Friday, January 29, 2010

the ceiling seems to be an unknown sky (Friday's Sunday's Poem, 42)

Today's poem is from Renee Mangunay, who also wrote Paradox, featured here not too long ago.


Weeks have passed by and lots of things have changed,
All so instantaneous;
his life's been rearranged.
This isn't just a renovation,
the furniture's been moved.
The floor smells like varnish;
The wallpaper new.

Not only is one room unfamiliar,
the whole house is now a stranger.
This is supposed to be his home,
where he feels safe,
no danger.
Instead, he feels abandoned in some foreign land.
With nowhere to go to, nor any permanent shelter.

The door's been recently painted,
the windows recarved.
the ceiling seems to be an unknown sky
he's never seen before.
He wants to help himself,
be shown some direction;
but he's simply standing in this place,
which once used to be his haven.

He's staring at the walls,
observing how they change,
with every second he spends on his search.
his long search for some answers.
And while he sees his surroundings switch,
from red to gray;
from gray to green;
he himself becomes different.
No longer knowing the person he's always been.

So who's this boy there,
whose identity is now lost?
Not finding that joyful place
that he had always sought?

Creates a rather stark image and a haunting set of possibilities, doesn't it? What's happened to the boy in the poem, a reader wonders. Did someone die? Did he get hurt? Did he just go away and come back? Is the house empty? The more I read and re-read it, the more intriguing it gets. Nice work, Renee.

Read more of Renee's poems and thoughts on her blog, Half-Baked Disillusionments. Got a poem in you? Contact me at and I'll post it on Friday's Sunday's Poem. (Put FSP or something similar in the subject line, so I know to get back to you before I answer that Nigerian government official I'm going to help over the weekend.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Soon, no more tiny 'puting. (3 Good Things From 1/27/10)

I can't believe it's Thursday... when inside, I want it to be Friday. Here's my 3 Good Things from yesterday.

1. The laptop is done being fixed! For almost a month now, we've had our tiny 'puter that replaced the laptop that went on the fritz on New Year's Eve. Almost two weeks ago the repair shop had said they could fix it but I hadn't heard from them as of Monday, so I began to wonder if maybe I'd gotten things wrong... had they said it was fixed, and I was just leaving it there? I called them on Monday, and the guy on the phone made me more nervous: after a few minutes, he hemmed and hawed and said I'm gonna have to have the tech call you on this. I figured the worst: My laptop had become the target of an Oceans-11 style ring of thieves who wanted to get at my collection of finished and almost-finished novels, and it was gone forever.

But, instead, the tech called up and said it's ready to be picked up, so not only do I avoid buying a new computer, but I avoid losing all the work I'd not backed up yet (meaning all the work, since I'd gotten lazy about backing things up.)

2. I'm pretty sure I did okay on the Jeopardy! online test. Once a year, I get to take the Jeopardy! test and dream of getting onto my favorite game show. Last night was the annual test, and I got Mr Bunches distracted for the 10 minutes it took so I could focus on questions like Who was the 2009 World Series MVP? and Which country did Israel get the Golan Heights from in the Six Days War? (I got both right!) So keep watching Jeopardy!, as my boss promised that if I got on and went on a Ken Jennings-style spree, he'd let me have all that time off of work.

3. I got interviewed by a TV reporter for another news story: Our local ABC affiliate, Channel 27, put me on the air back in December as an expert on store credit cards, and yesterday interviewed me about Wisconsin's lack of effort in enforcing consumer protection laws. So by the time I get on Jeopardy!, I'll probably have to appear on the celebrity version.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In celebration of comments and secret codes (3 Good Things from 1/25/10)

My 3 Good Things from yesterday aren't strictly necessary today in light of the fact that I'm home from work and it's only 2 in the afternoon -- a half day! -- but I'm still going to list them because, well, that's the point of this. Today, I'm focusing on two comments left yesterday and also an amazing thing I found out while "working."

