BA AL All Stars

Farewell to the G.O.A.T.

The AL has been filled with surprises all season.  The big spending Angels have floundered around the bottom of the AL West for most of the 1st half before a recent surge.  Meanwhile the low budget A’s have moneyballed their way atop the division for the 2nd consecutive year.  In the Central the Tigers stand atop, but the revitalized Tribe lead by new manager Tito Francona are lurking close behind.  Then there’s the AL East which for small stretches has seen all 5 of its teams hold winning records.  The Blue Jays made the biggest off-season noise but haven’t climbed out of the cellar, while the “rebuilding” Red Sox have the best record in the AL.  I know this team has already been announced but without further delay here are the BA AL All Stars: Continue reading

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NBA Off-season: A BA 3-Way

Andrew Bynum reacting to the news teams still want him

A Written Podcast

G:

Going into the playoffs the narrative was that the Miami Heat were invincible. There was talk of them being the best team ever, being a dynasty in the making, and whether or not anyone would even present a roadblock in a Roseless, Rondoless East. But their path to the top was full of detours and potholes in the form of large, ferocious big-men who pounded the Heat into near submission.  It really was quite ironic because all of the talk was of the missing point guards, but in reality the biggest, most visible guys on the court were there to challenge the Heat all along. So even though the Heat eventually won the title thanks to some legendary basketball by one Lebrin Jones (Ryan Foley voice) and some legendary origami personification by Manu Ginobili, the rest of the NBA realized the chink in their once impenetrable armor.  The Miami Heat already faced a Hibbert-sized task of 3-peating by reaching their fourth consecutive finals, but now they need to do it by reinventing themselves for a third consecutive year.  If they go into next season without any major upgrades in their frontcourt then they will not return to the Finals. That a rapidly deteriorating Chris Bosh is their lone (somewhat)reliable two-way big spells doom for their dynastic aspirations.  Despite analytics favoring a turn towards small-ball, playoff basketball is too physical for most teams that do not employ the greatest athlete of all-time as their power forward, and even he has issues with it.  Is Greg Oden the answer? Maybe, but probably not.    So my esteemed colleagues: if the Heat are out as NBA champions next season, which teams have made the off-season moves to take a shot at the champ? Continue reading

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BA NL All Stars

Is Puig going to NY?

Are we really half way through the baseball season already?  I’ve been so wrapped up in the NBA and NHL playoffs going on that baseball has been an afterthought for a good portion of the past 2 months.  Now don’t get me wrong, the season is long as shit, so there still are a solid 3 months of baseball watching to go.  With the season being half way over that does mean that the mid summer classic is nearly upon us.  For my money’s worth, the MLB All-Star Game is the best one in sports.  Hands down!  The NBA has no one playing defense and everyone either jacks up a 3 or is part of an impromptu dunk contest.  Which is fine, but we’d all much rather have guys like LeBron and KD putting on that show the night before.  Until those marquee NBA players stop being pansies this ain’t changing and the game itself will continue to blow.  In the NHL there’s no checking and that overwhelming intensity that we just witnessed all season is put on ice for this exhibition and games typically end with scores approaching or breaking double digits.  As for the NFL, we don’t even need to touch the on the Pro Bowl.  Check out this clip, and that’s all you need to know.  Aside from the fact that the MLB All-Star Game “counts” (which is still extremely absurd) this is the one professional sport where their mid season showcase can still resemble the sport all the guys chosen for the game actually play.  So without further ado, here the National League BA All-Stars:

*These teams are not MLB regulated, so it’s my rules and my teams.  I will keep with tradition and ensure that every team is represented by at least one player. Continue reading

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What’s Good Wednesday: “Smitty Todd”

First of all I want to apologize for my lack of coverage on a wacky and wild few weeks in the NBA.  So much has happened! Chris Bosh’s second title, Manu taking a poop on the Miami floor (as my Uncle Jim so eloquently described it), Doc asking out of Beantown, the craziest NBA Draft in recent memory (seriously Cavaliers? Anthony Bennett? Trade down if you want Anthony Bennett, don’t take him number 1), the official end of the Big 3 era in Boston, and the New York Knicks cementing themselves as favorites for next year’s title with the impending trade for the one and only Lebr..Andrea Bargnani! I have been on NBA overload and haven’t quite been able to process this wide spectrum of emotions.  I promise a well-written piece in the next week or so, but I’m finishing up my EP and I’m actually trying to make something more than three people will want to hear. So there’s my apology. Take it or leave it. Now onto the actual post…

Our interview series has been on the shelf for a couple of months now, but hey when we find someone other than ourselves whom we find interesting then maybe we’ll do an interview with that person.  But unfortunately you all are a bunch of good-for-nothing pickle chompers. That doesn’t mean that I can’t talk about something I find worthy of a few hundred words on a hot and steamy Wednesday afternoon back in my hometown of the high-and-tight fade, Dorchester, Massachusetts. For those of you who don’t know, Mike Smith, aka Smitty, or as I like to call him “Smitty Todd,” is the premiere barber in Dorchester.  Smitty held down his old cutting grounds, “Eddie’s,” for the past eight years establishing himself as a fixture of the Dorchester community, but he has decided to take his talents elsewhere (location currently unknown..dude knows how to build suspense).  But this guy absolutely hooks it up and anyone reading this looking for a place to get the best cut in town should seriously consider hitting up Smitty once the new shop opens.  And when the location is announced, BA will be all over that for you scraggly suckas.   Maybe we’ll even have a follow-up interview with the man himself. In the meantime, here is my favorite clip from Sweeney Todd.

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Glad as always to oblige my friends and neighbors! Peace!

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Friday Fives: Toughest Sports Performances

The Bruins lost in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals earlier this week, but not before turning in one of the grittiest performances in playoff history. In addition to Gregory Campbell’s instantly legendary refusal to leave the ice even with a broken leg in the conference finals, alternate captain Patrice Bergeron was so badly injured in Game 5 of the Finals that he was rushed to the hospital before the game was over…and returned to play in Game 6 with a broken rib, punctured lung, and cartilage damage. In other words, they’re some tough sons of bitches. Here are some of our other favorite hardasses.

(DISCLAIMER: For obvious reasons, we didn’t include hockey players – because they’d make up the entire list. Nobody’s questioning that they are far and away the toughest dudes on earth. I mean, they actually penalize the few guys who take dives for God’s sake! So assume that even the pansiest of hockey players – AKA Sid Crosby – is higher even than our Number 1’s on this list.)

