Friday, January 20, 2012

Sports Ambassador Cheatsheet - *This* Close to Indy Edition

Remember last week when I promised to cut back on the Colts references? I lied - this weekend's storylines are so interwoven with the city of Indianapolis that it's unavoidable. Two of the four teams listed below will battle for Superbowl glory, so we're actually going to embrace the situation and make this an INDY themed cheatsheet. It's not even a stretch.

Why they want to win the Superbowl in Indianapolis: Revenge

It's March 29, 1984, a cold, snowy night. An old, cantankerous man is sneaking around the city of Baltimore, attempting to steal something he already owns. Something beloved by millions for generations, though that something is mediocre at best. That beloved something was the football team formerly known as the Baltimore Colts, and the relationship between the city and the team is difficult to explain, especially since I was two years old at the time. ESPN's 30for30 series did a phenomenal job of explaining it in a documentary called 'The Band that Wouldn't Die.' It made me feel really bad about myself as an Indianapolis fan... until I remembered that the Baltimore Ravens are actually the Cleveland Browns in purple clothing.

Baltimore fans are still rather bitter about the Colts leaving town. They relish beating the Colts and have probably enjoyed watching them implode this year (and continuing into the off-season). I can imagine they'd rather enjoy doing a victory dance in Indianapolis, like a bitter divorcee, flaunting success in the face of her ex with her much-younger boyfriend in tow. Meanwhile, the city of Cleveland weeps quietly in the corner, unnoticed by anyone. Again. Poor little guy.

Role in the narrative: Villain, even though I'm 100% in favor of their purple shoes.

Why they want to win the Superbowl in Indianapolis: Exorcism

Once the mighty juggernaut of the league, the Patriots ran afoul of some bad sports karma (which is real, and as soon as I finish my scholarly paper proving it, I'll publish it for your perusal).
  1. The Patriots coaching staff was accused of espionage, sneaking around and taping their opponents practices to gain the strategic advantage. The scandal was nicknamed 'spygate', and coach Bill Belichick (who is occasionally referred to as 'the hoodie') was fined, and the team lost a draft pick.
  2. In the quest for the first ever perfect nineteen win season, the Patriots seemed to take pleasure in not just beating their opponents, but in running up the score to prove their superiority and humiliate their opponents. SportsGuy (who is a Patriots fan) coined the phrase 'the Eff-You Touchdown' to describe this phenomenon. They won every game except the Superbowl (see: New York Giants, Helmet Catch).
  3. In a rather odd move for a Boston team to make, the Patriots traded one of their best players, future hall of fame hero kicker Adam Vinatieri to their arch rival, the Indianapolis Colts. Some Boston sports fans likened the trade to when Babe Ruth was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees (which led to the Curse of the Bambino and decades of strange disasters for the Red Sox until the curse was seemingly broken in 2004).

SportsGuy recounted all of the demons the Patriots have exorcised this season, while fielding a mediocre team by their standards: They beat the New York Jets twice (after the Jets embarrassed them in the playoffs last year); they face the Baltimore Ravens this weekend (who embarrassed them in the playoffs two years ago); to win the Superbowl in their arch rival's stadium and break the possible Vinatieri curse, Boston fans would take it as a clean slate.

There's only one problem - they were back to their old 'Eff You Touchdown' ways last week against the sainted Tim Tebow, and they even executed an 'Eff You' Punt.

Role in the narrative: Villain, no matter how dreamy Tom Brady may seem.

Why they want to win the Superbowl in Indianapolis: ELItism

The Giants won the Superbowl in 2007 (as a wildcard team) with what's become known as 'The Helmet Catch.' Then last weekend, Eli threw a second Helmet Catch against the Packers, just to prove that he could do it any time he wanted.

Once again, the Giants squeaked into the playoffs at literally the last second, weren't expected to really do anything, and now here they are again - one game away from another Superbowl. They just want to be loved. They just want to be taken seriously. They want you to believe that it's okay to be best friends with them again, there won't be any more calls at 2am asking you to bail them out of jail, they promise!

