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Showing posts from September, 2012

Upcoming Releases — October

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We are entering into the fall hardcore with October, meaning we're getting an odd mix of award contenders, serious films, and, of course, typical Halloween fare... In other words, there is something for everyone.

Friday, Oct. 5:
Taken 2 — OK, the first film was a serviceable action film. It wasn't a personal favorite, but I can see why it appealed for some. But it didn't need a sequel. No doubt if you liked the first one, you'll enjoy this one.

Frankenweenie — A fun, animated film from Tim Burton. This won't be warm and fuzzy like a Pixar film, but it will be a fun holiday treat.

Butter — This indie comedy could be good. It has a great cast. It has a quirky plot summary. But it's gotten really mixed reviews. Who knows.

Friday, Oct. 12:
Argo — Ben Affleck might be a better director than actor, and I like him as an actor. By all accounts, this might be his best film yet. Argo is a strong Oscar contender and looks pretty awesome.

Sinister — This looks like a real…

NFL Picks, Week 4

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Last week was my worst yet. Fortunately, thanks to the random outcomes, I wasn't alone. Needless to say there's no where to go but up. At least that's what I'm telling myself. As always, picks are against the spread, meaning it isn't a straight up and down pick.

Browns +12.5 Over Ravens
Falcons -7.5 Over Panthers
Patriots -3.5 Over Bills
Vikings +6.5 Over Lions
Chargers -.5 Over Chiefs
Seahawks -2.5 Over Rams
49ers -3.5 Over Jets
Titans +12.5 Over Texans
Raiders +6.5 Over Broncos
Cardinals -6.5 Over Dolphins
Bengals -1.5 Over Jaguars
Packers -7.5 Over Saints
Buccaneers -2.5 Over Redskins
Giants +2.5 Over Eagles
Bears +3.5 Over Cowboys

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 5-11
Overall: 20-28

Fall TV Roundup, Week 4

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The Fall TV Season began in earnest this week, which means a number of new shows bowing, and many of the new shows taking shape in the ratings. Below is the evaluation of any first or second episode of a new show. For first and second episodes of shows that premiered in the first three weeks, please check the blog archives. All shows are listed by air date and timeslot (all times Mountain Standard Time).

Monday Nights:
Partners — 7:30 p.m. on CBS
Ugh. CBS has long had a tendency of pulling out broad and dry comedies, but this seems to be a stretch even for them. This show joins the vaunted Monday night lineup in between "How I Met Your Mother" and "Two Broke Girls." The show doesn't really fit with the general tone of either of those shows, but that could be because the show doesn't really have a well-defined tone of its own. It comes from David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, who created "Will & Grace," and is loosely based on their own partnership…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movie I saw this week, Clint Eastwood's latest, "Trouble With The Curve."

Trouble With The Curve
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, Robert Patrick, and John Goodman
Synopsis: There are few stars that have been as bankable and reliable in the 21st Century as Clint Eastwood. His films have been sturdy in terms of plot and performance, and generally they’ve been enjoyable. Some — such as 2004 Best Picture winner “Million Dollar Baby” — have even been great. Eastwood’s latest, “Trouble With The Curve,” wants to touch on some of those themes, but it doesn’t quite rise to that level. Robert Lorenz makes his directorial with “Trouble With The Curve,” but he’s had plenty of experience working alongside Eastwood. Lorenz has served as an assistant director and producer with Eastwood for years, including serving as assistant director on “Million Dollar Baby.” Given that, Lorenz certainly has a feel for the material, the style, and …

The NFL's Waterloo

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So, who's ready for some football? How about some well officiated football? Well, if you answered the latter question, I guess you're out of luck.

It hasn't been a great three weeks of games in terms of officiating, but Monday night's debacle was certainly a new low, one that could effect the playoff scenario in December and January. While that might sound a bit extreme given the number of weeks left in the season, stranger things have happened.

The first week went OK, but by the second week calls were really being questioned. That led to some antics on the sidelines — which included John Fox and Jack Del Rio earning fines for berating officials during a Monday night game in Atlanta. All that, however, was a prelude to week three.

