Saturday, February 25, 2012

Celebrating Birthday Solstice with a Trip to Five Below (Pics included)

Your first question might be, what the hell is a birthday solstice, before you get to the eventual question of why we would celebrate this (or any other) occasion with a trip to Five Below.

First things first, when my wife and I were dating, one thing we noticed (when we weren't being awkward or relating charming anecdotes) was that both our birthdays fell on the 25th of our respective birth months. Since the math of number of months was easy, we also quickly figured out the the midpoints between our two birthdays.

Since my wife was born in June, and I was born in October, it meant that to us, the 25th of August and February were the closest and farthest points of the calendar year from both of our birthdays (And yes, the math on the days might not work exactly given months have 30 or 31 days, and god help us during a leap year, but we kept it simple).

So, we created the 'Birthday Solstice', as a day of the solstice is "either the "longest day of the year" or the "shortest day of the year" for any place on Earth, because the length of time between sunrise and sunset on that day is the yearly maximum or minimum for that place"

Thanks it's a fun word to say, and thus two holidays were born.

So what does one do on a Birthday Solstice? Well, that brings us back to our second question.

When we established the Birthday Solstice, my wife and I decided the occasion would be one marked with small and relatively insignificant gifts. Not insignificant from an emotional perspective, purely from a monetary one. By that, I mean, extremely cheap gifts.

Typically we have a price limit of $5 per gift.

Thus, what better place to go then Five Below! To help those unfamiliar, this is a description from the store's Wikipedia page:

"Five Below (rendered fiVe BELoW) is a privately held chain of discount stores found in a number of states. The store, as the name suggests, sells products that cost no more than $5.00. The chain is aimed at teenagers and pre-teens, but has many products for adults"

So, my wife and I went on what I'd term a cultural safari (one of my favorite hobbies, other recent safaris include our trip to the Texas State Fair and the Chicago Auto Show).

Below is a set of some of the most compelling things I saw...

Behold the bargains!!!

The store itself is broken down into a bunch of different sections, and the wife and I did a lap of the store before going our separate ways. We agreed on a $10 limit (in part because there were too many things to consider). They had tons of sections including clothing, athletic equipment, home decor, school supplies, candy, books, games...I could go on. It was a tad overwhelming. But we would not be deterred in our quest for the perfect solstice gifts.

This was the first serious contender I saw. Sure there were tons of those As Seen on TV gadgets, but this was a container that allowed you to transport both milk and cereal independently. You could bring them everywhere without allowing them to intermingle and ruin each other. Strom Thurmond would be proud of the advancement in segregation technology.

This was way better than some of the other items, like the giant cupcake maker. And my wife does like cereal, so maybe she would eat it at work?

Seemed a bit of a stretch, so I pressed on.

But as I moved on, I started to get more into stuff for kids. What struck me, walking through the random crap, was how little I understand about today's young people.

Like these guys, found them in the poster rack along with dozens of other faces I had never seen before.

Who the hell put a couple ten year olds on a poster? What the heck is Mindless Behavior? Was it just someone's idea to get four mini Kanye Wests? Are they the sons of Boyz II Men? Didn't these poster racks used to have Bob Marley and weed jokes everywhere? What happened to those (as they would've made great gifts for the wife)?

Then there's this guy. He's a Gorilla...and apparently he sings.

I don't think I'm comfortable in a society that personifies animals to the point where not only are they singing, but 'pop groovin'. The packaging also implies that when you buy it you get an exclusive online gift for your active Webkinz World account. I'm just assuming that refers to an online community crawling with child predators.

But clearly all these toys weren't going to cut it for the wife, so I started going through the games section. A travel scrabble game, or something like that, could be a decent choice.

Of course, this was what I found instead...

After my seizure subsided, I kept looking, but wow the colors were just so out of control. I also debated buying that Spy Kit for myself. I'm sure I could've used those Spy sunglasses.

There were tons of games to choose from, including some versions of stuff everyone knows (e.g., Sorry) and then some other, um, different titles.

There were TONS of these games everywhere. For some reason, parents didn't seem to want to buy their kids board games based on the concept of teaching them manners. I thought we eliminated manners with the transition to text-based communication?

