Saturday, September 17, 2011

Canon Review Listamania: Top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks

Last Sunday, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton made history in his first NFL start, passing for 422 yards in his first NFL game. Well, Newton's excellent performance got me to thinking about the best rookie quarterbacks in NFL history, and because I can, I decided to make a list of the top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks in the history of professional football. One of the things that I noticed while researching this list is that now more than ever, teams are relying on rookie quarterbacks a lot more often than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Sure, you get a few high draft picks like Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers that sit for a season or two, but in today's NFL, if a team spends a high draft pick and a whole lot of money on a quarterback, then chances are that that player is going to play. This year alone, both Newton and Cincinnatti's Andy Dalton started week one at QB, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Tennessee's Jake Locker, Minnesota's Christian Ponder, and especially Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert got quite a few starts at quarterback this year. Consider this, from 2007-2010, there were nine rookie quarterbacks that started at least half of their team's games, which is almost as much as the number of rookie QBs that accomplished the same feat in the 1990s (11) and 1980s (10). What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, nothing really, I just found it kind of interesting. But don't be surprised if as a result, this list skews towards the more recent quarterbacks. Anyway, here is The Canon Review's Top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks.

Honorable Mention:

Dennis Shaw, 1970, and Vince Young, 2006: Both players did win the Rookie of the Year award during their first seasons, but neither player had a season that I'd say was great. Shaw, a former Buffalo Bill, was sixth in the NFL in passing yards with 2,507. However, his TD/INT ratio wasn't too hot (10/20) and his quarterback rating was a partly 65.3. Young may have had an 8-5 record as a starter, and he did add a lot of value with his running ability (552 yards, seven TDs). However, his performance as a passer (51.5 completion percentage, 12/13 TD/INT ratio), left something to be desired.

Peyton Manning, 1998: Guess who holds the NFL rookie records for passing yards and touchdown passes by a rookie? Quite obviously, it is Peyton Manning. So why in the world would I leave Peyton off a list of the top rookie quarterbacks? Well, despite his high yardage (3,739) and touchdown (26) totals, Manning wasn't quite the Peyton Manning that we would see on the field for the next decade or so. In 1998, Manning also threw for 28 interceptions, which was a factor in the Colts going 3-13 that year. So, because of his high interception total and somewhat pedestrian QB rating (71.2), Manning just misses the cut.

10. Sam Bradford, 2010, St. Louis Rams

Coming out of Oklahoma, there were some questions about how quickly Bradford would adjust to the NFL, especially since he was recovering from a severe shoulder injury. But Bradford showed to be a quick learner, and ended up starting all 16 games for the Rams last year and nearly leading them to a division title. In his rookie season, Bradford threw for 3,512 yards and set a new rookie record for most completions in a season with 354 on his way to winning the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Bradford also became the first rookie quarterback to win consecutive Rookie of the Month awards (October and November) and set a rookie record for most consecutive passes thrown without an interception (169). All in all, a rather successful rookie season.

9. Charle Batch, 1998, Detroit Lions

Batch was the third quarterback selected in the 1998 Draft behind Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, but it was Batch that was the most effective rookie quarterback that year. In 12 starts, Batch threw for 2,178 yards, had a nearly 2-1 TD/INT ratio(11-6), and his 83.5 QB rating is the sixth highest among NFL rookies with over 200 attempts. Batch also contributed to the Lions' cause with his feet, running for 229 yards and a touchdown. While Batch may not have had the career that Peyton Manning has had, at least he can say that he had the better rookie season.

8. Greg Cook, 1969, Cincinnati Bengals

In 1969, the Bengals thought they drafted their quarterback of the future when they made Cook their first round selection. At first, Cook did nothing to make the Bengals believe otherwise, as he won his first three starts. However, an injury to Cook's shoulder knocked him out of action for a few weeks, and with Cook out, the Bengals tumbled to the basement of the AFL Western Division. Even so, it was still a successful season for Cook, as he led the AFL in passer rating (88.3) and in completion percentage (53.8) despite playing most of the season with a torn rotator cuff. Cook was the AFL Rookie of the Year, but his shoulder injury was so severe that he never could regain his previous form, and only threw two more passes after his rookie season. Today, we can only speculate about what might have been had Greg Cook stayed healthy, but there's no doubt that he had a heck of a first season.

7. Otto Graham, 1946, Cleveland Browns

Graham served in the Coast Guard after starring at Northwestern, and didn't make his debut until 1946, where he was the quarterback for the AAFC's Cleveland Browns. Graham and the Browns took the new league by storm, as the Browns went 12-2 and won the first of their four straight AAFC League Championships. For his part, Graham was quite successful, finishing second in the league in passing yards (1,886) and first in touchdowns (17). His QB rating of 112.1 would have led the league if he had enough passing attempts, and would also be the fifth highest single-season total in pro football history. Yes, it was quite a year for Graham, but he does get penalized because the level of competition he was playing against wasn't exactly the strongest.

6. Charlie Conerly, 1948, New York Giants

Conerly was an All-American player at Ole Miss and the 1947 SEC Player of the Year, so the Giants had high hopes for their new quarterback. In his first season, Conerly not only met those hopes, but exceeded them, finishing 2nd in the NFL in completions (162), passing yards (2,175), touchdown passes (22), and QB rating (84.0). Not only did Conerly excel as a passer, he was also a dangerous running threat, running for five touchdowns. Even though he played over 50 years ago, only one other rookie has more touchdown passes than Conerly's 22. Despite Conerly's excellence, the Giants went 4-8, but Conerly still had a rookie season for the ages.

5. Joe Flacco, 2008, Baltimore Ravens

Coming out of 1-AA Delaware, Flacco was picked in the first round by the Ravens in the 2008 draft. In a surprising move, the Ravens made Flacco their opening game starter, and Flacco repaid the Ravens' confidence in him by leading them to victory in his first two starts. At the end of the season, the Ravens finished with an 11-5 record, and Flacco started each game, throwing for 2,971 and 14 touchdowns. Flacco was an efficient quarterback who completed 60 percent of his passes, and he finished the season with a QB rating of 80.3. The Ravens made the playoffs that year, and Flacco made history by becoming the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games, both of which were on the road. While Flacco wasn't spectacular in each game, he was careful with the ball (0 turnovers) and led the Ravens down the field on their game winning drive against the Tennessee Titans in the second round. Yes, Flacco's Ravens were eventually beaten by the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, but it was quite an excellent first season for Flacco.

4. Matt Ryan, 2008, Atlanta Falcons

Despite Flacco's excellent rookie season, it was Matt Ryan that would win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2008, and for good reason. The Falcons made Ryan the starter from day one, hoping that he would at least help to improve their 3-13 mark from last year. On his first pass, Ryan established himself as a player to watch, as he threw a touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on a stunned Detroit Lions defense. From that moment on, Ryan was the man behind center in Atlanta, and he led the Falcons to a surprising 11-5 record and a spot in the postseason. Ryan also became the second rookie to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season (3,440) and put up very nice numbers in his rookie season (61.1 completion percentage, 16/11 TD/INT, 87.7 rating). Even though the Falcons lost their playoff game, Ryan made more history by completing 26 passes, a record for NFL rookies.

3.  Bob Waterfield, 1945, Cleveland Rams

At first glance, Waterfield's stats do not appear very impressive. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns (17-14), his completion percentage was 51.0%, and his QB rating of 72.4 doesn't look like anything to write home about. But 1945 wasn't exactly a banner year for passing, so Waterfield did quite well compared to his peers. He finished third in completions (89) and in passing yards (1,609), and his 14 touchdowns were tied for the most in the league. At the end of the season, Waterfield was named to the NFL All-Pro team, and led his Cleveland Rams to victory over the Washington Redskins in the NFL Championship game, making Waterfield the last rookie quarterback to lead his team to a title in the NFL, and is also the only rookie QB to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.

2. Dan Marino, 1983, Miami Dolphins

Marino was the sixth quarterback taken in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft when Miami picked him with the 27th pick. While the rest of his peers were either struggling or playing in the USFL, Marino thrived in his rookie year after taking over for David Woodley early in the season. This despite the fact that Woodley had led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl the prior season. But the Dolphins not only didn't miss a beat with Marino, they added a whole new element to their team, as Marino proved to be a much more skilled quarterback. At the end of the year, Marino led the Dolphins to a 12-4 record and a division title while throwing for 2,210 yards and 20 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions. His 96.0 rating was third best in the league, and became the first rookie quarterback to be named the starter for the Pro Bowl.

1. Ben Roethlisberger, 2004, Pittsburgh Steelers

The number one quarterbacks on our list started the 2004 season as a backup to Tommy Maddox. But a week two injury to Maddox forced Roethlisberger into the lineup, and Roethlisberger never left. In fact, the Steelers went 13-0 with Roethlisberger as a starter that year, and finished the season with a franchise best 15-1 record, and a large part of that was the play of their rookie quarterback. Roethlisberger set rookie records for completion percentage (66.4) and quarterback rating (98.1), and finished in the NFL in both categories. He also passed for 2,621 and 17 touchdowns, while only throwing 11 interceptions. Not only that, but Roethlisberger proved to be a clutch performer, leading his team on five game winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. In the playoffs, Roethlisberger and his Steelers went all the way to the AFC Championship Game before falling to the Patriots. Nevertheless, it was a great year for Roethlisberger, who was named to the Pro Bowl and also won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Well, thanks for reading The Canon Review's list of the Top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks of All Time. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to express your opinion on this article by leaving a comment on the blog. Also, if you have any requests for future posts, then send those along to me via e-mail at

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Your Canon Review 2011 NFL Preview

Hey, remember two or three months ago where we all wondered whether there would be an NFL season? Well, the players and owners agreed on a new labor deal just in the nick of time, and football season is back in full force. After one of the more chaotic seasons in recent memory, it remains to be seen just how things will play out. The Philadelphia Eagles made a huge splash in free agency, but can all those new players gel in time to excel in the regular season? Will the Packers repeat as Super Bowl champions, or will they take a step back? Will the Colts' Peyton Manning be healthy enough to play, or is this a lost season for the Colts? What crazy statement will Rex Ryan make next? All this and more will be discovered in the next few months. In the meantime, here's one man's opinion on what will go down during the 2011 NFL season.