During the day I watched a number of games and was appalled by some of the calls. One of the worst areas is the rules governing pass interference, which can never seem to be judged correctly. On many plays rampant contact is allowed to go un…

Superheroes — Humanistic Hope

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"Don't talk like one of them. You're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve." — The Joker, "The Dark Knight"

When "Entertainment Weekly" allowed America to vote on the greatest comic book superhero of all time, there was really no doubt who would win. It was Batman, and it wasn't even close. So it feels fitting to me to end this mini blog series with Batman.

It feels fitting for a couple reasons. First, Batman has to be the most popular superhero of all time. I voted for him to be No. 1 because Batman is, …

Superheroes — A Secular Messiah

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"You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one." — Superman, "Superman Returns"

We come to the last of this exploration of superheroes today and tomorrow with the most iconic — Superman and Batman. It's no wonder, this summer, when "Entertainment Weekly" had a nationwide bracket vote to determine the greatest comic book hero, these two made it to the final round.

Superman and Batman are probably the oldest, most famous comic book heroes. They also represent two distinctly different ideologies for Americans, which is what makes it fascinating. Superman plays to the idea that we need a savior. But the savior offered in Superman, particularly in the 2005 Bryan Singer incarnation, isn't the one we see in the Bible.

To really understand the theology underlying Superman, you have to go back to his roots. Superman is one of the oldest superhero characters in our cultural history. The “Man of Steel” made h…

Emmy Picks

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The Emmy Awards do not impress me. They aren't that fun to watch and, man, people complain about the Academy Awards being out of touch with audiences — Hello Emmys! That being said, I still like making picks. Just don't expect them to be awesome. Below are the major categories (read no mention of Reality (completely contrived) TV). I will pick who I think will win, and who should win.

Outstanding Drama
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
Homeland
Mad Men

Will Win: Breaking Bad, because the voters LOVE this show and LOVE AMC.
Should Win: Homeland. It was the best new drama and best drama period. Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones were good too, but Homeland was incredible.

Best Actor, Drama:
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Damian Lewis, Homeland
Michael C. Hall, Dexter

Will Win: Bryan Cranston because critics and voters LOVE Breaking Bad
Should Win: Damien Lewis, who gave a masterful…

NFL Picks, Week 3

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So I'm already 0-1 this week, but it shouldn't be that way. When I first made my picks Tuesday, seeing the New York Giants at Carolina Panthers Thursday night, I picked the Giants. They are a great road team, and I don't think Carolina is as good as some think.

Then I listed to the experts on Thursday, all of whom said the Giants couldn't compete on the road, on a short week, missing so many players. I thought about those arguments, waffled, and changed the pick. Staring at a 20-0 Giants lead Thursday, I began kicking myself. The lesson, as always, trust your instincts.

Last week was a horror show for picks, so hopefully this week will be better. It wasn't a good start to the week, but I maintain my optimism. As always, these picks are against the spread, not a straight up and down pick.

Carolina -1.5 Over New York Giants
Chicago -7.5 Over St. Louis
Buffalo -2.5 Over Cleveland
Dallas -7.5 Over Tampa Bay
Detroit -3.5 Over Tennessee
Indianapolis -3.5 Over Jacksonvil…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 3

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We are now in week three of the new fall season, with more shows bowing this week and even more shows exploding onto the scene Monday. As always, shows are listed by day of the week and time. All times are Mountain Standard Time.

Monday Nights:
The Mob Doctor, 8 p.m. on FOX
This show has been criticized for having a dumb name. And, yes, the name is too on the nose. But that's not the worst thing about this show, sadly. It has a good cast — led by Jordanna Spiro, Zach Gilford, and William Forsythe — but, well, ugh. The action wasn't that compelling. The story telling wasn't that compelling. The characters, in addition to having little chemistry, weren't that compelling. The question is what is the over riding motivation to tune in each week? There doesn't seem to be one. The show wasn't edgy or tension building. There seemed to be little mystery to what would happen in terms of the larger narrative. And it leaves plenty of questions regarding how, exactly, this …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movie I saw this week, the latest "Resident Evil" flick.
Resident Evil: Retribution Starring: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, and Shawn Roberts Synopsis: Doubtless there were few people a decade ago thought that the “Resident Evil” franchise would become a solidly reliable one in cinemas. In 2002, Paul W.S. Anderson unleashed the original “Resident Evil” film on the world. Ten years later, the fifth installment — “Resident Evil: Retribution” — is the No. 1 movie at the Box Office. The films, based on the popular video game series, are somewhat interconnected. There is a continuous, flowing narrative. But that’s not really what people want out of these films. At the core, “Resident Evil” films are pure, escapist action pieces. Of course, this is a cultural period where zombies couldn’t be bigger. While the creatures in “Resident Evil” have a bit more of a complex back story — one that involves nefarious corporation…

Fall TV Preview, Part 2

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Last week I looked at returning shows to get excited about. This week I'll highlight three new shows that could be worth checking out.

