Monday, December 14, 2009

Apparently, that college education isn't paying off... yet

It's always nice to see an NFL prospect who wants to stay in school. It's rare these days. However, this move makes absolutely no sense.

University of Washington Huskies junior quarterback Jake Locker, a projected top 10 pick and likely top five or even No. 1 overall pick in April's NFL Draft decided to stay in school for another season.

Locker has everything you want in a franchise quarterback prospect: Ability to read coverages, accurate throws, strong arm and mobility. He might not be NFL-ready at the moment, but he's the best QB prospect in the 2010 class.

Well, he was.

Not only did Locker pass up a chance to be a No. 1 overall pick in 2010, he passed up about $40 million in guaranteed money. With the looming lockout in the NFL and a possible rookie salary cap, Locker might have made a costly mistake.

He'll take out an insurance policy, in case he is injured in his senior season, but it probably won't come close to the $40 million he would have been paid by an NFL team.

This is reminiscent of Sam Bradford last year. Bradford, the University of Oklahoma quarterback and 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, came back for another season. He was hurt two times and didn't finish the season. He would have been a top 10 pick in the 2009 draft. Now, he's a fringe first-round prospect. Some people, such as myself, were never that high on him and the injury concerns only hamper his draft status.

Bottom line is, Locker should have played the percentages. He would have performed well at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, cemented himself as a top five pick and would have signed a huge rookie contract.

Instead, he returns to Washington in hopes of improving his game and contending in the always tough Pacific-10 Conference. It doesn't sound like such a bad idea, but the smart money was on declaring for the draft.

There are more important things than money, but in this economic climate, not so much.

Time will tell if this move hurts him financially, as well as physically. I wish him well and hope he has another good season so this column will have been for not.

Then there's always a Bradford situation. Here's hoping this doesn't come back to bite Locker in the backside.

Monday, December 7, 2009

An accident spawns a column

The timestamp on the column read 7:22 p.m., which is when the post was initiated. Four hours later, the screen was as white as a puffy cumulus cloud on an early spring day.

Writer's block -- something every journalist experiences. At least, I like to think so.

First of all, I thought about things I wanted, which didn't lead to much. Second, I thought about trying to write something funny about some people I disdain, which didn't lead to much.

Suddenly, a column idea was conceived.

"Oh crap!" THUD!

A fall from my bed caused my foot to impact the bottom-right corner of the screen, rendering the screen of my four-and-a-half-month-old laptop useless. The $550 necessity is nothing more than a paper weight now.

The formation of the distorted screen almost looks like the side of a snow-packed mountain. If only I were that lucky.

Is that the Abominable Snowman?

In a state of shock, thoughts began racing through my head.

"How am I going to finish my homework? How much is it going to cost to fix this? Should I just get a new one? How the hell did I fall off the bed?"

Speaking to the latter, it was just one of those everyday accidents that are purely inexplicable.

However, those were all afterthoughts. The accident birthed this column.

The cracked, hopeless screen, starting me in the face, screamed "column." Everything from the mishap itself to the coincidental screen formation to the newest addition to the Christmas list just made for a writing opportunity.

A new laptop immediately jumps to the top of my Christmas list. I keep telling people not to get my anything for Jesus' birthday, but I might change my tune now.

Either that, or the current one needs to be repaired. Extended warranties are something I usually laugh at, but I'm desperately wishing I had purchased one nearly five months ago. Taking into account the time, cost and effort, it might just be better to purchase a new one. At least there should be some good deals during the holiday season.

As a journalism student, a laptop is a necessity, rather than a luxury -- which could be said for pretty much any student these days. I use my computer every single day, as all journalists do. Now I'm going to have to improvise, especially with finals coming up.

In the end, this was a blessing in disguise. Sitting here with a blank screen not knowing what the hell I was going to write about could have kept me up for hours.

Who am I kidding? I'd rather be sitting here with no ideas and usable laptop screen. At least that wouldn't cost me at least $500.

But, everything happens for a reason. I'm sure said reason will present itself in some fashion soon.

So Santa, if you read this, you know what to get me. I like to think I've been a good boy this year. I guess we'll see in a few weeks.

Merry Christmas to all and to all, chip in for a new lappy for this journalism student.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm thankful for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The food, the family, the football, the fun -- everything about it just appeals to me.

