Same shit… but fun nonetheless. NBA Finals preview.

It’s NBA Finals time. Which I personally find less exciting than I used to. It’s the third straight season in which Cleveland and Golden State have won their conferences. It is very, very rare for this to happen. To give you an idea of have incredible this is, the 1990’s Bulls (AKA Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen) dynasty never made it through the playoffs without losing at least one game. The Warriors have done just that.

Part of this lack of suspense until the Finals can be attributed to the fact that the NBA is superstar-driven and thus lacks parity by its very nature. There are no underdog champions. The closest there’s been in decades were last year’s Cavs. And they actually had a better regular season record than this year’s incarnation. It’s just that the competing Warriors team was so good that it looked unbeatable.

Not to mention that Golden State probably wins that trophy if Draymond Green hadn’t decided to be an idiot and get himself suspended. BFD!

But the same Finals matchup three years in a row? That’s another level! The reason may be the NBA trying to increase parity by changing the rules to make it easier for teams to keep their cores. This backfired by letting the Cavs and Warriors keep their cores more easily so they can focus on depth. Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors was but the tip of the iceberg! And we’re surprised that we had awful NBA playoffs?

This has gotten to the point where even perennial playoff teams like my Hawks are entering the rebuild phase. In any other league, it would be a bad idea to mess with your good team. But in the NBA, “good” is not enough. Nothing less than drafting the next LeBron or Curry will do. And of course, no league generates more rumors of bad teams tanking than the NBA.

Speaking of greats, this Michael Jordan meme was never more appropriate than when Steph Curry broke his W/L records in the regular season AND playoffs.

Contrast this to other leagues. Some gloating hockey fans and wistful basketball fans (most notably Charles Barkley, who has implied that the NHL playoffs are better) note the NHL’s unpredictability. Personally, I think this is overreaction Monday. For all the shocking, sometimes puzzling outcomes that the NHL has, it’s really just as dynasty-friendly as the NBA. You might know that the Islanders and Oilers dominated the 1980’s NHL. but did you know that three teams — the Penguins, Red Wings, and Devils — each have a pair of ’90’s Stanley Cups? Or that the Kings and Blackhawks have a combined five current decade Cups already? That such a league still has lots more true suspense than the NBA says it all!

You want a league with parity? Try the NFL. As dominant as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers can be, they don’t play defense or do their own blocking. Eight Super Bowls so far this decade and seven different champions. And yes, I think this has something to do with the popularity of football.

Here’s hoping the NBA realizes what it’s done and reverts to the old rules so that the Association can again have few upsets in the playoffs but not none at all!

In the meantime, will these Finals be worth watching? As shitty and pointless as the playoffs were, some good basketball may be coming back precisely because these are superteams playing. I loved the Finals the last two years, and as old as this show is, it should be entertaining to see again.

So I’ll probably like this a third straight time. Four would be pushing it, though.

My prediction? The Cavs aren’t awful without LeBron, despite what the gushy pundits on ESPN want to say. I remember when Boston marched out to a big early in a critical game in their series against Cleveland. The Cavs were starting to get momentum when LeBron got tired and had to rest. But the Cavs kept right on roaring back without him. So I think this will be a good series because Cleveland’s got enough depth to take the Warriors to six games.

But if I’m wrong, if the LeBron haters’ dream of a sweep comes to fruition, it’s the final proof that Adam Silver has created a Godzilla!

Wounded warriors. Stanley Cup Finals preview.

One of my teams is competing for a championship. Again. Don’t worry, by “one of my teams,” I mean teams in various leagues. I’ll get into how I feel about this  in good time. Let’s look at the matchup first.

I’ve seen people calling this a great matchup. In fact, the Twitterverse was not in fact overwhelmingly behind Ottawa even though it was a heavy underdog against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The notion was that the blandness of Ottawa would have made for a bad series but that the matchup between the Penguins and Predators is awesome! I’m not so sure. Has there ever been a championship contest between teams this banged-up. The Pens have key defensemen out of action, Sidney Crosby playing hurt, and until recently, no Matt Murray. But thanks to some absolutely fantastic goaltending by backup Marc-Andre Fleury, that have crushed the Blue Jackets and pulled out a narrow victory over the Caps before Murray took over to do the same to the Sens.

Though I’m glad Murray is OK, Rinne vs. Fleury would have been an interesting contest of shockingly hot goalies. *Sigh*.

As for my Preds, losing rising star Kevin Fiala was bad enough, but now Ryan Johansen is in the same shape, though at least Mike Fisher will return at some point in these finals. I was worried we might lose to the Ducks with our top two centers out, but the next men up have been up to this so far.

So these are definitely not going to be the best Stanley Cup Finals, I’m sorry to say. Both teams are missing pieces.

