The Buffa Machine Is On

Hello all,

After a week away dealing with elevated work hours and quick nights, I am back and ready to bring the noise once again.  The Buffa Machine has been turned on.   A few things to talk about before the night dies and the new morning begins.    A stream of consciousness begins now.

The Jeff Fisher hiring in Rams Land

I like this hire for a number of reasons.  Fisher was the best candidate on the market and brings instant credibility to the franchise.   His name will have an effect on free agents decisions, opposition game plan and the overall urge from the fanbase.   Its something to be excited about because for the first time since Dick Vermeil walked into St. Louis in 1997, the Rams have a head coach with legitimate head coaching experience.  Fisher has been around for awhile and coached for 16 seasons before taking a breather in 2011 after dealing with the childish Vince Young in Tennessee.  Fisher’s Titans came within 1 yard of sending the Super Bowl in 1999 to overtime, something Rams fans will never forget.  Steve McNair eluding Kevin Carter and D’Marco Farr as he threw the fateful pass to Kevin Dyson who ran into a brick wall in Mike Jones in front of the promise land.  One word associated with Fisher is grit.   The man is a hard nosed enforcer who doesn’t take no for an answer and will transform this team into a physically threatening team.   He is a demanding coach and not a young mind learning on the job like previous coordinators turned coaches in St. Louis.  If anybody wants to gripe about Rams job, tell me how much reason there was to hire another coordinator?  The franchise had been through Mike Martz, Scott Linehan, Jim Haslett and Steve Spagnuolo before finally deciding to throw their hat into the big boy’s ring and nab a real deal leader like Jeff Fisher.   I know this doesn’t translate into instant on field performance, but I am more excited about the draft, the new season and the future.  I will talk later about the future of the Rams in St. Louis, but for the next 3 seasons, Rams football will be different.  Fisher will bring in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from New Orleans, a man known for his hard blitzing style and “go get the quarterback” history of schemes.  The offensive coordinator spot looks to go to former Oakland coach Hue Jackson or former Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer, both of which I would be excited to see land in St. Louis.  Schotty Jr. likes a ground and pound style with subjective QB play and Jackson is a split pass/rush kind of playcaller.   The idea here is new and fresh.  When Stan Kroneke pulled the trigger and went hard after Fisher, he was telling the Rams fanbase he was serious about turning this team around and pulling them out of the NFL gutter.  With the hiring, there is instant buzz around the league.   Take in consideration that the 2012 schedule can’t be as tough as last season’s schedule and I like the Rams chances of winning 5-7 games the coming year.  If the right moves are made and the Rams draft smart and focus on players and not positions(key words here are Justin Blackmon at wide receiver), the Rams can turn it around.  Recovery time is quick in football.  A new coach, couple new players, new system and pow, you have liftoff.  I am being optimistic.  Its my decision to be optimistic.  The hiring of Fisher has me invested deeper in this team.  They are in it for the long haul.   Any doubt left in the street after the Spags firing and immediate cloud of negativity of the 2-14 season is gone now.  There is work to be done but the right men are moving in to get it done.  A quick to do list.

-HAVE A GOOD DRAFT.  A sour spot for the team in the past 5 years is having shitty drafts overall.   Make some smarter player evaluations and take a chance on a kid.   4 of the 8 draft picks in 2011 are gone and that’s a bad sign for a rebuilding team.   The Rams were too old in 2011 and need to get younger.  That starts with a healthy draft.  Look at Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State long and hard because the kid has freakish skills and could change the outlook of the offense right away.  Blackmon is a big tall receiver with catching ability few prospects have so I want him to slide into the team’s plans with the # 2 pick.  If trading the pick means getting Blackmon and other high picks, do it.  Just don’t let the big pick go for a variety of lesser players.

(One four shot latte, homemade, brought my desk by my lovely wife Rachel.   This is a gunpowder midday treat).

-Look at the free agent market.   The linebacker crew and secondary can use some work as well as FA wide receivers like DeSean Jackson and Dwayne Bowe.   Stan will put forth the money and invest in this new look Rams team, so the new GM(whenever he shows up) needs to be creative and proactive with the cash and power this team up quick.  Stick in a tough outside linebacker and beef up the secondary.  The return of Ron Bartell will help.   Williams will utilize Chris Long, Robert Quinn and James Hall on the line but the secondary needs support.  The Wide receiver is thin outside of the return of Danny Amendola, a third down specialist.  Look for an impact move there if they go elsewhere in the draft.  Fisher will formulate a plan here and get his team together.

-Fisher’s  6 year deal worth 6.5 million per year is the going rate for veteran proven head coaches in 2012.   It sounds high but it is actually not.

-Steven Jackson won’t pound and grind out 1,000 yard seasons forever.  The Rams must think about drafting a running back or trading for one.  The failure to secure Darren Sproles when he was available last offseason really came back to haunt the Rams and they have to pull the trigger this time on someone not named Cadillac Williams and Jerius Norwood, who brought in plenty of hype and either weren’t used or didn’t perform well up to their needs.  Jackson is going to wear down and holds trade value.   This is the creative divisions deal but if the right deal came forth, trading Jackson while his value is high would be a steal for this team if the receiving package was juicy enough.  Think of it as a reward for each side.  Jackson going to a winning team and the Rams getting a brighter future.

That’s enough Rams talk.  The hiring of Fisher changes things and along with guys like Gregg Williams, he will cut his own squad of killers.  Rams football after 2014 in St. Louis carries more hope now than it did a week ago.  That is for sure.

What is going to happen to this team after 2014?  The hell if I know my friends.  I will tell you this.  Don’t doubt Stan Kroneke too much.  The guy has invested more money than you think in the Rams and this city.   Back in 1993, after the Rams failed to get an expansion bid, Stan bought 40 percent of the team and that fired up the move to St. Louis in 1994.  Without Stan’s investment, The Rams aren’t playing football here today and there was no Super Bowl won in this town.   Stan made a risky bold bid to finally buy the team outright two years ago and I don’t think he is going to move it out of town so quickly.   The city council and committee is going to present a bid and plan to Kroneke and the Rams by February 1st to fix the Dome and put it back in the top 25 percentile of stadiums in the NFL.  That is where it has to be in order to renew its lease here past 2014.  That is the end game.  Will Stan keep the team here or take it back to LA or in a crazy turn of events, across the ocean to London.  Stan is a smart businessman and that comes from knowing how to approach the future waves coming into the present setup.  Part of being a crafty moneymaker is taking the hits and learning from the incoming signs.   Kroneke isn’t going to set out to move this team out of town, and will only do it if the positive dollar forces his hand.  Love or hate the guy but its all business and not personal.  Fans start hating owners for the wrong reasons and this is a center point example of the rage.   Fans calling into radio stations complaining about Stan not giving them anything as far as a clue about the future.  Let me ask that person this.  What does he have to gain by presenting a false euphoria?  He would shoot himself in the foot by saying the wrong thing right now.  He is playing it close to the chest and that can be taken as a sign that he is taking this very seriously and doing what is best for the city and himself.  He gave up a franchise in Colorado to be able to buy the Rams, and he isn’t going to move out of a town he has worked in for nearly 20 years.  Stay calm and wait for real news.

How about those Blues?  You know, the hockey team that plays on 14th and Clark?

Part of the Blues recovery in the past 4 seasons has been off the ice as well as on it.  Gaining back the trust and approval of their wickedly passionate fanbase.   The transition from the Old Barn Arena to Kiel/Scottrade had its bumps and bruises, and then the team and league went dark in 2005.   Since the return, the Blues have struggled to maintain a sense of real belonging and fallen second to the Cardinals and at times third behind the Rams.  When a franchise hasn’t won a Stanley Cup and teeters on the edge of oblivion for a few years, this is the product.  However, this season the Blues are doing things they haven’t done in years.  Winning with command and consistency in December and January.   Under Ken Hitchcock, the Blues are 20-5-6 and are a point out of the top spot in the NHL.   That’s right, the Blues are 1 point behind the New York Rangers for the top spot and involved in a four team dogfight in the Central Division with Detroit, Chicago and Nashville.   The results aren’t simply in the record and conference standings.  Watching this team play is an invigorating experience.   They play 60 minutes and go north to south on the ice in a way I haven’t seen in a long time.  Every player is making something happen and going after it.   4th line grinders are scoring goals and delivering at each end of the ice.  The Blues have a captain in David Backes that completely fits the role.    The young gun line(Perron, Oshie, Berglund, Petrangelo) are finally coming into their own as hockey players.  The defense is holding the opposition to few shots on goal.  The two goalie tandem of Brian Elliot and Jaro Halak is stronger than ever.   Hitchcock’s methods are still working and producing results. Everything is falling into place for this team and at the right time.   For weeks, I have questioned their ability to keep the tempo and for good reason.  The Blues routinely fall apart in the new year.  Last January, the season was sealed with a 2-8 record.   This month, the team is 6-0-1 and surging to the top of the division.  This Blues team isn’t letting the Red Wings and Hawks run away with it.  They are sticking their skate into their backs and applying pressure and I like it.   I don’t think this team is going to die off.  Wait until Alex Steen and Andy Mcdonald return from concussion related injuries.   The firepower and skill level of this team can only get higher.   The amazing thing is, with the exception of Elliot, this is the same team from last season doing these incredible things.   The Blues are still averaging only around 2.5 goals per game, but they aren’t allowing any goals in the 3rd period.  When they lead after 2 periods, they seem to lock down the game right there instead of give it away.  Here are some other Blues clues.

-They have shut out the opposing team 3 out of the past 5 games.    Halak has two shutouts in his last 3 starts.   The entire team is pitching into the shutout efforts.  The defense is controlling the middle of the ice and making players take shots from outside the box.   Halak and Elliot aren’t being screened or covered up.  They are seeing shots and making key saves.

-The Blues finally won a shootout this past week against the Minnesota Wild on a goal from Shattenkirk.   This was the only sour point of the Hitch Era and was their first shootout win of the season.

-Halak’s play has powered the recent surge of the Blues winning 5 of their past 6 games, the only loss being a close hard fought overtime loss to top Western conference seed Vancouver.    Jaro Halak has turned his season around and responded well to the change behind bench.   He got pressure from Elliot and confidence from Hitchcock and has resurrected his career here in St. Louis.  The Slovakian stopper struggled last season in his first full season of duty but is taking 2011-2012 in stride and only getting better with each start.  He returned to Montreal last week and shut out the Habs in front of his old fanbase and garnered a very classy standing ovation after the game in which he skated around twice after the game because the cheers wouldn’t stop.  Since then, he has been lights out in the net.   Halak’s main problem was reaction speed in net and he is doing so well on rebounds lately.   He is stopping tough shots and giving his team confidence and a fighting chance.   I said it in September.   The Blues long term success rate depended on Halak’s play.  Early on, it was tough because Elliot was outplaying Halak and that isn’t the right order of things.  Every Stanley Cup Champion has that one solid leader in net and Halak is turning into that guy here with strong support from Elliot.

-David “Freight Train” Backes is a force to be reckoned with.   The man has 14 goals and plays every minute harder than anyone and delivers the most excruciating hits in each zone.  He is underrated on defense and powers to the net better than most on the offensive end.   After a down year, it is great to see the new captain take a hold of the leader role and deliver on the ice as well.

-T.J. Oshie’s game has taken the most effect from the Hitchcock Trails.   When he is working well, Oshie’s game is outside the box and takes over the entire ice space.   A north to south missile attack that doesn’t let up.  Did you see blues winner on Monday night? Phenomenal. I’ll spin it for you quick. Petro feeds Oshie an outlet pass, Oshie takes cross blue line, drops it for Perron, heads to the net while DP heads down right wing and Perron feeds him a floater right on net. Oshie takes the pass on backhand, switches to forehand, dekes Lehtonen, slams it home while getting clobbered. Oshie being Oshie. Beautiiiifuuullll! That’s a one goal shutout closer to remember.  The score was highlight reel good and reminds everyone just how special and talented Oshie can be.  He is a man on a mission in 2012 because he is playing for a new contract after a one year deal from the Blues served as a needed push to his skill set.   Oshie is a plus 14 since Hitch’s arrival and has been on fire for weeks.   I only expect it to get better.

Moving on to the NFL playoff action from last weekend.  After a rousing first weekend of football that saw comebacks and unexpected developments hit, the harsh reality of NFL playoff action hit during the second round and brought its own surprise.

Baltimore beat Houston straight up with defense.   After scoring 20 points in the first quarter, the Ravens defense shut down Tyler Yates, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson for the next 3 quarters and held on 20-17 to advance.  In the “boring” game of the weekend, the Balty crew stonewalled any opportunity given to Houston.   Joe Flacco didn’t beat the Texans.   Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Terrell Suggs beat the Texans.   Shutdown defense helped Baltimore win a trophy in 2002 so I wasn’t surprised.

New England clobbered Tim Tebow and the Broncos by 4 touchdowns.  Look, I never said the kid was going to walk into Foxboro and take down the Brady Machine.  It was right next to impossible.  Tebow never got loose, played with a rib and lung injury and was shut down by a surprisingly effective Pats defense.    They played with a 2 touchdown lead for nearly the entire game, so stopping Tebow was rather easy.   He didn’t throw well,  saw his running lanes shut down and only had one decent drive the entire game.  However, remember folks,  Tebow doesn’t play defense my friends.  SO MANY PEOPLE jumped on Tebow after the game, mocking his kneel and throwing him into the grinder.  The Broncos defense gave up 45 points.  Not Tim Tebow.  He didn’t play well but when Tom Brady is carving your defense up like turkey dinner, its easy to look rattled.   Tom Brady and company rolled easily through the Broncos and will look for revenge from 2009 when they face the Ravens this week.

Tim Tebow side section-I don’t understand the hatred towards this young man.    I am a fan, but I don’t get the hate part of the equation here.  I am the farthest thing from religious and don’t love his GOD outpouring of love, but respect him for being a great guy and a man who gives back plenty to his community.   The man builds hospitals, helps out under privileged kids and does a lot of good off the field but he is hated for a reason that stems deeper than religion.  His future in the NFL is debatable and he still needs to prove he can be a legitimate NFL quarterback in 2012.  His talent level is negotiable but his drive, effort and good nature isn’t up for discussion.   He is good for football.  He is something different.  You can’t deny the effect he had in Denver.  He took a 1-4 team and took them to the playoffs and won a game, knocking out the reigning AFC champs in Pittsburgh.   He has a lot to improve but the job is his in 2012 to lose.  I just don’t like the straight up hatred towards him.  Its a telling trait of our society to rise against Tebow.   Hate his football all you want.  Just stop hating the man.   More than anything, I think people are afraid of his potential in the NFL.  What if he becomes a better passer?  Oh shit…

The 49ers shocked the world first and beat the Saints in an outcome I wasn’t too surprised with even though I loved Drew Brees’ dominance the past month of the season.  Everything changes in the playoffs and anything can happen.  The 49ers got home field advantage and defeated the Saints by limiting their weapons.  There is NO way to shut down the New Orleans 6 WR/3 RB attack but you can limit it with good linebacker work and a decent pass rush.   The grass field slowed down the Brees passing attack and the emergence of Alex Smith from the land of “dumb and plain bad first round draft picks” continued as he threw the game winning touchdown with under a minute left.   Smith had been the Trent Dilfer of QB’s all season.   Complete passing plays of 15 yards or less, don’t make mistakes and give way to the Frank Gore running machine.  On Saturday, Smith stepped up and made believers of everyone.  He is a dangerous man and along with Vernon Davis, took down the New Orleans Saints.

My pick of the week was the New York Giants taking down the Packers.  NO ONE BOUGHT MY PREDICTION.    Truck drivers, gym rats, random folks, and not even the Pope himself.   Mother Teresa gave me points but that doesn’t count.   The supposedly unbeatable Packers(except for that Chiefs debacle) had a big weakness in bringing the worst defense in the NFL into a game with the hottest team in football.  The Giants are doing exactly what they did in 2007.   Get hot late and sustain it through the playoffs.   Eli Manning played a near flawless game and outplayed the beloved Aaron Rodgers.    Manning took down the redemption seeking Brett Favre in Lambeau in 2007 in an overtime shootout that I remember well.   Manning walked back into Cheesehead Nation and took down their new king.  The Packers will not repeat as champs and the Giants look more dangerous than ever.   That just happened, Green Bay.   The beast is gone.  What lies in return is a potential rematch of the 2007 upset game between New York and the Patriots.   The day Spagnuolo broke the vault and got to the Brady Machine. The Day Eli made his name and put Tom on hold.  The Day something new happened.  The day the dynasty died in Bean town.    The Giants took down the Packers and set the stage for a big time matchup this weekend with the 49ers and possibly, a return to the field against New England.

My heart to heart picks right now are the Patriots piling enough offense on Baltimore to earn a trip to the Super Bowl and the Giants barely getting by the 49ers in overtime on a field goal to reach the final match and set up the rematch of 2007’s back and forth battle.

Quick Notes

-Congress wants to limit our internet reach and continue to invade our privacy.   There’s something not right there.    What is so wrong with people researching things on the internet?  Its not our fault the random kid tries to find out how to make a bomb, buy a gun or do harm to others through internet exposure and pressure.   We shouldn’t lose our rights of freedom on the net for that.

-The weather needs to make up its mind quick.   Low 20s and chilly or upper 50s and cool?  The human body can only take so many weather changes.

-Modot failing to clear the streets in time for the morning rush last week wasn’t a huge surprise.   Weather crews in St. Louis are known for being slow to act.   Snow and cold weather are a beast to defeat and Modot fucking up in their first dry run of the season is no surprise.   The more threatening thing is watching people react by driving like absolute morons.  The necessary reaction isn’t suspending all knowledge of road rules.    Driving very slow and taking turns at 2 mph won’t increase your chances of making it to your destination.  This is where people should have their license suspended during bad weather.   Have an officer make their way to doors and collect their driving IDs for the day.  Everything would be better.  Remember, people cause accidents and not bad weather.

