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Monday, February 27, 2012

Winter TV Review

Remember the old days when TV shows debuted in the fall and ran through the spring?  Well, for better or worse, those days are gone.  These days, cable and premium channels produce shows with short seasons consisting of eight to ten episodes.  They start and stop throughout the year.  And the broadcast networks have no patience for shows that get off to sluggish starts in the ratings.  Those shows are removed from the air and replaced in the winter.  As I did in the fall, I did my best to check out a good number of the new winter offerings.  Here are my thoughts.

Alcatraz.  FOX.  Mondays at 9:00.  The premise of this show is that on the night before the famous prison was scheduled to close in 1963, three hundred prisoners and forty guards vanished into thin air.  Now the inmates and guards are reappearing in modern day San Francisco.  Sam Neil leads a secret task force as they try to locate and track down the 63s before they can wreak havoc on the city.  Each episode stands alone as the characters deal with a particular 63 that has reappeared.  The continuing story line is trying to figure out why the 63s vanished, where they've been and who is behind the mystery.  Unfortunately, we may never get to learn those answers.  I really liked this show and look forward to it every week.  I thought that Sarah Jones was especially engaging in her role as a young SFPD detective with family ties to The Rock in 1963.  But, apparently my tastes are  in the minority.  Alcatraz is almost certainly getting canceled at the end of the season.

Luck.  HBO.  Sundays at 9:00.  This is a very gritty series about thoroughbred horse racing.  The action centers around Santa Anita Park.  Virtually all elements of the sport are represented.  Gamblers, casino owners, trainers, jockeys and even vets.  The cast is what initially drew me in to check out the pilot in December.  Dustin Hoffman headlines a group that includes, John Ortiz, Dennis Farina, Jill Hennessy, Nick Nolte and real-life jockey Gary Stevens.  David Milch, the series creator, considers himself to be an avid horse racing fan and describes the series as a "love letter" to the sport.  But, Luck's portrayal of the industry is anything but romantic.  Luck spends a lot of time focusing on the darker aspects of life at the track.  As you'd expect from a show with an HBO budget and only ten episodes required per season, Luck is beautifully shot.  The main criticism I've heard about the show is that the dialogue and some plot points are difficult to follow.  For me, this show is sort of like a car wreck.  Even if you want to, it's hard to look away.  I will continue watching this show, but I cannot give it a ringing endorsement since it is definitely not edifying to the spirit.  Luck has been renewed for ten more episodes to start in January of 2013.

The River.  ABC.  Tuesdays at 9:00.  This show was advertised heavily before it's premier in early February.  ABC was apparently trying to catch the mysterious magic of Lost while working in some supernatural scares.  The show is about a documentary crew searching for a missing crew member in the Amazon.  As such, it is shot in a first person, Blair Witch type style.  I really wanted to like this show.  But, after three episodes, I cut it out of my DVR rotation.  I think that the nature of network television stripped away the intensity required to be truly frightening, and none of the characters were compelling or likable.  That's not a winning combination.  I'm not the only person who was disenchanted by The River.  It is likely to be canceled at the end of the season.

Touch.  FOX.  Mondays at 9:00.  A one hour series preview aired at the end of January.  That episode can still be watched online at the show's website.  Touch will begin airing regularly on March 19, 2012.  This show brings 24 star Keifer Sutherland back to FOX.  That is reason enough to tune in.  But, if you need to know more, this show has an interesting and unique premise.  Sutherland plays the father of a mute, autistic boy.  The boy somehow senses when disaster or tragedy is about to strike.  The boy then uses numbers and codes to communicate this information to his father.  I watched the premier and will definitely watch the show when it begins showing regularly.

