Run with me a little here as I clean up the scraps in the head before the work week continues. A stream of consciousness runs now.
RAMS beat Arizona and improve to 4-6-1, which includes two wins against the Cardinals. This was our first win since the win over Arizona in the dome in early October. A big road win over a weak opponent is something I’ll take. There are local scribes who think its not a big deal because of the inferior opponent, but may I remind those people that Arizona was 4-6 before the loss and our local fighting Rams can lose on any given Sunday. This is the same team that found hardship in any opponent for the past 5 seasons. I treat any win by this team with excitement. The Rams beat up rookie quarterback Ryan Hindley and the defense intercepted him three times for a pair of touchdowns. Janoris Jenkins, the problem child talent taken in the second round whose performance has seen its highs and lows in 2012 so far had his second straight strong week. He became the first Ram cornerback to return a pair of touchdowns back in a single game. Sam Bradford rebounded from the embarrassing Jets game to throw two touchdowns to one interception while only completing 8 of 17 passes. Danny Amendola, deemed doubtful until game time, started and made a sensational 38 yard catch in the second quarter. He is as tough as it gets in this league and means everything to this offense. That same attack scored 17 points today without Amendola being much of a factor. The game ball goes to Jenkins but the power ball of the day belongs to Steven Jackson, the bloodhound running back unleashed on the Cardinals today. Carrying 24 times for 139 yards and averaging 6 yards per carry, Jackson set the pace for the day and showed his coaches why its wise to allow him to dictate the offense. Incorporating a west coast style this week, the Rams were able to control the game with ball possession. Jackson has been a horse for three straight weeks, rushing for 321 yards on 71 carries, which goes for a 4.5 clip. He only has one score in those three games but his actions cause the defenses to readjust their game plans and open up space for Bradford and company to do their damage. I haven’t seen Jackson this explosive, consistent and healthy since 2006. For three weeks, he has been the monster in the backfield, dragging multiple defenders or running them over. If I were Jeff Fisher, I would keep handing the ball to the beast. It would be nice to face the tolerable Cards for a couple more weeks, but this kind of win puts a team on a roll. The difficult part of the schedule is mostly over and we get the 49ers in the dome next weekend for a big time showdown that brings the two teams with a tie on their record back into the same building. The 49ers have thrived under backup QB Cory Kitzpatrick and are steamrolling again. Can the Rams slow them down and gain the advantage on their home turf? It will be interesting.
RICKY HATTON saw his career end where many of his opponents saw their end in the ring with him. Looking up at the wrong end of a 10 count. Hatton made his comeback to the ring on Saturday night against Vyacheslav Senchenko, a talented welterweight with only one loss. While he was ahead on all three cards at the time of his knockout in the 9th round, Hatton was getting outboxed and got dropped by a vicious body shot to the liver that sent him to his knees in agonizing pain. Hatton hadn’t fought in three years and his last fight saw its end inside the second round versus Manny Pacquiao, when he got knocked out cold. Hatton’s life sprung downward into a dangerous rabbit hole, including heavy drug use, depression and suicide attempts. Saturday night saw his final demise but also allowed the British star fighter to retire comfortably and with respect and dignity. If he survived another round, there’s good reason to think Hatton scores a decision victory and gets a shot at Pauli Maliggnaggi(an overrated talent whom Hatton had beat once in his career and dealt Senchenko his only loss ironically enough) for a belt. However, the opponent landed a deadly blow reminiscent of Hatton’s arsenal of punches and ended Ricky’s career. He retired and hopefully can rest being a trainer and father. It’s hard to not like the guy because he is honest, hard working, and made a comeback not for money but to close the book on his career in a brighter fashion.
*ANDRE BERTO AND ROBERT GUERRERO engaged in a hand to hand bar fight on Saturday night on HBO, or so I heard. I will have to watch this because there are few times in modern day boxing where the judges are pushed to the side and the gloves and hearts of two men determine the result. Today I found myself watching the greatest hits of Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward from their three legendary battles in 2002-03. Those two men ended up being good friends and boxing confidants after their fights were finished, but for three fights and 36 rounds, the two men battered each other’s faces and redefined their respective careers. The 36 year old iron spirit of Lowell, Massachusetts in Ward(powerfully portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the terrific film, The Fighter) going up against the iron jawed Gatti, who was 30 years old and a hot commodity. Go to Youtube and look up Ward/Gatti 9th round and you will see three minutes of sizzling bloody action that was the cornerstone of their fights. Two guys, standing in the middle of the ring trading punches, refusing to back down, and giving everything located in the deepest parts of their body. It’s boxing at its finest. If I train for 6 weeks full tilt, you can bet I’m leaving everything inside that ring. Why do it any other way?
