I’m Here And Ready

Never mind my emotional sounding title of this blog.  It’s just me talking about the usual suspects that sneak into my head, lay down, order room service and feel like causing a stir until I write about them and dismiss them back into the rabbit hole trash bin located of my head.   A woman once told me that when I sit down to write, get your hands set to do the unthinkable and imaginative work that many only keep in their heads until they explode with a hurtful physical act.  By blogging, a guerrilla artform that has drawn more ridicule than praise, I keep the demons at bay and myself out of trouble.   Spin the news, tell the tale and do the deed so I can just keep living.   Let’s do it.

The Cardinals begin spring training in 31 days.   A reason for excitement that draws more passion and fury for the simple fact that there is no hockey or football in St. Louis any longer.   The town has gone sports silent and needs a reason to get moving again downtown.   Maybe you haven’t noticed but downtown in St. Louis looks pretty dull without sports going on.   Concerts, food parades, runs and whatever don’t carry the weight of a sporting event.   While the NHL decides this week if they can get a deal hammered out(something I won’t acknowledge until it sits closer to reality), the hope now is baseball and the beautiful pain of 162 games driving me insane and throwing against the wall.   The Cardinals are predictable in that very singular way.   They promise torture, joy, and endless nights of frustration.   There isn’t much to talk about with this team other than their time is coming.  They are content to run their chips behind a middle infield that may include 5 different players.  Can Rafy Furcal’s elbow avoid explosion?  He makes 7 million dollars and is a career ending injury waiting to happen.  The Cards made little play to find him insurance, so the unlikely playoff hero Pete Kozma steps in as his backup.   I like Pete and praise his improbable work in the playoffs but wish the Cards had gotten a more versatile shortstop to back up Furcal’s fragile body.   Second base will be split between defensive minded Daniel Descalso and the transitioning big bat Matt Carpenter, who is being taught by his professional baseball coach father in the winter and will get schooled by Jose Oquendo in the spring.  I don’t mind this lefthanded platoon combo until Kolten Wong gets his shot.  Allen Craig will play first base primarily and I can only hope the Cards keep big husky Matt Adams on the bench as a power bat and lefthanded backup to Craig in the predictable event that Allen suffers a lower body injury.  The Cards need pop off the bench and Adams can provide it.  David Freese is at third, inching closer to a multi-year deal with the team and will get Carpenter and Descalso to back him up.  The infield is a moving parts committee.  You could see a player make a stop at three positions inside a month if an injury happens.  The outfield is Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran with rookie Oscar Taveras on the horizon.   If he hits well in spring training and looks ready, the Cards need to bring up Oscar and get him on the MLB wagon.  Yadi Molina is the catcher with Tony Cruz backing him up.   Yadi’s brother Bengie is the assistant hitting coach so the Cards may want to up the chips/salsa count in the clubhouse.  The sure rotation spots right now are Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter(fully equipped with a upper half of bionic body appendages), Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and a player to be named later.   Unless he is traded soon, Lance Lynn is that 5th guy based on his 2012 record(team’s proposed words, not my own).    Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal will fight Lynn for that 5th spot.   Garcia is a wild card as well with his shoulder barking throughout 2012 and his choice to pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.  Garcia, like Furcal, avoided surgery and went for the rest route.   Risky.  The Cardinals would be smart to monitor Garcia’s innings in the tournament.   We don’t need him missing half the season again.   The bullpen consists of Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Sam Freeman, Randy Choate, Marc Rzepcynzski, Rosenthal/Kelly/Miller.   The Cardinals don’t need any big pieces but can use a couple spares if they chose to keep Adams at Memphis.   Your bench right now is Cruz, Kozma, Carpenter, Taveras(?), Adams(?) and a few other warm bodies.  Mike Matheny has a lot to work with and a few decisions to make.  The spring’s big debate and competition will sit with the rotation’s final two spots.   Is Garcia healthy?  Can Lynn handle the pressure and be a solid 5th starter?   If not, the team has plenty of options available and none of them involve the free agent market.  This is the most set I have seen this team coming into spring in a long time.

