Aaron Rodgers and the 4th Quarter Failings

Today, ESPN Insider writer Scott Kacsmar takes aim at the Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers in particular) over what he believes to be Rodgers’ failures in the 4th quarter over his career.

He writes:

Trailing 34-30 with 3:47 remaining on Sunday, Aaron Rodgers had a chance to lead a game-winning touchdown drive to help the Green Bay Packers escape with a victory in Cincinnati. With the stage set for a classic finish after a wild game, this should have been a legacy-growing moment for the player many believe is the best quarterback in the NFL, right?

Not so fast. The Packers are just 5-24 (.172) in games when Rodgers had the ball in the fourth quarter, trailing by 1-8 points. Five comebacks in 29 tries? Tony Romo, considered by some to be a choker, led five comeback wins in the 2012 season alone. Among active starters, only Cam Newton (2-16) has a worse record than Rodgers.

He has numerous passing records, both a regular-season and Super Bowl MVP, but this is the one area on the résumé that continues to be a sore spot for Rodgers. Sunday was one of his worst finishes yet.

This time, while the drive was long in plays (13), it ended at the Cincinnati 20 after Rodgers’ pass was tipped on fourth-and-5. That was the third tipped ball of the drive, as the Packers’ offense ended the game with two interceptions, a fumble returned for the go-ahead score, and this turnover on downs.

These close-game failures have been the hush-hush hallmark of coach Mike McCarthy’s otherwise successful tenure as Packers head coach. While the blame should be distributed everywhere, why are we not looking at the quarterback more?

I’m going to trust that Kacsmar has his numbers correct. I know many have attributed two of the Packers close losses to Rodgers when it was Flynn that played all or the majority of the games against the Lions and Patriots in 2010, but I’ll give Kacsmar the benefit of the doubt here.

I take issue with anyone directly attributing a win to a quarterback in football, just like I scoff at the idea of pitcher wins and losses in baseball. These are team sports and teams win and lose ballgames. The pitcher and quarterback may influence the outcomes of these games more than other positions, but the whole idea of attributing these players wins and losses simplifies what is usually very complex.

Kacsmar seems to understand this is a team sport, and he address this later in the piece:

Of course, some of the 26 losses speak well for him. He has put Green Bay ahead seven times in the fourth quarter when trailing, only for the team to go on to lose the game. The defense is certainly deserving of blame for this.

Green Bay has allowed 20 game-winning drives since 2008, which is third-most in the league over that span. Last season, there was the Hail Mary to Seattle’s Golden Tate on that game’s final play. In Week 1 this year, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a 28-24 lead, only to watch Colin Kaepernick and the Niners score the game’s last 10 points for a San Francisco win.

While it’s been a team problem, all quarterbacks have close losses in which the defense failed them. The difference — in comparison to Rodgers — is that they always seem to have more wins, too.

I’ve watched every one of Rodgers games. I don’t think he’s perfect, but I do think he’s been as good or better than anyone else since he became a starter. In that timespan, I’ve never gotten the impression that Rodgers wasn’t clutch, but I was curious as to the circumstances in these close games that the Packers were losing.

Here is what I found out:

21 total losses in games decided by seven points or less


Game Team Score at the start of the 4th Did the Packers tie or take the lead (Y/N/# of times) Final Score Final Offensive Possession (4th/OT)
1 Atlanta 10-17 Yes 24-27 TD
2 @Tennessee 10-16 Yes 16-19 OT Punt
3 @Minnesota 24-21 No 27-28 Missed FG
4 Carolina 21-21 Yes (Twice) 31-35 Int.
5 Houston 7-13 Yes (Twice) 21-24 Punt
6 @Jacksonville 13-7 Yes 16-20 Int
7 @Chicago 17-10 No 17-20 Missed FG

2009:

Game Team Score at the start of the 4th Did the Packers tie or take the lead (Y/N/# of times) Final Score Final Offensive Possession (4th/OT)
8 Cincinnati 21-28 No 24-31 False start
9 @Minnesota 14-28 No 23-30 FG
10 Pittsburgh 14-21 Yes (twice) 36-37 TD
11 @Arizona 24-38 Yes (twice) 45-51 OT TD/Fumble

2010

Game Team Score at the start of the 4th Did the Packers tie or take the lead (Y/N/# of times) Final Score Final Offensive Possession (4th/OT)
12 @Chicago 10-7 Yes 17-20 Fumble
13 @Washington 13-3 No 13-16 OT Missed FG / INT
14 Miami 10-13 Yes (twice) 20-23 OT TD / Punt
15 @Atlanta 10-10 Yes 17-20 TD

2011

Game

Team Score at the start of the 4th Did the Packers tie or take the lead (Y/N/# of times) Final Score Final Offensive Possession (4th/OT)
16 @Kansas City 7-9 No 14-19 TD

2012

Game Team Score at the start of the 4th Did the Packers tie or take the lead in the 4th (Y/N/# of times) Final Score Final Offensive Possession (4th/OT)
17 @Seattle 6-7 Yes 14-12 Punt
18 @Indianapolis 21-19 Yes 27-30 Missed FG
19 @Minnesota 24-27 Yes (twice) 34-37 TD

2013

Game Team Score at the start of the 4th Did the Packers tie or take the lead (Y/N/# of times) Final Score Final Offensive Possession (4th/OT)
20 @San Francisco 21-21 Y 28-34 Inc.
21 @Cincinnati 30-21 N 30-24 Inc

Here are two things that immediately jumped out at me:

1 – 66% of the losses included Packer scoring drives that resulted in a tie game or a Green Bay advantage.

and

2 – 57% of the Packers final possessions in the 4th quarter were scores or missed FGs.

