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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I don't have much time to write, as I have friends over right now.

I hope everyone out there in cyberspace has a wonderful new year. 2009 wasn't necessarily a great year, but I'm thankful that I have my health (knock on wood) and am one of the few people in Michigan who is still gainfully employed.

I'm still feverishly working on a few posts that should appear in the next week or so. They're dated "December," so scroll down to check them out when they appear.

Here's hoping for a great 2010!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Second annual Brainsplotch Big Ten football awards

For the second consecutive year, I'm handing out the much coveted Brainsplotch Big Ten football awards. I know that the recipients will be thrilled with the announcement. Since most of these awards are in offensive categories, it may look like I'm being a homer and favoring Michigan State. That's really not the case (at least that's not the intention). Since MSU had the top offense in the conference (and a mediocre defense), it's only natural that many of the players mentioned are Spartans.

Without further adieu, the winners are:

MVP: John Clay, running back, Wisconsin. Clay is the most rugged back in the conference, and he's only a sophomore. Trying to tackle this guy has to be about as easy as tackling a Mack truck. It's scary how good he could be next year. He practically carried the Wisconsin offense on his back, averaging 116 yards rushing per game and scoring 16 touchdowns in helping the Badgers to a 9-3 regular season record.

Best running back: John Clay, Wisconsin. No surprise here, since I also named him conference MVP. Honorable mention: Evan Royster, Penn State. Royster had another outstanding year for the Nittany Lions. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry, gaining 1104 yards on only 188 carries.

Best quarterback: Darryl Clark, Penn State. Clark was Mr. Consistency for the Nittany Lions. He also led the conference in passing efficiency and touchdown passes. He also provided great leadership for the Nittany Lions offense. Honorable mention: Kirk Cousins, Michigan State. Call me a homer, but I give a slight edge to Cousins over Joey Elliott of Purdue. Cousins, only a sophomore, was second in the conference in passing efficiency, and threw 18 TDs compared to only 7 interceptions.

Best wide receiver: Keith Smith, Purdue. It's hard to argue with a guy who had 91 catches for 1100 yards, far and away the best numbers in the conference. Honorable mention: Blair White, Michigan State. Okay, I'm really going to be accused of being a homer here, but Michigan State led the Big Ten in passing offense, and part of the reason was the sure hands of former walk-on White.

Best kicker: Brett Swenson, Michigan State. Another great year for "Super Toe" Swenson, who led the conference in field goals made (18) field goal percentage, hitting 18 out of 20. He also led the Big Ten in scoring for kickers, with 94 points. Honorable mention: Stefan Demos, Northwestern. Demos tied with Swenson and Daniel Murray of Iowa for the most made fieldgoals in the conference, finished third in the field goal percentage (78.3 %), and also placed third in points scored for kickers with 85.

Best punter: Zoltan Mesko, Michigan. Mesko led the conference in punting average (44.5), a full yard more than his closest competitor, and boomed a 66 yarder. Honorable mention: Ryan Donahue, Iowa. For a team that had a fairly weak offense, Donohue was a valuable weapon for the Hawkeyes. He also nailed a 73 yard punt, which is very impressive in itself.

Best defensive player: Greg Jones, linebacker, Michigan State. Before dismissing this as pure homerism, please hear me out. Jones was far and away the best player on the Spartans' mediocre defense and was recently named first team All-American by the Associated Press and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. So I'm definitely not alone in my estimation. Jones led the conference in tackles (141) and was fifth in sacks. Honorable mention: Brandon Graham, defensive end, Michigan. Another standout performer for a team that had a poor defense. Graham led the Big Ten in tackles-for-loss and was second in sacks. (In my humble opinion, he's also one of the hardest hitters in the conference). Few players have a nose for the ball carrier like Jones and Graham.

Coach of the year: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa. Ferentz did a great job in leading a team with a strong defense, but suspect offense, to a second place finish in the conference. Honorable mention: Bret Bielema, Wisconsin. I give Bielema a slight edge over Pat Fitzgerald, who did another fine job with Northwestern. Bielema led the Badgers to one of the quietest 9-3 finishes in the country. After the disappointment of Wisconsin's 2008 season, Bielema was impressive in how he was able to get the Badgers to bounce back in 2009.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Great Christmas album: A Christmas Gift For You (from Phil Spector)

Whatever you want to say about Phil Spector the man, and I think that we can all agree that, at the very least, he’s a creep (if not a murderer), the man produced some of the greatest popular music of the twentieth century, and helped cultivate great artists like Darlene Love and the Ronettes (among many others).

Spector’s classic holiday album, A Christmas Gift for You (aka the Phil Spector Christmas Album), has just been re-released on CD, and it is probably THE best Christmas album of all time. The blurb on the back of the CD case declares it as one of the greatest albums in pop music history, and despite the grandiosity of that statement, I have a hard time disputing it. Just hearing the Ronettes belt out “Sleigh Ride” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” and Darlene Love’s impassioned “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is well worth the $9.99 I spent on the disc. So go out and warm up your Christmas with this great album.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I'm still here

I want all my loyal reader(s) to know that I am working on my first installments of the "Bargain Bin Finds" and hope to get them posted soon. I've made such a big deal about these that I hope they're not too underwhelming.

I also want to write about a new CD called Early Seger Volume 1 that I stumbled across while shopping at my local Meijer store. One of my biggest musical gripes is that, for whatever reason, Seger's pre-Beautiful Loser catalog is out-of-print (with the exception of Smokin' O.P.'s). Seger seems to be taking tentative steps to remedying that situation.

Well, I'm writing this while at work, so I'd better get back to work!