1. Petri Dish, this is for you: Petri Dish commented on Sunday's Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! -- proving that people read at least the first few lines of the sports post -- and said I shouldn't give readers that much power. Dance, monkey, dance, I was told, and I will:

2. Renee, this is for you: Renee M. looked at the 1001 Ways number 19 -- the one about how "not dying" ought to be treated as a universal right -- and agreed with me, which is always a smart move. I couldn't find a song about "People agreeing that other people should have a right to health care" -- there's an underrepresented genre -- so I'm going with I Am Not Your Broom, by They Might Be Giants:

3. Everyone, this is just weird: I may as well admit that I get about 98% of my knowledge from Yesterday, I read their article on famous stuff hidden in other famous stuff, and the most freaky thing in it was the mention of constant artistic references to UFOs -- but the most musical freaky think in it was the fact that The Last Supper contains a musical work:

Monday, January 25, 2010

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World: Number Fifty-Five

55. Make children's toys solar- or kinetic-powered.

We have solar-powered watches, calculators and cars. We have flashlights that can run for 45 minutes after being shaken for 30 seconds (as well as new batteries that power stuff for troops just by collecting power from the soldiers' everyday movements.) We even have the ability to transform the very clothes you're wearing into energy-carrying rechargeable batteries.

So why am I stuck changing batteries in the Babies!' Buzz Lightyear toy? What kind of world has adults wearing watches that never die, but lets children be sad because their dump truck no longer makes an engine sound?

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Win One For The Punters! Why you should root for, or against, your team today (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

Time for some Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! But first, to suit Petri Dish -- who commented on my spaceholder post this morning -- here's an optical illusion to occupy yourself with while I gather my thoughts:

That's courtesy of Mighty Optical Illusions; and courtesy of Petri Dish: Remember, commenting on a post not only might win you a book (look to the left side of the blog for details) but I also slavisly do almost everything a commenter requests.

Also: If you stare at that, it'll look like it's moving. Weird.

Okay! On with the sports! It's NFL Playoff Time! And I love NFL Playoff time. I love almost everything about playoff time, and one of the things I like the most about the NFL playoffs is that with fewer games played, the TV networks and "analysts and sportswriters have to fill the same amount of time and print-space but have fewer things to cover.

That can be a detriment, in the sense that it leads to articles like the one written today by Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune; tasked with filling a bunch of column inches, Dan wrote about what he thought were hidden factors to look at in today's games. That would be a great idea, if only Dan (who I'm pretty sure gets paid for doing just this kind of thing) had actually found a "hidden factor."

Dan's article said he was going to look at "the less obvious... factors that generally are escaping notice." What less obvious factors did he pick out? The Jets' running game. The Vikings' receivers. Peyton Manning's ability to handle the pass rush. And the Saints' ability to run the ball.

Those aren't hidden factors at all. If you've listened to any coverage of any football game in the last few weeks, you've heard about the Jets' running game, the Vikings' receivers, Peyton's pass-rush mastery, and the Saints' ability to run the ball. Way to earn this week's paycheck, Dan! (Next week, Dan will examine some of the lesser-known facts about the Super Bowl, like this one I got from an exclusive sneak peak at Dan Pompei's pre-Super Bowl column: "Did you know the Super Bowl is played between the team that won the AFC and the team that won the NFC?")

I don't get paid for this. Okay, I do, a little, but not as much as you'd think. Instead, I do it as a labor of love, which is why I can't just phone in a hack column. I've got to come up with something that you'll want to read, and that means sharing my innermost, deepest, darkest secrets, secrets like the time in 8th grade when, on a dare from Fred Grabow I snuck down to that little grove of trees off behind where the softball team played and...

... or, I could just instead tell you what I'm thinking about today, which is not "hidden factors" (Dan: I found another hidden factor to talk about! Did you know that each team gets four downs, unless they advance ten yards, in which case they get another set of downs?) but instead, the good part of expanded football coverage, which is that it allows (sometimes) the lesser-known players to get some spotlight and some focus.

