Sunday, September 20, 2009

Facing A Horrendous, Ravenous Beast Intent On Using Your Eyeballs To Spice Up Its Aperitif? Consult Your Local Library! (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

This week, pop culture -- in the form of football games and bad movies-- treated me to the fun* (*note: I'm being sarcastic) experience of having false cliches thrown in my face in lieu of actual thinking.

The cliches I'm talking about are, in order of stupidity, "Checking the library for how to deal with a horror monster," "Saying a team that starts 0-3 can't win the Superbowl," and "Thinking football games are one-play long."

Let's tackle them in order. Yesterday, Sweetie made me go see Jennifer's Body, a movie title that I will forewarn you has little, if anything, to do with the movie; it appears to have been chosen as part of the slapdash effort the movie resounds with, half because it's titillating and half because it might have once meant something about the movie. Then again, throwing in potentially-catchy phrases that have nothing to do with the movie but sound good is a hallmark of the World's Worst Writer. The film wasn't so much it's own movie as it was a sort of moving collage of other movies, featuring, as it did (a) the kiss from Cruel Intentions, (b) the climactic fight in the pool from The Faculty, (c) the prom scene from Carrie, (d) and that's just off the top of my head, I'm sure there were more but I didn't pay that much attention. Striking through that muck like a dull slap from a dimwitted friend was the scene where Amanda Seyfried, having concluded that Jennifer is possessed by a demon, goes to the library to look up what to do.

This is not a scene from Jennifer's Body,
but it might as well have been.
(Not pictured: Diablo Cody in the
audience, writing in her notebook the phrase:
end movie at high school dance.)

World's Worst Writer attempts to play that off as "clever," the way Scream made fun of horror movies, by having a character ask "Our library has an occult section?" or something like that -- again, not really paying attention by that point -- but WWW still plays it straight and has Amanda's character

... who, I will note, is "cleverly" named... wait a moment, because I don't want to choke on my coffee... named Needy Leznicki. You know, because her character relies on Jennifer's friendship, making her needy, and also because she and Jennifer are going to kiss. So Lez-nicki.
What, you didn't believe me? It's like one of those
puzzles in
Highlights Magazine: find six differences
between these pictures. Only you can't.

That character name stands out among other terrible character names as the Hallmark Award Winner for Laziness In Writing. You've heard of "Show, Don't Tell?" Welcome to the World's Worst Writing School, in which the mantra is Why bother even telling when you can just name your characters what you want the viewers to know about them? Thus, we get not just Needy, but also Nikolai Wolf, who looks for a virgin to sacrifice to the Devil so he can get a record deal (an idea first propounded in 1988 by Douglas Adams) , and Roman Duda, a cop-in-training.

Get it? Duda? Dude-uh?

Anyway, the whole thing devolves into a couple of supposed-to-be campy fight scenes and then quickly resolves with an offscreen spree killing, but not before Needy (oh, I get it! She needs others!) goes to the library to find out all about demons inhabiting Flag Girl bodies and leading them to eat people's guts and barf.

That kind of thing happens in horror movie after horror movie. Someone gets attacked by a demon or flying dragon or an ex-stripper-turned-soulsucking-writer-who-makes-me-cry-for-humanity's-future-because-she-thinks-horror-movies-are-adequately-explained-by-showing-a-quick-flash-of-the-word-succubus-on-screen, and that person inevitably goes to the library, gets out dusty old books, reads them in an hour or so, absorbs all the teachings, and then goes on to (almost) demonstrate how the knowledge in them works.

I have never, ever, EVER, in my life seen such a book in any library. And WWW's "clever" comment notwithstanding, I doubted that there was such a section, especially in a small town.

So I checked. I went to our own small-town library, and I searched the catalog for a couple of phrases. Our library's catalog links into most of southwestern Wisconsin's small-town libraries, so if there was a small-town library full of books about succubi, I figured I'd find it.

First up: Demonic possession. Here's the results (Click the picture to see the full size; it's more legible.)

Well, that's not going to help! With no books to learn from, how will I ever first have an overblown-and-not-seductive-at-all kiss before getting into a battle when I will "humorously" (?) use a pink bottle of pepper spray on a demon? But I thought: Maybe I need to back up a bit. After all, she became a demon because of a virgin sacrifice gone wrong, so I checked Virgin sacrifice.