BOARDWALK EMPIRE draws its season to a close next week and the hour featured Sunday only wet the lips and lit the fires for a big time shootout next week. For non watchers, the story this season revolved heavily on the transformation of Nucky Thompson(Steve Buscemi) from a corrupt political type to a full time gangster/criminal. For years, the former city treasurer had other men do his dirty work. By last night’s episode’s end, when Nucky’s life and world was shattered by assassins, we found out what he was all about and where he held his highest interests. Next Sunday will be interesting to see where our central anti-hero ends up. Back in charge of Atlantic City or laying on his back. While he can’t die yet, Nucky isn’t guaranteed a spot in the safest graces at all. That’s the beauty of this show. Plug in a room full of anti-heroes, criminals, killers, and evil men and see who looks like the good guy. Television works us over because it makes us root for bad men. Nucky isn’t evil but he isn’t a good man either. Like everybody else, he is simply trying to survive and make some money while doing it. This season, he has seen his city and way of life overtaken by an immovable object in Bobby Cannvale’s Sicilian gangster wannabe Gyp Rossetti. Gyp has pushed Nucky to the brink of extinction by using his connections, fearless attitude and brute strength to intercept the man’s liquor business and also taken people close to Nucky. It’s a classic showdown on a show full of colorful characters like Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein and Al Capone. Cannavale makes Rossetti a full bodied entertainment, jacking up the ruthlessness by providing the bad man with quirks including a short fuse, anger management issues and a guy who likes to be choked during sex. Cannavale is a versatile actor but this role showcases all of his skills and puts them to full use. Gyp is reckless, small time, deadly and only wants to become a made guy no matter what happens. In a scene coming after an attempt on his life, Cannavale walks down a hallway naked, bloodied, with a loose belt hanging from his neck and a pistol in his hand. An iconic moment for a juicy supporting character that has bumped this layered entertainment to an even higher level. A lesson being learned on Dexter right now is the better the bad guy the better the show and the longer it lasts. Weak adversaries bring down the good guy/center character of a show. Great bad guys are souls you love to hate and can’t take your eyes off. Cannavale and Ray Stevenson(currently giving Dexter Morgan a headache) are living proof of that ideal.
GOOD MUSIC I’ve been listening to lately. Gary Clark Jr. singing When My Train Comes. Mumford and Sons singing Not With Haste from their mesmerizing new album, Babel. Greg Holden singing Lost Boy from a recent episode of Sons of Anarchy. 22-20’s rocking Devil In Me. Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash teaming up for Girl From North Country.
TOM CRUISE surprises people to this day. The box office king and three time Academy Award nominee is doubted after decades of success and I just shake my head. Cruise stars as Jack Reacher in the title role of the film adaptation of Lee Child’s books, and many of the book’s lovers are outraged at Cruise playing a guy listed at 6 foot 5 and 250 pounds on the page. Let me remind you people. ON THE PAGE. Film adaptations are tricky. Unless you want to cast the Rock in the role, forget about similarities and watch an actor take over the role. No one works harder on their films than Cruise. He produces his films, headlines them, does the bulk of the promotion and also does his own stunts at the age of 50. He loves the thrill of the action and doesn’t mind being doubted. He was doubted before he made 4 box office smashing Mission Impossible films. He was doubted before he masterfully played Lestat in Interview with The Vampire. He was doubted before he went cold bad in Collateral. He is a movie star and a solid actor with mesmerizing performances to back it up. Forget his personal life. He loves Scientology, a religion that is blasted by all the other GOD lovers out there for being rogue and full of shit. That’s too full of irony to even mess with. We don’t watch these guys to see into their personal life. While a movie nut like me can appreciate Cruise’s charity work, dedication and off screen nature, most moviegoers need to focus on his films. If you don’t like him or his work, that’s fine. Just stop losing your shit when he takes over a role. There is no one who works harder to get it right than Cruise. The man is a midget and can dominate a screen, especially if it has to do with action. I praise actors, especially stars, who put their life on the line, earn their millions and do their own stunts. It’s called dedication. Respect it or go back to Lifetime’s soap operas.