Note: there were two instances in which the Packers final drive occurred with under five seconds on the clock. I instead used their previous possession)

On Sunday at Cincinnati, Rodgers had one of his worst games as a professional. It wasn’t a good look for him, throwing a costly interception late and finishing the game with two balls batted down.

But I don’t believe that the narrative should be that he’s un-clutch or worse, he’s costing his teams games when the score gets tight late. The evidence will actually show that more often than not he’s put his team in position to win the game.

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One quick note regarding the absurdity of stats

This will be brief.

Joe Posnanski recently wrote about the absurdity of some stats, and it’s worth your time.

In it he makes a particularly good case for killing the error and I’m definitely with him to a certain degree.

But I’m not here to talk about that. My ire today is for another prominent statistic for another prominent fuck-up in another prominent sport: the interception. I love football, but there isn’t anything more dumb to me about the sport than punishing a quarterback when a receiver fucks up.

I watch a majority of the games on Saturday and Sunday with my younger brother, a former quarterback and current coach. Over the years we’ve grown to loathe the idea of an interception more and more, because often times the situation isn’t cut and dry. Maybe the WR ran the wrong wrote and the ball sailed into the arms of a defender that wouldn’t have made a play on the ball otherwise. Maybe a RB or OT blows a cut block and a pass is batted into the air, landing right in a lineman’s lap.

Or maybe a WR simply doesn’t catch a perfect pass and the ball ends up in the hands of a defender.

NOPE

That was a pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jermichael Finley. As you can see, it was placed about as perfectly as a ball can be: out in front of the receiver, eye level and on-time.

Finley bobbled the ball, it ended up into the arms of defensive back Eric Reid of the 49ers and the stat sheet will say that it was Rodgers that fucked up.

This happens all the time, and it drives me nuts.

How are we, in 2013, still penalizing quarterbacks for the fuck-ups of others. How do we not have a stat for this? Why aren’t drops that lead to picks a “thing”? Hell, why aren’t drops listed in (typical) stat-books at all?

Not all interceptions are created equal, but they’re going to shape the narrative all the same. It has to stop.

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A Matter of Taste

Twitter has completely changed the television viewing experience. If you’re on it, you know what I mean. Whenever a BIG TELEVISION EVENT happens, Twitter lights up and it’s impossible to avoid because everyone is writing about the same thing.*

*as I type this a dozen people on my Twitter list bitched about Ryan Seacrest at the NFL game.

Good luck avoiding spoilers. When a show airs you’re interested in watching but NOT THAT SECOND you have two choices:

1 – Just shut Twitter down for the night
2 – Live with the chance that someone is going to spill it because they forget not everyone is watching live

I’m an Option One kind of person. By now I know enough to go Twitter dark on such occasions.

But even if you happen to avoid spoilers and the HOLY FUCKING SHIT YOU GUYS DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT WE JUST SAW kind of tweets it doesn’t mean you’re completely shut-out on the discussion. The popular shows become part of INTERNET CULTURE. Don’t watch Mad Men or Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones? You’re going to feel like the loser in the classroom because that’s all THE INTERNET wants to discuss the following day.

Now. If you aren’t on the Internet regularly? If Twitter to you is just a stupid word and it’s just a bunch of people sharing what they’re eating? If you’ve never read a blog or a board? You could be forgiven for never hearing about Breaking Bad. The Red Wedding is meaningless.

But this blog post isn’t for you.

Battlestar Gallactica

I don’t watch most shows live. It’s actually pretty rare. But I do generally keep up with the big ones within a day of them airing since becoming old enough to pay for my TV services.

There have been exceptions, though, and giving in and binging becomes the only possible option because INTERNET BUZZ is just too overwhelming. Sometimes I give in and I’m glad. Prior to the final season of Battlestar Gallactica the hype was huge and I got caught up before what ended up being one of my favorite series finales ever.

But other times? Other times I get Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad, the final season, is happening right now. The finale is in a few weeks. It promises to be a BIG TELEVISION EVENT. Over the last month or so we’ve been getting articles on where the show ranks among the all-time greats, and if you’re to believe the critics and the rabid fanbase you’re going to see it right at the top of the list.

I gave it a shot, sort of, once before. Back in season two I fired up the pilot, fell asleep and forgot about it for three years.

It was only after the Internet Hype hit critical mass that I gave it another go. Whether I liked it or not, I would watch three seasons.

I did, I liked it…kinda. Not really.

A mark of a TV show I’m likely to love is based on some really basic criteria:

• Does it invoke emotion? Does it make me laugh? Does it piss me off? Does it shock me? Any kind of emotion is a good thing. Furthermore, am I emotionally invested in the characters or the story?

• Am I going to want to randomly re-watch an episode six months or six years from now?

• Does it have characters I can either identify with or root for?

• Is it memorable or is it forgettable?

Breaking Bad fit none of the above. I gave it three entire seasons, and what I got were awful characters, a glacial pace and forgettable (if not repeated) plot lines.

I didn’t give a shit about anything I was watching.

A character dies? Fuck it, I didn’t like them anyway. Something bad happens to Walt? He’s a shitty person so fuck him. It isn’t funny, it’s light on the BIG EVENTS, every episode rolls together because it’s closer to one 10 hour movie as opposed to a series of episodes with their own individual mini-stories.

I gave it three seasons. I peeked ahead to see if I was going to miss out on anything Earth shattering. Nope. Season five sounds like the exact same boring shit with the exact same boring and deplorable characters.

I gave up.

I’m a firm believer in there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Like what you like. No, scratch that. LOVE what you LOVE. Get totally invested in what you want, embrace it and make no apologies. If someone gives you shit? FUCK THEIR INSECURE ASS.

Breaking Bad isn’t for me. I don’t think it’s a bad show and I can see why others may love it (I guess) but it doesn’t hit any of the notes that make for great television according to my checklist.

