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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cooking with Banshee: Grilled Chipotle Shrimp

This is possibly the best dish I've ever made.  To put it in perspective, my parents had guests in town who had driven 500 miles for the visit.  They asked me to cook for their dinner party.  And this is what they asked me to make.  I usually serve this as an appetizer, but it can certainly be the main course if you want to do the surf and turf thing or have some hearty veggies as a side dish.  However you decide to serve this, do not skip out on the cilantro cream sauce.  The sauce makes this dish truly special.  I do want to give credit where credit is due.  I got this recipe from Taste of Home.

Grilled Chipotle Shrimp

Grilled Shrimp Ingredients:
2 lbs large raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1/4 cup adobo sauce (taken from the can of chipotle peppers)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

Shrimp Directions:
In a small saucepan, mix the brown sugar, chopped chipotles, adobo sauce, garlic, water, lime juice, olive oil and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat.  Stir and cook for 2 more minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool completely.  Pour into a large, sealable bag.  Add the shrimp.  Coat evenly.  Refrigerate up to 2 hours.  Turn occasionally.  Place on a grill pan or thread onto skewers.  Grill for 6-8 minutes at medium heat or until the shrimp turn pink.  Turn periodically.

Cilantro Cream Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup cilantro, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbs grated lime peel
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh mint, minced

Cilantro Cream Sauce Directions:
Comine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Serve as a dipping sauce with the shrimp.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Five Reasons to Pay Attention to the NBA

The NBA season got underway this week.  I know that brings a big yawn and an emphatic shoulder shrug from a lot of you.  Yeah, I know there are 82 games.  And I know that half the league makes the playoffs.  But, I also know that there are a lot of fun things to watch during this season.  Here are five reasons to pay attention to the NBA this season.

1.  Return of D-Rose to Chicago.  The Miami Heat have won the last two NBA championships, but they didn't have to face the 2010-2011 MVP to get either one of those titles.  Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the first round of the playoffs in April of 2012.  That injury kept Rose out for all of last season.  Despite having to push on without their best player, the Chicago Bulls still made it to the second round of the playoffs last year and challenged the Heat in a very physical series that was closer than the 5-game elimination would indicate.  This year, Derrick Rose returns to the Bulls at full strength.  It will be a treat to watch him rejoin a group of teammates that were all forced to grow in his absence.

2.  Kobe's Last Gasp.  Maybe this is actually more of a death rattle.  Kobe Bryant is 35 years old.  This will be his 18th season in the NBA.  And last season ended prematurely when he tore his achilles with just a few games left in the regular season.  Bryant currently has five championship rings, and it is pretty clear that he is consumed by the goal of matching Michael Jordan's six championships.  The problem is that when Kobe returns from this devastating injury, he'll be coming back to a terrible roster led by a lousy coach and a clueless heir in the front office.  This set of circumstances will certainly lead to some excellent post game quotes from the Black Mamba.

3.  Superman in Houston.  Yeah, the Dwight Howard drama over the past two seasons was annoying.  But, now that Superman has a permanent home, it will be interesting to see how things develop.  The Houston Rockets are a perfect fit for Howard.  It's a big enough market to be a big star, but the spot light is not so bright that Dwight should be blinded.  James Harden, the other star on this team, is used to being second fiddle and seemed comfortable in that role when he was winning the 6th Man of the Year award in OKC.  And, Dwight now has a coach in Kevin McHale that can teach him everything he was lacking in his offensive game.

4.  The New Look Nets.  It's cool that Brooklyn has a team.  It's even cooler that the Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov opened up his wallet to make sure the Nets make a serious playoff fun in their second year in the Big Apple.  The Nets already had a solid team with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.  But they made a big splash this offseason by adding two future hall of famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.   Prokhorov was also able to convince fellow Russian Andrei Kirilenko to take a $7 million pay cut to come to the Nets.  It will be interesting to see if the Nets can challenge the Heat in the East.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
5.  Good Times in Golden State.  The basketball world is simply better when the Golden State Warriors have a good team.  Last year, the Warriors became the darlings of the playoffs when they upset the Nuggets in the first round and stole two games from the Spurs in the next round.  Led by sharpshooting and youthful guards, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors play a free-flowing and exciting brand of basketball.  And, for this season, they have added a lock-down defender with Team USA credentials in Andre Iguodala.  The Warriors might still be too young to make a serious run at the title.  But, the run will be fun to watch.

These are just five of the many fun reasons to watch the NBA this season.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Deserving Fan Bases

Every professional sports franchise has a hard-core group of truly dedicated fans.  But, when it gets down to the championship games, only two fan bases are left.  The rest of us find ourselves leaning and eventually rooting for one team or the other.  So, what pushes the undecided fans in one direction or the other?  For me, it often comes down to which fan base I think is more deserving of the joy of winning.  What are my criteria for deciding what fans deserve to celebrate?  Here they are, in no particular order.