T.J. Oshie and other Blues players went on social networks and told fans that the NHL lockout may be over by Monday.  The players made another proposal and the league will decide by this coming week.  If rejected, the season is more or less OVER.  If the owners accept, the games could be on by January 18th.   That will be a much needed boost to the local sports scene but also a test of the will of Blues fans and hockey fans across the country.   This team isn’t to blame for the lockout.   Let’s make that clear.   The Blues are a small market team that lost money in 2011-2012.  They didn’t overextend themselves with stupid long term contracts or play their hand too long.   They are victims here.  David Backes is a part of the players union and may have played a small part in delaying hockey, but its my belief that most of the Blues were waiting on a resolution between the mom and dad of hockey operations here.   Local new owner Tom Stillman is chomping at the bit to get rolling and if a deal is struck soon, hockey gets set in motion in two weeks.  Stadiums, arenas and games will feature lots of empty seats and rightly so.  However, if the entire season is cancelled, the 2013-2014 season is in serious jeopardy of being abandoned by fans before the players and owners get a chance to fight over money.   I like Oshie’s optimism but I will wait for an official word before I get excited about the return of NHL action.

The Rams performed a lot better that my forecast for their 2012 season.   There were too many penalties, stalls on offense, and questions still abound about the overall future of Sam Bradford.   There were a few late minute collapses(Lions on the road) and embarrassing losses(Jets at home).  However, this team is tough, resilient and made a comeback.   They beat playoff teams Washington, Seattle and San Francisco at home.   They nearly toppled Seattle and San Francisco on the road.   They dominated their own division.   The Rams showed an ability to come back in the fourth quarter and win a game, as shown in Buffalo and San Francisco.  They were one of the few teams to stop Robert Griffin III in the fourth quarter.  They sacked Russell Wilson more than any team could all season last week.    The Rams finished with 7 wins as they did in 2010 but looked legit this season.   They didn’t have the league’s softest schedule that the 2010 team had.   They took down some pretty good teams and lost to a few very bad teams.  All the common elements of a football season.  2013 will be an exciting and explosive season for the Rams.   Their needs are easy to point out.   A solid return specialist so Danny Amendola can play more than 10 games.  An explosive vertical threat wide receiver who can get away from defenders.  Chris Givens and Brian Quick showed that ability but a veteran presence would be welcome.  A safety to pair with Quentin Mekkel on defense would help, as would an outside linebacker to pair with James Laurinaitis. The Rams’ schedule is tough in 2013 but I expect this team to challenge San Francisco and Seattle for the division and make an easy play at a wildcard spot.  The doom and gloom of a Rams preseason doesn’t exist here anymore.

Steven Jackson’s critics still call him a non team player and overall worthless talent.   Too bad they are all wrong when logic and stats hit their faces.   Yesterday I shot down a Jackson critic by reminding him that he has played with shitty offensive lines and mediocre and average to only decent quarterbacks throughout the majority of his career.   He is one of 6 running backs in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in 8 straight seasons.   Sure, the seasons are 16 games, longer than the old days of football.   If that is their only case, why haven’t more running backs in the past 15-20 years shown the level of consistency that Jackson has?   Emmitt Smith played for monstrous Dallas teams in accomplishing the feat.  Put Jackson on that Dallas squad and his stats and touchdown totals are akin to Smith’s.    Every Jackson critic doesn’t get logic and has a short term memory.  He is the ultimate team player.  Did he walk off the sidelines of a  close game like Randy Moss or attack his team in the press like Terrell Owens?   He has constantly supported every this team, been a team leader and done his job.  Anybody who speaks against that is a fucking idiot or better show me some numbers.   Please don’t tell me you wish he would run straight.  Hard to run straight when your constantly beat up offensive line isn’t opening any holes.  Jackson runs whenever he can and had an explosive finish to the 2012 season.

Manny Pacquiao was told by doctors that he has early signs of Parkinson’s disease.  My response is simple.   At this point in their career, a lot of boxers show signs that could be connected to Parkinson’s.   Ever since Muhammed Ali was diagnosed, every doctor looks at a fighter differently.   Pacquiao is fine and will fight a few more rounds.   If he was told a ticking bomb was inside his chest, his pride would refuse to allow him to retire.  The man was last seen sucking the canvas after a huge Juan Manual Marquez right hand that sprung out of a perfectly timed booby trapped connected with his jaw.  Pacquiao will come back, doctors orders or not, and avenge his loss.  I expect a fight in April to warm up(pulverize Timothy Bradley once and for all) before a September showdown with Marquez.  People still question why they may fight again.  The answer is simple.   Their fights are thrilling and consistently toe to toe action.   They don’t hug, buy time or throw punches with their head.   They stand in the middle and fire or chase each other around the ring.   It’s old school boxing like it should be.  If their brains and legs are able, they should fight another three times.   Pacquaio gave Marquez a fourth fight to recover some dignity and this time Juan needs to do the same.   Money will be made, minds will be blown and blood will be drawn.  Let it ride.