TED

WILL

GREG

5. Byron Leftwich:  The Jaguars had high hopes for Leftwich when they drafted him seventh overall in 2003, and though he never materialized as a top-flight threat, he was a solid middle-tier quarterback for a few years. You know, 60% completion rate, more touchdowns than interceptions, didn’t make TOO many game-killing mistakes – not your first (or tenth) choice, but better than half the other teams’ starting QB’s. But one thing he was known for was toughness. As a big, lumbering quarterback behind a below-average line and with only Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor to help him out, Leftwich was a big target and took a lot of hard hits, yet “only” missed nine games in his first three years… Fine, I’m definitely reaching here, but check this out: as a senior at Marshall, he broke his shin in the first quarter of a November game, but finished the game and even engineered a 17-point comeback that ultimately fell short in true Leftwich-ian fashion. But the shots of his linemen carrying him downfield on his frenzied drives were pretty badass, and if it was anybody other than Byron Leftwich I might even use the word “iconic.” This selection pales in comparison to the rest of this list, so let’s move on. 5. Matthew Stafford:  Yes, this guy looks like the typical frat bro who’s a little too into the frat scene and seems to have his face grow fatter with each semester, but damn is this dude tough. Forget the up-and-down stats we’ve seen from him over the past two seasons and let’s revisit a game against the Cleveland Browns from his rookie season. During this game, in which he throws five TD’s and becomes the youngest QB to ever achieve that feat, he leads an injury-riddled comeback to boot. After taking this bone-crunching hit from C.J. Mosley where he separates his shoulder, the man refuses to quit. After being brought to the sidelines and begged not to go back out there – remember, this guy was the #1 overall pick that year – he disregards the training staff and valiantly returns to the field. On the very next play he throws the game-winning touchdown and seals his fate on the BA Friday Fives. 5. Rajon Rondo:  Man, this sucks writing this right now because it’s 11:30 PM, which means I just learned that the Celtics will be unrecognizable next season, so talking about Rondo pains me – but probably not as much as this pained him. Say what you want about Rondo’s attitude, jumper, or style, but he is one of the toughest players in the league. I mean, shit, he played an entire fourth quarter and overtime with a torn ACL. Not only has he played through gruesome injuries, but he also takes more tumbles during a game than Gabby Douglas during a floor routine (don’t overthink it…okay). Seriously, this guy is always hitting the floor whether it’s diving for a loose ball or taking a hit from a guy 75 pounds heavier than he is. But no matter what the cause, Rondo always gets up and brushes the dust off of the enormous chip on his shoulder. That is why people in Boston love him, because he plays the game with grit and balls. KG taught him well. (Side note: WHY Danny Ainge????? WHY???? But I get it, I’m just too emotional.)
4. Evander Holyfield:  Maybe not the first boxer that comes to mind when you think of the greats, but Holyfield is history’s only four-time World Heavyweight Champion, a boast that guys like Ali, Frazier, Foreman, and Tyson can’t even make. Holyfield made his pro debut at 1983 and KO’d his way up the weight classes, winning his first heavyweight title in 1990 and his last in 2000 – a solid decade-long run that included memorable and grueling bouts with Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis, and Tyson himself. You’ve gotta be insanely tough to win four heavyweight titles across ten years, especially when they include going through Iron Mike twice, including the infamous Bite Fight that left pieces of Evander’s ear on the mat. 4. Allen Iverson:  Typically the smallest guy on the court but almost consistently had the most heart. Yes, he was a bit of a ballhog and is the definition of a volume scorer. But when he was on the court there was little denying that he was giving his all. He played with reckless abandon and probably cut a few years off his career with all the bone-jarring drops to the floor he took driving into a lane of giants. Iverson definitely ranks among the top former or current NBA players you don’t want to run into in a back alley. Now, all that I’ve said about Mr. Iverson does of course presume we aren’t talking ’bout practice. 4. Curt Schilling:  Such a homer pick, but the bloody sock game remains one of the coolest things I ever witnessed. Just the buildup to the game was intense: would Big Schill pitch or was he done for the season with a damaged ankle (you know, the ankle on the leg from which he derived all of his power)? Then we heard he would pitch but that he had to undergo experimental surgery to allow his tendon to remain out of place so as not to elicit unimaginable pain. Then he came out with a noticeable bloodstain pouring through his sock as he pitched one of the most memorable games in Red Sox history. (It was like something out of a movie, but then again so was the entire 2003-2004 journey. That could be a great documentary now that I think of it. ) No big deal. He just helped break the curse and exorcise the demon of Aaron Boone. Sure, Schilling is a douchebag and a little bit of an attention-whore, but Boston fans will never able to repay him for what he brought to this city.
3. Cal Ripken, Jr.:  It’s admittedly tough for baseball players to make this list, given the relative lack of physical activity and bodily punishment they endure compared to their hockey, football, and basketball brethren. But then, Cal isn’t your average ballplayer. The Iron Man shattered Lou Gehrig’s legendary and seemingly unbreakable record when he played his 2,131st consecutive game in 1995…and then played another 500 straight games after that. For you laypeople, that’s 17 straight years of playing every single game of baseball’s grueling summer schedule, playing through six straight months of sweltering heat with maybe one day a week off, tops. And it’s not like he coasted through his career either: he was a two-time MVP, two-time Gold Glover, and 19-time All-Star at the most demanding position on the diamond. If you don’t think he played through a ton of pain and injuries to keep his streak intact and his team in contention then you’ve never watched a full season of Major League Baseball. In an era of regular rest days for baseball’s biggest stars and in which pros get injured for the dumbest shit imaginable (seriously, take a look through a few of those and double check that it’s not The Onion), Cal’s is a record that we can confidently say will never, ever be broken. 3. Kobe Bryant/Michael Jordan:  This quality may be the closest skill these two share among a myriad of other prolific on-court traits. Two of the fiercest competitors the sports world has ever seen. I literally think each of them would straight up Walder Frey one of their own family members if it meant winning and being called the greatest. These guys have a different type of motor. One of MJ’s most historic games is the Flu Game. Maybe he was hungover, maybe it was bad pizza, who knows? Either way he gets props for having one of his best Finals performances ever under those circumstances. Then there’s Kobe who averaged over 27 ppg this past season while dealing with several injuries before his knee finally gave out. Kobe knew an injured version of him was better than anything else the Lakers could put on the floor and gave it his all. That’s toughness. 3. Larry Bird:  Honestly, I’m not even trying to make this Boston-centric, but there is no way I can write a piece about toughness and not mention Larry “I had to have my spine readjusted everyday just so I could walk, never mind play an NBA game” Bird. Watching clips of Larry Legend diving headfirst onto the floor and into the stands, fighting Dr. J, and willing himself and his teammates to win after win despite the aforementioned back issues is my idea of a perfect first date. If she doesn’t appreciate my Birdboner then she won’t get…okay I’ll stop there. Inappropriate. Larry was from a blue collar family and took a blue collar approach to the game of basketball. Hearing him describe his father’s black and broken foot as inspiration for his attitude towards receiving his paycheck from Red Auerbach is something I want to play for my kids one day. If you get paid to do something you do it. Simple as that. And Larry kept it simple.
2. Bo Jackson:  The world had never seen a physical specimen like Vincent Edward Jackson, and it very well may never see another (apologies to LeBron, but it’s true). The list of tools that Bo possessed across multiple sports is utterly incomprehensible: blazing speed, a cannon for an arm, brute physical strength – whether it took the form of 500-foot homers or truck-sticked linebackers – and stamina and toughness that should make every other pro athlete ashamed. I mean, the guy played two completely different sports at the highest levels on earth, constantly, for three straight years! Every other athlete gets three to six months off each year for recovery, rest, and improvement, but not Bo: from 1987-1990 he played pro football and baseball all year long, displaying prowess that countless players would kill for. In one of the saddest stories in sports history, a freak hip injury ended his football career and sent his baseball career on a downward spiral, thereby derailing the monstrous force that was Bo. But even while writhing on the ground after the football hit that set off his injury, the legend of his toughness grew: he reportedly snapped his own hip back into place, something that former teammate George Brett noted that no human should be strong enough to do. And his tendency to snap his bat over his knee or head like it was a twig was awe-inspiring entertainment at its best. Damn, I wish I could have seen him play. 2. James Harrison:  Tough and physical is an understatement to describe this guy’s game. For a time he was the fiercest hitter in the league and no one wanted to cross the middle of the field when James Harrison was on it. Granted, a few of the hits may not have been the cleanest, but a lot of tough guys don’t always fight clean. Harrison is not only fierce but he knows he’s fierce. He’s openly said that he tries to injure people while he’s on the field. He did clarify that there is a difference between injuring and hurting someone, so he does have a heart. It may be black and cold, but it’s there. 2. Tiger Woods:  Whoa, whoa, whoa, a golfer on the list of toughest athletic feats? That sounds blasphemous right? Wrong. Remember the 2008 US Open? I know Rocco Mediate does because that was the tournament in which Tiger Woods beat him in a sudden death playoff on a torn ACL and a broken leg. For those of you who haven’t played too much golf, playing 18 holes is no walk in the park (even though it literally is, but you got that pun right?). It can be grueling especially considering the added pressure Tiger faced, this being a major championship and all that jazz about him being the only reason anyone watched golf in the first place. Imagine the intense focus Tiger had to display just to finish his rounds. Now multiply that by a hundred when you realize he had to beat all of the other best golfers in the world while grimacing with every step and crumbling with every swing. But we all know why he really did it right? Chicks dig a tough guy.
1. Logan Mankins:  A torn ACL is akin to the kiss of death for far too many professional athletes. As the most vital ligament in the most crucial joint on the athletic body, the ACL allows players to run, plant, turn, and generally do the things most important to their jobs. An ACL tear means a six-month recovery at the very least and has ended countless careers; many athletes are never the same, and only in the rarest of cases does a player finish a game after suffering the injury, let alone play again that year. Enter Logan Mankins and the Patriots. When Tom Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 of 2008, he missed the entire season, caused the Pats to miss the playoffs for only the second time in his career, and led to Matt Cassel becoming a starting NFL quarterback. So, an all-around disaster. When Mankins tore his ACL in Week 1 of 2011, not only did he finish the game…not only did he finish the season…but he anchored the impressive line that helped lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl. Oh, and then he tore the MCL in his other knee in their first playoff game, meaning he played the Super Bowl with torn ligaments in both knees. And he made the Pro Bowl!!! Imagine playing an entire NFL season while supporting a 300-pound frame on busted knees that hurt so bad that you can barely move – and you’re still one of the best at your position. That, my friends, is toughness. 1. Every hockey player ever:  This list is relatively obsolete because numbers 1-100 are probably all hockey players. These guys are insane. Just in the most recent Finals we saw Patty Bergeron have about four different serious injuries that he played through and was subsequently hospitalized for two days after the series. Then there’s Shaw from the Blackhawks who took a f—in’ puck to the face in Game 6 and was out playing again by the next period! Injuries that put other athletes on the shelf for weeks barely put these guys out for a line change (or switch, I don’t really know hockey). Despite not being a huge NHL fan, there’s nothing I can do but respect and admire these tough SOB’s for what they do on the ice. No one is tougher than a hockey player and these guys are a different breed of sickos and savages. Now if you’ll excuse me my fingers are getting a lil cramped from typing. See you guys in 15 days. 1. Ronnie Lott:  On some real shit, I love having full use of my fingers and toes. It just makes life easier and I hope I always get to have all of these things that are typing these very words, but Ronnie Lott apparently didn’t share the same affinity for his pinky. This guy had the choice of fixing his finger and missing games, or amputating his finger and playing games. For me the choice is simple. I want that finger. But no, Mr. Lott thought he’d cement his legacy as one of the craziest mofos to ever put on a uniform because really, ask yourself: would you really give up a finger to play a game? It’s not like Lott was playing in the Super Bowl either. He amputated his finger so that he’d be ready for the season opener. He has since admitted this was a horrible decision, but talk about dedication. I do get it though, as someone who literally played an entire year of football, basketball, and baseball with a shoulder that popped out every time I was tackled, dove on the floor, or swung a bat, you kind of just shrug it off. (Yeah, I got a bad rap as being injury-prone but you try playing quarterback behind a 160-pound center when you have torn labrums and rotator cuffs. Give me my tough guy award! This is also the biggest reason – aside from not wanting to destroy my beautiful face – I try not to fight. First punch I throw will be my last because those babies aren’t holding up.) But like this was something permanent. This was a pinky! That’s a vital part of who you are and Lott deserves to be recognized for the sacrifice he made for the sake of competition.
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…And Boston Wept

