Monday, October 29, 2007

Takin' a few days off...

I continue to grapple with my first cold/flu/virus/sinus infection/whatever of the season so I'm going to take a couple of more evenings off to rest and get my act together. As always, prayers are both welcomed and appreciated.

Thanks for understanding.


Chris

Friday, October 26, 2007

Volunteers' season really on the line against South Carolina

It's been a busy couple of days so I'm going to be brief and to the point went it comes to my picks this week. I'm a very tired man.

The Tennessee Volunteers host South Carolina on Saturday and supporters of the program hope this game will help drive away the stench of last week's loss to Alabama. Carolina is 6-2, but lost to Vanderbilt last week 17-6. Coach Steve Spurrier called his team's performance on offense one of the worst he has ever coached.

As for Tennessee, it is difficult to know what to expect. The wins against Georgia and Mississippi State gave hope that the team was starting to come together. However, the defense was horrible against Bama, and given Spurrier's track record, I wouldn't expect his offense to have two terrible games in a row.

If my prediction comes true, things could start getting truly ugly in Knoxville. Very ugly.

The pick: South Carolina 31 Tennessee 23

As for the Titans, they begin a three-game home stand against the Oakland Raiders this Sunday. Quarterback Vince Young is expected to return from injury though back-up Kerry Collins deserves kudos for his performance last week.

Oakland isn't very good on offense and that trend should continue against Tennessee. If there is one area the Titans must improve at, it is scoring more touchdowns when getting in their opponent's territory. It was great that kicker Rob Bironas set an NFL record by kicking eight field goals last week, but that has to change.

The pick: Tennessee 20 Oakland 10

Other SEC picks: Florida over Georgia, Kentucky over Mississippi State, Vanderbilt over Miami (Ohio), Arkansas over Florida International, Auburn over Ole Miss

Other NFL picks: Indianapolis over Carolina, Tampa Bay over Jacksonville, San Diego over Houston, Chicago over Detroit

Last week: 9-2 (.818), Overall: 71-22 (.763)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stephen Colbert is running for president, and that is a good thing

One of the best by-products of a presidential election season is that it produces more political humor than normal.

Last week, Stephen Colbert, host of 'The Colbert Report' on 'Comedy Central,' made his long awaited announcement that he will be running for president. For those of you not familiar with him, his show is a parody of pundit-driven shows that we see on cable news channels.

Colbert's wit is sharp and intelligent, and if there is one field that is ripe for lampooning, it is our presidential process. As important as this process is, it is often full of folks who take themselves too seriously.

Colbert said that he would run both as a Democrat and a Republican because it gives him the possibility to 'lose twice.' He is also touting Russian President Vladimir Putin as a possible running mate.

In a recent column he wrote for 'The New York Times,' he wrote that '...it's clear that the voters are desperate for a white, male, middle-aged, Jesus-trumpeting alternative.'

It should be a fun year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vandy's dream of going to a bowl on the verge of happening

Back on June 12, I took the plunge and predicted that Vanderbilt's football team would return to a bowl game this season for the first time since 1982. The upset of South Carolina last Saturday was just the jolt they needed to keep that dream alive.

After going 3-1 to start the season, the Commodores lost back-to-back games to Auburn and Georgia. True, Auburn and Georgia aren't slouches, but the team definitely looked like it was beginning to fade.

However, the win at South Carolina puts them back on track to reach this goal.

Five games remain, and they need two more wins to become bowl eligible. A team has to have six wins to qualify for a bowl. Where will those wins come from? The schedule is challenging the rest of the way.

Win number five should come this week against Miami of Ohio. After that, Vandy plays at Florida, Kentucky at home, at Tennessee, and Wake Forest at home. Assuming a win this week, they will have to win one of those final four games.

Of course, Kentucky is much better than expected this year and playing at Florida is always a grind. Vandy won at Tennessee in 2005 so that is a possibility, while Wake Forest is having a solid season following last year's ACC championship and trip to the Orange Bowl.

The bottom line is if Vandy wants to go to a bowl, then they will have to earn it.

There are no cupcakes down the stretch.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Paul McCartney offering $50 million to make wife go away

Last week, it was reported that former Beatle Paul McCartney has offered $50 million to end his marriage to his estranged wife Heather.

