Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2015 NFL Playoffs: The View from the Other Side

I was a kid, naive. I saw an unstoppable offensive force playing a team that could barely score 20 points. I saw a team that hadn't punted in two games, that had a QB that had the best two game stretch in playoff history. I saw the scoreboard never stop whirring as that team sprinted up and down the field.

And then I saw them lose. I saw them get stopped. I saw the QB get harrassed, throw interceptions, get frustrated, see his offensive line give up numerous pressures, see his receivers never get open. I saw it all, and it changed my perspective about the dynamics of offense and defense, but it also was a game, a loss, that I could never get over. Until now.

12 years later, I saw the reverse.

There have been many painful losses in my sports fan lifetime of watching Peyton Manning. The 2003 AFC Championship Game is not particularly one of them. The Colts were mightily outplayed. There was no crushing moment we fans could turn to, like Vanderjagt pulling a field goal, or Kenton Keith bobbling a screen pass at the 2-yard line, or Gijon Robinson forgetting a snap count. No, there was just the memory of the Colts unstoppable offense get hounded and pounded into mistake after mistake in snowy Foxboro. However, it was my first real loss following Peyton Manning.

I can admit I am a bandwagon Colts / Manning fan. I started supporting him in earnest that year. I haven't stopped though. I'm not going to apologize for that. But I can trace my fandom back to that 2003 season, and the loss to New England was the end of that season, one that ended far before I was ready. The Colts ran roughshod over Denver and Kansas City in those playoffs, and then played a New England team that won tons of games by playing great defense, having Tom Brady not screw up, and doing all the little things. It was an embarrassing, undressing loss more than anything. And 12 years later I got to see Manning's team repay the favor.

While we Colts supporters heard line after line about Manning's superior weapons, we often pointed out Brady's superior defensive support. It took a long time, but he finally entered a playoff game with the superior defense, and boy as fun as it was for me to watch, I'm sure it was even more fun for Manning.

What the Broncos defense did to the Patriots offense was one of the best performances that I've ever seen. Their coverage was great, constantly pressing and jamming Edelman and Amendola, and basically coming within one alien performance from Gronk from shutting the Pats out. The front was incredible. Von Miller had a 'hall of fame' type game, Demarcus Ware had 7 hits. Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson were dominant inside. It was a team effort, all 11 guys and the defensive mastermind of Wade Phillips pulling the strings. It was amazing. It was also so new.

I now know how Patriots fans must have felt the week before the 2003 AFC Championship Game. The talk before that game was how the Patriots were ever going to stop the Colts offense. The Colts were a machine. They hadn't punted! Well, the Patriots fans were all stewing, knowing that the league's best defense could handle it. That the Colts would, indeed, punt. This was basically the reverse.

We spent the entire season watching the Broncos defense dominate opponents and keep a marginal offense in games. Much like the 2003 Patriots. We spent the season knowing that the Patriots offensive line had holes, much like the Colts in 2003 had a weakness in their physicality. We probably should have seen this coming. I did see this coming. I knew that the Broncos d-line would be able to get pressure on Brady, dominating a middling group of lineman. Playing the Broncos in Denver is much different than the Chiefs with a gimpy Justin Houston in Foxboro. Just like playing the Patriots in 2003 in a wintry mix from Hell in Foxboro was very different than the RCA Dome.

It was an out of body experience watching a team that so much resembled the first team I hated, but they also resembled the best aspect of those teams. Over the years, I grew a respect for the 2003-04 Patriots, especially that 2003 version that won because of a dominant defense supporting a clearly limited QB. The 2003 Patriots were special on defense. Their performance defensively in the 2003 and 2004 playoff wins over the Colts were stunning examples of the brilliant heights a defense can reach. And now I can appreciate them.

It will always be comforting knowing that Manning is now 3-2 in the playoffs against Brady, and 3-1 in AFC Championship Games. He learned and grew from those awful games in 2003 and 2004, and has paid Brady and Belichick back three times. But these wins also even out the memory of the 2003 game. I can rewatch it, appreciate the defensive mastery knowing that a dozen years later, I was able to watch the same dominance, just in a far more satisfying way.

Monday, January 25, 2016

2015 NFL Playoffs: Championship Sunday Review

Player of the Week: Von Miller (OLB - DEN)

Von Miller was drafted as a ready-made star. He was a physical freak. He showed that in his first two seasons, picking up Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011, and then 18 sacks in 2012. He then got caught in a weird drug-testing thing and tore his ACL in 2013, and while he's had 10-12 sacks in 2014-15, he's almost become a forgotten star. Well... not so anymore. That was one of the most dominant performances I've seen by a defensive player in a playoff game in a long time. He had two sacks, numerous hurries and hits, and added an interception for good measure. Von Miller just abused Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer repeatedly. That's the type of game that the Broncos imagined when drafting him at #2 overall in 2011.

Runner-Up: Cam Newton (QB, CAR)

The guy who was drafted right before Von Miller is pretty darn good as well. Cam Newton was amazing save for the one bad throw that was picked. He controlled that game from the pocket as much as on the move. Anytime you get two rushing and two passing TDs in the same game it is a special performance. Cam Newton has really grown into a tremendous player. More on him and the Panthers overall coming up.

Goat of the Week: The Cardinals Team

I'm going to rehash this too many times, but I was so disappointed in the Cardinals ruining what on paper was supposed to be a great NFC Championship Game. The headline was Palmer's awful day, but how about the other Cardinals stars not showing up. Larry Fitzgerald with the drops, Calais Campbell being invisible and Patrick Peterson having a nightmare game. The Cardinals were a mess from beginning to end, and they literally fumbled and threw away any opportunity that they had. The Cardinals were at worst the 2nd best team in the NFL through the regular season, but all that swagger that they played with was just so gallingly missing in this game.

Runner-Up: Bill Belichick and the Patriots Coaching Staff

The Patriots are always well coached and well prepared. Even in their playoff losses they generally seem to know what they're doing. This game was just not like that at all - starting with the Patriots choosing to receive after winning the toss which was immediately translated into a punt and Broncos TD. The Patriots offensive gameplan was a disaster, rarely ever giving Brady help and consistently leaving their tackles on their own against Ware and Miller. Then there's the odd 4th down choices. Nothing really worked well.

Surprise of the Week: The Panthers Offensive Line

The Panthers o-line was supposed to be one of their three big weaknesses entering the season, along with their secondary and their receivers. The secondary still has a few soft spots due to injury, and the receivers are still playing over their heads, but the o-line has really gelled into a strength. The read every single blitz the Cardinals threw at them. Few teams blitz as effectively as the Cardinals and the Panthers kept Newton clean the entire game, which allowed their deep routes to develop. The Panthers offensive line is facing a very different but even tougher test ahead, for which they'll need at least a repeat performance.

Runner-Up: The Broncos Special Teams

At this point I shouldn't be surprised given how good the Special Teams were against Pittsburgh as well, but the Broncos winning the Special Teams matchup against the Patriots was a surprise. They are consistently great at pinning the opposition back on punts. McManus is an automatic touchback, and hit another 50+ yard field goal. Plus, they didn't miss an XP!