The City Formerly Known as Titletown is officially in shambles.* The past week has been something out of a nightmare, possibly one of the worst all-around sports weeks since the city began its glorious run at the turn of the millennium. To recap: the Celtics lost Doc Rivers, their best and most beloved head coach since Tommy hung up the suit in the late ’70s, when he bailed on the forthcoming years of miserable rebuilding after a painfully drawn-out and arduous courting process with the Clippers. Paul and KG are pissed and beyond their primes, Rondo is apparently the Basketball Antichrist, there’s an inexplicable chance that their next coach could be Vinny Del Negro, and they had to watch their archrival Heat hoist the trophy for a second straight year as LeBron cemented his legacy. The Patriots had two of the top young tight ends in the game…until one turned into a walking medical school cadaver and the other casually shot a couple dudes and looks to be headed to the slammer. Now Tom Terrific has exactly zero serious threats to throw to and Tim Tebow might actually be promoted from punchline to serious playing time at a position he’s never played before (gulp). The Red Sox, though still owners of the best record in the American League with more than half a season to go, have dropped four of their last five thanks to a pitching staff that includes a chronically injured ace who hasn’t pitched in two and a half weeks, an ineffective #2 who’s allowed 17 runs over his last three starts despite not making it to the sixth inning in any of them, and their fourth closer in a year and half. And last night…hoo boy, last night.

 

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Friday Fives: Sports Criminals

Sorry, ladies: your boytoy might be a murderer

A couple months ago we listed our favorite sports villains in our Friday Fives. This week, in response to Patriots star TE Aaron Hernandez apparently being involved in a really dumb murder and an only slightly smarter coverup, we talk about the biggest criminals in sports. The important distinction is that the villains are almost all deemed as such for misdemeanors in the realm of the sporting world alone, while the criminals are, well, actual criminals and bad people. Like, nobody is gonna get arrested for cheating or taunting or being annoying to fans. But the guys on this list…well, just read on and prepare yourself to be depressed.

 