I'm also pretty sure that my library privileges are going to be revoked as soon as their IT people look at my search history. But I really, really needed the information that is sure to be found in small-town libraries, because I was just moments away from attending my "Spring Formal" alone, without my boyfriend, in order to prevent Jennifer from eating a boy, leaving my boyfriend to attend alone, too, even though Demon Jennifer has on about 53 different occasions warned me that she's going to attack my boyfriend, so why wouldn't I leave him alone? (That is a literary device known as "Making your characters functionally retarded." It's used in lieu of actual writing.)

I tried one last time, this time with an alternate spelling, and, yes! There it was, under "demoniac possession," the book that I needed...

... in the Young Adult section. Well, hey, Needy was a Young Adult, too, right?

So I looked into this book, Possessions and Exorcisms (for young adults), and found that it has gotten rave reviews, and that it cites references going back to 1995. Wow!

Since it turns out that my local library does in fact stock ... a single book on the occult, I suppose I should temper my criticism. It turns out that if you were trapped in a world made up of parts of other horror movies held loosely together by a series of non sequitur quips, you could, in fact, find some answers and possibly help in Possessions and Exorcisms at the local library, where it will sit on a shelf next to Curious George and the Hamadryad and Clifford The Big Red Hellhound.

Now, though, it's time to stop talking about the third-stupidest thing from last week and "Move On.Org," as WWW would like us to believe someone, somewhere, has ever said, to the second stupidest thing someone said last week, which I heard when Colin Cowherd began talking about sports teams that go 0-3. Cowherd, a formerly-respectable sports talker before he decided to become a full-time Bill Belicheat/Roger Goodell sycophant, demonstrated not just a remarkable misunderstanding of how polls work, but also of how statistics work, when he declared earlier this week that teams that start 0-3 in the NFL have no chance of winning the Superbowl. Cowherd's point, and the point of other "analysts" who repeat that claim, is that once you've lost the first 3 games, there's no chance of winning the Superbowl, period.

They're wrong.

And stupid.

Starting 0-3 does not cause you to miss the playoffs or the Superbowl. With the exception of the Chicago Bears, every single team that has won the Superbowl has lost more than one regular season game, and some have lost as many as 7. The 1988 49ers finished the season 10-6. They won the Superbowl that year. And they started 6-5 that year, losing nearly 1/2 of their first 11 games. The 2007 New York Giants lost their first two before going on a 6-game winning streak, then went 4-4 over the remainder of the season. And all that team did was beat the Cheatriots* in their almost-undefeated season.

Going 0-3 doesn't stop you from winning the Superbowl.
Getting sacked over and over stops you from winning the Superbowl.
Well, that and taking away your DVDs of other teams' signals.

What Cowherd, and others, confuse, is cause and effect. Statistics don't cause things. They show the effect of things. Starting 0-3 doesn't cause you to lose the Superbowl. Starting 0-3 merely shows the effect of losing the first three games. If a team can lose 6 games and win a Superbowl, it doesn't matter when they lose those six games -- provided that they don't lose them at the wrong time, like in the Superbowl itself. Plenty of teams have lost just one game, or only a few games, teams like the 18-1 Cheatriots*, or the 15-1 Vikings team that missed the Superbowl entirely. Or the 10-0 Titans of last year who finished 13-3, dropping their three games at the wrong time, and then losing in the playoffs.

No, what matters is whether your team is good or bad, and the opponents they play. If you have a good team that matches up against 3 very good opponents early in the season, and they start 0-3, your team is still good. If your team then plays 3 games against inferior opponents, and wins, they'll be 3-3 and in business with 10 games to go. But Cowherd, and others, would have you believe that your good, 3-3 team has no chance of going to the Superbowl -- and yet, if you reversed the order, so that your team started out 3-0, then lost 3 games, Cowherd, and others, would have you think that your team is very good -- even though it's the exact same team.

Here's what you need to know: Some teams start out 0-3 because they're bad, and will miss the Superbowl. Some teams start out 0-3 because they played close games against good opponents, and you don't know how they'll do. But starting out 0-3 doesn't mean (as Berke Breathed would say) diddly/squat.

With that, it's on to the stupidest thing I heard all week, which was Dan Patrick and some Buffalo fans and others thinking that football games are one play long.

If you watched the Used-To-Be-A-Big-Deal-But-Now-It's-On-Basic-Cable-So-It's-Not-So-Big-Anymore Monday Night Football game between the Bills and the Cheatriots*, you saw, at the end of the game, a player named Leodis McKelvin fumble a kickoff, giving the Cheatriots* a chance at a comeback when just moments before they'd been down 11 points with about 2 minutes left and it had looked like the Bills were going to pull off the upset.

