the Bears and that might get them into the playoffs.
— Dear Philadelphia, games are still 60 minutes long.
— How about that Art Shell? Sure turned things around in Oakland. Okay, to be fair, he's made about as much difference as Rod Marinelli, but then again, Marinelli wasn't running around for 10 years claiming that no one would hire him. Art, I think I know why no one else would hire you, and why Al won't be asking you back for a third term, if he survives this one ...
— ... and to make matters worse, Mike Nolan isn't doing so badly with the guys on the other side of the bay.
— Wait, Arizona's not the team to beat in the West? All that talent isn't coming through for them yet? Raise your hand if you think Matt Leinart is the missing piece for this puzzle. Put your hand down, Matt.
— It's a little too early to be seeing Bad Jake, isn't it? The Broncos haven't even played Indianapolis ...
— It almost looked like Belichick packed it in at halftime, too. Good thing the Jets still aren't ready to contend in the East.
— Hey, Tennessee isn't very good this year. And I saw today that Chris Brown was injured. Oh hey, off in the distance, it's the sun, rising in the east.
— Washington-Dallas in football is almost like Yankees-Red Sox in baseball – except that Yankees-Red Sox really does go back for decades – in that if you're not a fan of either team, it doesn't take long to get really tired of having the games forced on you over and over and over again. At least in the NFL, you can root for a tie.
— I missed most of Pittsburgh-Jacksonville as I watched the Tigers beat the White Sox. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I didn't watch most of it. I don't feel like I missed anything.

Blacked out

The first time I tried to rant about this, I found out I was wrong, so I didn't post anything. At the time, the Tigers were playing the White Sox, and knowing Chicago owners' penchants for making money at the expense of their fans, when I tuned in to FSD and didn't see anything, and then tuned to the Extra Innings channel and didn't see anything, I suspected foul play. Turned out I simply hadn't added CSN Chicago to my list - eleven clicks later (I still have my outdated Pegasus system from the DirecTV-is-a-monopoly era), I was watching the game.

So last night, I get home, remember the game is on, and go through the same steps. FSD: nothing (which makes sense, because the game's in Chicago, so MLB stupidly blacks out the visitor's feed). ESPN: nothing (which also makes sense, because it's on CSNC).

CSNC: Cubs.

Uh-oh.

WGN: not baseball.

So here's the problem. I live about 150 miles as the satellite flies from Chicago. Apparently that's close enough to be in their local market, so CSNC is a "local" channel. The Sox are at home, so no ESPN or FSD feed. But the Cubs are on TV, so the Sox are probably on some local Chicago station I don't get. Result: no baseball.

Why is this? It's because all pro sports subscribe to the 1950's theory that the only thing stopping Jack and Jill Couchpotato from going to the game is the fact that it's on TV. Prevent them from seeing it, and tickets will be sold. Never mind that this is a "school night," that I'd have to leave work about 4, and that I wouldn't get home until 2 or 3 in the morning ... it must be blacked out.

Some day, one of the major leagues will figure out that all they're doing is decreasing their potential audience, and they'll change this insanely stupid policy. I'm not holding my breath, though. If anything, they'll just come up with another tier for their pay packages: for an extra $150 or $200, you can see every game, no matter what! Sign up now and save $5!

Stupid. In this day and age, I don't understand why you would try to stop people from following your team, especially not local viewers. Then again, this comes from the league that thought they owned the right to say "Brandon Inge, 3 for 4 with 2 HR, 4 RBI," so I really shouldn't be surprised at all.

At least the Tigers won. But I did want to hear Hawk get really quiet as the game drew to a close. I do have to give him credit, though. He's talked up the Tigers in every game that I've seen - it's not a case of sour grapes, and he does acknowledge that the Tigers are a legitimate team this year. Not everyone would do that.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NCAA recap, September 16

I know, days late, sorry. I thought I might have broken my legs this weekend, but thankfully, it was just a little inflammation. More training next time. As a bonus, I got some Favres (yes, I realize it's extremely hypocritical for me to make fun of him), but then again, it's probably not so much of a bonus. I would have taken one on Saturday if I'd had them, but now it's not so bad, and I can get back to the business at hand:

Cincinnat 7 at Ohio State 37: I was tired from the 5K walk Saturday morning, so I napped when I got home (before the pain got too bad) and missed the part where the Bearcats led. Ohio State basically controlled the game, a far cry from the 2002 game that Cincinnati should have won. This is how a top-10 team should play in a game against a non-top-10 team.

Michigan 47 at Notre Dame 21: Wow. This was all I could have expected and then some. This area is far from being neutral – it's heavily IU and only slightly Purdue, with just about as many Irish as Boilermaker fans – but not only did we see just one table of fans, they left at halftime, probably having their appetites spoiled. Surprisingly, Michigan leads the series 16-14-1 (yeah, they played twice in 68 years, babies on both sides). With 2003, this makes up for a lot of other games.