TED

GREG

MARK/TAYLOR

5. Delonte West:  Let’s start with something tame since the rest of this list will get dark pretty quickly. The former Celtics and Cavs point guard is recognized as one of the more intimidating NBA players of the last decade, solely for his off-court exploits. First off he suffers from bipolar disorder, which is absolutely not a laughing matter nor makes him a criminal, but makes the following more understandable and scary. Pretend you’re a cop and picture this: you pull over a vehicle for a minor traffic violation, only to discover it’s a 6’3” guy with a guitar case strapped to his back riding one of these. He pulls off his helmet and – wait a second, isn’t this guy a pro athlete? Uh-oh…is that Delonte West? The guy with bipolar who’s had problems with every team he’s been on? Umm…I guess I should check the – holy shit!! Did he just pull three guns out of that case??? ……So yeah, West was riding his motortrike Desperado-style with three diesel pieces packed into a guitar case on his back – and not just any guns, but these bad boys. Such a terrifyingly badass image. Oh, and he banged LeBron’s mom when they were teammates too. Definitely not a crime (although some might disagree…) but awesome nonetheless. 5. Michael Vick:  I’m so unbelievably torn about present-day Mike Vick because everyone deserves a second chance and everyone is influenced by, and desensitized to, the environment in which they are raised. Vick grew up around dogfighting and I would imagine at some point he got over his childhood innocence (probably around the same time he realized he was the best athlete in his town) and figured dogfighting was pretty cool. So he did it and then just kept doing it, eventually using his incredible means to turn a lifelong hobby into another source of income. I can’t really blame Vick because I grew up in a family that revered its dog (RIP Wilbur) so I have no idea how to feel anything but love for those loyal creatures, but Vick didn’t see his dogs as pets. He viewed them as assets or employees that he could throw to the wolves. Nevertheless, Michael Vick was a transcendent talent at the quarterback position and was my idol growing up. I even tried out for the freshman football team throwing left-handed despite my clear right-handed dominance (still made the team as a QB!…I’m such a douchebag). So when I heard about Vick’s involvement in Bad Newz Kennels I felt confused, betrayed, and then utter hatred for the man. But he did his time and appears to feel genuine remorse for his transgressions so I am willing to give him a pass. Now Eagles fans just hope he remembers how to pass. 5. Plaxico Burress:  The Cheddar Bob of the NFL was arrested for shooting himself in the right thigh at a nightclub. Life sometimes imitates art, but unless you’re a young rapper on the comeup, no one wants that art to be the movie 8 Mile. This fashion choice had the biggest impact on NFL history this side of Von Miller deciding that dressing like Urkel was cool. For those of you who don’t know, it was a loose sweatpants band that caused his weapon to drop. This act resulted in an embarrassing amount of attention from ESPN and an exceptional amount of laughter for the rest of the world. Plax had a few forgettable seasons since then, and according to my sources (asking Jeeves to google “plaxico burress” for me) he signed for another year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While this is perhaps the only crime on this list that is a laughable offense, Burress has also faced multiple domestic abuse and driving violations. There is a bigger problem to deal with, and unfortunately cases like Plaxico’s make a mockery of it.
4. Pacman Jones:  Pick any player who’s seen the field for the Cincinnati Bengals in this millennium and there’s a 70% chance he’s a convicted felon…and yet even among that Hall of Shame roster, Adam Jones stands out. The owner of the best nickname and longest rap sheet in recent NFL history, Pacman has been arrested like 20 times since being drafted sixth overall in 2005, for everything under the sun: fighting with bouncers, fighting with strangers, fighting with his bodyguards, weed and coke possession, public intoxication, vandalism, and being “associated with” more shootings than should be humanly possible. Pacman also seems to have a strange affinity for strip clubs – not strange because he frequents them (he is a red-blooded male, after all), but because he still frequents them despite the constant trouble he finds himself in while there. He’s been connected with at least FOUR DIFFERENT INCIDENTS at strip clubs (that we know about), from a couple shootings to assaults on women to general mayhem. The most insane and sociopathic instance came in 2007 in Vegas when, up big after leaving a casino, he made it rain on the strippers to the tune of $40,000 in singles. But perhaps misunderstanding how strip clubs work, he didn’t appreciate the working girls actually taking the money, so he quite reasonably punched a stripper and bounced her head off the stage. All hell broke loose, one of his boys pulled out a gun, a couple people got shot, one was paralyzed, yadda yadda yadda. In other words, the guy is a grade-A piece of shit. Yet he has enough talent that he bounces back every time he gets busted or suspended, and is currently with the Bengals where he probably feels right at home. There’s no justice in the world, I tell ya. 4. Mike Tyson:  We here at BA love to include Mike Tyson in our Friday Fives, so when Aaron Hernandez ended up on the wrong end of the Channel Five News, I was stoked to bring Iron Mike back into the fold. Tyson seems reformed, but there was a time when he was one of the most despicably depraved human beings in western society. Like Vick he was raised in a horrible environment that turned him into a borderline monster, but that does not excuse raping women. Rape is disgusting and so Tyson makes the list. BUT let’s not just call Tyson a rapist because he is also one of the most entertaining and fascinating individuals we have ever seen. (And really, human beings are perverse. Even though rape is unforgivable and disgusting we will sit through an entire afternoon of an SVU marathon like our lives depended on it. Therefore, Tyson is okay to talk about because we crave depravity.) Okay. Enjoy this. 4. Kobe Bryant:  I am very hesitant to finish this list. I tend to make my writing humorous, or at least attempt to, but I find it near impossible to do so with the current material. You can make jokes about the amount of times Kobe smacked his lips in the apology, the size of the ring he bought his wife, or his “thing” during sex, but all of that veils a very troubling night in Colorado. Many people believe that Kobe is only guilty of being unfaithful to his wife, and though I believe I would never do that, I am not an NBA superstar and I am not here to crucify him for that. What is terrifying, however, is how athletes feel as if they are entitled to everything, even women’s bodies. It is a real possibility that Kobe might have acted consensually with that young woman, but, of course, that means that the other possibility could also be true. We will never know for sure what happened in Eagle but what we do know is one person in that room was a millionaire only a few years removed from an astounding Los Angeles Lakers championship three-peat, and could afford the best lawyers in the world to make the female look promiscuous and untrustworthy. I know one of the people in that room was a world-traveled adult male and one was a 19 year old hotel employee. The case was dropped because she refused to testify in court. Sound familiar? It should because it happened a few years later with Ben Roethlisberger. The jump-to-conclusions reasoning would be that these girls won’t testify because they made it up. That is lazy on the part of everyone who thinks that. The reason these girls won’t testify is because their families’ names will be dragged through the mud, their entire sexual history will be displayed in front of the country as if it’s something they should be embarrassed by, and their lawyers will be outmatched. I know that Bryant said this: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” And that does not sound right in any way to me. It is time for us as a culture to change the way we view rape.
3. Oscar Pistorius:  This guy has been embroiled in controversy and negative press virtually since his career took off. Originally a feel-good success story as a double leg amputee who was fast enough to compete with able-bodied runners, Pistorius pissed off a lot of people when he qualified for the 2012 Olympics despite, you know, having springs for feet. (Although this can easily be turned on its head: The guy has no freakin’ legs!!! I’d call that something of a disadvantage.) Then when he finally lost his 200 meter title at the Paralympics later that year, he took the sore loser route of accusing his opponent, who had called the Blade Runner his “idol,” of cheating with longer prosthetics. Apparently, Pistorius’ inflated ego from the nonstop media coverage allowed this delicious irony to escape him. Anyway, we already knew he was a dick…but we didn’t know he was a murderer. And yet he shot his defenseless girlfriend to death last February, spurring multiple acquaintances to recount the fights they’d been having recently. Pistorius has claimed self-defense, saying that he thought an intruder had locked him/herself in the bathroom – though why they might do that, or why Pistorius’ immediate reaction would be to fire five rounds through the door, must also be clouded by his massive ego (though this all occurred in South Africa, which is part of Africa, where I assume they don’t have things like “laws” or “sanity”). We won’t know more until his trial starts later this summer, but it’s pretty obvious where this one is headed. 3. Ugueth Urbina:  Remember Ugie? This former Red Sox closer is serving a lengthy prison sentence for attempting to kill someone by cutting them with a machete and setting them on fire. That’s another level of crazy. That’s some truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stuff. But anyone who watched Ugie pitch kind of saw this coming, right? Kind of like if you woke up tomorrow and you heard that Jonathan Papelbon tortured iguanas…you’d be like “Oh. That makes sense.” Even though that just shouldn’t make sense. But Ugie was a nut on the mound and was clearly a nut in reality. Here’s to hoping he never sets foot on American soil again. 3. Ray Lewis:  Ray Lewis is undoubtedly one of the greatest football players to ever strap on a pair of cleats. His drive, intensity, and leadership of muscled-up millionaires on the gridiron are qualities every young athlete should aspire to attain. In recent years faithful NFL fans have been able to break down the facade a little bit and have realized his position is more of a glorified hype-man, but that still does not take away from his Hall of Fame-level accomplishments. Whether or not he took deer antler spray probably doesn’t matter, and if the guy who broke that story wanted to be taken seriously he probably should have called it something that wouldn’t provide fodder for Twitter hack comedians and PETA outrage. Ray Lewis will be remembered for everything I just said, but also for being involved in a homicide outside of a night club in Super Bowl week of 2000. Even if Ray wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, athletes need to stop going to nightclubs with weapons! Nothing ever good happens to professional athletes at clubs. The combination of testosterone, alcohol, ego, haters, and scantily clad women is more dangerous than going into a house with eight other murderers. It’s the 21st century, no professional athlete needs to get all dressed up and go on the prowl for groupies – that’s what Twitter DM’s are for. Go to Applebee’s or something, man. Unless your waiter is wearing too much flair and your jalapeno poppers come out cold, you don’t need guns there. At least no other professional football player would make a mistake like this again.
2. Luis Resto and Panama Lewis:  AKA the guys who took padding out of boxing gloves and indirectly killed a fighter. In a 1983 bout with Billy Collins, Jr., Resto destroyed Collins’ face so gruesomely that he looked like something out of a horror movie. Apparently this wasn’t enough to get people wondering about foul play, but when Collins’ trainer shook Resto’s hand after, he realized how thin his gloves seemed. He justifiably flipped out, and an investigation revealed that not only had Resto’s trainer Lewis removed padding from each glove, but he had wrapped each hand in plaster of Paris – essentially turning each fist into a giant rock separated from Collins’ face by a thin layer of mesh. Collins’ vision was permanently affected, ending his career and driving him to (possible) suicide in a drunk driving accident a few months later. Resto and Lewis eventually went to jail, and subsequent interviews revealed that this wasn’t the first time the pair had pulled this stunt. It really doesn’t get much more assholish than that. 2. Lance Armstrong:  Once again, I’m torn on Lance. Sure, Livestrong has given hope to countless individuals struggling with cancer and those families affected by the illness, but he is also a duplicitous cheater and an asshole. Like Vick, he has owned up to his mistakes and exposed his degeneracy to the world “Yeezus” style, but that does not just excuse him for a decade of debauchery. Lance trampled on teammates, opponents, the sport of cycling, and the global population on his path to the top, acting in a manner most aptly described as “sociopathic.” Like many of the athletes on this list his legacy will either be as a criminal or as someone whom the American public allowed to have a second chance. I’m siding with the second chance because I know too many good people with cancer who would be disappointed in me otherwise. 2. Rae Carruth:  Oh man this is taking a lot out of me. Rae Carruth is the pinnacle of ruthless, violent athletes. He had his wife and unborn child slaughtered in a melee of bullets! Sin City and 300 are two of my favorite movies ever so I have what would be considered a tolerance for violence, but this is just deplorable. Ahh let’s lighten this up a little bit.
1. Marvin Harrison:  A curveball! I can hear the peanut gallery now: “Quit sniffing paint thinner you ding dong. Marvin Harrison was one of the most respected NFL players in history and is a saint.” True, he did put up astounding numbers while paired with Peyton over his 13-year career, and to call him quiet would be an understatement. Seriously, did anyone ever hear this guy speak? Did he ever celebrate a single touchdown? Harrison epitomized professionalism and set a lasting precedent for other superstar receivers in the burgeoning age of look-at-me divas. (How are Ochocinco and Desean Jackson doing these days? While Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald continue to dominate the league.) So why does he make this list? What if I told you that Marvin shot a drug dealer while bouncing at his bar (yes, he was the doorman at the bar he owned)…and that after the guy fingered Harrison as the shooter in an ESPN interview, he mysteriously wound up murdered? And somehow the police never really pursued him and nothing has ever come of it??? Yup, from this single piece of evidence we can conclude that Harrison is a ruthless underground warlord, using his nice-guy demeanor and low profile to lull his enemies into a false sense of security – the Keyser Soze of the NFL, if you will. Who knows how many bodies lie decomposing in the boarded-up units of the North Philadelphia projects? With his rough Philly background, innocent façade, and brutal brand of street justice, Harrison is essentially the opposite of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. 1. That coach from Penn State:  I refuse to write this guy’s name. In my opinion he is the single worst human being to have lived in the past 20 years. That is all I have to say. This man is the devil. 1. OJ Simpson:  Professional actor and football player OJ Simpson was involved in an incident in 1994, when sources say that he was having some marital issues with his then-wife Nicole Goldman. In what sounds like an episode of CSI or Law and Order, the ex-wife of a Hall of Fame football player and her lover were found dead in her Brentwood apartment. There, law enforcement found a glove with more Simpson DNA in it than an episode of Family Guy. What resulted was a media circus that made the Kobe trial look like the WNBA draft coverage. This was a cultural milestone referenced in Eminem songs, Seinfeld episodes, South Park episodes, and indirectly, an actual child being named “North West.” Later Orenthal showed what a terrible person he really was with a string of bad decisions, eventually getting convicted in a robbery case and currently serving time in one of the greatest makeup calls of all time. OJ was at the cutting edge when it comes to professional athletes on trial.
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What’s Going on in Game of Thrones?

BY DEVIN KIRBY

Jesus, one Sunday later and I’m already fed up with Game of Thrones not being on TV. And, if you’re reading this, it means that you are too. So let me help you out by giving you a final big heaping portion of GoT.

Season 3 threw a lot at us. Some new faces showed up, some minor characters rose to prominence, and some major characters wound up with their throats cut and their unborn babies stabbed. All in all, it was a crazy—and beautiful—television event. And the possibility of a whole new season living up to (or dare I say, exceeding) the epic high bar set by season 3 is just…I don’t know.

Would you still read my blogs if I said arousing? Ahem.

So here’s what we’re going to do: go character by character, storyline by storyline, with my editor’s favorite scenes interspersed throughout and see what went down in the past 10 episodes…and what may or may not happen in the future.

With that, here’s what’s going on in Game of Thrones:

THE LAST DRAGON DAENERYS TARGARYEN

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Barristan Selmy: I just want to see this dude kill someone. Is that so much to ask?