Smash.  NBC.  Mondays at 10:00.  This is an unusual show.  At least unusual for me since I'm not part of the Glee following.  The show is about the writers, producers, director and actors who are trying to put together a new Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe.  In addition to the singing and dancing that is part of the play itself, there are other musical numbers scattered throughout the show.  NBC clearly wanted this show to be a success.  They advertised it during almost every Super Bowl commercial break.  Critics seem to like the show, but the ratings have been steadily falling since the premier.  Right now, Smash is teetering on the brink of cancelation.  I have not decided what I think abut Smash, yet.  But, I will stick with it for a few more weeks, and I think NBC should, too.

The Firm.  NBC.  Saturdays at 9:00.  True to the Grisham roots, this show is about a Harvard-educated lawyer who passed on a high-dollar salary to open his own firm where he defends the poor and downtrodden.  Mixed in with the weekly fight for justice is an ongoing plot line concerning organized crime and an unsolved murder.  I like this show.  It's interesting, but it's light enough that viewing remains purely a leisure activity.  The Firm is not set to be renewed for another season, but it seems to be structured in a way that can come to a satisfying end this spring.

Missing.  Debuts on ABC on March 15.  It stars Ashely Judd and Sean Bean.  And it involves international spies and a kidnapping.  What else could we ask for?

Awake.  NBC.  Thursdays at 10:00.  The series premier will be broadcast on TV on March 1, but the pilot is available to view in it's entirety at the show's website.  This show has a lot of promise.  In the opening scene, Detective Britten rolls his car with his wife and son inside.  Then his reality splits.  In one reality, his son is dead.  In the other his wife is dead.  All the while, Detective Britten continues to solve crimes in both realities.  The pilot was excellent.  It looked good.  The story was good.  And the acting was good.  Hopefully, the plot won't get too confusing to keep track of on a week to week basis.  This has the possibility of being the best new show of this year ... fall or winter.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Three Reasons to Watch NASCAR 2012

Last November, I wrote a post called NASCAR: It's All or Nothing.  The point of the post was that NASCAR is far more entertaining and rewarding to watch if you spend some time getting to know the personalities and the back stories.  The 2012 season starts tomorrow with the Daytona 500.  Here are three story lines worth paying attention to as the green flag drops on a new season.

1. The Return of Pack Racing.  The Daytona 500 is the opening race of the year and the signature race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar.  Daytona is one of the two tracks where NASCAR uses restrictor plates.  Talladega is the other.  For years, that meant that the four races held at those tracks featured one gigantic pack of 43 cars traveling at 200 mph.  But the evolution of the cars caused a change last year that most fans were not fond of.  Instead of a large pack, everyone paired up in two-car tandems.  This felt less competitive, and it definitely looked weird.  In order to remedy the situation, NASCAR made several changes heading into 2012.  Those changes included the rear spoiler, the bumpers and the driver radios in the Sprint Cup Series.  After a few practice sessions and some preliminary races, it looks like the changes have been largely successful.  It appears that pack racing will be back in 2012.

2.  Shakeup for the Champ.  Tony Stewart had many successful seasons driving for Joe Gibbs in the #20 car before he decided to try his hand at ownership in 2009 as part of Stewart-Haas Racing.  Last year, Stewart piloted the #14 car to the Sprint Cup Championship.  A rare feat for an owner-driver.  But, Smoke is not resting on his laurels.  Quite the opposite.  Stewart got rid of his crew chief, Darian Grubb, and brought in Steve Addington to replace him.  This was not an indictment of Grubb.  Apparently this move was planned regardless of how the 2011 season turned out.  Stewart was familiar with Addington from his days at Joe Gibbs Racing.  But that wasn't the only looting that Stewart did from his old team.  Stewart also hired his old crew chief Greg Zipadelli to be the competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing.  But, don't shed too many tears for Joe Gibbs Racing.  Darian Grubb ended up back at JGR as the crew chief for the #11 car of Denny Hamlin.