Disappointment of the Week: The Cardinals Team

Honestly, it bugged me how bad they were. Obviously first because I was expecting, hoping and wanting a great game between two heretofore great teams, but more than that I really am starting to hate the reaction to Arizona's loss. Yes, Palmer had a bad game. No, he isn't lost as a QB. Let's not forget he was the best passing QB in the NFL this season. Maybe that finger injury was worse than expected. No, Bruce Arians doesn't have to change his style. No, the Cardinals aren't chokers. Play that game 10 times, the Panthers may win 7, but probably none of them end up 49-15 again. This was the worst possible outcome, and just ruined what should have been a fascinating 3 hours.

Runner-Up: Nothing

Really, I couldn't think of anything else. The Cardinals performance was that much worse than anything else.

Team Performance of the Week: The Broncos Front Four

Von Miller deservedly got the headlines with a 2.5 sack and interception game, but that whole front was just awesome. Ware had 7 hits, which is a JJ Watt like performance. Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson and Antonio Smith were great inside. Even when Shaquill Barrett and Vance Walker came in they made plays. I can think of any three playoff games in recent memory that were close to this. The first is the obvious connection, the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The other two were the 49ers in the 2011 NFC Championship against the Giants (6 sacks, 17 hits), and the last was the Vikings in the 2009 NFC Divisional against the Cowboys (6 sacks, 13 hits - but on just 40 dropbacks). The Broncos were better though. On that final TD drive, they basically got to Brady every single play. Brady didn't play well, but even if he was on his game, the Patriots weren't scoring 20+.

Runner-Up: The Panthers Offense

The Panthers had the quietest 500 point season I've ever seen. They led the league in scoring and were mightily consistent, basically scoring between 27-40 points every game save three, but this was another level. I already detailed both Cam and the line, but how about Greg Olsen still managing to get open, or Jerrico Cotchery making tough catches, or Corey Brown getting open, or Devin Funchess making a contested catch for a TD. The Panthers are such a damn good team,

Team Laydown of the Week: The Cardinals Defense

The Cardinals defense is good. It has been good all year. It has been good even after losing Tyrann Mathieu. I realize the Packers were missing all the WRs, but the Cardinals still held that passing game to 150 yards before the hail mary's. That defense was nowhere to be found on Sunday. They blitzed but were swallowed up by the Panthers o-line. Their normally stout man coverage was awful, letting receivers run free all over the place. They've been a top run defense for years now, but couldn't even do that well. The Cardinals defense really needs to get a true pass rusher who isn't a 35-year old Dwight Freeney, but even then there was no excuse for that performance.

Runner-Up: The Patriots Receivers (non-Gronk)

Rob Gronkowski is not human, and he was the only person keeping the Patriots in that game at all. The rest of the receiving core was just a disaster. Julian Edelman, who got so many plaudits, did nothing, barely getting 7 yards a catch. Amendola did less. LaFell and Keyshawn Martin played a combined 90 snaps, but got just one target. If James White is leading the team in tagets, you know the scrappy white guys did not do their job.

Storyline that will be Beaten Into the Ground over the next two weeks: The Last Rodeo for Manning

Obviously, the main storyline for the Super Bowl will be Peyton Manning's last ride, as it seems a fait accompli that this is his last game. He may pull a Favre and come back for another season, but this is likely it. In a way, that is a huge story, but it isn't the story. Win or lose, this game will be decided by the other Broncos. He has to be along for the ride. We can break down Manning's legacy all we want but it shouldn't be decided by this game.

Storyline that should be beaten into the ground the next two weeks: The Future vs. the Past

The Broncos are in many ways a young team, but there is a certain sense that this is the end. There won't be a Manning next year, and while Osweiler showed promise he also showed a ceiling that he needs to raise. Still, for guys like Ware (11th season), Talib (9th season), Thomas (6th season), there is a sense that they have to do this now. On the other side is a team that along with Seattle has probably the brightest future. I think people have forgotten with all the 15-1 and 500 points and Cam dabbin' that the Panthers lost their #1 WR in training camp. Win or lose, they'll be adding Kelvin Benjamin and getting cap room for the frst time in a half decade in the offseason. That is terrifying for the rest of the league. Manning better win now, not only because he's old, because this may be his only shot. The Panthers may be making the first of a few trips here.

Storyine that needs to be beaten into the ground for at least a day or two: Not everything Belichick Does is Gold

Every Patriots fan that said it was some brilliant master plan to half-ass through Week 16-17, choke away the #1 seed in the process, because BB wanted the #2 seed to avoid Pittsburgh or the Jets, and because keeping guys healthy is more important than the #1 seed, should personally apologize to the world. No, your coach isn't a genius for throwing the last two games. Also, I like the symmetry that just like Manning being 2-7 in Foxboro in his career, Belichick is now 2-9 in Denver.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Top-20 QBs: #16 - Ken Stabler

#16 - Ken Stabler

Who embodied the Raiders? Sure, the obvious answer is Al Davis. There's no real debate there; how could anyone be a better renegade than a man who successfully sued the league he was a part of. But beyond Al, on the field, it doesn't get more Silver and Black than Kenny Stabler.

There were better players on the Raiders - a franchise with a score of HOFers, including Stabler's own teammates like Jim Otto, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Willie Brown and Fred Biletnikoff, but those guys were known more for their ability than their personality. Stabler was the opposite, which made him what the Raiders should be.

There are so many Ken Stabler stories that people don't even know, which is amazing given how many stories there are about his antics and personality and championship-level partying. Ken Stabler was Joe Namath without the press, but with as much game. He was a noted partyer, drinker, and lovemaker. The stores of him in a bar the night before the game, playbook in one hand, and mug of beer in the other. The best part was 12 hours later he was leading a team that all they did was win 10+ games year after year.

Stabler may not have made the Hall of Fame (we'll get to that in a minute), but make no mistake of his deserving case. In his 10 years in Oakland (1970-1979), he went 69-26-1 as a starter, had a Y/A of 7.7, threw TDs on 6.0% of his passes; and had a QB rating of 80.2 with a completion percentage of 59.9%. Those are, given this was the 1970's, outrageous numbers.

For that decade, a decade where the Raiders made 5 AFC Championship Games and won a Super Bowl, Stabler ranked #3 in TDs (behind Tarkenton and Staubach), #1 in Y/A, #4 in passer rating (behind Staubach, Bob Griese and Bert Jones), and #1 in completion percentage. Please, don't tell me he didn't deserve a HOF spot. Maybe he wasn't as good as Staubach, Bradshaw, Griese and Tarkenton, but he absolutely needs to be in the Hall of Fame

Stabler's best season personally also happened to be the best season for the Raiders. After losing three straight AFC Championship Games in 1973, 1974 and 1975, the Raiders entered 1976 with a can't win the big one label. That year, the Raiders went 13-1 and then rolled through the playoffs. They ended the season 16-1, the second best record in teh Super Bowl era at the time. Stabler himself had a season that was basically unheard of in 1976.

In 1976, Stabler completed 66.7% of his passes (basically like if someone went 73% in 2015), with a TD% of 9.3 of his throws (2nd best all time behind Manning in '04), and a passer rating of 103.4. Having someone play the whole season and do that in the 70's was like what Marino did in 1984.