Barristan is really going to make his money when the gang gets back to Westeros. He’s obviously still in high esteem there—every time he’s been brought up in the entire series he gets pretty positive reviews. I think he’s going to be a big player down the line.

Jorah Mormont: Dany’s right hand man since day 1, Jorah kind of wore on my nerves this season. I get that he is the calm hand to help Dany politic her way back to Westeros, but at some point the voice of reason just devolves into a repetitive drone—see also Dale from AMC’s The Walking Dead.

I think Daenerys is slowly outgrowing good old Jorah. She’s getting increasingly capable of taking care of herself, and she has adopted the attitude that risks need to be taken in order for her to be successful—like her ballsy call to take Yunkai. Both of these budding traits—Dany’s political maturation and her growing willingness to roll the dice—are becoming more and more essential to her quest for the Iron Throne, rendering Jorah’s counsel obsolete at best and counterproductive at worst.

There’s also the weird little power struggle between Jorah and Barristan Selmy. Barristan believes that Jorah, an exile from Westeros after selling men into slavery, will hurt Dany’s public image when she tries to rally support in the mainland for the reinstatement of the Targaryen dynasty. This obviously doesn’t sit well with Jorah, but I think the show did a poor job this season of reminding people that Jorah is head-over-heels in love with Dany—an emotion that I think is at the root of his political devotion to her.

Also, his dad Jeor died. He was the late Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch that gets murdered at Craster’s Keep. I don’t think this will amount to much for Jorah, but it still sucks.

Probably the biggest obstacle ahead for Jorah is going to come when they finally make it back to Westeros, which has finally a real possibility now that they have Yunkai. Earlier in season 1, Jorah was feeding information to Lord Varys in an attempt to get back in the crown’s good graces. He’s since stopped being a rat, but I’m sure Dany still won’t be too pleased if and when she finds out. Also I have this nagging feeling that he’s getting jealous of how close other men—like Barristan and now the exotic Daario Naharis—are getting to Dany. Jorah, usually the voice of restraint, isn’t my first pick to commit a crime a passion, but hey. Walder Frey wasn’t my first pick to kill the entire Stark clan either.

Daario Naharis: Probably the best looking man Dany has seen since Khal Drogo died, Daario Naharis came in as an enigma and, well, pretty much stayed that way. We do know a couple things about him, however: he loves the ladies, occasionally slips into the third person, and has sweet weapons—namely his naked lady-hilted dagger and giant sickle-sword thing. He also is the sole reason Dany has Yunkai, which is a pretty big power move on his part.

As far as what role he’s going to play in reclaiming the throne, I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind seeing him and Dany get down to business. But beyond that, this dude is a complete wild card for whatever lies ahead.

Grey Worm: I could watch Little Obama twirl his little spear around all day. His one fight sequence in episode 9 was probably the craziest weaponplay in the show to date.

Just please don’t let Grey Worm die. Please.

Daenerys Targaryen: Dany. Light of my life, fire of my loins. Stormborn and Breaker of Chains and She of the Nice Boobies.

Dany’s maturity as a leader has had a direct parallel to the age of her dragons, and now, like her dragons, Dany is starting to come into her own as a legitimate badass. I still maintain that her time in Qarth with Xaro Xhoan Daxos was a big step in her development as a leader. Since then, she has stopped relying on men (earlier, she leaned on her brother Viserys, then Khal Drogo, and finally Xaro Xhoan Daxos) and has emerged as a prudent negotiator and charismatic leader in her own right. I’ve absolutely loved what the show has done with her, and I think Emilia Clarke has done an outstanding job of bringing Dany to life.

So now the young queen has 8,000 Unsullied, 2,000 Second Sons, 3 dragons, 200,000 freed Yunkai slaves, and a crazy amount of gold (remember that Yunkai was willing to give her a chest full of gold and several ships just as a token of goodwill). She also has Barristan Selmy, an aforementioned hero of Westeros, backing her cause, for what that’s worth. I know I harp on the implied importance of Barristan a lot, but I really think that people underestimate what a spectacularly decorated individual he is, and how big of an impact his backing of Dany’s reinstatement will be.

Also, if she hurries up and gets there, Dany can save the day for Westeros. The White Walkers are marching on the Seven Kingdoms, and no one has any idea how to stop them—the Night’s Watch is so desperate they have called upon every single lord in Westeros to come to the realm’s aid. This season revealed that dragonglass—weapons forged from the fire of dragons—can kill the White Walkers. So, if Dany shows up with a bunch of dragons, I think the Seven Kingdoms will stand a significantly better chance against the oncoming army of the dead. And that would also make Dany a hero and savior of the realm.

I think that is the most likely course of Dany’s storyline, due to the fact that her and Jon Snow have to cross paths eventually (it is a Song of Ice and Fire). And what better moment to do so then when they both are fighting a common enemy, Dany is striving for the throne, and Jon is looking for revenge against the regime that has torn his family apart (which I assume he will after he finds out about some recent red developments). Are you pumped at the idea of a Stark-Targaryen superalliance? Yeah, me too.

THE IRON ISLES TROLLING EVERYBODY

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Balon Greyjoy: One of the three usurpers named by Stannis Baratheon, Balon recently declared himself King of the Iron Isles, effectively seceding from the Seven Kingdoms. He has also more recently seceded from his dickless son, to the disapproval of his daughter Yara.

Balon, when the North plummeted into turmoil after the death of Ned Stark, seized the opportunity and started raiding the countryside. But there’s a new sheriff in town (or warden or whatever), and his name is Roose Bolton. And he’s not a guy who’s bad side you want to be on.

There is also the whole Lord of Light death sentence thing…we’ll get into that whole insane religious talk later (if you can’t wait, skip down to the STANNIS THE MANNIS section).

Yara Greyjoy: Yara (WHO IS ASHA IN THE BOOKS AND I STILL DON’T KNOW WHY THEY CHANGED IT?) is fed up with Balon’s mistreatment of Theon. She understands that he is somewhat of an outsider to House Greyjoy, having been raised by the Starks, but also acknowledges that Theon is, at his core, a Greyjoy—and heir to the throne of Pyke. Her father’s choice to let Theon die instead of give up the meager lands the Ironborn have taken in the North was the straw that broke Yara’s back, and now she’s taking the fastest of her ships and 50 of her best men to storm the Dreadfort and liberate her dear brother.

I want to spend some time with Yara next season. In season 2 she was painted as the best commander in the entire Ironborn navy (the people of the Iron Isles being some of the best seafaring folk in Westeros), and I’d love to see her live up to some of that hype.

Theon Greyjoy: Oh, poor little Theon. Never anyone’s favorite, Theon has spent an entire season in a Bolton dungeon getting physically and mentally tortured by Ramsay Snow. His dad gave him the biggest middle finger ever. He’s wracked with guilt over what he did to the Starks and Winterfell. Just generally not a good 10 episodes for Prince Theon.

But, help is on its way. Yara is en route to free Theon. And hopefully kill that weirdo Ramsay Snow.

Assuming Yara succeeds and Theon makes it back to Pyke in whatever can be considered one piece at this point, the Greyjoys still have a couple problems on their hands. Roose Bolton, now Warden of the North, has a bone to pick with Balon’s invasion. We’ve already seen the ridiculous lengths the Boltons will go to make their point, and I’m sure making an example out of the Greyjoys would be a move Roose would love to make.

There’s also the summoning of everybody to march north against the White Walkers. Balon doesn’t seem to interested in anything besides his own domain, so, if he did get a raven, I have a hard time believing he would commit to the greater good. But maybe Theon will think differently about it.

TEAM HODOR

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Bran Stark/Jojen Reed: Having split in two, this subgroup of Team Hodor has made it to the Wall and has been equipped by Sam Tarly with dragonglass to try to survive beyond it. Bran is still searching for his spirit-raven, and Jojen is still looking for answers about their powers. It is known to them that the Wildlings have been able to somewhat harness their warg powers—like Orell and his hawk—but this new magical ability is still largely a mystery to both Bran and Jojen.

I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen to these kids. Not even a guess. A raven is a messenger, and the three eyes suggest that it is a messenger for something supernatural. Is it some other superwarg’s spirit animal to lure Bran? I thought for a while they would be led to another cache of dragonglass and help the war effort, but that seems increasingly unlikely. It can’t be Wildlings they’re going to find—they’re all south of the Wall by this point.

So, uh. We’ll see I guess.

Hodor: If Bran does not warg Hodor and make him into some kind of mind-controlled superweapon I will consider season 4 a failure.

Meera Reed: Is she cute? I can’t tell. Not really? Hm.

Rickon Stark/Osha: Rickon and Osha are headed to Last Hearth, the seat of House Umber. House Umber have been longtime bannermen to House Stark, and Osha describes them as great warriors. Rickon might get some warrior training, and it would be cool to see the youngest Stark become a flag around which the remaining forces of the North—like House Umber—can rally.

Of course, this is assuming that House Umber wasn’t decimated like the rest of the Robb-loyal Northmen in the Red Wedding.

Whether or not Rickon’s presence at House Umber will amount to anything is a wild card. I doubt it will, but, like anything on GoT, you never know.