THE CARDINALS need to invest in a long term option at shortstop. I am fine with the news that Rafael Furcal’s elbow is sound and he will be ready for spring training. For a guy making 7 million in 2013, that’s good news. However, if any logical mind thinks he can be counted on for more than 130 games, you are certified crazy. Furcal is an aging half broken body sitting with at least three ticking time bombs on his fragile body. 2013 could be his last hurrah and it will be in a platoon role. John Mozelaik needs to get to work and find a reliable hitting and fielding replacement to back up Furcal and be there if he goes down. Pete Kozma turned heads and wooed a lot of people in October, but he will be a bench bat and may be exposed if he starts more than 15-20 games. If we find a great second basemen and stick Kozma and Descalso behind Furcal, that’s alright. However, it’s more practical to secure a shortstop. Call Texas about Elvis Androus and contact Cleveland about Asauldral Cabrera. Kolten Wong is expected by many to take over at second base in late 2013 or 2014, so second base isn’t a big need outside of a one year deal to a veteran. The Cards could also secure a full time shortstop and let Furcal, Descalso and Kozma split time at second base. Options are what this team has and they can’t waste the 22 million in payroll that has opened up.
THE CARDINALS CAN’T TRADE TREVOR ROSENTHAL. In any deal whatsoever. He’s too versatile and explosive of a talent to deal. Keep him around. He is a special player. He throws a 101 mph fastball and cuts it off with a 80 mph changeup. He is a starter by trade but worked in relief in 2012. He is young, ready and cheap. You don’t find guys like this every year. Lance Lynn had an impressive 2012 season but had plenty of ups and downs and got run support. Joe Kelly is a useful piece but the commodity here is Rosenthal.
SIGN JASON MOTTE TO AN EXTENSION. Forget arbitration and give the man a long term deal. 2-3 years. He tied for the league lead in saves(48) in 2012 after dominating hitters in the 2011 playoffs. Don’t mess around. Get it done. He is your closer.
FREE BRIAN QUICK, the Rams second round draft pick at wide receiver. Remember Danario Alexander, the tall big time talent out of Mizzou who wasn’t utilized here. Well, he is thriving in San Diego. What will happen to Quick and why isn’t he playing more series for this offense? He gets one big catch per game and sees 5-6 more snaps before hugging the bench. Rams executives and coaches thought his guy was the eighth wonder of the world in pro camps and may have gambled on selecting him. Well, let’s see him fail on the playing field. The Rams are a young team full of burgeoning talent and need to play the kids. Quick is an impressive looking player. Chris Givens is a rookie setting records and leading all rookie wide receivers in touchdowns and yardage. Why can’t Quick share the spotlight? With Steve Smith down, Lance Kendricks dropping passes and Amendola strugging to stay healthy, Quick deserves the chance to be a factor.
SONS OF ANARCHY BROTHERHOOD-SPOILERS FOR SHOW WATCHERS! As the series draws its fifth season to a conclusion tonight, this show runs deeper than fiction. While the cast members of this Sopranos on bikes FX masterpiece have to act like brothers on set and stand by each other, it’s comforting to see that artistic matchmakers turn into real life friendships. So when the beloved noble club member Opie(sensationally rendered by Ryan Hurst) was told by show creator Kurt Sutter in April that his character would be killed off, Hurst and fellow cast members and real best friends Charlie Hunman(who stars as Jax), Mark Boone Junior(Bobby) went through various stages of grief. As Hurst recalled, “it was hard to kill of this character from inside mind. They teach you how to create and build characters, but not to get rid of them.” Hunman’s idea was to get together at his place and use a samurai sword to start the shaving of the Opie beard, which has grown in legend since his demise in September in an episode called “Laying Pipe”. Part of the greatness of this show(now in season five) is the ideals and mythology it represents. There are obvious comparisons to Hamlet and Macbeth in Sutter’s creating and writing here. Opie was Horatio to Jax’s Hamlet, a best friend and ally. When Opie dies, an object of sacrifice for another club member’s accidental murder of a mob bosses’ daughter, it’s a tough scene to watch. It’s as powerful a death and drawn out and sudden at the same time as you will see on a popular show. The cast members quickly became close friends and when you work together for 6 years, letting a trusted friend and c0-star go is harder than it looks. Seeing these guys come together off screen, do this wicked ritual of catharsis, shed tears and remain bad ass friends to the bone is cool and enlightening in this day and age. Watch this clip to find out the particulars and read more about the way it went down.
