Super Bowl XLIII: The Pick, No Miracles Here

January 30, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII, we have made it to the finals.  Man, do I miss the Bud Bowl.  It was commercials like those that you would look forward to even if your team wasn’t in the game.  At least, Springsteen is doing the halftime show.  He will do four songs.  If I could pick the setlist, based on my four favorites from the Boss, I would pick, “Thunder Road,” “I’m On Fire”, “Radio Nowhere”, and “Born to Run”.

One thing that is forgotten about the Super Bowl this year is the broadcasters.  This could be the last one for John Madden.  He is 72 now, and I am not sure how long he can still do it.  This year’s game is lucky to have whom I believe is the best play-by-play man out there in Al Michaels.  A man who is not appreciated enough.  His voice is excellent, he knows when to get excited and when to be subdued.  Al has a great vocabulary and in the 30 years he has been broadcasting on television, I can’t recall a time when I was really pissed at a call he made.  Ironic for Al, who has done so many football games, it will always be a hockey game that cements his legacy.  How many other sportscasters’ have a movie named after a call that they made.  I still believe in Miracles, and I still believe in Al Michaels.  Go back and listen to Joe Buck’s call on the Tyree catch last year. Do you think Al Michaels’ would have been a little bit more emotional and have the right words to say at such a crucial point in the game?  I certainly do.  Appreciate what we have in Al, you won’t see many like him in the future.   Not many do it better.

I know there has been a lot of interest in the Cardinals, well I think that is just hype.  I think this game does have the makings of a blowout.  We have been pretty fortunate with the Super Bowls recently and the last blowout I remember was the Buccaneers drubbing the Raiders six years ago.  The NFL seems to have copied the NBA’s formula for putting the fix in to the Finals to make them closer games.

The Cardinals have a terrific wide receiver trio with the unbelievable Larry Fitzgerald, the angry Anquan Boldin, and the underrated Steve Breaston.  Their running game is inconsistent.  I think we have learned over the years that you can stop a big passing game, with pressure on the quarterback and a double-team on the team’s best receiver.  It should be easier for the Pittsburgh D to stop the Arizona O, than it will be for the Arizona offense to stop the hard-working Steeler D.

The Steelers offense is not as high powered as Arizona’s, but it is a productive unit.  I would expect to see Willie Parker break off a few runs of 10 or more, and I would expect a big pass to Nate Washington sometime during the game.  I think the Steelers will use their defense to make at least two big plays, and one special teams play.  These plays will help shorten the field for the offense giving Big Ben and the Steeler offense full use of their weapons.  Hines Ward, not at 100% makes me hesitant to pick a blowout.  I think the Cardinals will have their chances in this game, but like the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, they will make costly mistakes, and hopefully not blame the officials this time.

The Super Bowl Pick:  Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Arizona Cardinals 17.

I do not think the Cardinals have a seen a defense as good as the one they will face on Sunday.  The Cardinals have been a great story, but in 2008 the Pittsburgh Steelers are a great team and will capture their record-breaking 6th Lombardi Trophy.


Welcome to 1600 Pennsylvania, President Obama

January 21, 2009

Welcome to 1600 Pennsylvania, President Barack Obama.  I may not have voted for you, but as John McCain said, you are my President.  I am a Republican, but it does not do any good to say that someone is not your president.  I thought the best speech I heard throughout the entire campaign was McCain’s concession speech where he said my former opponent will be my President. That is how I feel today. Unfortunately, for Republicans, McCain had given his best speech after the votes came in that Tuesday night.

Now, I know President Obama has said and offered a lot, but I am going to give him a chance to work at delivering on those words. He has earned that. And if he does not deliver, then I will be critical.  Now is not the time for that.  One day I hope what was said about Joe Louis, can be said for Barack Obama.  New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Cannon once wrote, “Joe Louis is a credit to his race, the human race.”

I think when Lincoln was elected in 1860, no one knew how great he would be.  He was a true unknown to those outside of Illinois.  He ran as a third party candidate, from a party that would be called the Republican Party.  While Obama is from the same state, Lincoln did not have the luxuries of the media constantly tooting his horn or butchering current President James Buchanan or butchering the vice-presidential candidate from the Know Nothing party.