Oh yes, analysis. Michigan capitalized on Irish mistakes, that's for sure, but it's not the same as piling up the offense. You'll notice that Henne only threw for 220 yards (which was partly because Michigan quit trying at 34-7, yes they did), but still, the Wolverines' offense has yet to prove it can win a high-scoring game. Remember, the defense scored twice and also set up a one-yard FG drive in the third quarter.

Notre Dame may be all right, but if they can't beat an above-average Big Ten team at home, they really don't want to play in January.

Miami 7 at Louisville 31: Caught glimpses of this during the UM-ND game. I looked up when the score was 7-0 Miami and the 'Canes had just recovered a Louisville fumble (their only turnover of the game), and I said something to the effect that a blowout was coming. Yes it was, but not the way I thought it would go at that point.

Larry Coker's doing a terrible job, isn't he? Why, Miami might lose four games this year! Yeah, it's awfully tough when a once-dominant program falls into the ranks of the very good. Lloyd Carr was having the same problem until Saturday, when he suddenly became a genius. College alumni are worse than NFL owners: eventually they expect you to go 13 and minus 1, plus two bowl wins. Oh yes, and beat your rivals by 70.

Losing your starting quarterback is always tough, so it remains to be seen how Louisville will cope with the loss of Brohm. Middle Tennessee State and Cincinnati should be wins; Kansas State might be, but funny things can happen on the road. (I'm pretty sure Bill Snyder didn't schedule this game before he retired.) If it's longer than three weeks, the next game is Syracuse, but the one after that is the biggie, West Virginia, and if Brohm's out for that one, so will the Cardinals be.

BYU 23 at Boston College 30, 2 OT: Heck of a game, and heck of a finish. Nice catch on that interception. The Eagles need some help, though. Having an inconsistent kicker can be a real problem in college, especially when a blocked extra point can cost you three points (one you don't get, two they do). On the other hand, maybe simply missing them isn't that much of a problem ... both teams threw the ball a lot this game, and they combined for only seven points in four overtime possessions. I'll let you decide what that means.

I caught bits and pieces of other games, but not enough for me to make comments, other than that I think Terry Hoeppner has a lot of work to do, as does Pat Fitzgerald, and it wouldn't surprise me if Joe Tiller resigned at Purdue. This is easily his worst team to date, and if they struggle to win in a mediocre Big Ten, I can't see much keeping him around any longer. He's proven he could coach in the conference, has done more for the program than any other coach to date, and is rapidly exhausting the capital he's earned from that run of bowl appearances. I'm not sure this defense can stop Indiana, and he's lucky it won't face Ohio State.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The devil made me do it.

It wasn't my fault. Costco made me.

I've been holding off upgrading my TV for a long time, even though the first time I saw an HD display for a 360, I was impressed, and when my long-time sports bar upgraded to HD for football season, I was more than a little impressed. Basically, it was three things: cost, cost, and the knowledge that I'd have to upgrade my satellite system eventually, meaning more cost.

So Costco sends me an e-mail every now and then, trying to get me to buy things. This one was no exception. Blah blah special, blah blah special, $500 off an HD TV special, blah blah special ...

what?

$500 off?

Oh my.

So my credit card jumped out and bought one. I didn't do it. I had nothing to do with it.

Naturally, the TV arrived much later than the accompanying stand (which was just as well, it doesn't fit the stand very well, so I'll hang onto that until I get a TV that fits it better - yes, I have several TVs and will eventually upgrade them all, like the commercial where the guy has an HDTV in every room, including on the ceiling and in his drawers). It got here Thursday. I was clever enough to be home to sign for it because I'd had a package that they wouldn't leave the week before, and they carefully noted the time they'd stopped by each day - three visits, all between 1:30 and 2:00. Sure enough, at 1:30, the doorbell rings, and the UPS guy is walking back to the truck, leaving the TV on the doorstep. (So you left this, but didn't leave the other package, much less valuable? No big deal, just odd ...)

I hooked it up last night. The difference, even at 480i, was amazing. Set to 1080i, it was stunning. The graphics in PGR3 were awesome (too bad they detract from the gameplay), and I can read the cards so much better in Texas Hold 'Em. Even the standard satellite signal is clearer (and the TV is bigger, of course), so I can see it from the kitchen. Unfortunately, the slowest setting on my DVR looks like crap. I'll have to try the faster settings before I upgrade that ...

I'm almost afraid to play Oblivion in HD. I may not put it down, and that's coming from someone who's put 450-500 hours into the game, completed it once, and got all the achievements.

I may go back and redo some reviews to see if HD made any difference (Bankshot Billiards did look a bit better). It'd only be a point or two, and if so, I'll leave the original score ...

I like it. A large TV I can lift myself. I think the other two I have weigh close to what I weigh ... now I just need to work out the console arrangements. I may end up with everything except the 360 (and the Wii I preordered today) hooked up to the TV in the computer room.

Geek out.

XBLA review: Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting (2/10)

Let's say that you're a single guy looking for a date, and one of your female friends offers to set you up. She tells you that she knows two available women. One is smoking hot, intelligent, funny, and great company, but prefers more expensive restaurants. The other is plain-looking and not very bright, has no sense of humor, and isn't much fun to be around, but doesn't mind eating at Arby's. It doesn't matter to her which one you date. (No, really. I know, in real life, this would be a trick question, but pretend she means it.)