Joe Nathan dressed as Tony Romo (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
Year-round Devotion.  Most sports fans change their focus to a certain degree depending which sport is in season.  But, putting a pot on the back burner is far different from removing it from the stove altogether.  If you are a fan base that is wholly unaware of the existence of a team until their playoff run begins, then I cannot be excited to watch you hoist the trophy at the end.  This is the reason I can never feel good about the Texas Rangers winning a World Series.  The greater Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is so absorbed by the Cowboys and Longhorns football that they do not even remember that they have a baseball team unless it's actually Game 7 of the ALCS.  If the fan base doesn't think about a team except when the trophy is about to be rewarded, then that fan base simply does not deserve to have the trophy.

Knowledge and History.  You've got to respect a fan base that really understands the game.  The rules.  The strategy.  And the history.  You can actually pick up on this by paying attention to crowd reactions during telecasts.  But, you can pick this up even more if you spend any time on Twitter or Internet message boards.  This doesn't mean that a team needs to have existed since 1906 to be worthy of a title.  The Jacksonville Jaguars come to mind here as a young fan base that still fulfills this criteria.  I've encountered a large number of Jags fans in my real life and online.  These fans get involved in some of the most detailed discussions of draft strategies and defensive schemes that I've ever heard.  And, most of these fans were football fans long before the Jaguars were born in 1993, so they have a healthy respect for the history of the game.  If the Jags ever make another run in the playoffs, I'll be pulling for the folks who have backed them through these down years.
(Steve Ringman/Seattle Times)

Pain and Suffering.  The mere fact that a city has enjoyed recent success doesn't eliminate them from my list of worthy fan bases.  As I stated above, if you're knowledgeable and passionate then you can still be a fan base deserving of a title.  The Red Sox and Cardinals are battling for the World Series right now, and both of their fan bases fit this description.  But, being knowledgeable, passionate and long suffering certainly gets you bonus points in my book.  Cubs fans are the first group that come to mind, but they are hardly alone.  In some ways, the city of Seattle might have it even worse.  The last professional championship brought home to the Emerald City was when the Super Sonics won the NBA title in 1979.  And that team has since been yanked out of town and relocated to Oklahoma City. The Mariners and the Seahawks both have passionate fan bases that have never won a title.

Quality of Life.  I have a hard time getting really excited for a fan base that already gets to live in an awesome place.  I know San Diego has never won a championship.  But, how depressing can a loss
really be when you got to watch the game in sunny 75 degree weather and have a beach right outside the ballpark?  In contrast, I give you the cities of Cleveland and Buffalo.  The fans in those cities have never gotten to celebrate a championship in any major sport.  And, it's hard work being a fan there.  I mean physically hard.  Both cities have frigid, lake effect weather and no pansy domed stadiums to protect their fans.  It's even tough for indoor sports like hockey and basketball.  In order to get to the games, the fans have to dig their cars out of snow drifts in the driveway and then slip and slide across icy parking lots at the arena.  All this just to support a team that has never rewarded them with success.  Compare that to life as a pro sports fan in a lovely city like Charlotte or Phoenix.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Everybody has a busy life these days.  Kids.  Jobs.  Sports to watch.  So, I know it's hard to remember to check in at Banshee Sports on a regular basis.  But, I also know that nobody really wants to miss out on brilliant posts like the Best Sports Tantrums of the Year, the discussion of the Mythical Michael Jordan, the Fan's Voice series of guest posts or yummy recipes like Becky Lee's Sweet Chile.  So, I'm here to help.

I have added a new subscription feature to the right side of the screen.  All you have to do is enter your email address in the box.  Once you've confirmed your email address, you will get new Banshee Sports posts delivered directly to your inbox.  The good news for you is that we're only talking about about 1 or 2 emails a week.  The better news for you is that you will never again miss a Wild Banshee's take on the Redskins nickname or her opinion on football fashion.

But this is America.  Even when something is flat out good for you, I know folks still need a little extra incentive to take action.  So, here's the incentive.  Everyone who subscribes by the end of October will be eligible to win a fabulous ESPN Films Prize Pack.  And, this isn't some stock Amazon package.  I personally selected three ESPN films that I think are truly exceptional and fascinating.  These films will be intriguing to sports fans as well as students of American culture.  The films in the prize pack are The UCatching Hell and You Don't Know Bo.