This is a time for greatness.  Not merely a time to talk about greatness.  President Obama has been given a chance to lift the country up from its knees.  It will difficult, but the prize at the end can be very rewarding.  Today, I wish to discuss the Generation closest to me, those who were born in the 70’s and 80’s.  This is the generation that President Obama will need to lead the country in the years to come.

The world has changed, our attention spans are far shorter than they used to be.  A lot of that is do to the fact that there is so much in the world that can be distracting.  It was not that long ago that our news came from the local TV channel, radio, newspapers and magazines.  Now, with the Internet, many of those stories are old news.  There used to be only 10 channels of TV, now there is are1,000 and counting.   There were only a few radio stations, now thanks to satellite radio, there are hundreds.  There is a magazine for just about anything these days.

Have you noticed how much smaller your magazines have become?  And newspapers, forgettaboutit!  You can’t even wrap Pepperidge Farm Goldfish in those!  The Help Wanted section has to stretch to make a page in the papers, except on Sundays.  The shrinkage is not due to less content, but less advertising.  That is something that we have not experienced in this country for a very long time.  This is the real scary part of the economy, less people are trying to sell you something.   It will be very difficult to see how so many of them will survive.  The magazines practically give away the subscriptions.  For newspapers, I could see them cutting back to 3 or 5 days a week.  For magazines, some will collapse and I can see many mergers of titles among the large publication companies.

I think in the newspaper realm, the advance of faster and more abundant Internet connections this was something you could see the losses coming.  Especially, that is does not cost a penny to read your local paper online.  Why would it behoove anyone to subscribe?  If the bacon is given away, do you really want the rest of the pig?

This generation is the I, Me, My Generation.  We have the iPod, the iPhone, MySpace, Youtube, Reality TV, and countless other items that are engineered for the attention of one.  We update our HTML clipboardfacebook page 20 times a day, as if anyone truly gives a crap that right now, “Michael is taking a crap.”  And best of all is, we can get all of this information, anywhere at any time.  It is tough to tie us down for long periods of time.  “The Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw calls them, got the bigger picture that it was about being part of something, and not being the something.  So many of us want to rise to be chief, but unfortunately we forget that you need Indians that are willing to work as a team so that a leader and not chaos emerges.  Many of the people in their 20’s and 30’s want to be Managers or Leaders, and not really satisfied with being on the road to Management or Leadership.  We can be Indians, but we need to be shown that there is a path to being chief or at least something that is motivating us for a higher cause.

We are cynical and sarcastic, but for the most part we have good hearts.  We enjoy watching TMZ, commenting on Deadspin, reading the latest on someone in Wikipedia.   We do like seeing Britney getting fat, Terrell Owens crying, seeing who isn’t Jennifer Aniston now, human car accidents and what politician is now in hot water.   We Google what we don’t know, and think it is knowledge, even though it is only information. We love our country just as much as “The Greatest Generation”, because where else could we say and laugh at such drivel.  We just learned to laugh at it a little more.

President Bush is a good man, who just didn’t always come across on TV as the brightest light bulb in the room.  He tried hard, he lowered our taxes, gave us two nice stimulus checks, dreamed for peace in the Middle East, wanted to give every child a chance, kept the hopes and our country safe for 8 years after 9/11, gave us unprecedented growth in the real estate market, low unemployment for six of his eight years, and was entertaining with some of the new vocabulary he brought to the world.  Some of those things did not come true from his dreams, and a few of them backfired mightily.  Unfortunately, when we needed him to be more serious, President Bush tried to be witty, and was terrible at it.  See: Bushisms

President Obama, welcome to 1600 Pennsylvania.  In terms of football, the head coach has been changed.  While you are not inheriting the 0-16 Lions, right now we feel about anywhere from 1-15 to 4-12.  No one expects you to be 16-0 next season.  You will probably never be perfect. But maybe, with a little help and putting those words you like so much like Hope and Change into action we can go 9-7 and make a surprising run like this year’s Arizona Cardinals.

There is work to be done, and you can be that leader who comes across as knowledgeable on TV, but also strong when we really need you.  Please work to be above the extreme bleeding heart liberals and ultra Jesus-loving conservatives.

One side note, if McCain had won; do you think MSNBC would have even televised the inauguration?  Better yet, would the event even been put on their news ticker on the bottom of the screen?  I know it certainly would not have made Keith Olbermann’s Countdown.  The camera operator would have to reduce the zoom to 1:1000 in order for Keith’s tremendous noggin and ego to step aside.  Congrats on the big contract Keith, but what are you and Chris Matthews going to talk about now?  You can only blame the old coach so much, before the blame carries on to the new coach.