When you've got to cover 16 games in a week, there's only time to talk about a couple of people each week -- so we readers and listeners get a steady diet of the top stories, stories that remain the top stories all year. Peyton Manning is steady. Tom Brady still plays for that coach who cheated. Brett Favre is still old. That gets redundant. How much more can you possibly say about Brett Favre at this point? Or Manning? Or any of the super stars? Not much.

The playoffs allow reporters to expand beyond another Drew Brees is loving New Orleans story and instead talk to one of the other 52 guys in the locker room, or talk to assistant coaches who never get a chance to look up from their film studies and clipboards otherwise. The playoffs let the media -- and you and I -- focus on things that otherwise might escape our attention (because they're not covered the rest of the year.)

And my AFC/NFC Championship post is no different, as I'm going to give you:

Four guys who are reason enough to root for that team, and four reasons their teams should lose anyway.

Man, I love long titles. Let me explain this column, as most of my posts and theories need as much exposition as that movie When In Rome that may be coming out soon.

Have you seen the ads for that movie? I have, and I'm stunned by them. The first preview I ever saw for that movie was one in which the voice over explained, at great length, the premise of the movie. For two minutes, the voice over went on and on about how the main character ended up in Rome, how she ended up in a fountain, how the coins were in the fountain, why she picked up a coin, what happens when you pick up a coin in a fountain in Rome, what happens then when you head back to New York where you'll apparently run into the guy you met in Rome who was also there in Rome but is also from New York, too, and who threw a coin in that same fountain, requiring that you again explain the fountain thing...

Don't believe me about how complicated the movie is? Check out the trailer, which for some reason I can't embed but can link to. (The studio wants you to watch the trailer, but only on their site. So tell them that you'll watch the movie, but only in your home.)

Not only is the movie complicated,
but it stole the title from an
Olsen Twins' movie.
Paging Oscar!

Of course, that movie should not be confused with the classic song The Promise by When In Rome:

I'm in no position to criticize complicated ideas; my posts require at least as much explanation, and today's is no different. What I've looked at for today is not any hidden factor (Sorry, Dan! I'll quit now. Maybe) but instead, I've picked out four people, one from each remaining team, as a reason why you should root for that person and that person's team to do well today and advance to the Super Bowl.

I've looked at this not in a football sense, but in a football movie sense, which is why I've picked out the nonsuperstars. Who makes movies about superstars and media darlings? Nobody, and that's because there's no drama.

In layman's terms: Nobody wants to see a movie about the rich, good-looking kid who was always good at sports and grows up to be an NFL first-round draft pick and win a couple of Super Bowls and then goes on to a career as a combination underwear model/diplomat who helps avoid a confrontation with a suddenly hostile Australia, a confrontation he avoids by playing in a touch football game against the Australian prime minister, who remembered seeing the superstar on the telly when he was just a little kid throwing shrimps on the barbie.

Or, at least, nobody wants to see that yet. But I'll sell that script someday.

Until then, everyone wants to see movies about underdogs, nobodies, people who looked like they had no reason to win -- until they became the reason.

(That logline, by the way, is mine. "The Underdogs: They had no reason to win, until they became the reason.")

(I ran that logline by Middle, who liked it but said she'd only go see it if it starred someone she liked, like the guy from Avatar;

Not this guy:

But the non-CGI version of him:

And I ran it by The Boy, who said "That doesn't make any sense.") Which doesn't matter if it's a Hollywood blockbuster. Hollywood Blockbusters never make sense.

Instead, the kind of movie people want to see is the kind of movie in which someone who's got no business being there makes it there anyway -- an underdog who, against all odds, rises to the occasion and shows the world that he's got what it takes.