In other boxing news, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight Robert Guerrero in May and will face a steeper challenge than many expect.  Guerrero beat the shit out of Andre Berto and is a tall young lefthanded power punching undefeated champion.   Floyd jumps off the couch after a year away(which included 54 days in jail) and will still show speed, agility and the fine tools of the sweet science but also brandish an older body that can be hurt, as seen in his last fight against Miguel Cotto.  Floyd can tell me all he wants that he did that to put on a show, and I will say those are the words of an older fighter denying logic and the father time blues.  Floyd is getting older.  He fights Guerrero, and win or lose, he takes on Canelo Alvarez in September.  Cotto’s options are few and sparse.  He can give Amir Khan a bone and fight him, but little else exists out there.  Canelo will fight Austin Trout in May and probably beat him unless he underestimates Trout’s chin and gets caught.   Alvarez HASN”T been tested yet.  That needs to happen before Floyd.  Juan Manuel Marquez may fight Bradley to get a belt or just rest until Pacman is ready.   Some areas of boxing are harder to tell than others but its best if these self proclaimed promoters let me handle the fight arrangements.  I know what fans, like myself, want to see.  Bloody spectacular action.

Listening to my anytime mix, a list of tunes I put together that can be listened to at all times because of the amount of favorites located on the list.   Johnny Cash, Dave Matthews, Bon Iver, Mumford and Sons, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Bob Dylan, Dead Weather, Coldplay, Adele(live), Greg Holden, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, B.B. King, John Mayer(acoustic blues), Jimi Hendrix, David Gray, Florence and The Machine, The Black Keys and Frank Sinatra.   A fine list of versatile musicians promising a calming mood for a tired overworked man at any time.  Here’s one of the songs on the list.

Matt Damon isn’t going to run for political office and we are all the better for it.  This isn’t a shot at Damon, because he is one of the best entertainers and consistent performers in Hollywood.   He loves his job too much to lose a portion of his soul to politics.   In an interview, he was asked about politics and politely denied any interest.   He said he knew he met a guy while doing research for The Adjustment Bureau who was getting out of politics, saying you work for idealistic people in the beginning but eventually lose yourself in the process.   Who wants to slice up their own life in a global arena of liars?   Damon doesn’t and he is smart to avoid it.   His new film, Promised Land, which he co-wrote and stars in, deals with fracking(big corporations extracting natural resources from small towns) and is sure to be interesting, provocative and well acted.  I see it tomorrow.  My film-addict colleague, Landon Burris, saw it and gave it a 3/5 rating, citing it as a good if not great movie.

I could listen to Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash sing “Girl From North Country” all day long.  Such a sweet old fashioned ballad that recovers a decent amount of charm after it’s 20th listen.

I would like to add Skyfall to my top 2012 films list.   I would throw that in there right with Dark Knight Rises as a part expected part surprise expertly crafted film.   The latest James Bond film is the best Bond adventure I have ever seen and yes I did watch the Connery films.   Daniel Craig cuts deeper than any other actor to play the role.  His team up with Javier Bardem(go to guy for sincerely demented villains), Judi Dench, and director Sam Mendes created a classic spy film.  See it on DVD/Blu Ray next month.

Lance Berkman is close to signing with The Texas Rangers.   This is a surprising move because I would have bet money on Berkman closing his career in Houston with the Astros, his former team.  Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was talking with Berkman this past month.   How that team couldn’t find financial terms to allow Berkman to retire where he was a star is beyond me, but its good for him that he is going to a contender.  The deal is a one year deal with a vesting option for a 2nd, but we will see how long Berkman’s knees hold up.   He is a veteran presence, a switch hitter who can DH and play first base and is candid with the media in a way few athletes are.  He is good for the game of baseball.  I am glad he has a chance to end his career with his head pointed up.  His time in St. Louis was short and sweet but I’ve always admired and feared Berkman’s ability.