Why on earth would you date the second woman?

Yet that's what Microsoft hopes you'll do with Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting. No, I'm not using the apostrophe.

If you have any interest in fighting games (I don't have much of one, I prefer a good button-masher like Super Smash Bros. Melee, but enjoyed the original Soul Calibur as well), and you have a 360, you'll have DOA 4, right? So what would make you want to play a game with bad graphics, bad controls (the analog stick isn't an 8-way joystick, folks), few unlockables, and AI like the final boss in DOA 4 during every battle? Nothing at all, right? Oh yeah, it's cheaper, and in this case, you sure get what you pay for.

Yeah, I guess it has online play (it better - 5 of the 12 achievements are for online play), but why in the world would you bother with that when DOA 4 also has online play? Heck, SF 2: HF doesn't even have an arcade-score leaderboard, just the live leaderboards.

If you always wanted to relive the '80s fighting games you played, and you don't have a Genesis on which you could play them, I guess you could buy this, but don't. Let me take the hit for you.

zlionsfan's rating: 2 unblockable AI attacks out of 10.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

360 review: Project Gotham Racing 3 (6/10)

I wanted to really like this game. I did. But it turns out that PGR3 is like the woman you dated who had a really hot sister: everything was fine as long as the sister wasn't around, but when she was, you just couldn't help looking, and when you looked back at your girlfriend, all you could see was what she wasn't. It wasn't that she wasn't hot in her own right; she just wasn't that hot.

PGR's sister is Gran Turismo. On its own, PGR 3 is a solid game - online racing, single-player mode, "creating" tracks, badges, medals, kudos, achievements. But when you start comparing them, you start noticing all the things that PGR doesn't have.

Replay value, for one. The difficulty for each medal is roughly geared to the car you're driving, so you can't go get that gold medal simply by driving a faster car, as you might in GT3. And if you don't complete an event, you don't keep your kudos, so you can't try over and over again just to move up in rank.

Vision, for another. Especially in HD, where Bill Gates must have personally overseen the lighting. "Make sure they know we can show light and dark," he said, and so the nighttime races look like you're running at midnight on a cloudy night. Yeah, it looks cool, unless you're trying to play, in which case you're all over the track because you can't see it.

Of course, it would be easier if they had a course map for you, which they don't. All they have is a little inset map showing the region of the track you're on, and even in HD, the detail is lacking, so you can't tell the difference between a slight bend, a chicane, and some other feature they forgot to detail.

Not only do they not have a course map, they don't show you by how much you trail the car in front of you, except at checkpoints, so there's no way to tell if you have any chance of catching him. Not that it would matter, because he'd just spin you out. You can't spin him out, though. AI-controlled cars almost never spin out. It's magic.

And the things like time and speed challenges? Say you're doing a speed challenge where platinum is 120 mph, gold is 110, and silver is 105. If you try it at silver, and you reach 121, all you get is silver. You can only win the medal you've selected.

It does have one thing in common with GT3, though. It's nearly impossible to tell if you already own a car, just in case you were thinking about trying to buy all the cars in the game. Seriously, would it have been that hard to have some little icon in the list indicating that you've already got one?

And yes, it does have Ferraris and Lamborghinis, so it has something that GT3 doesn't (or was it Ferraris and Porsches?).

This is the best racing game I've played on the 360, for what it's worth (Burnout Revenge is a better game, but a worse racing game. You'll see what I mean when I review it), but it's no GT3. That's okay, though. Unplug your PS2, set it behind you, and enjoy PGR3 for a while. It's fun, worth a GameFly rental, but buy at your own risk.

zlionsfan's rating: 6 Ferraris out of 10.

XBLA review: Scramble (2/10)

Hey, Digital Eclipse guys. You do a great job porting arcade games to the 360 - it's almost like playing the old games themselves. Just one comment:

The games you're porting pretty much sucked.

This week's game is Scramble, an old side-scroller where you moved your ship on the left half of the screen, firing with one button and dropping bombs with the other. You can play it in all its glory on the 360, either with the authentic graphics and sound or with updated graphics and sound. Yep, that's right.

Did they change the controls, the ones that wore out your fingers (because it didn't auto-fire)? No. In fact, they're even worse on the 360 controller, because the buttons aren't close together, and for some reason, on an eight-button controller (L3 and R3 don't count), they wouldn't let you reconfigure the controls.

Did they add additional game-play modes? No.

Did they even bother to persist the high scores table? No.

So this is what you get. I don't know what the Live co-op mode is, and frankly, I don't care. Scramble wasn't that good when it came out in the '80s, and it didn't age well.

If you are a classic gamer, and for some reason you're a big fan, and no one else you know has this game, then I guess you can get it. Otherwise, stay away. Stay far away.

zlionsfan's rating for classic gamers: 2 poorly-configured buttons out of 10.

Monday, September 11, 2006

NFL recap, September 11

First of all, great idea. Too bad they're only doing it this week. A doubleheader every night, one Eastern or Central game and one Mountain or Pacific game. Why?