At his best he was that good. At his best he was also that infamous. Yet despite the hard partying, the great play, he was always a bit under the radar. He was not as notable a womanizer as Joe Namath, and not as notable a player as Staubach; but he was the closest anyone came to doing both at the same time. Kenny Stabler had the memorable games, the memorable personality, and the great performance. Can we get this guy in teh Hall of Fame please!

It is amazing that for a franchise with the amount of success as the Raiders, they've never had a QB make it to the Hall of Fame. Stabler should be the first, and he likely is the best QB the franchise has ever had. He was a Raider for life, a guy that Al Davis swore by; that his more talented, lettered teammates revered. Ken Stabler lived a good life, and I wish he rest in peace; or rest in action, living life and having fun like he always had.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Top-20 QBs: #17 - Jim Kelly

#17 - Jim Kelly

Jim Kelly had a weird career, he's remembered for being innovative, the QB of the NFL's second modern offense. In a way, all current offenses are combinations of the West Coast Offense, and the no-huddle. Things have been molded and adapted, but the no-huddle influence really stemmed from Kelly and the Bills. Jim Kelly, though, is also remembered for losing, but not in a bad way. No, there is no QB who's career is remembered more fondly for failing. In that way, Jim Kelly has led a blessed life. He's the one QB who was so bad at winning the Super Bowl, people realized just how good you have to be to get there.

We must remember that despite their 'high flying' reputation, the Bills were the tallest midget, or the thinnest kid at fat camp. The NFL in the early-90's was at a new offensive valley. The 80's were a rebellion to the dead-ball era of the 70's, and the 90's was defense getting its revenge. The Bills were the best offense, but that was still a team that ran the ball more than half the time. Jim Kelly never threw for 4,000 yards. He never threw the ball 500 times in a season. Part of this was due to him missing 1-3 games in many seasons, but his numbers look more like a 'game manager' in the 2000s, but that goes to the era he played in.

We don't mentally think that the early 90's need to be looked at a little more closely when judging passing statistics, but they must. Kelly's career 60.1% completion percentage, his four year stretch with an 89.6 passer rating, these are impressive numbers. Kelly played in Buffalo, let's remember as well. Compared to his peers, Kelly was a consistent 10-30% better than the average QB, which in the NFL was a lot.

Jim Kelly got the luxury of having Andre Reed, but it was definitely more the other way around in retrospect. He also took control of an offense with a mediocre offensive line, that played in Buffalo, and made it something special. The Bills was 13, 13, 11 and 12 games in his prime, and for his career, Jim Kelly was 101-59, basically averaging 10 wins a year for a franchise that has gotten to 10 wins just twice since he left. We must also remember that Jim Kelly is missing a good 3-4 years of his career due to his playing in the USFL first.

Jim Kelly was one of the people that legitimized the USFL, along with Steve Young, and while Young outclassed him, Young also had the better versions of everything Kelly did. Young had the best WR of all time, instead of a guy who probably doesn't deserve he Hall of Fame nod he got. Young had the best offensive system, instead of the second best. Steve Young was better, but circumstance and situation elevated him and supressed Kelly.

What Jim Kelly also did was throw deep, going against the natural trend of the league to embrace the West Coast Offense and go shorter and shorter. Kelly did not rely on YAC, he relied on his own brilliant right arm, and the players around him. Of course, he never did win a Super Bowl though.

Again, Kelly, and the Buffalo Bills in general, are the one team to largely escape criticism for not winning a Super Bowl. That's what happens when you do something no one else has - get to four in a row. Jim Kelly probably should have won that first one. Obviously, if Scott Norwood hits a field goal he does. Is his legacy any worse because his kicker missed a kick? No, as it should be. He's just lucky to be the one guy where that is the case.

Jim Kelly was a great QB who ran an innovative offense, but more than that, he's a symbol and a reminder to the more analytically-inclined NFL fans. He's a reminder that the early-90's shared far more similarities to the 1970's than it does the 2000s, and he's also a reminder that there is hope that a QB can be judged not by the hardware on his fingers, but the brilliance of the footballs that spun out of them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2015 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Review

Player of the Week - Larry Fitzgerald (WR, ARZ)

Larry Fitzgerald got a lot of buzz this year for his great comeback season, but even I was surprised he had 108 catches! Anyway, Fitzy continued that rennaissance in this game with a vintage performance. He was everywhere making diving catches, making weaving runs after the catch, scoring the winner on a shovel pass. On a day when the rest of the offense didn't play all that well, Fitzgerald was a monster.

Runner-Up - Luke Kuechly (LB, CAR)

Kuechly was the best player on the field in that game. His pick-six set the early tone; his coverage was scary, including breaking up passes 20-yards downfield. He's gotten buzz recently about winning another Defensive Player of the Year, and his play in this game showed why.

Goat of the Week - Andy Reid (Coach, KC)

To be honest, there was no real goat player this week. Overall, the weekend was well played football, and credit Seattle for making what started out as an epic blowout into a competitive game. I'll give it to Andy Reid because of the lethargic drive his Chiefs had to make it 27-20, but even then he had an undermanned team competitive in New England. 

Runner-Up - The Broncos WR's Hands

In a weird way, some of the worst performances came by the winning teams. The Broncos could have won that game a lot more easily, and made their QB look much better, if their receivers just caught the ball. The Broncos actually have done that a lot in Manning games this year. They made some big catches late, but man were they playing with stone hands late.

Surprise of the Week - The Steelers Offense sans Brown

All credit to the Steelers for playing a really inspired game. It is rare to actually say that about the Steelers playoff losses over the years in the Ben era, but without Brown and DeAngelo, the Steelers offense had one of the best days against Denver all year. They didn't score because of awful field position and a fumble, but Roethlisberger looked good, and Martavis Bryant is a monster. Even the o-line played better than expected. If only the Steelers could draft cornerbacks the way they draft WRs.

Runner-Up: The Packers Defense

Again, it was a weird week where the losing teams in a few of the games came out looking better, in a relative to expectations sense, than the winner, and the Packers defense definitely seemed to win the matchups against the Cardinals offense. The corners played great on the speedy guys, basically taking John Brown out of the game completely. The d-line was great all day. If only they could cover Larry Fitzgerald.

Disappointment of the Week - The Chiefs Defense

I get that Justin Houston played just 8 snaps, in an injury that ended up being far more impactful than Maclin's, but where was the rest of the defense. The secondary played reasonably well, but they dropped 2-3 interceptions. The linebackers missed countless tackles. The interior rush guys in Haye and Poe were silent. The Chiefs defense was their strength, but it went missing on Saturday.

Runner-Up: The Broncos Defense

The Broncos defense was not bad. No, they basically got Denver the win with the fumble, but so high are the expectations of the Broncos defense that it was surprising they didn't do even better. They seemed so spooked by Antonio Brown eating Chris Harris in Week 15 that they played way too much zone, which apparently they can't play well. The Steelers receivers should never have been that open. Also, Von Miller was oddly silent.