That's a lot of money. I don't know how much that would weigh in cash, but I think it is safe to classify it as a 'ton of money.'

Of course, Paul isn't exactly hurting when it comes to finances. He's a billionaire so we shouldn't worry too much about that.

Still, $50 million for a marriage that only lasted five years seems like a steep price.

In a case like this, it's impossible to know who has the moral high ground because there have been charges of misconduct from both sides. However, I do think there are a lot of people who would marry rich spouses if they knew there was a big pot of gold waiting for them after a few years.

I'm not saying this is the case here because I obviously know nothing regarding these two people.

It's just that money is a big factor when it comes to the decisions we make, and for many, that includes decisions about relationships.

Maybe I'm being cynical. Well, on this issue, color me cynical.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tennessee vs. Alabama is among college's best rivalries

The Southeastern Conference is the nation's best when it comes to college football, and one of the traits that make it so good is that the rivalries are among the deepest and most passionate in sports. Auburn vs. Alabama, Florida vs. Georgia and others are match ups that catch the attention of sports fans all over the country.

This week Tennessee visits Alabama in a match up that is of that magnitude. It is a bitter rivalry. Anybody who watched Alabama fans in recent years try to blame Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer for their program receiving substantial probation from the NCAA can testify to that.

This year, Bama Nation has been in a frenzy over the arrival of new head coach Nick Saban. So far, the Tide is experiencing success, but they have played a lot of close games. Conference games against Arkansas, Georgia, and Ole Miss all went down to the final seconds. Even their non-conference game against Houston ended with the Cougars passing the ball into the end zone with a chance to win in the final seconds. They didn't but it illustrates that Alabama's games have been a thrill a minute this year.

As for Tennessee, the Vols are slowly getting their act together. Tennessee has won three in a row, including their win last week at Mississippi State. Probably the most significant development during this streak is that we have run the ball well. Against State, we ran for 230 yards against a very physical defense.

Fulmer has been under a lot of heat this year, but one trump card he can always play is that he has been very successful against Alabama. He is 11-3 against them. This means a lot to Tennessee fans because one of the biggest knocks against his predecessor Johnny Majors was that he struggled against the Tide. Majors only had a 4-12 record against them and that seemed to always overshadow the many successes he had while at UT.

As for this year, all indications are that this will be another close game. The teams have split their last two meetings with the margin of victory being three points in each game.

It's going to be a close game that will make what's left of my hair turn gray.

The pick: Tennessee 27 Alabama 24

As for the Tennessee Titans, they couldn't quite pick up another ugly win against Tampa Bay last week. This week, the Titans visit divisional rival Houston. All divisional games are big, but if Tennessee can win, it will be their second divisional road win. They beat Jacksonville on the road in week one, and road wins like this are worth their weight in gold.

Of course, the big question is the health of quarterback Vince Young. He injured a quad (thigh muscle) against Tampa Bay, and the prospects of him playing are iffy. We are fortunate to have an experienced back up like Kerry Collins, but losing Young would be a big blow.

Still, I've got a good feeling about this game. The defense continues to blossom and deserved better last week. Expect another ugly game this week, but a different outcome.

The pick: Tennessee 17 Houston 16

Other SEC picks: Florida over Kentucky, South Carolina over Vanderbilt, Arkansas over Ole Miss, LSU over Auburn, West Virginia over Mississippi State

Other NFL picks: Indianapolis over Jacksonville, Dallas over Minnesota, Denver over Pittsburgh, New Orleans over Atlanta

Last week: 6-5 (.545), Overall: 62-20 (.756)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Question of the day

Why does Kentucky Fried Chicken use the song 'Sweet Home Alabama' in most of its radio and television commercials?

After all, it is Kentucky Fried Chicken. What's the connection with Alabama?

I don't get it.

Just another example of 'the man' keeping me down.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New John Fogerty CD is good and completes his return home

John Fogerty's latest CD was released earlier this month and is a return to the stomping grounds where he first made his name. Titled 'Revival,' it is his first new studio album since returning to Fantasy Records, and it is a good rock and roll record.

Fantasy Records is where he first came to prominence as the leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival, writing and producing such classics as 'Proud Mary,' 'Green River,' 'Fortunate Son,' and 'Up Around the Bend.' However, Fogerty left Fantasy shortly after CCR broke up in 1972 because of numerous disputes and remained estranged from the label until just a few years ago.