IT’S IRONIC THE LANNISTERS ARE LIONS BECAUSE TYWIN IS SUCH A BIG DOG

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Tywin Lannister: Well, he done it again. After promising to back Walder Frey’s vendetta against the Starks, Tywin merely had to sit back and let the Freys and Boltons do his dirty work for him. This move, as Tyrion points out, also leaves Tywin virtually blameless. Good game good effort Robb Stark. Match set point Lannisters.

Tywin has quickly taken control of King’s Landing, and has brought all four corners of the realm under Lannister control. His puppet Roose Bolton is Warden of the North. The Tyrells, who Cersei is set to marry, are Wardens of the South. The Arryns, who are Wardens of the East, will be brought to heel after Littlefinger marries into them. The Lannisters themselves are Wardens of the West. In short, Tywin has Boardwalk and Park Place. And hotels on both.

Now, the Night’s Watch calls for aid against an approaching undead army. Tywin is a practical man almost to a fault, but I think he will still recognize that the crown should respond to what he must view as an unreal threat to maintain it’s image. Or he’ll make Roose Bolton do it. Either or. Point being, the coming White Walkers provide another distraction from the curiosity on the far side of the world that is Daenerys Targaryen. I don’t expect Tywin to jump at the prospect of Dany and her (in his mind, probably not real) dragons sieging Westeros.

Cersei Lannister: Cersei is betrothed to the homosexual Loras Tyrell, a prospect that does not excite her. She is adamant that she will not marry, a conviction no doubt strengthened by the return of her brother and incestuous lover Jaime. However, Jaime is not the man he used to be, and it remains to be seen if that attraction still exists. Cersei has never been a really major player in the drama at King’s Landing, but, when pushed, we have seen her become capable of wild things.

Tyrion Lannister/Sansa Stark/Shae/Podrick Payne/Bronn: Tyrion is now officially wed to Sansa, putting the key to the north in Lannister hands. They seem to be getting along well, despite the awkward third wheeling of Shae. Tyrion has also reached his limits with Joffrey, leading him to becoming increasingly bold in his retaliations to his nephew’s constant torment of himself and his new wife.

Tyrion is also now Master of Coin, and there is still the issue of the crown being in massive debt, especially to the Iron Bank of Braavos. I still think there is going to be some connection between the Braavos and Yunkai, and therefore between Braavos and Dany. I can’t shake the feeling that Braavos is going to aid Dany in some way so that she can get back the money the crown owes the Iron Bank. Tyrion’s role as Master of Coin goes largely under the radar for the majority of the season, but I’ll bet it comes back in force later.

Poor Sansa. Her family and home are in ruins and she is expected to lose her virginity to a dwarfed Lannister to boot. Sansa seems almost entirely incapable of getting anything done, so I would surprised if she becomes a player in the game. She’s just kind of there.

Like Podrick Payne, who has a big dick. Uh. Ok?

There was also some foreshadowing by Varys about Shae’s role in this whole mess, as he attempted to bribe her to leave King’s Landing. My guess is that somehow she’ll fall victim to the sadistic Joffrey, who loves to torture women. He would get double pleasure from tormenting Shae too, as it would not only fulfill his weird sexual desires (remember Ros?) but also hurt Sansa and Tyrion, two of his favorite targets. And, with Tyrion becoming more outspoken and violent to the little king, Shae being tortured or, dare I say, being killed by Joffrey would ignite a long-burning fuse in King’s Landing.

Also Bronn’s still around. Probably the biggest bro in Westeros.

Jaime Lannister/Brienne of Tarth/Qyburn: This ragtag group finally arrived in King’s Landing. Jaime reunited with Cersei, only to be met with a look of borderline disgust. Previously in King’s Landing, Jaime was a prominent member of the Kingsguard, but his future with them will probably be in jeopardy since he is not really capable of combat anymore. Jaime was my favorite character in season 3 (well, tied with Arya Stark), and I’m very excited to watch him attempt to re-assimilate back into royal court.

He also returned with two new friends. Qyburn, the disgraced Maester, healed his hand and arm and wants to be reinstated into the Maester order. Potentially a replacement for Grand Maester Pycelle?

Brienne is also in King’s Landing with Jaime. His new best friend and companion might take his place in the Kingsguard. Or, she might hear of the Red Wedding and swear revenge on every member of the Lannister family for murdering her lady Catelyn Stark.

Wow, that’d be intense.

Joffrey Baratheon: This little shit has gone off the deep end. Every victory his grandfather wins for him inflates his ego, and with every enemy of his that loses their head Joffrey’s grows proportionally bigger. I think the real tipping point was Joffrey’s murder of the prostitute Ros, who was in Varys’ employ (Littlefinger, who made the majority of his money in the prostitute trade, supplied Ros to Joffrey after learning that she was feeding him information from inside one of Littlefinger’s brothels). After that, Joffrey has gotten increasingly ridiculous: he threatens to straight out rape Sansa at her wedding, and later asks for Robb’s head so that he can feed it to Sansa at Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding. Like seriously? Jesus. Joffrey is another usurper named by Stannis Baratheon to be killed by the Lord of Light, which again will be talked about in more detail in the STANNIS THE MANNIS section. He has to die soon. There’s just no way he can go around being this much of a prick and live. No way. I still want the deed to be done by Arya Stark, but I wouldn’t mind Tyrion putting teaching his nephew one final lesson.

STANNIS THE MANNIS

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Stannis Baratheon/Melisandre/Davos Seaworth: These three. If you want to hear me wax poetic about Stannis, Melisandre, and good old Davos, read the episode 9 and 10 recap. Shameless plug, check. So Stannis and his gang are marching north to the aid of the Night’s Watch, a move that Melisandre says is absolutely vital to the war effort against the White Walkers. Obviously fire is going to play some part in this—maybe Dany’s dragons will also be seen as instruments in the Lord of Light’s plan (using the aforementioned theory that Dany’s dragons are going to be utilized in the battle against the army of the dead). Melisandre and Davos are going to continue doing their shoulder-angel-shoulder-devil thing, so on and so forth.

Ok, I’ll stop teasing you. Let’s get to the religion bit.

So here’s my thing: the Lord of Light isn’t the one true god.

I know, I know. There’s a lot of evidence that the Lord of Light is the one true god. Let me argue against it:

Really the only two times the Lord of Light has manifested himself are the death of Robb Stark (a pretty strong argument that Stannis and Melisandre’s blood ritual with Gendry worked) and the summoning of Melisandre’s demon-baby that killed Renly Baratheon in season 2. So let’s break those down.

Ok, so the Red Wedding. A lot of people see that as the Lord of Light going to work and annihilating Robb Stark. I’m going to take a wait and see approach. I’ll chalk the death of Robb up to the fact that he was rebelling against not only the king of the Seven Kingdoms but also the most powerful house in Westeros, headed by the most powerful man in the country in Tywin Lannister. Me, being the skeptic, might even be stubborn about it and chalk about the inevitable deaths of Joffrey and Balon Greyjoy (lets face it, Roose Bolton is going to give Balon the business, if someone else doesn’t beat him to it. Maybe Rickon and House Umber?).

But what about the demon baby/ghost queef thing from season 2? I don’t buy it. Doesn’t seem like a really Lord of Light thing to do. Actually, it seems more like the re-emerging earth magic that people like Bran and Pyat Pree are practicing. But what would that mean? It would mean that Melisandre is making the whole thing up. And that she practices some other kind of religious magic outside of the Lord of Light’s domain—which might explain why someone like Thoros of Myr, a heavily disgraced priest, can resurrect people and Melisandre can. Interesting discussion. I’m agnostic towards the Lord of Light right now—I’d like to see some more from him via Melisandre before I can really get behind Stannis being the ultimate champion of light.

THE WILDLING INVASION

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Jon Snow/Sam Tarly/The Night’s Watch: It’s nice to see Jon and Sam reunited again. They were such good friends. It’s just too bad it had to be in such bad conditions. Here’s the situation for the Night’s Watch: the army of the undead is knocking at their front door; the Wildlings are breathing down their backs; their Lord Commander is dead; a bunch of soldiers rebelled against the Watch at Craster’s Keep, leaving their numbers who knows how depleted; and their best fighter, Jon Snow, is severely wounded.

I would love to see Samwell Tarly complete his maturation by stepping up to the plate as a leader in these dark times. He made his first kill—a White Walker no less—and now has a lady and child to fight for in Gilly and Sam Jr. I do fear for the Watch, though—hopefully Stannis and whoever else responds to the call for aid arrive in time, and with the same epic flair Gandalf arrives at Helm’s Deep with (c’mon, it crossed your mind).

Tormund Giantsbane/Mance Rayder/the Wildlings: The defection of Jon Snow was a setback, as his insider knowledge of the Night’s Watch fortifications would’ve been immensely helpful in their campaign, but the Wildlings push forth nonetheless. It is unclear how many are beyond the wall at this point—Mance Rayder had a crazy big army under his command, but it seems implausible that the entirety of it can scale the Wall in the same fashion as Tormund and his gang did. I think the plan was for Tormund to open the gate and let the rest of them in. They will march forwards until they achieve their goals, that much is certain.