It probably has to do with the fact it's also winter time, which is also my favorite time of year.

In the past, a trip to Southern California was the norm. The trek would begin on late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. The six-hour trip to La La land was about the only drag.

My mom, her now ex-husband and my brother made the semi-annual journey to Brentwood, Calif. Yes, the same Brentwood where Orenthal James Simpson didn't murder Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. But that's a whole other issue.

My mom's ex-husband's family is, for lack of a better phrase, filthy rich. The three-story, $1.5 million estate (at the time) was the gathering place for well over 100 family members on turkey day. The feast was plentiful and exorbitant, as would be expected with so many guests.

As an adolescent and young teenager during the majority of these trips, some of the highlights included being able to see my cousins and other family members who came from out of town. We had a plethora of things to do, including cops & robbers, tag, hide-n-go-seek, video games and once, swimming, were on the menu.

Another attractive part of the trip was just to marvel at the size of the house. I have not been in a house so enormous since and won't be surprised if I never will again.

Since my mom divorced her ex, Thanksgiving hasn't been like that. However, it has been better than any of that material stuff.

The less-extravagant Thanksgivings have made the family get-togethers feel that much closer and special. I know there will always be a turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, Stove Top Stuffing -- the only stuffing anyone should ever eat -- Martinelli's Apple Cider, football -- even if it is a bunch of crappy games -- and most importantly, the people I love most in this world.

The late-afternoon nap that soon follows the midday feast was also something that was highly anticipated. With a tummy full of turkey and fixings, a short nap usually recharges the batteries for a mid-evening second round with the leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, what would Thanksgiving be like without the next day. I could care less about the crazed shoppers looking to get the best deal on a plasma television. I'm talking about hot turkey sandwiches.

One piece of bread, cold turkey leftover from the day before, hot gravy -- it doesn't get any better than that. So simple, yet so satisfying.

However, the things I enjoy most are the things I am most thankful for: A loving family, an outstanding girlfriend, my health and a roof over my head. That should be the foundation for any successful and happy Thanksgiving. What more could anyone ask for?

Maybe another slice of turkey and a half-way decent football game. The turkey is doable, but I'm not holding my breath on the game.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A not-so-well kept 'Secret,' unfortunately

There aren't enough scantily-clad and attractive women, dick jokes and interesting vantage points to save the abomination that is Secret Girlfriend, on Comedy Central.

Comedy Central has put out some good and critically acclaimed shows in the past -- South Park, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Chappelle's Show -- because they have brilliant writing, tackle issues and are actually, funny. Fancy that, a funny show on a networked dubbed Comedy Central.

Secret Girlfriend, however, is none of that -- especially funny.

First of all, the protagonist is a faceless 20-something male, as the first-person view point is to be shared by the show's audience.

The faceless man is flanked by two lackeys, Phil and Sam, who are both roughly the same age with only one thing on their mind: Sex.

A psychotic ex-girlfriend, Mandy, chases you throughout the episode, basically imposing her will on you while you're interested in another woman, Jessica, who is significantly less insane than Mandy.

What ensues is 11 minutes of beautiful women not wearing much, jokes about sex and sex acts and a psychotic ex-girlfriend constantly loving and at the same time, hating the main character, the viewer. Then the show rinses and repeats for another 11 minutes.

Critics have described the show as back-to-back 11-minute episodes, similar to that of a Saturday morning cartoon. Perhaps that should have been the target audience for this poor excuse for a TV show.

The show was developed from a Web series of the same moniker.

A TV show with good-looking women, cleavage galore and essentially soft-core pornography -- sounds like a recipe for success, no?

No, actually.

The only thing Secret Girlfriend will accomplish is to get men (anywhere from adolescence to college-age to middle-age) to watch the women in revealing outfits and bikinis until they remember the Internet exists, where there are millions of provocative pictures of women just a few clicks of the mouse away.

The format of this show is rare, and has some potential, but that's about it. As an avid first-person video gamer, I can relate to that aspect of the show. However, said potential is limited.

Comedy Central has a (poor) history of green-lighting shows that are doomed from the beginning due to poor writing, a poor premise or poor acting; and sometimes all of the above. Secret Girlfriend is such a show.