Peter Schiff: Genius and Psychic

January 20, 2009

It is rare that besides Bill Belichick; I will call anyone a genius, by my God, were Peter Schiff’s predictions amazing. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, when all of those other “experts” are laughing at you.  Peter could probably laugh at these people now, but I bet he is just looking into the future of economy.  I know I will be listening when he speaks above all of the masses of asses. 

We’re Going to the Super Bowl?

January 16, 2009

The NFL is down to its Final Four.  I was lucky to survive going 2-2 in my Divisional Picks, many did not have that kind of fortune last week.  It was not a week for those with a weak stomach.  What were the odds on these four in September?  Besides, the Steelers who were no lock to get this far in September, when some were picking the Browns to take the division are the only team that isn’t a surprise.  Many had the Ravens in a rebuilding year starting a rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco from a Division I-AA school.  For the Eagles, after a humiliating tie to the Bengals, followed by getting blown out and benching McNabb, the Eagles were ready to go in a new direction in 2009 with Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid set to part ways.  And the Cardinals?  Well, we know no NFL team named the Cardinals could ever play in a championship game, let alone host a playoff game.

It’s a one game survive and advance tournament, and there are no number 16 seeds, a 6 seed is just as dangerous as the number 1 seed, if we had any number 1 seeds left, they disappeared last week.  Home field advantage?  A thing of the past.  The NFC teams are 4-0 on the road.

Ravens 17, Steelers 13 – I’m not sure how it will happen, but I think the Ravens can pull this one out.  It reminds me of the 2001 AFC Championship Game when the Patriots went into Pittsburgh, with a young QB, solid defense, and not given much of a chance of winning.  The Steelers have hosted the AFC Championship way too many times to mention.  Most of the time, the Steelers lose to a team they should have beat.  They have let the home crowd down in these contests.  The Ravens offense will need to make a few more plays than they did against the Titans, but special teams and defense will win this game.  I still think the Ravens are bitter from their two close losses to the Steelers, and especially the last one where the Ravens felt cheated on a challenge. I don’t think the Steelers wanted to see the Ravens again.  They won’t be as lucky this time.

Cardinals 24, Eagles 20 – Throw out the first meeting on Thanksgiving night in Philly.  The Cardinals do not have to fly east this time.  How come no one says much about teams from the east flying out to the west?  The Eagles seem a little banged up, while Anquan Boldin returns to the lineup for Arizona.  What worries me is that Eagles Defensive Coordinator who loves to blitz, will blitz Kurt Warner into mistakes.  The Cardinals need to counter this with draws, screens and just throwing the ball up to Larry Fitzgerald who can out jump any secondary.  The Eagles have been feasting on turnovers, the Cardinals can’t give them the game.  The Cardinal defense will need to make one big play to stop McNabb.  I think it comes late in the game, and then the bedlam in Glendale will last long into the night.

The Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl.  Raymond James Stadium will dressed in Cardinal red, oops it already is red thanks to the Buccaneers.

Last year’s Super Bowl, the most watched football game of all time, if it ends up being the Ravens and the Cardinals, I could see at least a 10% drop in ratings, and some advertisers regretting that they spent $100,000 for a second of time during the game.

2008 NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

January 9, 2009

Divisional Picks – After a very good week of Wild Card Picks, going 3-1, and nailing the score of the Cardinals-Falcons game, I am feeling pretty high on life right now.  But, the Divisional Weekend always separate the men from the boys.  This week is for seasoned gentlemen only.

Ravens 16, Titans 10 – To me the main difference in this game is that the Ravens aren’t depending on Joe Flacco to win this game, just not to lose the game.  On the other hand, I think the Titans are relying more on Kerry Collins to pull another win out and I do not like the chances.  The last time Kerry Collins went up against the Ravens in a playoff game was Super Bowl XXXV.  He was intercepted 4 times and Ed Reed did not join the Ravens until 2001.

Panthers 31, Cardinals 17 – The last thing that the Arizona Cardinals want to do is travel east again, where they went 0-5 against teams in the eastern time zone.  Those games started early.  This is a Saturday night game.  I think that helps Arizona.  What doesn’t help will be Anquan Boldin not at 100%.  The Cards played the Panthers tough in their week 8 game losing 27-23.  The Cardinals actually outgained the Panthers 425 to 351.  Carolina is a better team since then, not sure if you could say the same about Arizona.