How many more players on both teams will this place get?

But the show must go on! This is still championship hockey between two fantastic teams! While the injuries have hurt the Pens’ ability to get the puck and thus score, they still have the goaltending to keep them in this series. The majority of pundits who incorrectly picked the Caps to beat them defended themselves by saying that the Pens were outplayed but were lucky. Not at all. the Caps couldn’t get anything by Fleury. That was the key.

As for us, the gradual excitement this team has been building for years has exploded with this playoff run. Anyone who’s been watching our games will tell you that this was not the Pekka Rinne they were expecting. While he’s generally been hit-miss in the playoffs, he’s stepped up to consistently break the hearts of opposing fans while at same time, making us exhale in relief! While our offense can be inconsistent at times, fast and mobile forwards like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and James Neal have scored plenty. And of course, we have possibly the best defensemen in the league! P.K. Subban has become our public face in advertisements because of his strong play and Roman Josi and Yannick Weber are no slouches either.

The glove of death.

This is probably going to come down to goaltending. Neither Rinne nor Murray seem likely to break, but whoever bends more will likely lose the Cup for his team. So here’s hoping Rinne keeps up his brick wall impersonation.

As indicated, this is the third time in half a year that a team I cheer for is in the big one. Three disappointments would be hard to take. Welcome to Smashville!

Super Mario RPG

Before Paper Mario and the other occasional Mario RPGs like Mario and Luigi: Dream TeamSuper Mario RPG was the first attempt at putting the short, fat plumber into this genre. How did it fare? Well, as a Mario game that furthered the story, it worked well, being actually the first of this series in awhile (Donkey Kong Country having replaced the usual second one two years before) to really further the Super Mario series. It’s got a good story, colorful enemies, and of course, lots of jumping.

It also works as an RPG… but understand that there’s some incorporation of action into it. Not a huge amount of action, but those who play just RPGs because they can’t get comfortable enough with the controller, might find this game to take a little getting used to.

Plot: 8 out of 10

After the shortest rescue of Princess Peach ever, she, Mario, and Bowser are separated as a result of by an attack on Bowser’s castle. It’s been taken over by a group called The Smithy Gang. These baddies prove to be even more dangerous than Bowser was, so upon discovering each other, Mario and Bowser become fri… enemies of enemies. Peach, a star warrior named Geno, and a “tadpole” who looks more like a marshmallow kid named Mallow also join.

But what stands out to me is Bowser having to side with Mario. For the time being, anyway. Future games prove that this changed nothing between them.

I see greed is as much a problem for the mushroom people as it is for humans.

Still, I can’t praise the story too much because this began the de-emphasis of Luigi. While Nintendo’s gotten much better about using him as of late, there was a time that Mario’s brother was forgotten. It started with this game.

Graphics: 10 out of 10

Simply put, this is the best-looking game on the Super Nintendo. A very successful attempt at a 3D atmosphere is made here. This is really the first time Mario and his supporting cast look as as realistic as they do in the promo art.

Sound: 9 out of 10

Squaresoft (now Square Enix) was once known for having the best music in video games. That probably never changed, but its godawful voice actors tainted that until the recent Final Fantasy XV. The music and environmental sounds here are very, very good. Square’s composers knew they were creating a soundtrack for a more cartoonish, humorous game than Final Fantasy and the music appropriately reflects that.

Bowser AND his ghosts as allies! How can you lose?

Gameplay: 8 out of 10

It’s not just generic RPG stuff, though generic RPG stuff is in the game. Walk around, talk to people, get attacked outside of town, fight with weapons, items, and magic).

What stands out is that hey actually incorporate Mario’s jump into this game. You can jump around to get to higher perches and travel on moving platforms.

Walking on clouds also stands out.

Another bit of action put into the RPG genre is Timed Hits. You’re supposed to Push A right before a characters hits or is hit. the magic equivalent of this varies from spell to spell, but don’t worry. the spells that require something unusual for maximum impact tell you.

It’s nothing super-tricky, but again, these two twists can be a new thing for fans of this genre to adapt to.

Challenge: 9 out of 10

The biggest criticism of this game is that it’s too easy. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the difficulty is underrated. It’s not particularly brutal, but the bosses can be quite a challenge if you don’t level up a lot. Additionally, this game has mini-games, perhaps a precursor to today’s sidequests, that make things more fun.

BB pretty much typed my caption for me.

Overall: 9 out of 10

It may not be for everyone, but Super Mario RPG is a true classic in my opinion! Just be sure to expect to have to handle the controller.

Pure playoff team? Predators-Ducks (Round 3) recap.

Preds win!