Team Performance of the Week - The Panthers Defensive Line

The Panthers as a whole had the most dominant first half I've seen by a team in a good decade in the playoffs, and the best part was their d-line. Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei were unbloackable inside, swallowing up Marshawn Lynch. The rotation of DEs were all great. Both interceptions were due to fast pressure. Even the plays the Seahawks did make needed Wilson to escape quick pressure. Just a dominant performance by a forgettenly really damn good defense.

Runner-Up: The Broncos Special Teams

It has been very odd all season to watch Denver play with a bad offense and great defense - it was even weirder to see a Manning-QBed team win because of dominant special teams. From the returns, to the repeated great punt coverage punning the Steelers back, to McManus going 5-5 in windy conditions, that was a dominant performance.

Team Lay-Down of the Week - The Cardinals Offense for 45 minutes

The Cardinals had the best offense in the NFL this season. They have the best passing attack, and a good running game. That offense was silent for three quarters. They had 70 yards total in the first half. Carson Palmer was wild and inaccurate, repeatedly throwing high. Luckily for them they had a 4th quarter, but it was just jarring to see that played so much of the season in rhythm look so lost against an average defense.

Runner-Up: The Broncos Corners

I feel like I've covered a lot of this ground, but the Broncos should have been able to do a better job against Bryant. Wheaten, DHB and Sammie Coates. They have to step up if the Broncos are to have any shot next week.

Storyline that will be Beaten Into the Ground over the next week - Brady / Manning pt. XVII

In a way, it is nice that we get one of these after Manning had to miss the regular season game, but having mentally checked out of Peyton Manning being an active QB, this is a very unwelcome surprise. The real matchup is Tom Brady and his gang of healthy receivers against the best defense in the NFL, but no, let's just focus on Manning vs. Brady for 144 hours.

Storyline that should be Beaten Into the Ground over the next week - The NFC in the Late-Window can give us Another Classic

Here are the last four times the NFC had the 2nd Title Game, the 6:40 PM one:

2007: Giants beat Packers 23-20 (OT)
2009: Saints beat Vikings 31-28 (OT)
2011: Giants beat 49ers 20-17 (OT)
2013: Seahawks beat 49ers 23-17

Those were four classic games, three of which were OT thrillers, one of which was as good as the others, ending with an interception in the end zone. One was one of teh best played and most iconic games of the 21st Century (Giants @ Packers). You can write epic books about these games. Let's hope the run contnues, and on paper it should. These have been the two best teams in the NFL all year long. They match up well against each other. Carolina is a really fun place to watch a game right now. The Cardinals are always a fun watch. We've had four classics in a row, why stop now?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Year Beginning Trip of 2016, Pt. 4 - Cape Town; The Greenery Within

I got up a little earlier today, wanting to get out to breakfast early. It was a Friday, I expected things to a be a little more crowded than it was yesterday; some of this is from experience. When I came to Cape Town three years ago I also left on a Saturday, that time Saturday morning. Friday was packed everywhere, and I expected more of the same. I got more of the same. I wanted to go to Vovo Telo again, but all the outdoor tables were full – I don’t really see the point of eating indoors in Cape Town. Instead, I walked over the side of the Waterfront that had a nicer, clearer view of table mountain, and ate at OYO restaurant, which was the hotel restaurant of the Albert Hall. There the Continental Buffet was 220 rand, and the Continental Buffet plus one breakfast entrĂ©e item was 240, so I obviously went with the latter. The buffet included smoked salmon and oysters(!), so I loaded up on those, awaited my eggs, and basked in the view and the wind.

I only had one ‘to-do’ on my list for today, which was a trip to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, probably the most notable tourist attraction in the Western Cape that I missed out on last time. I had penciled that in for the afternoon, so I had, again, a few hours to kill. I learned quickly during this trip that going back to a place, especially just three years later, has its negatives. I decided to venture inside the one area of the Waterfront that was not there two years ago, the large warehouse-style African Craft Market, called the Water-Shed – I guess so called because it was a shed and it was on the water.

It is huge, with about 50 different stalls selling all kinds of stuff, from carved wood and metal and stone and ostrich eggs, to various textile-based stuff, to paintings, to jewelry, to even some food and drinks. It is an amazing site, especially with everything seeing pretty high quality. I bought a few little trinkets to be gifts for various people, but spend way too much time just walking around soaking it all in.

Following my time gallivanting around the craft market, it was basically already lunch time. I first stopped for a Milk & Honey, and then made my way up the Victoria Wharf Mall outside area to City Grill, the place I went to last time – the place that gave me Campari on the house for some reason. I kind of decided to go there on a whim, but it was definitely a well made choice.

I decided to stay a bit light during lunch, but still did something I never, ever do; I ordered wine. And not only wine, but a whole bottle. Needless to say I didn’t finish the bottle, but it was reasonably priced (equated to about three glasses). I sat there, took in the amazing view, and actually rested on the wine for a bit. For my only main, I got the Warthog Skewer with a delicious mushroom and potatoe sauce. The food was great, the sightlines were better, and I was glad to be going back to The City Grill.

Following lunch I finally ventured away from the Waterfront, hitting the one main tourist attraction I missed the last time, going to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Situated on the other side of the Lion’s Head and Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is about 20 minutes from the City Center – part of the reason I didn’t get to go last time. The entrance is a bit plain, but once you get past the gate and start waking in the expansiv park, you realize that even the other side of the mountain, when you can no longer see the distinctive fat-top of Table Mountain, the views in South Africa are spectacular:

The Gardens are huge. Ther is a map that can be used, but the usefulness is liited by the lack of corresponding signs in the park. In reality, Kirstenbosch is a place that is better experienced by just wandering around and getting lost. Other than the distinctive ‘Canopy Walk’ and ‘Enchanted Gardens’, with overhanging trees covering the pathways, the rest of the Gardens is just a meandering walk across and through large fields and all the while the mountains hang over you with a commanding presence. This was a place my Mom would lose a whole day just soaking it all in/ Even as someone with a very light green thumb, I enoyed each view and photo opportunity. Kirstenbosch was a wonderful experience, well deserving of its #2 ranking for attractions in Cape Town.

Following my time in Kirstenbosch, I went into town and milled around the Long Street area, just passing time until the start of the sun-set when I wanted to head back to the Waterfront. Long Street was as fun as ever, but soon enough it was nearing six o clock, and I wanted to head to my ‘home’ in Cape Town.

The V&A Waterfront is a bit commercial, but it is also that for a reason, but then n the weekends you see more locals than anything crowding the place, again for a reason. The views are stunning, the restaurants and bars are great, mostly all have outdoor seating. It is the real life-blood of Cape Town, and I wanted to experience all of it. I started with a drink (or two) at De Kamp, a Beligan bar on the waterfront over at the ‘Abert’ end, the ore high-end area. The views here were amazing, with a great prespective of the sun slowly setting over signal hill, and the wonderful colors that reflected onto Table Mountain.

I then waded from De Kamp, and milled around the Waterfront area while my Table and KaRiBu (the restaurant right next to City Grill) was getting my table ready. I had asked for a table right on the edge outside that would give the best view of the end of daylight ending and nighttime rising. They came through and the view was, again, spectacular. Cape Town is a Top-10 site in the world even if there was nothing else to do but stare mouth agape at the wonder around you.