-I carry zero desire to get into the Presidential race this year as of this moment.  I got into with Obama/McCain and looking at the result, I can tell you I only will dip my interest in when a candidate shows himself.   Ron Paul is intriguing but…all politicians are full of wicked hot shit.  It’s their job to play a joker and show a poker face but it doesn’t mean I like it.   I’m doing the nod and whatever thing when politics come into my conversational grasp these days.

Back to Topics Breaking into My Brain

Justified Returns with a Vengeance on Tuesday

The FX Modern western gem with Timothy Olyphant’s renegade Marshall Raylan Givens returned to the airwaves with its third season this week and the first episode, titled “Gunfighter” centered our wounded hero in the middle of another storm.   Starting the season at a deficit with a healing gunshot wound taken in at the end of Season 2, Raylan is struggling to sit at a desk when he is dragged into the appearance of a Detroit mobster(the always evil Neal McDourough) and old hounds in Boyd Crowder(the simply amazing Walter Goggins) and local mischief master Duffy.    Raylan surrounds himself with every kind of scum on this earth and spends the next 12 hours whirling and twirling his way out of a mess.   He finds his aim is off on his shooting and makes contact with a deadly man in an elevator that leads to a showdown at hour’s end that reminds me of how good this show is.  The greatness comes in the patience it takes in potential explosive gun battles.  Raylan, wounded, sitting at a motel table with his woman Fiona(Natalie Zea) at his side and facing down a killer set on taking Givens down is pure juice.   The payoff comes as expected but the table is set for another great season.  Justified has become the reliable hour of entertainment one searches for their whole life.  Expected greatness.   Throughout the whole series, the baddies have been memorable but Olyphant’s steady presence and cool headed appeal sets the tone here always.  He is the rock.

Puncture Movie Review

The true story of two Houston lawyers going up against pharmaceutical companies in the use of dangerous contaminated needles in hospitals is center stage in this indie drama.   Chris Evans is a standout as Mike Weiss, a drug addict/brilliant lawyer who takes the case of a nurse who stuck by a contaminated needle on the job who develops AIDS and wants hospitals to use a new safety needle that ejects the blade after every use.  A one shot needle basically.  Weiss and his partner, Paul Danzinger(co-director Mark Kassen) take the case and run head on with a company who wants to squash the safety needle product and keep their investors and primary profitable operation moving along without pause.   This is a low flying powerful entertainment that rests entirely on Evans’ broad shoulders.  After taking the country by storm portraying Captain America this summer, Evans blows me away here as Weiss, a tragic figure who is trying to keep his demons at bay and fight the good fight.   Evans has put together a long career consisting mostly of action, comedy and thrillers.   This is his first foray into lead power role.   Weiss is the perfect match.  A guy who was addicted to every horrible drug but was great at what he did.  The two lawyers run into walls along their way but the tale here is spun with a few twists and ends on a solid note.  Puncture is a successful true story telling vehicle in that it doesn’t strip any parts of the real tale away and only enhances it with great actors and a game plan that packs a punch in its understated approach.

Albert Pujols Declines the White House

This may be a feeble issue to some, but to me it is a big slap in the face of an organization.   The St. Louis Cardinals visited the White House this week in the annual tour of Champions visiting the White House, and Pujols declined to visit.   Why not?  He isn’t doing anything extremely important in STL or LA right now and owed it to his teammates to show up and join them in their celebration of the 2011 miracle season.   Pujols participated in the run to the World Series and should have showed up.  This only deepens the new found awkward resentment towards the Pujols camp in St. Louis.  A guy who once pledged to stay, decided to leave, stopped to make excuses and whine afterwards and now must find it too weird to share a room with a club he spent 11 seasons with.   What happened to Albert Pujols?  The man who I thought was honorable and worth defending and engaging upon has turned into a different person in the span of 3 months.   I take it as an insult.

Haywire Appeal

There’s something about Steven Soderbergh’s new action thriller, Haywire, that has me hooked.  Say hello to the female version of Jason Bourne.  The tagline of the poster says it all.  “They left her no choice.”  Asskicking included here.   It gives off the vibe of a carefree asskicking action thrill ride with little regret or worry for the safe appeal.   Haywire centers on special ops soldier Mallory Kane,(real life MMA fighter Gina Carino) who is casted out by every known killer in the world and must fight/shoot/stab/kick her way to freedom.   The film gathers all of Soderbergh’s film cronies, such as Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas along with newcomers Channing Tatum and one of the most promising breakout actors from 2011, Michael Fassbender.  Carino and Fassbender’s hotel room fight in the trailer sells me right away.  A calm meeting turns into a smashmouth realistic blood spurting display of physicality spun around a fight to the death.   It hooks you right there.  Carino is the perfect female action star.  She is dark haired sexy, tough, built but not disgusting or overpoweringly imposing.  She has a sweet smile and composure, but can turn on a dime and beat you to a pulp.   Soderbergh has proclaimed he loves to kill off movie stars and right here, he won’t disappoint.   Here is the trailer.

The Random Takes-

*The Texas Rangers made a bad sign today when they handed 60 guaranteed million to Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, a guy who hasn’t recorded one single out in the majors. It is absolutely absurd to hand this kind of money to a player with zero experience.  The 6 year contract could net Darvish 111 million dollars.  The Rangers will invest 100 plus in this kid but won’t hand 120 million plus to Prince Fielder.  That’s crazy.   Fielder is the perfect fit for Texas and can transition to a DH in 5-6 years.  That won’t happen now.

*The Cardinals Winter Warmup is a great way to raise money for charity but I rarely take it in downtown.  I have nothing against it but its one of those things that I just haven’t gotten into.   The question and answer sessions are the best and yield surprisingly honest answers.

*The Blues giving Brian Elliot a 2 year extension is a rewarding sign for the player and organization.  For the first time in years(familiar saying with Blues these days), the Blues have a solid starter and backup in place for the next 2-3 seasons.   Elliot has been quietly dominating all season long when he gets the chance.  With Halak playing better, he will only have to fight harder for a start.  Allow me to roll down Elliot’s accomplishments in 2011-2012.   He is 15-5-1 with a .938 save percentage and 1.68 goal against average.  He owns 5 shutouts in 20 starts, which is a ridiculous statistic.   A comparison.  In 2009-2010 with the Ottawa Senators, Elliot had 5 shutouts as well….in 55 games, more than double his amount this season.   Elliot’s season is a good story and reality that goalies can hit their stride at anytime in their career.  The Blues investment is under 4 million for 2 seasons, an amount good for the player and team.

*I commend Bill DeWitt III and John Mozelaik’s straight forward questions to fans questions about Albert Pujols and the situation.   Mo and DeWitt didn’t pull any punches or make any excuses.  They basically said they stretched themselves for Albert and he declined to accept their invitation to ride off into the sunset together.   A month after the decision, the Mozelaik/DeWitt III side is still the warmer end of the spectrum.

*Situations at my workplace may change but my commitment and effort won’t go down during the busiest time of the year.   The passion and strive to do anything for the job will start to go down though.  Immediate effect of a future with a possible unfortunate end.

*Song of the Day-The Lengths by The Black Keys.   Laidback, groovy, easy listening blues rock delight from the masters of modern day tough rock.   Today I received my tickets to the Keys concert at Chaifetz Arena on April 27th, so coupled with their everyday dominance in my music world, this was good enough reason to lay down this track.   It is part of the 22 song mix I made that could sub as a playlist for this two man wrecking crew that has taken over the musical world long after it made its first great blues album.    Similiar to the Kings of Leon, the Black Keys bloomed late but have risen quite high.

*Cardinals Rant.  With spring training a month away, here is a few things about the team developing in the past couple weeks.   One long winded rant.   The signing of Kyle McClellan isn’t one I felt was necessary to grow as a bullpen but its expected.   An arm ruined by constant change from pen hand to starter comes back for 2.5 million to a group already stocked with righthanders like Jason Motte, Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas, and Eduardo Sanchez.   McClellan looks like damaged goods and had a horrible end to his 2011 season and was left off the postseason roster.   Daniel Descalso can easily fill Nick Punto’s infield versatility role for less than half the price.  DD is as solid in the field and carries a quality bench bat as well.   Skip Schumacher will have to fight off light hitting Tyler Greene at second base even though Rafael Furcal’s inability to stay healthy will provide playing time.   David Freese staying humble is no surprise.  The hometown kid knows where fortune has taken him.   Lance Berkman needs to grow the March-April beard and get rid of the smooth faced criminal visual.  Seeing Carpenter and Wainwright dance inside the same rotation will provide fireworks early and often.  Matt Holliday is doing his part in coming on radio stations and getting into the public eye more.  Today, he offered to find Freese a girlfriend on the radio.   Holliday was uniquely hurt in 2011 but still provided when he played.  People forget that when they see his stats even though it includes 38 missed starts.  His season ended coldly in October but his small ball plays in the World Series were difference makers.  Jon Jay is approaching a big season to solidify himself in the lineup and will battle Allen Craig for playing time in right field and back up the fragile Carlos Beltran in center field.   If Beltran stays healthy, the Cards have 4 good outfielders.   The Cards are ready for the injury bug to bite and most of the backup is Memphis based.  Breakout player of the year in 2012 is Jason Motte.  A full season in the closer role and picking up right where he left off in October, blowing away Phillies, Brewers and Rangers bats with a new found ease.

*Who has a better year?  Albert Pujols in Los Angeles or Prince Fielder in Washington or Texas?  I expect Pujols to have first year jitters and finish strong again to have a decent AP season.  Watch out for a torrid 2013 season, where AP hits 50 homers and drives 120 plus runs.  Once Pujols gets adjusted, he will still thrive.    Fielder will put up great numbers wherever he goes but the smart and necessary play is lesser years and more money.

*God Rant.  Today I engaged in another god/reality showdown with a co-worker and got the best of him as usual.  It’s easy when logic rides with your words.  My co-worker, an ex addict turned born again fellow who supposedly “walks with GOD” tried to convince me the lord was real and I quickly pounded him into submission with facts, jokes, one liners, six liners and all kinds of shut the fuck up juice.  Listen, here is my take.   For all the religion buffs out there, let me ask you a question.  Where is your reference point?  How do we know your guy is real?  Why is he a guy in the first place?  How do we know?  That is my main beef.  I believe in what I see and I can’t see GOD, therefore I don’t believe in him.  If there is no proof, there is no existence my friends.   Where is the reference point?  The only way we know of GOD is by being told about him and/or reading about him in the best selling novel called the bible.  Therefore, he isn’t real.  There is ZERO PROOF.  If so, tell me.  If you walk with the lord, why can’t I see him?  Its the religious buffs who pound it down our throats everyday(worse than Tebow) that cause me to fire back logical explanations here.  I don’t have to say sorry for saying this either.  Its my fucking blog!!   Please don’t answer the question with “I just know”.  That isn’t a good enough answer to base your argument off of with me in the heat of battle.

*I still think about Meme on occasion.  At least once a week and for extended periods consisting of minutes.   From time to time, I get hit with a wave of memory and think to myself, “is she really gone?”   The uncomfortable realization that she is never coming back and will never ask me another question is still fresh and painful nearly a month later.  When does it go away?  Never.   Meme will continue to pop up in my mind from time to time and that is a good thing.  Some wounds never get stitched close.  They lie open and fester on your brain.  I am thinking of getting Meme’s name and date of birth and death tattooed on my upper arm because it is something worth looking at everyday and will never become a waste of space on my body.   I will never forget that lady and everything in my life has a different feel and vibe without her in it.

This rant is finished.   The unfolding seminar of material has ran its course and this freight train of information is coming to a halt.   My hope is that this information stimulated you in a way few things do and that it will give you a slight and/or small lift on a regular Wednesday evening.  My needs have been met and soon enough, I will come back again with more to spill and carry the desire to inform.  For now, I am done.

Thanks for reading and goodnight,

Dan L. Buffa

PS.-Here’s another trailer.  Don’t ask me why, but please watch it.   Its got Robert DeNiro in a juicy well needed role as a famous writer who reconnects with his son in a shelter after 19 years apart.  Paul Dano plays his son who is also a writer but is pushing his way through lies, deceit and massive deception.   I love these kind of tales about father and son reluctantly being thrown together to see if there is a beating heart in their bloodline.

“Life is gathering material.   Writers, typically poets, are particularly prone to madness.  I don’t care how good of a writer you are, you can’t kill someone with words.”-Flynn(Robert DeNiro)

 

 

 

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The Name of the Game

As I roll into one of the best films of the year, Moneyball, I will unload the latest firing squad of material.    Cut the shit, avoid the glaze and get to the material.   That’s what people come here for.  The goods.  Let’s get to it.

Spags Is Fired

Seen coming from a mile away, The Rams Head Coach was fired mere hours after I wrote about it in a blog early Monday morning.   This wasn’t a surprise.  He compiled a record of 10-38 in his three seasons, taking a huge step back this season in a 2-14 season marred by bad penalties, injury, underachieving quarterback play and a downright ugly brand of football.  The Rams were horrible, and sports rules call for a coach to fall on the sword.   The real reason Spags lost his job was he lost the guts and determination to try new things and go outside the box.  The Rams had zero energy and looked flat every Sunday.  Spags was gun shy and shell shocked from extreme failure, and like a scarred quarterback in the slot with fear of throwing an interception, Spagnuolo was eaten away by his own demons.   Change was needed and he was executed.  GM Billy Devaney was sent packing along with him, a required move for the simple reason that he put the failing squad together.

Jeff Fisher Enters the Picture

The main reason I like Fisher is because he has head coaching experience, and unlike the Cardinals, the Rams need a coach with legit experience and a history of winning with small payrolls.  Fisher took the Titans to the Super Bowl in 1999 with an underrated team and nearly(by a yard) beat the Rams.   12 years later, he will chose between the Rams and Miami this week.   Fisher is a hard nosed tough attitude producing football mind who has taken the time off to reset his engines and prepare for another battle on the sidelines.  Fisher is hungry and dealt with a childish quarterback in Tennessee near his end in Vince Young.   He forced Fisher out and since then, Fisher’s been a free agent.  Pull the record away and the STL Rams are set up with fine pieces to rebuild with.  The main problem with the Rams is they were rebuilding still in 2011 and they had the third oldest team in football.   Rebuilding and old age don’t go together.  The Rams need to get younger and build from their youth.   Scrap the old shitty parts and look at the young.  If I am Fisher, that is my main goal.   Look at Sam Bradford and the potential.   Steven Jackson is old, so think about drafting a young RB in the later rounds.   Look at the defense with Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Quentin Mikkel and James Lauranitis.   There are pieces here.   In my opinion, the Rams carry more futuristic flair than the Dolphins even though Miami had a more successful 2011 season.   Fisher makes a choice this week and if the Rams can snag him, the first step taken in rebuilding a dead franchise is a solid one.  You have to start with the head coach, get a general manager who can evaluate talent,  then the draft, and move into free agency and assemble a good team.

Tim Tebow Defies the Odds…..Again

On Sunday, Tebow went into Mile High Stadium with few experts expecting him to take down the #1 ranked defense in the Steelers in the wild card playoff round.   After losing the last 3 games of the season and turning the ball over 7 times, Tebow was once again left for dead.   It’s been a trend in his NFL career.   The college hero with a knack for fourth quarter comebacks who has trouble throwing is now going to New England to play Tom Brady and the Patriots next Sunday in the second round of the playoffs.  How did this happen?  Tebow threw for 316 yards, including touchdown passes of 30 and 80 yards and also a 51 yard completion.   He also ran for a touchdown.   Tebow completed an 80 yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime, which qualifies as the longest passing play in overtime in playoff history.   The Tebow critics will come out and shoot this down, calling it a 2012 Mayan apocalypse fluke or a lucky shot.   I am here to tell you the kid has real talent and isn’t going anywhere.  He carries little chance of beating Brady next week, but he will make the Super Champ earn the right to play for the conference.   Tebow is a winner.  He is committed to winning and will do ANYTHING to win.   He is all you want in an athlete coming out of college.  Tebow is Michael Vick without the shitty brain and criminal desire.  A quarterback who can run and throw.  Tebow did it all and then some on Sunday.  Seeing what he does next weekend is something EVERYBODY, critics and supporters, will be dying to see.  For the first time in his career, Tebow won a game with his arm and not just his legs.  It helped that Ben Roethlisberger played the game on one leg and the Steelers didn’t have safety Ryan Clark or running back Rasheed Mendenhall.  It helped that Pittsburgh was playing on the road with a hurt quarterback.  It helped that Denver had a 10 point lead most of the game.   Tebow takes the surrounding factors and correctly plugs them into his own agenda.  No matter how ugly it is, win the game.  He won on Sunday without the ugliness.  One thing is for sure.  Tebow has shocked the world.   If I told you Tebow would be playing Tom Brady in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game back in September, you would have laughed me out of the room.  Expect the unexpected with Tebow.

Dave Duncan Steps Down

Dave Duncan will not be the pitching coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, marking the first time The Cardinals will employ a new manager and pitching coach since 1995.   Duncan is stepping down to be with his wife, Jeannine, who is recovering from brain cancer.   In November, Duncan thought he could stack the duties of a pitching coach on top of looking after his wife.  Last week, Duncan decided he couldn’t do it.   The news began as a leave of absence but developed into a permanent move.   Derek Lilloquist, who stepped into Dunc’s role near the end of 2011, will become the new pitching coach.   The loss of Duncan is a big one for a team suddenly rebuilding the identity of their team after winning a World Series.   Tony La Russa retired, Matheny came aboard, got rid of La Russa’s coaches, Pujols signed elsewhere and now Duncan isn’t coming back.  Say hello to a new friend.   The Cardinals will get by without them in 2012.   In 2011, they defied the ultimate odds and won the championship.   2012 seems like a piece of cake.  Look, you can sit here and cry over Duncan’s exit or take comfort in the fact he is doing it for the right reason and the Cards get his longtime protege in return.