However, Fantasy's new owners began working with him to resolve the problems of the past, which culminated with Fogerty re-signing with the label. There is a lot of positive buzz around him right now, and the new album has gotten reviews ranging from 'good' to 'glowing' ('Rolling Stone' magazine review, 'USA Today' feature).

The album covers a lot of subject matter, ranging from semi-spiritual ('Don't You Wish It Was True') to reflective ('Broken Down Cowboy') to foot-stomping rock and roll ('It Ain't Right') to left wing politics ('Long Dark Night' and 'I Can't Take It No More') to nostalgia ('Summer of Love').

It is the best thing he has released since his Grammy-winning 'Blue Moon Swamp' back in 1997 though it doesn't quite reach the heights of that album. However, it is a good one.

Monday, October 15, 2007

'In the Shadow of the Moon' is a documentary worth seeking out

'In the Shadow of the Moon' is a new documentary that tells the story of the Apollo moon missions and includes new interviews with many of the astronauts who are still alive. The film was beautifully made and the first-person accounts of the astronauts bring a lot of flavor to it.

A well-made documentary is often more entertaining than the big-budget films Hollywood produces. After all, films are nothing more than storytelling, but sometimes the makers of big-budget films think they have to 'Wow!' us with a lot of spectacular effects. Not so. All I want is compelling subject matter that is told well.

And this film tells its story very well. Other than the astronaut interviews, the film's best aspect is that it relies on archival footage from NASA, the major television networks, and other sources to tell the story. Using footage like this allows the viewer to take in these events much like people did almost 40 years ago.

These days, documentary makers tend to rely on dramatizations and re-enactments to communicate historic events. Big mistake. I guess filmmakers believe they are being more creative when they do it that way. Or maybe they think audiences aren't sophisticated enough to appreciate an archival approach.

As with many documentaries, this film is not appearing in many theaters. I had to drive 60 miles to see it, and it was only in one theater in Nashville. If you can't find it near you, seek it out when it comes out on DVD. It is well worth your time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Groups want to carve country into tiny little pieces

It is no secret that our country is splintering when it comes to a vision of what the United States should be.

The last two presidential elections have been obvious examples of that. New England, the Upper Midwest, and the West Coast voted solidly Democratic while almost everything else went to the Republicans.

So, it should come as no surprise that there are groups who want to take that splintering one step further. Their dissatisfaction with our nation's current path is so upsetting that they want to take the permanent step of seceding from the United States.

Recently in Chattanooga, groups favoring this idea met at a two-day secessionist convention. Though the groups agree on secession, the reasons they want to break away from the country vary greatly, according to an Associated Press story on the meeting.

For example, in the very liberal state of Vermont, a group called the Second Vermont Republic is fed up because of issues like the Iraq War and high oil prices, according to the AP story.

On the other hand, there is the League of the South that emphasizes issues like stopping illegal immigration as well as promoting what it feels are traditional Southern values.

Even though their approach to specific issues may vary, the one point they agree on is the federal government has overstepped its role in how it impacts the everyday lives of Americans.

They feel the federal government has gone too far, and it is time for a big change.

I believe we can all understand where these groups are coming from to a certain degree. All of us can pick out federal government policies and programs that we feel are wrong and are a burden on citizens.

The tax burden we all feel is probably the number one way the federal government impacts our lives, and it would not be an understatement to say federal taxes are way too high.

Couple that with how bloated and inefficient the government seems to be and the temptation to blow everything up and start over can be a very appealing one. And what better way to start over than to just secede from the United States and start a brand new country.

Though this is tempting, the chances of it happening are zero. It simply is not in our country's best interests, and if any of these groups ever got the power to make it happen, they should be stopped in their tracks.

Think about it. What would life be like if the United States were to splinter into several different countries?

While some would argue that there is little to fear from a small republic where Vermont currently is or a small country made up of Southern states, the geo-political challenges of such a landscape would make life much more difficult.

I hate to even make the comparison, but if the United States fractured into several countries, we would be much like Europe.

In Europe, within just a few hundred miles, there are vastly different cultures, and as history has shown us, they have often disagreed in ways that have turned the world upside down.

Would this happen if America splintered?

Of course, it would. If a person doubts this, all one has to do is study the Civil War. Among the most important results of that conflict was that it preserved the United States as one country.