Update: After the INTERNET HYPE got huge, I watched the final three episodes of Breaking Bad. I loved them all. They were brilliant and amazing and incredibly entertaining. Do I regret skipping season 4 and most of season five? HAHA NOPE.

Look: if anything in the first three seasons was anything close to the final three episodes, I would have kept going. There wasn’t.

So…what does?

the_west_wing_rank

YOU SAID IT, PAL.

Let’s make us a list. God knows I love them.

Coming up with a list of my favorite TV shows wasn’t incredibly difficult. For one, I didn’t even really start watching a lot of TV until my mid to late 20s. There was the rare show that got my attention during college, but they were few and far between. It only took me a handful of minutes to come up with every show I’d watched enough of to have an opinion on.

I’m gonna rank ‘em. Let’s freaking roll.

The NOT YET

I will eventually watch these. I have no opinion on them yet:

• Downton Abby
• Boardwalk Empire
• Dollhouse
• Bob’s Burgers
• Modern Family

People seem to like them quite a bit and I’ll give them all a shot.

The MEH

These are shows I’ve watched over the years that I’ve watched enough to have an opinion, but lost me. Might have happened after a season, might have happened after three. But one way or another I gave up and I doubt I go back.

• Mad Men
• True Blood
• Parks and Rec
• Louie
• The Killing
• Girls
• Eastbound and Down
• The Sopranos
• Dexter
• Californication
• The Tudors
• Six Feet Under
• Weeds
• Breaking Bad
• Entourage
• Nip/Tuck
• Homeland
• Gossip Girl
• The Walking Dead
• How I Met Your Mother
• Community
• One Tree Hill
• Heroes
• Friday Night Lights
• The Office
• Chuck

A lot of people love a lot of these shows. In most cases I get why. But I lost interest in all of them.

The REALLY PRETTY GOOD

These shows are good. I’ve watched every episode. They’re just not my favorites:

• Lucky Louie
• Lost
• Cheers
• California Dreams (YUP. GOING DEEP ON THIS ONE)
• MacGuyver
• The Wire
• Damages
• The Simpsons
• Sleeper Cell
• Seinfeld
• Coach
• The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
• The Shield
• NYPD Blue
• Rescue Me
• Smallville
• 24
• Invasion
• House
• Jericho
• V
• The LA Complex

Some of those were tough to leave off. I grew up on Coach, Fresh Prince, Seinfeld, Cheers and MacGuyver. 24, House, Lost, NYPD Blue and Smallville were great for binge watching. The LA Complex, V, Jericho, Sleeper Cell and Lucky Louie should have gone on for a lot longer than they did. You really need to watch these shows if you missed ‘em.

Seriously. THE LA COMPLEX. It’s insanely twisty and every episode has a cliff hanger. Watch it.

The NOT YET.

These shows may be worthy of rank at some point. They’re still going on and I love them but I need to see more:

• Pretty Little Liars
• New Girl
• Once Upon a Time
• Revenge
• Hannibal
• Haven
• Arrow
• Person of Interest
• The Newsroom
• Hart of Dixie
• Scandal
• American Horror Story
• Castle
• Shameless
• Suits
• Veep
• White Collar

Of the ones on this list, Hannibal, Arrow, The Newsroom and Pretty Little Liars are the best bets to become all time favorites. BECAUSE TWISTS AND STUFF.

Here is THE RANKING.

Alright, folks. Let’s do this.

the RELIABLE COMEDIES

34 – Scrubs
33 – Will and Grace
32 – Family Guy
31 – 30 Rock

Pick an episode out of a hat and I’ll find myself laughing at some point. Nothing groundbreaking or too amazing, but having a show you can rely on for consistent LOLs is hella huge.

Karen Walker is my spirit animal.

The BINGE WORTHY

30 – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 
29 – The League
28 – Cougar Town
27 – Psych
26 – Better off Ted

MOAR COMEDIES.

I will legitimately laugh my ass off if you flip on one of these shows.

Better Off Ted was lightning in a bottle that deserved more seasons.

Psych, Cougar Town and Always Sunny have overstayed their welcome, but they’re all hilarious and perfect lazy Saturday Netflix material.

The DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA

25 – The Practice
24 – Sons of Anarchy
23 – Game of Thrones
22 – Justified
21 – Nikita

All of these shows have issues. I don’t really care so much because when they’re good they’re REALLY FREAKING GOOD.

I know you’re not watching Nikita. You’re missing one of the best, smartest most twisty spy thrillers to ever hit TV.

The Practice won’t be the last David E. Kelly appearance on this list.

And Art is the best.


The CRIMINALLY ABANDONED

20 – Veronica Mars
19 – Sports Night
18 – Reaper
17 – Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
16 – Firefly

Fuck.

To hell with every executive responsible for killing these shows before their time.

Everyone knows Firefly and Sports Night and Veronica Mars were great.

I’m here to beg you to see the critically slammed Studio 60 and the basically never watched Reaper.

Studio 60 has all the heart a TV show could ever hope to have. It will make you cheer, tear up, grin like a bastard and break down. No, it isn’t funny in the way it had to be. But it packed so much into so few episodes that there’s absolutely no wasted episodes. It also wraps up nicely.

As for Reaper? Reaper is a Kevin Smith creation way the hell ahead of its time. If it had been on any other network it’d be considered a comedy classic. Ray Wise and Tyler Labine steal ALL THE SCENES. You can finish the whole series in days and when you do you can feel free to thank me.

The TRACY MCGRADY DIVISION

15 – Ally McBeal
14 – Fringe
13 – The OC

These shows had peaks as good as anything I’ve ever watched. They also had massive lows. Ranking these shows was tough.