But how to deal with the Jon Snow problem? Jon Snow betrayed them, and I highly doubt that that is a forgivable offense in Wildling eyes. Unless your…

Ygritte: Oh, my Ygritte. I’m simultaneously happy you’re single but sad that you’re heart’s broken. I’m very interested into how she and Jon are going to play out. I think she’s going to go back to him, to be honest. I know she shot a bunch of arrows at him, but that wasn’t politically driven. She made it abundantly clear to Jon that any political or social divisions between them mean nothing to her, just as long as he doesn’t betray her. Which he did. But I would like to believe that when push comes to shove, love will win out. Maybe, if Jon Snow can somehow rally the Wildlings and Night’s Watch against a common foe, their union will finally be permitted. A political marriage between Southerners and Wildlings? Hm.

EVERYONE ELSE

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Arya Stark/Sandor “The Hound” Clegane: Well, Arya finally murdered the shit out of someone. And all signs point to her going and joining the Red God or the Faceless Men or whatever crazy awesome thing Jaqen H’ghar was. What else does she have to lose? Her sister is basically in captivity. Her older brother is dead. Her mother is dead. Her father is dead. Her two littler brothers are presumed dead. Her home is in ruins. All that she has left is a list of those she wants dead. Whether her new buddy Sandor has done enough to take himself off it remains to be seen, but I really don’t think he’ll be accompanying her on this voyage. Regardless of whatever gods rule Westeros, Arya will forever worship death. And offer to him a list of sacrifices.

Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish: We haven’t seen a lot of Littlefinger since he took center stage in the middle of the season. He is going to marry into House Arryn, a powerful and important family that Tywin wanted under the crown’s influence (if you remember, patriarch Jon Arryn was the Hand who was poisoned to death in season 1 after discovering Gendry was Robert Baratheon’s bastard son. Ned Stark was his replacement). Littlefinger now has the Vale and Harrenhal, and a crisis in the North that I’m sure he will exploit to his advantage. Littlefinger made huge strides to being a major player in the Game this season, a trend that I’m sure will continue next season. I also would not be surprised if Littlefinger had an integral part in whoever decides to overthrown the Lannisters next…which may or may not be Dany.

Margaery Tyrell/Loras Tyrell/Olenna Tyrell: There can only be one queen, and Margaery and the rest of the Tyrell clan have made it very clear that they want it to be her. However, Tywin did just make a pretty strong statement for people who try to go against him. Cersei also doesn’t particularly like Margaery either. But Sansa does, and therefore Tyrion will be involved somehow. I’m going to guess that Margaery’s power plays in the capital aren’t going to be a huge part of season 4, but hey. We’ll see.

Thoros of Myr/Beric Dondarrion/Anguy the Archer: Who cares. Thanks for reading.

Categories: Game of Thrones, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TBT: College Dropout

Kanye, Kanye, Kanye…

This week Kanye West released his 6th solo album entitled “Yeezus” in which he strips his music of everything we expect to find in a Kanye West album.  He relies heavily on drum beats and vocals while incorporating elements of the trendy EDM genre to provide his audience with a cathartic purging of his sins.  “Yeezus” is a far cry from “College Dropout” and I’m not sure whether or not I love or hate his latest project.  Is Kanye’s ever-present self-awareness endearing or disgusting in light of his borderline depraved behavior? I am a fan of Kanye’s overall contribution to hip-hop, but you know what shit I don’t like? He features Chief Keef, an artist I can’t get down with, in the song “Hold My Liquor.” On the off-chance he reads this and I end up in a ditch somewhere in Dorchester, please note that I have no other quick-trigger enemies and it is Mr. Keef who shot me.  I understand Kanye wants to represent and elevate Chicago’s MCs, but in my opinion Chief Keef is everything that is wrong with hip-hop.  He has risen to national prominence but for all the wrong reasons and doesn’t seem to realize that his music is for public consumption.  His message is one of violence and anti-social behavior but it isn’t being done in an intelligent, socially conscious manner.  Chicago’s murder-rate is through the roof right now and the last thing that city needs is to glorify a teenager who is smack down in the middle of the muck and mire.  But maybe Kanye recognizes all of this and is featuring Chief Keef to highlight the ongoing conflicts in inner-city Chicago.  As with everything Kanye does, there always seems to be an ulterior motive, let’s just hope this one was done with good intentions.  But enough already.  Kanye West is a musical genius who has given his life to the industry and today, the day on which you might first listen to “Yeezus,” I’d like to remind you of a younger, less jaded, less-complicated Kanye West.  I miss this Kanye.

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Friday Fives: Sports Dynasties

In honor of the San Antonio Spurs’ improbable run to yet another NBA Finals we’re looking at the greatest runs in sports. These are not just dynasties – you know, teams who actually won –  but teams that gave their fans consistent greatness and something to cheer for year to year, so don’t be alarmed when you see a certain Utah team on one of our panelist’s list. Who did we leave out? Probably someone because we always do, but hey, we don’t get paid for this shit, so donations are welcome.