The Blues Rebound, Put Together A Strong Streak

On Monday, I told you the Blues had 3 winnable games this past week.   Phoenix, Edmonton and Colorado.   They won all three games and sit atop the Central Division with 53 points and are 2nd in the Western Conference.   The Blues are playing 60 minutes of hockey, are 5-13 on their power play during the home stand, and seeing renewed production from Chris Stewart.   This team relies on all hands being on deck instead of a single scoring line or one man goaltending show.   Brian Elliot grabbed another shutout on Saturday when the Blues dominated and destroyed the streaking Avs but goals from Berglund, Shatty, Arnott and Backes sealed the win and Elliot saw less than 20 shots.   A team game is developing and that is why the Blues are atop the division.  In October, we had a good team and a chance to win.  Davis Payne was a respected man and coach.   However, he wasn’t pulling results from this team and he was replaced.  Ken Hitchcock came in here with 540 plus wins, sitting at a desk in Columbus, and hungry to coach again.  He has reinvented this team with the same players.   Amazing feat.   What else is there to say?  I am no expert and can only enjoy watching this team that I have waited to see contend seriously again suddenly become a legit force in the NHL.  It would be fool hardy to not recognize a night/day difference with the team under Payne/Hitchcock.  How long can it last?

Moneyball’s Genius

Billy Beane’s idea was simple.  Take a 41 million dollar team and turn them into a playoff team after losing three key players in Damon, Izzy and Giambi in 2002.  Billy Beane made one decision early in his life based on money and swore he would never do it again.   Beane wanted to change the game.  He didn’t want the money, fame or glamour.   He wanted to do something no team had done before.  Take a small market team and beat the big market team.   It was more than that.  His method of changing the game meant relying on stats, computer analysis and on base percentage instead of old school scouting, big salaries and home runs.  His change of thought threatened the livelihood of several GMs, scouts,ballplayers and represented what people fear most in life.  CHANGE IN METHODS OF SUCCESS SEEKING.   The A’s won more games in 2002 than they did in 2001, won 20 games in a row, yet lost in the playoffs to the Twins.   His season was enough to make teams change the way they evaluate talent.   Moneyball is a great film that relies heavily on Brad Pitt’s brilliant portrayal of Beane.  Instead of mimicking Beane directly, Pitt created his own wisecracking version of Beane and delivered one of the better performances of his career.   Bennett Miller unleashed Pitt and in the end created a new sports film classic.  See this film on Tuesday when it arrives on DVD/Blu Ray.

Edwin Jackson isn’t worth 17 million dollar a season.  

The 60-60 pitcher doesn’t deserve that money.   His agent, Scott Boras, is demanding that much and comparing him to past chokers like John Lackey and Aj Burnett, both whose employers are dying to shred now that they are scrubs.   Recalculate Scotty.   Jackson isn’t worth the dough and barely deserves Kyle Lohse money in 11 million per season.  Jackson hasn’t proven he could win consistently at this level and he isn’t a good bet even to a team needing starting pitching.  He will be picked up for a 1 or 2 year deal in February at 12 million per season by an American League team looking to dump money on a landfill.  Jackson is a MLB whore and has slept around the league.

Attention Packers and Saints. 

You score a lot of points but you shall face a New York Giants team that has won 3 in a row and made Matt Ryan and The Falcons look like immature oversized pee wee opponents on Sunday.   The Giants beat the Falcons 24-2 and the only reason Atlanta saw points came via a penalty on Eli Manning in the end zone.  For the second week in a row, Manning threw for 300 plus yards, 65 percent completion rate and 3 touchdowns without any interceptions.   I’m not a fan of the Giants.  I’m simply warning the favored teams.

Albert Pujols still isn’t sure he made the right decision.  

His 10 year 250 million dollar deal was completed this week and it comes with many perks.  Pujols gets a hotel suite on the road, a chance to buy season tickets at an Angels suite, and gets tons of incentives when he breaks records.   It proves that every small detail must be punched out before a player contract is finalized.  The deal includes a 10 year personal services clause that according to my inside sources, the Cards came up with first and the Angels adapted.  That’s right.  The Cards team that Team Pujols said didn’t treat them with respect and comfort first offered him a personal services contract.   There was comfort and 210 million from St. Louis, but Pujols fled.   This exit still doesn’t sit completely easy with me mainly in part to Pujols’ stupidity.  In my eyes, he had no reason to leave and the ones he pointed out don’t make a bit of sense.  Im glad the big guy gets his own suite on the road, Mike Piazza style, and that he is happy out west.  The real proof starts in less than 90 days.

Roy Oswalt to the Cardinals only works if the dollars, years and role perimeters are set up right.   If the Cards could trade Westbrook or Lohse, Oswalt could fit in perfectly in St. Louis, a place where he really wants to pitch.   Oswalt could come here for 5 million and have his salary rise with wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.   If it is possible, I am for it.

Prince Fielder needs to make a decision. 

Shut off the cell phone and tell Boras to leave you alone.   Nearly a month after Pujols signed, Fielder sits without a contract and its peculiar yet not surprising.   Fielder wants 10 years and Pujols money, and teams don’t want to give him the comfort.  They want to give him 5 years and high dollar.   If I were Fielder, I would take the 5 year deal and keep on hitting.    What if a better offer doesn’t come in?  What if the phantom bidder in Boras talks never arrives?   The best fit for Prince is Washington.  They seem primed to give him 5-7 years and 23-25 million per season and the two sides fit each other.   Washington is one piece away from seriously contending.  They have Steven Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and John Lannan in the rotation.  They have Drew Storen in the bullpen.  They have Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Michael Morse in the lineup and only need a big piece to get in line with  the Braves and Phillies.  Fielder will know the team is set up to win for a long time, especially if Bryce Harper makes an appearance in 2012.   If I am Fielder, I tell Boras to make the Washington deal work.  Soon.

For years, I swore Floyd Mayweather Jr. was the person to blame for the mega fight between Floyd and Manny Pacquiao not happening.  

At first, Floyd played the mind games and demanded olympic drug testing.    Manny balked and said no.   The second time, Manny agreed to the testing yet Floyd didn’t come to the table.  The two have fought 3 opponents since the chance for a fight arose.   Floyd seemed to be afraid to harm his unbeaten record, avoid a real challenge for the first time in his career and seemed to run from this fight or make up bullshit to delay it.  Now, the tables have turned.   Floyd got 90 days in jail for domestic abuse this month, but on Friday a judge delayed the sentence until June so Floyd could keep a commitment to fight in Las Vegas on May 5th.  Floyd is available and when asked who he wants to fight, a name wasn’t needed.  He wants Manny for a mega fight.   The only problem now is Manny’s promoter, Bob Arum seems to NOT want to make the fight happen.  Floyd’s promoter, Richard Schfareth is placing the blame on Arum and I am starting to believe him.  Arum took a 4 opponent portfolio to Manny this weekend and it didn’t include Floyd.  When news came around that Floyd had a chance to fight, Arum still dismissed a fight.   WHY?  Nobody wants to see any other fight right now.   Boxing fans and casual boxing fans want to see Floyd and Manny brawl.   Why is Arum holding this up?   Is he afraid a Pac Man loss will kill his cash cow’s future chances?  That doesn’t make sense.  Manny has lost 4 times and if he puts up a decent fight at the very least against Mayweather Jr.,  a rematch will be in order and redemption will be set up.   Arum has zero reason to deny this fight.  His unwillingness to work with Golden Boy Promotions makes me sick and may stop the biggest fight in 30 years from happening.

We Bought A Zoo Review

Cameron Crowe’s first full fledged family film is a true story centering on Benjamin Mee, a writer who decides to take over a zoo in California after his wife dies in order to rehabilitate his grieving family .  Matt Damon stars as Mee, and he makes another leading role seem effortless. The role represents another layer of Damon few film fans have gotten a chance to see.   Damon’s gift is being one of the most versatile actors on the planet.   His skills serve him well in this holiday delight.  Crowe’s gift in filmmaking is injecting an emotional experience into a recycled story that seems familiar.  This film is an emotionally engaging experience that will get the tearducks working by the final frame.   A simple concept taken and rolled into a family film worth seeing.  Mee takes over a closed Zoo and along with his two kids and a staff including every cliched stereotype in film, resurrects not only the zoo but his own life.  The supporting cast features Scarlett Johannson as the zoo keeper and woman who enters Ben’s life at the right time yet finds a cement cover on the soul.   The key to this film is the grace that Crowe delivers it.   Every Crowe film is a version of his own life and every lead character is an alternate personality.   He is a director you immediately get a feel for when watching a film.  The easy going pace, the rich soundtrack and relaxed acting.   Thomas Haden Church co-stars as Ben’s brother and brings a healthy dose of humor to the proceedings.

The Black Keys Come to St. Louis

If you spend any time here lately, you have come to find out that this band has grown to be one of my favorites.  Their music is pure and old school rock n’ roll electricity.  It’s perk up, get in a good mood, wake the fuck up music.   Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney put together the greatest 2 man band in history and keep things simple.  From their first album, The Big Come Up, to their latest batch of tunes, El Camino, the boys haven’t changed a bit. They will grace the Chaifetz Arena on April 27th, finally getting the required space to surround their monstrously cool music.   It’s easy to like the Black Keys if you like old school blues rock.  Here’s yet another sample of their work, a cover of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel”.    You wouldn’t know the song didn’t belong to them by the way they invest the song with soul and original wit.   These guys are freakishly good and only get better on repeated listens.  One of the most inventive bands out there at the moment.  To me, while DMB take a break, Black Keys share the musical earth with Mumford and Sons and Florence + The Machine.

Memorial for Meme

On Sunday, there was a memorial downtown in St. Louis for my late grandmother, Henrieta aka “Meme”.   A somber day that was put together to celebrate her life.   There was a mass at St. Raymonds and a lunch at her condo.    Meme is the one and only reason I ever entered a church in my life and for her, I reentered my Catholic upbringing this weekend to honor her memory.   As you know, I believe in GOD on earth as much as Santa Claus or clean honest politicians, so I did this for her.  She loved going there and was a Saint there.   It was a nice ceremony and the place was packed.   I sat between my mom and dad and served as the tough bunker dividing tears and strength.   Afterwards, friends and family flooded the condo for a lunch and memorial.  My good friend, Bill DeWitt III made an appearance and paid his respects.  My grandmother lived next door to DeWitt and his family when they moved here in 1996 and immediately treated them like family.   It was a nice event and a fine sendoff to Meme.   It’s still a fresh wound to think of Meme as deceased but seeing the vast array of people who she collided with in her life made me feel better about letting her go sooner rather than later.   She lived a full and vibrantly aware 81 years and served as a fine example of “living”  for a living.

2011 Look Back Preview

In the next week or so, I will be putting together a look back at the year that was 2011, a period that marked my life with happiness and sadness.  A bittersweet campaign that won’t be forgotten.   Here is a preview at the opening and things that happened and will be delved into.

Life is a give and take process with a fair measure of get.   You give, they take and you get something in return.  In 2011, things happened that will I will never forget.   A year of pain and joy that only strengthens the fact that life can’t be taken for granted.

Meme Passes-The loss of my grandmother on Christmas eve was the equivalent to a bullet ripping into my back at the end of a parade.  She died on the eve of Christmas and on the eve of her wedding anniversary.  Meme would tell me every time I saw her that she would be dead soon and I better come see her more often.   She knew she wasn’t going to be around forever, and that is something my family and I never wanted to buy into or believe.   Now, we are figuring out how to live without Meme’s presence and grace.  It’s a tough walk.

Life is full of  promises, so here is a quick rundown of 2011 just in case I don’t come back to write an official end of year mission statement.  What happened in 2011?  A quick plunge.  My Wife Rachel Quits smoking.  We get pregnant(yes, there is a “we” being used here).    The following9 months are an adventurous blend of excitement, tiredness and new found joy.   Vinny goes into the hospital due to a heart condition named WPW.   He leaves the hospital.  The Cards win 22 games in September and rip into the playoffs on the final day as Atlanta falters like an injured horse.   They outlast the Phillies, smoke the Brewers in six and outrun the Rangers in the World Series to produce the most improbable run in 20 years and win their 11th championship title.  David Freese becomes a national sports hero in 48 hrs with a pair of huge hits to propel the Cards to the title.  The team quickly encounters change with La Russa retiring 2 days after Game 7 and The Pujols Talks encure a week of drama.   Albert Pujols signs with the Angels and immediately regrets his decision, calling the Cardinals to blame for not cuddling him during negotiations.  The Blues crash in the House of Payne yet reinvent themselves under a new veteran coach in Hitchcock.   The Rams completely collapse, igniting a bomb that blows up the front office and sideline.  They finish 2-14, and Spags and Devaney are fired.   The NBA and NFL build a greedy wall around their egos and go through a lockout, the NBA losing a portion of the season.   Vinny goes back into the hospital for a stomach ailment that keeps him for 4 more days in ICU.   He exits and starts to gain weight and grow chubby cheeks.   John Mozelaik carves himself into the Cardinals leadership role by hiring Mike Matheny, who carried no previous coaching experience.  Rescue Me departs FX on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, ending the series with a powerful bang.  The Black Keys, Mumford and Sons and Adele blow the music world away with real rhythm and blues.  A film directly attacks the financial crisis in2008 in Margin Call, my contender for Best Picture. Entourage ends its 8 year run 2 years too late.  Hung closes down after 3 underrated seasons at HBO.  House on Fox grows tired very quick without the House-Cuddy story arc.    Justified, Sons Of Anarchy, and Boardwalk Empire take bold steps in their season.   The Changeup and Horrible Blues produce some of the biggest laughs of the year.  The Killer Elite is smart action entertainment and Moneyball is a quiet contender for a sports classic and Best Picture candidate.  Osama Bin Laden is finally killed, supposedly in the heat of a US ambush in his own home.  A double tap is the final killshot.    The country remembers and salutes the heroes and victims of 9/11 on the 10 year anniversary.   The Cardinals prove that no deficit is impossible to overcome.   Right as my year seems to wrap up quite nicely, my grandmother, Meme, falls, suffers a brain injury and dies at the wise old age of 81.   2012 begins with a memorial.

The Random Bits-

*The secret ingredient of Tebow power is his size.  Unlike the brittle Michael Vick, when Tebow shoots the gap for a red zone rushing score, defensive players have to take down a 245 pound beast instead of a skinny aching athlete.   Tebow punishes tacklers and doesn’t make it easy.  If he improves his throwing, the sky is the limit.

*Ken Hitchcock has a 18-5-5 record since taking over the Blues.

*Spring training begins in less than 40 days.  The tinkling has begun.

*The NBA action is a moot point and that includes the Miami Heat’s fast 9-1 start.

*I can’t stop thinking about Drive so much that I am diving into youtube clips and soundtrack picking.   I am a sucker for stylish brutally violent noir thrillers.   The movie looks very good.  Report to come at the end of the month.

*My son Vincent is cute beyond words.  Literally, I could talk about him all day here and might soon.   A Vinny action blog special.

*Someone forgot to tell Falcons QB Matt Ryan the playoffs started.   The Boston College talent is 0-3 in playoff action in his young career.   Talented guy who can’t do it on the big stage.  Another Tebow comparison here.

*Sam Bradford’s 2012 season is crucial for one reason.  THERE ARE NO EXCUSES THIS TIME KID.  A new coach, GM, and players will enter this team’s picture.   Bradford will have his 3rd offensive coordinator and must make plays and learn to get rid of the ball in the pocket and become mobile.

*Solid move by the Blues to extend Ryan Reaves 2 years.   He is a hard working 4th line grinder who can fight and skate and make plays.   The Blues have done things right and built their core from the ground up with young players.  The Rams must follow suit.

*Barry Larkin rightfully entered the Hall of Fame today on his third try.  Larkin, a long time Reds shortstop, was a slick fielding versatile hitting player for many seasons.   This was a no brainer, as he received 86 percent of the vote.   75 percent is required to enter and you are eligible 5 years after you retire.  If Jeff Bagwell improves upon the 56 percent he received this year and enters soon, how many other steroid users will follow him in?  Bonds, Mac, Clemens?  Things could get very interesting next season if Bagwell gets in.   Where is the threshold set at once one abuser gets in?

*IF Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State is available and the Rams have a decent setup to select him, they can’t hesitate.  The tall muscular playmaking wide receiver could save Bradford’s career the way Calvin Johnson rescued Matthew Stafford’s life and the Rams can’t pass him up.

*Stupid Internet Blogger gripe here real quick.  Jeff Fisher came and went from Rams Park on Sunday.   That’s all there is.   Stop making up rumors Twitter and sports forum nibblers.

IF THERE IS NO NEWS TO REPORT, DON’T REPORT IT.   THE NEXT TIME I HEAR ABOUT KOBE BRYANT’S STATUS OR THAT HE “MIGHT PLAY”, I AM GOING TO SHOOT AN OLD PERSON IN THE ANKLE.

*When it is all said and done, religion taken aside, Tim Tebow will leave his mark on this game.   BUT…he has to consistently throw the ball well.  This is a passing dominated league.  If he can’t, he won’t last at QB.  You can’t be afraid to throw the ball.

That’s it, folks.   All there is to tell for now.  I’ll put the guns down, get some rest and load the chamber again later this week.

Thanks for reading,

Dan L. Buffa

The World of My Own Making

You are what you decide to be in this world, and there is no changing the result because we drive the car in this walk of life.   That isn’t a quote because I just came up with it out of the crowded arena inside my head, so eat it up, use it if you have to, but make sure the residency of its origin lie in my name please.   All a writer wants is proof of existence.  Here we go.  You know how I bring it here.  Cold, brutal and direct with zero punches pulled.  Running begins now..