Girlfriend takes no chances, other than the occasional partial nudity, and markets itself as 22 minutes of tits and ass. Even the promotions and commercials for this show are lame. I'd like to think we're a little more sophisticated than that in America. However, I'm constantly surprised by many things in this country. It is clear that the show recognizes what sells, but that still won't be enough to have this show reach its second birthday... or even half-birthday.

Lest we forget, this is Comedy Central, which is not exactly the benchmark when it comes to TV excellence. Needless to say, there are some great shows on the network.

There have been other shows that focus on sex and sexuality, but this show does so in such a poor fashion that it is unappealing and trite.

Perhaps this show should have remained a 'Secret.'

1/5 Stars, and that's being generous.

Monday, November 9, 2009

As the McCourts Turn

Divorce is a something that usually effects young people. Granted, divorce can happen at any age, but it is personified greatly when it involves a multi-million dollar Major League Baseball franchise.

Frank McCourt owns the Los Angeles Dodgers. Shortly before the beginning of the National League Championship Series, news broke that he and his bride, Jamie, were going to divorce.

Not a big deal for a blue-collar mom and dad, but a huge deal for the owners of a baseball team.

Forbes estimated the Dodgers' worth to be $722 million in April 2009.

This separation is likely to adversely effect the Dodgers' abilities come this off-season.

Take the San Diego Padres, for instance. Former Padres' owner, John Moores, announced he was divorcing his wife, which prompted the Padres to make a lot of cost-cutting moves.

The Padres didn't sign any big-name free agents before last season, traded their ace at the end of July in Jake Peavy and did not re-sign the face of the franchise -- Trevor Hoffman -- who signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. They also toyed with trading their best player, Adrian Gonzalez, who is extremely cost-effective for the next two seasons: $4.75 million in 2010 and $5.5 million in 2011. If Gonzalez were to hit the free agent market right now, he'd likely command a contract of $18-20 million annually for no less than five years.

The Padres were eventually sold to Jeff Moorad's investment group.

Point being, the McCourt's divorce proceedings will hamper the Dodgers. There won't be any ace starting pitchers signed (John Lackey); there won't be a lot of salary to take on from trades (Roy Halladay); there won't be a whole lot different from the current roster.

Frank McCourt has already been criticized for being cheap in the past. With him having to possibly give half of his estate to his soon-to-be ex-wife, there is absolutely not way he's going to take a lot of salary.

When McCourt bought the team in 2004, a similar situation presented itself. The Dodgers were all set to sign the biggest free agent on the market that winter -- Vladimir Guererro -- but with the FOX ownership group in the process of selling the team, the Dodgers had to hold off on any big signings.

Guererro ended up signing with the Anaheim Angels, the Dodgers' regional American League Rival. All Guererro ended up doing in 2004 was leading the Angels to the playoffs and winning the AL Most Valuable Player award.

It's unfortunate the McCourts will not put the good of the team before their personal squabbles. If they had any decency, they'd sell the team as soon as possible and leave the personal issues for the courts to decide.

So, it will definitely be an interesting in La La Land. The Dodgers will have to go the way of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals to get anything done this off-season.

I'm not getting my hopes up for any big moves, but stranger things have happened. Maybe the McCourts will get wise to the situation, sell the team and save the Dodger fans from a winter of drama.

Not likely.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Columnist Profile: Jon Weisman

Every true Los Angeles Dodger fan's dream is to some how, some way meet or have a chance to meet a living legend -- Vincent Edward Scully. Lord knows it's my dream.

Not only did Jon Weisman meet the man affectionately known as "Vin," he had the privilege of writing a column about Scully on Sports Illustrated's Web site just over two years ago.

Weisman, 41, was kind enough to reply to some e-mail questions.

When asked about his favorite piece, he recalls the afore mentioned Scully column.

"I do enjoy thinking about a column I wrote about Vin Scully for, when I compared his call of a game in the late 1960s to his call of a game 40 years later," Weisman said.

Weisman (left) writes a blog, Dodger Thoughts, for the Los Angeles Times. However, it did not start as a Times' blog.

"I was just doing my own thing," Weisman said. "After a few years, when the site showed some real growth, it didn't seem quite so unlikely. But it wasn't my be-all, end-all ambition."

Dodger Thoughts, started by Weisman in June 2002, was picked up by the Times in February.

Weisman is no rookie when it comes to journalism, though.