And they want you to believe that Eli Manning, the official little brother of the Indianapolis Colts, is every bit as good as his big brother. Peyton has been to two Superbowls (won one, lost one). If Eli makes his second and wins it, it will be hard to argue otherwise. If Eli makes it to the Superbowl and beats the despised Patriots again, he could probably run for Governor of Indiana and win for either party.

At the beginning of the season, a reporter asked Eli if he considered himself an elite quarterback, and he shocked the sports world by saying, "Yes." I'm not sure that anyone's shocked by anything Eli and the Giants do anymore, win lose or draw.

Role in the narrative: Adorkable Underdog

Why they want to win the Superbowl in Indianapolis: Redemption

The 49ers have a gilded history, including some of the most lauded names to ever play the game (Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, etc). I've likened their fall from grace to the crumbling of the Roman Empire, right down to their stadium's duct-taped electrical system.

But for the past few years, we knew they were lurking behind a long line of bad coaches and strange management decisions. The pieces were there, waiting for someone to put them together properly.

Last week, Alex Smith, considered a colossal failure for the past several years, did something he'd never done before - he acted like a clutch playoff quarterback and won a shootout against the NFL's biggest gunslingers, the Saints. He didn't panic, he kept his cool, even though nothing in his past made us expect him to. For some reason, I developed an irrational hatred of Alex Smith over the course of that game. Something in my brain told me, "NO! This isn't the way this is supposed to work! Go back to being terrible before my head explodes!"

Usually I'm a fan of the 'Disney' ending in sports narratives, and it really was a Disney-eque ending. Vernon Davis, who caught Alex's winning touchdown pass at the end of a back-and-forth game, even burst into tears and rushed to the sidelines to embrace his coach.

The 49ers playoff trip is a quest for redemption for a bunch of players who joined a team with a rich tradition and have since have been labelled as busts, disappointments, and underachievers. The man who figured out how to put the misfit pieces together is Jim Harbaugh, a former Colts quarterback who I'm sure would love nothing more than to go back to Indianapolis, a city that loved him very much, and get a second chance of his own at Superbowl glory. My love for Jim Harbaugh may outweigh my irrational hatred of Alex Smith, but I'm honestly not sure and I definitely can't explain it.

Role in the narrative: Unexpected Hero

In order of least to most interesting to me:
  • Ravens vs 49ers. The Ravens' coach is John Harbaugh; the 49ers coach is Jim Harbaugh. They are brothers. These two teams played once already this season on Thanksgiving day, and it wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be.
  • Ravens vs Giants. Anything involving the Giants this season has been kind of exciting. Anything involving the Ravens makes me zzzzzzz. I may hate the Ravens even more than I hate Alex Smith.
  • Patriots vs 49ers. This would be fun for the coaches, arguably two of the most entertaining characters in the game. Belichick would try something snide and passive aggressive, and then Harbaugh would punch him in the face. It would be awesome.
  • Patriots vs Giants. Most of the country is hoping for it - a rematch of the 2007 Superbowl, one of the most entertaining games ever. The Patriots are like a mafia family convinced the Giants stole something very personal from them. The Giants want to give the Patriots another wedgie on international television, just to prove they can.

Baltimore Ravens vs New England Patriots (3pm CBS)
New York Giants vs San Francisco 49ers (6:30pm FOX)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Study - The Girl of Fire and Thorns

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson was the probably most satisfying, well-rounded book I read in 2011. Why do I grade it so high? So subjective, but so important to try to explain what makes something feel complete.


I often liken the voice of a story to an actor in a play, and this book is an especially good example because of the many subtle ways Carson developed the first person narrator. Just as an actor doesn't typically open a play with a soliloquy about who she is and why she's here, Carson drops us in a scene already in progress and lets us figure it out on our own. The main character, Elisa, is a sixteen year old princess who has just been given away in marriage as part of a political alliance. This is not a particularly innovative story starter, but Carson builds Elisa in front of us, revealing one subtle layer at a time, alternating between the three relationships that most define her: family, food, and faith.