TED

GREG

MARK/TAYLOR

DISHONORABLE MENTION: The 1990’s Bills.  It might seem ridiculous now but the Buffalo Bills used to be kinda sorta good. After the NFL merger they were pretty miserable, with only three postseason appearances despite the presence of pre-murder OJ Simpson, but with the arrival of legends like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, and Andre Reed in the late 80’s, fortunes began to turn for the residents of Canada’s Butthole. The team took off and before they knew it, the Bills had made four Super Bowl appearances. Can you say dynasty!!! Wait a second…they lost every single one? Four years in a row? To three different teams??? The run of shame began in the 1990-91 season, when the hugely favored Bills lost Super Bowl XXV on Scott Norwood’s infamous “wide right” kick (laces out Marino!). The next year Buffalo cruised through the regular season again, only to get smoked by the Redskins in the Super Bowl after reigning MVP Thomas lost his helmet and had to sit out a couple plays (that sums up the city of Buffalo pretty nicely). Year Three saw a change in the winds, as the Bills completed the biggest comeback in NFL history to win their wild card game, steamrolled their next two opponents…then watched the emerging Cowboys dynasty drop 52 points on their heads in the third-biggest blowout in SB history. By the time their rematch with America’s Team rolled around in Year Four, Bills fans figured, statistically speaking, there was no way they could lose again…but weren’t surprised when, of course, they did. Buffalo deserves some credit for reaching four straight title games, something no other team has done and very well may never do again. But losing all four – I mean, c’mon man. UConn women’s basketball.  Women’s ball gets a bad rap because of the relative lack of athleticism these athletes possess compared to their male counterparts. Men’s basketball is just more fun to watch. Just last week ESPN ran a “highlight” of a Brittney Griner dunk that occurred after the whistle…c’mon now. However, the dearth of excitement in the women’s game should not detract from the accomplishments of Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies. These ladies were literally unbeatable for over two seasons and have won eight national titles under Coach Geno. Since the turn of the century the Huskies have won seven titles, including this past season, and win their conference nearly every year. Not only is this a special program, but some of the greatest players ever have graduated from this university, including personal favorites Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. (I’d actually really like to play these women in games of 1-on-1 to see how good they really are. I would not be surprised one bit if I got shut out.) I won’t watch much women’s basketball, but if UConn is playing, the chances increase exponentially. Jerry Sloan’s Jazz.  To kick off this list, I’m going to start with the best franchise run that includes a very hard-to-miss blemish: no championship. A team that consisted of Karl Malone and John Stockton unfortunately was never able to secure a title, primarily because of a guy named Michael Jeffrey Jordan. I can’t say I blame them, but I still can’t put them on that high of a pedestal. I have, however, made it my mission in life to tell people that John Stockton is not only the all-time leader in assists, but steals as well. People like to discredit the former by announcing that he had Malone to pass to, but then explain the latter to me: was Malone picking Stockton up and using his body to take the ball away from other people? The guy could play, folks, and if it wasn’t for his Dad-like fashion sense I think he’d be widely considered the greatest point guard of all time not named Magic. Malone’s numbers (and cowboy hats) speak for themselves – it’s just a shame he has empty fingers. The Jazz make this list due to Stockton and Malone, but also to the man behind the curtains (okay, on the sidelines), Jerry Sloan. The John Kerry lookalike led the Jazz to the postseason for 20 straight years, which is probably a record but my work’s firewall blocks out too many sites for me to fact-check that.
The early 1980’s Islanders.  Similar to the Bills, the current Islanders are a disgrace to their predecessors (a longtime fan recently told me, “I know more about those 80’s teams than I do about this year’s) – but their earlier incarnations actually have the success to back up that statement. In 1980 the Islanders began an incredible run that netted them four straight Stanley Cups, with their hopes for a fifth only ending in that year’s Finals by the emergence of Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers dynasty (are you sensing a trend here?). With massive contributions from Mike Bossy, two-way phenomenon Butch Goring, and the brothers Sutter, the Islanders reeled off a North American pro sports-record 19 straight playoff series victories, a mark unlikely to ever be broken. The run had it all, from an overtime Cup clincher in Year One, to the Isles losing only three games over four series in Year Two, to a first-round series-winning comeback followed by sweeps of their final two opponents in Year Three, to holding Gretzky scoreless (after his mindblowing breakout season) in a Finals sweep in Year Four. The Great One would have his revenge in the following year’s Finals, starting an immensely dominant era of his own, but not before the Islanders had cemented their legacy in the NHL. The PTI Guys.  Can you believe Pardon the Interruption has been on the air for over 12 years? Mike and Tony are what is great about America: they are two rather ugly human beings, one black, one white, who have made a living talking about shit that really doesn’t matter, and we as a consumer audience cannot get enough. Everyone aspires to PTI status but few have the staying power to pull it off. ESPN offers First Take (formerly known as Cold Pizza), Around the Horn, and Numbers Never Lie (which I guarantee doesn’t last), and countless other programs on various stations have attempted shows that do not measure up to PTI (Around the Valley excluded). Remember when Stephen A. Smith was given his own show called Quite Frankly? He was ESPN’s hot new personality with outlandish opinions and comical catchphrases. If anyone could have carried a show by himself it was Stephen A. Well, it sucked. I’m not even going to bother looking up how long it lasted because it probably lasted a shorter period than the time it would take me to do that research. So after a strange hiatus from mainstream ESPN where he was replaced by Chris Broussard – until Broussard proved himself to be nothing more than a rumor-whore – Smith had to team up with Skip Bayless to go at PTI with its adjusted PTI format (a female host and way more nonsensical yellow journalism) because America likes seeing a white guy and a black guy argue about things in a nonthreatening manner. It appeals to everyone and satisfies lingering racial tensions. But no one is going to touch PTI and I hope we get another decade of Mike and Tony. Now go drink some booze you knuckleheads. The 1990’s Braves.  To put it articulately, the 90’s Braves were freakin’ dope mang. Their pitching rotation was one of the lesser acclaimed but still devastating Big Three’s in sports, and they won the NL East every year for an entire decade. They were also one of the whitest teams of all time. The one thing also holding them down is their lack of rings. Legendary franchise runs should have more than just one. The Braves had the burden that so many teams in the 90’s had – existing when there was  another ballclub playing on Dynasty mode. If it was not for the New York Yankees, the Braves would likely have had one of the winningest decades in MLB history.
John Wooden’s UCLA basketball.  The godfather of college basketball, John Wooden led his Bruins on a stunning display of dominance in the 60’s and 70’s. In 12 seasons from 1963 to Wooden’s retirement in 1975, UCLA amassed some of the most impressive numbers in NCAA history: 11 tourney appearances, 11 #1 rankings, 10 national titles (including seven straight), four undefeated seasons, and a record 88 straight victories at one point. And he did all this without the stalwart superstars of the pro leagues, given the yearly turnover of college rosters due to graduations, transfers, and the like. The man was a basketball genius, plain and simple, and there’s little wonder the NCAA player of the year award is named in his honor. Duncan’s Spurs.  Since Tim Duncan joined the San Antonio Spurs they have been one of the best teams in the league by any measure or stretch of the imagination. Since Jordan retired for the second time, no team has been as consistently great (save for Brady’s Pats – in fact the similarities are remarkable). Not only have the Spurs made the playoffs every season with Timmy, but they have never had a regular season winning percentage under 61%, have never finished below second place in their division, have only lost in the first round three times (call them the anti-Karl’s), and have a very good chance of bringing home banner number five this year. They are underappreciated because they don’t have any celebrity superstars or sexy personalities, they play the game the right way without searching for SportsCenter highlights, and they’re seemingly never in the news – though Tony Parker might have something to say about that. Wow, I think Tony has a little bit of a lollipop fetish.  I think my first video is going to look a little different. The 2000’s Lakers.  “What?” you exclaim loudly, outraged while staring at your computer in disbelief. “How can you possibly choose the turn-of-the-millennium Lakers team over its 80’s counterpart OR their rivals, the Bird-led Celtics?” The answer is this: efficiency. While the 80’s teams were battling each other from coast to coast for the “Team of the 80’s” title (a still-ongoing debate), the Phil Jackson-led squad was dominating the league and was the unarguable team of the turn of the century. Mark Madsen was of course the centerpiece of this team that had a decent supporting cast in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. They were certainly outstanding, and another skeleton will unfortunately have to pop out of my closet – I loved them. Though my animosity for Kobe Bryant has always existed (even if it has waned in recent years), Shaq was both dominant and charismatic enough for me not to care. How could you not love the man who made Steel and Kazaam? I had about 34 Shaq posters on my wall as a youngster, including his original incarnation on the Orlando Magic and his appearance on the ‘96 gold medal Olympic team. One time my dad bought me an NBA magazine and it had a Lakers cheerleader in it and I kissed the picture when I was alone in my room. Okay, now I’ve revealed too much.
Mike Tyson.  What more is there to say about Iron Mike? Books can be, and have been, written about the dominance of The Baddest Man on the Planet, the last of the great and legendary heavyweights of the boxing world. He burst onto the scene as a 20-year-old when he won his first 19 fights by KO – 12 in the first round! – and was undefeated through his first 37 bouts before losing his belt to Buster Douglas in a shocking upset. Nevertheless, he was one of the most feared boxers of all time, thanks to a combination of ferocious punching power, eye-blurringly quick defense, and utter insanity. He went 50-6 in his career, which unfortunately is often overshadowed by his bizarre personal life and the fact that he’s a complete lunatic. Don’t let the pigeons and Hangover cameos fool you, kids – Iron Mike is one of the scariest men who’s ever lived. Tiger Woods.  Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger Woods y’all! It seems like a lifetime ago, but there was a time when other PGA Tour members would have rather been face-to-face with an actual tiger than see good ole Eldrick lurking behind them. You know, before the gratuitous sex narrative mechanically poked its head into the ever-verdant tee-box (umm…yeah, I like that metaphor). This man spent over 500 weeks as the World’s Number One Golfer while capturing more majors than anyone not named The Golden Bear. He is a ten-time Player of the Year, nine-time leading money earner, and has the second most tour wins all-time. And no one can attract an audience quite like Mr. Woods, so even the most casual fan will tune in when Tiger is in the mix. And this weekend Tiger hits the links at the U.S. Open looking to recapture some of his feral virility. Women beware. The late 1990’s Yankees.  Shame on me I suppose but I loved the New York Yankees before I turned 10 years old. I suppose as adults we realize all the intricacies that go into liking or not liking a team, but as a preadolescent it’s hard not to like things that are awesome on a surface level. The Yankees won all the time and for that I thought they were cool. It would be hard explaining this to almost anyone outside of the Tri-State area, but Paul O’Neill was one of my top three favorite baseball players. Add to him names like Bernie Williams and Tito Martinez and that team elicits positive emotions in my brain. It wouldn’t be until years later that I realized people usually dislike the Yankees for their players, but for the fans and general attitude they have as an organization. Talk to a New York fan of any sport for five minutes and you’ll find yourself developing a sudden allegiance to whatever team is their rival.
Red and Bill’s Celtics.  Come on, what else could I finish with? At least I can justify my homerism with the fact that this was legitimately one of the most dominant teams of all time, reeling off 11 titles over 13 years in the late 50’s and 60’s, including a pro sports-record eight straight that will absolutely never, ever be touched. Yeah, yeah, the NBA was a different animal back then, with much fewer teams and nobody to compete with freak of nature Bill Russell, but the fact that Red Auerbach built this team, and essentially the league, from scratch and dominated for so long is astounding. Plus, Russell coached himself to his last two titles, giving him 11 rings. He says he hangs the last around his neck, but I think we all know where he really puts it. MJ’s Bulls.  This might be the best team ever assembled so there really is not much I can tell you that you don’t already know. They won six titles, including two three-peats, have the most wins ever in a season (72), never had a season with a winning percentage lower than 57%, and loaned their best player to the Looney Tunes in order to save America’s favorite cartoons, costing them two more rings. They made a mockery of the league and the supposed parity within the game and cakewalked their way into the annals of the NBA. Jordan and Pippen were the most fearsome wing combination ever, combining ballhawking defense (ask Toni Kukoc) and efficient, awe-inspiring offense on the road to success. They singlehandedly ruined the legacies of Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton, none of whom will ever be able to lay claim to a top ten legacy despite a Gollum-like pursuit of that coveted ring. Thanks for the memories, fellas. The 2000’s Patriots.  Ahhhh finally a team I can fully praise with no remorse. Tom Brady has won three Super Bowls and appeared in five. To realize just how good he is, take into consideration that he appeared in his fifth Super Bowl a full decade after his first one. Belichick might be known for his crop-arm hoodies, having a really hard to spell name, Spygate, and for just generally being a curmudgeon, but he is unavoidably on the short list of greatest coaches of all time. The Pats might be known for their offense now, but the defense in the early years was flat out terrifying. To sum it all up, watch this and think about what your life is like compared to his.
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