3.  Luck be a Lady.  For the first time in my memory, when the grand marshall grabs the mic at Daytona tomorrow, they will not be able to say, "Gentlemen, start your engines."  Tomorrow, there will be a lady in the field.  Danica Patrick will be starting the 500 in the Stewart-Haas #10 Chevy.  In 2010 and 2011, Danica ran a part time schedule for Junior Motorsports Racing in the Nationwide Series.  This year, she will be running full time in the NNS for JRM, but she will also be making ten starts in the top series for Stewart-Haas.  Her first start will be tomorrow afternoon in the Great American Race.  Why should you care about this?  Well, because it's new and different.  And NASCAR cares about this because it's a marketing opportunity that their male drivers simply cannot provide.  I don't know the statistical, demographic breakdown, but based on my observations, there are a lot of women who are enthusiastic fans of NASCAR.  Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I am by no means a feminist, but I think it's fun to have a girl to root for.  But, Danica will have her work cut out for her.  In her debut in top-shelf stock car competition this week, she ended up on the hook of a wrecker.  One thing is for sure, though ... Win, lose or wreck, Danica will be a topic of conversation any time she starts in a Sprint Cup race.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sports Fashionista: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It's been a month since the last Sports Fashionista post.  The theme for today's post is "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly."

The Good.  NBA uniforms are all over the place right these days.  There are a lot pastels in the league this year.  The Thunder, the Nuggets and the Clippers (at times) are just few examples.  But, the Washington Wizards made a good move this year when they went back to their traditional Bullets colors.  Red, white and blue are appropriate for a team in the nation's capital.  The Wizards' play continues to be horrific, but at least they look good.

The Bad.  This week, Taylormade kicked off it's Driver Love campaign.  The campaign is in support of their new R11S driver.  In order to gin up publicity, the pros on the PGA and European tours who are sponsored by Taylormade had some new gear to show off.  Don't get me wrong.  I love Taylormade.  I play Taylormade.  And, I would actually like to have a hat like this.  But, I am a girl.  This heart motif just looks weird on the men's tour.  Dustin Johnson looked just plain dopey this week.  I couldn't find a picture, but trust me when I tell you that his flat-brimmed style did not improve this heart look.

The Ugly.  As I mentioned before, uniforms have been all over the place in the NBA this year.  The uniforms get especially crazy on throw-back nights.  On January 26, the Memphis Grizzlies donned their vintage jerseys.  The Grizzlies have only been in Memphis for a decade.  Originally, the Grizzlies were born in Vancouver just a few years before that in 1995.  So, with a history that short, what golden era are they possibly hearkening back to?  Well, apparently, Memphis had an ABA franchise for a few years in the 1970's.  And, apparently, that franchise had the most hideous uniforms in the history of basketball.  What made this even worse is that the visiting L.A Clippers decided to break out their pastel throw-backs for the occasion.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's a Mad, Mad Mascot World

I struggled for hours with an appropriate opening paragraph for this post.  I couldn't come up with anything, so I'm going to just be blunt.  Americans are getting ridiculously sensitive and over-analytical when it comes to uniforms and mascots in sports.  I want to start with a little history.

Saltine Warrior
Courtesy of Jennifer Bennett
When I was a little girl, one of the first sports that I passionately followed was Big East basketball.  Back at that time, Syracuse was known as the Orangemen.  That always seemed innocuous enough to me.  Odd but harmless.  So, I was puzzled when Syracuse officially switched their team name to the Orange ... no "men" ... in 2004.  I recently learned that Orangemen was actually a reference to Native Americans.  And, unlike the stately Illini or Seminole, the image that originally went with that name was of the Saltine Warrior.  That lasted until the early 1980's.

I am not very PC, but even I can see why a school might want to move away from that mascot.  And, since Syracuse stopped playing any meaningful football about ten years ago, the warm and cuddly Otto the Orange who replaced the fearsome savage serves them just fine.