Example: First few pages, our introduction to Elisa
  • She has prayer candles and scriptures at the ready, her knees bruised from kneeling (faith)
  • Even though her wedding gown is so tight that it rips upon fastening, she's thinking about how hungry she is and then likens her appearance to a sausage in white silk casing (food)
  • Her maids, who act as substitute mothers, sooth her ego and wipe her tears; her sister scowls at her (family)
  • She notes how her sister nibbles at bread; her mouth waters as she requests two pastries of her own, despite just tearing her too-small wedding dress (food)
  • Her sister eyes her two pastries with distaste (family); she ignores her sister by shoving an entire pastry into her mouth (food)
  • She was chosen by God to complete an act of service and she's spent her entire life preparing for it (faith), but believes God should have chosen her sister instead (family)

Those three items build and layer upon each other throughout the entire book, all interwoven, sometimes all within a single sentence. You can't separate them, they are so connected, the basic elements of who she is. At first I thought the items regarding food were some sort of teenaged false-modesty mixed with insecurity - your traditional, 'don't look at me I'm a size six and hideous' sort of thing, but no - our little Elisa is legitimately fat (and see what author Rae Carson had to say about it here, as an interesting aside).

There are multiple scenes featuring feasts, especially in Part 1, and each one reveals more about what Carson describes as 'Elisa's unhealthy relationship with food.' You want to hold an intervention and say, STOP IT, you're just making things worse! The reader winces at her unattractive behavior, she's her own worst enemy, and I respect Carson for not being afraid to make her girl messy and imperfect. But as Elisa changes, her relationship with food changes. Her relationship with her (ever expanding) family changes. Most important of all, her relationship with her faith changes. In each case, they are in some ways improved, and in some ways not. It's these messy relationships and how they are resolved (not perfectly, but completely) that make this particularly satisfying throughout the entire process, not just at the end.


The story is linear (no skipping forward or backward in time), but it's structured like a three act play - Part 1, pitfalls and politics of royal life, Part 2, set amongst rebel bandits, and Part 3, the inevitable bloodshed and collision of the first two parts. But our narrator doesn't plateau in her development midway through the story, as we see so often.

It's not unusual at all to find a story about a 16 year old girl learning to believe in herself; there is a bit of that in this book, but the issue of faith goes much deeper. She's challenged to believe in something deeper than herself - since she was raised as a religious icon (chosen to dedicate her life to a mysterious act of service), her journey from palaces to deserts to battlefield challenges her to question everything she knows, down to the most basic, molecular level of her existence: Is there a God, does God choose champions, is she that champion, what does this mean? She might as well be writing a college philosophy essay on the burning question: 'Do I really exists?'

Elisa's journey is a series of blind leaps of faith, to see if her faith plays out or falls flat. In the end, it doesn't really have anything to do with her - her story is bigger and deeper than that.


The pieces of this story are cleverly assembled. Character, plot, and world building are all well balanced. Nothing is wasted, nothing is meaningless, and nothing feels like clip art inserted as a placeholder. This is not a story that inspires skimming; it's not something you wish to read quickly.

I've read a lot of books where I couldn't wait to get to the end, and in fact I sacrificed enjoying the middle so that I could get the satisfaction of the ending. But the ending wasn't what made this story satisfying, so there was no rush. There were so many subtle morsels along the way that it slowed me down, encouraged me to linger. That's what made it a rare treat - it wasn't about any one thing, it wasn't about just getting to the end.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

NFL Playoff Cheatsheet - Round Two

After all the Tebow-mania this week, you're either a little more sold on football, or you could not possibly be more OUT. Either way, it's cool - that's what the cheatsheets are for, so you can be socially aware without really caring. If you live anywhere near Chicago, you're in the midst enjoying your first WINTER STORM FREAKOUT of the season, so you might as well strap on your snuggie, pour a beverage, and ready yourself for two more days of playoff insanity.