AFC East (*=Wild Card)
1. New England Patriots
2. New York Jets*
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills

This is really going to be a two team division. The Patriots went 14-2 last season before falling to the Jets in the playoffs. In the offseason, they picked up Chad Ochocinco to provide a downfield threat on offense and a plethora of veteran defensive linemen, including former All-Pro Albert Haynesworth. If the veterans work out, then the Patriots could be the best team in the NFL, and if not, then Tom Brady and company are still good enough to win at least 11 games. Last year, I predicted the Jets to falter, and I was wrong. So I'm not making the same mistake twice. Yes, QB Mark Sanchez can be inconsistent, but the Jets still have a strong running game and a top-notch defense led by CB Darelle Revis and MLB David Harris. So, expect the Jets to make the playoffs as a wild card once again. The Dolphins are a middle of the road team with a few stars such as OT Jake Long and OLB Cameron Wake. But they have an inconsistent QB in Chad Henne and not enough playmakers on either side of the ball to finish with more than an 8-8 record. I read a stat the other day that of the 24 players expected to start for the Bills (including kicker and punter), 22 were on the team last year, the highest total in the league. That's great, but then again these same players were on a 4-12 team last year, so I don't see a lot of improvement in Buffalo this year.

AFC North
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Baltimore Ravens*
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Cincinnati Bengals

The Steelers went all the way to the big game last year, and with many of their key players back this year, they should be a contender once again. Sure, defenders such as NT Casey Hampton and MLB James Farrior may be a little over the hill, but any defense with OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and S Troy Polamalu should not be taken lightly. Much like the Steelers, the Ravens also feature a top-notch defense with a few players (MLB Ray Lewis for one) that are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. Both teams should fight for the division lead all year, but the Steelers' superior offense should provide the difference. The Browns have a new head coach in Pat Shumar, and QB Colt McCoy showed promise last year, but they still seem a year away from contention. The Bengals are a hot mess, and unless rookies WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton can impress quickly, it's going to be a long season in Cincinnati.

AFC South
1. Tennessee Titans
2. Houston Texans
3. Indianapolis Colts
4. Jacksonville Jaguars

The injury of Colts QB Peyton Manning has made this division a wide open race. While the Texans have become the popular pick due to their explosive offense and new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, I'm picking the Titans here. For one, they were much better than their 6-10 record last season, and they have stability at the quarterback position with the signing of Matt Hasselbeck. Add that to superstar running back Chris Johnson and a solid defense, and I think the Titans will surprise some folks and take the AFC South. The Texans have a great offense with QB Matt Schuab, RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson, but the question in Houston is can Phillips improve last year's horrendous defense. At least he has DE/OLB Mario Williams and LBs Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans to build around. The Colts could still contend, but that will all depend on how quickly Peyton Manning comes back. If he misses six games, the Colts are probably finished. Jaguars' coach Jack Del Rio is in danger if the team doesn't make the playoffs, and this bunch doesn't have the look of a playoff team, especially with the curious decision to start Luke McCown at quarterback. At least Jaguars fans can enjoy the running of Maurice Jones-Drew, but they won't enjoy many victories.

AFC West
1. San Diego Chargers
2. Denver Broncos
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Oakland Raiders

If it weren't for a historically bad season on kick coverage, the Chargers would have ran away with the division last year. So no team is probably happier that kickoffs have moved up five yards this season, making things a lot easier for the coverage. The Chargers are clearly the most talented team in the division, providing that TE Antonio Gates is healthy, and only their self-destructive tendencies can keep them from winning the AFC West this year.  The Broncos weren't very good last year, but Josh McDaniels is gone and John Fox is in. Plus, they should have an improved pass rush with the return of OLB Elvis Dumervil and the selection of OLB Von Miller. With QB Kyle Orton and WR Brandon Lloyd leading a strong passing attack, the Broncos will sneak up on some teams this year. The Chiefs used a weak schedule and some luck to win the AFC West last year, and I don't see it happening again this year. Sure, they have some stars in RB Jamaal Charles, OLB Tamba Hali, and WR Dwayne Bowe, but everything broke right for the Chiefs last year, and there is no way they'll get that lucky again this year. The Raiders took a step forward last year, then took a step backwards in the offseason by firing coach Tom Cable and losing key players such as CB Nmandi Asomugha. Even with RB Darren McFadden, the Raiders are more likely to stumble back to the basement of the division then take a leap to the lead.

NFC East
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. New York Giants
4. Washington Redskins

With the signings of CB Nmandi Asomugha, RB Ronnie Brown, DE Jason Babin and others, the dunderheads at ESPN have begun to refer to the Eagles as a 'Dream Team'. Well, I'm not sure about that, but they are good enough to repeat as division champs, even if QB Michael Vick takes a slight step back from his career year last season. The Cowboys have a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan, and the best pass rusher in the league in OLB DeMarcus Ware. Their defense should be better, but can Felix Jones be the workhorse at running back the Cowboys need? Either way, I see them falling just short of the postseason. The Giants are already banged up on defense, especially in the secondary. Considering that pass defense was already a problem for the Giants, this does not bode well. Despite QB Eli Manning's best efforts, the Giants are not going to see the postseason this year, and we may see the end of Tom Coughlin in New York. The Redskins are starting the season with Rex Grossman as their quarterback, which is all you really need to know about their chances this year.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers
2. Minnesota Vikings*
3. Detroit Lions
4. Chicago Bears

This is probably the only division in which all four teams have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth. Even though the Packers suffered a ton of injuries last year, from RB Ryan Grant to TE Jermichel Finley to now departed MLB Nick Barnett, the Packers won the Super Bowl anyway, thanks in large part to QB Aaron Rodgers' emergence as a superstar. They've definitely got the talent to repeat as champs, but will they? I admit, I'm a little higher on the Vikings than others. But this year they've got a coach the team actually likes in Leslie Fraizer, plus talented players such as RB Adrian Peterson, DT Kevin Williams, and OLB Chad Greenway all return. Not to mention that QB Donovan McNabb is now in town, and even though last year was his worst year as a pro, it was still much better than the year Brett Favre had. McNabb should be fine in Minnesota, and the Vikings will make the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Lions are getting a lot of hype this season, and with WR Calvin Johnson and DT Ndamukong Suh, it's easy to see why. But let's hold off on the hype just a little until we can see what QB Matthew Stafford can do in a full season and until their poor secondary can improve. The Bears are getting a little over the hill on defense, and their offensive line is questionable at best. Yes, this team won the division last year, but much like the Chiefs, every break went the Bears way last year. So unless QB Jay Cutler becomes the next Aaron Rodgers, then don't expect to see the Bears in the postseason.

NFC South
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Atlanta Falcons*
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Carolina Panthers

The Saints had two problems last year, running the ball and stopping the run. Well, in the offseason, the Saints went out and got RBs Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles to run the ball, and DTs Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin to stop the run. With QB Drew Brees back to propel the Saints high powered offense, and a defense that is both stronger and faster than last season's model, the Saints are the best team in the division, and maybe the league. The Falcons won 13 games last season, and have WR Julio Jones join a high powered offense that includes QB Matt Ryan, WR Roddy White, and RB Michael Turner. I wish they had done more to improve their secondary, but the Falcons should make the playoffs for two consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. The Bucs used an easy schedule and the emergence of QB Josh Freeman to propel themselves to a 10-6 record. With a tougher schedule, they might take a step back this year, but if the Falcons or Saints slip up, then the Bucs are more than capable of taking advantage. The Panthers have a new coach in Ron Rivera and a new quarterback in Cam Newton. Plus, they should be healthier this season. They'll win more than 2 games this year, but probably not much more than five.

NFC West
1. San Francisco 49ers
2. St. Louis Rams
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Seattle Seahawks

Maybe I'm crazy or just plain dumb, but I like the 49ers chances this year. Yes, QB Alex Smith hasn't proven to be anything but a bust thus far, but now he finally has an offensive minded head coach in Jim Harbaugh and with the addition of WR Braylon Edwards to a group that includes WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis, Smith finally has a group of receivers that are at least adequate, provided that everyone is healthy.  Not to mention that he still has RB Frank Gore behind him, and a solid defense led by MLB Patrick Willis and DE Justin Smith. Perhaps most importantly, this division isn't that good, and they have a much easier schedule than the Rams, so for those reasons, I'm picking the 49ers as division champs. The Rams aren't going to go quietly though, and with an improved set of receivers led by WR Mike Sims-Walker, QB Sam Bradford could emerge as the next great quarterback this season. The Cardinals have a new quarterback in Kevin Kolb, and even if he isn't the long term answer, he has to better than the group that was there last year. Their defense is full of question marks, however, even with the solid play of DT Darnell Dockett and SS Adrian Wilson. The Seahawks won the division last year, and I guess they could do it again. But is anybody really sold on Tavaris Jackson being the answer at QB? This team was lucky to win seven games last season, and if anything they've only gotten worse. I could be wrong, but I don't see Seattle winning more than five games this season, and Jackson will lose his starting job by week 9 to Charlie Whitehurst.

Super Bowl Picks:

In the AFC, the Patriots and Jets will fight it out all season for conference supremacy, and that fight will commence at the AFC Championship Game. For the third straight season, the Jets will reach the Championship Game, and for the third straight season, they will fall short, as the New England Patriots will return to the Super Bowl. In the NFC, despite challenges from Philadelphia and Atlanta, the Saints and Packers will emerge as the two top teams in the conference. Interestingly enough, they play tonight in the first game of the season, and will also play in the last game of the NFC season. Unlike tonight's game, this one will take place at the Superdome, and the Saints will win a close one. As for the big game, the Patriots and Saints will light up to scoreboard in Indianapolis, but at the end, the New Orleans Saints will win their second Super Bowl in three years.


1. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
3. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Dark Horse: Chris Johnson, RB, Titans

With the possible exception of Peyton Manning, nobody is more important to their team than Drew Brees is to the Saints. This year, he proves that and wins his first MVP. Rodgers established himself as an elite quarterback last year, and will do nothing to disprove that status this year, putting up excellent numbers and leading the Pack to many victories. Tom Brady was last year's MVP, and if WR Chad Ochocinco has anything left, then Brady will have another top-notch receiver to throw to, which is the last thing opposing defenses want to hear. If the Titans are going anywhere this season, then Chris Johnson will have to play up to his new contract and carry them. If the past three years are any indication, he's more than capable of doing so, and another 2,000 yard season is not of reach for Johnson.

NFL Defensive Player of the Year:

1. Clay Matthews, LB, Packers
2. Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers
3. Ed Reed, S, Ravens
Dark Horse: Cameron Wake, LB, Dolphins

Matthews may have been the best defensive player in the league last year, and he played much of the season hurt, so imagine what chaos he will cause opposing offenses when he's healthy. Expect a huge year from Matthews. Willis has been an elite defender for a number of years now, and if the 49ers perform as I expect they will, Willis will get a lot of recognition nationwide, fitting for the best MLB in the NFL. Reed played 10 games last year, and still picked off eight passes. As long as he's on the field, Reed's going to make a ton of big plays for the Ravens. Wake had 14 sacks last year for the Dolphins, and there's no reason to believe he won't at least repeat last year's performance, if not exceed it.

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year:
1. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
2. Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins
3. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Dark Horse: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

Even though he might share time with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, expect Ingram to emerge as the Saints' workhorse in the backfield this season. With opponents gearing up to stop the Saints' passing game, Ingram's going to face a lot of favorable defenses, and he has the talent to take advantage. I wouldn't be shocked if Ingram had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Thomas is going to get the bulk of the Dolphins carries this year, so as long as he's healthy, he should have a shot to put up big numbers this season. The Falcons traded a whole lot of draft picks to get Jones, and they didn't select him with the intention of sitting on the bench for a season. Even though rookie WRs tend to struggle, Jones could be one of the exceptions to the rule, especially since coverages will be shaded more to Roddy White. Newton's going to be the starter from the get go in Carolina, whether he's ready or not. Yes, he has some work to do, but remember, Vince Young won the Rookie of the Year Award, and Newton is more developed at this stage than Young was. I'm not saying it will happen, but it's not hard to see Newton throwing for 3,000 yards and running for 500 more.

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year:
1. Von Miller, LB, Broncos
2. Marcell Dareus, DE, Bills
3. Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals
Dark Horse: Robert Quinn, DE, Rams

Like nearly everyone else, I expect big things from Miller in his rookie season. He has the talent to be the next DeMarcus Ware or Derrick Thomas and be and unblockable force. If he doesn't get 10 sacks this season, I'll be surprised. Dareus is just what the doctor ordered for the Bills, a run stopping force on their D-Line. He'll be someone opposing lineman worry about from the word go. Peterson will be tested early and often as the Cardinals' new cornerback, but make no mistake about it, he has the chance to be a top notch player. In a rookie crop full of quality defensive linemen, Quinn may be the most athletically gifted of the bunch. If he can adjust to the speed of the NFL game, then Quinn has an outside chance at snatching this award.

Well, thanks for reading The Canon Review 2011 NFL Preview. Hopefully, I'll be more accurate this year than my college preview looks to be (Darn Oregon Ducks). Anyway, if you have a comment about this topic or the blog, than share by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Friday, September 2, 2011

Your Canon Review 2011 College Football Preview

Just like The Canon Review is back in action, so too is college football, and none too soon. After a tumultuous offseason that featured scandals from many top programs, including Ohio State and Miami, and more conference musical chairs, the 2011 college football season gets underway tonight. This year should be a rather historic year, as Nebraska makes their Big Ten debut and the Pac-10 debuts as the Pac-12 with the additions of Utah and Colorado. Also, 2011 will mark the last year of Texas A&M in the Big 12, and who the heck knows who the next team to change conferences will be? So, how will this season play out? Well, read on to see one man's opinion about how the 2011 College Football season will shape up.

ACC: Realistically, the race for the ACC Title should be between two teams. Sure, Georgia Tech may make things interesting with their option attack, and Maryland and Clemson both possess solid football teams, but ultimately, Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division and Florida State in the Atlantic Division. True, both teams are starting new quarterbacks (Logan Thomas for VT, E.J. Manuel for FSU), but these two squads are far and away the most talented in the Atlantic Coast Conference. At the end of the day, look for these two teams to meet in the ACC Championship Game once again, and once again, look for Virginia Tech and their plethora of playmakers (HB David Wilson, WR Jarrett Boykin, CB Jayron Holsey among them) to win the ACC Title once again.

Big East:  Last year the Big East failed to produce a Top 25 team, while the WAC and C-USA produced two top 25 teams apiece. While this should call into question the Big East's automatic qualifier status in the BCS, chances are that 2011 will be a stronger year all around for the Big East. West Virginia has a new coach in Dana Holgorsen and a top-natch QB in Geno Smith. Meanwhile, Pitt also has a new coach in Todd Graham, and the conference's best defensive player in LB Brandon Lindsey. South Florida has a rising star in coach Skip Holtz, but QB B.J. Daniels must show more consistency. UConn is the defending champ and brings back a slatwart defense, but may have suffered too much losses in the offseason. Ultimately, West Virginia is the best team in the conference, and they should emerge with the Big East title despite tough challenges from Pitt, South Florida, and a Syracuse team that is on the rise.

Big 12: The Big 12 starts it's first year with ten teams, and with Texas A&M jumping ship after the year, who can tell what this conference will look like next year. Speaking of A&M, they would love to leave the Big 12 with a conference title in their belts, and with 18 starters returning from last year's squad, they may just have the horses to pull it off. Oklahoma State may have the best QB-WR combo in the nation with Brandon Weeden firing passes to Justin Blackmon, but once again, their defense is a question mark. Texas is the traditional power, but it remains to be seen if Garrett Gilbert is the answer at quarterback. However, nobody's going to beat out Oklahoma this year. True, they end the season with a road date at Oklahoma State, but the Sooners are primed and ready to capture the conference title for the fifth time in the last six years. With QB Landry Jones and WR Ryan Broyles back on offense, and a strong defense led by lineman Frank Alexander and LB Travis Lewis, Oklahoma is the most well rounded team in the conference and maybe the entire nation.

Big Ten: The Big Ten starts it's 12 team era this year, and have split up into the Legends and Leaders divisions. Silly names aside, the Big Ten is as deep as it's ever been with Nebraska joining the fold. The conference's two traditional powers, Ohio State and Michigan, look to be in rebuilding mode this year, but each squad still has a lot of talent and could make things interesting in the Big Ten. Northwestern could be a factor if QB Dan Persi can come back from injury, while Iowa could make things difficult in the Legends division behind rising star RB Marcus Coker. Nebraska comes in with a top-notch defense led by DT Jared Crick, but I'm not exactly sold on QB Taylor "T-Magic" Martinez. So, I predict that Michigan State, led by QB Kirk Cousins and RB Edwin Baker, will emerge out of the Legends Division. The team that they'll face is the Wisconsin Badgers. True, they have a new quarterback, but that quarterback is an accomplished three-year starter in NC State transfer Russell Wilson, who will have a strong running game powered by James White to support him. Look for Wisconsin to win the first Big Ten Championship Game and return to the Rose Bowl.

Pac 12: Colorado and Utah make their Pac-12 debuts this year in the Pac-12 South, but the real power of this conference resides in the North, where two national title contenders reside. Oregon made it all the way to the National Title game last year, and both QB Darren Thomas and RB LaMichael James return to power the Ducks' quick strike offense. Meanwhile, Stanford may have lost coach Jim Harbaugh to the NFL, but QB Andrew Luck decided to return for his senior season, giving the Cardinal a heck of a chance to capture the Pac-12. The two meet at Stanford on November 12, and the winner of this game will likely win the Pac-12 North. I'm saying that that team will be Oregon. In the South, USC would be the logical choice to win the division, but they can't play in the conference title game due to NCAA violations. While Arizona State has a strong offense and a solid defense led by LB Vontaze Burfict, Utah also has a strong team and an experienced quarterback in Jordan Wynn. Perhaps more importantly, Utah has a favorable schedule that does not include Oregon or Stanford, and so they're my pick to represent the Big 12 South in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Utes won't avoid the Ducks forever, and look for Oregon to capture the title.

SEC: In a stat you've probably heard before, the SEC has produced the last five National Champions. Well, I say that there will not be a sixth, but that's for later. The SEC East may come down to a week two matchup between Georgia and South Carolina, and while Georgia has a solid QB in Aaron Murray and an improved defense (at least if you believe the hype coming out of Athens), South Carolina has the better team and the best player in RB Marcus Lattimore. As long as Carolina doesn't trip up too many times and QB Stephen Garcia can stay consistent, the Gamecocks should repeat as SEC East champions. In the West, it is conceivable that last year's national champions, the Auburn Tigers, could finish fifth in the division this year. Yes, it's that loaded. Mississippi State returns 15 starters from last year's surprising team, and Arkansas may have lost RB Knile Davis for the season, but still have plenty of offensive talent left over with WR Greg Childs and QB Tyler Wilson. Down in Baton Rogue, LSU expects to contend for a national title, and have the squad that may just do it. However, Alabama is once again loaded, with perhaps the nation's best defense and a star in RB Trent Richardson. Plus, they get LSU and Arkansas at home this year, so that's a plus. Look for Alabama to emerge out of the SEC with the conference championship, but they'll suffer one loss along the way and will be on the outside of the National Championship game.

Other Conferences: In the Mountain West Conference, Boise State joins just in time for TCU to blow town next year. The two will meet up this year on the blue turf in Boise, and look for Boise State to not only win that battle, but also the conference. Meanwhile, Boise State's departure has left the WAC a wide open race, with Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawaii as the favorites. Out of the quagmire, I look for Hawaii and their high-powered offense led by QB Bryant Moriz to emerge as champions. Last year, I picked Houston to win C-USA primarily because of QB Case Kessum, and then he got hurt. Well, this year, he's back, and despite strong squads in SMU, Central Florida, and Tulsa, I'm jumping back on the bandwagon and going with Houston. In the MAC, Toledo returns 16 starters, including star WR Eric Page, so they're my choice. In the Sun Belt, Troy and FIU are the two teams above the rest of the conference, and at the end of the day, I'm taking Troy to win the conference. As for Notre Dame, look for them to win eight or nine games and be a constant presence in the Top 25, but fall short of a BCS bid.