Of course with that said, I am kind of intrigued to play the 'Learning to Listen Pizza Palace' game.

So there were some stupid games, but they seemed relatively harmless...until I found a complete abomination!

Recognize this?!?

It's some kind of new version of Guess Who from the Island of Dr. Moreau. A Guess Who that involves combining different qualities from animals or monsters or something to create a face. I, for one, am outraged.

That's not the REAL Guess Who!

The REAL Guess Who had human faces! Like THESE!

And we played that game and it taught us lessons that made my brothers and I into successful men! Like never have a mustache! Or any kind of elaborate hat! And for god's sake don't ever pick a woman!

That game taught us so much, and now they've bastardized it. So sad.

Once I calmed myself down, I kept going to see what else was around. Only to see more potential risks for the future.

There's a long list of things you can do as a potential parent that should put you on some kind of Child Services Watchlist.

- Letting your kid play with matches
- Deciding to Home School them
- Buying them boxing gloves when they're f*cking 4!

I kept walking around but had to pick up speed with what to buy my wife (I agree at this point it really doesn't seem like I'd find anything)

I love it. High concept enough to only need one word. SWORDS!

I know exactly what that game is, although maybe it should've been called, F*cking SWORDS!

Maybe then it wouldn't be on the $5 rack. I'm sure Sean Connery would pick up a copy were he to shop at Five Below.

Then there's this. Not just a movie, but an entire TV SERIES for $5. Meanwhile just one season of Game of Thrones is $30. For that price you could own six of these! Poor Christian Slater.

Now let's side aside what the heck was so great about Prison Tycoon 1 and Prison Tycoon 2. This is a computer game?!?

What could this game possibly be?!? Are you in charge of successfully monitoring the drug trade? Making sure the white supremacists and the muslim brotherhood don't start a riot? Lobby the government for mandatory minimum sentences to keep profits high?

How is this a game? And how much shower rape do we think there is?

These were interesting choices, but nothing that blew me away. I also walked through the candy section...

OK, I think we're officially DONE with the brand extensions here guys. At this point we're jamming coconut into M&Ms? I bet the Mounds guys must be like, 'What the hell?!?'

Maybe 5% of people like coconut, it just seems like a blatant grab for some niche market.

OK, no THIS seems like a blatant grab for a niche market.

Fiesta starbust? I can't wait for the African-American Starburst.

But wait, maybe not all of the ideas were crazy...

Huzzah! Finally a Starburst that takes all the non-reds the hell out of the equation. Starburst is (are?) a premium candy, a classic. But there was always pulling them out of the tube to get a whole bunch of yellow, which might as well have been a slap to the face.

After what must've been years of struggle, someone finally convinced them that red is where the action is. I definitely should've bought these.

But I wasn't there for candy, I was there for presents. And I finally found some stuff that would be perfect for my wife.

(no pictures, sorry) I got her a pair of pajama shorts (note: not to be confused with pajama jeans, which they did not carry). I also got her a new water bottle, because her old one is gross, and a book of logic puzzles (so she doesn't need my iPad on future plane rides).

She also found some stuff for me...

I subtle hint to work on my core I guess.

But she also got me a book on football and this magnet.

All in all, not a bad way to celebrate a birthday solstice.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reuters changes editorial policy...a harbinger of things to come

I've blogged at length on how the journalism industry is being forced to change, as facts become more ubiquitous and more easily distributed.

In short, the reporting of facts has very little value, as 1) it becomes more easily distributed, and 2) it becomes more automated. In the next few years we'll reach the point where companies like NarrativeScience create software that can digest a whole bunch of facts and spit out an objective story to recap it for anyone interested. OK, so maybe they've already figured that out, but it will take a while for them and others like them to take over the whole segment.

Anyway, for journalism to continue to be relevant, one of the points I've consistently made was that writers will need to go deeper. Not just long form pieces like traditional features in magazines (though this is also an option), but also more investigative efforts. When easily distributed facts have their distribution automated, you've got to be able to find new facts no one knows.

So it was heartening to see a major news organization like Reuters announce, in an internal meeting, that there will be a renewed focus on investigative journalism.