— 8:30 Eastern is too late to start a game;
— 5:30 Pacific is too early to start a game;
— Two games are better than one;
— We get to see more football without Joe Theismann and with Bonnie Bernstein.

On to the games ...

Minnesota 19 at Washington 16: Yes, it's week 1, and there's no telling how little this means, but if the NFC East is the strongest division in football, that doesn't say much for the rest of the league. The Eagles started off slowly against the expansion Texans (oh, right, this is their fifth season), the Cowboys played poorly against Jacksonville, the Giants made about 20 stupid plays against the Colts, and now Washington makes Brad Johnson look better than he did in his first career start against the Phil-Pitt Steagles. (No, he's actually 37, unless you're reading this more than a day after the fact, in which case he's 38.)

I-wouldn't-have-believed-it-if-I-didn't-hear-it moment of the week: Joe Theismann correcting Tony Kornheiser, and properly. After a 15-yard face mask penalty on Sean (Personal Foul) Taylor, Kornheiser made some comment about Taylor's reputation preceding him, as if it might have caused the official to make that call, and Theismann basically said no, he got flagged for tackling someone by the head, which is exactly what he did (one hand grabbing onto the end of the face mask at eye level). I'd be interested to see if the incidence of personal foul penalties is greater among Miami players than among the NFL as a whole. (That reminds me: props to Jeremy Shockey for introducing himself as Jeremy Shockey, Miami University. Of course, that's the one in Ohio, not the one in Florida, but still, it's much better than hearing yet another player talk about "The U." I figured it was because they couldn't remember all those syllables.)

San Diego at Oakland, late: Marlon McCree should have been ejected immediately after his hit on Courtney Anderson. I simply do not understand why it is that so many people associated with rulesmaking and officiating watch cheap shot after cheap shot go unpunished or lightly punished and then wonder why it is that the average ex-NFL player has a much shorter lifespan than the average person. Never mind the effects on the player's career, the team, and the game: I'm talking about the player's health. One of these days, some jackass like that is going to knock a guy into paralysis or death, posturing over him like several players do, and then, and only then, will the NFL and NFLPA do something to stop this behavior.

Dear Oakland, you wanted Aaron Brooks, you got him. Sincerely, New Orleans.

Yeah, Art Shell sure put a stop to costly penalties. Well, to his credit, there were only 4 Raider penalties by the 10-minute mark in the fourth, but one of them nullified a missed Kaeding field goal, with the Chargers eventually getting three points. Then again, the Oakland offense was lousy, so giving San Diego three extra points didn't really matter.

I thought Detroit was going to struggle again this season, but after watching Green Bay and Oakland play, I'll say right now there's no way the Lions will be drafting in the top 5 next season.

One more thing: I do like cheerleaders (I was going to link to the Raiderettes, but Oakland's website is stupid and doesn't provide a direct link), and I couldn't understand why the Lions didn't have any. At first I thought it was because Mr. Ford was too cheap to pay them, but after watching a couple of making-the-squad shows on NFL Network (thank you, NFL Network) and wiping the drool from my chin, I realized that not even Ford would be that cheap - you could probably pay the entire squad with one of Charles Rogers' game checks, and it would have been a much better investment.

However, after watching more than one instance of a director cutting a woman from the squad because her 10% body fat included about 12 ounces around her waist, I thought that maybe they were going a little too far with this appearance thing. I mean, let them eat an actual meal every now and then.

Eventually, though, my Y chromosome won out. Hire cheerleaders, Mr. Ford! Seriously! It might be the second-best move the Lions would make all season ...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

NFL recap, September 10

Ah yes, glorious football. The first Sunday of the NFL season has come and gone. Here are my thoughts on the games on which I focused:

Seattle 9 at Detroit 6: Well, it was much better than I thought it would be. The Lions pretty much shut down the passing game (I'll be looking at the game more closely in the next couple of days), blocking one kick and deflected another, and kept Shaun Alexander in check. However, their punt and kickoff coverage teams played poorly, and Hanson missed a 52-yarder that played into Marinelli's decision to punt late in the game (although why they didn't go for it ... never mind, I know why, they couldn't move the ball). Kevin Jones looked good on some plays and had nowhere to go (as usual) on others. The offense looked basically the same as last year - this team has a lot of work to do.

Special teams may be a concern again. Aside from the blocked kicks, whether Hanson's kick was tipped or not, if he can't hit from 50+, and if he continues to struggle from 40-49, then the Lions will be in big trouble. If you can't kick indoors ...

Chicago 26 at Green Bay 0: See, here's the thing. Favre just doesn't get it. He's like an aging pitcher whose claim to fame was his fastball, no longer able to sneak it by hitters and either unwilling or unable to adjust his game. So he keeps throwing off his back foot into triple coverage, hoping to pull something out, instead of dumping the ball short and keeping the drive going. Another bad throw, another interception, another shot of Favre walking off the field. Let's not sell Chicago's effort short – they did a great job containing the 51 players not named Green or Driver – but keep in mind that when Number 4 finally hangs up his cleats, we'll want to stop remembering his career a couple of years ago or so.