Giants 27, Eagles 20 – As it is said in investing when everyone is hot on something, you should back away and go in the opposite direction.  I like that advice.  Philly seems to be the team that many feel are last year’s Giants.  I couldn’t agree less.  The Giants aren’t the same without Plax, but they can still beat the Eagles.  I can never feel confident in an Andy Reid coached team, the guy makes Herman Edwards look like the best time manager in football.  I just can’t see the Giants falling twice to the Eagles at home.  I believe the Eagles weak spot on defense are the linebackers, and I am not sure they can control the tandem of Ward and the Jaco-bus.  Eli just has to be smart with the football and not give the Eagles hungry secondary anything to eat.

Steelers 20, Chargers 10 – This one is so tempting. The Steelers have been a lousy home team in the playoffs over the last decade or so.  Losing 4 AFC Championship games at home, one of them to the Chargers, and losing at home last year to the Jags.  But, I think the crushed grass/mud of Heinz Field hurts the Chargers.  Darren Sproles who was amazing against the Colts last week, will not be running on a fast track, and will have to carry more than normal, with LaDainian Tomlinson which translated in to Spanish means Carlos Beltran likely out.  Big Ben may not be 100%, but I don’t see him handing this one over to the Chargers.

The Steelers do lose at home in the playoffs, but they usually win at home in the divisional round.  I will wait until next week for them to lose at home.  Hint, hint.

National Championship Pick

January 8, 2009

Tonight, I like Florida to capture the National Championship. If it is said that defense wins championships, Florida’s is better than Oklahoma. There is no D in Oklahoma, there is plenty of O, but I think Florida’s O will be just as good. The defense will help carry the Gators to their 2nd National Title in 3 years.

The pick: Florida Gators 48, Oklahoma Sooners 27

2008 Stewie of the Year Winner

January 5, 2009

I had to think long and hard about who the Stunad of the Year or “Stewie” should be.  Actually it isn’t really that hard.  It would be easy to put an individual in this position, but it would not be fair.  There were so many deserving candidates, but I am not picking a person.  I am picking a collapsing economic system.  You may remember it as capitalism.

The abusers of capitalism are the winners of the Stewie for 2008.  There were just too many to mention. It would be too easy to pick someone like Bernard Madoff.  But, the thing is, as disgusting of a person that he is; I cannot really say that he is entirely to blame.  I blame the investors and the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), more than Madoff.  To quote Mike McDermott from the movie Rounders, “Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”  I doubt Mr. Madoff held a gun to each investor and said, “If you don’t invest with me; I will blow out your brains.” Investors saw ridiculous returns and either did not do the research or did not care to know how or why these returns were so high.  Naturally, you go out and you tell your friends to invest.   So, when analysts did their due diligence and could not replicate the returns of Madoff’s hedge funds, who really cares, you are making money, and that clouds our judgment.  Now, everyone points a finger at Madoff, and rightly so, what he did was complete fraud.  Just remember when you point a finger, three point back at you.  But, if the investors did their homework and the SEC properly investigated this Ponzi Scheme, this would have never gotten as far as it did.  Our need for Greed, made old school principles of making money, a thing of the past.  Oh, what a tangled web weave, when we first practice to deceive.

You are far from alone, Bernie.

An Unreal Real Estate Market.

The biggest lie you will ever hear is that you can’t lose money in real estate.  Try saying that to someone today.  Say that to someone who purchased property in the last 4 years and ask if they can sell back their property for more than what they paid for it.  Those who made money flipping properties this decade are either lucky to be out of the game, or flipping out due to this crisis.

For the most part, yes, real estate is a solid investment.  I will not argue that.  Over the long term and if you can time the market appropriately you can make a nice profit.  But over the last decade, I kept hearing, I want to get in on real estate while the market is hot.  I could not run for the hills fast enough. It is always best to time a market, and the time to be in on a market is usually when it is not too popular.  If a market is too popular and there is too much activity driving prices to levels where they do not belong, you need to stay on the sidelines.