National Championship: As I said before, I think the SEC is so tough this year that no team is going to come out undefeated, not even Alabama. I think Boise State has a very good chance to go undefeated this year, but I think that they'll be on the outside looking in. Look for Oregon and Oklahoma to both emerge undefeated at the end of the regular season and meet in the National Championship game. At the end of the day, Oregon will learn from last year's experience, and emerge as the 2011 National Champions, provided of course that they don't have it taken away from them due to NCAA violations.

Heisman Candidates: Stanford QB Andrew Luck is perhaps the best player in college football and the obvious preseason favorite for the Heisman, but as we've seen before, the preseason favorite doesn't always come home with the trophy at the end. Since I expect Oklahoma and Oregon to compete for the title, it would stand to reason that Oregon's RB LaMichael James and Oklahoma QB Landry Jones would also top contenders. Alabama RB Trent Richardson and South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore could also emerge, while Michigan QB Denard Robinson is perhaps the most exciting player in college football. It would be a mistake to leave Boise State QB Kellen Moore out of contention, as he should once again be a top-notch performer as he tries to set the NCAA all time record for wins by a quarterback. Ultimately, I think that Landry Jones is going to emerge as the Heisman winner, with Luck finishing a close second. The top five contenders are:

1. Jones
2. Luck
3. Richardson
4. James
5. Moore
Dark Horse: Lattimore

Well, that's it for the 2011 College Football Preview. Hopefully, I'll get at least a few of these picks right. Thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post, then share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Canon MST3K Review: Master Ninja II

A little over a year ago, I did a review of an MST3K episode called Master Ninja I, in which two episodes of the failed 1980s TV Series The Master was presented as one movie. Well, this review is the sequel, Master Ninja II, in which once again, Joel and the 'bots watch two crummy tv episodes jammed into one movie. Yes, that means two more episodes of Timothy Van Patten mumbling through his lines, two more episodes of a stuntman doing all of Lee Van Cleef's action scenes, and two more episodes of throwing stars and smoke bombs. Awesome.

The first episode is titled State of the Union, and guest stars a young Crystal Bernard. She plays a young woman racing against Max in a motocross race named Carrie Brown. Even though Max claims he's faster than a hiccup on greased lightning (I think, although I can't make out what he says half the time), Carrie wins. Yay. Then she turns down Max's advances. Yay again. But as it turns out, Max and the Master are needed, as Carrie has some problems with her boss Chad Webster. See, Carrie is trying to form a union at the cannery, but Chad doesn't want any part of that, and Carrie is convinced that her brother was killed for a similar attempt at forming a union. She then mentions this 34 other times during the episode. As it turns out, Carrie was right about Chad, as he attempts to grab her at a restaurant. But the master saved the day (while Max got his worthless self thrown out of the place) and the three must continue to avoid various attempts on their life. One night, Chad and his thugs run the Master and Max off the road, and the Master is believed to be dead in the crash. Max runs over to Carrie's house, but they're captured anyway. Everybody is taken to the graveyard, where the Master "comes back from the dead", and they have a very confusing fight in the dark graveyard in which somehow, Max and the Master emerge victorious. At the end, Carrie thinks to two for helping prove her brother's murder in a most cheerful manner, and the two leave for another town in the midwest in search of the Master's daughter.

The second half of the movie starts with a bang, as Max is flying a plane he got out of the back of his van (huh?) and rescues a damsel in distress who is driving a fast car with crummy breaks on a cliff. He grabs the girl, and the blond bombshell lands on the Master. As it turns out, she's the daughter of a senator and having a garden party for some European dignitaries. As it also turns out, there's a group a terrorists seeking to kidnap a whole bunch of people at the garden party in the hopes of the release of various political prisoners. Also, George Lazenby is here for some reason, playing a Bond like character who thinks that the Master is a killer. Well, if you saw Master Ninja I, you know that that is true. Lazenby, Max, and everybody else proves useless as the terrorists take about 12 people hostage, including the senator's daughter. At least the Master got one of the bad guys with a throwing star to the back, and Lazenby (or Mallory as he's called here) shoots a tracking device on one of their helicopters. As it turns out, the terrorists are holding the hostages in a giant house right next to the HOLLYWOOD sign. Yeah, that's inconspicuous. Somehow, Max and the Master are arrested for something, but are eventually freed, and the Master agrees to accompany Mallory on a mission to rescue the hostages, but not before a run in with his former pupil out to kill him for leaving Japan or something.

With his escape from his former pupil, the Master gets to the task of rescuing hostages. First, he takes five minutes to climb a rope up onto the roof, and the 'action' begins. Mallory is captured almost immediately, while the Master takes care of one security guard before he too, is captured, but at least he's able to escape by hiding on the roof of a storage closet and taking down a few more security guards. Meanwhile, Max takes out his damn plane from the back of his van and flies onto the property. Both Max and the Master get there just in time to save the senator's daughter from being raped, and the Master frees the hostages and stuffs them in the back of a moving truck. While Max drives off, the Master comes back for Mallory and saves him by tying up the bad guy's machine gun with a rope and then knocking him out with a cartwheel into leaping side kick combo. At the end of the day, Max kisses and leaves again, and they go off in search of the daughter that is never mentioned at one point in this movie.

The acting in this movie/show borders on awful. Except for Van Cleef and Lazenby, you can't even understand half the words the actors say, in part because of bad audio and in part because of the actors themselves. Whoever cast Van Patten as a heartthrob made a huge mistake, as quite simply, he can't act. You can hardly understand what the heck he's saying (something that is mocked to great effect during this episode) and he doesn't exactly fit the profile of a heartbreaker. As far as the action goes, it's cheesy 80s action at it's finest, with car chases and explosions galore. Overall, it makes for a quite humorous episode, as there's just so much to mock here.

The host segments are a mixed bag. The opening segment featuring an improv exercise was well done, as was the Patton spoof starring Crow as Timothy Van Patten 'motivating' his soilders. However, the 70s van segment and the TV detectives pets as determined by Servo segments weren't quite up to the same level.

Overall, this is such a cheesy group of episodes, but Joel and the Bots make it more than bearable. It's actually better than the first Master Ninja episode in my opinion, even without Demi Moore. I'd give the movie a 3.3 out of 10, but the episode a 7.1 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this review, or ideas for future reviews, then feel free to share either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Canon Video Game Review: Suikoden 3

Continuing with the reviewing of the Suikoden series, I recently finished playing Suikoden 3, the first Suikoden game to be released for the PlayStation 2. Released in 2002 by Konami, Suikoden 3 is also the first Suikoden game to be rendered in 3-D and unlike most other RPGs, the story does not have one single hero. Instead, you get to play through the story as three different main characters, Hugo, the son of a the chief of the Karaya clan, Chris, the female captain of the powerful Xexen Knights, and Geddoe, a mysterious mercenary squad leader. Each character has three separate chapters in the story, with all three characters and their forces combining in the final chapters.

Photo courtesy of

The strength of Suikoden III is it's deep and gripping story. True, there is some overlap with the three main protaginists often bumping together at the same time, but even so, this is welcome because the player gets to see the same events from a different perspective. For example, Hugo and Chris often come across each other as enemies, but if you play through both chapters you will get an understanding for each person's actions and feelings. Also, there's two optional chapters you can play through as Thomas, a young man who has been thrust into becoming the master of a castle full of eccentric people. Overall, the story provides a lot of twists and turns and plenty of character development, which isn't all that easy when you have 108 characters to go through.

Like the first two Suikoden games, there are three types of battle modes in Suikoden 3, regular battles, war battles, and one-on-one duels. Like the first two games, you can control a party of up to six people in battles, but unlike the first two games, you control the players as three rows rather than six individual players. For example, the front and back player on each row is assigned to attack the same enemy. This is kind of frustrating, especially when you have one person use a magic spell while the other person just stands there or, if you're lucky, attacks a random enemy. Also, unlike the previous two games, you are not limited by where you can put certain characters, as you can put anyone in either the front or back rows. There are also a variety of combo attacks, and a few 'mounted' attacks, in which a person can attack while riding on the back of another character. For example, Hugo and his pet griffon Fubar have a particularly devastating combo attack. War battles are somewhat similar to regular battles, only you control a unit of up to four people and have them attack another unit. Provided that you develop each character's skills to a high level, these battles aren't too hard. Duels work just like the previous two games, in which you have to guess what the enemy is going to do based on what they say before each attack. A new twist to the game is the implementation of a skills system, in which each character has their own separate set of talents that are either automatically gained or bought with skill points that are earned after each battle. By improving skills, the characters become more powerful or more likely to dodge attacks. However, you must be diligent in assigning skills, as different characters pick up on different skills quicker than they do others. For example, Hugo is more adapt at using combat skills than magic skills, while another person would be more adapt at using magic skills. This system adds to the uniqueness of each character, and you can mix and match skills to come up with the perfect skillset for each fighter.

The graphics in Suikoden 3 are solid, but not spectacular. While it was a step in the right direction to go into 3-D, the graphics in this game aren't quite up to the level of other RPGs released around this time, but that's only a minor problem for me. The soundtrack in this game is inferior to the first two Suikoden games, as there's not really a lot of themes that stick out, and each song just kind of blend together with a few exceptions. Suikoden 3 also provides a lot of mini-games, such as horseback racing and a couple of card games as well, but none of the mini games stack up to the Iron Chef mode found in Suikoden 2. Like the first two games, you get your own castle to play around with, and you can customize it by adding painting and vases to make things look better. Also, like Suikoden 2, there's a suggestion box and a detective, tools that allow you to find out more about the other characters. Perhaps the best little addition to Suikoden 3 is the ability to put on plays with your characters, as you can collect up to six scripts and stage performances. Depending on who is cast in these plays, the results can be quite hilarious.