I obviously love The OC and have written a few thousand words explaining why. I could justify Fringe in my top five if I had too. It was the perfect sci-fi drama when it was on and it was as close to cinema on network TV as you’ll get. Ally McBeal? At its best it was hilarious with a lot of heart. At its worst it was cringe inducing and it really fell apart at the end.

But the highs carry these shows. When I think of these shows I think of the really great episodes and the memorable characters. I don’t think about the terrible final seasons of Fringe or Ally and I’ve blocked season 3 of The OC from my memory. IT DID NOT HAPPEN.

The SENTIMENTAL FAVORITES

12 – Saved by the Bell
11 – Ducktales/Rescue Rangers/Tailspin/Darkwing Duck
10 – Wings

Elementary school, every damn day.

These are the shows I grew up with, no way in hell I’m leaving them off my list.

That Disney two hour block was amazing. Have there been four better consecutive shows in TV history? NOPE. If I ever have kids, they’re growing up on this stuff too.

Fun fact: my 29 year old brother will still regularly flip on Wings and Saved By The Bell on Netflix. Not even gonna hate.

The UNDERDOG

9 – Happy Endings

Seriously, where the hell did this show come from? And why didn’t anyone watch it?

No (live-action) show packed so many killer lines into every episode. Every spoken word was meant to be hilarious. Good luck figuring out who was best. They were all amazing.

THIS SHOW MADE ELISHA CUTHBERT HILARIOUS.

The GENRE TV TO END ALL GENRE TV (ALMOST)

8 – Supernatural
7 – Spartacus
6 – The Vampire Diaries
5 – Battlestar Galactica

You all can keep your Breaking Bads and Mad Men and Sopranos. I like my TV fantastical. I want regular every day characters put in situations you won’t ever see in real life.

Supernatural is a show that’s simply hurt by its staggering amount of episodes. Do you realize that it just finished season eight? That they’re going to shoot ten? There will be over two hundred 45 minute Supernatural episodes by the time the show wraps up its run.

TWO FREAKING HUNDRED.

I could put together a full season of absolutely amazing Supernatural episodes that would rival the best shows ever put on TV. When it was great, it was the best thing that no one watched. If you’re looking for something special, check out the later half of season one and don’t stop until you finish season three. It’s an amazing run.

Then it fell off a cliff. There was the occasional really good episode but they got scarcer and scarcer and eventually the show went off the rails and I gave up. I’ve heard good things about season eight(!) but I’m skeptical.

But still, it was an amazing show when it was at its best.

Spartacus is incredible. Game of Thrones gets all the love for those that like their shows incredibly violent and incredibly naked, but Spartacus blows GoT away in both. The villains are better, the heroes more relatable and more human, the drama more entertaining. Game of Thrones is great, but when its bad it seems like its trying to move chess pieces around on a board. Spartacus doesn’t waste episodes like that. It’s a show that leaves your balls in your thought when it’s not showing them on-screen. Seriously, this is as progressive a show as we’ve seen, maybe ever. Lotta dick.

The Vampire Diaries are a joke to those that have never given it a shot. It gets swept up in the tween vampire wave (HEY TWILIGHT FUCK YOU) when in reality it’s a violent, mature, often funny show that doesn’t skimp on the HOLY SHIT moments. I like shows that leave your jaw on the ground. TVD has that in spades, whether it’s killing off main characters or bringing back ones you thought were long dead. It doesn’t mind screwing with its mythology and it’s got serious wit.

And eye candy. Lots and lots of eye candy.

Battlestar Galactica was The West Wing on a star ship. Pick a social issue and it tackled it. There were twists and cliff hangers in almost every episode. There were mysteries that lasted multiple seasons. The jaw dropping moments were common. I can’t get anyone I know to watch it because ROBOTS IN SPACE but that’s their fucking loss.

The FUNNIEST TV SHOW EVER

4 – Archer

“I don’t like cartoons.”

Do you know how many times I’ve heard that? THREE. It happened all three times I tried to get my friends to watch the funniest thing on TV going right now.

You cannot watch Archer and not laugh. It is not possible. I’m leaving this in the hands of the GIF GODS. (via UPROXX)


THAT ISN’T EVEN FROM A FULL SEASON (DUH) AND THERE ARE FOUR OF THEM AND SEASON FIVE STARTS SOON SO YOU CAN TOTALLY CATCH UP.

The JOSS WHEDON DIVISION

3 – Angel
2 – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

These two shows embody everything I love about TV. That list of requirements above? They check off every one:

• The proverbial BIG THINGS happen
• They’re witty with smart dialogue (it’s Joss Whedon, so of course)
• They hit every social issue out there
• You can’t help but become completely invested in the characters
• You will lose your shit when those characters die

Yea, your favorite character? DEAD AS A DOORNAIL. And I loved the shows for it.

There were always consequences in Angel and Buffy. Nothing ever went unpunished, and no one was ever happy for long. Whedon was notorious for making his audience love a character and when things were looking up, after seasons of struggles and happiness was in sight, he’d pull the rug out from underneath the viewer.

And those moments were devastating. Even on repeat viewings I don’t believe what I’m seeing.

Now granted, things weren’t always terrible for our heroes. Both shows, Buffy in particular, were really really funny. It was a show for smart people who like quick dialogue. Angel was darker and almost noir and less optimistic. Not surprisingly, the finale (which was perfect) was a depressing hour of TV. R.I.P., world.

Both shows are essentially perfect. Smart, funny, sexy, mind-blowing, heart warming and heart wrenching. You’ll scream and laugh and be pissed off and sad and confused. If you’re looking for two shows to bring about an emotional response, it’s Whedon’s two masterpieces. There isn’t much else you could ask for in television or movies or books or music…any media. This is almost as good as it gets.