If the South had won, the splintering of the nation would have continued as we expanded westward because once something is broken, it becomes easier to tear it into smaller pieces.

I guarantee that all of our personal histories would have dramatically changed if that had happened.

The people promoting secession likely believe doing this would solve a lot of the problems they face where they live. However, it wouldn't.

Any country where freedom is cherished will always have serious issues with which it must grapple. The way 'freedom' is defined varies sharply among a culture as diverse as the United States.

Because of that, there will always be a certain amount of tension and conflict when it comes to managing our country.

Seceding would change things, but it would create a whole new set of problems.

Utopias don't exist.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Volunteers will continue to roll this Saturday at Mississippi State

The Tennessee Volunteers hit the road this week visiting Mississippi State. Last week, the Vols easily played their best game of the year in beating Georgia 35-14. Now the question is whether or not they can sustain that level of play from one week to the next.

Mississippi State's biggest liability is that they are one-dimensional on offense. They can't throw the ball and rank last in the conference in passing offense. However, they have a solid running game, averaging 161 yards per game. Anthony Dixon is their best running back. He ran for 152 yards against Alabama-Birmingham last week and is averaging 97.7 yards a game.

Though the Bulldogs have improved this year, they can't match Tennessee's athleticism. The Vols will simply have too much speed for them to handle. They will have some success running the ball, but expect Tennessee to run it effectively as well. Tennessee ran for 190 yards against Georgia, and it is no secret that they are most successful when they can mount a consistent ground game.

State is quietly having a nice year. Earlier this year, they beat Auburn on the road. Of course, Auburn made headlines a couple of weeks ago when they upset Florida at The Swamp. Mississippi State is 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the SEC with its only losses being to LSU and South Carolina.

In this game, quarterback Erik Ainge will continue his excellent season and Tennessee's speedy receivers will make big plays. The Vols could be emotionally flat after last week's important win and a big game against Alabama looming next week.

However, whatever hangover they have will disappear quickly.

The pick: Tennessee 31 Mississippi State 17

If a person needs further evidence that the Tennessee Titans are a legitimate playoff team this year, all he has to do is look at last week's win over Atlanta. Good teams find a way to win even when they are playing well below their potential and that happened against the Falcons.

Five turnovers and sloppy special teams put the Falcons in an excellent position to win. As good as quarterback Vince Young is, he had three interceptions and made poor decisions that reminded us he is only in his second year. However, the defense saved the day. Vincent Fuller returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth made a remarkable play when the Falcons had the ball on the Titans one-yard line late in the game. Never has a 20-13 win looked so sweet.

This week, the Titans hit the road to play Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are 3-2 but are coming off a 33-14 loss to Indianapolis. Quarterback Jeff Garcia is steady, but they have had a lot of injuries in the backfield. Last week, they only rushed for a total of 17 yards. Given how well Tennessee is defending the run, the Bucs' troubles running the ball will likely continue this week.

Look for Young to bounce back and have a nice game. Tampa Bay is solid on defense so don't look for big numbers from Young or the running game. However, the Titans' offense only needs to be good this week, not great. After last week's performance, they have nowhere to go but up.

The pick: Tennessee 21 Tampa Bay 17

Other SEC picks: LSU over Kentucky, Georgia over Vanderbilt, South Carolina over North Carolina, Alabama over Ole Miss, Arkansas over Auburn

Other NFL picks: Jacksonville over Houston, Cincinnati over Kansas City, Chicago over Minnesota, New England over Dallas

Last week: 11-3 (.786), Overall: 56-15 (.789)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A doughnut isn't worth doing hard time....or is it?

All of us have done impulsively stupid things at some point in our lives, but in most cases, there were no long-term consequences to face.

However, consider the situation of Scott Masters of Missouri who was recently accused of swiping a doughnut from a store but could face up to 30 years in prison, according to an Associated Press report.

According to authorities, he allegedly pushed a clerk away as she tried to prevent him from getting away with the doughnut. The contact is being considered simple assault, which transforms the misdemeanor shoplifting charge to a strong-arm robbery.

That, along with his previous criminal record, could result in him getting 30 years.

For his sake, I hope the doughnut had sprinkles on it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Is Sting the worst lyricist of all time?