Otto the Orange

But, it isn't just racial sensitivity that has made an impact on sports.  An increasing concern with violence has also been growing.  The NBA team located in Washington, DC had been called the Bullets since the beginning of the franchise.  The logo never contained an image of a hollow point or anything like that.  It was always just the word written in a variety of fonts.  In the mid 1990's the team owner decided that Bullets had too much of a violent overtone.  In 1997, the team officially changed it's name to the Wizards.  I'm sure his intentions were good, but if the team really wanted to eliminate violent imagery, they should have taken the word Washington out of their name.  When they got their peaceful name, Washington also adopted prettiest and softest color scheme in all of sports.  Fortunately, the Wizards have gone back to their traditional color scheme of red, white and blue for this season.  Unfortunately, they have been nothing but horrible since the name change.

But, at least the Wizards' change was about marketing as the team was moving forward into a new century.  Major League Baseball, on the other hand, is engaging in revisionist history in order to protect sensitive fans.  This year, the Houston Astros are celebrating their 50th anniversary.  To mark the occasion, the Astros are planning to wear a variety of throwback uniforms this season for Friday night home games.  When Major League Baseball first came to Houston in 1962, the team was called the Colt .45s.  The team changed it's name to the Astros three years later when they moved into the brand new Astrodome.  Naturally, the Astros would be incorporating their original uniforms into their anniversary celebration.  But, MLB stepped in to make sure that history was properly modernized.  MLB approved the throwback unis from the Colt .45 era, but only if the gun was removed.  Of course, seeing as how this is Texas, they might just make up for the deletion by making that Friday, revolver giveaway night.

Created by

A real cougar
But, none of this holds a candle to the over-sensitive silliness that recently took place in Utah.  In the fall of 2013, Canyon Corner High School will be opening up.  The students who will be attending the new school were allowed to vote on the school colors and mascot.  The colors that were chosen were blue, white and silver.  The students chose the Cougars as their mascot.  Not a surprising choice.  From the Panther to the Nittany Lion to the Wildcat, a mountain lion in some form is one of the most common mascots in all of American sports.  Particularly amateur sports.

A "cougar"

But the Canyon Corner school board nixed the vote because they decided that the term "cougar" would be too offensive to middle aged women.  I kid you not.  The school board then declared that the new mascot would be the Chargers.  This is despite the fact that the Chargers weren't even one of the finalists that the students could have voted on.  I don't have a problem with grown-ups making unilateral decisions for schools.  But I am offended at the insensitivity that Chargers shows to the millions of Americans struggling with consumer debt.

In conclusion ... well, I'm just holding my breath until a bunch of New Englanders file a complaint with Major League Baseball about their southern neighbor in New York having a team called the Yankees.  Or a group of rural farmers filing a complaint about glamorizing city life with a name like the Mets.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Dog: Day 2 at Westminster

A new champion has been crowned by the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club.  The 136th Annual WKC Dog Show came to a thrilling conclusion at the Madison Square Garden.  But, before the coveted  Best in Show competition could begin, the final three group winners needed to be crowned.

Sporting Group:  The first group to take the ring was the Sporting Group.  These are the kind of dogs you'd see in the paintings on the walls of Guilded Age drawing rooms.  Setters, pointers and retrievers and such.  There was a lot of energy in this group.  Several of the dogs were jumping and bouncing around during their trip to the center of the ring.  But, Emily the Irish Setter comported herself with poise and grace, and was awarded Best in Group.  This was truly an impressive achievement since Emily just had fifteen puppies in May.

Working Group:  The Working Group is made up of big, strong dogs that were bred for guarding, pulling, and going to war.  Frankly, I find many of the dogs in this group to be a little frightening.  The winner of Best in Group is perhaps the scariest looking breed of the group.  The winner was a Doberman Pinscher.  Although, this Doberman could not possibly have a less ferocious name.  Her name is Fifi.