Homeland on Showtime, Season 1 Quick Review

We have all seen it before in shows and films.   The CIA operative who is in too deep, knows too much, has the complete picture arranged in her mind like a piece of opera music, and only needs a few souls to trust her and believe in her.   The soul who screams everything isn’t as it seems, that the rosy picture painted on the news is made of crimson and not cherry pasts and bright futures.   Claire Danes and Damian Lewis deserve awards for their work, because they each play slowly ticking timebombs.   Dave Matthews’ song, Timebomb, repeatedly played in my head as I watched the final 4 episodes of this series’ first season.   A ticking explosive device waiting to be set off at any given moment.  Danes’ energized renegade operative, who has all the pieces to the puzzle that is Lewis’ returned POW turned Soldier Press Hero and how he is a silent terrorist prepared to do damage to his “homeland”.   That is the main plot here.  A CIA spook who is trying to convince her superiors and associates that this man isn’t a hero and instead has been turned.  The X-factor here is that Carrie suffers from a bipolar disorder that requires medication and speeds up and mixes her focus at times.   Her trusted confidant, Saul(Mandy Patintkin), loves her brain but fears it as well.    We spend 12 hours putting the detective story like clues together.   This is arguably the best show on television right now.   Homeland’s first season ranks with The Sopranos, Dexter, Justified, Brotherhood and Rome’s first seasons.   Memorable, explosive, consistent and packing a punch lasting long enough to send a man out into the night on a midnight ride with only a cigar and music to string an opinion together.   When I finished this series at 130am, I got a cigar, got into the car and drove for 2 hours before landing at Barnes Hospital to pay a surprise visit to my old man.  Homeland is great for its intensity and persistence alone.  You don’t see the cliched plot devices or old script hands used here.  All the scenes and twists are fresh and serve a purpose.  Lewis’ Nicholas Brody, returning after declared dead and missing for 8 years after a failed mission in Iraq in 2003.   Danes’ operative Carrie, immediately convinced that Brody is rogue and spends the entire season proving to herself, the rest of the CIA and us that she is right.   I won’t spoil anything here but the style, dialogue, strategy and format used to provide the answers here are thrilling and worth the ride.   That’s all we want as viewers.  A reason to spend 12 hours with a story.   A payoff.  Homeland provides one.   It validates your ticket.  GREAT television series cause us to become lazy ass couch potatoes.  Glued to the screen and attached to little else.   These shows are few and far in between.   Most shows I watch come after their air date and through DVR.   Homeland is appointment television.  A sophisticated terrorism saga told through realist vision.   A visceral series that focuses directly on the war on terror.  Whether Season 2 keeps up or not is yet to be seen, but if there is a series that needs to be watched, its this one.  It has everything we wish for in entertainment.  Great acting, thrilling pace, a worthy story buried inside a unique and original perspective.  Brains, brawn and efficiency.   Season 1 is available on demand and on DVD.   Find it, watch it, give it an hour and see what you think.   Detectives exist in all of us, a willing need to find an answer to a deadly question.   Homeland sends you on that mission and journey having to do with one center dilemma.  Is he bad or is she just crazy?  If he is bad, why is he doing it?  Who will believe Carrie?  The war on terror is as fresh as the war on drugs.   Cells pop up faster than headaches and this show provides us with a point of view from the CIA, the terrorists and the public.   This is my new favorite show to spread the word about.  Watch it and I will tell you more.  My tease here is over.

Spags/Rams/Fate of the Franchise

The Rams are a disgusting team to watch.   Blunt.   Painful.   They only lost by 7 points on Sunday but the margin of error was more than 20 points deep.  The Rams consistently beat themselves.  Let me tell you about their opponent, the San Francisco 49ers real quick.  The 49ers are the #2 seed in the NFC and they showed the fans at the Ed Dome why they changed so quickly from last season with the same parts.  The 49ers went from third in the NFC West in 2010 to going 13-3 and owning the #2 seed in the conference in 2011.   The only difference was a head coach.  Jim Harbaugh joined San Francisco this season after winning at Stanford with Andrew Luck for years.   Harbaugh took over a mixed up franchise who recently let go of hall of famer Mike Singletaire.  Harbaugh didn’t select a quarterback in the 2011 draft, opting to stick with disgraced and replaced vet Alex Smith.   He maintained the West Coast offense and featured the running back, Frank Gore, as the center of the universe and Smith as the minority in the offense.  The strength of the 49ers was Brad Selley’s defense, powered by MU products Justin Smith and Aldon Smith to go along with Patrick Willis.   Harbaugh didn’t gain any new set pieces.  He used Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Smith, and Gore on offense, just as Singletaire did in 2010.   He didn’t take any snaps but he took the same team and got results that the franchise hadn’t found since 2002.   Now, for the first time in 9 years, they are going to the playoffs.   What happened there that couldn’t happen in St. Louis?  A lot of things happened there.   Harbaugh made that team better.   Unfortunately, Steve Spagnuolo was unable to overcome injury, early deficits and a lack of depth in St. Louis to do what Harbaugh did in SF.   As a result, Spags will more than likely lose his job in the next 48 hours.   Bill Parcells put it best.   A head coach is only as good as his record.  Spags’ record in 3 seasons is 10-38.  The worst record for a coach in STL football history.  Spags is a class act, but in pro sports it begins and ends with results.   Kroneke has to do something.  Spags can’t be the only one to be cut in this surgerical procedure.   GM Billy Devaney and OC Josh McDaniels must go as well.  Blow up the ship.   Giving Devaney and Spags another season could prove to be detrimental to this franchise.  The Rams lease at the Ed Dome only lasts for 3 more seasons.   Time is running out.   If things don’t improve, Kroneke will move the team and I wouldn’t blame him.   The Rams haven’t had a winning season in over 6 years.   After winning 7 games last season under Sam Bradford, they regressed this season and lost 14 games.   That is a huge step backward and something MUST be done.   It’s never the head coach’s fault, but he is the first person to be axed.  Cry foul or scream madness, but that is just the way it is.   I’ll play the Bruce Hornsby song if I have to.   I don’t know who will be brought in to stop the bleeding.   Chargers GM AJ Smith comes to mind.   Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher are rumored coaches.   Who knows?  The Rams job isn’t as shitty a job posting as some think.  There is hope here and pieces in place.  Bradford, soldier of misfortune Steven Jackson(for now), Brandon Lloyd, Danario Alexander(whenever he plays, he makes plays), James Lauranitis, Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Quentin Mikkel, along with injured vets Danny Amendola and Ron Bartell.  The Rams own the second pick in the 2012 draft and have a chance to select a luxury player or trade the spot and collect picks.  We are unfortunately chained to a highly overpaid and overrated offensive line and lack depth at linebacker, in the secondary and painfully unmatched at wide receiver.  The answers to this downward speeding ship are scattered and hard to find, but the first move has to be cleaning house.   I was highly favorable of the hiring of Spagnuolo in 2009.   The defensive minded coach was the brain behind dismantling the Tom Brady machine in the 2007 Super Bowl and was a big catch on the market after Jim Haslett was let go.  He came here and did his best but wasn’t properly equipped to push a sinking franchise in the right direction.  He couldn’t sustain success and as a result, he is the first body to catch a bullet.

Blues Running into a reality wall.

The Blues still own the 5th spot in the conference, but haven’t won in their last 3 games.   They are losing critical games inside the Central Division as well.   They lost to the Red Wings on Wednesday, lost a shootout and collected a point on Friday against Nashville, and got easily defeated in Detroit on Saturday.   Suddenly, the Blues cruising ship is losing speed and stalling a bit.  The goaltending has been shaken a little but Halak and Elliot are making big time stops and lining their team up for a win.  The sticks aren’t producing a lot of goals.   Three goals in their last three games explains the problem.  The Blues are playing a strong 60 minutes but getting outgunned and can’t finish plays.   Players like Patrik Berglund aren’t finishing plays and doing their job.  The Blues are turning the puck over and getting sloppy.   Hot sticks like TJ Oshie are still scoring but aren’t as consistent.  The power play came alive for 2 games but went silent on Saturday.   The shootout production hit an all time low on Friday as the Blues lost in a 5 round shootout.  Halak made 4 great stops and earned the right to victory but 2 Blues couldn’t win the game with a score.   The presence of a sniper is hurting this team.  Chris Stewart has had a rough start and  Andy Mcdonald is missing so the younger players like Oshie, Perron and Bergie are being leaned on.   The result is a mixed bag.  Oshie has 12 goals, Perron is delivering on assists and Berglund may just be the biggest bag of frustrated talent since Erik Johnson rocked the bluenote.  The Blues are still 15-6-5 under Hitch but the wheels are loosening.   GM Doug Armstrong has said he is a buyer at the deadline and that is a good thing.  Between now and February 27th, the Blues will find out how much consistency they are capable of and what they need.  Their next three games are against beatable teams in Phoenix, Edmonton and Colorado and they are all at home, where the Blues own one of the best records in the NHL.   6 easy points lie ahead of this team and with the Blackhawks and Detroit playing great hockey, the Blues need to keep up.   Goals scored has been a problem for 3 straight seasons.   The power play hasn’t been consistent in multiple seasons.  The ability to win on the road is a tough spot for this team.   Beating division opponents is a required asset for a playoff team and the Blues couldn’t do it in December.  They went 2-5 in the division in December after a perfect 3-0 in November.  When the Blues are right, they are beating their rivals.   That will have to continue this week.  Will the Blues continue to slip or regain their winning touch?

Cardinals Face More Offseason Unfortune

New rules in Cardinal land.  Keep Matheny away from knives.   Furcal away from batting cage nets.  Freese away from bars.  Berk away from the 80s.   And  Chris Carpenter away from fishing trips in the Amazon.  He broke a toe this month while fishing with Doc Halladay.  It isn’t known which toe was broke and whether surgery was needed but Carp did suffer an injury and this kind of incident has to be avoided.  Lock these players down.  They are worth too much money to the franchise.  The Cardinals are paying Carpenter 10 million in 2012 and they can’t lose him over a fishing accident.  Plain stupid.   Do this or the Cards are officially looking for trouble.  Quarantine the players until February?  We are 48 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting.   My safe bet is to inform the players to be regular citizens until then.  Stay in St. Louis.  Stay at home.  Don’t touch sharp material.  No planes.  No late night drag races or drinking contests.   Be a fucking nerd until spring training. Without Albert Pujols, every hand is needed on deck in 2012.  Put it in a memo immediately.  In 2012, no fuckups are allowed in Cardinal Nation.  This is where Matheny will be tested.  While players respected him as an ex-catcher and assistant to Mo, will they offer him the same respect as a manager?   Can he crack the whip and lock down troublesome bodies?  That is where I’m looking right now.

Dear Floyd Mayweather,

Enjoy your 90 days in jail.   That fight you lined up in May is off now.  Lessons need to be learned little man.

1.)Stop breaking the law, asshole.

2.)Stop beating women and hitting officers.

3.)Upon your release, take off the chicken outfit and get into a ring with Manny Pacquiao or you will be incomplete.

I respect Floyd’s skills but I really don’t like the guy. Classless fella who finally got what he deserved.  A slap on the cheek for his unguarded arrogance and disrespect for authority.   Here’s to Floyd getting his ass kicked in jail or at least running into a shank.    His jail time knocks out a spring matchup with Pacquiao and sets the unbeaten pound for pound champ on a collision course for a fight in the fall of 2012.  He will have plenty of time to think about his next fight.

This clears the way for a fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez for Manny Pacquiao.  After three close battles, these two vets deserve another shot for a clear cut decision.  Pac Man and Marquez produced one of the most entertaining fights in recent memory.  Give them another while Floyd does his time.   Miguel Cotto is out there as well but Manny beat him so soundly the first time a rematch isn’t warranted.   Set up Pacquiao-Marquez IV.

The Random Fire-

-I’m watching Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes frame for frame as he takes us through the film and how it comes together.   The blu ray in effect. The technical aspects and stories.   Staring behind the curtain of a production.   I’m a film junkie.  Love this shit.

-A reminder: Clint Eastwood is the original bad ass and quite a talented man.  Actor, director and composer.

-Fright Night with Colin Farrell was decent and a fair remake if you are in for a straight up treat.    Oscar work doesn’t exist here but it works for a horror flick.

-Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov needs to focus less on “the universe” and more on his goaltending.    Dude got smoked for 2nd time in a week.  5 goals on 16 shots.

-The 24-7 climactic battle today on NBC should be one of the better Winter Classic matchups in the five year history of the event.  The Rangers/Flyers rivalry is one of the oldest and juiciest in league history and both teams sit atop their divisions and near the top of the Eastern Conference.   Seeing Rangers goalie Henrik Lanquist go up against Bryzgalov in net and the physical teams collide will be entertaining and that’s all you can ask for at this point.  The Flyers are without Chris Pronger but Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere, Jarmoir Jagr and Max Talbot are picking up the slack.   The Rangers supply a reliable force with Ryan Callahan, Martin Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky.  This game will distinguish hockey as the ultimate love/hate brutality theater because each team wants to destroy the other.   All respect and zero mercy at Citizens Park tomorow.  The Winter Classic introduces old time hockey and a rare cable spectacle of a game sorely missed regularly on ESPN, ABC and FOX.   For one day, The NHL gets the spotlight and deservedly so.

-The National is my band of the week because their music packs so much visceral power.   Their music is a slow building wave of emotional vigor and poetic dive into love from soulful artists who write from experience.  Method songwriting produces the greatest songs and The National are a fine example.  Here is a selection from their first CD, Boxer, and it’s called “Lucky You”.   An understated yet perfect late night ballad.

http://youtu.be/36jo1BYSY0A

Bonus Selection Revisit here-“About Today” taken from The National’s song used in the great newly released on DVD movie, Warrior.

http://youtu.be/eUJxrkPGQ5Q

-One thing about 2011.   Restaurants are changing.  Prices going up, portions going down and it’s only getting worse.  Food is the new oil.

-Greatest thing about water.   Year round, nothing tastes better ice cold than water.  It also doesn’t go bad.  You can leave it in your car for 2 months and come back to enjoy the taste.   Water, along with food, will be the most sought after product in decades to come.   Who has it and where is the cleanest form of it?

-Tim Tebow and the Broncos lost on Sunday but backed into the playoffs with a Raiders loss.   Typical unconventional Tebow action that leaves him with a 7-4 record as a starter but a horrible completion percentage.  The Chiefs were the latest team to find a way to contain Tebow and ended up shutting him down completely.   If I am playing him, I play man coverage in the secondary and flood the box with bodies to cut down his running game and force him to beat you through the air.  He has exceeded expectations but needs to work on his passing skills to stick around as a QB of the future.  However, if I am the Steelers rolling into next Saturday without Rasheed Mendenhall and safety Ryan Clark, I am a little worried about facing Tebow in his home field.  Entertaining games to come.

-Lesson to be learned on Sunday night.   Tony Romo is a choke artist once and for all and Eli Manning has “big game” ability in his genes.   The Giants stomped the Cowboys at home and won a playoff berth.

-Drew Brees is dangerous and will be a threat to any NFC team looking to sneak past New Orleans to the Super Bowl.   Brees played the entire game Sunday and threw 5 touchdown passes.  Last week, he took over the yards thrown for record previously held by Dan Marino at 5,087 and this week, instead of sitting(like Aaron Rodgers), Brees dismantled the Panthers and is ready to duel this weekend.

-I’d love to see a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl or a Saints-Steelers/Patriots Super Bowl.   I aim for an explosive matchup.

-Going to watch the Blues practice later this morning at The Mills Mall.   This will be my first Blues practice since Brett Hull laced up the skates.

-Lesson to be learned from another new year.   Keep your friends and family close.   On New Year’s Eve, I had friends over to my home and it was as good as it gets for this 29 year old.  A couple movies, Wii action, and a cigar to go with great conversation fueled a night of easy going fulfillment.  I found out long ago that I wasn’t a party hound.   I’m getting old and boring real quick and I am fine with that.   I’ll be the guy at 50 sitting in his backyard watching his kids play around next to a fire with a cigar in his mouth and his hands wrapped around his wife.

-I turn 30 next month and the mark carries little reach for me other than to illustrate a point.  I have higher goals set for myself.  While those closest to me think I am content in a warehouse, I have goals that exceed a workplace with a roof covering its floor.  I can tell you one thing.  I don’t want to be driving a forklift when I am 40 years old.   No way.   Whether its breaking into the field of writing or seeking out a career with a climb, I am ready for anything.  I love where I work.  Senoret provides me with good hours, solid pay, and a reliable future.  However, I have seen guys driving forklifts until they retire past 60 and that WILL NOT BE ME.   I am always looking for a better spot and that will never change.  A reminder to the doubters out there or the people who think this young man is content.   The sky isn’t the limit but my aim is right below.

That’s it.  All the juice that is fit to spin into news.  Keep your eyes open and your opinions fresh.   Stay kind but don’t rewind too often.   The past is a catalogue best visiting only when a point needs to be referenced.  Take the hits but keeping moving forwards.  As Rocky said, that’s how winning gets done.  I have no doubts that when catastrophe strikes this earth, humans will turn on themselves and go for anything available.  That is why I suggest that every living soul learn(at least) how to use a firearm.   Do it.  The people who hate weapons will beg for them to save their lives in the end.   Just do it.  Until then, stay loose.

Good morning and good luck,

Dan L. Buffa

 

 

 

Just Another Buffa Blast

Right as rain and clear as a bullet’s path, I have arrived again, ready to unplug the noise in my head onto this page via the written word.   Let’s get right into it, in a style I like to define as erractically confident.   Random and brutal.