Reuters is adopting a new editorial approach aimed at winning Pulitzer Prizes: long, in-depth, investigative special reports from all bureaux. In the longer term the organisation will have fewer journalists; they will be better paid. There will be strict attention to performance and greater staff turnover; foreign postings will be longer than the usual three years; international assignment packages will be eliminated.

This was the essence of a briefing for European chief correspondents given at a recent meeting in London called by editor-in-chief Stephen Adler, his deputy Paul Ingrassia and Stuart Karle, chief operating officer for Reuters news agency, according to various accounts of the session by people present.

Under the new dispensation correspondents will have to set themselves a minimum target for long-form investigative takeouts and keep to it.

During a recent visit to European bureaux Ingrassia contrasted what he termed “adrenaline journalism” – the traditional wire service story flow – with “aspiration journalism” – the new investigative writing at length that is now being pushed for editorial operations.

Now, this might be put forth under the guise of trying to win more Pulitzers, and maybe it's not a guise at all. But whether on purpose or not, Reuters is doing something that will force its writers to develop the skills they'll need to keep their jobs.

For those that can build investigative chops, they'll still have work to do. The rest however, will face the same circumstances as elevator operators and bank tellers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Comcast Streampix vs. Netflix vs. ???

There were a couple of interesting developments for those of us in the 'how can we stream everything to all our things?' set of consumers.

Comcast, the frequently lamented cable powerhouse, revealed a new online streaming service to leverage some of the assets it picked up in its acquisition of NBC.

The offering, which includes access to past seasons of TV shows such as 30 Rock, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost and The Office as well as movies like Brokeback Mountain, Ocean’s Eleven and The Big Lebowski, will cost $4.99 per month when bundled with other Comcast video packages. It will also be included for free with many Xfinity “triple-play packages.”

Of course, anyone currently subscribing to Comcast might look at this and wonder, 'I'm expected to pay MORE money to these guys?!?'

That would include yours truly. Comcast is the only company who manages to charge me a different and increasing amount every month in maddeningly inconsistent ways. It's at the point where my wife and I always fight over whose turn it is to call and complain (because they seem to acknowledge their lack of transparency and discount appropriately with enough subtle threats against the health of their CSRs)

But still, let's put that aside and consider the new service with an open mind...

Content: Appears to be NBC shows, and those from other networks. 30 Rock and The Office included. I have to imagine this includes the whole back catalog and new episodes (thinking HBOGo but for NBC, right?). It'll also have movies, but the press release leads with Ocean's Eleven and the Big this may be some more long tail stuff. Bottom line, forget the movies, if it has a good set of television shows, that may be a solid proposition, especially if they can keep it off other services

Access: The article indicates we'll be able to get Streampix (which honestly sounds more like an porn website than a mainstream content offering, but let's set aside that for a minute) on multiple devices. You can get it on the iPad and the internet, which is a good start. They also report they'll expand availability to things like Xbox, which could be nice, but honestly all this stuff will also be available on Comcast Video on Demand. This wouldn't be a big deal except you need to subscribe to Comcast cable to even get this service, so I can't see anyone who would want to use an alternative TV hookup like a Roku or Xbox, unless they just detest Comcast's Video on Demand interface (which I'd agree with).

Price: $5/month, which certainly is at a good point relative to Netflix and other offerings. But really, since it's only available to Comcast subscribers, I'm still trying to reconcile who will want to bump up their bill a little more just to get 30 Rock on their iPad. Maybe traveling professionals like me, but we'll see how many more people like that are out there.

The other more interesting development comes out of the Netflix camp, which must've felt a little slighted at Comcast's attention for Streampix.

Netflix is discussing a partnership with former HBO Films president Colin Callender to produce original content, including mini-series and movies, for the online video service, according to three people with knowledge of the talks who are not authorized to speak about them publicly.

Netflix has already publicly identified HBO as their true competition, and this makes the comparison all the more apt. Netflix has continued to push the development of original content for their platform, including their new series about a hitman in Norway, Lilyhammer.

