Sunday, September 26, 2010

Who Can Beat JMR? - NFL Picks for Week 3

We're back.

After a so-so showing last year, including laying the points to the eventual Super Bowl loser Indianapolis Colts, JMR and crew are back for the 2010 NFL Season.  Because of the impending 2011 lockout, I figured it was best to get the kids as interested in football as early as possible so when football returns in 2013, they still remember what it was.

The first two weeks showcased a couple of intriguing teams - the sudden rejuvenated Chicago Bears, the frisky Houston Texans (what a game last week to take the victory from the Redskins), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who's 2-0 start might be the most improbable record so far.  Our goal this year is to finish with a .600 winning percentage.  Today, I am joined by DLG, who took time out from Blue's Clues to help Dad, and G, who had to be pried away from his IPod long enough to spend 5 minutes with me picking a couple of games.


G:  New Orleans.  "They have a cool name and they won the Super Bowl last year." 

DLG:  New Orleans.  "Because I like their heads and their legs and their arms and their EARS and their..."  OK I get it.

JMR:  Atlanta.  Always dangerous taking a road underdog, but the Saints haven't really shown much this year.  The Super Bowl hangover is evident with these guys and they were fortunate to face a couple of lousy teams to start the year.


G:  New England.  "Because they have Tom Brady and Randy Moss." Agreed, and just don't have them drive your kids around town.

DLG:  Buffalo.  "I like their legs and arms and..."  I stopped listening as she started naming different body parts.

JMR:  Buffalo.  Lets face it.  The Patriots are a good team, but the big blowout days are long gone.  Couple its awful second half game plans with its porous defense and I see the Patriots giving up a garbage touchdown at the end of the game to win 38-28 or 38-31.


G:  Indianapolis.  "I want the Indians to win...oh wait that's the Cowboys.  Can I change my pick?"  Nope.

DLG:  Broncos.  Can you pick a different reason why and not just because you like their arms or legs or feet.  "OK, because i like their ELBOWS!"

JMR:  Colts.  Not surprising to see the Colts lay a smack down against a pretty good Giants team.  I don't think the Colts Week 1 loss was a Colts issue, I think the Texans are that good.

New York Jets
MIAMI (-2.5)

G:  Dolphins.  "Dolphins swim fast and so they'll catch up and score touchdowns."  At least he's consistent; that was the type of answer he gave me last year.

DLG:  Dolphins.  "Because they swim and I Swim."

JMR:  Miami.  I think the Dolphins will squeak this one out by between 3-7 points.  Incidentally, I think Darrelle Revis would have been the difference in this game.

My other picks include SF, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Detroit, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Houston, Washington, San Diego, Oakland, Chicago.  The picks of the day include Houston and Pittsburgh.

Simply Football.  I'll see you later.   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dave & Buster's Only for Kids? Chuck E. Cheese Review

Earlier this year, I reviewed Dave and Buster's to understand whether a seemingly sophisticated restaurant/bar with video games and other games of chance could truly be enjoyed by a family with a seven year old, five year old and three year old.  I had compared it to an adult-friendly version of Chuck E. Cheese.  After all, its commercials touted how fun it was for adults during happy hour, but I'm sure I saw a couple of families in the background blurred out in a corner, so we had to try it.  Surprisingly, Dave & Buster's was able to muster a 35.5 Happies out of 50.0 Happies despite the fact that it took literally an hour to have someone take a hundred bucks for our simple little table order (with a couple of beers).  Don't even ask me how much money was dropped for those silly little tickets so they could be redeemed for Pokemon Cards, Silly Bandz and bouncy balls.

But I had compared Dave & Buster's to my memory of Chuck E. Cheese from back when I was a child and teenager. I had honed my skill in skee ball at my local Chuck E. Cheese and always remembered having a good time, but to truly make the comparison, I had to relive my younger days with my children.  I realize that bringing kids to a place like this is a much different matter than just reliving the good ole days.  I mean I had to twist my wife's arm just to accompany us; she was much more hesitant about this experience than I was. 

Natick, MA. 2pm.  After a morning and early afternoon dominated by Pop Warner Football and Fall Baseball leagues, the boys were already exhausted.  This might be a good thing at Chuck E. Cheese (not a good thing at dinner time when they're overtired and whiny).

GROG.  Let's just say that my wife was smart to bring her flask with her.  Could a place require beer and spirits for its workers and patrons more than an enclosed area full of screaming kids?  0.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

KIDS CRAYONS AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT.  This Chuck E. Cheese certainly had plenty of entertainment for the kids.  Video games, games of chance (for tickets of course) and playhouses dominated the restaurant area.  Of course you would expect that coming here.  The kids were happy going around the game room until they found a machine that promised at least 5-10 tickets every time - in this case a football game played with ping pong balls.  This area however was devoid of TVs, music or any other diversion for adults.  It was as if they were saying "Adults, you shall enjoy none of this experience, and we couldn't care less.  Better you than us."  The only entertainment I got was listening to my four year old try to leave without her parents.  More on that story later. 9.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