  • Steve Spagnuolo’s fate and the Rams Final Game.   The Rams are a trainwreck, but I would be interested in seeing what the offseason brings them. Spags is toast for the simple reason that the man is akin to a quarterback who is gun shy and shell shocked in the pocket.  He doesn’t want to take one risk on a football field because he is afraid of the opposition blowing it up in his face.   Spags is gone, and so is McDaniels and GM Devaney.   The Rams need a GM like Mo and Doug Armstrong, who know how to build a roster and put together a winning team.   Devaney’s moves brought us to the top 2 spots in 3 of the last 4 seasons, so he is finished.  Spags can’t get anything going.  He is 10-37 in his tenure here which won’t convince Kroneke a fourth year is needed.  Start fresh.  Blow the ship up and buy a new boat.    Gruden is a stretch and his exit from the ESPN booth will take certain chess pieces to take a different location.   Chargers GM Aj Smith is being rumored to be dangling from his position by the owner, so if he leaves, the belief is that Gruden follows him.  Kroneke has been known to be in connection with Smith, so that’s the small tie there.  Its all talk, and we know where that usually leads.  A pile of bullshit.  I love Gruden as a coach for this team, whether its fiction or not.   Gruden is the opposite of Spags.   Determined, in your face, no bullshit, no excuses and hard nosed football.  He won a Super Bowl with Shaun King in Tampa.   He nearly won another with Oakland with Rich Gannon behind center.  Gruden is the real deal.   I love the guy and recall the pre draft one on one with Bradford where Gruden told him point blank, “look man, you hold onto the ball way too long and in the NFL it will get you killed”.    Bradford looked at him with that nerdy Keanu Reeves smirk and seemed to forget who he was dealing with.  During the Seahawks-Rams Monday night game, Gruden took a run at Bradford, saying the Rams need to take a long hard look.  The comment threw him into a verbal war with ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski(who I think is a fucking moron).  Gruden knows this team has pieces and players to build a playoff team with.   Jeff Fisher is a solid coach with a decent background and true character.  If it wasn’t for Mike Jones, Fisher owns a Super Bowl today and Dick Vermeil and the Rams do not.   Fisher wouldn’t be too afraid to come here, especially after the way he left Tennessee, where he encountered a childish QB in Vince Young.   Fisher would embrace the opportunity to work with Bradford, who has a level head on his shoulders and little ego and only a burning desire to be perfect.   While the job isn’t attractive for logical reasons, the Rams job isn’t a dead end.   Look at the division.  San Francisco is tough, but not unbreakable.  Seattle and Arizona are having comeback seasons but can be beat.   The Rams need far more than a coach and new GM calling the shots, but its a start.  The defense has a solid foundation in Chris Long, James Lauranitis, Quentin Mikkel, Ron Bartell(injured) and rookie Robert Quinn.   Losing Oshie Atogwe hurt badly.  The offense has Bradford and Steven Jackson along with Danny Amendola.  If the Hawiiaan kid Mike Houmanohouii can stay healthy, the Rams have a decent tight end core in him and Lance Kendricks.   The wide receivers need a big name and a offseason catching the football program.   Too many drops this year and the loss of third down specialist Amendola hurt.  There are pieces to build with here and coaches know Kroneke doesn’t want to fuck around and watch this team lose any more value.  The Rams would do the local fans a favor by letting it all go on Sunday against the 49ers.   Spags and McDaniels need to fire up every wild play call in the book, go no huddle all 4 quarters, blitz on every down and simply wish to spoil and hurt San Francisco’s chances for a smooth playoff entrance.   The game is meaningless except for the respect and gratitude that Rams fans deserve.   The city has shown up for years while getting nothing solid since 2004 in return.   Pathetic.  Unless Kroneke improves this team or sees a profit post 2014, I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved the team.
  • Albert Pujols’ Favor to the Angels-News reports that Pujols agreed to backload a heavy portion of his contract so the team could sign free agent pitcher CJ Wilson aren’t surprising.  Pujols has always wanted to clear a path for winning and backloaded his Cards long term contract to give the team a chance to strengthen the team.   However, this puts the Angels in a deadly and illogical position.   Pujols will make 12 and 16 million in 2012 and 2013, and towards the end of his playing contract the annual fee turns into 30 million.   As Pujols approaches 40, he will be making 30 million to probably DH 130 games a season.   It’s criminal to doubt the machine known as Alberto Pujols but its pretty evident that the Angels were plucking AP5 out of the Cardinals gambling league and placing him in an entirely new territory known only to the Yankees and Red Sox, each of whom are acquiring smarter ways of player additions.   Simple thought.  The Cardinals had zero chance to match the Angels offer and instead stood tall at 10 yrs at 210.   I disagreed with Albert’s choice(judging by his post conference comments, he does a little as well) and I didn’t care for his finger pointing but the final chip fell today and its really time to move on.   The Angels are in win now mode and are playing the scary futures brew master game.
  •  The Blues lost a tough one in Detroit last night for two reasons.  They could have overtaken the Wings with a win and they failed to do so and also blew a 2 goal lead.   Allowing the goal at the end of the second period was a bad blow and gave a great Detroit team renewed life.  The main problem isn’t the goaltending but the way the Blues defense allows about 5 players to get in the way of the goalie and the shooter.   Brian Elliot had zero chance to stop 2 of the 3 goals because he didn’t even fucking see it until it slammed into the back of the net.   Tough to blame a goaltender when he is blinded out there.   This affects Elliot and Halak, even though a big reason why Halak isn’t as effective is because he can’t seem to pounce on rebounds as quickly as Elliot.   The Slovakian midget is a bit slow in the net.   With the loss, the Blues are still only 4 points out of the top spot in the Western Conference and seem to hold their own with any team in the league.   They easily beat both 24/7 Eastern Conference power house teams in the Rangers and Flyers, and also beat Pittsburgh(with Crosby and Malkin).    We are 15-3-4 under Hitchcock, a great record and are the best team in the NHL at home.   We play 10 of our next 13 games at home in January.   The next month will define how long we stay behind Detroit and Chicago or how far we launch ahead.  With the loss last night, I still love the way this team is playing.   They play Nashville at home tonight before engaging in a Joe Louis rematch with Detroit on Saturday.  The return of Vladamir Sobotka and Bj Crombeen should give this team a fresh burst of energy.
  • When the Rams do get their pick of the top two draft slots after Sunday, it would be nice to take an unconventional approach.    If we get the top pick with a loss/Colts win this weekend, I say take a long hard look at the top 10 players in the draft.  Trading down and accumulating picks is smart, but only if there isn’t one great player.  Don’t draft by need.  Draft for the best.   If there is a potential all star wide receiver at the top spot or 2nd spot, go for it.  If not, trade down and accumulate 2-3 first round picks and 2-3 second rounders.   I can go either way as long as this team knows what the fuck they are doing.   Kroneke needs to blow up the ship and completely destroy the drafting department.  The Rams main issues are being draft casualties and investing far too much money in an offensive line that isn’t doing much protecting.  Get those areas right and reinforce the lagging spots.
  • Drunk Drivers/Sleepy Drivers need to be taken off the road.   Immediately.   Dumb shits who drink too much or get behind the wheel tired or sleepy are asking for trouble.  Years ago, when Rae and I were living on McCutcheon behind the Galleria, a drunk driver plowed into and totaled our car.   Last year, as you know, we were hit from behind by a drunk moronic driver and had our car totaled.  We have lost two fucking cars to drunk/sleepy/stupid drivers.  I simply have no tolerance or excuses for retarded souls who like to drive at less than 100 percent.  The kid fucked up your sister’s newly paid off car and needs to be bull whipped and stripped of his license for it.  Let a class of 5 year olds sit in on that jury.   Its an easy case.  When we were hit last year, the car that was totalted was a 2003 Chrysler Concorde and was paid off.  Along with my Malibu, we had no car payment.   The resulting accident forced us to buy a new car and pay 230 a month.  Then, my car’s transmission went to shit and I got another car from my parents, which exist as a used car lot for Rachel and I thankfully.   In the end, because of the drunk driver, Rae and I have a car payment again.   While the Buick SUV is luxury class and nice, I’d rather have no payment.   That’s what stupid people do to this country.  Fuck up people’s lives and cause additional stress and hardship.   Once again, execute the fuckers.
  •  It is still unreal to see “2011 Cardinals” and “World Series Champs” in the same sentence.   The magical run they went on in September and October is something that won’t dim for quite some time in my head.  So much that every other sports story and need shrunk that evening we won.   Overcoming the loss of Waino, the early slump of Albert, the erratic rotation, the malfunction of Franklin, and the deep hole in August was legendary on all counts.  I am very excited for 2012 because of the new look club that takes the field in February.  Spring training is a month and a half away.   Cue the boner.
  • The NBA is back and have I noticed?  Let’s see.  The Celtics are 0-3 and the Heat are 3-0 but that doesn’t mean shit.   Everything is taking place as if 2 months of the season wasn’t missed due to a halfhearted lockout based on equal greed and stubbornness from each side.  Kevin Durant is an amazing athlete but can he carry a good team to the playoffs?   Lebron is hot to start but what happens in April with the game on the line?  Will Kobe Bryant lead the league in ESPN injury updates or points per game?   Man sprains his knee more than a 3 year old on a playground in cheap shoes.   Duncan and the Spurs are always a threat but are they too old?   Will Dirk and the Mavs repeat or go back to hiding behind Mark Cuban’s egotistical sideline nature?   What happened to the Knicks?  Is Dwight Howard playing for a trade?  Is Derrick Rose the best player in the league?   The season isn’t a week old but even a half full glass fan like myself has interesting inquiries.
  • Random Gun Fire. Watched Sherlock Holmes last night on Blu ray.  Director Guy Ritchie took me through the entire film, giving off technical details and bits about the film.  As a film junkie, I completely suck all this shit in and respect the filmmaking process more today.  Ritchie and Downey are highly intelligient movie makers.  Part of the coolness factor of 24/7 is hearing the players mic’d up and cursing each other out before they drop the gloves and fight.   Unplugged athleticism is fine but hot blooded hatred is delivered on this show.  Looking forward to Peter Berg’s 6 part documentary on boxing training legend Freddie Roach.  I respect Roach a lot and love Berg’s renegade style of story telling.  I would be quite content listening to The Black Keys and Mumford Sons year round with occasional stops from Florence Welch and Adele.  The Black Keys simply can’t do any wrong right now.  Their latest, El Camino, is solid.  Their previous release, Brothers, is one of the greatest albums of all time.  I could listen to it every day like it was my personal anthem.   The key to their success is the songwriting and blues rock blunt comraderie during the performance.   Seriously looking forward to Ryan Gosling and an ensemble of character actors in DRIVE, a gritty noir action thriller about a stunt driver who gets in way over his head with drug dealers and a mysterious woman, forcing him to rely on his driving and survival skills to get by.    This film hit critics on the side of the head unexpectedly in September and is being raved as the best kept secret of 2011.  The film is a throwback to 1980s crime films that had a soul to go along with a plot and great characters.   Gosling is the king of the land in 2011, scoring in Drive, Crazy Stupid Love and Ides of March.   My verdict is still out because I have only seen one of the mentioned titles, but Drive looks like a ton of guiltless pleasure.   Fastern your seatbelts kids.
  • When the Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran last week, any animosity towards his agent, Dan Lozano, had to die down from St. Louis fans.   Lozano, as we all know, represents Albert Pujols and the belief from some(including, momentarily, yours truly) was that Lozano was steering Pujols away from St. Louis.   That turned out to not be true.   Pujols called Lozano and chose Anaheim and that was the end.   Lozano may be a capital A sleazeball but it comes with the territory of being a sports agent.  Every agent carries a couple ounces of cutthroat swagger and sleazy indulgence.  When you represent the spoiled rich kids, you slowly allow a piece of yourself to take their form.  Getting mad at Lozano would mean throwing flame throwers at every agent of a high level athlete.  Its not worth the words or the frustration.   In the end, Lozano did his job with Albert and also fulfilled Beltran’s wishes by landing him with St. Louis.  As Ari Gold once said, an agent goes where the work is.   Brothels, whorehouses, slums or broken homes.  If Lozano had something personal against St. Louis, he would have pulled Beltran away.   The only person worth building a grudge towards on the Pujols exist is Alberto himself.  He pulled the trigger. 
  • Yes, talking about Albert Pujols’ exit from St. Louis and subsequent awkward landing in Anaheim is still news here.  Bypass it if you shall, I don’t blame you, but the man won’t leave my head no matter how many times I say its done and finished.
  • I don’t blame local columnists Bryan Burwell and Howard Balzer for defending the idea for Spagnuolo to keep his job.   They like the guy and have covered him for years and gotten to know him.  I simply disagree with the notion that Spags deserves more time to make things right.   Once again, he is fried and won’t be able to take any risks next season without the feeling of a machete hanging over his head.  He is shell shocked and spent and doesn’t have any fire left.   The logical and clear choice is to fire him and everyone else and bring in an entirely new staff to salvage the final 3 seasons before the lease at the Ed Dome runs out and the Rams are available.   The Rams don’t have time to give Spags another chance.   Going 10-37 with this hopeless squad costed Spags his job and that is the way things go in professional sports.   Teams massively underperform and the coach gets hacked first. 
  • Life without Meme is hard for all the little things.  For example, I haven’t gotten a nagging call from her in nearly 3 weeks.   She usually calls every 3-4 days and unleashes a firing squad on me that included questions about me, my job, Rachel, Vinny, Vinny’s health and other things.   She cared so much about me that I took it for granted. Now that she is gone and the calls don’t come in, things are different and its awkward and weird.    I feel like going to her condo, sitting at the table and simply answering all the things that she wanted to know on a weekly basis.  I would be talking to walls, but at this point, one can write it off as bereavement therapy.   I called her voicemail a few times just to get a whiff of Meme mania.  That’s what I miss right now.  Meme Mania.  She hit you like a hurricane.   The calls, advice, questions and pressure that any great grandmother puts on the people they love.  There will come a time when this will become too much and I will need to let it go and move on.   My question is, where is the mania that tells us how to get there and how long it takes.   All I know is that time won’t be coming any time soon.  I miss Meme and her hurricane of questions and heavenly presence. 
  • Ben Breedlove’s videos before he died at Christmas from heart disease are haunting and inspiring all at the same time.  A kid with a degenerative heart condition sending a form of love letters through a couple videos speaks volumes about the strength each human being needs to strive for in their hour of departure.   The kid had balls of steel and simply wasn’t afraid to die.  He had made his peace with his condition and treated the last few hours like a parade.  Look up “Breedlove” and get a look at a fearless young man.   Every time I wish to cry about a particularly bad day, I’ll remember this kid’s fight.
  • The one comfortable divide between mourning and poise is my son Vincent.   The kid has healing powers.   Something as simple as smiling at me after he gets dressed or as he drifts to sleep can cure a bad day with ease.   Children have a way of making us go insane but also bringing us back to reality.   They teach us the most common survival traits without using words.   Looking at him, I see a comfortable future.   One with some hope.  That doesn’t bring back the departed, but it makes the next day seem a lot better.
  • It should be safe to assume that Adam Wainwright will be close to himself when he returns from Tommy John surgery.   Over 80 percent of pitchers come back stronger than before from the procedure.  Wainwright was a Cy Young caliber pitcher before he went under the knife.  The returning soldier will more than fill the deep hole left in his absence in 2011.  
  • Alex Steen will miss tonight’s Blues game with Nashville due to concussion like symptoms.   The latest hockey player to fall to the increasingly debillatating injury.   David Perron missed 97 games due to post concussion symdrome.   Andy Mcdonald has missed significant portions of the past 2 seasons due to concussions.   Sidney Crosby’s career may be over.  Eric Lindros retired due to concussions.   Flyers young gun Claude Giroux missed 5 games  with a concussion this month.   The brutal truth is you can’t stop concussions from happening.   Hockey, like football, is a tough deadly game of physical acceleration.   Players come and go due to head to head contact and heavy hits.  That’s the nature of the game.  My issue is the detection of the concussions.   Steen suffered the concussion on Monday against Dallas and played Wednesday against Detroit. Waiting for symptoms is one thing.   Checking on players who make a living bashing each other’s skulls in is another.  Postgame player checkups may be able to detect concussions and withhold players from hurting themselves further after a head injury.   These injuries may be preventable through extra precaution.   When it comes to injuries, anything below the neck is hard to stop or monitor.   Head injuries are career enders.   They need to be limited or decreased next year.   It could be time for the football helmet in hockey.
  • What’s good on television?  At the moment, absolutely nothing.   It’s break down amongst the power house television entertainment section and in a couple weeks things start to move.   What needs to be watched?  The desire exists where?   Justified on FX kick starts a third season on January 19th.   Shameless returns to Showtime in mid January.   Californication comes back for round 5 this month also.   Check out those three shows but if I had to place a MUST on one single program, it would be Justified.   The modern western drama keeps getting better and better and the pilot is a direct hook. 
  • What else?  2012 is upon us.   The meaning only comes in the appreciation that you made it through another year.   New Year’s Day is a bloated celebration.  In the end, it’s just another day and not a reason to get very drunk and make bad decisions.   Celebrating is one thing.   Poor judgement is quite another.  Have fun with safety is my advice.  I will be at home with friends and family on the eve of 2012. 
  • For all you hunters out there, don’t pull a Cheney and blow someone’s head off.   Deer seem to laugh at that kind of stupidity.   While I don’t openly hate hunters, I simply can’t put a bullet in an animals head for sport.  It’s either me on the beast or me waving and moving on.  I’ve always thought the animals should turn the tables on the hunters and attack instead of hide.  Give the animals a rifle and see what happens. 
  • Fright Night and Columbiana are by the numbers thrillers with a little extra.   Fright Night stars Colin Farrell as a vampire terrorizing a small town and the latter stars Zoe Saldana as a avenging Latino gunning for the killers of her parents.  Standard fare that doesn’t spark the need to scream to the masses.   Its ordinary entertainment. 
  • Song of the Day-“Start A War” by the National

http://youtu.be/k1UwnMJ-5KE

  • Clip of the Day-Taken from No Country for Old Men.  Javier Bardem playing the mysterious killer who stops into a gas station and asks the clerk the ultimate question.  Watch the entire clip and you will understand.

http://youtu.be/mhXJcfczNIc

That’s all I have for today.  It’s time to get out and do other things.  Explore the land and see what happens. 