Or, at least, that's the theory. In reality, the underdog actually doesn't have what it takes. Think about it: Most underdogs in most beloved sports movies aren't any good. Rocky? [SPOILER ALERT!] He lost. Rudy only got into a game at the very end of the season in the very end of his college career, on a meaningless play. Crash Davis, if I remember correctly, didn't actually end up getting back to the majors. (I just checked; he didn't.)

And Vince Papale? The underdog from Invincible? Not only did he not make it big - -he played three seasons for the Eagles mostly as a special teamer and had one reception in three years -- but he also wasn't even really an underdog. Sorry, fans of Invincible. I hate to break it to you, but Vince didn't "walk on" in a public tryout. He was playing semi-pro football and was invited to a private tryout based on his career as a semi-pro player. The feel-good story you loved (and I loved when I took The Boy to see it) never happened.

(Not only that, but Vince has another knock against him: He was reportedly the inspiration for not just the movie Invincible, but for the famed 1998 Tony Danza flick "The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon.")

You can't make this stuff up.
Nor would you want to.

(Not only that, but did you know that there's actually a band called The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza? They're a metal band, so I've got no desire to listen to them, but I love that name.)

But there are underdogs, in real life, and those underdogs or lesser-knowns sometimes rise to the occasion and get a chance to shine, as in the case of my favorite underdog/lesser-known football player ever, Nate Poole.

Nate Poole -- the only football player I've ever interviewed, and a great guy -- was an Arizona Cardinal years and years ago. Nate was playing for the Cardinals in a game that meant nothing to Arizona; they were out of the playoffs and marking time until the end of their last game of the season, a game that happened to be against the Minnesota Vikings. At the time, if the Vikings won, they were going to the playoffs. If they lost, Green Bay would go to the playoffs.

Nate -- who'd been cut and then re-signed by the Cardinals that season, was in the game with little time left and the Cardinals down 17-12 to the Vikings. As time expired, Nate Poole caught a 28-yard TD pass to win the game for the Cardinals and send the Packers to the playoffs.

From that, Nate got a little taste of fame, being invited to Green Bay and given the key to the city, and attending the playoff game the next week as a guest of Green Bay's mayor with the fans chanting Poole! as he walked in.

I got the chance, a few years later, to talk to Nate in an interview that I never managed to get posted on my sports blog. At the time, he was going to go into Arena Football or coaching after a brief stint with the Saints. I haven't heard from him since, but I've never forgotten Nate Poole and his time in the limelight, and it's with that in mind that I now give you my look at four people who, I hope, will not only serve as someone for you to root for in today's games, but also hope will have a great game and go on to earn a little bit of fame and fortune and glory.

To balance out all that saccharin-y sweetness, though, I'm also going to give you a reason, in each case, to root against that person's team, so that you're free to choose what you want to think, a freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution (and guaranteed a little moreso today with the long-awaited striking down of McCain-Feingold [the bill, not the men].)

Also, to provide a counter-counter-point, I checked in with The Boy last night to see who he would pick if he were writing this blog, so I'll throw in his commentary, too.

First up is the Jets. The Jets are the fun, exciting pick for sportscasters and "analysts" this week, as they hope for an exciting game and base their "analysis" on that hope rather than on actual fact.

Always remember this: Sports guys and TV guys want exciting games and they want to keep you listening to their shows and reading their columns. If they come on the air and say "The Colts are going to win, 40-0, so there's really no point in discussing it," they'd be out looking for real work faster than you can say Mark Sanchez (and you can say that pretty fast.) So they say things like I think the Jets could pull this out and here's how and pick the Jets because that makes things fun. Who doesn't want to root for an upset and a close, exciting game?

Anyway, that's not analysis, it's hope, and it may be entertaining but it's not intelligent. It's no more intelligent or scientific or thoughtful than when Sweetie was pregnant with the Babies! and we were on our way to find out whether they were boys or girls or both. We both decided that we were pretty sure it was one boy, one girl -- even though we had no basis for deciding that (and turned out to be wrong.) We decided that because we thought it'd be a good outcome, and then we looked for evidence to support that conclusion. My parents had three boys and one girl. There are an even number of boys and girls on both sides. Whatever justification we could come up with, we would.