"I sold my first story to the Los Angeles Times in 1986, while in college," Weisman said. "I did a detour into screenwriting for much of the 1990s, but I've done a lot of journalism work this decade."

Weisman, who attended Stanford University and Georgetown University, earned his bachelor's degree in American Studies in 1986 and master's degree in 1993, respectively.

Despite his passion for Dodger baseball, Weisman has been an associate features editor with Variety since September 2006 after doing freelance work for the publication for the previous three years.

However, he said he plans to stay in journalism for awhile, especially a paying job.

"My day job is as a features editor with Variety. I figure to remain in the business for some time; I haven't planned any major career shifts of anything."

Like many journalists, Weisman got started early.

"The very, very first thing, I believe, was I was asked to write an article for my high school newspaper on a production of a live Doonesbury show I was attending," he said. "I enjoyed doing that and looked for more assignments, and was committed to the newspaper for the rest of my high school and college life. I decided fairly early on in college that I wanted to be a sportswriter after graduation."

Weisman is the father of three children -- a daughter and two sons -- and is married.

As a life-long Dodger fan, like Jon, I am jealous and envious of his accomplishments. I hope to be able to lay claim to some similar accomplishments in my journalism career.

His most memorable moment, meeting Vin, was "unforgettable."

"It wasn't my best interview, but it was the one that had the most meaning for me."

I'm sure Weisman isn't the first, nor will he be the last journalist to utter a such a phrase.

If I may editorialize for a moment: Weisman is my favorite person to read when it comes to anything Dodgers. His insight, analysis and open-mindedness are a welcome change from his doppelganger L.A. Times' brethren.

Just look at this piece and you'll get my point.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not a 'Habit' for me

The inside of The Habit, located at 7400 Laguna Blvd. in Elk Grove, Calif., was as expected -- a clean, homey hamburger joint.

Music was playing lightly in the background, only interrupted by the sound of, "Order No. 69 is ready." It was fairly busy at 12:30 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.

If only the burger had been as nice as the scenery.

The aesthetics of the restaurant is the potentially the best part about having a meal at the establishment, unfortunately.

The service was good, even if it was just the taking of the order and picking it up at the front. No complaints there.

On the menu: The Teriyaki Char -- a teriyaki burger.

The burger consisted of things you would expect to find in a teriyaki burger: Beef, swiss cheese, pineapple, lettuce and sauce. The burger also consisted of things you wouldn't expect to find: Tomato, pickles, mayonnaise and caramelized onions.

The tomato and pickles were the first thing to go, as they not only don't belong in a teriyaki burger, but they're not appetizing. The onions should have been next to go, but they were left to give the burger a chance to succeed.

Sadly, it did not.

As I bit into the burger, my hands were covered with teriyaki sauce, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. A messy burger is a sign of a good burger. Too bad it didn't make me forget about the mediocre, at best, burger.

The caramelized onions seemed really out of place in this burger. The onions seem to be a staple for The Habit (they come standard on every burger). Yet, they could have, and should have, been left off this burger.

The burger itself was on the small side. However, for the price, which wasn't terrible, you'd expect a larger burger.

Also, the combination of flavors didn't meld well together. It was cooked nicely, but just lacked a certain quality you would expect to find in a place that prides itself on burgers. A certain, "umph," if you will.

Caramelized Onions?!

There were some good points about the meal, though.

The teriyaki sauce was not a sauce you would find in a Japanese restaurant, but it worked quite well on this burger. It was sweet and was just tangy enough to enjoy. The toasted bun somewhat made made me forget about the burger's overall deficiencies, for a minute. The french fries were golden-brown, crunchy, salted well and delicious -- definitely the best part of the meal.

And finally, the price.

A Teriyaki Char, fries and a large soft drink is going to set you back $7.56 (in Elk Grove, Calif., at least). Not wallet-draining, but not super cheap, either.

Looks good, but looks can be deceiving

For my money, I'd rather grab a burger at Red Robin or a Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl's Jr.

However, it is awfully tough to beat restaurant-style french fries, especially when they're cooked as well as they are at The Habit.

I'd be willing to give The Habit another chance, but it would have to absolutely knock my socks off for me to give it a better review.

Mediocre seemed to be the word of the day when describing the eatery.

3 out of 5