Overall, I'd have to say that Suikoden 3 is a minor step back from Suikoden 2, but still is a fine game and one of the best RPGs to ever come out for the PlayStation 2. Sure, there are some flaws, but the strong story more than compensates for whatever flaws this game has. Overall, I'd give it a 8.1 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this game or review, than feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then send those to me at

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Canon Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Over the last week or so, I've been reading Ken Kesey's 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. After watching the movie and reviewing it a few months ago, I found it curious that Kesey despised the movie so much due to the changes made from the novel. Well that, and he didn't make any money off the film. Anyway, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is based off of Kesey's experience working in an insane asylum, and is set, naturally, in an insane asylum in Oregon. The story is narrated by an inmate of the asylum known as Chief Bromden, a 6'7" Native American who is thought to be a deaf mute. Because of his 'condition', the Chief is able to hear nearly everything that goes on in the ward, as since he's thought to be deaf, everybody around him talks as if he's not there. But the Chief's life, and everybody else's at the ward, is changed by the arrival of R.P. McMurphy, a petty criminal and a gambler who seemed to fake his way into commitment at the mental hospital because he was tired of being imprisoned at a work farm.

Before McMurphy's arrival, the ward was under complete control of Nurse Ratched, a battleaxe of a woman who always had a smile on her face, but used passive aggressive techniques and establishing an environment of fear by threatening patients with electric shock therapy and lobotomies if they refuse to follow her strictly set routine. The patients fall in line 'like rabbits', but McMurphy will not submit so easily. At first it seems like McMurphy is only challenging the nurse's authority as a way to kill time and win a bet with the other patients, but over time the problems between the two escalate into an all-out war, as Ratched becomes determined to break McMurphy's hold on the patients and establish complete dominance over the ward once again. The Chief looks at Ratched as the agent of the 'Combine', the force designed to keep men in line and control the world as a whole. As such, Ratched isn't really portrayed as a character but instead as the cold, calculating face of authority, whose one purpose in life isn't to help the patients with the problems but rather mold them into another mechanical part of society, or keep them out of society.

On the other side of the coin is McMurphy, a man that seems to resent authority of all kinds and sees right through Nurse Ratched's facade of therapy for what it really is, complete control over the patients in the ward. McMurphy's will power and sense of humor make him an intriguing character, a rebel who begins to take up a cause as he fights for the freedom of the other patients against Nurse Ratched's oppressive reign. Eventually, he starts to make some ground, as he starts a basketball team and somehow gets a lot of the patients to come on a fishing trip with him (along with the doctor of the ward), allowing the patients to experience something they hadn't in a long time, freedom.

This tale of the rebels vs. the establishment is seen all through the eyes of Bromden, a man that served in WWII but developed extreme anxiety after coming home and seeing his father become a weak alcoholic after the government took away his land. Bromden, to be frank, doesn't see the world the same way as most of us, as he has hallucinations that include seeing a thick fog where nothing is there and one of the patients being opened up by a team of robot workers. In crafting Bromden's hallucinations, Kesey drew back on his experience taking mind-altering drugs as part of a CIA project, and the results are that the reader is taken through the mind of someone that isn't 'all there', so to speak. But there always seems to be some sort of truth in the Chief's visions, as if he sees things more clearly than those around him. Kesey further explores the character of Chief Bromden to various flashbacks, resulting in the reader getting a clearer picture of the Chief's mindset and perspective of the situation he has found himself in.

The movie adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest differs in quite a few ways. For one, Chief Bromden becomes a minor character in the movie, as the movie focuses more on McMurphy vs. Ratched than any other aspect of the story. Also, the orderlies in the movie were seemingly just a group of guys doing their jobs as told, but in the book they are presented as more vicious, even sadistic, in their handling of the patients. Some of the other characters are different in the movie, as Harding had a larger role in the book as it delved more into the problems he had with his wife, whereas in the movie he was just a guy that complained a lot. Also, Tabor was a former patient in the book that became a current patient in the movie, although his role is rather minor in both circumstances. There's more deaths in the book as well, but I won't spoil it too much.

Overall, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is quite a tale. Yes, it starts with the basic story of the rebels vs. the establishment, but Kesey is able to make most of the characters three dimensional, each with their own personalities, and even though you know deep down that McMurphy is kind of a louse, you can't help but to root for him in his struggle against Ratched. Overall, I'd give it an 8.6 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this book then feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have ideas for future posts, then send them over to me via e-mail at

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 7, 1993 Patrick Division Finals

Once upon a time, the Islanders were a pretty decent hockey team. Sure, the 1992-93 were nothing like the team that won four straight Stanley Cups in the 1980s, but they still had Al Arbour coaching behind the bench and a mixture of talented veterans and promising youngsters. The Islanders of 1992-93 were good enough to snatch third place in the Patrick Division, then beat the Capitals in six games in the first round. But nobody expected the Islanders to hang around with the two time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Led by Mario Lemieux, the Penguins had All-Stars up and down their lineup, and finished the regular season with a 19 game unbeaten streak. They breezed past the Devils in the first round, but were flummoxed by the lightly regarded Islanders, who fought and clawed their way to a game 7 in Pittsburgh. In the deciding game, the Islanders would win four to three, thanks to an overtime goal by an unlikely source, left wing David Volek. The Penguins hopes for a three-peat were done, and the Islanders moved on to the conference finals. The Islanders haven't won a playoff series since. A few notes about this game.

- Volek is a classic example of the playoff hero that comes out of nowhere. During the regular season, Volek scored a mere eight goals, and was so highly thought of that he was a healthy stracth for the entire first round and the first two games of the second round. Volek came into game 7 without a point in the playoffs, but with the score knotted at one in the third period, Volek took a drop pass from Ray Ferraro and fired a shot just under the blocker of Penguins goalie Tom Barasso to give the Islanders the lead. Then in overtime, Ferraro and Volek led a 2 on 1 break, and Volek fired a one timer past Barasso to knock the Penguins out of the playoffs. Success would be fleeting for Volek, as he scored only seven more goals in his career and was out of the NHL after the 1994 season, but he'll always have that one moment in the spotlight.

- Another player that came up big for the Islanders was goalie Glenn Healy. In the first period, the Penguins outshot the Islanders by a 17-6 margin, and Healy stopped them all. Overall, Healy stopped 42 shots in the game, including a great diving glove save on Ron Francis in overtime. Not bad for a 5'8" goalie who split time with Mark Fitzpatrick during the regular season. But despite his small stature, Healy was huge for the Islanders here. Healy would leave the next season and end up on the cross town Rangers as a backup, where he won a Stanley Cup ring, while the Islanders replaced Healy with Ron Hextall despite Healy's stellar work in the postseason, which was yet another move that hasn't worked out for the Islanders in the last 20 years.

- During the game, the announcers kept referring to the Islanders winning as one of the biggest upests in Stanley Cup playoff history, and they were probably right. The Islanders had 87 points during the regular season and their roster was populated with mostly journeymen like Healy. Furthermore, the team's brightest star Pierre Turgeon (132 points during the regular season) missed the first six games due to a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, the Penguins had four future Hall of Famers (Lemieux, Francis, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy) a fifth player likely to be a Hall of Famer when he's eligible (Jaromir Jagr) and All-Stars such as Rick Tocchet, Kevin Stevens, Ulf Samuelsson, and Barrasso. Furthermore, they had the league's most points (119), won the last two Stanley Cups, and were led by Scotty Bowman, the man widely considered the greatest coach in NHL history. But thanks to some great goaltending from Healy, key contributions on offense by Ferraro and Steve Thomas and the stellar defensive play of Darius Kasperitus, the Islanders somehow fought their way to a seventh game and a victory over a team that many felt were the class of the NHL that year. That's why they play the game.

- Give credit to the Penguins, though. They looked out of it after falling to a 3-1 deficit in the third period. But with less than four minutes to go, Larry Murphy led a rush, wound up behind the net, and set up Ron Francis to score a goal to get the Penguins and their fans back into it. With just over a minute to go, the Penguins pulled their goalie, and once again Murphy (who almost lost the puck at the blue line) set up a goal with a shot that bounced off of Francis and Rick Tocchet's sticks and wound up in the net. Even though the goal was credited to Tocchet, replays did not indicate that the puck deflected off of him at all, and it looked like Francis was the last to touch it. Either way, the Penguins tied it at three and finally showed some fight after being in a haze for most of the final period. Of course, the Islanders didn't fold, stayed calm, and wound up with the winning goal, but the Penguins didn't go down without a fight.

- While Healy was great on the Islanders end, Penguins goalie Tom Barrasso didn't have his best night. The first goal he allowed was the result of a poor clearing pass by Ulf Samuelsson and a lucky bounce off the boards, while the second one was a shot he had the angle on, but just missed it. The third goal the Islanders scored was nearly unfathomable. Benoit Hogue fired a wrist shot from behind the blue line that slightly bounced off of Murphy's stick, but was still headed right at Barrasso. Somehow, the puck went under his blocker and landed in the net to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead. To me, that was worse than allowing the game winner, because it was one of the easiest chances of the night and Barrasso just whiffed on it. If he stops it then, who knows what happens? because it's still a one goal game. Barrasso was the goaltender for the Penguins' cup winning teams, but his poor play throughout the series has caused him to be looked at as the main reason the Pens didn't win a third cup. But Barrasso wasn't the only goat, as the Penguins defense was loose with the puck all night long, constantly letting passes go by them and being unable to keep it onside. Ulf Samuelsson, even though he scored the first goal, caused the first Islanders goal with a bad pass, and he went too far up the ice on the play that eventually resulted in Volek's game winner. Meanwhile, Bowman played Mario Lemieux early and often, and while Lemieux was effective in the first two periods, he eventually wore down and wasn't his usual spectacular self.

- Then again, it could have different for the Penguins if Kevin Stevens wasn't hurt in a first period collision with Islanders' defenseman Rich Pilon. Stevens, one of the top wingers in the league at the time, left the game with a concussion and a broken nose after his check went awry. Meanwhile, the Islanders got their own superstar back in Turgeon, although he only played limited minutes and was not a factor.