According to 'Blender' music magazine, Sting is the worst lyricist of all time. In a survey that will appear in its November issue, he topped a list of well-known names. Rush drummer Neil Peart was ranked No. 2, followed by Creed's Scott Stapp at No. 3, Oasis's Noel Gallagher at No. 4, and Dan Fogelberg at No. 5.

Though a list like this is entertaining, it also comes across as a big cheap shot to me. However, it comes with the territory. When a person or group submits music to the public, they know they will face either applause or boos.

At least 'Blender' had the backbone to take on people who have some standing. Many times, lists like this just re-hash a lot of whipping boys that critics and the public love to ridicule. Though I haven't paid attention to Sting for almost 20 years, it surprised me that he topped the list. However, part of the reason I haven't paid attention to him is that I've always thought he was overrated.

Still, is he the worst of all time? Just about any song Journey ever produced was packed with enough sweet clich├ęs to make a person swear off sugar forever. Plus, there were a whole slew of big-hair bands in the 80s that produced some of the most forgettable lyrics I've ever heard. Then again, maybe those are the whipping boys I mentioned in the previous paragraph that are too easy to make fun of.

As for Sting, I seriously doubt this will get him down. If it does, all he has to do is crawl on top of his big pile of money and blow kisses down to the editors of 'Blender.'

I'm sure the view is quite spectacular up there.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Nashville Predators off to a blistering start

The National Hockey League quietly began its new season last week, and our Nashville Predators started with two impressive home wins. In beating Colorado 3-0 and Dallas 5-1, it had to bring a smile to the faces of fans who had concerns after an off-season filled with uncertainty.

I won't re-hash all of that, but the fast start by the team was certainly a relief. Obviously, attendance is a big concern heading into the season. Though neither game sold out, attendance was pretty good. More than 16,000 attended the Colorado game and 13,000 showed up for the Dallas game. Of course, that was the announced attendance, which is often a little higher than the actual paid attendance.

For those who are thinking those numbers are weak, Nashville wasn't the only club to post less than capacity attendance numbers to start the season. It amused me that Detroit didn't sell-out its home opener. I guess "Hockeytown" ain't quite "Hockeytown" anymore.

I am only a casual hockey fan so I won't pretend to provide insight about the team. I know some of you who read this blog follow hockey and the Predators a lot more closely than I, so please post comments regarding how you feel about this year's team. The general consensus I've heard is that the team isn't close to last year's squad, but what I've seen so far has me encouraged. Goalie Chris Mason did a great job the first two games.

Additionally, anybody reading this who hasn't attended a Predators' game needs to go. Seeing hockey in person is a lot more fun than watching it on television. Television doesn't do hockey justice.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Never hand a mad man the microphone

Recently, we witnessed an unusual sight when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke as an invited guest at Columbia University in New York.

Ahmadinejad is easily one of the world's most dangerous men, and the invitation extended to him by the school ignited considerable controversy. It is not often that a prestigious university rolls out the red carpet for somebody who is one of the biggest supporters of terrorism in the world, so it was an unusual event to say the least.

Many consider Ahmadinejad to be nutty, and his position on many issues would support that conclusion.

He believes the Jewish Holocaust that took place during World War II did not occur, and he said during his talk at Columbia that there are no homosexuals in his country.

As for his position on the Holocaust, it makes sense when studying his pattern of anti-Semitic behavior. He has called for the destruction of the state of Israel and clearly is not a friend of the Jew.

As for his ridiculous claim about no homosexuals being in his country, it makes one ponder just how he would know something like that.

His country is certainly known for being oppressive so would it really surprise anybody if he had governmental agencies spying on people's sex lives? Whether it was in Nazi Germany or modern day Iran, minority groups like homosexuals are easy targets for the government.

The bottom line is if he is spying on homosexuals he is probably spying on a lot of other minority groups, maybe even religious minority groups like Christians.

As for his talk at Columbia, the big question is whether or not he should have been invited.

I believe the invitation was a mistake.

Those who defended the invitation said it was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how freedom of speech works in our country. They said it would help highlight important differences between our country and Iran because America is a melting pot when it comes to expressing ideas, while Iran is not.

While I am the first amendment's biggest fan, I don't see how giving this man a forum contributed to the marketplace of ideas in a constructive way.

He has plenty of other avenues in which to promote his warped perspective of the world.

