Ranking my teams
Today, due to an overwhelming volume of 'no-work', I decided to register myself on ESPN.com. Doing so allows you to customize your home page, so that the scores of teams you are interested in given priority. For instance, "My ESPN" box that comes on your home pages gives your drop downs of any five teams you want to key on. In order to get the customization, you have to fill out a registration form, with some basic information.

They have two sections where you are asked to start customizing your 'My ESPN' section. The first is called MY FAVORITE TEAMS, and you are asked to insert your favorite teams in order of preference. I have lived in several different areas of the east coast, notably Western New York, Philadelphia, and currently Washington D.C., each with its own sports franchises. What turned this rudimentary registration exercise into a thought-provoking process is that the teams are not separated by category. Which means I was forced to ask which team means more to me, for instance, The Bills or the 76ers?

The criteria I used was this: Which team would I prefer to win a championship? I don't know of any other blogger to do this as a meme, so I can claim complete and autonomous control. As such, after quite a bit of shuffling, here is my official order of preference:
  1. Penn State Nittany Lions
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. Buffalo Bills
  4. Duke Blue Devils
  5. Philadelphia 76ers
  6. Washington Wizards
  7. Philadelphia Phillies
  8. Chicago Cubs
  9. Philadelphia Flyers
  10. Buffalo Sabres
  11. Washington Nationals
  12. N.C. State Wolfpack
  13. Pittsburgh Steelers
  14. Washington Redskins
  15. St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Obviously, I love my Nittany Lions, so that shouldn't be any kind of surprise. Taking note, there are four different NFL teams, separated by a wide berth. Since I spent considerable amount of time in WNY and Philly, and I have family in both places, the Bills and Eagles could be interchanged. I really doubt they'll ever meet in the SuperBowl (could be the 7th sign of Armageddon), but if that day comes I'll be hard pressed to root for anyone. Okay, I have to give it to the Bills, really, because of the four straight losses, but hey, the Eagles had T.O. Isn't that an equivalent hardship? As for the Steelers and Redskins, I have friends who are fans, but by no means does that mean I'm going to sell out my own dreams to support them if push comes to shove, hence the lower-level listing.

Next on the list is a point of contention with many college basketball fans that I know. I never went to Duke, I've never been to the campus, and I went to Penn State, so how can I root for those dreaded Blue Devils? Simply, I started watching them in 1985 and liked their style. Now, if they ever happened to play Penn State (probably more likely in the Big Ten -- ACC Challenge than the Big Dance, at least this year), I would of course root for PSU (hence the chart, for reference).

Then we get to less relevant sports, like NBA Basketball, baseball, and hockey. Truly, I don't get interested in these sports until near or into the playoffs. My litmus test for sports is the length of the season: the shorter the length, the more meaningful and hence interesting the games. I can't possible care about a baseball game played in June that counts 1/162 toward the season. College football is the only sport that could benefit from a couple more games, in the form of a playoff system, but that's just preaching to the choir. Anywho, I grew up watching the Cubs on WGN after school, which would explain the Midwest anomaly. The last one that is out of place is the N.C. State Wolfpack, who are (snicker) rivals of Duke this year. Okay, they are for real, and I support them because one of my best friends is a staunch and murderous supporter, and they have grown on me. Until March. If they play Duke or Penn State (reference the chart).
Christ on trial
I consider myself to be somewhat advanced in my understanding of religion, especially when it comes to Christianity, but I never knew that there were laws in Italy that forbade asserting the Jesus Christ ever existed. The notion that the home of the Roman Catholic church would have laws on the books seems about as likely as having a Chinese law that forbids human rights violations. Nevertheless, there is, and someone is finally going to trial for breaking that law:
    An Italian judge heard arguments Friday on whether a small-town parish priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed.The priest's atheist accuser, Luigi Cascioli, says the Roman Catholic Church has been deceiving people for 2,000 years with a fable that Christ existed, and that the Rev. Enrico Righi violated two Italian laws by reasserting the claim...
I don't know if I would go so far as to entertain the notion that Jesus didn't exist as a person, but I would love to see what evidence was produced. Certainly, I don't continue to entertain the notion that he was (if he existed, even) that he was any sort of god or personification of any god. Beyond the simple question of existence, Cascioli's attorney suggested that this could lead to a civil trial (at least in this country):
    "The point is not to establish whether Jesus existed or not, but if there is a question of possible fraud," Cascioli's attorney, Mauro Fonzo, told reporters before the hearing. Cascioli says the church has been gaining financially by "impersonating" as Christ someone by the name of John of Gamala, the son of Judas from Gamala. He has said he has little hope of the case succeeding in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, but that he is merely going through the necessary legal steps to reach the European Court of Human Rights, where he intends to accuse the church of what he calls "religious racism."
That is bringing the heavy bat to play. Could there be a Class Action suit against the Catholic (and by implication, any Christian church) for fraud? That is something for the fiction writer (hmm...) to contemplatete. This is a case where the defendant will win, whether it is the atheist on trial or the church, because no court is going to validate the burden of proof for the prosecution. It would be the equivalent of a Miracle on 34th Street trial, only not quite as charming or harmless. Is this a sequel to the Scopes Monkey trial? Hopefully not, for all that did was increase a fundamentalist response equivalent to a person putting their hands over their ears and talking so they can't hear [the truth]. With a resurgence of God-fearing politicians beating this drum, this trial could inadvertently become a lightning-rod for new converts to the lie.