Hiring a former head of HBO, it's hard not to envision the company trying to recreate an HBO environment that created award winning programming and built it into the first premium channel to really move onto customers' 'must-have' lists.

Heck, for me, Netflix has already picked up the new episodes of Arrested Development, so they've already shoved me across the 'must-have' threshold.

If they can actually pick up some more valuable content, or manage to develop anything worth seeing on their own, people will start to have to have it (Imagine if it followed AMC's path and had Mad Men/Breaking Bad/Walking Dead. That's absolutely worth $7/month)

Meanwhile, HBO does have a killer streaming service.

HBO Go is fantastic, to anyone who hasn't been able to use it. The interface isn't terrible, and it has a complete library of tons of shows. I used it last week to re-watch some old Season 3 Wire episodes while my wife simultaneously DVR'd Grey's Anatomy and something else that was obviously better than Grey's Anatomy.

Now, HBO remains hesitant to go full-bore after the streaming market, and it's no question why. One hint, the streaming market's still very very tiny relative to the regular cable market. There are far more regular subscribers than streamers, and given Netflix's price point, it's hard to imagine HBO being able to charge it's current cable price ($17/month at Comcast) for a standalone streaming service.

But if Netflix, Redbox/Verizon, and any others gain ground with the development of original content, they'll quickly force customers to choose a couple streaming channels vs. a couple premium cable channels (or a sports package, or expanded basic).

If they can build good content, then the economics for HBO offering a standalone streaming service (and others like Showtime) will start to change quickly.

It looks like HBO won't be caught with it's pants down. So they're already one up on Blockbuster, the last company Netflix efficiently destroyed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Integrating Twitter with TV to Prevent Time Shifting

I don't watch a ton of TV live anymore, not since I got my first Tivo a long time ago. My last post on a particularly annoying commercial gives you at least one clue as to why. Sure, I don't love watching commercials, but I've also found that I'm putting greater value on my own personal time.

So much stuff competes with television, that giving it 30 minutes to watch a show that should only take 22 seems ridiculous.

Many others are coming to the same conclusion and time-shifting their programs. However, when anyone writes about the trend, they always bring up the rare exceptions that have proven largely immune to the bewitching and seductive ways of the digital video recorder.

Live sports and live events.

These programs, which would include the recent Super Bowl and the recent Grammy telecast, are events that people feel the need to watch as they happen.

Why? Because everyone spends the time during and immediately after the event talking about it, and who wants to miss out/have the surprise ruined?

So people try to watch the event live. And when I'm one of those people, one of the things I'm most interested in isn't just what's happening on the screen, but also the reactions of people I know.

Enter the second screen.

A quick aside...we're very quickly entering the world where most TV viewers will have a second screen for their attention in addition to the television. What would have been an insane concept in the 60's is quickly becoming more common as smartphones and tablets penetrate US households.

For me, it started in college when you finally got a fast internet connection in the same room as your TV. It helped that your room was a 12x12 cube of concrete, and that's where I learned the value of watching TV while wasting time on AIM (you may have to look up AIM, it's what people did before Facebook and GChat)

Since then, I've almost always had a second screen accompanying me when I sit down to watch television. I'm usually looking up random stuff on the internet, reading random articles, marveling at the virulently racist comments on, or something else...but I digress.

Developing a compelling value proposition for the second screen is the best way TV content creators and distributors can win back time from their viewership. When I'm watching TV today (DVR or no) my second screen has created a disconnected feeling, putting a barrier between me and whatever I'm watching. Science tells us that successfully multi-tasking is a myth, and that you can't be as effective doing two things at once as you would doing each individually. Well that's absolutely true, having sat on enough conference calls while doing something else to confirm it.

And all the money the TV industry could reap with a more engaged audience will continue to flutter out the window like so many Angry Birds.

So to me, the two screens need to become integrated. A system like that would make me more engaged in what I'm watching and make it harder for me to stop.

So what would this integrated experience be like? To me it seems pretty simple, you have to integrate Twitter.

But what I don't mean is the way Twitter is integrated with TV today. A couple events and channels try to work it in by selecting a couple famous people and streaming the occasional tweet across the bottom of the screen.

The people behind this have obviously never used Twitter in any significant way.

