Saturday, October 3, 2009

Love the Team, Hate the Owner

Things have not started well for my Washington Redskins in 2009. Hopes were relatively high going into the new season with some solid off-season acquisitions and improvements to a team that was 8-8 last season with a rookie head coach. Coach Jim Zorn's second time around is slightly frightening. Three games in and the Skins are 1-2 with three offensive touchdowns and a terrible god-awful loss to the Lions last week. A Lions team that had not won a game in nearly two years.

The media and fans across the area have been clamoring for radical change at Redskins Park all this week. Some blame the players, others blame the coach. And even though Jim Zorn did make some terrible decisions last week in Detroit, I really think the problem lies with the owner who has been running this franchise into the ground since 1999. Dan Snyder, the 44-year-old billionaire midget who purchased the team from a classy owner (Jack Kent Cooke) has continued to make bad move after bad move in an effort to make as much money as he possibly can with an absolute disregard for the quality of the product he is building.

The Skins continue to draft poorly and throw money around at high-priced free agents who have passed their prime. A few draft moves and acquisitions have hit over the last decade (Chris Cooley, Clinton Portis, London Fletcher, etc...), but aging lifeless players like Dan Wilkinson, Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith and Jason Taylor have crippled the franchise's ability to grow talent from the draft. While the Patriots keep drafting and honing their own young superstars, the Redskins trade away quality draft picks in a win-now mentality. Snyder has failed to learn that winning takes a long term plan and requires competent general managers and coaches who can evaluate talent.

Vinny Cerrato has been the GM of the Redskins for 9 years and has failed miserably for the most part in evaluating and drafting talented players out of college. The Skins continue to try and draft flashy players and not build depth at key core positions like offensive and defensive line. Cerrato is only in his job because Snyder is stubborn and would not be employed by any other team in the league.

The real issue here is that Dan Snyder is a problem that cannot be fixed. Until he either dies in 30-40 years or until he goes bankrupt and is forced to sell the team, we life-long Redskins fans are doomed to endure this era of idiocracy. I gave up my season tickets years ago (primarily because I couldn't afford them any more) and my brother has completely shunned the franchise he grew up rooting for. I will continue to support the players and the team but I don't plan on going to many games and put more money into the pocket of Snyder. The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan are organizing a mass stunt for tomorrow's game against the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs. They encourage fans to wear paper bags as an "F.U." to Snyder. If more and more fans start to abandon games and test Snyder's resolve by not financially supporting his empire, maybe... just maybe we can somehow force this small heartless man to abandon our beloved franchise. If that happens, perhaps the Redskins can return to the glory years under Jack Kent Cooke that spawned three Super Bowl wins. Alas... I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pandora's Box Opened - Several Years Late

I stopped by my co-worker's office this morning and he had Pandora.com up on his browser. I had never heard of the site and asked him what it was. He explained that the site is an Internet radio provider that builds custom "stations" for you based on your musical taste and personal preferences. I immediately went back to my office to check it out for myself. I was instantly hooked on the perfect song choices that were made based on my initial band selections. I especially enjoyed creating a Music Score channel that catered to my love of cinematic soundtracks.

Unbeknownst to me, Pandora has been around for a few years now and produces one of the most popular iPhone applications. I completely missed the boat on this one and had been listening to my iPod primarily for the past few years (and Sirius streaming radio before that). What makes Pandora more appealing than Sirius or other Internet radio offerings is the algorithm used by the Music Genome Project which looks at the tones and characteristics of a preferred song to suggest similar sounding tracks. You can build an arsenal of customized themed stations to match your listening preference. And since I have an wide range of musical taste (anything except country) I see myself building numerous station choices. I've embedded my profile widget on this page in case anyone wants to see the pitiful station lineup I've created in less than 24 hours.



For those of you who use Pandora (and judging by the multiple comments on my Facebook status today, most of you do) and have not upgraded to the Pandora One service, I highly recommend it. I just did it tonight and am using the Adobe AIR desktop application (shown at right) to listen to music in my system tray. This way there are no ads, listening limitations and the quality is better than listening through the browser. The price is a respectable $36 for a yearly subscription. That's 3 bucks a month for unlimited music on your PC or phone. Now that I'm not limited to the thousands of songs on my iPod I'm pretty sure I'll get my money's worth over the next year. Hopefully as social networking continues to take off I won't find myself missing a boat like this one again.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wii Learning Curve

Browsing my Nintendo RSS feed today I came across a new WiiWare game for download that peaked my interest. Driift Mania (I suppose the double "i" means it's a Wii game) is an old school driving game that is very similar to the classic Off Road. Once I saw the screenshots for this game and the price ($8) I knew I had to get it. Off Road was one of the best games for the NES and I remember taking advantage of the revolutionary (for its time) 4-player mode in playing it non-stop with my brother and friends in our old Manor neighborhood. I've already gone back to the future with Bubble Bobble, Super Mario, Sonic and other WiiWare classics, why not give an Off Road spin-off a try. I thought for sure that Josh and I could continue our epic Mario Kart battles in this new game.

I downloaded it earlier this evening and it's just as I remembered Off Road. Top-view road race action where you just have to move left and right on the controller pad and use the 2 (B) button to accelerate. Very simple controls that I easily picked up from Off Road muscle memory. Unfortunately, Josh is unable to grasp the concept of top-view racing. He has become VERY good at Mario Kart and has actually beaten me in a couple of cup races lately. The controls for Driift Mania completely perplex him though. I took time to try to explain that you need to turn left and right only as if you were driving the car. After a few practice sessions he got so frustrated that he broke down crying that the game is too hard. I started playing one-player and he had fun watching me race but I really misjudged his ability to pick up the controls. It really is more intuitive for kids to tilt the Wii remote rather than press right or left on the D-pad. It didn't help that Josh hasn't completely mastered the directional definitions of right and left. Alas I will have to go it alone with this game (as if I have time to play Wii on my own these days). I do recommend it to those of you Wii owners who enjoyed the classic thrills of Off Road.

Looks like we'll need to go back and continue our Mario Kart battles for now. Alex has recently shown interest in Mario Kart but he just wants to "play" and by play I mean he has a remote, the race starts and he drives straight left into a wall, sits there for a bit and then puts down his remote and starts to draw on some paper for the rest of the race. We keep passing him and at the end he says "I beat you JOOOSSSHH!" He's much better at "autry" (archery on Wii Sports Resort).