You’ve heard of chokers, I assume. Players and coaches who deliver except when it matters most. Right or wrong, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Big 10 football, Barry Bonds, Kari Lehtonen, and Alex Ovechkin all have the choke label. Of course, “choke” is one of those strong words that get overused. After all, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Steph Curry, John Elway, and Sidney Crosby were called chokers at some point even though that was obvious bullshit! But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t players and coaches who do choke. Take the Washington Capi… come to think of it, no Washington team has gotten past the second round in forever! And they call Atlanta a cursed sports town…

But what about the opposite breed? The teams that don’t play well except when the lights are on. Take the 9-7 football Giants team several years with a bottom ten-ranked defense that went all the way. A year later, a Ravens team that lost four out of five leading into the playoffs proceeded to win it all! When it counted, they delivered.

Same deal with my Nashville Predators. Whatever happens next week, this is a magical season! You can see it in the home crowds of the playoffs. Yes, we’re assholes to the opposing goalies, but we’re energized in part because of something great happening in Smashville! Even with a 41-41 record and no starting home ice, I still thought we had a shot at overcoming Chicago in Round 1 simply because it’s a rivalry in which the games are usually close. But advancing all the way to the Finals? No way! But maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. We had the same record last season but came a game away from Round 3.

Of course, Pekka Rinne making saves like this makes all the difference.

 

What’s happened is that when the season was on the line, everybody delivered. Pekka Rinne has been playing at a super-elite level, stopping every shot he had to! P.K. Subban has become the amazing piece everybody thought we had traded for last offseason. Roman Josi has only continued to improve.

Even our forwards, the weakest link to our team in spite of their speed, come to play. With John Gibson stepping up his game probably because he knew his fellow Ducks wouldn’t be able to score at will on us like they had on Columbus and Edmonton, we turned it up put the puck in the net some more. I thought we might be done when Ryan Johansen got hurt, but we weathered that quite nicely.

Love the celebrating P.K. Subban and Filip Forsberg or not, you have to admit that they’re fitting teammates.

Some say that Preds-Ducks is a real rivalry because we’ve met in the playoffs three times in a decade. I don’t know, seeing as how we won every single time. Kinda one-sided. Then again, the Nashville fans on social media that I see seem to hate the Ducks for how dirty they often play, even mocking the fact that the Ducks are based on those Mighty Ducks Disney movies of a generation ago. Mutual fan interest counts.

So now we’re in the Finals. I hope to see us win the Stanley Cup. I went through two heartbreaks at the finish line with Alabama football and the Falcons. A third in a matter of months would really suck. Welcome to Smashville!

Trumped by scandal

His usual expression of either arrogance or fury morphs into one new for him: anxiety.

The latest explosive headline concerning President Trump involves him allegedly bragging to the Russians about “nutjob” FBI Director James Comey getting the can. Actually, by the time you read this, it may not be the latest controversy. The Trump scandals are growing in number at a record-shattering pace. After all, it had followed reports that Trump revealed sensitive Intel to Russian officials and that before firing Comey, Trump asked him to drop the investigation into short-lived National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (which would be obstruction of justice).

And this is skipping over a lot of other scandals that have been generated all year.

“I did not have sexual relations with that gentleman, President Putin.”

Of course, Trump is innocent until proven guilty. On the other hand, if Trump were innocent, why does his administration need to change its story so much? Here’s an example: the aforementioned firing of Comey was originally explained by the White house to be over him mishandling and politicizing the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal. That progressives were getting mad at Trump for doing what they had wanted him to do for several months instantly became a right-wing talking point. Problem is, what Trump claimed to be firing Comey for, he had praised at the time it was done.

And you thought he’d at least been consistent since switching from the left of Karl Marx to the right of Genghis Khan! LOL!

But the contradictions didn’t end there. The next morning, Trump contradicted that by saying that Comey just wasn’t “doing a good job” in general. There are other examples of this administration giving multiple explanations for something that some find suspicious.

It’s like the joke about the person sued because his dog bit and injured a neighbor: “First of all, my dog doesn’t bite. Second, he was chained up that night. Third, he’s an old dog with bad teeth, so even if he did bite him it wouldn’t hurt. Fourth, I don’t even own a dog!” That’s the Trump administration. It can’t keep its stories straight.

Good thing the White House can’t seem to draw this or we might be believing a lot of bullshit!

Not that this is quite enough in a criminal trial. That’s what the special prosecutor is for. But on a more personal level, it’s beyond suspicious.

At any rate, this isn’t going away any time soon. Let’s see what develops.