Saturday January 14, 4:30pm FOX

Last week, choosing who to root for was easy because there were clear instances of good versus evil. Not this time. Now it gets a little complicated, like what-trumps-what in poker.

On one hand, you have the Saints - they stole the nickname 'America's Team' from the Cowboys after Hurricane Katrina displaced them for a season and they played every game on the road. They score a lot of points, they're good stewards of the game, they're fun to watch. If you're a neutral observer, you just feel good about yourself when you root for them.

On the other hand, you have the 49ers - once a Roman Empire-esque golden dynasty, but lately a crumbling ruin, as evidenced by their stadium having not one but TWO power-outages during a nationally televised game earlier this season, which had them threatening to move the remainder of the game to Oakland (yikes). They drafted quarterback Alex Smith with the number one pick in 2005, but he's been considered a colossal disappointment. It's actually something of a wonder that he's still on the team, or even in the league for that matter.

Watching the 49ers is like watching renaissance in motion - they've had good players for awhile, they just needed someone who knew how to use them. Enter Coach Jim Harbaugh, the Colts quarterback prior to Peyton Manning and one of the major reasons I'm a football fan. 'Captain Comeback' Harbaugh had one magical season in 1994 when he took the hapless, hopeless Indianapolis Colts to within a dropped Hail Mary of the Super Bowl.

Now, he's resurrecting Alex Smith's career and hoping for another shot at a championship (probably a lot like an over-enthusiastic dad living through his son). If it weren't for the whole Tebow thing, I'd be pointing to this as the Disney story of the season.

So this is my dilemma, friends - do I go with Harbaugh, childhood hero and architect of the 'when nobody believed in you, I believed in you' story arc? Or do I go with Drew Brees, my first love and brother Purdue Boilermaker, even though they just won a Superbowl a couple of years ago and have already had their rags to riches story fulfilled to the point that Mercedes now has their brand on the stadium, right about where they once had a hole in their roof?

[Note to any potential gambling degenerates who might read this blog: Over the course of this blogging effort, my auto-correct renamed them the New Orleans Stains... probably not a good sign.]

Saturday January 14, 8pm CBS

Oh THERE you are classic good vs evil match-up!

I don't care who you are or what rock you live under, you've been beaten over the head with Tim Tebow for at least a week, and there's probably not much new that I could tell you. I'll just leave you with this: The playoffs are a wacky time, and the weirdest of the wacky tends to happen during the Saturday night games.

Whenever I watch Tim Tebow in the 4th quarter, it's 1994 and I'm a euphoric twelve-year-old again, watching Captain Comeback and that crummy, overachieving Colts team defy the odds, consistently coming from behind to win. It's fun to watch as a neutral observer. It's out-of-your-mind magic when it's happening to your team. I couldn't be happier for the Denver fans - and it seems somehow appropriate that Harbaugh and Tebow are playing back-to-back.

That entire 1994 season, the 'experts' kept scoffing at Harbaugh, saying stuff like, "One of these days, that four-leaf clover's gonna fall out of his back pocket and order will be restored to the universe!" And it was true. The Colts had that one awesome season, and a couple of years later they were the worst team in the league (which is why they got Peyton Manning). But, they still got *this* close. And I wouldn't be surprised if history repeated itself. In fact, I'd be delighted if it did.

Sunday January 15, 1pm CBS

Congratulations to Houston on winning their first ever playoffs game. All together now: awwwwwww! And they did it with a rookie quarterback! Double awwwwwww, yay expansion team!

