Ridiculously Average Football Picks: Divisional Round

Well, my picks last weekend were… ridiculously average! Things started out really well, as I perfectly called Saturday’s game to jump out to a 2-0 record. But then Sunday hit and the Falcons flopped in the first round (again) and my Denver Broncos pulled the upset of the year by shocking the Steelers! I couldn’t be happier about a wrong pick than I was about that one, but that means my record after one weekend is 2-2.

Now the real fun begins: the divisional round.

New Orleans at San Francisco – Saturday, 4:30 eastern, FOX
The 49ers are one of the biggest surprises in the playoffs this year, but I think they are also one of the most overrated. They had impressive wins against the Steelers, the Lions, and… well, that’s about it, really. They’re not nearly as good as their 13-3 record would indicate, piling on the wins in an incredibly weak schedule. They do have a phenomenal run defense, so there’s that. Unfortunately for them, the Saints have the quarterback that broke the NFL passing record this season – and the 49ers have no way of stopping him. According to the betting lines, this will be the closest game of the weekend. I don’t see it. I say the Saints in a rout.

Denver at New EnglandSaturday, 8:00 eastern, CBS
I know, I know – I didn’t learn my lesson from picking against the Broncos last weekend. I should believe after the miraculous upset a week ago. And maybe if the Broncos advance one more round, I might. But by luck of the brackets they are matched up against the Patriots and Tom Brady tomorrow night… yes, Pittsburgh is a great team. But the Pats are a legendary team – largely because they have a legendary coach and a legendary quarterback. Bill Belichick will have his guys up for this game like nobody’s business. Tebow may look really good against one of the league’s worst passing defenses, but if this comes down to a shootout between Brady and Tebow’s passing arms I don’t know if that’s a battle Tebow can win. I’m going with the safe pick on this one. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised again.

Houston at BaltimoreSunday, 1:00 eastern, CBS
I said last week that Houston didn’t really belong in the playoffs, but lucked out by getting to play the only team that deserved to be in the playoffs less than they did. And this week, the Ravens, one of the strongest teams in the AFC, will showcase just how true that is. Houston might try to put up a fight for a while, but in the end Baltimore will easily prevail.

New York Giants at Green BaySunday, 4:30 eastern, FOX
As I watched the Saints dismantle the Lions last weekend, I commented to a couple friends that if I were any other team in the NFC I would be scared to death of playing the Saints – unless my name was the Green Bay Packers. Ultimately, the NFC championship game will come down to those two powerhouses, which means the Giants (who have played mediocre football in a season dotted with a few big wins) will be but a speed bump in the Packers path. I don’t see any way for the Giants to stop Green Bay here. They’re just out of their league in this game.

Ridiculously Average Football Picks: Wildcard Weekend

Okay, so I’ve done NFL playoff picks here at Reflected Riddles for three years in a row now, and each year I have ended up 6-5 with my picks. Essentially, I am no better at picking football games than flipping that coin you just found under the couch cushion. Weak!

But, I love doing it, and you know you love reading it. It’s okay, you can admit it. How can you handle the excitement of wondering: could this finally be the year I break out and do better than 6-5?

There’s only one way to find out…

Cincinnati at HoustonSaturday, 4:30 Eastern, NBC
The NFC definitely has the more powerful lineup of playoff teams this season, and nowhere is that more evidenced than this first round AFC matchup between two teams who don’t really belong in the playoffs. If it hadn’t been for the Jets, the Bengals could have been the poster children for dysfunctional teams this season. They’ve only managed to beat one team with a winning record all year. They have a horrible offense. And yet they are only three point underdogs as a wildcard team. Meanwhile, Houston has suffered major injuries all year that more or less derailed what began as a really strong season for them. It’s a shame the one year the Colts lose Peyton Manning that they have to lose so many players as well, which means they won’t go too far into the playoffs. They ended the season on a three game losing skid, but against the Bengals on their homefield they pull of the W.

Detroit at New OrleansSaturday, 8:00 Eastern, NBC
What a feel-good story Detroit has been this season (minus the whole head-stomping thing and other assorted personal fouls by Suh, anyway). It’s near impossible to cheer against Detroit, which makes it so lousy that their first game in the playoffs has to be against the high-powered Saints. I’m rooting for the Lions in this one, but in the end there’s a reason they are 11 point underdogs. Saints easily.