The Jungle Book (2016)

Neel Sethi as Mowgli
Ben Kingsley as Bagheera (black leopard)
Bill Murray as Baloo (bear)
Idris Elba as Shere Khan (tiger)
Giancarlo Esposito as Akela (wolf)
Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha (wolf)
Christopher Walken as King Louie (orangutang)
Garry Shandling as Grey Brother (wolf)
Scarlett Johansson as Kaa (python)
Ritesh Rajan as Mowgli’s father

I was a fan of Disney movies as a child. Haven’t seen any in a long time, though. When Disney decided to remake The Jungle Book, I ignored it. But after the rave reviews for it (and the new Beauty and the Beast), I gave it a shot. I’m glad I did. While the original wasn’t one of my favorites growing up, I must say that this is a brilliant new take on the old story.

Fear the “red flower!”

The story is that in what seems to be ancient times, a human named Mowgli is lost as a baby and raised to childhood by wolves. All goes well until Shere Khan, mightiest of tigers, finds out about him and, fearing that he will grow up to be a hunter, threatens to kill his adoptive family if he is not turned over to Khan. Instead, family friend Bagheera attempts to take Mowgli to his village of birth. But Mowgli doesn’t want to leave the Jungle he’s come to know as home. He meets a carefree, fun-loving bear named Baloo who encourages his defiance. Not that any of this matters to Khan, who makes it clear that he is not flexible on Mowgli’s death.

Voice-overs are excellent! Names like Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, and Scarlett Johansson can be found. For the most part, everybody tries to imitate the voices of the original, and finds great success there. The exception is that Bill Murray is not nearly as energetic as Phil Harris (and Ed Gilbert in the later TV series, Talespin), had ever been. This version capitalizes on more Baloo’s laziness than his partying.

Big blue Baloo looks like a real bear. Odd. more realistic, but odd.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, that Hollywood can’t impress you anymore… I was sure that real animals couldn’t have the mouth movement for talking that the ones in this movie do, but I wasn’t sure. That’s how realistic the CGI in The Jungle Book looks! Incredi-f*cking-ble!

It’s a wonder that CGI hasn’t rendered traditional action movies obsolete, but those Fast & Furious movies keep cleaning up at the box office. At any rate, the action sequences with CGI animals are very exciting and believable.

There really isn’t much to criticize, quite honestly. I do wonder why, since this movie’s King Louie is so big, he needs fire to take over the jungle, but that’s nit-picky stuff. Besides, it’s a children’s movie. Gotta be a little lenient.

Hail to the Chimp!

No, this new version of The Jungle Book is pretty much a classic. Even an adult can enjoy it.

Overall: 9 out of 10

Duck season begins. Predators-Ducks (Round 3) preview.

Vs.

This is one of a few recurring playoff matchups for Nashville in our short history. But the clashes with the Ducks have been different from those with the Red Wings, Blackhawks, and Sharks because we’ve never lost a series to this team. One of those two victories over them wasn’t even the classic Game 7 loss the Ducks used to keep having.

From last year’s memematic

At any rate, despite how dirty the Ducks can play at times I do have some respect for them right now. If we proved unworthy of the media praise until the playoffs began, the Ducks were better than anyone would have imagined. firing Bruce Beaudreau and going back to the guy they had before Bruce seems lampoon-able, but they are in the Western Conference Finals.

It’s not said in hockey news as much as the Caps’ latest inability to get past even a severely beat-up Penguins team or whether the Pens can still do it all with those injuries, but the whisper about how Pekka Rinne is playing out of this world can be heard. As someone who has actually been watching the games, he really has been playing as well as the .951 save percentage he’s put up in the playoffs so far. Defensemen like Roman Josi and P.K. Subban remain as good as ever, blocking many shots, creating turnovers, and even scoring on their own. This is the Preds team as it was hyped up to be after the trade for Subban, not the .500 team that we actually got in the regular season.

By the way, Montreal was eliminated in Round 1. Anyone still think they won the trade?

The Ducks’ path to a deep playoff run has been quite a bit different. John Gibson has been playing badly as their goalie. Don’t let last night’s Game 7 vs. Edmonton fool you. The Ducks are not very good on defense. They do, however, score lots and lots of goals with a firing squad spearheaded by Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. Thus, we have classic offense vs. defense meeting.

I can’t have certainty here because I’m not a believer in the “defense wins championships” line of thought. I’d argue that this happens 55-62% of the time. Certainly not a definitive statement. recent examples of defensive powerhouses in other sports failing in the big one include the 2014 Seahawks, 2015-2016 Golden State, and 2012 49ers. So I don’t think “defense beats offense, Preds in 6” is the way to go.

That said, despite the different coach, the book on beating the Ducks remains the same: Keep the pace down and intercept the puck so their forwards can’t ball out, They will still probably struggle to come from behind if they have to because of our puck-hogging defensemen.

This needs to happen a lot.

Here’s hoping for a good series and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance for the Preds. Welcome to Smashville!