My dinner setting gave me the inspiration to get another bottle of wine, this time a Pinotage, a South African favorite, and sip that under the lights. The manager of the restaurant was surprised I asked to sit outside, and even more surprised when I asked him not to put the heater on – I told him that the temperature straggling 60-75 degrees is about as perfect as it gets. The food was about as good, first a Biltong plate with cured Biltong pieces, and then a main of Zebra, which was fantastic. I did not have Zebra the last time I came to Cape Town, and it was about as good as I could have imagined, a bit softer than Beef more of a lamb taste. I wrapped up dinner around 10:00, wanting to go to a few different spots before heading home.

The first was Quay Four Tavern, which by this time had transitioned over to being a bar. They have a ton of outdoor seating which is over the water, and while there Is no view of Table Mountain, in the dark the view of the bay is better. Next I went back to good ol Mitchell’s Pub and threw down a few more beers and enjoyed my time with the locals. Cape Town is a great place, and even if I restricted myself largely to the Waterfront area this time – at least more than I did last time – I did not feel like I missed out. Cape Town’s Waterfront is pretty perfect.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Re-Post: Rooting for Manning in the Year 2015(16)

Late last year, when Peyton Manning started struggling, I looked past it. He was hurt. He was asked to throw too much. He was struggling with deep balls and nothing else. They were saving him for the playoffs. He was playing some good defenses. All of it.

Then he went out and played terribly in a sullen playoff loss to the Colts. The initial drive was vintage Peyton, but the last 55 minutes of the game showed a QB that was far below anyone's normal expectations of what Peyton Manning is. I felt he may retire. I thought he would retire. I didn't want him to retire. I didn't want him to go out that bad, go out with that pitiful performance in a game and an atmosphere that was about as depressing as any I had ever witnessed.

And he didn't. He decided to come back. I continued to make rationalizations for why it wouldn't matter that he had to switch coaches and schemes, and play with three new lineman. I thought it would all come together, that his play late in 2014 was a factor of an injury, that an offseason of rest would heal him weakened body. Instead, he's somehow worse. All everyone's pessimistic hopes of seeing Peyton fail have come true... my worst nightmare has come true. Yet, the Broncos are 6-0.

It is hard to say Peyton Manning should not have come back. For one, it isn't like he is playing any worse now than he was in the Colts playoff game. He wasn't really going out on top then. He's been able to add a few more wins to his record - on a team that started 6-0 for a ridiculous 6th time (2005-07, 2009, 2013). He's on a team that has the best defense he's ever gotten a chance to play on. He's on a team that is finally carrying him, after years of him having to do the opposite. He's finally getting to enjoy what so many QBs have: but he's been really bad.

He was bad in Week 1, but that was against a team we all expected to have a really good defense. He was respectable in back-to-back road primetime games, which aren't the easiest things in the world. But then he was average against Minnesota, bad against Oakland, and erratic against Cleveland. It isn't even that noodle arm right now. He's making mental mistakes we last saw from Peyton in 2001. He's missing easy throws, not seeing dropping linebackers, and overall just playing like a guy who has no real confidence in what he is doing.

But again, his team is 6-0. People say that 'age is undefeated', but so what? We are not trying to project his career out to 2017, we are looking at the guy right now, and what we have is a QB, with incredibly limited physical tools, basically just two weapons of note - one of which who drops every other pass - and his mind. And his team is undefeated.

Seeing athletes age is never fun (quick tangent, seeing Tom Brady not age is also not fun). I'm watching it with Rafael Nadal. I had to watch it with Roy Oswalt and Martin Brodeur, but with Manning, who seemed to figure out how to play with a weakened arm pretty damn well, the end has come really fast. Through 7 games of 2014, the Broncos were 6-1, were the best team in football, and Peyton Manning was the best QB in football. Through 7 games, Manning was completing 69% of his passes, with an 8.5 y/a, 22 TDs and 3 INTs, with a passer rating of 119.0. I'm not kidding. That was his stat-line through seven games in 2014. We're not even 365 days since then.

People always say the end comes quickly, but that quick? I guess so, but it is then somewhat admirable that he's still fighting. Maybe if the NFL didn't care so much about Super Bowls, he wouldn't want to come back, but he does. He wants to play. He wants to win. He really can't anymore, but he's trying. The end is near, but he's fighting as hard as he can to make that end come in 2016.

Peyton Manning is one of the smartest QBs of all time, somehow who, after accomplishing maybe a Top-5 career through 2010, had a nerve degeneration issue so bad he still hasn't recovered feeling in his fingertips. He had four neck surgeries. He got cut by the team he basically put on the map - and saw that team basically cut him and choose a replacement. He had to go to a new team, a new city, with a new coaching staff and city - and then put up one of the best three year runs of QB play in NFL history. And yet people weren't satisfied.

Well, I am. Every game I get to watch Peyton play in now is one to treasure, even if he has no idea what will happen once he releases the ball. I won't get to watch these for long. In a way, I'm already watching a different player, not the guy who was so, otherworldly good from 2003-2013 (he won 5 MVPs in his 10 healthy seasons). That guy is gone, but his near lifeless husk of a career is still here, fighting strong.

Peyton has carried teams, carried franchises like few QBs ever. He's had two different teams, five different head coaches (he's gone at least 13-3 for the first four). He's had so many different receivers, been saddled with at best average running games and defenses for 7 straight years now. He's been everything for all his teams - and now it is his talented teammates who need to carry him.

When India won the Cricket World Cup in 2011, the team carried Sachin Tendulkar around the field. Here was a guy who had done everything in his career. He built up cricket in India like no player ever. He had already become the most statistucally accomplished cricket player in the modern era. He was the best - but he never won a World Cup. And now, with a tournament played on home soil, his talented teammates carried an average Tendulkar to the World Cup.

After the match, the future star of Indian Cricket, Virat Kohli, a man who was barely born when Sachin Tendulkar first played for India, said it best about his older, fading star, "Sachin carried the burden of a nation for 21 years; it was time we carried him." There's really no better to way to state what we are currently seeing with Manning.

His career has been burdened with bad coaches, flukey playoff losses, terrible moments (and one triumph... no matter how much people try to discredit it, it still counts). He carried the burden of Indianapolis football, and then Denver football, for nearly 20 years. It maybe is just time his better teammates carry him.

Friday, January 8, 2016

My Top-30 Favorite TV Shows

30.) The Larry Sanders Show

I haven't finished the entire show, but from what I have seen, it does 'Behind-the-Scenes of Show Business' better than any show I've seen. It isn't the absurdist show that 30 Rock is, but had a great cast of characters, and used guest stars, which it had basically every episode, quite well. It just wasn't always funny all the time.

29.) Shameless

Shameless is now on its 4th Season, and it is going through some large changes making it very different from what the show used to be. Jimmy(Steve) is no longer a character, Fiona is in a steady job (for now), Lip is in college, and, of course, Frank can't drink, but the lifeblood of the show remains. Shameless showed a really unique side of America, the lower-class white community, that hadn't really been shown before. It wasn't always shown well (almost anything involving Sheila in Seasons 1-3 didn't work for me), but it was unendingly entertaining.