All things considered, this might be something of a good vs evil match-up as well. I could see equating the Ravens with the forces of darkness, generally speaking, but I honestly haven't paid much attention to them this year. As for the Texans, I say let them have their fun, enjoy their improbable playoff run with the skeleton crew they've got left. No matter what happens, they'll be able to say, "If we'd had our real players, WE COULD HAVE WON IT ALL!" And, who knows... they may be right.

But here's the thing - the Texans are in the Colts division, and I don't like the idea of them getting too cozy with that playoff spot. Take care of business, get it all out of your system, then back to your cupboard under the stairs. Love ya!

Sunday January 15, 4:30pm FOX

Remember what I said about the Giants last week, about how they were that friend who would either find $20 randomly on the street or end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and accidentally get arrested? Well, last weekend THEY FOUND $20! They scored every single point in the game, including the two point safety awarded to the Atlanta Falcons!

Gosh I love this game. Eli Manning, the Official Little Brother of the Indianapolis Colts, is an all-or-nothing player. When he's great, he's great. When he's lousy, he's lousy. Since the Packers are considered by many to be the best team in the league (and since fans are VERY MUCH IN FAVOR of a rematch between the Packers and the Saints for playoff glory), Eli's prime for Helmet Catch style heroics. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN!

And then Eli and Aaron Rodgers can have an adorkableness competition. I propose we call this game the Adork-a-bowl.

(Pssst, Don't forget to click here to enter to win a shiny new copy of CATCHING JORDAN, a fun and romantic young adult novel about a girl trying to become the first ever female NCAA quarterback). See you next week, in which I solemnly swear to cut back on the Colts references.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I'm afraid I may have given some bad advice to my critique partner, the lovely and talented Emery Lord. She's working on a project that involves a young celebrity, and there were some moments in her text when this character interacted with real celebrities - for example, receiving a text message from Zac Efron, or sharing a green room with Miley Cyrus (ps, both of those examples are fake).

I told her that mixing the real celebrities with the imaginary ones kind of broke the illusion for me, gave me a little flick at the back of my brain that said, "Wait... that's not real."

When I was in high school drama club, our director always emphasized the importance of the 'invisible wall' between the stage and the audience, making sure we avoided anything that would take them out of the moment we'd worked so hard to create. That wall exists between readers and authors as well, between reality and fantasy, and when something goes wrong, it's like Sirius Black falling through the curtain at the end of Order of the Phoenix. As a reader, it's hard to come back from that.

These little breaks indicate that the author isn't in full control of the story. You don't want the reader to think they have a better idea of what's going on than you do. But, after reading CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally, I wonder if I was too harsh. Maybe dropping real names can add to the illusion instead of detracting from it.

Yes, CATCHING JORDAN is a football book. Yes, it's a theme here on the blog this month. If the Mayans are right, we only have a few weeks left of football ever, so I'm going to squeeze every last drop out of it, okay?

Our narrator, Jordan Woods, is the daughter of a famous NFL Quarterback, who as far as I can tell is a mixture of Kerry Collins, Brett Favre, and Archie Manning. In my head 'The GREAT Donovan Woods' looks like Kerry Collins, which only enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

Donovan Woods exists in a parallel universe where he plays against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. He's starting for the Tennessee Titans at age 43 (not even Brett Favre played that long). In college at Ole Miss, he won not one but TWO Heisman trophies (prompting me to frown, ask 'has anyone ever won two?', and immediately turn to Google for answer - yes, one running back from Ohio State named Archie Griffin).

The GREAT Donovan Woods's daughter Jordan hopes to become the first girl ever to start as quarterback for a college team - specifically, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Which, by the way, Alabama just won the National Championship a couple of days ago. If I were Kenneally, I would have done a quiet victory dance. She had to have picked all of the teams involved in this story at least two years ago - and now she's probably also saying, "Thank God I didn't say she wanted to play for Penn State."

Kenneally's parallel universe is interesting because of how she blends the real and imaginary around that invisible wall. We see real people and real teams, but they are kept at a distance - meaning we never get to gaze longingly into the dreamy blue eyes of Tom Brady. Or, whatever color they are - I honestly don't know because I'm afraid if I look he'll steal my soul.