Sports guys are picking the Jets for the same reason: They think it'd be a good outcome, so they pick the Jets and then shape their analysis to support that conclusion.

Wanting an exciting game is not a bad reason to root for the Jets, but it's not a good enough reason to, either. Instead, I like to look for a player or players or person to root for, and I never (well, almost never) pick the superstars. The Jets are no different, and there's lots of players on their staff to root for.

I was going to pick Jim Leonhard. Leonhard plays safety for the Jets and weighs in at 5'8" and 186 pounds. Leonhard is not just small, but he comes from a tiny town in Wisconsin, and had to walk-on most of his career at the University of Wisconsin -- a school he attended on his own dime after turning down scholarships to other schools, a school he went to because he dreamed of being a Badger. After wowing the UW fans, Leonhard has gone on to a distinguished NFL career that today will include his second consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship game; he went last year with the Ravens and is going this year with the Jets. (Leonhard also came into the league as a Buffalo Bill, so I'm very loyal to him.)

But Leonhard is a rising star already -- his story takes up about half the front page of the Sports section of the comically miniature-sized Wisconsin State Journal today. So I opted instead for Marques Murrell, a linebacker who played football at Appalachian State -- that's a division below the big boys -- and who came into the league with the Eagles in 2007, landing on the practice squad until November when the Jets signed him. He's been with the Jets since then, playing mostly on special teams. He forced a fumble last year against Tennessee, helping the Jets hand the Titans their first loss last year. Plus, he's the younger brother of a former Jets running back, Adrian Murrell, so even though he's an NFL football player, he's still probably picked on at Christmas time when the family points out that Adrian was a standout with the Jets from 1993-1997, Marques, when are you going to get off special teams?

Marques and his girlfriend just had a child in October, Harley.

The ideal situation for Marques To Shine is this: The Jets score with about 7 or 8 minutes left in the game to make it close -- they're down by, say, five points, and they kick off. The Colts begin to return the ball, and Marques lays a hit on the return man forcing the ball free -- a fumble that Marques then picks up and runs into the end zone to put the Jets ahead.

The Boy Thinks You Should Root For: Jim Leonhard, for the same reasons I was going to pick him. Except for the Buffalo stuff.

On the other hand, if you'd rather root against the Jets and don't find Marques' story compelling enough, here's your reason: The Jets aren't any good.

Sorry to be the one to break it to you, New York fans, but it's true. This year's Jets are 9-7, but they're a poor 9-7. They were 7-7 before they played two season-ending games against teams that didn't care enough to try (the Colts and the Bengals), eking into the playoffs because their opponents stopped playing in Week 13.

That 9-7 record is the exact same as last year's Jets, who missed the playoffs with a 9-7 regular season mark. That means that instead of the Jets getting better, the NFL got worse. Last year, 9-7 wasn't enough to make the playoffs in the AFC. This year, it was. The Jets were lucky to make the playoffs, and lucky to play two clubs that couldn't get their acts together in time to win a game against them.

Then there's the Colts, the team that nobody bothers talking about because, as I explained to Sweetie today, they're boring. What's to say about the Colts? Blah blah blah Peyton Manning. There: I just summarized every single Colts story for the past four years, and the next four years. The Colts win, and win enough to take off a couple of games every year, and then they win a couple of playoff games, and then they do it again.

If the Colts were an investment, they'd be one of those mutual funds that tracks one of the stock market indexes: Safe, predictable, generally a winner, and no fun. We don't want safe and predictable in our football teams, though. We want excitement! We want to invest in gold! Or diversified something-or-others. Or foreign markets! Do they still have those? Let's throw a lot of money into South American real estate!