28.) Oz

Just like The Larry Sanders Show, I haven't seen all of Oz, but I've seen enough to get a good idea of what it is all about. Oz was the first real HBO drama to be critically acclaimed, coming a good three years before The Sopranos and five years before The Wire. Telling the story of an experimental unit of a prison, Oz was able to combine the exploration of different themes and thoughts with drama and prison intrigue. It was always informative, but a little slow at times.

27.) Parenthood

There shouldn't be a place for family dramas in the current TV landscape, but Parenthood continues to work. Sure, they've had their missteps over the years (let's just pretend Kristina never ran for mayor of Berkeley), but they've also had some incredible shining moments. All the early material with Max's asperbergers was brilliant, grounded a show that took a while to flesh out its other characters. Like most shows on this list, the acting was brilliant from the beginning. Every character was well cast, even Ann-hog/Beal/Plant/Annabeal Veal herself, Mrs. Mae Whitman. All the stuff with the Siblings Braverman has been awesome from the beginning, including every scene when the four of them are together. They've touched upon basically ever family conflict (divorce, affairs, adoption, child rearing, illness, cancer, money, moving) and done almost all of them well. The show will probably end soon, and just in time to finish off that Bingo! of Family Drama topics with a perfect A- average.

26.) Nathan For You

After the reality boom of the early 2000's, it was no surprise that that was folowed by the faux-reality show era - and to me no show did that better than Nathan For You. The show started with a consistently brilliant formula, with Nathan Fielder going t some small business owner in the LA area, posing as a 'business consultant' and coming up with some ridiculous, yet somehow brilliant, scheme to make the business grown. That show was very good, yet Fielder turned the show into something bigger, deeper, and better, by starting to grow beyond that set-up and investigate himself. The 3rd season wa the best yet, peeling the onion back on Fielder himself and his loneliness and isolation. The show got a, most likely final, 4th season, and a good finish could really move it up the list.

25.) Archer

I've backlogged Archer Vice right now, but through four seasons, Archer has become one of my favorite wasting-time shows that I put on in the background. I can't get enough of the fast-paced dialogue, the ridiculousness of Sterling, the brilliance of what is essentially Lucille Bluth, and everything else that makes Archer so damn funny. My only quibble is I'm not always a fan of the HR people back at the office like Pam and Cheryl.

24.) Everybody Loves Raymond

The best traditional sitcom I have seen still gets high praise for me. Everybody Loves Raymond was more like a series of little plays, using a few characters and even fewer sets. Everyone's role was well-defined and consistent. There was little character growth but there never needed to be. Instead of put the family in funny situations, they made the family respond to normal situations in the funniest of ways. A consistently good traditional family sitcom should not work in this environment, but Raymond not only worked, but got better as it went on.

Some Really Very Good, Underrated Shows (Plus one early-2000's love affair)

23.) Bojack Horseman

After two seasons, Bojack Horseman has quickly become my favorite animated comedy yet. Archer may be more rewatchable, but no show is better, no show is more impressive at mining emotional and dramatic material despite being an animated show. Centered around an anthropomorphic horse in an anthropomorphic world who was an ex-star of a TV show, Bojack brilliantly satirizes Hollywood while also examining deeply the emotions and realities of success, happiness and content. The second season went deeper into the world outside of just Bojack and with that created an even more vivid tapestry. It will be interesting to see how far they can go with mixing such random irreverance and real emotions.

22.) Men of a Certain Age 

Just like the show at #19, Men of a Certain Age lasted just two seasons on the air, before it could make a real lasting impact and totally figure itself out. But whatever it did, it worked incredibly well. Ray Romano was always underrated in his acting on ELR, but he proved just how good an actor he was on this show. Of course, it was hard him to even stand out next to Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher, all getting good material and playing the hell out of it. This show probably had the lightest stakes of any drama, but those light stakes just made it realistic, really, incredibly, realistic. Romano gave each of the main three characters some interesting beats to play, but the overarching tone was to get over disappointment and enjoy whatever you can about that 'Certain Age'. What I really loved about the show was the small set of recurring characters it had, but how well placed they all were inside that shows ecosystem. A great blend of overarching darkness and small moments of joy.

21.) Happy Endings

Man, if only Happy Endings was on NBC, it would have been easily entering its 4th season right now. I've never seen a show start out aimless but find itself so quickly and so effectively. The show started out as a romantic comedy of a group of six friends reacting to one of them leaving another at the alter. That version ended in about 4 episodes. After that, it became a brilliant, pop-culture, caustic joke-machine. I've never seen a show mine so much comedy out of friends being mean to each other. They also quickly defined each character into solid, separate roles that all worked. It's extremely rewatchable, as you pick up little nuances in the performances that make it so damn joyful. It would be higher if it lasted more seasons, and if the first eighth of the show didn't suck. In retrospect, it would have been amazing to see how long they could have kept the pace up,. Even at times in third season it slowed down, but just for an episode or two. After that, they would return to being the most rapid-fire joke show in the last 10 years.

20.) Party Down

It's odd to hold a show back for only lasting three seasons only to extol the virtues of a show that lasted just two, but Party Down was really, really good. It's a pretty novel idea created initially by Paul Rudd, and then by his friends Rob Thomas (not the singer) and Dan Etheridge. They, combined with one of the most talented casts you will see, created a really good show that did not ever have a bad episode. They took eight people that were extremely talented, gave them good material, and let the talent do what talent will do. What killed the show, ironically, was that incredible cast, as they couldn't hold such talent forever on a show on Starz that no one watched live. First, it was Jane Lynch getting called for Glee, but what ended the show effectively was losing Adam Scott to Parks and Recreation. They did leave behind 20 episodes of pure gold, detailing the lives of cater-waiters just trying to have fun in whatever ridiculous situation their job puts them in.

19.) Whose Line is it Anyway

It's a show that still works better in Youtube form when you can pick and choose your favorite sketches (or just watch loops of Colin and Ryan bantering in the intros to various sketches), but the show was ahead of its time. It was when UCB and the alt. comedy/improve was just becoming mainstream in clubs, but far before the same was true on air. Still, Whose Line left us with tons of episode of laughs upon laughs. Sure, it wasn't totally improv (the cast members knew what games were being played, and the show was edited), but it was pretty much improv, and showcased a bunch of talented people. Apart from Wayne Brady, and to a point, Greg Proops, none of them have found lasting success outside the show, but my God they were gold on the show. Whose Line should have been more successful, but it was always a cult hit with tweens (I was among that group when the show was on the air), and found a lasting presence online.

18.) Silicon Valley

Three seasons in, and Silicon Valley continues to be a laugh riot, despite how often they go to the whole 'this is the biggest day in Pied Piper's History' theme. It really all comes down to the insane talent on hand in the cast. The breakout star is TJ Miller, but adding comedy vet Martin Starr, with improv great Tomas Middletich, and stand-up vet Kumail Nanjiani, and other improv-great Zach Woods, you get an incredible result. Few shows can assemble that type of roster, hand them good material, and let them improve on it. Having Pied Piper stay in a status quo has helped keep the show grounded, and you have to think that places an expiration date, but until then, we can just enjoy watching these extremely talented people have a blast making each other and us laugh.