Last Resort, Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC
Why: This show comes from Shawn Ryan, who created "The Shield" and "The Chicago Code." It is an ambitious concept, especially for a network drama. It will be interesting to see how the producers make this work over the course of a season, or a couple of seasons, but I'm intrigued. Plus, the show has a great cast and looks like it could be something a little different. If nothing else it offers a chance to escape from the mundane set of offerings that otherwise comprise this season's new shows.
When It's On: The show premiers on Thursday, Sept. 27.

Revolution, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC
Why: This show comes from producer J.J. Abrams ("LOST," "Fringe") and Eric Kripke ("Supernatural"). The pilot offered some interesting moments and set the premise up…

Superheroes — Do Heroes Exist?

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"We can do so much more. We can save this world... with the right leadership." — Adrian Veidt, "Watchmen"

Today I continue my look at the mythology of superheroes with "Watchmen," a piece that asks the question — do heroes really exist? It follows that up with the thought that, if heroes existed, they wouldn't be like what we like to think.

"Watchmen" is a grim, dystopian film that features a very specific and caustic view of the world and the nature of heroes. Alan Moore, who created the graphic novel, was an atheistic anarchist, and as such didn't have a lot of regard for government, conventional society, or those that believe a hero can save us. "Watchmen," in large part, is a commentary on that belief and a commentary against society — both in the 1980s when it was made and now.

What's ironic is that the work has become revered for setting the standard in the very genre it sought to questions. In 2005, Time listed it a…

Superheroes — Respecting Our Differences

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"Are you a God-fearing man, Senator? That is such a strange phrase. I've always thought of God as a teacher; a bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding. You see, I think what you really fear is me. Me and my kind. The Brotherhood of Mutants. Oh, it's not so surprising really. Mankind has always feared what it doesn't understand. Well, don't fear God, Senator, and certainly don't fear me. Not any more." — Magneto, "X-Men"

Today I continue my look at the cultural mythology of superheroes with The X-Men, a Marvel Comic creation that was birthed in the 1960s. In 2000, director Bryan Singer brought it to the big screen and touched off what has been the modern explosion of superhero films.

I have always loved The X-Men. I love Wolverine, I love the stories, and I think the films have been quite entertaining. There have been five entries in the X-Men universe since 2000, counting the spin-off "Wolverine." And while the films work on a bas…

A Seasonal Trap

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What is it about candy corn, and it's evil cousin the pumpkin, that are just so appealing. It's essentially sugar in a triangle (or pumpkin) form, but during this time of year it's hard to say no. Even when you know you should.

Of course, some places even get fancy. At Cracker Barrel, there was an assortment that featured cinnamon, chocolate, and carmel versions of candy corn. That just made the whole experience that much more attractive. At least until about 20 minutes after you indulge... That's when the real fun begins.

Candy Corn was first created in the 1880s, and primarily consists of sugar, corn syrup (also sugar), wax, and artificial colors and flavors. In short, it's everything a growing adult needs...

But the real secret of Candy Corn is the way it sucks you in. You know it's just sugar and empty calories, but hey, the bad says it's a fat free treat! You eat a couple, then a handful, then a couple handfuls... then it sets in. Before you know it, …

NFL Picks, Week 2

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It's humbling to be here on Saturday morning, posting my picks, knowing I am already 0-1 for the week and have likely lost both my Fantasy Football matchups. Thanks Chicago, especially you Jay Cutler, for making this a spectacular week.

Week One I was over .500, let's hope this week is as good. As always, you can find my picks recorded on ESPN under the entry District 12. All picks are verses the spread, not straight up and down picks.