The Best. Ever.

No way I’m justifying this selection in a couple paragraphs and I’ll be writing more down the line.

But The West Wing is the best show of all time.

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The O.C. is Ten Years Old

The O.C., as of today, is officially ten years old. Do you remember where you were when its pilot debuted? NEITHER DO I! I was in college and since it was in prime time I’m just gonna assume I’d been drinking.

But while I wasn’t on board initially, by the start of season two it was my favorite show. Hell, it might have been my only show; I didn’t watch much television back then.

There have been a lot of great things written on the show today. Obviously Danger Guerrero at UPROXX was going to have a post. This interview from Alan Sepinwall is huge and great. I managed to score a 32/50 on this quiz at Vulture. The O.C. had a lot of fans back then, and I think it’s only grown in appreciation with time. If you’ve seen the show, you know why: it’s funny, it has heart, it’s filled with outrageous situations and it’s filled with hella attractive people. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend picking up the DVDs. Fuck you, Netflix Watch Instantly.

Even with all the great reading material out there today regarding this great show, I couldn’t let the ten year anniversary pass without sharing some thoughts of my own. I may even have enough for an old school Ten Things:

1 – It made me realize that there’s no shame in liking what you like.

Some people never have to hide their relative embarrassment over their personal tastes. They like what they like and they have no problem if the entire world knows.

I wasn’t one of those people.

Maybe you’re a friend of mine and you’ve long known I have a soft spot for 90s boy bands and 80s hair metal. Maybe you knew me as a college senior when I wouldn’t click past a rom-com on cable (“YOU’VE GOT MAIL” IS CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED). Maybe you’ve seen what’s currently playing in my iTunes via G-Chat when I’ve gone entire afternoons playing Taylor Swift, Prince and Kelly Clarkson and I didn’t care if everyone on my contact list knew about it.

The guy I am now, the one that doesn’t give a shit about what people think, wasn’t who I was in 2003. Nope, back then I listened to my music with the door closed and the speakers down, mindful of what people in the dorms would say or think. Then The O.C. happened and my attitudes about such things started changing.

Like I said above, I don’t remember the exact moment I started to love The O.C. I do know it happened at some point during the summer between my senior and super senior year of college. But I came back to college that fall determined to get my roommates on board, and that’s exactly what happened. I took some shit initially for being hooked on a show whose primary target was teenage girls, but within weeks of playing the show up, every Tuesday night in our college house was was reserved for The OC. We debated the girls, laughed at Seth and bought the DVDs. Nothing to watch? Marathon session of The O.C.

All of the sudden my pop culture interests were less taboo. Other people like the same weird shit as me I relalized. No longer were my tastes in music and TV and movies something to hide, they were a fundamental part of who I was. I wore my interests (the weird and the normal) as a sort of a badge of honor, and have ever since.

2 – The music.

If there was one way to convince your friends to watch The O.C. that didn’t involve the ridiculous looking cast, it was the music they featured during every episode.

Just take a look at this list. I mean, holy shit, right?

I went a good decade-plus having never flipped on FM radio. The music I listened to was a result of friend recommendations, music message boards and soundtracks.

Oh, and TV shows. Nothing, certainly back then and perhaps to this day, has ever had a better soundtrack than The O.C.

The list I linked to speaks for itself. If you’re the kind of person that likes modern rock and pop that you didn’t necessarily hear on the radio (at least that’s how it was in my small college town), you were going to find new tunes you loved during every episode. Not all of it was from complete unknowns, but you did get a lot of new artists looking for exposure. The O.C. helped launch a lot of artists in the music industry.

My top ten favorite songs from the series:

10 – Silversun PIckups – Lazy Eye
9 – Liz Phair – Why Can’t I
8 – The All-American Rejects – Swing Swing
7 – The Alkaline Trio – We’ve Had Enough
6 – Placebo – Running up that Hill
5 – The Killers – Mr. Brightside
4 – Nada Surf – If you Leave
3 – Puddle of Mudd – Away from Me
2 – Ryan Adams – Wonderfwall
1 – Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

3 – It’s legitimately hilarious.

I’ve grown to love some good comedy on TV. Archer, Happy Endings, Cougar Town and The League are among my favorite shows to watch and they’ll have me laughing like a bastard, week in and week out. But those shows all fit the 22 minute sitcom mold. The O.C. was a 44 minute drama that could regularly make you laugh with its crazy good wit.

Honestly, the wit was the best thing about the show. I like smart, quick characters that say the right thing at the right moment more often than not. It’s why I love Sorkin. The O.C. gets it right in the form of characters that make you wish you were a little quicker with your one liners. I’d watch the O.C., and steal just about every line I could remember.

They were usually said by this guy…

4 – Seth is the fucking best.

Seth Cohen is one of my two or three favorite characters in television history. The awkward nerd with the one liners and ability to get the girl in the end was the dude that other awkward dudes wanted to be.

Never change, Seth Cohen.

OH. AND SPEAKING OF…

5 – Anna > Summer.

Anna is better than season one Summer, and THAT’S NOT EVEN REMOTELY FUCKING DISPUTABLE. Sorry, Mr. Guerrero.

Let’s just recap who Summer was and what she did prior to Anna leaving Seth’s life forever:

• she doesn’t even know who Seth is despite his efforts, repeatedly gets his name wrong
• uses Seth’s crush as a way to get invited to a party, ditches him to hit on banker bros
• dumps Seth prior to Cotillion when she thinks she can get a better date
• won’t acknowledge she’s friends with Seth when it actually does happen
• gets hella jealous only when Seth choses Anna, tries to break them up
• generally acts like a spoiled twat for the majority of the season

Ugh, Season One Summer was shitty.