SPEED.  You get your ticket, put it on a stand at your table and walk away with your kids.  When you get back, your nasty pizza is usually waiting for you.  Although this category discusses how fast your food arrives and not the quality of said food, I must say that I have never seen a nastier pizza in my life.  And I would eat that before I got something from the "Salad bar."  They lose points since I could have hoisted up nasty food like that in a hurry too - nothing special about that.  6.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

DESSERT.  Similar to Dave and Buster's, the kids were redeeming their tickets long before we got to this point.  Cinnamon sticks and some sort of Apple Pie concoction were the choices.   The reason points are granted at all was that trying to 5 bucks for those two options deserves points for having balls.  3.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

WHO'S PAYING?  We got food and game tokens to satisfy the kids for less than 70 bucks.  That is a reasonable price if it entertains the children for three hours right?  Uh, right?  Well, in any event, 70 dollars was a fraction of the cost that I paid at Dave & Buster's.  6.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

Overall, Chuck E. Cheese receives a 24 Happies out of 50.0 Happies.  Awfully mediocre as an overall experience, but since the children were bummed out to leave, does the score really matter?  Well does it matter to anyone besides us parents?  Overall, given the choice between Dave and Buster's and Chuck E. Cheese, I would rather spend a little more money for a better overall experience.  Dave and Buster's wins!

One cautionary note.  Do not rely on their security system and protocols - one line in, one line out and identifying stamps for parents and children.  I dropped the family off while I had to park in the back of the building and walked in by myself.  I did not receive a stamp.  Neither did my wife who walked in with the kids.  And the kids received stamps that were smudged (Who was at the door, some sort of stoner?!?).  As we were leaving and they were checking our stamps, none of us matched.  Secretly, I was thinking this was my chance to run away.  The new guy at the door was very nice about it and asked my 4 year old daughter if I was her Daddy.  Thinking he was kidding, she said "No."  Getting a little nervous, and seeing the gatekeeper get a little upset, we told her to stop kidding around.  Luckily, the guy realized that only her real parents would react like that and let us go.  Make sure when you walk in that you walk in together and everyone's stamps can be identified. 

photograph courtesy of

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Jets, Mark Sanchez, Revis Island and You

"Did you know guys that the New York Jets are the best team in the NFL?  They're even better than the New England Patriots!"

"What?!?"  Both boys cried out as I extolled the mighty virtues of this year's Super Bowl Champions, the New York Jets.  All of the other teams are just fighting to make the AFC Championship Game (in the AFC) and the Super Bowl (in the NFC).

"Are the Jets going to win the Super Bowl?" my 8 year old asked. 

"They think already won it.  Didn't you watch Hard Knocks?"  I was only half kidding.  The half that believed that my 8 year old would watch something on HBO that HAD to air after 10pm.  Honestly, I had listened to Rex Ryan for so long that I started believing that the Jets had already won it, too.  I mean who cares if the Jets' Quarterback is mediocre on his best days, or that the Jets running game consisted of an untested young player (Shonn Green) and a washed up veteran (Ladainian Tomlinson) or that the Jets defense was anchored by a guy playing on one leg (Kris Jenkins) and a cornerback who didn't arrive until the last day of camp (Derrelle Revis).  These Jets are going to turn their magical 9-7 season from a year ago and become the beasts of the AFC.  They might even challenge the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots as the only teams to go undefeated during the regular season.  I think Mercury Morris is already warming up the RV and checking out his "neighborhood."

"Dad, can we watch the game now?  Seriously?"  They got tired of me blathering on about the best team in the history of football.  Despite my personal feelings, I do have to admit that I have Shonn Green and the Jets Defense on my Fantasy Football Team, so I was rooting for them in this game no matter what was coming out of my mouth.

But I definitely don't have Mark Sanchez on my team.  Unfortunately, he has the weight of the entire city of New York on his shoulders and despite him being the biggest media darling for the Jets since Joe Namath, this guy had a very pedestrian season last year. 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions?  A completion percentage of 53.8 percent and a passer rating of 63.0?  Ugh.  I'm not sure how long the Jets will stick with them if they start the season losing three or four games in a row, but if continues with these kinds of numbers, he'll shoulder all of the blame.

And Revis Island?  For someone who has accomplished relatively little in the National Football League, he certainly has gotten a lot of media attention.  One of the best corners in the league?  Yes, absolutely.  But is he so good that you center an entire TV show around him?  No.  Let's look at the stats.  Commonplace tackles for a Cornerback, although I will say his solo tackles have dropped from 74 in 2007 to only 47 in 2009.  That's alarming.  Also, his interception numbers have not jumped off the stat sheet (14 in three years).  Some backers will say that teams just don't throw his way and that stat is all that matters.  Come on!  He's matched up against the best receivers in the league - Randy Moss, Chad Ocho Cinco, Andre Johnson.  They are going to be thrown the ball no matter who is covering them.  Teams will call plays designed specifically to get the ball to these guys.  I'm sorry, I just don't buy this argument as the reason for the ordinary statistics - and that's goes the same for all elite Cornerbacks.

Back to the game.