So we do that -- investing in subprime mortgages or Beanie Babies and losing our shirts, while the stock market index funds dip a little and then go back to their slow, steady, predictable, money-making. And we do that in football, chasing the Saints and the Chargers and the Jets and thinking this team could do it! This Miami team with their Bill Parcells and their Wildcat offense could really make a move! And they don't; they fall apart while the Colts just keep chugging along.

Safe and boring isn't enough to get you rooting for the Colts, though, so how about a personal story of a man who needs your support and who you should be rooting for? How about Coach Jim Caldwell?

If you're looking for someone to keep your fingers crossed for, someone to hope has a really good game because he deserves it, someone who you hope will put his stamp on this game and march his team into the Super Bowl because of what he did, look no further than the head coach.

Jim Caldwell is a rookie NFL coach, just like his opponent today, Rex Ryan (which means that no matter what, the Super Bowl in two weeks will feature a rookie head coach on the AFC sideline.) Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach under Tony Dungy, who retired last season and handed the job to Caldwell.

In doing so, Dungy handed Caldwell a thankless task of sorts: Caldwell was taking over a very successful franchise, one that had recently won a Super Bowl and was in contention every year. If the team under Caldwell began to slide, Caldwell would be blamed for it (even though teams have their ups and downs and the Colts are getting older), but if the team performed well, Caldwell would get no credit for it. And that's panned out: Caldwell not only gets no credit for the Colts' appearance in the AFC Championship, but he actually speaks second, after Peyton Manning, at the press conferences.

Then, Caldwell took even more heat when he pulled starters against the Jets in game 15 of a season in which the Colts were 14-0; Caldwell pulled the starters even though it was the third quarter and even though the Colts were leading, giving up a chance at perfection and drawing the ire of fans -- and leading to Peyton Manning asking the fans to forgive the coach.

If Caldwell's team loses today, he'll bear the brunt of it no matter what. Manning could go out and throw five interceptions on his first five passes. The defense could stand up and let the Jets score. And Caldwell would take the heat. But if the team wins today, not a single sports writer or "analyst" anywhere in America will attribute an iota of that win to the calm coaching of Jim Caldwell.

Which is too bad, because Caldwell is, by all accounts, a good coach. He's coached many great quarterbacks, posted good records at tough-to-coach at schools like Wake Forest, and has helped turn the Colts into a classy organization by (among other things) banning trash-talk.

The Ideal Situation For Caldwell To Shine
is this: he has to make a few key coaching decisions. Coaches make decisions all the time in games, but fans rarely realize it and only pay attention to the headline grabbers like onside kicks and going for it on fourth down. So Caldwell needs to have the Colts, late in the game, score a touchdown that leaves them down by four points. He needs to then order an onside kick and have the Colts recover - -and then he needs to have them go for it on fourth down in that drive to score the winning touchdown. Those decisions would be controversial, but would be so only if they backfire. If they don't, then Caldwell would be heralded as a calm, cool coaching genius who gutsily thought his way into the Super Bowl.

The Boy Thinks You Should Root For: Pierre Garcon, a wide receiver who had the job of replacing phenomenal wide receiver/handgun wielding madman Marvin Harrison, a job that's hard enough already -- but Garcon is also Haitian and has family there.

On the other hand, if you'd rather root against the Colts, there's this: They ripped you off. The Colts are an organization that exists to provide you entertainment, and entertainment in sports means, in a word, winning. The Colts won 14 straight games this year and had a chance to go 16-0, finishing up with winnable games against the Jets and Buffalo. That would have made them only the second team to ever finish the regular season undefeated, and given them a chance to go 19-0, proving once and for all that they're better than their rivals, the Patriots*.

Instead, the Colts wimped out. They threw in the towel on games 15 and 16, thereby hurting other teams' playoff chances and, more importantly, depriving you, the football fan, of a great game and a great finish to a season. Remember how exciting it was when the Patriots* almost cheated their way to 19-0, with only the upstart Giants between them and perfection*? That was a great season, and we could have had another one of them. Only the Colts decided they'd rather not even try.