Terrier Group:  WKC saves my favorite group for last.  The dogs in the Terrier Group have tons of attitude and personality.  That makes them fun to watch in the show ring.  Historically, the winner of this group has done well in the Westminster finals.  As always, the competition was stiff.  Chelsey the Kerry Blue Terrier stood out from the rest and won Best in Group.

BEST IN SHOW:  To start off the main event, the dogs were announced and introduced one at a time.  Each dog received applause from the audience, but the German Shepherd and the Wirehaired Dachshund received the heartiest cheers from the Garden crowd.  But the judge was unswayed by popular opinion.  The winner of Best in Show 2012 is Malachy the Pekingese.

Malachy.  Best in Show 2012

Day One at Westminster

The 136th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show got underway today at Madison Square Garden.  During the afternoon, the best in breed competitions for four of the groups were judged.  A sampling of these competitions was available for viewing online through out the day at the WKC website.  Then the bright lights turned on at the World's Most Famous Arena when Best in Group was awarded in the first four groups.

Hound Group: The first group to take to the center ring was the Hound Group.  This group has a hilarious range of dogs in terms of size.  It includes the enormous Afghan Hound and the petite 13" Beagle.  Last year's best in show came out of this group.  But Hickory, a Scottish Deerhound, is now retired and was not back to defend her title.  So, the road was cleared for Cinders the Wirehair Dachshund to win the group.

Toy Group:  The Toy Group has a lot of unusual looking dogs, including the Pug, the Chihuahua and the Pomeranian.  But, no one was more exotic looking on this night than Malachy the Pekingese.  Malachy took home the prize for Best in Group and should be a formidable competitor in Best in Show.

Spotlights Ruffian
Non Sporting Group:  This group is basically a catch-all group.  Originally, the WKC was only divided into only two groups, Sporting and Non Sporting.  The Hound, Toy and Herding groups all broke off into their own categories.  The current members of the group are the breeds that were left.  Martha Stewart owned a Chow named Ghengis Kahn in this group.  But, it was the Dalmatian that earned top spot in the Non Sporting Group tonight.

Herding Group:  The final group of Day One was the Herding Group.  This group has many easily recognizable and popular breeds, including the Australian Shepherd, the Old English Sheepdog and the Collie.  Over the years, this group has not faired well in the Best in Show.  Manhattan, a German Shepherd in 1987 is the only member of the group to ever win the top prize at Westminster.  Much to the crowd's delight, Capi, another German Shepherd was awarded first place in the group this year.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Do you know who this is?

That is Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform.  Why am I showing you this picture?  It is to remind us that nothing lasts forever.  Even the best sports relationships must eventually come to an end.  Joe Montana played fourteen seasons for the San Francisco 49ers and led them to a perfect 4-0 record in Super Bowls.  But, Montana was in his 30's when he injured his elbow at the end of 1990 season.  Montana missed all of the 1991 season and almost all of the 1992 season.  And so, in 1993, the 49ers traded Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are in a similar situation this off-season.  Manning has played his entire career in Indianapolis.  The Colts were horrific before Peyton arrived in 1998.  By 2001, the Colts were a perennial playoff team.  In 2006, Manning led Indianapolis to a Super Bowl victory.  Manning and the Colts made another Super Bowl appearance in 2009.  Many people doubt that the Colts would now be playing in a state of the art facility or that they would even still be in the city of Indianapolis if it were not for Peyton's heroics on the field, his loyalty off the field and his popularity with the midwestern fan base.

But, Peyton Manning is 35 years old now.  He had made 208 consecutive starts for the Colts before undergoing off-season neck surgery in May of 2011.  Several setbacks from that surgery slowed his recovery.  Although the Colts kept Manning on the active roster all season and paid his entire salary, Manning did not take single snap this season.  The Colts finished 2-14.  They were the worst team in the NFL.  As such, the Colts earned the #1 pick in this April's draft.  A draft that features Stanford's Andrew Luck ... possibly the most heralded quarterback to come out of college since ... well ... since Peyton Manning.