Because storms caused a slight delay in the opening kickoff, we only watched a couple of series before everyone went to bed.  I continued to watch until the end of the First Half.  In that time, we saw the aforementioned Sanchez look tentative on the first two drives, managing a field goal however, after a crushing sack of Joe Flacco led to a turnover on the Ravens 20 yard line.  A couple of more turnovers and the Jets defense looked as good as advertised.  They lost, however, 10-9 after some ridiculously bad penalties gave the Ravens first downs two different times and eventually led to the lone touchdown being scored.

Don't get me wrong.  Maybe the Jets will win the Super Bowl.  But I'm not even sure they'll get into the playoffs.  Remember the Patriots and the Dolphins both improved from last year, too.  In any event, I'm just happy that Football is back!

Photograph courtesy of

Monday, September 6, 2010

Canton-Lite: The Hall at Patriot Place

A friend recently suggested that we rent an RV and take a road trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  My wife was horrified at the thought of riding in an RV.  I was horrified that my kids might treat an excursion to Cooperstown like I did all those years ago - flying through the exhibits so quickly that we drove back four hours later that afternoon.  The kids were horrified of spending three days with their parents.  At least we were all consistent.

Regardless, when it is suggested that we treat the kids to something new, we always try them out on a much smaller scale.  Baseball at Fenway?  Let's go see the Pawsox.  The Patriots?  Let's take them to a preseason game.  Dinner out at a nice restaurant?  Let's take them to Burger King.  Halls of Fame are no exception.  Before we drop hundreds of dollars triaveling to New York without knowing what kind of reception we would get to staring at busts and watching videos, we decided to bring them to Foxborough and try the New England Patriots Hall of Fame (sponsored by Raytheon - can't forget that).  We figured for $50 we can test their Hall of Fame mettle.  All those years ago, I know what it's like to have an attention span of three minutes when watching and reading about history.  I think the hstory of ice cream, the beach and chocalate milk would be boring to them without interactivity.  "Hey guys," I start, "You know you can play football here like a real game."


"Yes, really."  (Crossing my fingers since that's what I remember from someone's description when it open a couple of years ago).

2pm.  Forborough, MA.  After eating lunch at the CBSScene, we slowly trudged down the stairs to the Hall of Fame entrance.  Walking right through the Pro Shop on the way in AND the way out?  Nice; I get two opportunities to fend the children off from Patriots helmets, jerseys, gloves and playing cards.

After talking all three kids from Patriots winter hats, we finally get to the top floor where the experience begins.  The kids love the interactive math game while trying to score a touchdown.  I tried to throw it so my four year old daughter (DLG) would win, but I got distracted and my six year old ended up winning.  Damn it!

Unbelievably, the kids also enjoyed looking at the old time football memorabilia from the early days of the NFL and College Football.  The movie about the history of the Patriots, that we saw on the way down to the second floor, also was an emotional experience for the family - well just me, I suppose.  "I don't like the guns!" my six year old exclaimed, still scarred from the preseason game last year when he was startled by the muskets being fired after the Patriots scored a touchdown.  "Just keep watching, buddy!"  The Third Floor also featured a lot of Boston Patriot history from the AFL.

As I survey the layout of the second floor, I can already tell that the kids will like this floor.  The Super Bowl Trophies, the "kick a field goal screen" and the duck boat.  We pass by a display of the hall of famers, including a newly inducted Sam "Bam" Cunningham, and a display of the footballs from the Patriots 21 game winning streak (yawn).  I'm tempted to kick a field goal after watching a couple of replays from the Snow Bowl.  But I'm beckoned to help as the kids scatter in the next room.  One wants to jump as high as they can with Laurence Maroney (and yes MM has a 24 inch vertical leap).  DLG wants to be weighed next to Vince Wilfork. And my eight year old wants to test his reaction time hitting Tedi Bruschi from a three point stance (I bet there are Dolphin fans whow would love this exhibit).  My six year old tried the same exhibit and if Dan Koppen says "Oh, you jumped offside, please try again" one more time, me and the Patriots personnel guy trying to help him might bang our heads against Tedy's chest.

Then the highlight for the kids came up.  I first thought that they were psyched to see the three Super Bowl Trophies.  It didn't take long to figure out exactly what got them excited - trying to catch ticker tape flying out of the wall every time the Patriots won the Super Bowl on the screen above.  All three of them stuffed red and blue pieces of paper into their pockets from catching them out fo the air.

"I'm going to throw these up in my room every time I wake up." My six year old excitedly tells me.

"Uh, no you're not..." I gently explain. "and if you do, you're going to pick them all up off the floor."

But that's ok.  They had a great time.  As we walked throught he turnstile into the Pro Shop, they wanted to go through again and catch the ticker tape and play the football math game.  This afternoon served two purposes, really.  I know that they're ready for Cooperstown, but more importantly, they're ready to try to beat me in the 2010 JMR NFL Picks.  I suggest you bring your kids to this Hall of Fame.

"Hey Dad!!  When can we play football here?" My six year old asks.

Shoot!  Except you don't play real football in here.