Indianapolis 26 at NY Giants 21: (Totally unlike NCAA football, huh? All road winners.) Speaking of past his prime ... Madden is done. He's into Harry Caray territory, except he doesn't have a hidden fridge of Old Style on which he can blame his senility. (They sell anything other than Old Style at Wrigley? I don't believe it.) All he's got left are his reflections on football in the '80s and the rare insight into something on the field. Michaels is starting to miss a step as well (Hey Al, this rule, running 10 seconds off the clock, I think it's been around for a while), but that could be just from, well, not quite osmosis, but whatever the corolllary would be when you are discussing loss rather than gain. Anyway, one thing I think they missed was on Eli's last interception, where I'm pretty sure he got hit as he threw it. They just figured he was throwing up another jump ball ...

Anyway, thankfully we will not have to hear about MANNING VS. MANNING for a while now (last I checked, they weren't playing against each other, not unless Eli was trading jerseys with R.W. McQuarters). My prediction is already coming true: anything wrong with the Colts' running game will be blamed on Edge's departure. You see, he'd have run for 150 tonight. By the time the season's over, pundits will be suggesting that he'd have broken Dickerson's record, despite the fact that he might not even get 1000 yards in Arizona. And John, running backs aren't the same as QBs. You may not have realized this, but a number of teams these days rotate RBs in and out, and it doesn't seem to bother them very much ... hmm, if I could only think of an example ... hmm ... a team who split RB duties and had success doing it ...

Other thoughts from the week:
— Seeing it right after it happened, I thought Geathers did as much as he could to avoid hitting Green in the head, and I thought it was more shoulder-to-helmet than helmet-to-helmet, and Green could have tried to slide instead of getting those extra yards ... anyway, unless the NFL wants to change how its helmets are made, helmet-to-helmet hits will continue to be a serious problem for the players. One suggestion would be to fine the networks $100,000 (or more) every time they show a hit like that in a positive light. ESPN would be broke by now.
— I'm sure we'll soon be reading about how Drew Bledsoe lost the game for the Cowboys by not throwing enough to a certain a-hole receiver.
— I thought Arizona would destroy San Francisco, leading some to believe that Dennis Green had worked his magic, only to discover by season's end that no, their OL still sucks, and the Cardinals are still a mediocre team. Well, they didn't destroy the Niners. Draw your own conclusions.
— The Patriots almost lost at home to the Bills. Nope, nothing to worry about in Foxboro. They're still on course for the Super Bowl, in which they'll play ...
— ... the Panthers, who won't be in any trouble at all if Steve Smith is out of the lineup.
— Before you anoint Reggie Bush as the best running back in NFL history, let's remember how the Browns have done against the run in recent years.
— Pittsburgh-Miami on Thursday night was like opening a new Hooters and having the male owner waiting tables.
— Jake Plummer having a bad game? You don't say!
— No, Donté Stallworth isn't a completely different player now. They played the Texans.
— We're sorry, the Tampa Bay Bandwagon is no longer in service. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

NCAA recap, September 9

More college football ...

Central Michigan 17 at Michigan 41: I'll tell you what. Michigan may not be able to take very much away from this game, but their opponents sure will. Rollout punting may become very popular in the Midwest this year. When your net punting average is over 40 against Michigan, with Steve Breaston returning kicks, you're doing it right.

Ohio 35 at Northern Illinois 23: Great quote from this game. The guys mention that the Cubs are playing later today, one says that they're a game out of the wild card, right? The other says they're a game out of 15th. Then he says they'll win the division next year. The first guy asks him to confirm that, and the second guy says "We all have the same bosses, I've probably said too much anyway."

Frank Solich, Joe Novak. Lots of running. This Garrett Wolfe guy, he's pretty good. Another star RB at Northern Illinois. Who would have guessed? Ohio did a good job of passing out of the 'bone, though. I think some people still underestimate the quality of football played in the MAC. It won't happen much longer.

Western Illinois 10 at Wisconsin 34: No surprises here, as Wisconsin makes a stop on the I-AA Express. One thing I noticed is that the backups didn't execute particularly well for Wisconsin. I'd write it off as inexperienced coaching, but we'll have to see. Twelve men in the huddle, penalties, poor decisions on kickoff returns ...

Ohio State 24 at Texas 7: Looks like Mack Brown decided to go back to not winning big games, now that he's got his ring ... Just joking! Kind of. Yes, a couple of key plays helped keep Texas from staying in this game, but that's part of being a great team, making plays at crucial times. Ohio State did and Texas didn't. Well, there's also this thing about an untested QB vs. a senior QB ... although I thought it was interesting that most current Buckeyes have plenty of room on their helmets. Seems like in the old days, there were more than a few players who had to use the other side ...

With this game, plus the Penn State and Michigan results, and Drew Tate out for Iowa this week, I think Ohio State is separating themselves from the pack. That's no guarantee they'll walk into a BCS bowl, but the odds sure look good right now.

