Archive for December 25th, 2009

Aught Lang Syne: Franchises of the Decade

After running through the Teams of the Decade this morning, it’s time to rank the Franchises/Programs of the Decade—those that have consistently churned out competitive and championship-winning teams. My criteria included things like regular-season record, number of playoff appearances, conference titles, and championships into the equation, alongside less quantifiable measures such as historical imprint and landmark players.

NFL

(all information prior to Week 16 of 2009 NFL season)

WORST: Detroit Lions (0 playoff appearances, 0-16 season, 42-116 record)

5. New York Giants (1 title, 2 conference championships, 6 playoff appearances, 6-5 playoff record, 88-70 regular season)

4. Philadelphia Eagles (1 conference championship, 8 playoff appearances, 10-7 playoff record, 102-55-1 regular season)

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2 titles, 2 conference championships, 6 playoff appearances, 10-4 playoff record, 101-56-1 regular season)

2. Indianapolis Colts (1 title, 1 conference championship, 9 playoff appearances, 7-7 playoff record, 115-43 regular season) Continue reading

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Avatar: Different Planet, Same Story

The first 20-30 minutes of Avatar are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. The entire movie takes place on a planet, Pandora, that James Cameron essentially built from scratch and special effects. The closest analog I can come up with for this type of visual creation is the island part of King Kong, but Merian C. Cooper was working with slightly less technology. And even in Peter Jackson’s recent remake, with its gripping use of CGI, we were still dealing with large gorillas and dinosaurs… you know, things that are real.

Pandora’s not like that. Everything is made up, from the plant life to the small animals to the large predators to the indigenous population of humanoids, called the Na’vi. This also doesn’t include the human technologies portrayed in the film, which run from typical “this-is-taking-place-in-the-future” signifiers like extensive use of holograms and things that hover, to more extreme modifications of aircrafts and weaponry. In short, Cameron has done an excellent job creating an entire world. The visual elements of this world, thanks both to their natural richness and the 3-D enhancements, are stunning, and the first act’s introduction of Pandora and its inhabitants is engrossing.

After that, though, you might as well walk out, because there isn’t much story to speak of. Cameron, in his first film since the overwhelmingly successful Titanic, showcases his juvenile sense of dialogue, character, and story over and over again. Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: Teams of the Decade

Later today, we’ll look into Franchises of the Decade—which is how most people define “Teams of the Decade.” But right now, we’re going to be specific with our terms and figure out who were the best single-season teams in each sport in the Aughts, along with the best teams that fell short of a title and the worst teams that happened to win one.

NFL

3. 2000 Baltimore Ravens

Their defense was the single best unit of the Aughts—good enough to overcome that weak offense. They won every game in which they scored a touchdown, which included their last 11 after a 5-4 start and a quarterback change.

2. 2003 New England Patriots

The first iteration of a seemingly unbeatable Patriots’ squad and the only No. 1 seed to win the Super Bowl in the Aughts, this is the team that ran off 15 straight wins after a 2-2 start en route to their second Super Bowl in three years. It will be interesting to see if this decade’s Patriots are remembered more for this team—similar to the other title-winners, it possessed an excellent defense and a solid offense that wore you down on the ground and always made just enough plays to win—or the ’07 version that stomped teams and ran up the score.*

*Cool Stat: The ’03 Patriots opened the season with a 31-0 loss to the Bills and closed the season with a 31-0 win over the Bills. I wonder if that has ever happened before. Continue reading