Goodnight and good luck,

DLB

 

Midnight Ramblings of a Mourning Soul

Good morning,

The Opener-On 830am on Christmas Eve, my sweet grandmother, Meme, passed away.   She was a fierce 81 years old, and only fell because she made a tragic mistake one night at a party.   She spent 13 days in the hospital and finally gave way to a horrible brain injury that defeated her mighty will.   The world didn’t shake Saturday morning but it lost a wise soulful lady who made her presence known every time you came into contact with her.   She blessed her company with a bit of sharpened wit and never let up on telling you what she was feeling.  She loved her wine, 60 Minutes on weeknights and owned the Plaza Frontenac in her own mind where she enjoyed sophisticated French independent cinema.   While this loss will rock my family to its very core, we will learn to appreciate a woman who always made you feel special.   Honor her life by sticking her formula to our own journey and using it as a wise guide.  Yes, I have used “wise” three times in this opening rant.   Henrieta Bulus was wise.  More than given at birth and greater than the sum produced at a certain older age.   There’s no method to use in healing from a sudden loss.  The human heart hasn’t derived a way to move on quickly without getting blown away by a missing person in their life.  This will be the first of many sections about Meme because I could write for hours about her.   She deserves words, and to me that is the highest regard a person can attain.   The request of words to summarize her time here.   While I build better ways to describe her, let’s take a look at my life in the past 48 hours.  A whirlwind of small bits of material swung into a batch of prose.

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen’s nostalgia filled enchanting waltz through the city of lights stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a writer trying to find a worth in his current reality by slipping in 1920’s Paris and meeting the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.   Gil is a longtime screenwriter looking to invent something truly special and he feels old time Paris is a good place to start.   He arrives there with his fiance’s family, and they have the opposite intentions of our lone wolf explorer.   Gil is a romantic and man who craves “the golden age”, a place that doesn’t exist in his current reality but lies in an older time period that he can only escape to.   Watch this film if you appreciate a sweet romantic comedy with great shots of dialogue and story details.   Gil’s flight mirrors our own as we all wish to bite a piece of true life off the large pie known as life.   Wilson locks into the role like an old pro, showing us a man desperate for a connection in a sea of modern realists with zero desire to play around in their own minds.  A Woody Allen trait is to insert his leading men into stories that revolve around versions of himself.   There is plenty of Woody in Wilson’s Gil.   Neurotic adventure, ambitious romance and a dash of true talent.   Allen loves to film in Paris and this is his best film in years, maybe even since Mighty Aprodite.  See it if you like an escape.

The Rams Drop Another and Inch Towards First Place in Failure

The Rams were shut out for the second time on Saturday and it only goes to teach a Rams fan one thing.   Wish for any sign of hope from this team and you shall be disappointed.    Sam Bradford won’t play again this season, which frames his 2012 season in high tension anxiety to reveal which QB the Rams selected in the 2010 draft.   The rookie of the year or the sophomore breakable piece of glass who couldn’t generate an ounce of excitement?   Steven Jackson put together a 24 carry, 110 yard performance against a Pittsburgh defense waiting for him on every play.   Jackson’s 1,000 yard season is a miracle when you think what he was working with.  3 different quarterbacks, no spark, no creativity and a dead end offense.   Jackson’s 8 year career is a tragic misunderstanding of talent.   He has fired off 1,000 yard seasons even in seasons that he doesn’t play 16 games but gets nothing to show for it.  One wonders what he would do on a better team.   If the Rams cared about Jackson at all, they would try to trade him for a batch of players before next season while he still has a year left on his deal.   Jackson had an ugly contract dispute, but he became a team leader in the past 4 seasons and deserves better.   Trade the fella.   The Rams main culprit of misery is their inept ability to draft well.   4 of the 8 draft picks in this year’s draft aren’t on the team any longer.   The top draft pick, Robert Quinn, has only started one game.   What are we doing there?  Our scouts are horrible or we don’t do the proper amount of homework, or they don’t give a shit.   The Rams bad drafts and overpaid offensive line are the foundations of their 10-36 record in Spags’ coaching campaign.   I agree with my good friend Irish.  If you fire Spags, fire the entire coaching staff and front office.  Clear house.  Don’t just place the stick of dynamite inside one office.  Blow up the whole building.  Start fresh.  Do it sooner rather than later.  Spags has to go because sending a message begins with firing the head coach.  Spags is 10-36 so he has to go.   Josh McDaniels goes next because his offensive strategy has gone nowhere and doesn’t fit with Sam Bradford’s plans.   Bradford carried more success under Pat Shurmur’s deadened West Coach schemes than McDaniel’s supposed run and gun formula.   When you score less than 180 points inside 15 games, something is wrong.   Fire defensive coordinator Ken Flajole because he can’t find a way to stop the run or prevent the big pass play.   Fire the Special teams because they let Patrick Petersen beat them twice.   Fire GM Billy Devaney because he has been here for too long and produced zero results and brought in players that didn’t pan out at all.   Owner Stan Kroneke has to seriously look up and down the roster and inspect his front office and coaching staff.   We will know a lot about him and his plans for this team post 2014 when he makes his moves in the upcoming offseason.   Watch for an explosion.  Soon, the Ed Dome will be empty, which means zero home games air on local TV.  Soon, the hype for football will be as loud as the support for an NBA team is.   Soon, people will hate the Rams so much they will beg for them to leave, not knowing the last chance for football in St. Louis leaves right with it.   Soon, we will have nothing.   Stan, your time starts now.  Why did you reallllly buy this team??

The Blues Bring Things Home For Measure

With two games this week against Dallas and Detroit, the Blues attempt to distance themselves from lower competition in the Western Conference and make a run for Chicago in their Central Division.   The Blues are 20-10-4 and are approaching the halfway point of the season.   Since Ken Hitchcock’s arrival, the team is playing a fresher faster more successful brand of hockey and its paying off in the standings.   The question is…do you make any changes to the roster?  My feeling is no.  Unless a need suddenly emerges, keep the roster intact.  Why mess with a winning formula?  If a player exists who can quickly improve the power play output and the cost on your end isn’t too hard, pull the trigger.  If not, keep what you have and ride it out.  GM Doug Armstrong is similiar to Cards GM John Mozelaik in knowing WHEN to make the move and not forcing the issue for little reason.   The Blues play 11 of their next 14 games at home, a place they have dominated all season long.   It’s crucial that they win at least 9 of those and get a point in 11 of them.  This will keep up the pace and give them a shot at catching Chicago and Detroit while keeping them ahead of the lower rung teams.   Just keep winning.  Follow Hitch’s lead and play 60 minutes at a time.

Cardinals Lookback

While putting the brain to the green over the 2012 Cardinals team, its never too late to relive the 2011 World Champion Cardinals thrill ride through September and October.  On Christmas, FSM replayed Games 6 and 7 of the World Series and its hard to watch those battles without a small smile on your face.   A few things I will never forget.

-Joe Buck’s playcalling that puts him in high class of sports announcers.  I have said for years that Jack’s kid was one of the best and in this series that notion became a truth.   His call of David Freese’s game tying triple, slowly shouting, “Cruz goes back, and its….off the wall!”   His mantra for the 2011 Redbirds.   “They just won’t go away.”   David Freese’s home run sailing out of Busch and stretching the series to 7 games.  “We..will..see…you…tomorrow…night!”    Chills go up and down the spine.

-Jason Motte’s final pitch, Craig catching the ball, and Yadi Molina bear tackling Motte at the pitchers mound.   Pure elation.

-Freese’s dead on look at third base after his game tying series saving triple.  He looked like a man possessed.   His infectious smile friendly dance down the third base line after his game winning homer in Game 6.   Everything about the local kid’s work makes you feel proud that he is a hometown boy.

-Albert’s 3 bombs in Game 3 rewiring the series and giving the Cardinals a much needed if short lived 2-1 series lead.  Pujols turned a close brittle 3 run lead into a 6 run cushion by disposing of three pitches from three different Rangers pitchers.   Hate him all you want but remember his work here and over his entire career.

-Beating Milwaukee in the NLCS brings all kind of pleasures.   Slamming shut Nyjer Morgan’s mouth, shutting down Braun and Fielder in the right moments late and watching our bullpen almost singlehandedly preserve the series.  A season long feud ended on one Jason Motte pitch in Game 6 in Milwaukee.   Silencing every fan in the house never looked or felt so good.

-Chris Carpenter’s postseason defining defeat of his rival/friend Roy Halladay to win the NLDS 1-0 on the road at Citizens Park.  He beat the best pitcher in baseball, shut them out in clutch fashion, and watched their best player, Ryan Howard rupture his achilles on the last pitch.  The Cardinals crippled that city on one night in October.

The 2012 season brings new adventures and a new look but before we dive into the torture of that 162 game plunge, let’s remember the glorious run this team took.   Start there before you design anything up in your head for next season.  Trust me.

The Random Slices-

*Tim Tebow has exceeded expectations and can only stack great things on top of a highly transformative 2011 season.   He experienced his worst game as a pro, throwing 4 INTs(2 for scores) and Denver got blown out by Buffalo.   However, as people jump on him at the first sign of downfall, Tebow is taking the brutal defeat in stride and will be gunning for a playoff spot next week.   Tebow has throw 11 TD and 6 INT, and ran for 6 more touchdowns on the ground.  He has fumbled 5 times yet lost only 2 of them.   He may not be a protypical or sound NFL quarterback, but he has done very well, isn’t done yet and deserves the chance to prove critics wrong in 2012.   He’s an exciting player.

*Here is Edward Burns’ take on the process of delivering indie films digitally into our video on demands at home.    Interesting read from the Hollywood vet, who once made a film for 23,000 and made 10 million back.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/12/26/edward-burns-director-of-newlyweds-on-the-changing-face-of-indie-film-distribution.html

*I can’t seem to get Iron and Wine’s “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven” out of my head.   Folky blues rock with spice on the back end.

*If you love fighting in hockey and wish a league would embrace it like the 1970s and let the blood fly for real, here is Seann William Scott(aka Stiffler) as a hockey enforcer in the February release, GOON.   He plays a regular guy who defends a friend in the stands by knocking out the fighter on a hockey team in epic one punch style.   He takes over the role and becomes a one man wrecking crew of anti-flaccid entertainment.   He meets his match in Liev Schriber’s legendary fighter and there’s an epic fight in the end.  There is nothing truly new here but if you crave old school hockey fights and need a badass tooth bashing rockheaded shitbrick to make it happen, here you are.   William Scott is a regular comedy participant and while this film carries varying degrees of comedy, there is something far more grand taking place.    Scott gained weight and muscle for the role and looks the part.  Here’s a taste.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/12/26/edward-burns-director-of-newlyweds-on-the-changing-face-of-indie-film-distribution.html

*Christopher Nolan doesn’t make films for simple financial gain or a tool for wasting time.   He sets out to tell stories.   The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final film in his Batman trilogy and I am sure it won’t disappoint.   No other director comes close today when it comes to combining big screen spectacle, story an fascinating characters.   He makes good and bad forces facing off seem Shakespearian.   Secret Ingredient in this one.   Tom Hardy as the ultimate bad guy, a terrorist named Bane.

*The Holidays are a very good way to ignite the recharging of the batteries.   Seeing your family, answering questions, giving opinion and relaxing.    This year was especially important.   The only way to get over a death is to come together and help each other out.

*Who else writes to clear out the voices in your head telling you to talk about something?  To me, writing is a competition. Write it first, get it out there and swell the minds with your thoughts.   No true writer wants to call another’s work good or quality before giving forth their own.   When I stage my opinion, I try to avoid Bernie’s opinion or other paid writer’s views until after I am done expressing mine.  If I read something and think its shit, I’ll say it.  If I think it is good, I get anxious and need to fire my own version out.  Writers have to get to the bottom of their barrel first before seeking out other views.  Its human nature.  I love the works of others but see them as the competition.  Writing is a mad arms race.

This latest race in my head is finished.  Enjoy.  Digest. Read it over.  Respond or carry on.  My worries on your end don’t exist.  My work here is done.   The mind is at ease for the time being.

Soon, that will change and I will come back.  Until then, down this dose or give me else something to talk about.

Thank you and have a good safe day at your office,

Dan L. Buffa

 

The Eve of the Written Word

Before we get into making Christmas wishes come true or attempt a New Year’s resolution, allow me to throw a few logs of firewood into the pit here.  Making conversation is easy.  Sustaining it over a period of time and working it into an extended debate is top of the line grade A human persistence.  That’s what I do here.  Introduce topics.  Discuss events.  Run over the required data of the 24 hr cycles that sound alarms in my head.  Here we go..one more time before Christmas strikes.  Santa may not be real kids, but the Buffa train of thought stops for no one. 

Mission Impossible 4 Review

Typical Tom Cruise mayhem goes on here.  2 hours of action packed suspenseful drama done right by director Brad Bird(who crafted the Incredibles, a legendary animated film that gave us the idea he could do a live feature with ease and skill).  Here, he centers the action around Cruise and lets the little guy run wild.   Cruise returns in the fourth installment of the spy franchise as Ethan Hunt, who we last saw walking into love filled bliss with his wife(Michelle Monaghan).   At the beginning of this story, he is in a Russian prison with friends on the outside setting to break him out.  The reason is unknown at first, but its the start of a thrill ride that truly never lets up until the final momnets of the film.  If there is a film that will razzle and dazzle your senses, this is it.  Hunt and his crew get involved in a job at the Kremlin, and when it explodes into a thousand pieces, the attack is pinned on his team.  That initiates ghost protocol, which then sets Hunt on a mission to clear him and his crew members names from the rigged gig.   That’s all you need to know.  Jeremy Renner plays a mysterious agent named Brandt, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton show up as members of his team and Cruiser takes care of the rest.   Knock Tom all you want, but respect his hard work and dedication to getting a fine product out there.   He is the hardest working actor in Hollywood and respect him for doing all his own stunts.  Most actors in Hollywood require stunt doubles to do the ugly work of their acting duties, but that’s Crusie hanging from the side of the largest building in the world in Dubai.   Mission Impossible films always promise death defying stunts and plenty of explosions but Bird adds his own measure of class and humor to the equation.  The film has the makings of an old school noir tale mixed with new age action and well worn suspence.  I approve of MI4.

Carlos Beltran Comes to St. Louis

Here is the way I look at it.   Carlos Beltran signed a 2 year, 26 million dollar contract to play outfield for the Cardinals.  Albert Pujols will make 26 million in 2012 to play first base for the Angels.   A fair trade by the numbers.  The Cardinals get the likes of Beltran and Berkman, two legendary Cards killers, for the price of Pujols in 2012.  This is an exciting deal for many reasons but the biggest comes in the fact that Beltran is a known threat.  Pitchers have to respect his switch hitting power to all fields and the likelihood that his bat will do damage.   In what many considered a down year in 2011, Beltran hit .300, compiled a .385 on base percentage, hit 22 home runs and drove in 84 in 142 games.  Beltran isn’t coming to the Cardinals to be the main man, replace Albert or be the heart and soul of the offense.  He is merely a member of the killing squad.  The finishing touch to the puzzle.   Beltran is a party member, a #2 hitter who will do damage with his legs, bat speed and ability.  He is a plus outfielder and an all fields hitter.   This deal carries the risk of Beltran’s questionable health over the past 4 seasons.  He had knee troubles in 2011 and has had shoulder and knee surgery, but once he made it to the Giants at the trading deadline in 2011, he played out the rest of the season and finished well.   The crowd who rip the Cards for not spending will come here and rip them for giving 26 million to a 34 year player with health concerns.  That’s a predictable statement.  However, in order to acquire his services, the Cards had to give him years or a higher annual salary.  They wisely chose the latter.  GM John Mozelaik is making a lot of bold risky moves during this offseason, starting with hiring a manager with zero MLB coaching experience, letting Pujols walk to LA, signing Furcal to a 2 year deal and now giving Beltran 2 years at 13 million per.  This is a young general manager setting himself out from the pack.   Mo knows exactly what he is doing and the consequences awaiting him if this method fails.  Carlos Beltran is an impact player.   Someone who will do damage.  I like the Beltran deal because of what he does to lineup and in the field.   Impact signs for 2 yrs are very important and well done.  Mozelaik came, attacked and conquered here.  If Beltran can stay healthy, the deal looks like a sprinkle of genius power playing by Mo.  If he falters and spends time on the DL, the move will be lamented.  Its important to remember all deals come with a risk.  Signing Berkman to a one year 9 million dollar deal before 2011 was risky.  It paid off.  Beltran will add an explosive element to this team.  He has mileage left in the tank and could pay huge dividends.  I like this move, sink or swim.

The lineup is set now and it will look something like this. 

Furcal, Beltran, Holliday, Berkman, Freese, Molina, Jay, Skip, pitcher spot

The needs have been filled and now Mo can look to find a bench bat or let the kids run the roost.   Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene will serve as defensive depth players and a power bat can be added through free agency.   I hope and expect Tony Cruz makes the team as the backup roster because he showed true potential in his games played in 2011.  Brian Anderson simply can’t hit at this level.   The bullpen is run by closer Jason Motte, and assembled with power parts like Lance Lynn, Eduardo Sanchez, Kyle McClellan, Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepcynski and JC Romero.   K-Mac has expired and I wished he would be packaged in a deal for a bench bat.   Young arms have taken over the pen and McClellan has be worn out by 100 innings in the rotation.  Dead arm awareness comes into play here.  As long as Motte doesn’t blow 6 games in April, the stopper slot is fine.  What other need exists on this team?  Right now, I see no real need.  Mo has done fine work.   Now the wait and see process happens.

The Cardinals would do well to lock up Yadi Molina for the foreseeable future.   His 7 million option for 2012 was picked up, but they need to extend him now before letting him reach free agency and run off to Anaheim.  Molina means so much to this team in every facet of the game.  He handles the pitching staff, is the best defensive catcher in the game, can hit .300 and showed a stroke of power in 2011 previously untapped.  Molina is an essential tool for Dave Duncan and needs to be taken care of.   Mozelaik would save himself a potentially major headache by locking Molina up.  If any catcher deserves 10 million a year, its Molina.  Looking at the many things he does, its hard to dispute it.   Give him a 4 year, 40 million dollar deal.