Howard 7 at Hampton 46: I tried to watch the second half of this game, I really did, but the announcers on ESPNU were awful. It was like they just miked a couple of guys in a bar who were watching it on TV. They didn't know the difference between illegal substitution (12 men in the huddle, for example: 5 yards) and illegal participation (12 men on the field, 15 yards) ... there were other things ... it was bad. It's too bad. As I like to mention, I-AA football is solid too, and I'd like to see just how good Hampton is going to be this season (with the blocked XP costing them against Grambling last week).

Friday, September 08, 2006

NCAA/NFL recap, September 7

Yeah, I saw parts of Pittsburgh-Miami also (no, NFL - no way would Wannstedt schedule the Hurricanes now), but you can find that on your own.

Oregon State vs. Boise State. The best in the WAC against, um, a team in the Pac-10. This is what I saw:


  • Oregon State fake punt from their own 25, gaining about 25. TD drive.
  • Oregon State punt return TD (well, I didn't see it, but it still happened).
  • Boise State domination the rest of the game.


So, beware special teams play. Sometimes it makes you forget why you had to rely on it in the first place. Also, memo to Oregon State: it's legal to tackle the ballcarrier. Go ahead, you can do it.

The Johnson kid was pretty strong and fast. If the Beavers hope to contend in the Pac-10 this year, they'll have to work on their defense a little. Their back, Bernard, reminded me a little of Ken Simonton, but it might just have been the hair. Then again, Simonton's last NFL mention was the following: "Detroit Lions sign RB Jamel White, waive RB Ken Simonton", so maybe Bernard should take advantage of his college years while they last.

Dolphins-Steelers? Well, I suspect that DVOA will show that the Steelers won in spite of Charlie Batch rather than because of him. NBC's production was terrible. Hopefully they'll have NFL-caliber people in place for Sunday's game. Note to NBC: quarterback rating is not a percentage.

I did discover that my dislike of the Steelers exceeds my apathy toward the Dolphins, so like all good fantasy owners, I rooted for Willie Parker and the Dolphins defense. The only good sequence was when Parker took the ball to the one, came out of the game (boo) only to see Batch cough it up on the five (yay).

NCAA recap, September 4

Gaaah. There was only one game on Monday night (sorry for the delay), and no way was it worth it. In fact, ESPN's vaunted FULL CIRCLE coverage probably just made things worse. If you haven't checked it out, and you don't have a widescreen TV, don't bother. The ESPN2 coverage, with the side windows, is a nice idea, except that it takes a reasonable TV and makes it small. It's almost like a game mix that you can't control.

What I got from this game was that a) frequently at this point in the season, defense trumps offense, and b) Bobby Bowden isn't dead yet. Clearly, he'll be coaching in Tallahassee until he dies (perhaps a year or two after that), so it's important to point this out.

And it's an ACC game to boot. Yay.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

No juice, I've had my Phil

Good to know I'm not the only purist out there. Dan Wetzel has an article on Yahoo! about Ryan Howard's remarkable season and what might happen if he hits a few more home runs.

I don't know if he goes to the extremes that I do, muting the TV every time ESPN breathlessly announces another Barry Bonds, well, anything, but I am glad I'm not the only one who considers the current single-season home run record to be 61. (Strangely enough, I thought Luis Gonzalez had hit 60 once. He didn't, but he definitely had Brady Anderson disease. Make of that what you will.)

It's also true that we don't know what, if anything, Howard's taking. I'm willing to believe he's clean for now. Besides, both Floyd Landis and Marion Jones were doing everything but rolling in it while they were trying to convince us they were clean. Howard's worst offense at the moment is playing baseball, and we can hardly fault him for the fact that Bud wouldn't notice a cheater if he shook hands with one.

Then again, personally, if Bud's actually going to fix something in baseball before he goes back to ruining the Brewers, I'd rather have him open the door of the owners' club and throw David Glass and Jeffrey Loria out on their respective ears.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

360 review: NCAA Football 07 (3/10)

NCAA Football 07 is like the really hot, totally insane woman you dated in college. She always looks great, and the first couple of "dates" always turn out well, but then you start noticing the little things. Actually, it seems like she's always doing little things that annoy you. Eventually, you can't even focus on the hotness any more, because you simply can't deal with the insanity.

The worst part about it is that some of the problems have been around for years and years. EA's shown no real desire to fix recurring problems in Madden, and it looks like NCAA is getting the same treatment.

Running the triple option to the left with the fullback hitting the hole to the right of the center? Don't bother to hand off to the fullback. The QB runs a speed option instead.

Hoping that EA figured out how to make the players solid (so they don't pass through each other), but real (so you don't get "stuck" behind your blockers)? Sorry, not yet.

Wishing that taking control of a kick returner didn't sometimes make him forget where the ball was? Sorry.

The worst part about it for me is that Varsity is too easy – I won the NC with Purdue rather easily (although I was #3 in both polls, ha ha) – but All-American is hard enough that all of the problems come through.

Those little stat popups that used to be somewhat translucent? Totally opaque now, which is a problem when you're trying to figure out whom you're supposed to cover (of course, if it's the HB, he's simply going to go out into the flat where you can't see him), or if there isn't much time left on the 25-second clock.