After this game, the Islanders went on to the Conference Finals, well they fell to the Montreal Canadiens in 5 games. It's the last time the Islanders have been that close to the Stanley Cup Finals, as years of mismanagement have turned a once-proud franchise into a joke. The Penguins didn't get a third Stanley Cup until 2009, but remained a competitive team thanks to Lemieux and Jagr for much of the next decade. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this game or ideas for future posts, then share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Monday, August 1, 2011

Canon Restaurant Review: Pizza Hut, Royston, GA

Earlier this evening (or technically the previous evening) I, along with a few of my friends, dined at the Pizza Hut located in the fabulous town of Royston, GA. In my previous experiences with Pizza Hut, I have found that no matter which one I go to, it seems like they are like a fastball pitcher with inconsistent control, in that when they're good, they're good, and when they're bad, they're so bad that you'll wonder just why you came there in the first place. Heck, I still get grief for suggesting a trip to Pizza Hut in Commerce, and that was two years ago. How was I to know of the events that took place? Anyway, I came into Pizza Hut tonight hoping for the best, or at least something halfway decent.

We get there and even though they are offering a pizza buffet tonight, we decide to eschew that because it was late and most of the pizza up there had been out there for a while. Instead, after a few minutes of heated debate, we decided on three large one topping pizzas, mushroom, pepperoni, and the always popular bacon. All three pizzas we ordered were with the hand-tossed crust. We also ordered a side of garlic covered wings, of which I chose not to partake. Now I wish I had, since I have no opinion about the wings, but those that ate the wings did have mostly good things to say about them.

Looking around at my surrounding, I'd say that even though it was late in the evening, there was a decent-sized crowd there, about 15 people or so including ourselves. There were also quite a few people carrying out pizzas, so this place wasn't exactly hurting for business tonight. The interior of the Pizza Hut is a bright room, with a brick interior, a few booths on three sides of the room and a couple of larger tables for parties of four or more people. The walls had a few pictures hanging on them, and there was a clock on each side of the restaurant. However, neither clock was set for the right time, which makes me wonder just what the purpose of having a clock on the wall is if you're not going to bother setting it to the correct time. Well, to each their own. Our table was rather clean, I must say, and a lot of the booths appeared to be in good shape, although I did notice that one of the seats had a big hole in the middle. Our service was good overall, especially considering that the place had only one waitress there. However, it seemed like our pizzas took a little longer than they should have, as I'd estimate we waited 25-30 minutes at least.

As for the pizzas themselves, well some people seemed to like them more than others, and some pizzas were better than others. The pepperoni pizza was just slathered with grease, almost as if somebody decided to pour some extra grease on it at the last second. Fortunately, the other two weren't quite as greasy. Also, the makers of the pizzas were quite generous with the toppings, which is always a good thing, and there was plenty of cheese on them. Of the three, I thought the mushroom was the superior pizza, and it seemed like most everybody else did too as it had the least pieces left at the end. The bacon pizza was decent, but not spectacular, while the pepperoni, while covered in pepperoni, was the weakest of the three. I thought the crust wasn't too bad, although I did hear some of my compatriots expressing slight displeasure over it.

Overall, continuing my poorly thought analogy at the beginning of this post, I thought this trip to Pizza Hut was like a pitcher allowing four runs in six innings and leaving with a no decision. Yes, it wasn't bad, but you were left wanting more. Overall, I'd give it a 5.45 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post, or ideas for future reviews, then feel free to share either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Lakeview Terrace

Last week, I watched a movie that had Samuel L. Jackson in it, so I decided to continue with that theme and watch the 2008 movie Lakeview Terrace. Distributed by Screen Gems and co-produced by Will Smith, Lakeview Terrace was directed by Neil LaBute (The Wicker Man, Possession) and stars Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Jay Hernandez, Ron Glass, and Justin Chambers. In the movie, a young interracial couple, Lisa (Washington) and Chris (Wilson) Mattison, move into what they think is their dream house. Even better, Abel Turner, a 28-year veteran of the LAPD (Jackson) lives right next door, so they assume that this is a safe neighborhood. As it turns out, Abel is strongly against the Mattison's relationship, so he decides to terrorize them, leaving the Mattisons with few options because, well, he's a cop. Sure, I guess they could call the cops and hope for the best, but they never do.

As Abel Turner, Jackson plays a strong-willed veteran cop who is completely sure of his beliefs and totally unwilling to budge on his convictions. He's a man trying to do the right things, raising his kids in a nice neighborhood and teaching them morals and values. The problem is that Turner seems two seconds away from going berserk, and he is so inflexible that it affects his job and relationship with his kids. In Lakeview Terrace, Jackson walks a fine line between fine upstanding citizen and a man burning with rage towards the changes the world has made, and he does it quite well. Jackson's acting skill was the highlight of this film, and he was able to convey the role of Abel Turner with subtlety when needed while providing the necessary menace.

Meanwhile, Turner's foils in their neighborly feud are the Mattisons, a liberal and interracial couple who one could describe as 'yuppies'. As Chris Mattison, Wilson plays the part of a man that is unprepared to deal with the constant harassment of his cop neighbor. Whereas Turner is sure in his beliefs in actions, Chris isn't quite sure what to do, which gives the scenes between Jackson and Wilson a certain undertone. You can almost feel the unease between the two men whenever they're on screen together, which is a credit to both Jackson and Wilson. While Wilson is at least above average in his role, Washington, well, she was there. It wasn't like she was terrible or anything, but she seemed to be lost at times, especially when tensions were supposed to be high in her relationship with her husband.

However, Washington's flat acting wasn't the biggest problem the film had. Instead, it was the direction of Neil LaBute and screenplay of David Loughery and Howard Kohler. It didn't seem like they wanted this film to be a social commentary or a psychological thriller, so they just shot for something in between and hoped for the best. The first half of the movie was much superior to the second, as the relationship between Abel and the new neighbors was a lot more subtle and two-sided. Yes, Abel was a stick in the mud, but you could see why he would have problems with the new neighbors (what with there leaving cigarette butts in the yard and doing the horizontal boogy outside in full view of his kids, plus their friends were a bunch of liberal douchebags). After a while, the lines that were blurred are now completely black and white, as Turner just changes character and becomes the big evil cop going against the liberal suburbanites, helpless against the big blue machine. Then the film completely goes off the rails in the last 25 minutes or so, as there's a massive fire and a break-in and murder and a whole mess of other stuff.

At the end of the day (or film), Lakeview Terrace is a film with some decent performances from its top actors and raises a few social issues that will make you think. However, it had the potential to be a much more significant film instead of the ham-fisted thriller that it turned out to be. Overall, I'd give Lakeview Terrace a 4.85 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this film, or ideas for future posts, then feel free to leave a comment or to send me an e-mail at

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Earlier tonight, My brother and I went up to the theater and took in the latest offering from Marvel Studios, Captain America: The First Avenger. Directed by Joe Johnston (Hidalgo, The Rocketeer), Captain America stars Chris Evans as the titular character, and includes a supporting cast of Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, and Dominic Cooper. In Captain America, a young man named Steve Rogers wants nothing more than to enlist in the army and fight the Nazis in WWII. However, his small frame and a few medical problems cause the army to reject him, until he runs across a scientist named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Tucci). Erskine is looking for a man to become a 'super' soilder through a series of injections, and despite his small frame, he thinks Rogers is the perfect man for the job. Even though Colonel Chester Phillips (Jones) doesn't share Erskine's beliefs, Rogers is eventually chosen to receive the treatments, and he eventually becomes Captain America, the U.S.'s best hope against the evil Red Skull (Weaving).

Not surprisingly, the film is full of action sequences and CGI effects, the most impressive of which is the transforming of Evans into a little weakling. At the start of the movie, Rogers is all heart with hardly any muscle, and because of that he's a scrappy underdog that one can't help but to relate to. Once his transformation takes place, even though Rogers is the same guy, he just becomes a boring one-dimensional hero. I don't know if it was Evans or the screenwriters, but something was definitely lost in the transition of Rogers from zero to hero. It's not as if he's an arrogant jerk, but rather he's just dull. Rogers' main love interest in the film, a British solider named Peggy Carter (Atwell), looks the part, but I was never convinced that these two had any sort of sparks despite the fact that the story practically forces that down our throats. Actually, Peggy's also much more interesting in the first part of the film when she's a tough woman soilder in a man's world rather than the love stricken girl we see in the second part.

As for the rest of the cast, it's solid, but not spectacular. Tommy Lee Jones plays, well, himself as a no-nonsense army Colonel. I will say that some of his wisecracks were quite enjoyable. Weaving is also solid as the evil Johann Schmidt, who eventually becomes Red Skull, while Sebastian Stan was solid as Rogers' close friend, Bucky Barnes. I must say that I wasn't too impressed with Tucci's performance as Dr. Erskine, as his German accent was inconsistent at best. In the second half of the film, Rogers leads a team into various battles against Red Skull and his Hydra squad, which are full of action and explosions. The problem is, we never really learn anything about these guys and why they were chosen other than the fact that they just happened to be in the same unit as Rogers's buddy. Heck, they didn't even mention their names until the credits.

Director Joe Johnston does a nice job of recreating the 1940s in Captain America, from the 'World Fair' setting at the beginning of the film to the montage of Captain America shilling war bonds and starring in films. Although it may have seemed a little long and really didn't mean much to the overall story, it was a humorous look at the parading of Rogers as some sort of Uncle Sam type figure. The film looked great in some parts, although most of the action sequences kind of looked similar and featured so many explosions that they eventually lost all meaning. Plus, maybe it was because I was seated right next to the speakers, but I found the score of this film to be overwhelming and just plain annoying.