MEANWHILE, Anna is the girl love you to hang out with. She knows all the best bands, likes the same shit you do, helps you out with other girls until you realize that she’s the one who’s totally perfect.

Team freaking Anna forever, man.

6 – You can thank The O.C. for Olivia Wilde, you ungrateful jerks.

That said, Anna didn’t take the title as the top reason for red blooded hetero boys and lesbian gals to turn in. It wasn’t Summer or Marissa either. Nope, that title goes to Alex, a lovely young lady played by total newcomer Olivia Wilde.

Alex

Look, I’m not saying it wasn’t easy to get my friends hooked on this show, but I’d be lying if I said having the bisexual Alex as a key cast member in season two hurt the efforts. She was jaw-droppingly hot. She dated both Seth AND Marissa, and it lead to one of the series best moments. You will want to watch this, ya’ll:

Side note, I’ve always found it hilarious that in the video there’s a bottle of J&B just sitting there on a teenage girl’s shelf. Solid choice.

I like to think that it was her role on The O.C. that directly lead to her becoming one of the biggest stars on the planet. Mischa Barton, the other girl in that video, did not go on to superstardom. The reason is obvious now, but back then…

7 – Holy shit, Mischa Barton couldn’t act.

Look, I didn’t watch a lot of TV. I blame my lack of TV viewing experience to explain the fact that back then I didn’t have a problem with Mischa Barton’s character Marissa. It was only after I rewatched the series years later that it was almost painful to watch her try and act. Holy shit she’s awful.

This revelation will be especially noteworthy to my college friends from back then (HI GUYS IF YOU’RE READING THIS LET’S GET DRINKS AND CATCH UP AND STUFF). I, um, had a thing for miss Marissa Cooper. I may or may not have mumbled to myself whenever she’d show up on screen, annoying my friends. She was a damn goddess. Guys, despite the acting issues, she alone makes the show worth watching.

Still can’t act, though.

8 – The fourth season was great.

The first season of The O.C. was amazing.

The second season had some amazing episodes, but signs of erosion were there. Critics opined that they burned through all their ideas too soon.

The third season is where the show went completely off the rails. Good god it was terrible. The audience lost its following, writers stopped doing recaps, people moved on.

Then a weird thing happened: the show got really good again, and nobody watched.

I’m a West Wing nut. I’ve seen the Sorkin era episodes a minimum of ten times over the last ten years. They were spectacular. But when he left the show, the writing got bad by West Wing standards and most people have to add the caveat that when discussing TWW’s greatness, you only speak of the first four seasons.

But those that stuck around know that at the tail-end, in a shortened final season, The West Wing rebounded with some of the best episodes and arcs in series history.

It’s the same story with The O.C.. The last season is legitimately great. They graduated past cliched high school bullshit, gone was the criminal low life element they used in the third season to add drama, the characters were now adults and dealing with more mature plots lines, TAYLOR TOWNSEND DIDN’T SUCK AND WAS TOTALLY ADORABLE.

9 – It was completely ahead of its time.

If there’s a hint of resentment I may have regarding The O.C., its that it came about ten years too early.

TV today is aided greatly by social media. It turns everything you watch live into a social event. Don’t believe me? Log onto Twitter during Mad Men or Game of Thrones or Archer or virtually any sporting event. Appointment TV plus Twitter means you’re never watching anything alone. The world is watching with you (or it seems that way) and you’re able to get real time opinions on everything.

The O.C., in 2003 and 2004, was appointment TV. It was a show loaded with snark and humor and plot twists. It was the kind of show that the Twitter generation could eat up and discuss for days. I can’t even imagine what the online reaction would be to it today.

Guys, what I’m saying is we should all re-watch The O.C. and comment about it on Twitter, basically.

10 – The Best Episodes (according to me)

You have to start from the beginning. You can skip the third episode where Ryan’s mom gets drunk and embarrasses him, but other than that you should watch the whole series. Once you’ve done that, I’m confident you’ll agree with my rankings:

5 – Pilot – Welcome to the O.C., bitch.

4 – The Ties that Bind – Season one finale. CLIFFHANGERS GALORE.

3 – The Countdown – Ryan botches it when Marissa says I love you and it’s totally hilarious. Oliver’s dreams get smashed on New Years. Fuck Oliver, he sucked.

2 – The Dearly Beloved – An important cast member is buried, another one is shot, hella big cliff hanger.

1 – The Rainy Day Women – Seth finds out about Alex and Marissa, Summer makes her choice re: Seth, Lindsey finds out who her father is. It’s pretty much the perfect episode of TV.

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The Bucks acquire Brandon Knight, get considerably worse

Brandon Jennings is a below average point guard.

His true shooting percentage ranks 53rd among qualified PGs. His offensive points per possession mark of .88 ranks 260th overall. His defensive PPP mark of .90 puts him at 279th. His on/off court net of -4.4 ranked last amongst guards on the Milwaukee Bucks in ’12-13. As a pick and roll ball handler his shot selection often ranged from below average to downright maddening.

Nope.

Yesterday the Bucks traded the guard to the Detroit Pistons, and in return they received his potential replacement in Brandon Knight. I say potential, because while the Bucks have seemingly been operating under a win-now mandate under owner Herb Kohl, Knight represents a considerable downgrade at the point guard position. He won’t be winning the Bucks any more games in the ’13-’14 than Jennings would have. He likely loses them significantly more if he’s given starter minutes.

All data from NBA.com, Basketball Reference and Synergy.

The Numbers.

• Among guards to play at least thirty minutes a night last season, Knight ranked dead last in Win Shares per 48 minutes with a mark of .022.