Let’s do “remember this before you look and sound stupid” class again.  Please stop shitting on Albert Pujols.  Look, its done, he made a move, left for Anaheim, made a mistake in letting emotion get in the door and made excuses, but there is no reason to tarnish his legacy or accomplishments here.   Many want to give his number away to Beltran or Holliday and that’s absurd.   Albert Pujols’ #5 will be retired in the future.  This is no time to tarnish what he did here.  He won 3 MVPs and brought the city 2 World Series titles along with a hall of fame caliber 11 year career.   Why do we light a fire on that once he left?  Pulling a Lebron slam game here is unwarranted.  It’s perfectly cool to be mad at him and wonder about his true character and honesty.  It’s quite another to dismiss his accomplishments in St. Louis.   Short sighted and unfortunate come to mind.  While he will never be the #1 Cardinal of all time, Pujols put together a 11 year career that few Cardinals if any can top.   Remember that the next time you settle into a Pujols rip rant.   His exit was unfortunate and ill-advised and wrongly played by Team Pujols, but his time here was brilliant.

The Blues Learn to React To Adversity

On Wednesday, the Blues came out and got caught in an early 2-0 deficit in Colorado.   They fought back to tie the game at 2, but lost on a late goal and dropped only the third regulation loss under Ken Hitchcock.  On Friday night, the Blues reversed the result and beat Phoenix 3-2 to bounce right back.   The Blues are learning to deal with adversity and avoid losing streaks.  They haven’t lost two regulation games in a row under Hitchcock and have only failed to pick up a point in those 3 losses.  They are 14-2-4 since Hitch took over.   They refuse to lose on the road and fare well on the road.   Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a complete team capable of beating teams in many ways.  The Blues can fall in an early hole and fight back, as they showed against Columbus and Colorado.  They can also win by assaulting teams early and often, as seen against the New York Rangers and Phoenix.    When was the last time you felt this comfortable with this team’s chances on any given night?  There are 3 players with 11 goals or more and 6 with at least 7 goals.  This is all happening without Andy Mcdonald and only a small contribution from forward Chris Stewart.   Captain David Backes is a human freight train on the ice, handing out justice in the form of clean open ice hits and tallying 11 goals to go with it.  Alex Steen has 12 goals.  TJ Oshie has never looked faster or sharper.   The kid line of Oshie-Perron-Berglund is back together.   Things are going in the right place and it could only get better.  The Blues are the best home team in the NHL and 11 of the next 14 games come on home ice for this team.  Here is a chance to separate themselves from the 7th, 8th and 9th spots in the Western Conference.  Chasing Detroit and Chicago will be an all season chore but the next month and a half will determine how much staying power and consistency this team provides.

The Rams Playing Spoiler

Heading into Heinz Field against one of the best defenses in football in the Steelers Curtain, one can predict sudden death for the Rams.    Call it now.   That is the easy move.  I wish to see if this team can pull off the unthinkable and truly damage Pittsburgh’s playoff spot landing.   Once your chances of making the playoffs run out, its time to play spoiler.  The Rams can do damage today.   Kellen Clemons will play quarterback again and attempt to do the unthinkable.  The Steelers are without their starting quarterback as well and will install veteran Charlie Batch into the equation.  More important, Marcus Pouncey will miss the game and without him at center, The Steelers will be susceptible to a pass rush.  The Rams have a decent pass rushing team in Chris Long, James Hall and Robert Quinn.   The key to the game is applying pressure to Batch and finding a way to slow down running back Rasheed Mendenhall.  If Mendenhall runs wild, the game is over.   Batch can plug away at a prevent defense and bury us.   That’s what many(smart people included) expect to happen.   There’s a fair chance Clemens gets rocked by James Harrison or Troy Polamalu.   There’s a small chance the Rams find a way to win.  Forget about losing for Luck.  The Rams will likely trade away their top three pick for several lower picks and for good reason.  This team needs  lot of work so why try to solve it in one area?  The Rams can ruin playoff hopes today.   Will they show any sign of life?

I agree with Bernie Miklasz in saying Spags and GM Billy Devaney don’t get an extra few inches of string in their efforts here.   Where else would a head coach with a record of 10-36 be allowed to continue after 3 seasons of misguided misery,   Why would Devaney be allowed to put forth another down year?   The time to clean house doesn’t come out of nowhere folks.  For those saying the Rams have dealt with injuries and Spags hasn’t gotten a fair shake, let me run down the list of injuries for the rest of the NFL, including division rivals Seattle and Arizona.   Arizona is winning with a third string quarterback in John Skeleton.   Seattle is winning without Sidney Rice and with Taveris Jackson throwing.    Every NFL team deals with injuries and I have always wondered why the Rams get a longer reach in failure.   The Cards get slammed every year if they fall short.  The Blues get a leeway as well but its starting to shorten.   The Rams are allowed to lose and that’s bad for a franchise.   Unless things turn around, owner Stan Kroneke will have no choice but to move this team to LA or elsewhere.  If he isn’t making money, consider it done.  If we lose in 2012, this franchise will not recover.   The causes don’t start and end with the head coach, but remember why the coach goes first.  It’s not for anything personal he did around here.   It will be because the results of his team isn’t meeting standards.   When you fire the head coach, you send a message to the rest of the players to get their shit together.   It’s a message and not personal.   Spags has a year left on his contract but my feeling is he will be canned.   That’s what has to happen because when you don’t fulfill the job requirements set forth in the beginning.   Several people rush to Spags defense because he is a good guy and I understand the position.  However, do your home work and see what the effects are of an instant decision and having to get training from a new mind(Hitchcock/Blues).   Remember the NFL is a business like any other and if wins aren’t happening, a change needs to be made.  Good guys need to be held accountable for their actions.

The Random Bits

  • The NBA season begins on Christmas and for fans of the sport, that’s great but for me, it’s just another day where basketball takes place.  I will admit the sport getting a half season in is important for the overall image of sports.    Nobody wants a sport laying down in the dumps for too long.
  • Hate Kobe Bryant all you want but respect his toughness and will to play with injuries.  The man is playing on a bad set of wheels and suffers other injuries like wrist soreness and shoulder pain, and hates to sit down.  Kobe has the killer instinct and drive to succeed that Lebron James lost when he left Cleveland.   He knows its him against the world and the expectations are high.  People pay to see him play and he doesn’t wish to disappoint.   Bryant is the closest thing to Jordan we have in the game today.   He plays with one idea in mind.  Win now, win it all and don’t worry about anybody else until you have handed the championship trophy back to your owner in the post game ceremony.
  • The Boston Bruins aren’t one time wonders.  Last week, they destroyed the Philidephia Flyers 6-0 and last night beat the Florida Panthers 8-0.   Granted, The Panthers aren’t that good, but shutting a team out and scoring 8 goals doesn’t happen often in the NHL.   Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, Brian Marchand and the boys will be on the doorstep to defend the trophy this spring and the road to the Stanley Cup will go through Beantown.
  • Homeland is getting better and better as I roll through the first season on Showtime On Demand.  I’m 5 episodes in and completely digging this show.   Homeland’s amazing first season seems to be making up for lackluster been there/done that season of Dexter.   Damian Lewis and Claire Danes are locking horns in a beautiful devil dance between two tortured souls, one suspecting the other of a crime far worse than simply treason.   Danes is reinventing herself as an actress here, playing an unstable CIA analyst hellbound on convincing her superiors and herself that Lewis’ POW is a terrorist putting together a mission.   You can pick one side here but its never certain.  The writers and directors keep you off balance with subtle hints and twists.   The finale has to be explosive powerful and send a politically charged message that cuts deeper than protest.
  • Fun Blues notes from Insider/Beat writer Lou Korac.  Brian Elliot has played 1,044 minutes in goal this season and only allowed 27 goals.  After notching the win over the Coyotes on Friday night, Elliot is 14-3 with a 1.55 GAA and .943 save percentage.  A supreme comeback season for Elliot that is easing the burden on Jaro Halak’s mixed season and the goaltending foundation.   Its going to get hard to not give Elliot more starts as the season presses on unless Halak establishes himself as the leader.
  • Looking forward to seeing Waino freeze Beltran with another curve in intra squad games.   Protect the knees and prep for the buckle Carlos.
  • For all the people who felt the need to trample and nearly kill last night over a pair of Jordan sneakers, please tune in now.   It’s only a pair of shoes.    If outsiders need a clue to why our civilization is a cloud covered muddy ditch, look no further than this crowd of insane fucksticks.
  • The Black Keys are the best band working in music today.   Write it down.  Look them up.  Start listening to this band.  Start with their finest album, Brothers(2009).
  • Mel Gibson is officially single.  Who wants a piece of this mad Australian lit fuse of talent and fiery vengeance?  The man needs to make more movies.   He can’t let a little PR trouble get in the way of great acting.
  • The Town on HBO is the most rewatchable film on cable right now.  A truly brilliant Boston crime saga about cops and robbers based on true stories.
  • Warrior on DVD is the movie to seek out on the low scale film front.   Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton’s raw edged performances make this film about two brothers riding a collision course through a MMA tournament speak volumes about heartbreak and violent promises do significant damage to the psyche.
  • The question isn’t whether or not Barack Obama is a good president or not.  It is whether any worthy candidate will come forward and have enough favor and money to beat him.
  • Hanging out with good people never gets old.  Find and assemble your own entourage of trusted souls.  It will become a required life line during rough times.
  • A wonderful wife and beautiful son don’t hurt either.

The Final Word-An Update on my grandmother, Meme.  My sweet grandmother has landed in the hospice floor at Mercy West.   She is breathing on her own, but at this time it’s only a matter of making her exit a comfortable departure.  She is alive but slowly slipping away.  If there is one thing I will learn from her life, it is this.  Don’t take it for granted, live life to the fullest, and do things instead of waiting.   Rachel and I wouldn’t be where we are without the help of Meme.  She gave until it was gone and now all we can do is dedicate the rest of our lives to the style she lived her own.   I will miss her dearly and I feel like a piece of my heart is being stolen.  Now I must take care of my mother, who will take this blow the hardest.  Every death leaves a crop of thorns in its wake but the one thing that needs to be realized is a life that was lived to the most complete level of fulfillment.   Losing Meme will be hard on all of us.   Remembering her and the effect she had on people who had a chance to meet her has a lasting power and responsibility.  I am not guilty of what happened to her, but I told her sorry on Wednesday because I felt I should have been by her side that fateful night.   I called her home phone just to hear her voice again last week.   Her last words to me were wildly ironic.   It was a voicemail from a call I missed 5 hours before she fell down the stairs.  She told me that she loved me, that she enjoyed going to the movies with Rachel and I the previous Wednesday and that The Cardinals would be fine without Albert Pujols.  My grandma worrying about Pujols is my lasting memory of her now.   My grandmother was a giver and a provider.  Whether heaven exists or not, a true angel will show up when Meme passes on from this rock.

That’s all for now.  This stream of consciousness is finished.   Come again for more insightful thoughts from this Southern St. Louis city corner of cyber space.

Goodnight and good luck,

Dan L. Buffa

The Buffa Blast

The Buffa News and Notes of the Week

Happy Holidays, now lets get down to business.   There isn’t a better indicator of Christmas than snow on the ground, low temperatures freezing the air and good old fashioned warm hearted gestures.  Since we don’t have all of the proper ingredients yet, I bring you the news.   What I will bring you is the brutally honest truth.   I don’t believe in GOD on earth, have little use for politics, and only deal in things that matter to me or have been requested attention from others.   Follow me here as I load another bullet into the chamber and fire it out.

Meme Update-The last 10 days haven’t been kind to me or my family as we struggle to come to terms with the fact that more likely than not, my grandma will not make it through Christmas.   The shock and awe of tragedy is the speed it can take hitting you on any given day.   One day she was completely fine and the following night she was not.   One mistake ladies and gents is all it takes.   My grandma made a fatal mistake.   Older people taking steps while drinking is like young people choosing to drive while under the infleuence.   Dangerous methods of transportation.   I don’t beat myself up over it every day but I will admit one level headed soul could have told my grandmother to sit the fuck down and take it easy.  She went down being herself.  If you knew her, you would understand she wasn’t happy until she spoke to every single soul at a party.   She wanted to ask questions, grab the person’s arm and get answers.   She was wise, spoke many languages and was persistent so you couldn’t bullshit your way out of 20 questions with the little lady.   My idea of her moments before the fall include her getting up from one group of people to go seek out another and it just so happened that the required pack of souls who hadn’t been slammed with a dose of Meme were located downstairs.   Meme probably had 2-4 glasses of wine, was having fun, forgot about her just healed broken hip, and tackled the steps with stub heels and the carpeted stumps defeated her.  She took a tumble backwards down the 9 step case and smacked her head on the wooden floor below(supported by concrete beneath).   Imagine slamming your head into the hardest man made surface outside of pure metal and you have it.  The final hit was the one that broke her.   It took her down.  Everything else that happened before didn’t matter.  The broken wrist, collarbone or punctured lung would heal in time, even for an 81 year old.  The blow that did my grandmother in is the same blow that ends athlete’s careers.  A blow to the head.   Brain trauma.   The one thing doctors and surgeons play with and examine to this day is the ability, activity and strong/weak areas of the brain.  They haven’t completely figured it out.  They know one side specializes in one ability and the other carries another trait, but the recovery ability is something they haven’t touched on yet.  The heart is so different.  Something happens to that area and they immediately know what it is, how it can be fixed and how long it will take.  The brain leaves so many question marks.  My grandmother wasn’t brought down by her age alone.  She was brought down by a mistake.   One brutal mistake.   Folks, don’t drink and drive.   Think before you drink and walk.

Now let’s get on with it.  First, a review of a very good film.

“What do you see?”-Gyspy

“Everything, that is my curse.”-Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes 2 is a game of shadows and entertainment.  If you want something fun and engagingly cool at the movies, please go see this film.  It’s an old fashioned adventure film that will razzle and dazzle you for two hours and take your mind off ordinary stress related issues.  The plot is fairly simple.   Professor Moriarty is using multiple terrorists to launch an attack on the world so wars start, money is made and the evil empire he is putting together eventually overtakes the government.  Sherlock and Watson must stop him and enlist several tools and friends, including a gypsy woman(Noomi Kapani) and Sherlock’s brother, Eli(Stephen Fry).   In the end, it comes down to a battle of wills between Holmes and Moriarty, something we all expect but have no idea how fun it can be.  Why does this film work so well? Let’s pop the hood and take a look.

-Robert Downey Jr. is the key ingredient.  While his chemistry with Jude Law is important, Downey’s slick smart and cool portrayal of Holmes is the reason to see this movie.  The chief export of joy.  Downey doesn’t take it too seriously and isn’t afraid to add a bit of comedy to serious moments.   He is the ultimate actor.  One who can morph into any kind of hero.   A skilled performance.  Downey Jr.’s Sherlock is the guy every man wants to be.  Smart, nimble, tough and persistent in every corner of their life.

-Digging Guy Ritchie’s Holmes formula.  Instead of boring us with the slow moving more soft spoken Holmes, Ritchie engages Conan O’ Doyle’s earlier version of Holmes and once again serves up the thinking man’s action hero.  There are smarts to his strategy here.  Every Ritchie adventure consists of clues, history, juicy dialogue battles and the usual Holmes/Watson gamesmenship.   Anybody who shits on Ritchie’s formula doesn’t like fun.   With a cineplex full of depressing powerful downers, action stories with a brain included are required.

-Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law do make for a great team.   Finding the right actors to fill legendary roles is the most important part of reinventing Sherlock Holmes and these two talented actors are up to the task.  Ritchie paired the two as friends before the start of the first film and the interplay comes through on the big screen.  Their exchanges are relaxed, carry a unique brand of humor and always entertain because the two are working partners but on a simple plain are best friends trying to look out for one another without making it look homesexually inaccurate.   Downey Jr. and Law are brilliant here.

-Jared Harris makes for a great bad guy, playing the legendary Professor Moriarty with an evil blend of menace and brains.   Harris doesn’t overplay the role yet doesn’t tip toe around it.  This is the greatest villain Holmes ever faced because each found a match in each other as far as ability was concerned.   The first film’s villain, Lord Blackwood, was a fake magician easily taken down by Holmes.   Moriarty is a lot more difficult to defeat and very intelligient, making a fine match for Holmes’ mad methods.

-Everything about SH2 is big in scale.  The sets, costumes, action, drama and overall spectacle.  Ritchie doesn’t mess around or go light in these areas of Victorian period delight.   He pumps up the surroundings with wild colors, characters and a culture lost long ago.    It supports the story very well.

Sherlock Holmes is a perfect “getaway” delight.   Action adventure, humor, and a little drama.   The ending fulfills the time spent and sets up a third film.   I left the theater feeling that I wanted more but in the best possible way.  I didn’t want the adventures to end and felt like going back for another round of entertainment.  SH2 is classic entertainment.  It sweeps you off your feet for two hours, takes you back in time and tosses you into an adventure before setting you back in the modern hour wondering why things got so damn boring.