Scrolling tweets along the bottom of the screen the way networks currently do it has a couple of issues.

- Quality: These networks have created a fixed pool to source their tweets from. For the NHL network it's current players and coaches, for E! it's a gaggle of Kardashians or vampire tweens or whomever. Unfortunately, these people just aren't that interesting. No one with a vested interest in the outcome of the program or the success of the network is going to say anything provoking. And most celebrities, aside from comedians, don't have anything funny to say either. So what you're left with is a bunch of athletes saying things like 'Great Win today boys!' and celebrities saying 'OMG that performance was so amazing!'

That's not going to buy you another second of incremental viewership. But to me, there's another issue...

- Speed: Scrolling tweets along the bottom of the screen is far too slow. Very early 1990's SportsCenter. When I've seen tweets that way, it usually takes a good 3-5 seconds to get the whole message on the screen. By then, I'm already bored. This society has wired us all up to be ADHD nutjobs when getting information, so why are you slowing things down? Open up the firehose! And put it in a vertical bar on the side of the screen. Ditch the scrolling for the way Twitter looks on our phones, tablets, computers, and everything else (not sure there is anything else, but you get what I'm saying)

Now I'm not saying we should have a stream of tweets flying by on the side of the screen like a slot machine that can't stop spinning. But I think the screen should be opened up to the broader Twitter community (properly curated of course, by people who actually know what's interesting commentary or a funny joke).

We've moved past the point of being purely interested in consuming the content. Now we want to consume the content and immediately consume the reaction to that content!

If you had a fully integrated Twitter stream on my main television screen, you know what I'd do? I'd watch the program and then look for reactions in the same place! Then maybe I'd try to come up with something clever on my second screen to try and get it on the air, but I'd quickly come back to see if it made it or what I may have missed!

You could add location-based filtering (NFL watching fans in Philadelphia get Eagles themed tweets), you could have promoted tweets included, and it would keep me and people like me with their eyeballs fixed to the TV.

And this doesn't apply to just major events. There are whole communities built around just about every TV show out there (even you NCIS: LA!). These people would want to do the same thing during their respective episodes! I love Mad Men and the Walking Dead (although WD is starting to worry me), and I would love to have my viewing experience augmented with live commentary from other fans (again, curated by people who know that 'DAMN THEY F*CKED UP DAT ZOMBIES!!!1!!' doesn't quite meet the bar)

AMC and Bravo already have whole shows around this concept. Talking Dead airs right after the Walking Dead, and Bravo has the whole Andy Cohen live show that my wife puts on when I'm trying to go to sleep.

These shows are already there to support these communities, whether it be for zombie brain eating or plastic housewives. Creating some form of Twitter integration during the actual show will get people to watch it when it airs, and allow for incremental revenue from just a tiny bit of marketing in the stream.

Not sure why this shouldn't happen. And sure, maybe this whole argument is just a plea to get some hilarious commentary on TV in time for next year's Grammy's when Nicki Minaj does a live crucifixion, but at least I'm asking well in advance.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Absurd AT&T LTE Commercials

It's been a while since I brought up a commercial I hated, and with the major commercial holiday having just come and gone, it seemed long overdue.

I don't want to talk about any of the Super Bowl commercials...because I don't want to talk about the Super Bowl at all (in case you weren't watching, some team from New York did something, but I'm vague on all the details)

Instead, I'll offer up this.

AT&T has had a series of these LTE commercials. The message seems to be, if you get a new phone on this network, you too can turn into a pompous know-it-all and rub everyone else's face in the fact that they didn't get information as fast as you.

Are we supposed to look at these guys as aspirational figures? If anything, they make me want to chuck my smart phone out the window. And I'm a smart phone addict who cares about network speed!!!

Let's leave aside the fact that AT&T has been reminding me every month that I'm dangerously close to being throttled down because I'm using too much data. So their encouragement to get a phone and use it like crazy to be in the know as quickly as possible strikes me as a little absurd.

And it's not just one, they've got a bunch of these things. Each one with it's own set of jerks who must've alienated all their friends and co-workers with their know-it-all-ness. That must be why they're always sitting by themselves, snarkily dismissing innocent questions from all their co-workers and friends. Of course they're by themselves! How could anyone be friends with them?!?