• His true shooting percentage was only slightly better than Jennings, coming in at .512

• His shot-chart indicates below average efficiency at the rim, a location where he took the majority of his attempts: Shotchart

• While he was a net negative on the court, just as all but two Detroit Pistons were last season, he did have the best mark amongst guards at -3.1. For reference, Rodney Stuckey was -7.4 and Jose Calderon was -10.7.

• His overall PPP mark on offense is .83, ranking 338 in the NBA. Jennings ranked 260th.

• His primary situation on offense came as a pick and roll ball handler, and in that role he generated .69 points per possession, an abysmal mark than ranked 133rd in the NBA. The Pistons only scored 34% of the time with Knight in that situation.

• The second most prominent role was in transition, where his 45% scoring mark ranks 276th.

• His third most prominent role was as a spot up shooter, and the numbers are no more encouraging. His PPP mark of .99 ranks 153rd in the NBA, thanks to the Pistons scoring on only 35% of those possessions.

• Maybe most notably, 20% of Knight’s pick and roll possessions ended in turnovers.

• The Bucks can expect slight improvement on the defensive side of the ball: while Jennings allowed .9 PPP (279th), Knight allowed .87 (195th). It is notable that as a defender of the pick and roll ball handler, Jennings allowed 42% shooting and Knight allowed 45% shooting.

The Video.

When looking at PG play, it’s important to note how players work in a pick and roll setting. As noted above, Knight struggled with efficiency and turnovers. The following video illustrates some of those issues:

It’s also important to look at how they performed in transition. Again, Knight struggled:

Overall.

It’s difficult to reconcile having a win-now goal while adding one of the worst players in the entire league. The Bucks could conceivably play Luke Ridnour as the primary point point and be better than they were last season, but it’s unclear if that’s their intention at this point. What is clear is that Knight represents a significant downgrade at point guard, and for a team looking to compete for the 8th seed in the East, he severely hurts their chances if given any kind of substantial minutes.

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Grilling, or, The Reason Why I’m Glad I’m No Longer In An Apartment

For exactly one year I lived in an apartment in the city. I was a less than a block away from a farmer’s market, three bars, two cafes, one coffee shop, a volleyball court, a park, a bike trail and a convenience store. It was pretty great.

Now I live in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, a nature preserve across the street, the closest business is three miles away and it’s totally cool with me. A big reason why? This thing:

Mmmmm......blackened meat.

Mmmmm……blackened meat.

I love me some charcoal grilling and in an apartment on the second floor, that’s a no-no.

Grilling is one of my favorite ways to spend time. I’m the kind of person that comes home and before they’re even out of their office clothes has a chimney full of coals lit. A nice day to me is just an excuse to stand over some grilled food, tongs in one hand and a drink in the other.

Since this isn’t one of those things where you can have any other opinion other than GRILLING IS AWESOME, I’m gonna share a meal made almost entirely on the grill. Like a lot of my recipes, this one has southwestern influences. Like your food to have some heat? This one will be for you.

    Grilled flat iron steak fajitas, corn salad with guacamole & chipotle aioli.

Tools:
Grill
Cast iron pan
Cheap red wine (for drinking, silly)

Ingredients:

12 tortillas
2.5 lbs flat iron steak
3 ears of corn
2 avocados
5 bell peppers
2 jalapenos
1 red onion
4 limes, zest of two limes
1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro
1 egg
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced (usually found in small cans in your grocery store in the international foods aisle. You just need one can)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning (for the veggies, you can use whatever seasoning you prefer)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups olive oil, divided
kosher salt
ground black pepper

See, it's not so many when you really look at it.

See, it’s not so many when you really look at it.

Serves: 6 really hungry people
Total Time: 7 hours

Directions:

1 – Marinade the meat.

In a zip lock gallon bag combine the juice of two limes, the zest of two limes, two cloves of garlic (minced), ground chipotle pepper, 1/2 tsp of salt, a half cup of olive oil and the flat iron steak. Mix it to combine and coat the meat. Put the bag in your refrigerator for no more than six hours.

FAST FORWARD SIX HOURS.

Remove the steak from your fridge, let it sit in the marinated mixture on your kitchen counter and let it come to room temperature. This is important so don’t forget. You don’t want to be grilling cold meat.

If you’re using a charcoal grill, you can light your coals. I use a chimney starter and it usually takes at least 30 minutes to get the coals white. While your coals are getting ready, you can prepare the rest of your meal.

2 – Make the aioli.

There’s a restaurant in my town that serves a grilled tuna sandwich with a chipotle aioli. After having it once, I became obsessed and whenever I visit this place it doesn’t matter what I order, I have to have the chipotle aioli with it.

Thankfully, it’s really easy to replicate at home. You don’t even need to date one of the waitresses and coax the recipe out of them like some people have been known to do from time to time.

In a food processor, add the mustard, one smashed garlic clove, chipotle chiles with one tsp adobo sauce, juice of half a lemon, one egg yolk and a pinch of salt. While you process the mixture, SLOWLY pour 1/2 cup olive oil* into the bowl. This should take multiple minutes. You’ll know you’re finished when you’re left with something that has the consistency of mayo.

If you don’t have a food processor, you can simply use a large mixing bowl instead. Mince the garlic instead of smashing it, and strongly whisk olive oil into the mixture a few drops at a time. If you go this route you don’t have to worry about the calories you’re soon to consume, because you’re about to have a 15 minute workout in your kitchen.

*While we’re on the subject of olive oil, can I simply say that ya’ll need to step your olive oil game up? I cook in many of my friends and relatives’ kitchens, and it’s a lock that I’ll see the same crappy bottle of olive oil that they’ve had for an entire year or more. If you’re a home cook, quality olive oil important. Buy only high quality olive oil, and never keep a bottle (stored in a dark area) more than six months. If your olive oil is older than six months, toss it and go get a new bottle. I like California Olive Ranch, and for the aoili part of the recipe I used their Miller’s Blend for the peppery note.