Maybe the secret is that Kenneally sprinkled in a lot of fictitious 'famous' people with just a dash of real ones. For every 'Tom Brady' she has quarterbacking the Patriots, she has a 'Coach Thompson' at Alabama (the real coach is Nick Saban). Jordan never has direct contact with the Tom Bradys, just sees them off in the distance. Anyone she actually interacts with only exists in this parallel universe. Too many Tom Bradys would have felt overwhelming and cheesy, but just the right amount acts like a garnish, or a little salt used to enhance the natural flavors.

Maybe that's the key to maintaining the illusion. Look at the real world, but don't touch. Keep a degree of separation and use sparingly. Either that, or establish a premise that suspends disbelief immediately, like that one time when Charles Dickens helped Doctor Who defeat the evil zombies on Christmas Eve. I'm still reeling over that one.

So, upon further review, the ruling on the field is overturned. Emery, the real celebs are fair game!

A few parting thoughts on this book before we get to the contest: I read this book with a very 'gotcha' attitude. I was almost BEGGING Kenneally to screw something up, even Googling anything I thought might be questionable. Passionate readers will do things like this, regardless of your topic, and she did a nice job.

Kenneally built Jordan's character in a way that demonstrated how much she knew about the game. A good quarterback isn't just someone who can throw a ball to a specific spot - a good quarterback has a lot of intangible charismatic personality traits. The best ones are the leaders that other leaders will follow. When Jordan's confidence was shakey, it showed in everything she tried to do. Kenneally also showed Jordan's quarterbacky-ness in her relationships with her teammates - her linemen protect her both on and off the field; her wide-receiver is her closest friend.

When you boil it all down, CATCHING JORDAN is a story about a girl in a guy's world, trying to prove herself excellent when there is a neon sign reading GIRL that not many people can see past. But even more than that, it explores the idea that you can want one thing so passionately that it makes you compromise who you are - and maybe, on the other hand, there is something that looks like a compromise that's actually better than what you think you want.

CONTEST: If you'd like to win a free copy of CATCHING JORDAN, please enter a comment below before midnight CST January 18th. (Open internationally, must be at least 13 years old to win; random number generator will select the winner). Last time, I included candy in the prize. I'm willing to do that again, if you ask politely.

Back tomorrow with this week's NFL PLAYOFFS CHEATSHEET!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cheatsheet for Non-Sports Fans - WILDCARD EDITION

So, you're not really a football fan. You were patient during Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. You tolerated New Years Day, and the college bowl games EVERY FREAKING DAY since and in-between. Now be honest - you're a little sick of football and just want it to go away for awhile.

Tough cookies, sweetheart. This weekend is NFL WILDCARD WEEKEND (!!!) and it's one of my favorite weekends of the year.

It's cool if you don't care about football. It's cool if you want to ignore what's going on. But, there will come a day (and that day is February 5, 2012) when you will most likely participate in a Super Bowl related event. If you don't want to watch the playoffs, at least check the cheatsheets - that's what they're here for - to enhance your enjoyment of the game, whether it's your choice to watch it or not.


  • There are two conferences: AFC (American Football Conference) and NFC (National Football Conference).
  • Each conference is broken into four divisions (North, South, East, West) - and those distinctions are assigned rather... loosely. For example, the Indianapolis Colts are in the AFC South. By the transitive property, that makes me a southerner.
  • The team with the best record from each 'direction' earns a playoff spot, and they are ranked 1-4, based on how many wins they earn during the season.
  • Then, the two best remaining teams from each conference are given the distinction of 'wildcard' - they play the number 3 and 4 ranked teams for the right to move on toward the Superbowl (while the number 1 and 2 ranked teams get the day off).