So the time has come for a mutual parting of the ways.  But, a separation between Peyton and the Colts should not be looked at as a divorce.  A divorce implies some sort of conflict or failure.  Rather, this should be looked at as the parting of ways between college roommates on graduation day.  Not a break-up.  Just the end of an era.

Why now?  Well, if Manning is still on the Colts roster as of March 8, 2012, they owe him $28 million.  If Peyton Manning fully recovers (and that is still a big if), is he worth $28 million?  Yes.  To a team that is a quarterback away from a title.  The Colts are not that team.  It was painfully clear all season that the Colts need younger and better players at almost every position.  A complete rebuild is in order.  Free agency and the draft have not taken place yet, but Colts ownership has already started the makeover.  Bill Polian, the GM and architect of the Manning era in Indianapolis, has been fired.  Same with Polian's son.  The coaching staff has been replaced, too.  It is time for the Colts to draft Andrew Luck and let him grow through the rebuild the same way Manning did in 1998.

Parting ways will be good for the Colts, but it might be even better for Manning.  Peyton will be 36 at the start of next season.  Even if he gets back to full health, he realistically has only two or three good years left in him.  If Peyton spends those years with the Colts, he has no chance to make another meaningful playoff run.  The best scenario for Manning is if the Colts decline the $28 million option and allow him to hit the market as a free agent.  That will allow Manning to end up in a new locale without causing his new team to give up current assets in a trade.  This would also allow Manning and his new team to structure a contract that would would allow enough room in the salary cap for the new team to round out a contending roster.

There are two teams that I think would be desirable places for Peyton Manning to spend his golden years.  Desirable for Manning and desirable for the team.  The first team is the Minnesota Vikings.  Last off-season, the Vikings thought they were a quarterback away from contention when they signed Donovan McNabb.  And they might have been right.  Unfortunately, McNabb was no longer a quarterback.  Minnesota plays in a dome.  Percy Harvin is an attractive and young target at wide receiver.  And, if Adrian Peterson's knee heals properly, the Vikings have perhaps the best running back in the NFL.  The major downside to joining the Vikings is that the NFC North will likely be the toughest division in all of football.  The Packers, the Lion and the Bears will all be good teams.

The team that I think makes the most sense for both parties is the Arizona Cardinals.  The Cardinals are not far removed from a Super Bowl run ... a run that was led by an aging and immobile Kurt Warner at QB.  Manning would get to throw to Larry Fitzgerald, one of the top three receivers in the NFL.  The weather is warm in Tempe, and the climate can be controlled with the stadium's retractable roof.  The 49ers are a talented young team, but the rest of the NFC West is not particularly daunting.  Signing Manning is also not huge gamble for the Cardinals.  They will still have a very capable Kevin Kolb at quarterback if it turns out that Manning's neck never really heals.  

Before I wrap up this post, let's look back again to 1993.  How did things turn out for Joe Montana and the 49ers?  Well, in 1993, Montana led the Chiefs to their first ever appearance in the AFC Championship game.  Montana and the Chiefs made another playoff appearance in 1994.  Meanwhile, the 49ers also made the playoffs in 1993 and won the Super Bowl in 1994.   I would love to see the same result for Manning and the Colts in the next few years.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Westminster Dog Show Preview

Hickory.  2011 WKC Best in Show
Football season is behind us.  It's about a month until spring training gets underway.  March Madness isn't until ... well ... March.  And even the Daytona 500 is a couple weeks away.  But, never fear.  Man's best friend will help fill the sports void.  The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will take place on February 13 and 14 at the World's Most Famous Arena.  Okay, I admit that pampered pooches strutting their stuff in front of tuxedo-clad judges might not really qualify as a sport.  But, it is still good fun to watch.  And in mid-February, we need to be thankful for any event that hands out a trophy.