*Work is work. After a couple weeks back on the grind, I can tell you there were things I miss about unemployment and also a few things I am glad are gone. I miss being home with my son, watching daytime screenings, easily going to the gym and having plenty of time for film-addict. Now, time is of the essence every moment. I get up at 5am, hit work at 6am, get off around 3pm, head to the gym, speed work out, pick up Vinny from daycare and come home. He gets dinner, I do a million things at once(dishes, laundry, clean up, mess around with him), and then its bath time. After, I try to bang out a few things on the website and maybe shoot bullets at the blog page. Gallons of coffee and water run through my system every day, creating a backwash of dirt water. I eat as good as I can and breathe occasionally. He goes to bed and I do a million other things while waiting for my overworked wife to come home from a 10 hour shift. This is the life of a full time working family. Little time for goofs. Occasional freedom. Quick thinking and moving. Everybody needs to earn money and would like to do a little less doing it. My life isn’t that easy but I roll with the punches and like having a family. You forget how nice your life is when you are whining about work or time to do side work. I am content yet feel rushed.
*The Rock and Jason Statham are the new Arnold and Sly. They are the most convincing action stars on the planet and that’s not an easy thing to do. It’s more than muscles and one liners. It’s a presence and a trust from the audience to be effortlessly entertained. The Rock doesn’t go deep into character like Day Lewis but he thrives in this field. Statham is a British fitness expert and a man with a history of action violence that translates like an athletic ballet of carnage. Their new movies, Snitch and Parker, put on full display two men who know where their core audience lies and how they best make a living. Each have gone deep on occasion but thrive best in ruthless heroic action. When they produce a new action film, I smile and applaud their trusted practice. It’s underrated in Hollywood. Action heroes.
*Homeland and Dexter each have interesting and tricky seasons unfolding. A series about war heroes turned rogues turned informants mixing up with the CIA to stop terrorism cuts close to home and gets outstanding acting from Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin. Dexter revolves around our titular anti-hero ridding Miami of bad men via a sharp blade and a healthy practice of killing/cleanup/cold blooded initiative. Michael C. Hall makes the show run on his restrained yet explosive center piece but the show benefits from very fine supporting work from seasonal baddies John Lithgow and Ray Stevenson. At times familiar and shocking while always being interesting and entertaining, these Showtime series pack a quiet punch. Right now, Boardwalk Empire is the show to watch with Sons of Anarchy and these two dramas behind it.
*Everything changes in January when Justified comes back, continuing the tale of Raylan Givens, the coolest and most ruthless US Marshall in television and film history.
*Did I mention I run on coffee? Pounding a 20 ounce Americano from Starbucks right now. Fuel to my blood stream.
*The Steelers are lost without Ben Roethlisberger the same way the Colts were lost without Peyton last season. Facts exist here in the clear stat of record with the player and the record without the player. Backbones are important in the NFL. College football is run by a system. NFL offenses run on instinct and clutch play. Ben and Peyton count.
*What do the political diehards live and die about now that the election is over and the President isn’t leaving office. I basically keep living my life as I have no matter who sits in the Oval Office but I wonder about those crazy political pundits.
*Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas unfolds. Our tree and lights are up and I can’t wait for snow. I don’t mind Christmas music and the decorations and higher spirits. It’s the height of winter, the happy hour for mankind and just a time of the year where people get together and celebrate a very religious but cool and required holiday. It’s my favorite time of the year.
My ammo magazine on the hands is empty. Time to back to laundry and house duty. Find some food. Find a remote. Watch Sons of Anarchy conclude another potent season and add in some HBO 24/7 with Pacquiao and Marquez. Relax, stop thinking and take up some space. See you all next time on the next Dose of Buffa.
Thanks for reading and goodnight,
Dan L. Buffa