    1. New England Patriots (AFC East)
    2. Baltimore Ravens (AFC North)
    3. Houston Texans (AFC South)
    4. Denver Broncos (AFC West)
    5. Pittsburgh Steelers (Wildcard)
    6. Cincinnati Bengals (Wildcard)

    1. Green Bay Packers (NFC North)
    2. San Francisco 49ers (NFC West)
    3. New Orleans Saints (NFC South)
    4. New York Giants (NFC East)
    5. Atlanta Falcons (Wildcard)
    6. Detroit Lions (Wildcard)

The rules are simple my friends - win, or go home. There will be heroes and villains, triumph and tragedy. Let's break down the specifics.


My husband is a Bengals fan. There's nothing really wrong with that, they just haven't historically been a fun team to follow.

They do have a promising rookie quarterback with bright red hair (that clashes remarkably with his bright orange helmet). They have a rookie receiver who's last name is Green (to further add to the color pallet, I guess). And they have this guy who does things like this:
On second thought, I guess they are a pretty fun team. My husband did a move kind of like that when they clenched the wildcard spot last weekend.

As for their worthy opponent, this is the first time Houston has EVER made the playoffs (awwwwww, yay for them!). Last time I checked, their entire team was injured, so they'll be suiting up cheerleaders, pets, and the odd houseplant for this game. Good luck, Houston. Hope your first playoff experience is everything you always hoped and dreamed it would be.


I started out the year secretly rooting for the Lions. They're one of those 'cursed' teams, kind of like the Chicago Cubs. The Lions curse, however, had a specific expiration date, so I was curious to see what would happen with them now that it's supposed to have passed. And you know what? They're winning more often, but they play like thugs. Or petulant children. And if their receiver Calvin 'Megatron' Johnson would have squeezed out just a few more yards, I WOULD HAVE WON MY FANTASY LEAGUE. *bitter sigh*

This is one of those games with clear cut "good guys" and "bad guys." The City of New Orleans forged an unbreakable bond with their football team in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and their relationship is still special, maybe unique. They are lead by my first true love Drew Brees, one of the most pedestal-worthy guys in all of sports. The Saints were upset in the wildcard round last year, so I'm guessing they'll be more than ready to redeem themselves. Pencil this one in as a win.


Atlanta Falcons... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The Giants I love. They're kind of like your crazy, unpredictable friend. The one who skips class/work and never gets in trouble, who never seems to need sleep, and who randomly finds $20 bills on the street. You hate 'em but you love 'em and you want to stay close but not too close, you know?

When they're good, they're good. When they're bad... get out of the way. They're at their best when everyone expects them to be bad. Unfortunately, they're favored in this game. It's a shame, I really wanted to see a Manning play in Indianapolis this year, even if it has to be the Official Little Brother of the Colts. Stupid Falcons and their stupid "Matty Ice."


Wildcard weekend ends on potentially the wackiest match-up of all. Some of you may remember the Pittsburgh Steelers from their fine work as Superbowl losers about this time last year. Since then, they've stayed pretty much the same, except they've gotten older and more brittle. Actually, between the Steelers and the Texans, I'm not sure which team is more beat up. Math has never been my strength.

For the purposes of this exercise, the Steelers will be playing the role of villain. "Big Ben" Roethlisberger has something of an iffy reputation, but he's very good, and he wins a lot. He is, in fact, the Black Knight.

On the other hand, we have the essence of goodness itself, Timothy Richard Tebow, who was literally born to missionaries in the Philippines. Tebow's not what you would call a traditionally 'good' quarterback, but whenever he plays, excitement follows Pied Piper style. You want to root for Tebow because it's too damn fun not to.

This game could end in a score of 60 - 0 with the Steelers crushing Tebow beneath their cleats. But, if we get to the fourth quarter and the score is somewhere in the neighborhood of 17-10, buckle up and enjoy the show. Just, don't bother watching until the fourth quarter.

COMING SOON: A return to our normally scheduled programming which involves BOOKS!