Imagine going to a movie, a great movie, a thrilling movie, a movie that has you on the edge of your seat for 75% of it, and suddenly, just as you get to the part where Luke's X-Wing takes off for the Death Star, the screen goes to white and George Lucas comes on and says "I could show you the climactic battle between good and evil that this whole movie has been building towards, and which you're eagerly anticipating, but I didn't bother filming that because I really want to make a sequel and I didn't want Mark Hamill or Harrison Ford to get hurt before that. So, see you in a couple years!"

This is what you'd miss:

You'd hate him for that. There's no way you'd say Well, I hope that next movie is really good. You'd never see that next movie, and you'd spit on the ground when someone mentioned George Lucas or Star Wars.i

the Colts.
Next Up Are The Saints.The Saints are, these days, chock-full of superstars and are drawing stars as fans. Even Brett Favre is a fan. Said Favre about a talk with Saints' coach Sean Payton: I told him secretly I'm a Saints fan...We didn't think we were going to actually play.

The Saints are the fun-but-still-emotional pick. They're the team of Mardi Gras, but also the team of heartbreaking images of the aftermath of Katrina. They tug at our heartstrings, and then throw us a set of beads and tell us to show them our hooters.

In case you're not Joe Francis, you could opt to root for one particular person from the Saints, and that person is Deuce McAllister, who was my first choice for this slot, until I learned that Deuce would no longer be playing. Deuce was the longtime running back for the Saints who came close a few times to making the Super Bowl, but never quite did. Then, this year, when it all seemed to align for the Saints... Deuce was no longer on the team. Until last week, that is, when the Saints re-signed him to be an honorary captain. I was all set to root for Deuce to have to come in and carry the ball in today's game and earn a starting job in the Super Bowl, until I learned that Deuce retired last Tuesday.

So instead, I've picked Thomas Morestead, the Saints' punter, because punters get no credit, if you ask me. The only time anyone really thinks about a punter is when the punter screws up, which almost never happens, but when it does, everyone boos and the punter gets cut. Otherwise, you only hear a mention of the punter in the negative -- This game hasn't featured hardly any punts, announcers will sometimes say, which is great for the teams but not so great for the punter, who has to be the butt of jokes like "He won't even have to shower before he leaves."

Even when punters do good, it's not spectacular and doesn't win games. Punters don't get credited for "game-winning" field goals or plays. (The quotes are there because no one single play is ever "game-winning," but that's for another day.) They get credit for good hang-time and punts going out-of-bounds at the one... but I've never heard a punter being credited as most valuable player or having a major impact on the game.

If anyone can change that, it's Brian Moorman, the punter for the Buffalo Bills, the punter who might be the greatest punter of all time. But he's not playing today, so it falls on Thomas Morestead's shoulders -- or foot -- to Win one for the Punters. (They had no reason to win... until they punted themselves a reason.)

Winning one for the Punters would have a huge impact beyond this game; right now, everyone who can't think of anything else to do says let's punt. Punting is seen as the most desirable of least desirable options; it's the best of all bad worlds, and who wants that for a career?

The Ideal Situation For Morestead To Shine is also my favorite play of all time: The Fake Punt. Picture a shootout: It's 35-35, and the Saints have the ball, around their own thirty, on fourth-and-one late in the game. They call in the punting unit, ready to give their defense a chance to hold off Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings and hopefully get another shot on offense later. The teams line up, the snap... And Morestead grabs the ball and heads for the left side! He's upright and has the first down, but what's this? He's still going! He's broken a tackle and is off down the sideline! The 50! The 40! The 30, 20, 10, TOUCHDOWN SAINTS! This stadium is going wild!

I got a little choked up just typing that. Honestly. And from then on, Let's just punt would have a whole new meaning.

The Boy Thinks You Should Root For Jonathan Vilma. Vilma, a linebacker the Saints acquired from the Jets. He's been Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 and made the Pro Bowl in 2005 -- but has been overshadowed this year by Darren Sharper, unfairly, according to The Boy.