The use of Scala and Kolacny Brothers choir version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” in the latest trailer for Zero Dark Thirty is genius.  I finally get a chance to see that film on Thursday.  The tale of the greatest manhunt in the world is special because of who is handling the material.   Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal did The Hurt Locker and love or hate the film, you can agree it was authentic.   They get the insider access to so called classified documents because a good amount of the US government wants this tale to be told.   Why would you not want a capture and kill mission that spanned 10 years not told?  The idea of backlash is expected because of the sensitive content.  The methods of madness used by our ladies and gents in this fight to find Bin Laden isn’t for everyone but you tell the 2995 families who lost a soul to 9/11 that this story needs to stay top secret.  I do believe it happened and can’t wait to see the tale.  The cast looks killer as well, full of character actors and anchored by Jessica Chastain, whose character is based on a real CIA field agent who chased Osama for 10 years.

Playoff football just started with the kickoff between Houston and Cincinnati.  Tonight, the Vikings and Packers do battle and the key part of that battle is the home field advantage that Aaron Rodgers and company hold.   The other factor is the fact that Adrian Petersen has ripped them for an average of 200 yards rushing in their two meetings this season.   Since my team is finished and not participating in playoff activity(the Rams, who have always remained my team during their dreadful period), I root for my favorite players and not necessarily teams.   My boy is Peyton Manning and his Broncos don’t play for another week but when they do, I like their chances.   Manning enjoyed a superb season in his comeback from neck surgery and looks to capture Super Bowl #2 and having home field advantage will help.  The Super Bowl returns to New Orleans this February so explosive offensive teams are in luck.   My prediction is Denver and Seattle gunning for the trophy with a slight worry about New England and Green Bay.  I would love to see Denver and Green Bay play but I am not sure The Packers can make it with their defense struggling so much.

Jose Canseco and Charlie Sheen need to do a reality show together.   Two completely crazy yet talented people thrown into one house for a month.  I’d watch that and I hate reality television.   Canseco is crazy, posts retarded new year resolutions on twitter, once drank jet fuel, dated Madonna and publicly confessed to doing steroids before anyone else did.  Credit Jose with coming out first.   He is nuts and once put an ad out on the internet while on house arrest for fans to pay him to hang out.   Sheen is a national media sensation, doing and saying everything and looking smarter than people give him credit for.   He carried Two and A Half Men to a long rein of profit and viewership before dumping it for a large chunk of money.  He had a solid film career with some seriously funny comedies and a few decent dramas.  He suckered FX to give hi a deal that will keep his stupid show, Anger Management, on the air for 90 more episodes.   He will be rich and crazy while Jose needs money.   These two guys are perfect.   Don’t discredit Canseco.  His stats are tainted yet can’t be dismissed.  He was the first player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases.  He was a great power hitter.  Steroids doesn’t give you the ability to hit home runs.   He was a great player for a decent portion of time.   These guys are entertaining and this is my pitch for a reality show in 2013.  This isn’t one of my resolutions but just a solid idea that I came up with driving to the gym after work.  That’s where I get my best material.   I need to put a microphone in my car.  Great stuff.  Completely unfiltered, dirty and blunt.

Justified on FX comes back this Tuesday and thank goodness for it.   Californication follows a week from Sunday.  Great television can’t be ignored.

I made no resolutions at New Year’s.   I never do.   They are pointless, unless you are like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wrote his down with specific target dates when he was younger.  People crowd gyms with their hollow promises and generally piss people off who exercise year round and don’t have to make it a big deal.   I hate going to the gym to find zero lockers because fat Sal and smelly six roll stomach Lou wanted to prove their family and co-workers wrong.   Get serious or fuck off.   New Year Resolutions are for lame people.  Just do it and forget the list.   My goals are the same every January.   Eat better, exercise even more, keep writing and be a good husband, father and man in general.    I want to take Film-Addict to the next level, do a few crazy things, and provide for my family.   That’s it.  Stay in shape or be a shape bitches!

That’s it.  Thanks for reading, spending time here and digesting this latest dose of Buffa.

Sincerely,

Dan L. Buffa

“The L isn’t silent.  It stands for Larry”

Closing song-“All You Do Is Talk” by The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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