Atlanta at NY Giants — Sunday, 1:00 Eastern, FOX
Call me crazy, but I don’t see how the Giants are favored to win this game. Home field advantage isn’t that strong. The Giants have literally the worst running game in the NFL and have a lousy defense on the other side of the ball. Toward the end of the season, they lost 5 out of 6 games and only seemed to be able to get up for their two games against the rival Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Falcons had a rocky start to the season but began cleaning up toward the end. Some of their only losses came at the hands of powerhouses like New Orleans and Green Bay. This is a team that is heating up at just the right time, and will knock off the Giants in their home stadium.

Pittsburgh at Denver — Sunday, 4:30 Eastern, CBS
It’s exciting to see my home team, the Broncos, back in the playoffs again. But oh, how they are going to get creamed on Sunday. I wish it wasn’t so, but I don’t see any way around it. Our offense is lousy, especially against good defenses. Our defense is tremendous and allows us to stay in close games late — but I’m afraid there won’t be any close game late in this one. Pittsburgh covers the 8.5 point spread.

There you have it: the quest for mediocrity begins anew. What are your picks for the games this weekend?

A Few Things I’m Excited About

***Here’s something I am getting excited about:

Carlton Cuse has teamed with author/pastor Rob Bell for Stronger, a drama project with spiritual overtones, which has been sold to ABC… Stronger, which the former Lost co-showrunner and the founder of Michigan’s Mars Hill Bible Church are co-writing and executive producing, revolves around Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, and his spiritual journey as he becomes a benefactor and guide to others. Music is expected to be a big part of the show, which features autobiographical elements as Bell is a former musician and played with rock/gospel bands in the 1990s.

One of my favorite authors/speakers teaming up with a co-writer/executive producer of one of my favorite TV shows? Doing a new show together? Um, yes please. This might be worth resubscribing to cable to watch.

*** Here’s something huge that I am excited about:

Here’s a headline I haven’t read or heard yet: We’re winning the battle against extreme poverty.

I know that sounds unbelievable, but it’s not. It’s just that we’re conditioned to believe the opposite is true… Consider that from 2000-2008, 78% fewer children died from measles.

Malaria infections have plummeted by 19 million cases per year between 2005 and 2009.

We used to say 40,000 children under 5 died every day from preventable causes. No more. In 2010, that number is 21,000.

We’ve dramatically slowed the spread of HIV infections.

And most of all, 26% of the world’s population now exists in extreme poverty. That’s a staggering number until you realize that it is half of what it was in 1981. We’ve cut the extreme global poverty rate in half in just 30 years.

The awesome thing about that is that there are elements of the Church who are leading the charge in these battles. Those numbers are courtesy of people who are joining with God in his mission of restoration. Things really are getting better.

*** Here’s something on the lighter side of things that I’m excited about:

After months — no, years! — of rumors and vague promises and speculation, we can say, without any doubt, there will be an Arrested Development movie. Also, there will be new Arrested Development episodes for television. That’s what show creator Mitchell Hurwitz told an excited audience this afternoon at the New Yorker Festival in Manhattan, according to New York Times arts writer Dave Itzkoff.

And cast member Will Arnett confirmed it via Twitter, in his own special way: “I’m peeing with @batemanjason at the moment..and we can confirm that we are going to make new AD eps and a movie.” And Bateman, himself, followed up with a few words on Twitter: “It’s true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ’13. VERY excited!”

Simply put, Arrested Development is the. greatest. television. show. ever. made. (You like all those periods I put in there for rhetorical emphasis? I thought so.) I cannot wait to see the new season and the much-anticipated movie, which honestly I had given up hope of ever happening. It makes me smile just thinking about it. Heh.

*** And finally, something that I’m REALLY excited about… my birthday is coming up next week and this year I am planning on celebrating it in a unique and powerful way with all of you. We’ll have an announcement of exactly what that is going to look like right here on Monday morning, so make sure you come check it out!

Me and the Bees: A Saga

Our tale begins like many other summer tales: during hot relatively warm summer days, filled with children’s laughter as they bound through the quenching spray of a sprinkler, trace circles on the driveway with their bike tires, and experience the joy of burying their toys in the sandbox again and again.