Overall, this is a decent flick that will provide entertainment for the time you're in the theater. However, it's not much more than that. The acting is decent at best, and the script could have used a little more in the way of character development. Plus you never really get the sense that Rogers is in any sort of peril in his battles, and they just rush through the second half of the film to get to the next action scene. Overall, I'd give Captain America: The First Avenger a 4.5 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this movie, then feel free to share them by leaving a comment.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Bolt

Here's a movie I decided to watch because, well I'm not sure exactly, the 2008 animated feature from Disney called Bolt. Directed by Byron Howard and Chris Williams, Bolt features the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton, Susie Essman, and the late, great Macho Man Randy Savage. In Bolt, a dog named Bolt (Travolta) that stars in a fictional sci-fi show starts to believe that his powers are real, and he also believes that his co-star Penny (Cyrus) was kidnapped by the evil Dr. Calico (McDowell). Somehow, Bolt falls in a box and is shipped to New York City, where he meets a stray cat named Mittens (Essman) and a hamster named Rhino (Mark Walton), who just happens to be Bolt's biggest fan. The three of them journey back to Hollywood in hopes of 'rescuing' Penny.

Bolt starts out with a bang, as Bolt and Penny race through a giant city escaping from Dr. Calico's army (the army seems as big as the Canadian army, btw). Bolt displays a wide array of super powers, including heat vision, super strength (he can flip a moving car over his head), super leaping abilities and his go to move, a super bark that can wipe out every building in a mile radius. Yes, Bolt is perhaps the most powerful dog in the history of fiction, but the problem is, he thinks it's all real, as he's trapped in a "Truman Show" type reality because the director believes that is the best manner for Bolt to deliver his best performance. This seems like it would take a lot of money and effort to pull off, but considering the Michael Bay-type action scene in the TV show, apparently this is a production company with an unlimited overhead. Plus, this seems to be an unethical and possibly illegal way of handling a dog, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, Bolt gets lost and takes Mittens as his prisoner because he believes that all cats are servants of Dr. Calico. Even though Bolt is completely oblivious to the world outside of him, he is rather resourceful and adapts somewhat quickly to his new surroundings, despite not having superpowers. Bolt and Mittens travel across the country, and eventually meet Rhino, a hamster in a ball who believes everything he sees on television is real, in an RV Park. The three make for an interesting trio, with Mittens serving as the voice of reason for the delusional Bolt and Rhino. Each of them are actually quite likeable in their own ways, with Bolt always showing loyalty to both Penny and Mittens and doing whatever he can to save them, Mittens being a streetwise, snarky feline who has seen too much to get her hopes up, and Rhino just happy to be hanging out with one of his heroes. Remarkably, each of them weren't annoying at all, even Rhino, who at first I thought I wouldn't like, but his constant optimism and gung-ho attitude won me over.

The movie explores a few themes, such as the evils that exist in Hollywood, what with the slimy agents, overbearing network executives and all. This coming from one of the biggest movie companies in the world. I guess somebody as Disney really hates talent agents, because the agent character here (voiced by Greg Germann) is a slimy character who would sell his own kids out (and admits this) and seems to be callous to the personal feelings of his clients. Overall, I'd say that the movie's satire of Hollywood was a bit heavy handed, but since it is a kid's movie, perhaps they felt that was the only way to get the point across. Something else I found interesting was that Penny seemed to feel trapped by starring in her own TV show and the lifestyle that goes with it, a situation that was not too different from her voice actor's situation with her show (Hannah Montana). Kind of ironic, no? Another theme that Bolt explores is the issue of pet abandonment, particularly in a heart-tugging tale told by Mittens that explains her cynical view towards humans.

Overall, even though you could guess the ending about 15 minutes in, Bolt is an entertaining film that features solid animation and some good voice acting, particularly by Travolta and Essman. While the story isn't revolutionary or anything, and the soundtrack included John Travolta singing, it is a solid tale and there a few laughs mixed in. Overall, I'd give it a 7.25 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this movie, or ideas for future reviews, then share those thoughts either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top 10 Most Unlikely Playoff Heroes in MLB History

It seems that every year, a new postseason hero comes out of nowhere and shocks the baseball world with a timely performance to win a game or two for their team. Last year it was Cody Ross, a decent, but nondescript outfielder who exploded on the scene, hitting five home runs in the playoffs and winning the NLCS MVP. Alas, Ross didn't quite make this list, but here are ten guys that may not have had the best seasons or careers, but for one fleeting moment shined when the spotlight was the brightest.

10. Don Larsen

Since the start of the World Series, only one man has ever pitched a perfect game. That man was not an all-time great like Whitey Ford or Walter Johnson, but instead, it was accomplished by a man that put up a sterling win loss record of 3-21 just two seasons before. Despite a poor start in Game 2 of the 1956 World Series, the Yankees went with Larsen against the Brooklyn Dodgers with the series tied at two games apiece. Facing a lineup that included four future Hall of Famers and seven players who played in at least one All-Star game, Larsen went through them like a tank goes through tissue paper. Larsen was in the zone that day, running up only one count to three balls and striking out seven batters. The Dodgers of Jackie, Duke, Hodges, and Pee Wee were befuddled by a man who split time between the bullpen and the rotation during the 1956 season (although to be fair, Larsen wasn't too bad that year, going 11-5 with a 3.26 ERA). Even though Larsen finished his career with a losing record (81-91), he can lay claim to be the only man to be perfect in a World Series game.

9. Bobby Richardson

Even though Richardson played in eight All-Star games and led the AL in hits in 1962, he was never exactly an offensive star for the Yankees, as his solid glovework usually carried his lackluster bat. In 1960, Richardson hit for an uninspiring line of .252/.303/.298 during the regular season, but during the World Series, Richardson morphed into his generation's Rogers Hornsby. During the seven game series against the Pirates, Richardson racked up 11 hits, five for extra bases, and set a World Series record that still stands with 12 RBIs, nearly half the total he put up during the regular season (26 RBIs). Despite his team losing the World Series, Richardson was named the World Series MVP, the only player from a losing team to win that award. In 1961, Richardson wasn't great during the regular season (.261/.295/.316), but once again saved his best work for the World Series, collecting 9 hits during the five game series against the Reds. Richardson wasn't so great in the 1962 or 1963 World Series, but in 1964 Richardson set another Series record with 13 hits against the St. Louis Cardinals. For his World Series career, Richardson hit .305/.331/.405, well above his career averages of .266/.299/.335. 

8. Sterling Hitchcock

Hitchcock was a decent lefthanded starter whose career was ultimately derailed by arm injuries, but in the 1998 playoffs, Hitchcock pitched the best baseball of his career. During the 1998 season, Hitchcock was the Padres' fourth starter, pitching well (3.93 ERA, 158 SO) but he also had a propensity to give up the long ball (29 Homers allowed). In the playoffs, Bochy moved Hitchcock ahead of Joey Hamilton in the rotation, and the move paid off big. In the NLDS against the Houston Astros, Hitchcock held the Astors to three hits in six innings, struck out 11 batters, and the Padres would win the game and the series, 3-1. Against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, Hitchcock made the powerful Braves lineup look bad. In game 3, Hitchcock pitched five innings, and despite five walks, held the Braves to three hits and one run as the Padres won 4-1. In game 6, with a trip to the World Series on the line, Hitchcock again stymied the Braves, pitching five shutout innings with eight strikeouts as the Padres clinched the N.L. Pennant. Hitchcock was named the NLCS MVP, and even though his team lost in four games to the Yankees in the World Series, Hitchcock turned in another fine performance in game 3, allowing one earned run in six innings and leaving the game with a 3-1 lead. Overall, Hitchcock allowed three earned runs in 22 innings during the 1998 season, striking out 32 batters. Not bad for a guy with a career record of 74-76 and an ERA of 4.80.

7. Gene Tenace

Although Tenace would have a few solid seasons with the Oakland A's and the San Diego Padres, he was a little regarded backup catcher heading into the 1972 World Series. Even though he started all five game in the ALCS that year, Tenace's 1 hit in 17 at-bats hardly inspired fear in the hearts of the Cincinnati Reds or their fans. But in game 1, Tenace took center stage, hitting a home run in his first two World Series at bats and drove in all three runs in the A's Game 1 victory. In game 4, Tenace broke a scoreless tie with a solo homer in the fifth inning, and after a ninth inning single, would score the winning run in a 3-2 victory for Oakland. Tenace homered again in game 5, giving him four for the series, and in game 7, Tenace drove in 2 of Oakland's three runs in a 3-2 victory. For the series, Tenace hit .348, with four home runs and nine RBIs, and was named the most valuable player of the 1972 World Series.

6. Eddie Perez

Before the 1999 season, Perez was best known as Greg Maddux's personal catcher. But when Javy Lopez went down with an injury in late July, it was up to Perez to step in and assume the starting catching role. His numbers that season (.249/.299/.372) weren't great, but Perez was a solid defender and the Braves still made the postseason. In the 1999 NLCS against the New York Mets, Perez picked a great time to get hot. In game 1, Perez had two hits, including a homer that proved to be the winning run in a 4-2 victory. Perez followed with another home run, this time a two-run shot, that broke a 2-2 tie and propelled the Braves to a 4-3 victory. Perez had two more two hit games in games 3 and 5, and in game 6, Perez had another two hits, including a two run single, in the Braves eventual 10-9 victory. In 20 at bats during the NLCS, Perez had 10 hits, two homers, and five RBIs, making him the MVP of the NLCS. In the World Series, Perez and his Braves fell victim to a Yankees sweep, but that doesn't take away from Perez's magnificent performance in the NLCS. Today, Perez is a coach for the same team he once carried to the World Series.

5. Billy Hatcher

Hatcher was a speedy outfielder with some ability, although he was really an average player during his 12 year career. In the postseason, however, Hatcher seemed to come alive. In the 1986 NLCS against the New York Mets, Hatcher played well, hitting .280, stealing three bases, and hitting a game tying home run in the bottom of the 14th inning in game six, then driving in another run in the 16th before the Astros finally fell to the Mets. Before the 1990 season, Hatcher was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, and while his hitting wasn't great (.276/.321/.384), he did lead the team with 30 stolen bases. In the NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hatcher went 4-16 in the series, including a homer in game 2, as the Reds went on to beat the Pirates in 6. Hatcher saved his best for the World Series against the Oakland A's, where he went on a tear that has never been duplicated in the history of the World Series. In four games, Hatcher had nine hits in 12 at-bats, giving him a .750 average. Among those nine hits included a key triple in the bottom of the eighth inning of game 2, which resulted in Hatcher scoring the tying run in what would eventually be a 5-4 Reds victory. Hatcher also had four doubles, as the Reds swept the A's in four straight. Remarkably, despite setting a World Series record for highest batting average, Hatcher was not named the MVP, as Jose Rijo was given the award for two excellent performances in games 1 and 4 of the series. Today, Hatcher is back in the Reds organization, serving as their first base coach.