Banks, mortgage companies, sharks were competing to give people a chance at the American Dream.  The American Dream in their eyes was not home ownership, but a change to be highly leveraged.  Being leveraged is just a fancy term for borrowing more than your equity.  If you have a 20:1 ratio, that means that for every 20 dollars in debt you have, you have 1 dollar in equity to back that up.  I know that there are those who want to blame the banks and the mortgage companies for coming up with these new ways to entice people in real estate.  The terms “interest only” and “subprime” were introduced into society.  These were terms that should have never gotten a chance to become household names, but boy they sure did.  Over $600 billion is involved in subprime mortgages.  43% of those borrowers did not have a penny down on the home.  While, I certainly do not agree with the way these mortgages were sold; I can only fault the banks so much.  Once again, I do not think anyone held a gun to a person who did not have favorable credit and say you must sign this mortgage.  They were duped, but if you know you have debt and that you have defaulted on car loans, credit cards, etc., you probably should not be anywhere near the housing market in the first place.  Personally, I have held back on owning a home because I knew I could not afford it at the time.

The Credit Crisis.

Bear Stearns (began in 1923), Lehman Brothers (since 1850), Washington Mutual (since 1889), gone.  Nice to know you.  A combined 362 years of business, that seemed to vanquish in about a week.   Merril Lynch, Wachovia, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, AIG, etc., needed a life raft bigger than the Queen Mary to stay afloat.

These banks put so much of their risk into some the riskiest investments the world will ever know.  So, the subprime mortgages started to fail, but don’t worry the banks had the credit default swaps to rely on.  Oops.  Once Lehman Brothers defaulted, the protection went away, and the bank was stuck holding the debt that no longer had insurance and had very little value.  These were risks that should have been seen a mile away, and because of the need for greed, multibillion dollar companies fell faster than dominoes and were re-sold for pennies of their actual worth at one time.  But, the orchestrators of these deals, their feet are not put to the fire.  They were able to jump ship and sail away on their golden parachutes.  In fact, these companies were rewarded with $700 billion of our own money to bail them out and keep our economy from filing chapter 11.  And now, since some of the stable banks have received the money, they do not want to lend it out!

The Oil Crisis.

Here is another myth.  There was never an oil crisis. The reason oil prices go up and down is based on word, speculation.  The United States itself, has over 2 trillion gallons of oil in reserve.  Demand did increase as well as inflation, but it was not due to supply, but do to decreased production.  Those lovely countries in OPEC, like Iran, Saudi Arabia,  Venezuela, etc., know this all too well and they will try as hard as they can to reduce production and keep the world dependent on their oil as their only pathway to profitability.  These countries are not stupid, they will not give the oil away.  They want to hold the rich nations by the strings.  Well, hopefully their days of control are numbered and that the alternative sources we hear so much about will become more prominent in the years to come.  Having these countries oversee oil production is equivalent to having Michael Jackson as your kids’ babysitter.  One thing good that came out of 2008, was that even with OPEC reducing production the price oil fell sharply and gas prices were cut in half.

The Auto Bailout.

We bailed out our struggling car companies.  Companies that lost market share and have proven to be less competitive.  The government did not come to airlines rescue, the steel industry, the textile mills, the necessary afterschool sports and activities that closed, and so many others never got a chance or a dollar to state their cases.

GM, Ford and Chrysler will be back to Washington for more money someday; I do not think that is even up for debate.  One or more than one will make it to bankruptcy very shortly, it is only a matter of time.  What should happen, is they should merge all three into one.  Take the best parts of the three, take the quality in Ford’s trucks, the good sales of the Chrysler’s Jeep and minivan line,  the GM cars that are over 30 miles per gallon, and create one car company that can be powerful and profitable.  The number of overall car models is far too many to make decent profits.  If you look at Toyota or Nissan, do they have more than six models of cars/trucks?  Bailing out the American car manufacturers only allows their practices to continue without looking at the real problems.  Unfortunately, reducing the industry will cost jobs, but maybe those people who had jobs in the auto industry will come to realize that they should not have been so dependent on the industry and will learn to develop new skills and find new opportunities.

The bailout comes at a cost more expensive than $700 billion, or any amount of money.

The cost is that our government, “Big Brother” will have more of a stake in what we used to call the free market system.  The blame lies on we the people, and our need for greed and that makes the abusers of capitalism winners of the inaugural 2008 Stewie of the Year Award.  I hope this winner will never repeat as champion.  In 2009, I think there are opportunities to buy stocks at uncommon levels, but we need to remember fundamentals.  I will get into that in a later column.  The Stewie of the Week will return on Thursdays.