17 & 16.) Veronica Mars & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I'll admit, I've seen every episode of these shows. They're hard to really place apart from each other, as they follow similar constructs: a strong, beautiful female high-school girl who has a special talent but lives as an outcast. She befriends some other strange people, has an older male guide, and solves everyone's problems. There are major differences. Veronica Mars was far more grounded. It did a lot better actually showing the dynamics of a high-school environemnt. Buffy added fantasy to the mix, but also did better in romantic storytelling. They're both excellent shows. Buffy probably reaches higher peaks, but Buffy also lasted past its expiration date and suffered with lackluster Seasons 5 and 6. Veronica Mars, coming a good seven years after Buffy premiered, never got the chance to last that long, but that allowed it to leave before it got dated. Both the lead actresses were wonderful in their roles. Buffy had a stronger core group of supporting characters (Xander, Willow, Giles, Angel for a period, Spike for  period), but Veronica Mars had a deeper stable of dependable, if not true supporting, characters. Buffy kind of perfected the 'Big Bad' style of storytelling, while Veronica Mars did as good a job of playing out a murder mystery as anything you will see on a more adult show. Two great shows, and I'm not even close to joking.

Some Really Great Shows

15.) Parks and Recreation

Like many shows that lasted over four seasons, Parks and Recreation settled into a nice little groove, consistently churning out B episodes. They're still doing it too. What's nice about Parks is there has actually been character development that seemed really natural. Ron's now married. Tom's a semi-successful entrepreneur. Leslie's achieved her dream and now lost it. Beyond all this plot development laid an extremely funny show. Parks and Recreation did a far better job satirizing politics than people gave it credit for, but more notable was just how well they wrote that world. Nothing seemed more funny and eccentric than the town of Pawnee. They also were smart enough to limit the use of Ron Swanson, an unending pot of comedy Gold. Like HIMYM, Parks and Recreation is nowhere near as good of a show post Season 4, but unlike HIMYM, it is still a good show, and good enough to basically hold this ranking going forward.

14.) Curb Your Enthusiasm

There is a non-trivial chance that Curb never returns. Of course this will be a sad-thing, but Larry David has generally said that he'll stop when he no longer has ideas, so it's probably better for him to stop off a solid season. Curb probably isn't as consistent as many of these shows, but few reached the heights it did. Few were able to feature such well-to-do characters and still make them grounded. Making Larry single kicked the show in the ass after some less than stellar seasons in Season 5 and 6, and returned the show to its old glory (reuniting Seinfield did that as well). It's stunning that the show is mostly improvised, as the jokes are so sharp, so witty. Also, no show has used guest stars better. Sure, Curb gets to use recurring characters playing themself, but they've made those characters almost always seem more than just stunt-casting. Curb's left a lasting impression on the comedy world for a lot of other shows to copy. Hopefully just one of them can come to close to matching it.

13.) Game of Thrones

Full disclosure, I haven't ready any of the books, and apart from one spoiler I know nothing of what is coming forward. Anyway, the show rebounded from a slightly (relatively) disappointing 2nd season with a great 3rd season and a real hope for a great future of the show. There's a couple things this show does better than any I have scene: shoot the show in incredibly beautiful locations, and create lovable, hateable characters. They force people to accept the bad guy, but they make the bad guys so damn good. Game of Thrones has a large cast but they've done a great job of casting the show. There are few weak links in that cast, which matters a lot when they're given odd literary material to play with. This is one of the few film projects based off a book series that will probably be better in live-action form.

12.) The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report will never be better or worse than it is right now and what it was five years ago. It hasn't really ever changed apart from some segments replacing others. It's about Stephen, it is about him being incredibly talented and great in character, and challenging people to know how to enjoy satire. The writers are brilliant in being able to have genius takes on obscure news stories, but the researchers are the key. It is a lot easier to satirize a story and make the host the start when you are talking about asininely ridiculous things as they do. Anyway, The Colbert Report also found its foothold in giving us some of the most interesting interviews you can see anywhere. Colbert does use an unfair tactic about defending his position in character (see: ridiculous), but prosecuting his interviewee's position out of character (see: realist), but that just leads to some awesome, awkward, hilarious interviews. Because of Jon Stewart's summer hiatus, The Colbert Report finally won the 'best variety show' Emmy last year, and better late than never, as it definitely has deserved more than just one over its almost nine-year run.

11.) Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn

The Colbert Report essentially replaced Tough Crowd after two seasons, and thankfully they kicked Tough Crowd off the air for something worthy. A while ago I wrote that Tough Crowd would do much better today when standups are more notable in the public. I'm not so sure that is true. These were mainly the East Coast comics, the one's that burnt each other all the time, that responded with completely politically incorrect insults. It wasn't the West Coast let's-all-be-happy comedian group that kind of dominates today. Also, it featured conservatives. Big conservatives. But that's what made Tough Crowd so great. It didn't only have liberals, it didn't stick to any talking points. In fact, Colin Quinn quit the show than accept Comedy Central's directions to focus more on pop culture and less on politics and race. The show debated some interesting topics, but the real joy of watching the show was it shined a light on the famous back-room table discussions at The Comedy Cellar. It showed comedians just riffing on each other, pounding the comedian who told a bad, pandering joke, making fun of each other all the time. Sometimes the discussions went off the rails, but there was alwaays some jokes to be found. Colin Quinn cut as little as possible to show the jokes that bombed, showed the negative reactions, but also show just how much great comedians made each other laugh, and they made us laugh too.

10.) Fargo

Fargo's upside is huge. Another great season with a disconnected, but fully contained storyline can move it way up the list. Few shows have ever hit home runs the way Fargo has in both its first and second season... and none of those shows tried to do what Fargo did, first put on a show inspired by a beloved movie, and then change course completely, make something unconnected, and be as good if not better. Fargo has excelled at everything so far, from tone, to visual brilliance, to the acting of all the regulars in Season 1 and 2. It has also managed to maintain some of its connection to the thematic elements of the Coen Brothers, from extended parables, to mass violence, to fully off-beat characters. Fargo followed up a brillaitn first season with a brilliant period piece. The expectations are fully high now, and it will be interesting to see how Season 3 plays out. Either way, Fargo has put up the best contained storytelling since Breaking Bad.

9.) Boardwalk Empire

Full disclosure, I've only finished watching the first two seasons and two episodes of Season 3, but I think it's time I can judge what I have seen. I'm fascinated by this world, by the show, by the deliberate pacing, the touches of the 20's. Boardwalk Empire is to me what Mad Men is to so many: a brilliant period piece showing a fascinating time in American History. It is slow, but so many of the greatest crime and mafia works of art in US history have been slow (The Godfather, Pt. 1 and 2). The show is tremendously well acted, and well paced. I would never have imagined Steve Buscemi being so good as such a tough man but it works brilliantly. It's one of the rare shows were I have really no complaints with anything they've done. It was pretty much all 'A-minus' work, and that is really hard to do so consistently. I also love how they've worked in real life event and people (Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, and so much more). The show has woven a deep, timeless tapestry of life in The Prohibition Era.