 The Cardinals Seeking an outfielder.   There are people who can wait and analyze a move after it is signed, done and complete.   A few of my friends are patient when it comes to speculation.   They have an ability I do not currently own.   The ability to NOT pay attention to MLB news updates.   I am a different blend.   I like to stick my hand inside the oven while the product is still cooking.  I’m bad.   I dig into all the hype, talk and potential until my brain needs 5 minutes to uncoil.   The Cardinals are a brand new band.   Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols are gone.   Mike Matheny doesn’t have a game of managerial or coaching experience but he takes over the team that just won the World Series.   GM John Mozelaik is slowly putting his roster together.  He resigned Rafael Furcal, Skip Schumacher and pulled JC Romero from the free agent market.   This is Mozelaik’s team now.  The Walt Jocketty products are few and far between on this roster.  Mozelaik cleared out most of La Russa’s coaches and confidants.  He brought in his own manager and assigned his own coaching staff.   He allowed Pujols to walk and won’t make a big pitch for Prince Fielder.  Mozelaik is as cool as a cucumber.  Everything is riding on his shoulders and he seems to approve of the pressure.  He likes the danger that bold choices bring to his desk.   If Matheny fails, it is on him.  If The Cards fall and the Angels rise, Albert’s defection will somehow bite Mo in the ass.   This is common sense news folks.   Mozelaik knows exactly what he is doing.  He was preparing for Albert Pujols-less baseball in September and October.   He formulated his plan of attack in November and engaged it in early December.   So far, I like his moves.

Furcal, Skip, and Romero are solid smart low key moves.   Role fillers and then some.   The next question for this team is the outfield depth.  Please save me the Adron Chambers speech.  The kid needs more time.  In less than 20 at bats he put together some solid at bats, got on base and did a few things but lets not go crazy and say he can replace a .300 hitter like Jon Jay.   Chambers is a good speed bat off the bench late in the game but his defense in the outfield is suspect and his long term value is in question.  He can’t replace Jay or Allen Craig.  NO way.  Save me the Matt Adams hype note from Memphis.  I don’t care what he did in the minors.  There are tons of power bats down there who arrive in the majors and fizzle.  Look at Nick Stavinoha and Joe Mather.  Save it.  We’ll see him in September for a few at bats.  Until then, ship his ass to the Andrew Luck department of worthless hype and hard-on’s.   Let’s get serious.  Here are a few of the candidates.

Ryan Ludwick is a smart, low key fit for the Cardinals.   Mozelaik brought Lud to the Cards in 2007 and kickstarted his career after knee injuries delayed it in Cleveland.  Lud is a plus defender and can hit for power.  He will drive in 75-85 runs and performs well at Busch.   He will only cost you 2-3 million per year and you can lock him down for a 1 year or 2 year deal.  Lud doesn’t have much leverage after a down year split between San Diego and Pittsburgh.   I didn’t like when we lost him in 2010 and would like him back in this lineup, backing up Jay in center and filling in for/splitting time with Craig in right field.

Coco Crisp has been linked to the Cardinals in talks.  Crisp is a known trouble making pest but he is an effective leadoff hitter.  He hit 8 home runs and drove in 54 while hitting .264 last season but he also stole 49 bases.  That’s right.  A base stealer.  Something the Cards haven’t had in a long time.   The Cardinals didn’t steal 49 bases as a team in 2011.  This is something to look into.  Crisp would cost the Cards 4-6 million at least and may be worth a look.  He is the player you hate to face but wouldn’t mind having on your team.

Carlos Beltran-The expensive big fish on the market.   Beltran’s talent is clear cut.  He destroyed the Cards in 2004-2006 while with the Astros and Mets, but has become an injury prone mess since 2009.   Beltran hit .300 with 22 HR and 84 RBI last season between the Mets and Giants but will command a high salary.   After Michael Cuddyer got 10 million per season from Colorado and Jason Kubel got 7.5 from Washington, I would expect Beltran to command 15 million per season.   However, sources say he will take a 2-3 deal worth 12.5 million a season.   Still rich for my blood but I wouldn’t dispute the move if the Cards signed him.  Every player brings risk and Beltran’s risk is greener than others but his potential impact is immense.  He can play all outfield spots and hit anywhere from the #2 hole to the 6th spot.  A potentially dangerous player, in terms of potential and injury threat.

Ryan Ludwick, Crisp or Carlos Beltran?   My money is on Beltran.  My brain is with Ludwick.   I would be fine with Crisp.

The Blues win an ugly battle against Columbus on Sunday, 6-4 and roll into 4th place in the Western Conference with 42 points.   This team is 13-2-4 under Ken Hitchcock.  Enough said.  They are doing a lot of things right at the moment and will try to continue the trend against Colorado tonight on the road.  Sunday’s win was characteristic of Hitchcock’s effect on this team.  They simply don’t give up.  On a night where Jaroslav Halak gave up 4 goals and the defense struggled at times, the Blues were relentless and kept after the puck.   The troubles with shootouts continue to confound this team but hopefully the shoots taken in those extra sudden death sessions improve and the Blues grab a post overtime victory under their new coach.   Until then, I’ll enjoy the rugged new brand of Blues hockey.   While the Rams tank another season, I am happy with the Blues taking over the winter here in St. Louis.  It’s about time the bold moves of Doug Armstrong pay off.

The Rams lose again.   World moves on.   The examination process takes longer if you wish to inspect the losing ways of this football team.  What is Arizona and Seattle(both 7-7 with bad to average quarterbacks) doing differently?  The Rams roughly have the same talent buildup here, so why aren’t we seeing results?  The Seahawks have beat us twice along with the Eagles and Chicago.   The Cardinals beat the 49ers last week.   What is wrong with the Rams? It doesn’t start and end with the coaching, but there has to be a problem there.   Injuries have hurt, but I look at the ridiculously stupid penalties this team takes.  How can you win football games if you aren’t disciplined?  The NFC West competition has improved their play with the same or lesser talent.  The Rams can’t do so.  I don’t care if they are playing hard for Spags or McDaniels.  This is a results driven league and the St. Louis Rams aren’t getting any results.

Game Notes from the Cincy defeat-

*Kellen Clemens played well for a guy who has only been here 2 weeks.  Clemens developed momentum on drives and threw for a late touchdown before coming up short.  However, Kellen did as much or more than Sam Bradford has done all season.   He gives a small ounce of excitement to the final 2 games.

*Chris Long racked up sack #13 on Sunday.  A stellar player having a career season on a bad football team.   Long has slowly developed into the premiere pass rusher the Rams were hoping for when they drafted him 2nd in the 2009 draft.  Long has put together 2 very strong back to back seasons now.   Him and Robert Quinn give you a foundation on the defensive line for years to come.

*The defense played “bend yet don’t break” for another week, allowing big yards on the ground and enough points to outlast their offense while performing horribly on special teams.   This unit deserves better and saves us from a winless season but spots can be strengthened.

*The Rams would be smart to sit Sam Bradford for the rest of the season with his high ankle sprain.   The next two games are against Pittsburgh and San Francisco, two very powerful defensive minded playoff teams looking to position themselves for the playoffs.  Tell the kid to shut his mouth and ride the bench.  I don’t care about Bradford’s desire right now.  I care more about his desire to live to see another day when he is shell shocked and scared of getting hit.   Bradford hasn’t shown me that yet.  The ability to take a hit and not see his play completely drop in production.  Bradford isn’t healthy and can’t play.  Start Clemens the last two games for the sheer fun of seeing what he can do and saving your franchise player for a fresh start.  Spagnuolo’s future may hinge on his treatment of Bradford.

*If the Rams finish 2-14 and get the #3 pick, The GM(whoever that is) has to give serious consideration to trading it for more picks because the Rams don’t just need one player.  They need a quartet of producers.   The Rams need to start prepping for 2012.   This season is horrendously over.

Ndamukong Suh may be a dirty old school player but the big guy is a game changing defensive player and begs the question;  Did the Rams make the right choice?  Franchise Quarterback or Franchise defensive player?  The call goes to the Rams, due to Bradford’s potential impact and Suh’s negative impact, but in five years the answer may be different.

SONGS TO SEEK OUT

Musician to Investigate-Frank Ocean.  Give his new song with Jay Z and Kanye West, “No Church in the Wild”, a listen.   An unorthodox choice for this blog but something new and fresh.

http://youtu.be/Qv-BeEa0bw4

Black Keys Song of the Week-Mind Eraser, from their latest, El Camino.  A hard charging blues rock song that defines the band to a direct tee.   This is what they do.  Make hardcore blues rock that lingers and drives you to the rest of their music catalog.   One of the best signs a band is working its magic on you is when you search for their older work.   Listen to this song and tell me it doesn’t move you or get you going in their direction.

http://youtu.be/ZB4f4AT8R-0

Weddings-Good, bad and ugly traits.   Over the past weekend, I had a chance to serve as best man for a fourth time at a wedding and the experience always brings a few different flavors.   The good comes in the form of being directed associated with the wedding.   You are the eye of attention and get to do things first.   Eat first, make the toast and push the proceedings along.   I gave another speech and it went well and hit the marks.  I like weddings.  I am a believer in marriage not only because it has worked for me but also for the idea of marriage.   Two people meeting out of the blue, falling in love and deciding to spend the rest of their life with one another.  The promise of a lifetime.  Isn’t that what we all strive for in some way?  Companionship.   The bad part comes in dealing with all the anxiety and nerves of the pre wedding activities.   Getting to the facility, dropping your belongings in a room and heading to the hall to go over the plays for the wedding.   Stand here, walk to here, look here and hold this.   Weddings are an event and one small fuckup cripples the entire day so careful tactics are taken.  Wedding planners are bitches because they promised heaven to the bride.  The Groomsmen show up and do the best they can to make it happen.  My part was walking up to my friend Eric, standing next to him, smiling and handing him the rings.   The speech was extra.   Weddings are symbolic of life.  Stress, nerves, anxiety and the pursuit of happiness all in one night.  The ugly comes when people close to you drink too much because when people really drink, emotions come out and make themselves known.  Unstoppable forces meet unfortunate people and things happen that can’t be reversed but only heal over time.   Overall, weddings are good and fun but will wear you down with the pressure and aftermath.   I still believe in the institution of marriage but continue to question the procedure for which it is reached.

Fatherhood At Three Months

What is there to say that hasn’t been said by dad’s that have run around before me?   Probably little, but they didn’t have a son as cute, willing or time consuming as my little man Vinny.   Every day I come home and the kid is pissed, sleeping or hungry or a combination of all three.   I am tired and holding little energy but I make it a task to spend a little time with the guy every night.   Tonight, I read him a fine sweet book, “Go The Fuck To Sleep”.   That is the title of the book and it was a great Christmas gift.  This is a book you can’t read straight faced or get through without breaking into laughter.  Lines such as “You are hungry, that’s bullshit, now go the fuck to sleep” stopped me three times in my tracks.  We don’t do the ordinary books to rock our kids to sleep here at the Buffa’s.    Unorthodox approaches our house frequently.  As I laughed, Vinny stayed wide awake and looked at me like I had a few too many drinks.   Being a parent requires you to call a few audibles and do things differently just to tell yourself this is a fresh experience.   While exhausting and patience sucking, being a parent is the role of a lifetime.  And it never ends.  I’m up for the ride.

Here is another song because it reminds me of my family and our struggle with getting over a tough event.   David Gray performing “Draw The Line” live in a studio in London like he’s blasting a package of C4 inside his chest.  That’s the only way Gray can bring it.   Straight and blunt and with meaning.  There are few musicians you look at on stage or in studio and say to yourself, “what you see is what you get”.   Gray belongs to that group.  An English musician with one idea.  Sing from the heart.  Give this raw edged song a listen.  I’m touring Youtube at the moment and came across this one inside various searches.

http://youtu.be/ujr2f4Vl31s

Moving on to the Random Topics-Bullets included

  • Tim Tebow’s Broncos lose to Brady and the Patriots and people wish to smack Tebow for not leading a comeback.   Well, when your defense gives up 41 points and your fellow offensive players like to fumble the football, what can a quarterback do?  Tebow had another solid game, throwing for 194 yards and rushing for 90 while scoring 2 touchdowns on the ground.   Tebow is playing great football and did all he could against one of the best QB’s in the game.   It’s time to leave the man’s religion alone and analyze his football skills alone.
  • Ben Roethlisberger had a performance on Monday Night Football many will wish to forget.  Playing on one leg, Big Ben threw 3 interceptions and fumbled once and his Steelers lost 20-6 to the suddenly Super Bowl threat SF 49ers.   When your quarterback commits 4 turnovers, you won’t win that often.
  • Blues president John Davidson has a point when discussing the rising number of concussions in hockey.  It’s the speed of the game, the size and athleticism of the players and taking away of mid ice tactics that lend themselves to bigger hits.   Players can’t hold and hook players in the middle of the ice and without the red line taking away two lane passes, players are getting caught cold in the neutral zone.   In the end, unless you change the framework the game has taken, the concussions won’t stop.
  • You can take every measure possible in hockey and football but bad injuries will happen.   It’s a physically brutal sport and you can’t teach players how to not hit someone.   The players know the risks involved.  They know the sport is slowly killing them one game at a time.
  • Andre Ward beat Carl Froch in the super middleweight Super 6 boxing championship on Showtime on Saturday, staying unbeaten and beating a flawless british fighter on the Boardwalk in Jersey.   Ward took apart the unbeaten Froch and outpointed him easily while earning a close decision.  While the two American judges had it 115-113 for Ward, the british judge(feeling zero empathy) gave the fight to Ward at 118-110.  With Froch representing Britain, I take the lopsided Ward decision as a true indicator of who won the fight. 
  • The Yu Darvish negotiating rights victory by Texas is absolutely ludicrous.  Why spend 51 million dollars on one player to only win the rights to negotiate a contract with him?  Did Nolan Ryan and company fail to see the mistake Boston made with Daiska Matusurka.  They handed over 50 million to win the rights to talk a deal,and Daiska has been a shell of himself since his America arrival.   Darvish is a Japanese pitcher with 99 wins and a 1.99 ERA in Japan.   There is no data telling me that will transmit over to the states.  There is no real way to tell.   The Rangers won’t give Prince Fielder, a proven slugger, a long term contract but they will hand 51 million to negotiate a potential 120 million dollar contract for a guy who hasn’t thrown 1 major league pitch yet.   Sounds like giving a rookie QB 50 millio before he takes a snap.   Darvish could be Ichiro or he could be a complete bust.   The pursuit makes zero sense to me.  
  • One intriguing quality about Beltran coming to St. Louis is his friendship with Lance Berkman, who teamed up with Beltran to nearly cripple the Cards in 2004.   Beltran also sported a .385 on base percentage in 2011 while hitting .300 with two clubs.   If healthy, Beltran could be a great signing.   Place him in the #2 hole in the lineup with the speed and power.   This is just an idea.  If they sign Lud or Crisp, I would understand and support it because it’s smart.   Signing Beltran could produce a big reward if they take the leap.
  • MMA fights are highly skilled fights but they don’t last long enough to throw pay per view money on.   There is nothing worse than tossing 50 dollars on a fight only for it to last 2 minutes.  Mike Tyson used to be a sure bet for a waste of cash unless you liked seeing human eclipses inside a boxing ring.  I’d rather give my 60 dollars to a boxing match because the chances for a 90 minute 12 round battle are higher.  Fighters get up off the mat more often because they are only allowed to toss fists and not elbows, legs and heads. 
  • The Dark Knight Rises trailer promises high stakes action between Batman and Bane.    For the people who can’t erase Joel Schumacher’s Batman films from their head, the mention of Bane won’t perk interest because Schumacher didn’t portray him right.  He isn’t just a muscle goon.  He is a highly intelligient deadly villain who can get into a person’s head. Think of the Joker with muscle to go with brains.  The final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece 3 film set comes down to Batman/Bruce Wayne deciding to return to Gotham after being casted out at the end of the Dark Knight.   He comes back to see his city in ruins, this time at the hands of a terrorist named Bane(played by the deliciously evil Tom Hardy).   Anne Hathaway shows up as Catwoman, and the usual players(Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman) all come back along with Joe Gordon Levitt and Marion Cotillard.  Nolan’s films are so good because he pays as much attention to story strength and character development as he does to the action and set pieces.   Everything is done with skill and class.   This will be the film of the year in 2012.  Here’s the trailer for those seeking to wet the lips. 

http://youtu.be/XXAzGGX2tpw

  • The NBA lockout ends officially on Christmas day and while I couldn’t care less, there is new hope for basketball fans seeking a fix.   I don’t carry resentment towards Kobe, Lebron or Derrick Rose.   I just find it difficult to care until the playoffs come around.   The shortened season works for me and should be tested in other sports.   Shorter season with the playoffs featured at top billing.  
  • HBO’s 24/7 just gets better and better.   There are so many things to love about this show.  Liev Schriber’s narration.  The film work and sequences.   The music chosen to carry the scenes of physical carnage.  The stories behind the fighters and players.  If sports were made into a theater play, this would be the best example.   Players fighting for respectability and triumph against  a sea of competitors while dealing with the normal issues of life off the ice or outside the ring.   Boxers locking together mind and body before a fight.   Its hard to ignore emotion in a show focused on taking us inside the lives of athletes.   I highly recommend this show.   24/7 Rangers-Flyers premieres their second episode tonight. 
  • Woody Allen’s film about a writer getting lost in Paris sounds like an idea for an evening with Owen Wilson.   Wilson is a comedic actor but can be effective when inserted into the right role.   Here he plays a guy who walks into the past during hallucinations overnight in Paris.  
  • Warrior comes highly recommended on DVD this week from me.  Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play rival MMA fighters struggling to make ends meet, physically and psychologically, so they enter a tournament and set themselves on a collision course.   Father issues,abandonment and hatred enter the picture in this fighter drama.  NO, its not just about MMA fighting.  There is a story about brotherhood here.  
  • The Packers losing to the Chiefs only reinforces the idea that anything can happen on any given Sunday.   When they hoist the AFC in another Super Bowl, they will be glad they lost in the regular season.

Something tells me today will be a day that Iwill never forget.  There’s so much on the table that the idea of  thinking this 24 hour set will go down like any other isn’t valid.  I expect lots of drama. 

That’s all for now.  So long for just a little awhile. 

Goodnight and good luck,

Dan L. Buffa

Also….The only thing I can say that is comforting about Meme’s exit is being reunited with my grandfather Larry.   Its only been 21 years since he died so that’s nice. Other than that, this passing will rock my family. Like I said, this could be a day to remember or forget.

We will see. Life is full of surprises.