Banshee Blog was in hibernation last year, so some of you might have missed the enormous bitch that won best in show for 2011.  It was a Scottish Deerhound named Hickory.  This is not the sort of dog I'd want to meet in a dark alley.  Or a well-lit alley, for that matter.  But apparently Hickory had perfect teeth and bone structure since she was able to beat out her far cuter competitors.  It does not appear that Hickory will be returning to Madison Square Garden in 2012 to defend her title.

Entlebucher Mountain Dog

There are six new breeds competing at Westminster this year.  The Banshee's favorite new entry is the Entlebucher Mountain Dog.  This beauty will be competing in the Herding Group.  Another new breed is the Xoloitzcuintli.  This dog is the national dog of Mexico and will be competing in the Non-Sporting Group.  The only thing more hideous that the spelling of its name is the way the breed looks.  Yikes!


The competition will take place on Monday and Tuesday, the 13th and 14th of February.  The event will be televised live for three hours each night.  The broadcast airs from 8:00 p.m. till 9:00 p.m. on Monday night on USA Network.  The broadcast will then switch to CNBC from 9:00 p.m. till 11:00 p.m.  The entire three hours will be shown on USA Network on Tuesday night.  Of course, Banshee Blog will also provide extensive commentary on the event.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl Breakdown and Prediction


New York v. New England.  Sunday at 6:30 on NBC.  The lead-up to this Super Bowl has been different than most others I can remember.  When the matchup was first set two weeks ago, the Seers in the Desert immediately installed the Patriots as a 3.5 point favorite over the Giants.  As the money flowed it, the line dropped a bit.  It flirted with 2.5, but ultimately settled in at 3 point spread in favor of the Patriots.  Despite that, you'll be hard pressed to find a pundit on radio or TV this week who is actually picking the Patriots to win the game.  In fact, much of the talk this week has been about why Vegas sees the game so differently than the broadcasters.  Well one thing I know for sure is that if you scoff at the Seers, you do so at your own peril.  But, before the Wild Banshee officially weighs in, lets take a look at a few story lines.

The first story line is the location of the game.  The Super Bowl is being played in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium ... in other words, at the House that Peyton Manning Built.  But, Peyton isn't playing in the game.  Instead, Peyton's arch rival Tom Brady will be facing Peyton's little brother Eli.  If the Giants win, Eli will have two Super Bowl rings to show off on family vacations while Peyton will still only have one.  Another interesting thing is that the Patriots have been designated the home team for this game.  This means that they will be using the Colts' locker room.  So, Tom Brady will likely be dressing for the Super Bowl at Peyton Manning's locker.

Of course, as interesting as all that may be, none of that will impact who actually wins the game.  One thing that might impact the outcome is the health of Rob Gronkowski's left ankle.  The Patriot's tight end suffered a high ankle sprain in the second half of the Patriot's victory over the Ravens. That was two weeks ago, but high ankle sprains are hard to shake off.  Gronkowski finally got back to limited participation in practice the last couple of days.  This is the Super Bowl.  There is no doubt that Gronkowski will suit up and play, but there is some doubt as to how mobile he will be.  The Gronk has been a phenomenon all year.  There is no doubt about that.  And one of the interesting things about the Patriots' offense is that they prefer to use a two tight end formation.  But, the Patriots played a lot of games this year without their other outstanding tight end.  The Patriots coaching staff will find a way to get that offense moving even with a hobbled Gronk.  After all, Tom Terrific and Wes Welker are both healthy.

The problem for the Patriots is going to be on the defensive side of the ball.  I'm not saying this due to the fact that Patriots were statistically one of the worst defenses in the league.  When an offense is as potent at the Patriots offense, the defensive statistics can be deceptive.  The problem for the Patriots is a pure lack of manpower.  Throughout the playoffs, the Patriots have been calling on Julian Edleman, an undersized wide receiver, to play significant time on defense.  Edleman has acquitted himself nicely so far.  But, the Giants have arguably the best trio of wide receivers in the game.  Most likely, Edleman will be asked to guard Mario Manningham.  And, that is an unreasonable request.