That kickoff was later referred to by Dan Patrick as the "game-winning" play when he talked about it on Tuesday morning, and others throughout the week talked about the game-winning play that kickoff fumble represented. Just as about 7 months ago, they talked about Santonio Holmes' "game-winning" catch in the Superbowl, and before that they talked about the bad-call by Ed Hoculi in the Denver game last year... and so on and so on, requiring me to again explain something that I thought was kind of obvious but apparently it's not, so I'll just spell it out for everyone:

Football games are more than one play long. Therefore, no one play is a "game-winning play."

This is something that's bugged me all the way back to Scott Norwood's "losing" the Superbowl when he missed a field goal, so for 19 years now, I've been repeating that phrase to people whenever I can.

Missing a field goal on the final play of the game doesn't cause you to lose a Superbowl;
having your high-powered offense score only 19 points in the previous 59 minutes,
and then fail to advance the ball very far with the game on the line does.

No one play can win or lose a game, because every single play affects the outcome of the game.




If Leodis McKelvin's fumble was the game-losing play, then what are we to make of Aaron Schobel's interception-and-runback for a touchdown in that game? Did that have no effect on the game? After all, if Schobel doesn't catch that pass and run it in, then the Bills lead by only 3 with 2 minutes left, or maybe they don't lead at all because maybe the Cheatriots* go on that drive and kick a field goal, so maybe at 2 minutes it's a tie.

If Leodis' fumble was the gamechanger, then does that mean that the 5 plays made after Buffalo got the ball back, when they had 50 seconds and two timeouts and needed to go only about 40 yards, those five plays meant nothing? How can someone say that Leodis McKelvin fumbling the kickoff and giving possession back to the Cheatriots* is any more significant than a Buffalo lineman missing a block and letting his quarterback get sacked for a ten-yard loss on 3rd and 10 at the end of the game? Why didn't that sack, which gave Buffalo only one last-ditch play, win the game? Or, for that matter, why wasn't the tackle that ended the game on the final play the game-winner? It was that tackle, after all, which stopped the final play. If the Cheatriots* don't stop that final play full of wacky laterals, the Bills win, so wasn't that final tackle the game winner, in the world of "sports" "analysts?"

People can only say a play is a "game-winner" or "game-loser" if they're dumb. Each play in a football game is significant, and none of them are more significant than any other; each play makes up a single play in a chain of plays that forms the entire game. Saying that a play is a "game winner" or "game loser" is like saying that a given link in a chain is the most important one. It takes each link to make the chain and if you take away one, you no longer have a chain. So each link, and each play, is equally important.

A game-winning, or game-losing, play, can only, only, ONLY happen if the game is one play long.

With all that out of my system, it's time to again make the The NC! Incredibly Accurate (But Arbitrary) NFL Picks! , for week 2, now.

Last week, if you went with "football" "expert" Jerry Greene, and relied on his expertise as well as the fact that his sole job is to think about football and talk about football and know about football, you, and Jerry Greene, went 11-5.

If, on the other hand, you went with my picks, picks derived through the scientific method of "Thinking That Canada is kind of funny," picks made by a guy who spent most of his week chasing after pantsless 3-year-olds, you went... 11-4. I didn't pick Thursday night's game, because I watch Glee on Thursday nights, but my "system," picking the team that was closer to Canada, would have resulted in my picking Pittsburgh, so I'd have been 12-4 last week.

Still believe in "experts?" Let's see how they do this week, when I will go head-to-head against Ron Jaworski of the ESPN Brain Trust. Ron will be picking winners based on his years as a football player and analyst, and remember, Ron's sole job is to think about football and tell you what he thinks. It's all he does. All week long, Ron has been watching tape of football games and thinking about them and talking with players.

All week long I, on the other hand, have been trying to invent new sandwiches. (Today's is turkey, pastrami, diced onions, swiss cheese, and mayo on a sourdough roll.) So I won't spend much time trying to analyze games. Instead, I'm going to pick to win the team whose nickname comes first, alphabetically. And here are

The NC! Incredibly Accurate (But Arbitrary) NFL Picks! For Week 2. (My season record: 11-4, 73.3% right.)

(Ron's picks in parentheses.)

Texans @ Titans. Right off the bat, a tough one. But te comes before ti, so I'm picking the upset: Texans. (Ron: Titans.)

Saints @ Eagles: Will Donovan McNabb play? Will the team miss having Kendra around after practices? The latter is more likely. Eagles. (Ron: Saints.)

If you know who this is, ask yourself:
Am I
really using my brain wisely?
Then again, I know who this is. But I blame Sweetie for that. Sweetie makes me watch
a lot of mindless entertainment that I'd rather not see.