8.) Veep

With Armando Ianucci leaving, Veep is at a crossroads; and luckily if it falls down without its creator and guide, the show has put up four seasons of brillaint satirical comedy. Veep started the same year House of Cards did, and despite the critical acclaim the latter received, multiple DC insiders said Veep actually did a better job of portraying Washington. Since then, Veep has gone bigger, from Selina Meyer taking a larger role, to starting to campaign for President, to actually becoming President (and invalidating the actual name of the show), and it has gotten better at every step. Liek it's HBO mate Silicon Valley, the real brilliance lies in teh cast. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is making a good case that Elaine Benes should be 1A on her resume. The rest of the cast combines comedy veteran greats like Matt Walsh, Tony Hale, Gary Clark, and now Hugh Laurie, and uncovering some new stars, the best being XXXXX as Jonah Ryan. It will be interesting to see where Veep goes wthout Ianucci, but even if it falls slightly, it has made its mark satirizing politics at a time where politics became a more polarizing area of the mainstream conscious.

7.) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I said two years ago during my Comedy Power Rankings that It's Always Sunny was the best cable sitcom of all time. I still believe that to be true, and the two seasons that have happened since then only strengthened its position. It's Always Sunny, despite becoming more and more mature, has still been able to tie itself to its amazingly raw beginnings. Always Sunny has been able to satirize everything quite brilliantly and still show itself to be the raw, fast-paced dialogue based show it was in the beginning. They incorporated Danny DeVito brilliantly. Always Sunny has proven itself to be far smarter than anyone could have imagined. Rob McElhenny, Charlie Day, and Glenn Howerton have shown themselves to be as adept as writers and show-runners as they are as actors. It may mask itself as a show about five doofuses 'running a bar' while coming up with crazy schemes of the week, but the show is showing the idiocy in everything in the world.

The Pantheon

6.) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

In one sense, The Daily Show isn't long for this world. Hints have been dropped that Stewart is far closer to leaving than staying. There's rumors that he will replace Dave Letterman as the Late Show host whenever he decides to retire, or maybe leave to produce movies. Still, as long as he's on The Daily Show, Stewart gives it the commanding presence it deserves and has always maintained since he took over 15 years ago. The show's definitely changed to a more overt criticism of news media and not just news, but remains the standard for political comedy discourse. His stable of correspondents have gone on to have success much the same way SNL players used to, and Stewart always used them well when they were on the show. The Daily Show has somehow kept its sense of purpose and Stewart has kept his enjoyment for all 15 years, which is an amazing feat given the amount of political turmoil the country has been through since he was hired. The show likely will carry on after Stewart leaves, and likely won't be as good, but The Daily Show, under Stewart's reign, has already made its mark on American TV history.

5.) Chappelle's Show

Chappelle's Show has fewer episodes of any show in this Top-10, but it didn't need to make any more to establish itself as one of the great shows of the 2000s, and one of the lasting culturally important comedy shows ever. Obviously, the part people remember about te show is the way it challenged race perceptions in the US, but that really is missing the forest for the trees. The show really excelled at just pointing out how different Black and White America was, and mining and incredible amount of comedy from just juxtaposing those cultures. Of course, when it just decided to focus on something random, not really pointedly connected to race, the show remained incredibly funny still. The amount of famous sketches are there, but they are backed up by a host of forgotten sketches that were just as funny. Chappelle left quietly under the night sky to Africa instead of doing a Season 3, and maybe just in time, as he left 24 great episodes, hours upon hours of great, rewatchable sketches, and a lasting comedic memory that will never leave.

4.) Seinfeld

For years I never watched Seinfield, never understood its appeal. Of course, the fact that I hadn't watched it made that second fact a little obvious. Then I started watching it. I started watching all the episodes. I started understanding its appeal, understanding what made it one of the best shows ever. I finally reached the point where I kind of figured it out. Seinfield was the best traditional sitcom because it found comedy in the most un-traditional of ways. It made its comedy in dialogue, in characters, in oddities, not in situations, not in romance, not in plot. It also got together four absolutely brilliant comedic actors/minds. Jason Alexander was amazing. Michael Richards was amazing. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was (and still is) amazing. Jerry and Larry co-wrote the thing. What do you get when you combine the creator or Curb Your Enthusiasm with another brilliant comedic mind of their generation? You get Seinfield, a show immensely rewatchable, a show that stayed funny over 150 episodes, over 10 years. No show on this list apart from The Daily Show ran longer, and few were better.

3.) Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad's incredible success commercially in its final season was odd to see as someone who had watched the show far earlier. It went from being a solidly watched show for cable (about 2 million) to being the most watched thing not on a network just like that. There's no show you can point to social media and Internet 2.0 being the catalyst of its success like Breaking Bad,. Of course, it helps that it was absolutely amazing. There may never have been a character short of Tony Soprano (a show I have yet to see) that was so well constructed, let alone well acted, as Walther H. White. The rest of the show had a nice, small, but well constructed cast, but it comes down to Walter White. In its totality, it is a perfect character piece, a great look at what really drives man, greed, love or desire. The meth (the science) went from the forefront to the background as the show went on, but what replaced it was more drama, more intensity, and more incredibly acted scenes. So much of what Breaking Bad was an exercise in the science of a TV show, in the creation of great moments, like the brilliant photography, the one-on-one dialogue, the interesting locations. Breaking Bad was a perfect showcase for what the medium can be.

2.) Arrested Development

I've written a lot about Arrested Development, and deservedly so. The show was that good at times, just a perfect show that encompassed everything you could ask from a comedy program. They could wear any hat, do any type of comedy. But the real differentiating factor was the show's tone, that it found almost immediately. It was that tone, that life, that allowed the show to portray what was seemingly a believable family made up of absolute narcissistic idiots. They were able to have absurdist ideas and dialogues and ground it in a relatble way. They did something impossible: essentially be a plot driven and joke driven show at the same time. They wrapped reference upon reference in the show, hid jokes behind jokes. I still find new jokes each time I watch episodes. The show was just so well written, so amazingly cast, and so well put together. It really comes back to that tone. Put on any random episode of Arrested Development and within five minutes you get that tone, you get the feeling you are watching a show unlike any other. 30 Rock tried to be that way, but it never got as grounded (or as funny). Arrested Development was pretty damn perfect. I highly doubt I'll ever watch any comedy that is simply just that good.

1.) The Wire

I've written way too much about The Wire, especially with a certain 50 Top Characters ranking back in the February-March of 2012, but I could probably pump out 10,000 more words. Here's the best thing about The Wire: It has essentially ruined shows for me forever. Nothing will really live up to the standarad that The Wire set about how good the TV Mdium can be. Nothing will match it's character complexity, it's plot complexity, it's mix of dialogue and style. Nothing will match it. Stuff comes close. Breaking Bad came about as close as I can imagine a drama coming. I will never give up hope for a show to match The Wire, but it's pretty damn unlikely.

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.