Don't like the camera angle? Too bad. It's all you get.

Want to sub in players? Good luck. It's not nearly as intuitive as it used to be.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Wait, there was one other thing. I won the NC game 24-7. The one touchdown I gave up? We had a receiver bracketed, and the QB overthrew the ball, right toward the safety, who was waiting to knock it away on the goal line. I saw something funny live, though, and ran the replay. Sure enough, when the ball is just about to fly past the receiver, it makes a hard left turn (no objects in the area to deflect it), directly into the receiver's hands.

I want to like this game. I do. But there's just so many things about it that are done poorly that I just can't live with it. (I-AA directions? Still? Come on, there aren't that many schools you haven't included. At least give us the names.)

If you absolutely have to get a college game, rent this one from GameFly. I wish I had.

zlionsfan's rating: 3 false starts out of 10.

XBLA review: Astropop (4/10)

Astropop is a decent game, kind of a combination of Klax and Tetris. Match four or more bricks of the same color, taking advantage of bonus blocks, eliminating dangerous blocks, and using your super weapon every now and then.

That's about it. It's really an '80s-type game, down to the each-level-is-faster-and-harder philosophy. There isn't really much there to draw you in. Either you like that type of game, or it's just a decent game. Most achievements require either a lot of game play or quite a bit of skill, so after a while, most people will end up putting this game on the shelf.

If you're big into puzzle games, then you might take a look at this, but aside from that, I'd wait and play it at someone else's house.

zlionsfan's rating: 4 bricks out of 10.

NCAA recap, September 3

More NCAA football today - I like the delay of the NFL season now. You get a weekend full of college football.

Memphis 25 at Mississippi 28: If the name Benjarvus Green-Ellis rings a bell in these parts, it should. He transferred to Mississippi from Indiana, and he had an immediate impact today. I don't know what it was, but I sure don't remember him running like that in Bloomington. Memphis is going to have trouble in C-USA if they can't stop the run.

I noticed that Memphis had some hot women on the sidelines. Just a coincidence? I'm glad to see that the unreasonable opposition to women is fading, but usually you see them as trainers and such. One of these women was a coach's assistant - holding the cord, I guess, and things like that.

Kentucky 28 at Louisville 59: Not really much of a surprise here, except that Kentucky scored on two long pass plays and a kickoff return, which means Louisville has a bit of work to do ... also, I wonder if Louisville really needs to be piling it on in a rivalry game. That sort of thing doesn't go unnoticed.

Rich Brooks will be all right. He just needs another year or two to get Kentucky up a couple of notches. Kind of tough to do in the SEC, too.

NCAA recap, September 2

Here are the games I watched today (parts of all of them, don't think I saw one all the way through):

Vanderbilt 7 at Michigan 27: Looks like the same-old, same-old for the Wolverines. Too many mistakes that allowed the Commodores to hang around much longer than they should have. Good depth at RB, though. Look for Carr to rotate his backs the first few weeks.

Grambling State 26 at Hampton 27, OT: Never count your extra points before they're kicked. By the way, I-AA games can be just as good as I-A games, plus you get to watch playoffs at the end of the season.

Akron 16 at Penn State 34: Not much to see here. No jitters for the new QB for the Lions. Considering that it rained throughout the game thanks to Ernesto, he did a solid job against a decent MAC team.

California 18 at Tennessee 35: Someone might want to tell the Bears that the season's begun. They walked into Neyland Stadium and got whacked. Meachem's got some good speed for the Vols. It'll be interesting to see how much they improve from 2005. I don't think Cal is really this bad, but it does make you wonder if they'll be able to contend in the Pac-10.

BYU 13 at Arizona 16: Not a really well-played game by either side. Arizona is bailed out at the end by a couple of huge breaks. Memo to Steptoe: next time you're in that situation, run upfield. Tough loss for the Cougars, though. Even though Arizona's had some rough years recently, Tucson is still a tough place to play.

(edit) I forgot one thing. There were several hot, scantily-clad women at the Arizona game. I love warm weather.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

XBLA review: Smash TV (5/10)

Smash TV is another Digital Eclipse port of a classic arcade game. It's a top-down shooter similar to Robotron, using the analog sticks to move and fire. The game itself is designed along the lines of The Running Man (no, not the movie - the story was mangled pretty heavily for that), where you're in a game show where the idea is kill or be killed.

There really isn't much to say about this one. It's true to the original, or at least to the other ports I've played. Some achievements are purely skill-related, which is nice to see but means I probably won't get them (I'm not very good at this game), and there are only a couple that involve Live play, both for co-op mode.

If you're into classic games, I'd recommend picking this up. It's not spectacular, but it fits the bill. If you aren't, you'll probably want to look for other games. There isn't much to recommend this to a new gamer.

zlionsfan's rating for classic gamers: 5 TVs out of 10.

Trouble ahead, trouble behind

The idea behind scheduling a I-AA team is to get your team an easy early-season victory (because the NCAA lets you count one win vs. I-AA competition per season toward bowl eligibility. If they let you count four, most I-A teams would have an all-I-AA non-conference schedule (except for conferences with fewer than nine teams).