Then Again, If You'd Rather Root AGAINST The Saints, you can feel free to do so because of one person: Brad Pitt.

Brad Pitt is all the reason you need to root against the Saints. He's a latecomer, bandwagon-jumping, gloryhogging, dead-bird-in-beard-having jerk of a person who dumped America's Sweetheart:

To take up with a scrawny, blood-drinking succubus who collects children in a desperate bid to stay in the headlines, and if that wasn't bad enough, Brad Pitt is an awful awful human being, the kind of terrible human being who, quite honestly, I would punch if I met him in person, because Brad Pitt is the kind of human being who gets a lot of headlines for claiming to do nice things like rebuild New Orleans or pay a hospital for renting it out for the summer (something I've never seen proof of him actually doing), but while Brad Pitt, horrible human being is claiming to do those things, spends $18,000 on a gerbil house for his kids, and $293,000 on a table.

According to, the average house value in New Orleans' Ninth Ward is $66,000. Brad Pitt could have bought nearly five houses for the cost of a freaking gerbil cage and table in his own house. Every time they show him on TV, boo.

And Finally, There's The Vikings. With all the focus on Brett Favre and on Adrian Peterson, you'd be hard-pressed to name another Viking.

You would be. I would not. I know a lot of other Vikings, like... um... well... like the one I'm naming as the guy to root for, Percy Harvin.

Percy Harvin is a rookie who's been having a fine season and has gotten some press already for doing so well, but he's hardly a household name or superstar, or wasn't until this week when Percy, in the midst of preparing for what will be his biggest game ever in his life (so far) got knocked down by migraine headaches, headaches so bad he couldn't practice and almost couldn't fly to New Orleans for the game.

I couldn't imagine how bad he'd feel if he had to miss the game and the team lost, or if he had to miss the game and Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings won and the guy who filled in for Percy played well and Percy then didn't get to start in the Super Bowl. I mean, that'd be good for the fill-in but not good for Percy, and I don't know who the fill-in would be, so I'm rooting for Percy.

By the way: Here's a hidden factor for you, Dan Pompei: Did you, or anyone else in the sports world, know that Percy suffered from migraine headaches? I mentioned last week that nobody really knows what's going to happen, and the multitude of factors that go into how well a particular player plays makes it an exercise in futility to try to predict the games, and Percy Harvin's headaches show why that's true. Harvin has suffered from migraines since he was 10, and has missed practices and been questioned about the headaches during this season... but leading into the game against the Cowboys, and then for the first few days after that game, not a single analyst questioned whether Harvin's headaches might have an impact on the game, even though Harvin has said they affected him during games. Discussing the headaches and how they played into Minnesota's thrilling win over the 49ers earlier this year, Harvin said: "I got a little light-headed during ...(I) was a little drowsy, got a little tired at times, but like I said, I try not to let that affect me."

You'd think that with all this time to work and all the space to fill, sports writers would mention a medical condition a starting player has, especially if that medical condition was described, as Harvin's was, as being debilitating. By his coach.

But, then, that would be expecting sports "analysts" to work, wouldn't it?

The Boy Thinks You Should Root For: At first, The Boy wasn't going to pick anyone, as he hates the Vikings. But then he remembered Darrell Bevell, former UW Badger quarterback, Rose Bowl winner, and current offensive coordinator for the Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings, and defender of Favre's. He's right: Bevell is a good guy who once signed an autograph for me when he was with the Packers, and who, with the right kind of success, might go on to be a head coach.

Then Again, If You'd Rather Root AGAINST Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings,
well, you're out of luck. I can't think of a single reason to root against them. Not one single... What? Favre did what? No, he didn't. He did? Say it ain't so!

It's so:

Not only that, but the Vikings met with the guy who "wrote that song. So a Vikings win means more Pants on the Ground, and that's all the inspiration you need to root against them.