If nothing else, his appearance at a prestigious university like Columbia legitimized his status as a relevant leader. After all, if he can be welcomed by an academic giant like Columbia, many will recognize him as somebody who has something important to say.

True, Columbia President Lee Bollinger did attempt to challenge Ahmadinejad on many subjects, but he was a lightweight in the presence of a master.

As he has many times before, Ahmadinejad ducked and avoided his questions in a skillful way. He didn't lay a hand on him.

What Bollinger should have remembered is that the main purpose of universities is to educate and develop the perspective of its students. Was that accomplished with this visit?

I don't believe so. All it did was expose them to a dangerous man with dangerous ideas. Surely, if these students are bright enough to go to Columbia, they already understand that there are unstable rulers in the world.

It did not require giving this man a forum in the media capital of the world to make this point to the students.

The best summary of why this was a bad idea was given by Abraham H. Foxman in a guest editorial in "USA Today."

Foxman, who is national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote: "In the final analysis, there is only one relevant point about whether he should have been invited: the great need in the world today is to make a moral statement to isolate this individual, not give him legitimacy. His ideology of hatred and Iran's building of a nuclear weapon to implement that ideology are the greatest threats to civilization as we know it. Columbia should have taken a stand that some ideas are simply not acceptable."

Sometimes ideas and people are so bad that they need to be rejected from the marketplace of ideas with extreme prejudice.

Ahmadinejad is somebody who needs to be confronted firmly. He should not be invited to places like university campuses where he can be politely applauded and face minimal resistance.

Bad men should be treated appropriately.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Volunteers play their latest 'Game of the Year' this Saturday against Georgia

Tennessee hosts Georgia on Saturday in a game that at least one sportswriter has hyped as the biggest game for Coach Phillip Fulmer since the Volunteers played Florida State for the national championship nine seasons ago. I wouldn't go that far, but there is a lot riding on the game for both Fulmer and the program.

The program is not what it once was, and the two lopsided losses to California and Florida have poured salt into wounds that have festered since the forgettable 2005 season (in which we finished with a 5-6 record). We have played poorly against good teams this year. Georgia is not the caliber of Cal and Florida, but they are a solid club that has repeatedly shown the ability to play well on the road. Their win at Alabama two weeks ago was especially impressive.

With Florida's loss to Auburn, the Eastern Division is wide open again especially since there is a good chance the Gators will lose to LSU this weekend. Both Tennessee and Georgia already have one conference loss so the loser of this game will be at a significant disadvantage the rest of the way when it comes to winning the division. Simply put, both teams have to have this game.

The bottom line is that Tennessee's defense has consistently given up back-breaking big plays even against lesser opponents like Arkansas State. The offense has played well, but it has allowed opposing defenses to return turnovers for touchdowns in three games. Additionally, our punt coverage team stinks.

My heart really wants to pick the Volunteers, but I followed my heart instead of my head when I picked them to beat Florida. Not this time. The Vols haven't shown the skill to beat a top notch team yet.

Prove me wrong, guys.

The pick: Georgia 34 Tennessee 27

As for the Tennessee Titans, they return to action against the Atlanta Falcons this week.

On the surface, it might appear that not playing last week was a good thing for them, but I am not so sure. They played extremely well the first three games, and I hated to see that flow get interrupted. Teams often are a little rusty after having a week off, so let's hope the Titans get their mojo back quickly.

The Falcons and Titans are bonded in a unique way in that both teams know what it is like to be distracted by a star player. Of course, 'Pac-Man' Jones was a distraction for the Titans the last couple of years, while the Falcons had to deal with the Michael Vick circus. The absence of these players obviously impacts this game, but the Titans appear to be weathering the storm quite well without 'Pac-Man.' I wonder if he is noticing.

The Falcons got their first win last week by beating the Houston Texans. I’m glad they won because it might have been a bit tricky if they had come here winless. Even bad teams in the NFL have a lot of talent and at some point the Falcons will begin shaking off their Michael Vick haze.

It won't be this week. The Titans will likely struggle early in the game and look for it to be close heading into the second half. However, quarterback Vince Young has the knack of converting critical third downs, and the defense is really beginning to mature.