4. Dusty Rhodes

Rhodes may have been a one-year wonder, but it was quite a year. In 1954, Rhodes was a backup outfielder for the Giants, providing the team with left-handed pop off the bench. In his previous two seasons, Rhodes hit 21 home runs, but his average of .242 wasn't anything to write home about. In 1954, Rhodes had a season to write home and everyone else he knew about. In 186 plate appearances that year, Rhodes hit .341/.410/.695, with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs. His exploits continued in the World Series against the heavily favored Cleveland Indians. In game 1, Rhodes made history, becoming the first player to hit a walk-off home run in extra innings of a World Series game, doing so in the 10th innings off of Bob Lemon. In game 2, Rhodes came off the bench in fifth inning, drove in the tying run with a single, then added a home run in the seventh innings. In game 3, Rhodes went 2-3 with two RBIs. During the Giants four game sweep, Rhodes had six at bats, four hits, two home runs, and seven RBIs, not too bad for a player that didn't start a game in the Series.

3. Mark Lemke

As a hitter, Mark Lemke made Bobby Richardson look like Ryne Sandberg, posting a career batting line of .246/.317/.324. In the 1991 World Series though, Lemke's bat came alive. In game 3, Lemke went 2-5, with his second hit winning the game for the Braves in the bottom of the 12th inning. The next game, Lemke got three hits, including a double and a 9th inning triple. Lemke would score the winning run that night on a sacrifice fly from Jerry Williard. In game 5, Lemke went 2-4 with three RBIs in a 14-5 Braves rout. Even though the Braves would fall to the Twins in seven games that year, Lemke emerged as a hitting star, going 10-26 in the series for a .417 average.Among those 10 hits included three triples. Lemke hit .333 in the 1992 NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but didn't repeat his success in the 1991 World Series until the 1996 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. After four hits in the first four games, Lemke caught fire in game 5, going four for five in a 14-0 Braves rout. The next game, Lemke had two more hits and an RBI in a 3-0 Braves victory, and in game 7, Lemke added two more hits as the Braves pounded the Cardinals 15-0.  For the series, Lemke hit .444 (12-27) with four runs, a homer, and five RBIs. Alas, Lemke came back down to Earth in the World Series, as the Yankees beat the Braves in six games.

2. Buddy Biancalana

Biancalana was a good-field/no-hit shortstop whose sole claim to fame before the 1985 playoffs was the 'Biancalana hit-meter' on the David Letterman show, tracking Biancalana's "pursuit" of the all-time hit record. Despite a line of .188/.277/.261 during the 1985 season, Royals manager Dick Howser made Biancalana his starting shortstop throughout the 1985 postseason. In the ALCS, Biancalana hit a mere .222, but he did have a clutch double in game 6 and played errorless baseball at shortstop. In the World Series, the light hitting Biancalana became a thorn in the Cardinals' side. In game 3, Biancalana had two hits, scoring one run and driving in another as the Royals won 6-1. In game 5, Biancalana got another two hits and a walk, again scoring a run and driving in another as the Royals won 6-1. Biancalana added another hit in game 6, and once again played errorless defense for the Royals in their eventual series victory. Overall, Biancalana hit .278, with 5 walks and two RBIs. Not the best numbers ever, but considering the source, it was quite the achievement.

1. (tie) Brian Doyle/Bucky Dent

The 1978 Yankees were a team full of stars such as Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Graig Nettles, and Thurman Munson. So naturally, the key players of their World Series run would be a light hitting shortstop and a backup second baseman who finished his career hitting .161/.201/.191. It all started in Boston during the one game playoff to determine the winner of the AL East. With the Yankees down 2-0 in the seventh and two men on, Dent, who had hit only four home runs coming into this game, took a Mike Torrez fastball and slammed it over the Green Monster, giving the Yankees a lead that they wouldn't relinquish. While neither Dent or Doyle were key contributors in the ALCS, that would not be the case in the 1978 World Series. An injury to Willie Randolph forced the Yankees to play Doyle at second base and hope for the best. Well, they got the best ball of Doyle's career, as he hit .438 (7-16) in the Series, with six hits coming in the Yankees final two games. Doyle may have been the Series MVP were it not for Dent, who hit .417 with seven RBIs, including three in the clincher in game 6. In a lineup full of stars, it was the role players that became the heroes for the 1978 Yankees.

Well, that's the list. I'm sure I left somebody out, so if you're favorite unlikely playoff hero was not on the list, then feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then send me an e-mail at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Detroit Pistons vs. Portland Trailblazers, Game 5, 1990 NBA Finals

With the NBA lockout proceeding with no end in sight, I once again found myself wanting to watch some old-school basketball action. So I did a quick search, and decided to watch Game 5 of the 1990 NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trailblazers. Detroit came into the game with a 3-1 lead, needing only one more win to win their second straight NBA Title. Which is what they did, as Detroit pulled out another close game in a series full of them, winning by the score of 92-90. A couple of interesting notes about this game. One is that this was the first finals since 1979 to not feature either the Lakers or Celtics, and two, this was the last NBA game broadcast by CBS, and unless CBS can somehow outbid ESPN/ABC anytime soon, it looks like that will continue to be the case for a while. A few notes about this game:

- The hero of this game turned out to be Vinnie Johnson, nicknamed "The Microwave" because of his ability to get hot quickly. Well, that's what he did here. After doing next to nothing for the first three quarters, Johnson suddenly started to catch fire in the fourth, hitting jumper after jumper Early in the fourth quarter, Johnson scored all the points in a Pistons 9-0 run that gave Detroit a one point lead. When Portland rallied to lead 90-83 with just over two minutes left. Johnson went to work again, scoring 7 of the last nine points for the Pistons, including the game winning jumper with just .7 seconds left on the clock. Johnson scored all 16 of his points in the fourth quarter, which just shows what kind of player he was, a clutch shooter who could carry the Pistons on offense for long stretches.

- Of course, Johnson wouldn't have been in the position to carry his team down the stretch without the play of Isiah Thomas. While the rest of the Pistons struggled in the first half, Thomas took the team on his back and dragged the Pistons to a four point lead at halftime, thanks to 20 first-half points, with 15 coming in the first quarter. Thomas struggled a bit in the second half and spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench while Johnson and Joe Dumars took over the backcourt duties, but he came through when the Pistons needed him, draining an 18 footer to tie the game at 90 with less than a minute remaining, then forcing a turnover by Portland's Terry Porter on the other end. Overall, Thomas scored 29 points, and after the game, he would be named the Finals MVP.

- The Trailblazers played on the Pistons' level for much of the ballgame, but just couldn't come through when they needed a basket the most. It didn't help when their big gun, Clyde Drexler, fouled out, leaving Portland with a backcourt of Porter and Danny Young. For the game, Drexler scored 20 points, though there were long stretches where he would seem to disappear, especially in the first half. Portland's leading scorers in the game were Kevin Duckworth and Terry Porter with 21 points apiece. Duckworth was especially impressive in the first half (14 points) and for a man that weighed 275 pounds, Duckworth had great feet and mobilitiy in the low post. Eventually, the Pistons would collapse on Duckworth and force him to take a bad shot, but for a while there Detroit had no answers for him. As for Porter, his 21 points included 4 three pointers, although the 89% free-throw shooter missed a few key free throws down the stretch and was just awful in the last two minutes, turning the ball over twice.

- The Pistons of this era were known for there rough and aggressive style of play, and they showcased that style in this game. However, the Trailblazers didn't exactly back down, and any team with Buck Williams and Jerome Kersey in their lineup would have to be considered tough. In fact, in this game it was the Pistons that came out the worst for the wear. Johnson had to leave the game for a period after banging knees with Jerome Kersey, James Edwards suffered a cut over his eye after a hard foul, Bill Laimbeer suffered various scratches and bruises, and Isiah Thomas had to leave the game after a Scott-Stevens like check from Cliff Robinson on a pick opened up a cut on Thomas's forehead (a play that somehow the refs didn't call a foul on). There were 35 fouls over all, and there could have been at least 20 more. As for Laimbeer, well, I can see why he was one of the most hated players in the NBA around this time. The guy would complain after every call as if the refs just stole his car, even it was obvious that he committed the foul. At least he didn't flop around like a fish in this game, and his 17 rebounds were a game high.

- After watching crowd after crowd covered in white T-shirts or blue T-shirts or whatever and showing very little enthusiasm throughout the 2011 playoffs, it was refreshing to see a crowd that was actually into the game from beginning to end without relying on gimmicks. The Portland crowd in this game was much like a college crowd, cheering feverishly after every basket and trying to rile the Pistons when they had the ball. Alas, it was all for naught, but much like the Trailblazers themselves, the crowd left it all out there.

After this series, the NBA moved on to NBC, and a six-minute video package of the greatest moments of the NBA on CBS played ending with Marvin Gaye's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. It was quite a video package, actually, featuring everything for Gar Heard's shot in the 1976 Finals to Kevin McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis. The Pistons' postgame celebration was also shown, and featured Mark Aguirre shouting "G** D***" four times in succession, and John Salley wrapping things by proclaiming it's Hammer Time. The next year, both clubs returned to their respective Conference Finals, only to fall to the Bulls and Lakers. The Trailblazers would make it back to the Finals in 1992, only to lose to Michael Jordan and the Bulls, while the Pistons wouldn't get back to the finals until 2004. In some ways, this was the end of the Detroit "Bad Boys" dynasty, as the team just wasn't the same the next year. But it was a nice run, as the Pistons became only the third team in NBA History to win back-to-back NBA Championships. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post, or ideas for future posts, then share those thoughts with me either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at