Of course, I'll never have to worry about running into people like that. After all, I work in the Downtown Chicago, where AT&T's sh*tty network means all of our smart phones never work in the office during business hours.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl Dilemma: Who to Hate More

In a choice between two forces of evil, how do you make a distinction? When forced to decide, in a situation where either choice dooms you, how is it even possible to come to a conclusion that won't leave you miserable?

It's a situation I've been wrestling with for the last two weeks. Even since Bill Cundiff pushed a field goal wide to the right against the New England Patriots, and ever since the San Francisco 49ers fumbled two separate punt returns to hand the NFC Championship to the New York Football Giants.

Two enjoyable football games to the average NFL fan, but two games that doomed me to an impossible choice. Who to root for on Super Bowl Sunday? (Still not sure if I can legally use the term Super Bowl, but I think it falls within the Fair Use doctrine)

Football games can't end in a tie (at least in the playoffs), so barring a meteor or blimp attack, either the Giants or the Patriots will win on Sunday. Either way, it's a disaster for someone like me, a passionate Eagles fan who's also earned a reputation as an avowed Patriots-hater.

I've been on the fence for literally two weeks. What can you do when faced with this choice? Who should I be rooting for?

I've gone through the list in my head, the pros and cons for each team, and it still seems fairly even. Some might wonder, why do you hate the Giants and Patriots so much? Let me tell you why...

Reasons to Hate the Patriots

1. They defeated the Eagles in the 2004 Super Bowl - Somewhat obvious. Granted, the Eagles really didn't do themselves any favors, but the Patriots beat them in Jacksonville in what will likely go down as Andy Reid's best shot to win a championship (and Donovan McNabb's only shot). What still gets me is the memory of the Patriots players mocking the Eagles by flapping their wings. Probably more directed at Terrell Owens, but still something that smacked of poor sportsmanship to me...along those lines...

2. They're total a**holes about it, winning - The Patriots seem to relish the opportunity to bully other teams and run up scores like a 10 year old Madden player. They haven't been doing this as much recently, but over the years this is a team that would keep passing when up 30 points, running fake punts, drop kicks, and other absurdities, essentially just being a team of a**holes. Often times is seems like the first act of a sports movie, when the evil (if it's a straight misfits storyline) and/or bigoted (if the misfits are black/latino/asian/gay/purple) team comes in and beats the crap out of the hero squad. That's what this team represents to me. To me, that's the Patriot, let's keep that going...

3. The Patriot Way - What the hell is this nonsense about? Did the Steelers of the 70's have 'The Steelers Way'? Did the Cowboys of the 90's have the 'Cowboy Way'? Maybe they did and I'm too young to know, but when did we all of a sudden decide the Patriots just do their thing and advance through football behind some righteous approach? Just googling it gave me a decent quote, "Just having mental toughness, everyone doing their job, and ignoring the noise," linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "It’s hammered in our head every day. If everyone does their job, we’ll be successful."

So the Patriot Way is doing your job. Fine, nothing wrong with that conceptually, but what's with the mystique the media lathers all over these clowns? Maybe it's more of an issue I have with sports media, but the Patriots aren't the ones dispelling it either (maybe so they can sell their Patriot Way books on Amazon...yeeesh)

4. Cheating - Don't forget, this team was BUSTED by the NFL for cheating! Somehow, all this gets lost in the shuffle of alternating brown-nosing between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. As far as I'm concerned, videotaping the other team's signals is the true Patriot Way, tying back in with their overall lack of sportsmanship and their true fate to be cast as a model for evil in the world of sports (note: evil in terms of team least these guys aren't out raping everyone. I realize there's a distinction)

5. The City of Boston's Happiness - I covered this years ago in an entry on Why Boston Fans Suck, but it's managed to get worse since then. The city has keeps winning titles across all sports. And with championship rings, comes unbelievable arrogance and puffed out chests, and no city seems to have warmed to the role of douchebag fans more easily than Boston. These guys couldn't win anything 15 years ago, now every kid can't remember the years were there wasn't a parade in Beantown. It just doesn't feel right...isn't this city still racist or something? Does Dunkin Donuts cause liver cancer? Can we get a child molestation scandal run out of Fenway Park (oh wait...that actually happened)

Of course, then there's the other side...