Cardinals @ Jaguars: Remember that one commercial where Jake Plummer said a cardinal was a really tough bird? I liked that. Cardinals. (Ron: Cardinals.)

Raiders @ Chiefs: People might say "Oh, you picked the alphabetical thing because it means you don't have to say the Raiders will win," but, they forget, it means I've got to say the Chiefs will win, and, honestly, I'd like to say neither, in this game. But the system dictates: Chiefs. (Ron: Chiefs.)

Bengals @ Packers: I looked at my TV schedule last night and saw I could tape this game, or the Vikings-Lions game, on at the same time. I set it to tape Favre. But in reality, I'll probably watch Lost. Bengals. (Ron: Packers.)

Vikings @ Lions: These systems seemed designed to try to get me to keep picking the Lions. (shaking fist towards sky!) Blast you, God Of Football-Picking Systems! Lions. (Ron: Vikings.)

Rams @ Redskins: Another close game -- but it goes to the Rams. (Ron: Redskins.)

Patriots* @ Jets: About Jets' Coach Rex Ryan: I read a fascinating article in Sports Illustrated about just how big of a chip on their shoulder the Ryan family has against the NFL, other coaches, their own players, the mailman, and certain kinds of pickles. I don't know whether that helps or hurts in this game, but it doesn't matter because I'm picking based on the alphabet, so Jets. (Ron: Patriots.)

Panthers @ Falcons: Um. Um... If after two or three seconds, I can't think of anything to say, I'm not gonna force it. Falcons. (Ron: Falcons.)

Buccaneers @ Bills: For the second week in a row, I get to pick the Bills! Also, the Bills might have a better chance of winning if the games were only one play long. Bills. (Ron: Bills)

Seahawks @ 49ers: Do numbers come before letters? I make the rules here, so yes. 49ers. (Ron: Seahawks.)

Ravens @ Chargers: Before the season, The Boy and I predicted who would be the first coaches to be fired during the season, and then after the season. My pick for during is the Raiders' Tom Cable. My pick for after the season is the Chargers' Norv Turner, who I'm betting will be fired at about 7:33 p.m., Eastern Time, on January 3. (Or a week or so before the Packers fire Mike McCarthy.) Chargers. (Ron: Ravens.)

The Boy and I were able to predict those things even without consulting the
"Arcane Football Prediction Books Full Of Spooky Drawings Designed To Add a Slight Scare To Your Movie" section of our local library.
Nor did we have to consult "Teacher Who Will Fill In Plot Details Through A Brief Monologue."

Steelers @ Bears: Here's a question for you people who still believe in game-winning plays: Which of Jay Cutler's four interceptions last week was the game-winner for the Packers? Bears. (Ron: Steelers.)

Browns @ Broncos: Man, I had no idea when I arbitrarily chose the criteria this week that there were so many close games. B-r-o-n comes before B-r-o-w, so Broncos. (Ron: Browns.)

Giants @ Cowboys: um... um... Two second rule! Cowboys. (Ron: Giants.)

Colts @ Dolphins: No more commentary. This post is getting too long and scattershot and not making any sense any more, and I've jumped around a lot and completely lost track of my point. I'd better wrap it up with a quick photo montage over a kind-of-retro-sounding song to show how hip and credible and not-at-all-overpaid I am. Colts. (Ron: doesn't pick MNF. He probably watches Glee that night.)

Cue the hip, retro, song with photo montage designed to make people leave the theater falsely believing that what they watched made sense/was worth $8:


Petri Dish said...

Someone else remembers The Faculty?!

"Then again, I know who this is. But I blame Sweetie for that. Sweetie makes me watch
a lot of mindless entertainment that I'd rather not see. "
And IDLYITW has nothing to do with it? Ha, I saw the tab :D
Why are you plugging IDLYITW instead of thesuperficial?

lisapepin said...

This post was great, even the football part! (You know how I feel about sports.) Also, nice use of the word "apéritif."

Briane P said...

Petri Dish: That was an inadvertent plug -- I didn't mean to, but IDLYITW is one of the sites I check into daily to keep up with Sweetie, who likes movies and celebs, and so I feel I should at least put up the pretense of knowing what she's talking about. That's what makes me such a good husband.

Lisa: I'm glad I used it correctly. Now if only I knew what it was. (It's a salad garnish, right? Or is it the part of the car that makes that loud grinding sound whenever I use the brakes? That's a normal sound, right?)

Petri Dish said...

Sweetie reads IDLYITW? Weird, I would have taken her a Lainey Gossip kinda woman. Unless she's an old fan like me and only reads out of habit.