Well, its no killer Krusty doll, but...
Fans of the Simpsons should be familiar with the Treehouse of Horrors Episode where the Simpson family gets a Krusty The Clown doll that tries to kill Homer. Well, it looks like some 'special' editions of a new Elmo book might have that kind of bonus:
    A character in some copies of an Elmo potty training book has an unusual message that you may not want your toddler to hear. The Baby David character in "Potty Time With Elmo" says, "Uh oh, who wants to die?" when a read-along button is pushed, NBC News reported.

    He's supposed to say, "Uh oh, who has to go?" The publisher said the sound was recorded correctly, but some consumers hear a different phrase due to compression of the digital audio file.


News of the stupid, sort of
Just about every day I see something that irks me, and today, believe it or not, it is someone's criticism of Britney Spears' latest behavior. This girl, not yet a woman (although getting knocked up gets you some street credibility in that department), has certainly in recent times made her fair share of public blunders. However, the most recent gossip is that she's waffling on religion. Ye gods!
    Britney Spears is covering all her religious bases. The singer — who was raised a Baptist and has famously studied Kabbalah, a branch of Jewish mysticism — now is apparently dabbling in Hinduism. The “Oops, I Did It Again” crooner was spotted at a Hindu temple in Malibu, where she reportedly was getting a blessing for her baby son, Sean Preston.

    “Apparently, Ms. Spears can’t make up her mind which tune to dance to,” Rick Ross of Cultnews.com tells The Scoop. “I’m sure her mentor [and Kabbalah enthusiast] Madonna will not be amused.”
I'm sure that the last comment was meant to be as sound-bitish and bitchy as possible, but I disagree with what it is mocking. Apparently, you should have figured out just which one is the one 'true' religion by 24 years-old. I'm refreshed that Ms. Spears has shirked the Christian brainwashing of her youth, however. That's the most promising sign that eventually she's find a spirtuality that will be good for her. Should I really care, though? Probably not.

For bonus points, what is this an example of: Liberal Media or Conservative Media? At first glance, the mocking nature of the short gossip piece suggests a liberal sarcasm that poor Britney is confused by all the wonderful and magical choices of mythology and can't figure out which donation tray to throw her millions. However, this is actual the Conservative Media machine at work, demonstrating how a girl led astray by infidelity and greed has caused her to lose sight of God and in the process make her son a heathen. Amen.


Seattle: Northwest Nebraska
In today's Washington Post, as a sports feature regarding the upcoming Redskins-Seattle matchup tomorrow, Blaine Harden writes about how unerringly polite -- to the extreme Seattleites behave. The article reminded me of my visit to Nebraska (home of Boy's Town, if that tells you anything) when I went to a football game and the fans were eerily pleasant, doing such non-eastern things as cheering the opposing team off the field with sincere shouts of 'good game'! (Naturally, a lot of players flipped off the fans, a move which seemed to stun them.) I expected to find such a tale in the story, but instead it focused on how their laws and views are shaped very differently from ours.