Chicago +5.5 Over Green Bay
Kansas City +3.5 Over Buffalo (I'm a glutton for punishment)
Cincinnati -6.5 Over Cleveland
Indianapolis +1.5 Over Minnesota
Oakland -2.5 Over Miami
New England -13.5 Over Arizona
Tampa Bay +7.5 Over New York Giants
Baltimore +2.5 Over Philadelphia
New Orleans -2.5 Over Carolina
Houston -7.5 Over Jacksonville
Washington D.C. -3.5 Over St. Louis
Dallas -3.5 Over Seattle
New York Jets +6.5 Over Pittsburgh
Tennessee +6.5 Over San Diego
San Francisco -6.5 Over Detroit
Denver +3.5 Over Atlanta

Last Week: 9-7
Season: 9…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 2

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The new fall season continues this week, mostly with NBC trucking out it's new wares. The second episodes of "Go On" and "The New Normal" hit the air Tuesday, and on Wednesday audiences were treated to a sneak peak of the Peacock's other new comedy, "Guys With Kids." All I can say about NBC's fall slate is... ugh...  Shows are indexed below by night of the week and by time (MDT).

Tuesday Nights:
Go On — 8 p.m. on NBC
I think my wife summed up my feelings on this show Tuesday night when, after struggling through the episode, she said "I want to like it." It seems like it should be amusing. I like Matthew Perry. I want to like this show. It's just not... funny. There is nothing to laugh at. In fact, it's mostly sad. It feels like some good people were cajoled into this experiment to see how much good will America would extend a comedy that fails to produce a single joke. I can't think of a single joke that landed in two ep…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

Coma
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Geena Davis, James Woods, Ellen Burstyn, Lauren Ambrose, and Steven pasquale
Synopsis: This was a TV movie on A&E, and a re-make of the 1978 movie of the same name written and directed by Michael Crichton and starring Michael Douglas. This version is a four-hour TV movie/mini-series that just wasn't that good. Watching the first half (which debuted on Labor Day), I wasn't totally clear what they were trying to do. Watching the second half, I still wasn't. There was an attempt to recapture this plot and make it hip and modern, but it just doesn't work. The film was marginally run together, not that engrossing, and they made the ending a bit overly gross. It was just kind of a miss.
Rating: TVPG
Verdict: One star out of four.

The Words
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, and Olivia Wilde
Synopsis: Writing can be a frustrating, lonely pursuit. And it w…

Fall TV Preview

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The new fall TV season is upon us. Some new and returning shows are already back (Thanks NBC) and others are getting going. In an effort to get ready, over the next two weeks, I'll be previewing some new and returning shows to get excited about and some to avoid.

This week we get started with the returning shows. Below are three returning shows worth finding on the dial and two that have fallen into the give up category.

Watch:
Fringe, Fridays at 9 p.m. on FOX
Why: "Fringe" is easily the best show on network television. It is highly serialized, but that being said this fifth and final season will be a fascinating new chapter. Set in the future, our team will have to fight for the survival of humanity. It's not too late to get in on the most creative, thought-provoking, and original show on television. The acting is great — with Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and especially John Noble all turning in Emmy-worthy performances. The show will wrap up with a short, 13-episode…

Superheroes — A lesson in control

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"Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." — Bruce Banner, "The Hulk"

There are quite a few different superhero stories, but few are as confounding as "The Hulk." Is he a hero? Is he a villain? Is he a cautionary tale? The answer, at different times, is yes to all three.

There are a few lessons to be taken away from the story of The Hulk, but it's not exactly the most fun to watch. That's why there have been two different movie attempts (with two different actors) and yet another actor appearing as the Hulk in "The Avengers." My theory is that the Hulk is better as a supporting character and will be relegated to appearing in other hero's movies.

The problem is, there is only so much to say with the Hulk. He's a giant green rage monster. The end. But in that, there is something to consider.

To me, there are two ideas in this story. One is familiar to many superhero stories, and that's the inherent…

Superheroes — A lesson in responsibility

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"This guy, Flash Thompson, he probably deserved what happened. But just because you can beat him up doesn't give you the right to. Remember, with great power, comes great responsibility." — Uncle Ben, "Spider-Man"

Today I continue my look at Superheroes, our cultural mythology, with an examination of the core principle of "Spider-Man." In the past ten years, four films have been made featuring this heroic web-slinger. And Spider-Man remains one of the most popular of all superheroes. But it's a myth that also contains an important lesson, one that has some Biblical roots.