So, by all means, subscribe to Banshee Sports by email.  And spread the word to your friends.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Banshee Blitz

It's been about 2 months since I've done a Banshee Blitz.  Since that time, a lot of things have happened in the sports world.  I've been a little preoccupied with watching football to many posts.  So, here are some quick thoughts on a few hot topics.

Never Ending NASCAR:  A couple weeks ago, I started writing a column questioning the legitimacy of NASCAR as a real sport in the wake of the pre-chase debacle at Richmond and the subsequent corrective measures taken by Brian France in order to restore what he perceived to be the proper order.  But, before I could really get the column researched and edited properly, I lost interest.  I realized then that the real story here is not how NASCAR operates but that the NASCAR season is way too long.  Don't get me wrong, I still tune in to the fall races.  But only in between the other sporting events of October.  NASCAR begins in February and lasts through the middle of November.  That makes it way longer than even the baseball season.  Sports fans have the entire month of August with nothing to talk about besides their fantasy football drafts.  Instead of filling that block of time with the Chase for the Cup, NASCAR insists on having their playoffs compete with regular season NBA and NHL games and the Major League Baseball playoffs ... not to mention the juggernaut of professional and college football.  I realize that there are a lot of financial considerations that go into this.  But, I did take Econ 101 in college.  And, it seems to me that NASCAR's supply greatly exceeds its demand.

(Tony Avelar/AP)
Breast Cancer is Bad: I think we can all agree that breast cancer is bad.  Really, really bad.  And, I think we can all agree that raising money for cancer research is a worthy goal.  But, can we also agree that the invasion of pink in the NFL makes October games downright difficult to look at?  Every year in October, the NFL encourages the players and officials to wear pink accessories during the games.  This is in addition to giant pink ribbons being painted on the field and pink padding being put on every goal post.  Evidently these pink towels and socks somehow raise money, but no one seems to know exactly how that happens.  What we do know is that hot pink combined with Redskins burgundy or Broncos orange is a hideous site.  Thank goodness that the league at least admitted the error of its ways regarding the pink penalty flags and will be going back to traditional yellow for the rest of the month..

MLB Hides the Ball:  In an effort to make sure that no playoff games competed with each other for television airtime, MLB staggered all of the start times in the first round.  In theory, this is a good idea.  MLB doesn't want to have to compete with itself for viewers.  But with four series going on at once, this plan required half of the games to be played in the afternoons.  That made it nearly impossible for people with jobs to watch at least half of the games.  And that's on the East Coast.  On the West Coast, it's even worse.  In the future, MLB should divide the NL and AL between two networks and allow viewers to use their remote controls.  That way fans could watch half of every game instead of none of half the games.

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
The Beards of Summer:  Take a look around any college campus and you can see that beards are back in style.  But the Boston Red Sox are taking facial hair to a whole new level. I really can't decide if I love these beards or hate them.  It's worth noting, though, that despite all the whiskers, the 2013 edition of the Sox is not an unkempt looking bunch of slobs like the 2004 team.  There's no scraggly hair here.  And there are no sloppy neck beards.  These guys all have nicely trimmed but extremely long beards.  But, in all seriousness, these guys could go directly from the clubhouse to a Civil War reenactment or an Amish barn raising.

Condi on the Committee:  Twitter was all abuzz the last few days over the announcement that Condoleeza Rice will be on the committee of folks who will decide which college football teams will be playing in the 4-team playoff that starts next year.  A couple men who have football credentials and therefore access to the national airwaves stated that Ms. Rice has no business on the selection committee since she never played the game of football.  As a girl who often writes about male sports, I take a little umbrage at that opinion.  And, as a politically conservative woman in the South, Condoleeza Rice is one of my personal heroes.  Regardless of your political affiliation, Dr. Rice's biography is impressive.  I fully endorse her long-stated desire to be the first female commissioner of the National Football League.  And yet, I agree that Condi should not have a vote on who should win the college football national championship.  Why?  Because no one should have a vote on a tiny 4-team playoff.  I don't care if you're a former coach, an AD or a fan like Dr. Rice.  We've already seen the controversy that surrounds the selection committee that assembles the field for March Madness.  And that controversy is over what team should have been a 9th or 10th seed in a 68-team field.  The idea that any committee can satisfactorily select the four teams that get to contend for the college football championship is absurd.  Banshee Sports has previously proposed a revamped system for selecting a national champion.  The changes I proposed were met with several critics stating that college football should not be changed since it is already the greatest thing on the sports landscape.  Well, change is coming whether we like it or not.  The only question is whether we'd rather have the Condi Rice selection committee or a system that actually makes some sense.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

NFL Prediction Report Card

Before the NFL season started, Wild Banshee posted her preseason predictions for each division.  It's hard to believe, but we are a quarter of the way through the year.  That means it's report card time.  Let's take a look at my predictions and hand out some grades.