Two comments struck a chord in me for different reasons. One for being absolutely ridiculous and the other for being rather insightful. I'll give you the first, bolded by me:
    Goody-two-shoes behavior is endemic and appears to be spreading -- by order of law. A new city ordinance requires lap dancers to keep four feet from patrons. A new no-smoking law requires smokers to move at least 25 feet from the doors, windows or vents of a public building or workplace before lighting up. Starting this month, there's a $50 fine for residents who improperly mix their recyclable garbage. If the state liquor control board approves, a new city ordinance will ban the sale of cheap wine and beer in neighborhoods where people hang out and look slothful.
How exactly are you supposed to get a lap-dance when the dancer isn't within arm's reach? Maybe that's the point, to get those dirty no-gooders out of the strip clubs and into church! They, of course, aren't saying you can't perform lap dances; you just can't perform them on laps. So, I guess that begs the question, how to differentiate between a lap dance and a dance? By the movement of the butt cheeks? Anyway, the second comment was a little more insightful:
    Jonathan Raban, the British writer and social critic who has lived in Seattle for 15 years, says that a chilly Scandinavian undertow continues to tug at the soul of the city. "Strangers when they first arrive say this is quite a friendly town," Raban said. "They don't realize that the good manners are usually more of a protective barrier than an invitation to intimacy."

    To Raban, the city's eagerness to legislate nice behavior suggests what he calls "the deep authoritarianism of the liberal mind." He added: "Liberals like to think they are on the side of liberty, but actually they are on the side of authority." Mayor Nickels does not see it that way. He says Seattleites obey laws and are civil with one another out of "respect for the community."
That's a great sound bite about taxes and bigger government. Might be worth checking out some of his works to see if he has any more worthwhile quips in him.
As long as you have spare sheets handy
You should never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes having a cool title goes a long way to selling your piece. Liz Prince's Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed? comic book has one of those titles, and the artwork isn't too shabby either.
    Liz Prince’s WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME IF I WET THE BED? offers a traditional narrative that, fortunately, doesn’t focus on urine nearly as much as the title suggests. Rather, Prince presents a series of vignettes portraying the small, personal moments between a young couple in love. Far from “Where is this relationship going?” she instead focuses two pages on such things as the couple rubbing their cold feet on each other in bed. She fills the entire 71 pages with those moments as the lovers tickle, tease, bicker, and chat candidly about their sex life. The book’s title comes from one of those scenes, which remains, thankfully, free of actual bed-wetting. It’s more of a rhetorical question.
I may have to pick it up just to frame it and put it on my wall. And I might read it in the meantime. Somehow, I also suspect this comic might find its way onto a t-shirt in the near future.


Joey Porter: Me Like Rocks
Obviously frustrated, but not showing off his mediocre-level IQ, Joey Porter of the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to complain about those tricky Colts:
    The AFC divisional playoff game Sunday at the RCA Dome is a rematch of the Steelers' 26-7 Monday night loss on Nov. 28, but Porter was unimpressed by the Colts' play in that game.

    "They don't want to just sit there, line up and play football," Porter told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They want to try to catch you off guard. They don't want to play smash-mouth football, they want to trick you. ... They want to catch you substituting. Know what I mean? They don't want to just call a play, get up there and run a play. They want to make you think. They want it to be a thinking game instead of a football game."
They just don't play fair! Waaaaaaah!! Sounds like someone will need a nap before the game, or maybe to watch some game tape like Big Brain Peyton. Or maybe buck up little camper and play some football!


Propaganda quote-of-the-day
I guess I could put it up there as quote of the year this early, being the prize-winner by far. In light of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke, Pat Robertson has said that the stroke is God’s wrath for ‘dividing God’s land. Although this certainly could be interpreted as anti-semitic, in a broader sense, I'm just astounded that people still go around quoting the Bible as interpretation for tragic or coincidental events. Well, perhaps not astounded, as many Christians act in this fashion. Having been forcably brought up Catholic, and made to attend church every single week (sometimes twice) and Bible-study, you tend to encounter a lot of people who somehow accept everything they read in this well-crafted propaganda piece as fact, or, laughably, "the word of God". Mr. Robertson's remarks are pitiful and quite dangerous, considering the often unstable aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian area.

Orange Bowl Champions
It goes without saying that I am simultaneously relieved and thrilled to have survived a tenacious Florida State effort to win the Orange Bowl in 3 overtimes. I was pretty tapped out by the 1 A.M. victorious kick, and far too pent up with tension to go to sleep anytime soon after that.

For those who didn't watch, it was a tough road from the opening kick. In terms of painful attrition, we lost our 1,000-yard rusher, Tony Hunt, on the first offensive play of the game, and later on lost our Butkus award-winning (i.e., the best linebacker in college) player, Paul Posluszny, early in the fourth quarter. Florida State scored 13 points in 80 seconds in the second quarter, and we had to rally to score with 11 seconds left to edge up by one. The third quarter was a tense field-position battle, culminating with our safety to start the 4th. Four kicks were missed between the end of regulation and the 3rd overtime, until our boy finally got it through the upright. An emotionally draining experience, I'm ready to take the knee for a few months.