When your aioli is complete, store it in a covered container in your refrigerator.

3 – Make the guacamole

God, I freaking love guac. I’m not kidding when I say I make at least two batches a week. Often times it’s three. I consider it to be the ALMOST perfect (seriously? The browning?) food. You will never look in my fridge and not find limes, avocados, cilantro (or that cilantro oil paste that comes in the tube [seriously. It's actually perfect for guac]), red onions and jalapenos.

Making it is quick and easy.

In a medium sized bowl add:

• 1/4th of a red onion, finely diced
• 1/2 jalapeno with the stems and seeds, minced
• 1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped, or one tablespoon of that cilantro paste (no, go ahead and use it, I won’t judge. Seriously, the stuff is great)
• the juice of one lime
• 1/2 tsp ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp kosher salt
• 1/4 tsp black pepper
• 2 avocados

The order here is relatively important. You want to add the avocados last to minimize the exposure to air.

Use a fork (or a mortar, ideally) and mash your ingredients. You want it mixed well, creamy but still a bit chunky.

Put it in a AIR TIGHT container that just barely holds all your guac. Again, less air the better. Into the fridge it goes.

4 – Prepare your veggies.

This step is easy.

Julienne your bell peppers and remaining jalapeno and red onion*. Put them in your cast iron pan, drizzle them with a tablespoon of olive oil, add a pinch of kosher salt and a tablespoon of your favorite seasoning. I like Old Bay so I use that. Toss them around and these are ready.

*Reserve about half a bell pepper and half a jalapeno. Dice these and save them in a bowl. They’re going in your corn salad.

5 – Shuck the corn

Shuck your corn cobs, lightly coat them with olive oil and sprinkle on some kosher salt.  Like almost everything else, you’re going to be grilling your corn. Some people prefer to leave the husk on the corn. I’m not one of those people. I grill them directly over the coals until about 20% of the kernels are good and brown.

IT’S GRILLIN’ TIME, PEOPLE.

Here’s about where you should be at:

Wait for it...

Wait for it…

6 – Grill the corn.

Take a look at a picture of the grilled meat at the top of this post. Notice how I’m using a two-zone grilling setup? That’s what you want. Organize your coals so only one half of the bowl is filled. If you’re using gas, only light half the burners.

Using paper towels coated in olive oil and tongs, wipe the grates with olive oil.

Place the corn on the grates, directly over the coals. You’re going to rotate them every minute or so until the coals start to turn dark. Grilled corn is awesome.

When the corn is done, remove them and cover the grill to let it heat up. Bring them in to cool.

7 – Grill everything else.

Place the steak directly over the coals. Place the cast iron pan with your veggies on the side of the grate without coals. Occasionally toss the veggies with tongs.

After four minutes, flip the steak. Splash the veggies with your remaining half of a lemon and bring them in.

BE CAREFUL WHEN HANDLING THE CAST IRON PAN. I have a pair of industrial work gloves that I use when grilling. Use whatever you can to help you safely move your food around the grill.

After the four minutes are up, your steak should be a nice medium rare. Bring the steak inside.

8 – Tent your steaks in tinfoil.

One step a lot of people skip is they immediately dig in to their steak after grilling. You need to let it rest for a few minutes to retain much of the juices. I usually wrap my steaks in foil to keep them warm.

9 – Mix the rest of your corn salad.

Remember the diced pepper and jalapeño you kept in a bowl? To that bowl you’re going to add your no-longer-hot-but-still-warm grilled corn.

Using a knife, carefully remove the corn kernels by standing the cob up and slicing them off vertically.

Add them to the bowl of diced peppers and jalapeños, along with 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp olive oil, the juice of half a lime and a pinch of kosher salt.

10 – EAT ALL THE FOOD.

YOU'RE DONE. EAT UP.

YOU’RE DONE. EAT UP.

NOTE: The Author does not endorse the use of sour cream. That is his brother.

NOTE: The Author does not endorse the use of sour cream. That is his brother.

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On being ‘locked in’.

This will be brief.

On Twitter tonight there was a discussion of whether or not an athlete performing really well for a stretch was something that could be contributed to a guy actually feeling hot.

ESPN’s Keith Law is one of my favorite guys to follow. He gives you sports analysis from a smart, objective take. Tonight, predictably, he came down on the side that hot streaks were a result of normal randomness, citing a lack of evidence to the contrary. MLB pitcher Brandon McCarthy, another really smart guy, came down on the other side. “Feeling hot” or “Locked in” is a legitimate thing that comes and goes and it absolutely affects on the field performance.

The two (and a lot of others) got into a back and forth for a couple hours and looking at it from the outside it felt like mommy and daddy fighting. I want them to agree on everything all the time, but of course that isn’t going to happen. But I thought it was fascinating to watch, the analyst going strick science, the athlete saying he’s wrong but without any kind of irrefutable evidence.

Here’s my own take: being hot exists. Being “dialed in” is absolutely a thing. I don’t know how or why it happens, but there are times where you just feel like failing is impossible. If you’re an athlete and you’ve had a stretch or even just a game where you had the feeling, you’re probably nodding along. I still remember the few occasions it happened to me like they were yesterday. It’s bittersweet; you beat yourself up wondering why you can’t feel like that all time.

Conversely, I know exactly what it feels like to go cold. Baseball was my sport and pitching was what I was best at. But I know the terror of being on the mound and having absolutely no idea where the ball is going to go when you release it. I remember a specific game when my catcher popped out for a mound visit and I had to tell him I basically forgot how to pitch. Right there, that game I went from being an all-conference guy to someone who just picked up a baseball for the first time.

I don’t know why these things happen. The brain is weird.

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