The pick: Tennessee 24 Atlanta 16

Other SEC picks: LSU over Florida, Kentucky over South Carolina, Auburn over Vanderbilt, Alabama over Houston, Arkansas over UT-Chattanooga, Ole Miss over Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State over Alabama-Birmingham

Other NFL picks: Indianapolis over Tampa Bay, Jacksonville over Kansas City, Houston over Miami, Green Bay over Chicago, Dallas over Buffalo

Last week: 10-3 (.769), Overall: 45-12 (.789)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Speed eating contests make me queasy

In the latest chapter of contests where eating like a pig is rewarded, Pat Bertoletti of Chicago ate 21 pounds of grits in 10 minutes to win the World Grits Eating Championship in Louisiana last week.

I've never been a big grits fan even though I have lived in Tennessee my entire life. The idea of eating an amount of this stuff that equals one-ninth of my body weight like Bertoletti did is definitely not something I crave. It just isn't up my alley.

Additionally, the allure of speed eating contests like this one mystifies me. How do people come to realize that they have this talent? Do they wake up one morning and think, "Hmmmmmmm. I wonder if I can eat 21 pounds of grits in 10 minutes?"

Is this something they train for? Do they gobble down eight pounds one day then go for nine pounds the next to build up endurance? Or do they just starve themselves for a long time and start woofing it down when the bell rings during the competition?

Back in the summer, Joey Chestnut won a hot dog eating contest by eating 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Think about that for a moment. I enjoy a hot dog when I go to a football game, but think about eating that many of them that quickly.

However, that was a very impressive record for Chestnut. Based on what I know about the impact of hot dogs on the body, I bet he broke another record about 30 minutes after that competition was over.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The beauty of horrible movies

I enjoy good movies, but a movie can still be entertaining even when it is horrifyingly bad. I was reminded of that the other day when I stumbled across "Plan 9 from Outer Space" when I was flipping the channels. Even casual movie fans know this flick is considered by most critics to be the worst movie of all time.

Directed by Ed Wood, it is a masterpiece for all the wrong reasons. Cheap sets, wooden acting, stilted dialogue and more contribute to the fun. Several years ago, director Tim Burton made a film about Wood's life (appropriately titled "Ed Wood") and is well worth seeing if you missed it. A significant chunk of the film deals with the filming of "Plan 9..." It stars Johnny Depp and has a strong ensemble cast.

As for "Plan 9..." its plot primarily deals with aliens trying to impose their will on America. There are many things that make this film hilarious, but the best example is how Wood dealt with the death of actor Bela Lugosi. Lugosi died during the film's production, but instead of re-shooting Lugosi's scenes, he kept him in the film.

However, Wood also hired a replacement actor to shoot the remaining scenes involving Lugosi's character. So, two actors are playing the same character in the film. Actually, calling the replacement an "actor" is a stretch because he was a chiropractor by profession.

It didn't help that the chiropractor/actor looked nothing like Lugosi. In fact, he looked so different that Wood had him hold a vampire's cape over his face in every scene he was in. I guess Wood thought nobody would notice.

If you haven't seen this film, it is a hoot and well worth your time.

And while you're at it, also check out “Road House” with Patrick Swayze.

Oh, baby, it's bad.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Martin Scorsese to direct George Harrison documentary

For fans of The Beatles, there was good news recently when it was announced that Martin Scorsese will direct a documentary about the life of George Harrison.

Scorsese is one of the best directors of his generation and has a successful track record when it comes to documentaries involving rock and roll figures. He directed "The Last Waltz," which recorded the farewell performance of The Band (though they resurfaced in various forms after that). He also directed a well-received documentary about Bob Dylan in 2005 titled "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan."

As for Harrison, the "quiet Beatle" may finally get the attention he deserved during his life. The other three Beatles had more extroverted personalities and that guaranteed he would be lost in the shuffle somewhat.

However, one of the most interesting aspects of The Beatles' story was how Harrison began to flower as their career progressed. Early on, he seemed almost content to stand in the background. Slowly, he began to help shape their sound by introducing instruments like the sitar.

By the time the band was nearing its break up, he was writing songs that were as good as John Lennon's and Paul McCartney's. On the "Abbey Road" album, how many of their songs measure up to Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" or "Something"? Not many. Certainly, Lennon's "Come Together," but Harrison's songs hold up better than just about any other song on the album.

Hopefully, this documentary will give Harrison the treatment he deserves.