AFC East:  Before the season started, I dove in head first to swim with the fishes.  I predicted that the Dolphins would win the AFC East.  I'm feeling pretty good about that pick since the Dolphins are 3-1 after four games.  However, the New England Patriots have overcome injuries and distractions and are undefeated after four games.  As proud as I am of the Dolphins pick, it appears that I greatly underestimated the wily Patriots.  Prediction Grade: B+

AFC North:  In the preseason, I was about the only person on earth predicting that the Browns would be a playoff team.  After the Browns started 0-2 start and traded arguably their best offensive player, it appeared I was going to have to eat some crow.  But, three weeks later, the Browns are right there at the top of the division.  And, as I predicted, the Steelers are truly awful.  Even though the Bengals and the Ravens are both 2-2, I still think things will finish just about the way I predicted with the Bengals on top of the AFC North and the Ravens out of the post season. But just for having the guts to pick the Browns to do well, I give myself some extra credit.  Prediction Grade: A

AFC South:  I don't really want to write about this.  It hurts to admit that I've done something this terrible.  Basically, my predictions for this division are more noxious than a dumpster fire.  I predicted that the Texans would run away with the division.  I predicted that the Colts would be mediocre.  I predicted that the Titans would be lousy.  And, even though I was right in predicting that the Jaguars would have a losing record, I was wrong in predicting that they would make some solid strides forward this season.  So, basically, I was wrong about everything I could possibly be wrong about in the AFC South.  Prediction Grade: F

AFC West:  Whew!  I'm happy to move on to the AFC West.  I needed a little boost to my self esteem.  It might have been a no-brainer to predict that the Denver Broncos would be a good team.  But I raised a few eyebrows when I also picked the Chiefs to make the playoffs.  Right now, they are both 4-0 and tied for the division lead.  I think the Broncos are still a significantly better team than the Chiefs, but I expect the Chiefs to remain solid all year.  As with the Browns pick, I give myself some extra credit for picking such a strong turn around for Kansas City.  Prediction Grade: A+

NFC East:  If you have a weak stomach, look away.  Not because my predictions are so bad but because the division as a whole is uglier than Quasimodo.  Fortunately for me, it is the putrescence of the division that actually saves my grade.  The Redskins, my pick to win the division, are a dismal 1-3.  However, they are only one game out of first place.  And the Cowboys, leaders of the division at 2-2, have shown no signs of being capable of running away.  Washington certainly isn't making me look smart, but I get some credit for being fairly certain that no wild card would come out of the traditionally strong NFC East.  But, I realize this grade is still subject to radical change in either direction.  Prediction Grade: B

NFC North:  Wild Banshee predicted that the Bears would win the division and that the Lions would be their primary competition.  I also predicted that Green Bay would miss the playoffs.  This grade feels a little premature since the Packers had an early bye week and have only played three games.  Nonetheless, as I type this article, it is the Bears and the Lions who are tied for first at 3-1, and the Pack are only 1-2.  Not too shabby, Wild Banshee.  Not too shabby.  Prediction Grade: A

NFC South:  Oof.  This is ugly.  I predicted that the Falcons would win the division and that the Buccaneers would be a wild card team.  I'd like to have those picks back.  Not only was I wrong to start the year, but from what I've seen, there is no reason to believe that the early season results are a fluke in any way.  The Falcons are currently 1-3 and have looked dismal.  The Bucs have released ... not benched but released ... their starting quarterback and are winless after four games.  Meanwhile, the Saints are back with a vengeance.  They are undefeated and have actually looked great on defense against solid competition.  Welcome back, Sean Peyton.  My apologies for doubting your importance.  Prediction Grade: F

NFC West:  Before the season started, I predicted that Seattle and San Francisco would both be very good teams.  It looks like I was right about that.  But, I thought that the schedule would give the Niners an advantage in winning the division.  Looks like I might be wrong about that.  Seattle has already handled its business on the road in Atlanta, and the Niners took a physical beating from the Colts at home.  Right now, the Seahawks are 4-0 while the Niners are just 2-2.  But, there is still lots of football to be played, so I'm not gonna hammer myself too bad with this grade at this point.  Prediction Grade: B

Overall Grade:  I did a little math, and it looks like my GPA would be a 3.6.  With two F's on the report card, it seems a little wrong to give myself a B+.  But, who am I to argue with the numbers?  Especially when they work in my favor.  Unfortunately, I think I have a better chance of my good grades dropping than I do of my poor grades rising.  But, we shall wait and see.  Overall Grade:  B-

Think I was too lenient?  Want to make some predictions of your own?  Then, by all means, leave a comment and let me know.

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