And so ... the moment you've all been waiting for.  I am not claiming to be smarter than the bookmakers, but next week, there will be a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in Manhattan.  Banshee prediction: Giants 28, Patriots 24.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cooking with Banshee: Banshee Queso

This is the final installment of Banshee Sports' culinary celebration of Super Week.  This is the easiest and probably the cheapest of all the recipes that have been posted this week.  So, it's perfect for those of you who will be scrambling after church on Sunday to come up with something to bring to your neighbor's house for the big game.

I fully understand that I am not the only person in the world who knows how to make a cheese dip based on Rotel and Velveeta.  Anyone can do it.  And most of you have.  But, that doesn't mean that it isn't delicious.

Queso ingredients:
1 can Rotel
16 oz package of Velveeta
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Queso directions:
Turn a small crockpot on to the low setting.  Cut the Velveeta into small cubes (the smaller the better for purposes of melting).  Put the Velveeta in the crockpot.  Add the can of Rotel to the crockpot.  Juice and all.  Do not drain it.  Put the lid on the crockpot and let the cheese melt.  This will probably take about 45 minutes  Stir the mixture occasionally so that the cheese heats evenly.  When everything is just about melted, add the half can of black beans.  Make sure they are rinsed and drained.  At the very end, stir in the chopped cilantro.

A few tips:
1.  This dip can be served directly out of the crockpot or transferred to a serving bowl.  If you transfer it, the dip gets cool very fast.  If you leave it in the crockpot, keep an eye on it and stir it often.  Once the cheese gets melted, its starts to stick and burn a little.

2.  If you are making this dip for general consumption, use the "original" flavor Rotel.  It's tempting to choose the "hot" version, but that gets pretty intense.  I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but I am giving you fair warning.

3.  You can experiment with the amount of cilantro that goes in the dip, but don't skip it.  The cilantro is what separates this recipe from the generic version on the back of the Rotel can.  That being said, you can always add more, but you can't really take it back out.  I love cilantro, so I use almost an entire bunch. 01 09 10

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cooking With Banshee: Becky Lee's Sweet Chili

As some of you know, my mother is an award-winning chili cook.  She usually wings it.  But, I am a rule-follower.  One weekend, my mother and I worked together to get a perfect chili recipe written down.  I have since made a few tweaks of my own.  This is the result.

This chili has a little kick, but it is a sweet chili.  It is good in a bowl.  But, this chili is perfect on cheese fries and nachos.  There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, and this makes quite a big batch.  You need a very big crockpot or soup pot to contain this whole recipe.

Chili Ingredients:
2 15 oz cans white kidney beans
2 15 oz cans great northern beans
2 28 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel (I use the "hot" flavor but that isn't necessary)
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 tomato paste can full of water

1 cup sugar
2 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs chipotle chile powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbs salt
2 Tbs cumin
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbs oregano (Mexican oregano is best, but I usually can't find it)

4 cloves minced garlic (3 Tbs if you use the minced kind in a jar)
3 diced onions
1/2 diced green pepper
3 jalapeƱos (stemmed, seeded and finely chopped)
1 1/2 lbs ground beef

Chili Instructions:
Combine all the wet ingredients in a crockpot.  (Again, you need a BIG one).  Mix them together.  Add all the dry ingredients.  Mix them in.  Add all the vegetables.  Mix them in, too.  Brown the ground beef in a skillet.  Add the ground beef, grease and all, to the crockpot.  Mix it all up.  Heat it all until it's piping hot.  Crockpots vary but this will likely take several hours.  Like most chili, this is actually better the second day.

A little variation:
Mom adds a can or two of vacuum packed sweet corn.  I agree that is tasty when you're serving the chili straight up in a bowl.  I think it's unnecessary if you are serving the chili on nachos or cheese fries. 01 09 10