Of course, that doesn't always happen. But usually, what the I-A team gets is little better than an intrasquad scrimmage.

I like to think of it on the same level as exhibition games in the NFL. I don't pay much attention when people do well, but I do take notice when people play poorly. If that's something to follow, then Purdue is in trouble this season.

35 points allowed. Two miscues on the punting team (on consecutive attempts) – a blocked punt and a mishandled snap – and a missed extra point. Just over 50% passing by the starting QB.

The good news is that Purdue will face two MAC teams at home before their schedule picks up a bit. The bad news is that Purdue is only 8-2 against the MAC under Tiller.

Hello? Is this the Alamo Bowl? Do you think you could squeeze us in again? You know we travel well ... hold on, I've got El Paso on the other line.

Bonus!

I figured the Twins would have some trouble with the Yankees. I forgot that Jose Contreras is a batting-practice pitcher these days. 5.5 games up. Huge inning for Zumaya today, getting Guerrero to end the inning, and then having the Tigers go off in the next half-inning. Somewhere, Sparky was quoted as saying that you should plan to take about a week to make up one game in the standings at this point in the season. If that's the case, well ... anyway, the focus should be on the Angels right now. Win two more, and the magic number drops to 21 minus help from the Royals and/or the Yankees as appropriate.

If they're not careful, I might even forget about the Lions' opener ...

Serendipity

So I'm plodding around under the castle somewhere on the final quest for the Thieves' Guild, and I happen to see this chest. I open it, and I see a couple of decent items, a little nicer than usual. What's odd is that the cursor is on an item in the middle of the list instead of the topmost item. I scroll up. There are several nice items, including a Ring of Perfection. +10 for all attributes.

Wow. I just soiled myself.

This is important because I'm trying to get the final achievement for Oblivion, so I'm focusing on that quest line. I hit a couple of the others, Assassins' Guild mostly, just to get the weapons, and I did close a couple of Oblivion Gates to get the right type of stone for my sword.

Back to the dungeon. Apologies to those of you who don't have a 360. If you do, obviously you've got Oblivion. If not, I don't know you.

Friday, September 01, 2006

It's baaaack!

Yes indeed, it's September, which means college football is here! For those of you who passed on the Temple-Buffalo game, shame on you. I'm sure it will be an Instant Classic. Hey look, it's Turner Gill!

Note to I-A coaches: there is some serious football being played in the MAC these days. If you didn't get the memo, here's a copy for you, and here's another one in case you missed that one.

Sadly, it also means that the dregs of football announcers and studio hosts have surfaced. Mike Hall is probably a nice guy, but I think even ESPNU is a little too much for him ... and honestly, if I'm going to watch someone who isn't good at a job, it could at least be someone who's female and hot ... well, okay, really honestly, there are women out there who are a) knowledgeable about football and b) camera-ready, and those would be my ideal sideline reporters.

XBLA review: Bankshot Billiards 2 (3/10)

Yeah, I bought it. It was early, there weren't a lot of titles available, so I thought I'd see what it had. Besides, it did boast an impressive array of features: 8-ball, 9-ball, cutthroat, continuous, and various other modes ...

Ah, those were the days, before I knew what I was getting into. Bankshot Billiards 2 is, well ... if you have to have pool for the 360, I guess it'll do, but really, you could do so much better. Heck, I think Virtual Pool 2 for the PC was probably better.

First of all, this is one of those HD-specific games. If you have a standard TV, good luck (I do, by the way). You won't be able to identify the balls easily unless you have a huge TV or are very close to it. The worst part is when you're playing cutthroat or 8-ball and have to pick your balls - the dialog box pops up squarely in the middle of the table, so you can't really see where the balls are, and even if you could, you wouldn't be able to identify them (although it does highlight balls in the group you select).

Depending on the level of aiming help you get, the game is insanely difficult, very difficult, or somewhat difficult. Your best bet is a shot where the target ball is close to a pocket, but not very close: too far away and you can't tell where it'll go, too close and the helpful aiming arrow is invisible.

The AI is, well ... it seems to hit every shot that involves banking the cue ball before hitting the target ball, but misses too many straight shots.

Some of the achievements are reasonable, but others are nearly impossible. Win 5 straight games without losing a turn? Huh? Winning 50 games without losing a turn is worth as much as playing 200 games total? Whatever. It wouldn't be so bad if you could actually find a place that showed how many games you'd sharked, but no, you won't find that anywhere.

The other modes are pretty disappointing. Time trial tables in under a minute? Wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't run 10 seconds off the clock while the cue ball slowly runs down the channel to the, well, wherever it goes once it's in a pocket. Complete 50 trick shots? For 15 gamerscore? Yeah, right after I play 100 levels of Gauntlet.

9-ball isn't bad, but aside from that, I'd pass on this game (there's something wrong with European 8-ball, but I can't remember what). Maybe it's better with a high-def TV.

zlionsfan's rating for normal TVs: 3 scratches out of 10.
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