Some superhero tales are meant to explain a world view, correct a wrong, or challenge our societal notions. Others are meant to teach us a lesson about our response to the world. Spider-Man falls into the latter category. The myth of Spider-Man surrounds an important idea — how should we respond to evil and injustice in the world, especially when we can do something about it.

Th…

Mark's Excitement

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I love this idea in the Smash series, and how we're looking at the way God Smashes into people. That includes the way he Smashed into Mark, the writer of this Gospel.

It's the oldest of the Gospels, and written in a unique way. There is no advent narrative, no sense of historical context, and no flowery prose. Mark smashes into the text and the story, and that can't help but make me think he was excited to write it.

I remember when I worked for the newspaper, or sometimes even when I'm writing these posts, I have so much great information I just want to jam it out. So it doesn't come out flowery, or with a lot of beautiful filler, it's more just thrown onto the page as quickly as possible.

You get that sense, a bit, when you read the Gospel of Mark. He has great information and he wants to get it out to his readers. He has so much to say and wants to say it so quickly, he doesn't waste a lot of time with stuff that's not at the heart of the matter. Tha…

Week 1 Picks

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Each week in this space I'll offer my NFL picks verses the spread as they appear in my competition on ESPN.com. If you want to check these, my entry in Pigskin Pick'em is District 12. Remember, this is against the spread, not a straight up and down pick.

Week 1
Cowboys + 3.5 over Giants
Bears - 10.5 over Colts
Eagles - 8.5 over Browns
Lions - 8.5 over Rams
Patriots -6.5 over Titans
Chiefs + .5 over Falcons (essentially a pick' em)
Vikings - 4.5 over Jaguars
Redskins + 9.5 over Saints
Bills + 3.5 over Jets
Texans - 7.5 over Dolphins
San Francisco + 6.5 over Packers
Seahawks + 1.5 over Cardinals
Panthers -2.5 over Buccaneers
Broncos - 1.5 over Steelers
Ravens - 6.5 over Bengals
Chargers - 1.5 over Raiders

Let the games begin!

Fall TV Roundup

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We come, once again, to the Fall TV season. This is a time where networks throw out new shows like so much fodder for the pop culture cannon. Some will hit their mark, others will fall flat. But the whole process will be entertaining. Each week I'll be offering my grades for the pilot and second episode of all the new shows I've seen. Thanks to NBC's perpetual desperation, many of the pilots for its new shows have already been unleashed on the public. Below are the grades for the five new shows I've seen so far. The schedule is arranged by day of the week (Monday to Sunday), and by timeslot (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Since I am on Mountain Time now and am embracing the wonder that is the beginning of prime time at 7 p.m., I am using the new times. If you are on the East Coast or West Coast, please add an hour to each time listed.

Monday Nights:
Revolution — 9 p.m. on NBC
This is one of the more highly anticipated pilots of 2012, and of course NBC is banking on this show addi…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies that I saw this week.

Lawless
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, and Dane DeHaan
Synopsis: Sometimes movies fail despite seeming to be the perfect mix of performers, story, and setting. Even though all the elements are there, sometimes they just don’t come together in a compelling way. Such is the case with “Lawless.” The film boasts an impressive cast, a great setting, and what seems like it should be a compelling story. Should be, however; is all that the film ever offers. What seemed like an ideal set up ends up a wasted opportunity. The film seems to meander for two hours, then wind its way into a ridiculous ending that helps clarify why the film was unceremoniously dumped in theaters on Labor Day weekend. The film is loosely based on a true story from the novel “The Wettest County in the World” by Matt Bondurant. Bondurant is the grandson of the three brothers featured in…

Not Quite a Fantasy

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"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in." — Michael Corleone

I love that quote from "The Godfather: Part III." It's a pretty awful movie that sort of ruins the whole "Godfather" thing, but that quote is outstanding. I think we've all felt like Michael Corleone at times, and for me that quote came to mind during my Fantasy Football draft on Sunday night.

Two years ago I was invited to play Fantasy Football. I didn't know what to expect. It was frustrating at times, but I came agonizingly close to winning, so I had to give it another go last year. But, after a frustrating season that made watching games — particularly Denver games — frustrating, I was done.

Then I got invited to join not one but two leagues again this fall. And, you guessed it, I caved. Welcome to Fantasy Football 2012. Whenever I start the season, remembering how much I hate what it does to my enjoyment of football on Sundays, I remember a Facebook quote a frien…