Reasons to Hate the Giants

1. New Yorkers are even more arrogant than Boston fans - During the Red Sox-Yankees games, you know what people outside of those two fan bases think? We think about how much we hate BOTH of you! If Boston has become the most arrogant fan base going right now, the New York is the standard by which all arrogant fan bases must be judged. Such smugness, a direct corollary to their belief that New York is the center of the universe. The idea of them winning a Super Bowl just makes my skin crawl, what with all their 'Go Giants' and their stupid accents.

I need a YouTube break just to make me feel better. Oh, here's one...

Ahhh...nothing beats it.

2. The 'Sliding Doors' theory - People don't even think about the fact that the Eagles very easily could have made the playoffs instead of the Giants. People are going to jump all over me here and talk about how the Giants 'Did What they Had to Do' or some other such nonsense to get where they are. Cram it. That's a bunch of horse hockey.

Fact: The Giants finished the season 9-7, the Eagles finished just behind at 8-8.

Fact: The Giants were OUTSCORED by their opponents in the regular season by 6 points. The Eagles outscored their opponents by 68 points.

Fact: The Eagles beat the Giants once this season, and in the other loss were forced to use Vince Young and Mike Kafka at quarterback

People can talk all they want about how the Giants 'Just know how to win when it counts', or how 'Tom Coughlin gets his team ready to play in big situations,' but realize that it's all nonsense. Lucky bounces determine a lot more about where teams finish than we'd like to admit, and in many alternate scenarios, the Eagles would be in the playoffs and the Giants would be at home. That's what makes this season so frustrating. If the Eagles had bothered to find a linebacker who could play NFL football, it might be some embittered Giants fan ranting about who he'd have to root for.

3. Tom Coughlin - We were so close to a world in which this guy was fired years ago. I don't even think Giants fans liked him. Every year with this guy it was 'when is he going to get canned'. Actually, this article lays it out quite well.

Now, people are saying he'll likely be a Hall of Fame coach if the Giants win tomorrow. Sorry for being an elitist, but if every year people debate whether you're performing at a level worth of just keeping your job, you probably shouldn't be going to the Hall of Fame. Doesn't everyone work with at least one person where you constantly wonder, 'How do they keep their job? They're terrible!' Now picture them going to a Hall of Fame for their work. There's a disconnect there.

4. A Giants win would convince some people Eli Manning is better than Peyton Manning - This gets my goat too. At this point in the blog so many of my goats have been gotten. I doubt I have any more goats. But when you live in a world of idiots, some people are going to look at the team-based game of football, and they're going to oversimplify and they're going to say, 'Hey, Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls, and Peyton's only won once, so Eli's better'

They'll link it to toughness or clutch or some kind of charisma, because objective performance criteria clearly won't explain the theory. They'll be morons, but we'll have to deal with them.


So after all that, what the hell can I do? The easiest way to settle the debate would be to sign up for an online sports betting site, flip a coin after establishing the Patriots as heads and the Giants as tails, and bet $100 on the result. That would at least give me a financial incentive and that would probably be enough. But let's pretend gambling is illegal (wait, it is?!?), what kind of outcome can I hope for?

Well, the way I see it, I absolutely can't stand the Giants winning. That would be too much New York arrogance overload. But I also can't stand the Patriots hype machine building Belichick and Brady to be two demi-gods who delivered us football glory with their presence.

So...I think I'm hoping for a big night for Zoltan.

Zoltan Mesko is the Patriots punter, and I hope he is the one shining light in what proves to be the most poorly played and poorly coached Super Bowl of all time!

I want to see missed receivers, dropped snaps, and tons of false start penalties!

I want to see a coach try to challenge something unchallengable!

I want to see someone pick up a fumble and return it to the WRONG end zone!

I want to see someone vomit, wet themselves, or maybe both!

And dozens, DOZENS of punts.

Zoltan Mesko for MVP!