This serene, picturesque scene was shattered, however, by an infestation of Bombus pennsylvanicus. Bees.

Thousands – okay, dozens (but literally, dozens) – of bees had chosen to make our home their home. I mean, I can hardly blame them. It’s a nice place to live. And we are happy to house guests whenever someone is in need of a little hospitality. But not when those guests come equipped with tiny swords on their hind quarters – or when they make playing in the front yard akin to being a ninja dodging drops of liquid as he runs through a waterfall.

Oh, yes they can…

But these bees, as you will soon find out, were not just any bees. They were cunning, scheming, conniving super bees.

Their first move that tipped me off to their evolutionary advancement was their choice for a home. They didn’t hang their hive from an eave, or a gutter, or the bottom side of a roof. No, thinking they were protected, these bees chose to build their headquarters inside a piece of siding on the corner of the house.

When I first noticed the swarm of pointy-bottomed intruders, I figured a quick spray of some bee killer from the friendly neighborhood Ace store would take care of the problem, and so I purchased said spray. Donning a long sleeved shirt and long pants, I went out to spray what I imagined to be this metropolis of bee hives in my corner siding. Upon seeing the swarm of bees in person once again and (not owning a beekeepers mask) deciding I valued my face not being used as a pin cushion, I resolved to wait until nightfall to inflict my damage.

That night, I went out, pointed the can up the hole at the bottom of the siding, pulled the trigger – and watched as nothing but air shot out. I quickly realized the problem: bee spray came in aerosol cans, and aerosol cans had to be level in order to spray. This wasn’t going to work.

I pondered my options. I had a ton of bees in an impossible-to-reach location that I couldn’t spray. I could call an exterminator, but that would mean two things I really didn’t like: paying money and admitting defeat. I researched how to get rid of bees — meaning I did a Google search on my laptop — which loaded me up with guilt. Seriously, did you know that bumble bees are apparently as sacred to us as cows are to Hindus now? Because of this bee shortage that’s going on, anyone who asks on an internet forum how to get rid of bees is made to feel like he just asked the best way to destroy Disneyland while a million little kids watch.

Anyway, having turned up no real useful information (something the internet is quite adept at doing), I was back to the drawing board. At the suggestion of my lovely wife, I eventually turned to the one item every man turns to when he’s run out of options: duct tape.

If they were living in that piece of corner siding, flying in and out the bottom of it, I reasoned that all I had to do was duct tape the bottom shut and let nature take its course once they were trapped inside. And so I waited for nighttime once again, armed myself with a flashlight and the roll of duct tape, and did the deed.

That night, it rained.

My duct tape was hanging off the house the next morning. So the next night, I duct taped it again. The next morning, I went outside with great anticipation… and stepped right into a swarm of bees. Somehow, the duct tape did not seal their entrance completely. And so I did what any sane man would have done: added more duct tape.

This became the cycle over the next several days: go out to check on the duct tape trap, see swarm of bees who had outsmarted the duct tape, add more duct tape, rinse and repeat.

Eventually, it looked like we were trying to hold the corner of our house together with the most white trash solution we could think of:

If you picture me maniacally laughing at this point,
you’re not far from the truth.

That ought to hold them in there, I thought. But I thought wrong.

When I went to check on the situation at lunch time the day after my maniacal taping spree, I was greeted with a larger swarm than I had ever seen. As I watched them, I realized: they could get out, but they couldn’t get back in. Now I had the entire hive flying around my house at the same time.

‘Well, good,’ I reasoned, employing my endless optimism (heh). ‘Eventually, they’ll just give up and move somewhere else to build a new home.’ I felt pretty good about myself – all those bee lovers on the internet would be proud of the humanitarian way in which I (accidentally) handled this crisis.

But as I stood watching the bees, suddenly something dawned on me. They were flying around the gutters, the front door, the drain pipe, the window sills… I had not considered the fact that the bees would look for a spot for their new hive someplace else on my home! I felt like a novice chess player who took an opposing bishop only to watch my queen get captured on the next move. Something had to be done.

The bees that weren’t flying around in panic or scouting out potential new hive locations were all congregated at the duct tape, trying to figure a way back in. So I grabbed the bottle of bee spray and began picking them off one by one.

A trip back to our friendly neighborhood Ace store, three bottles of spray, and about 30 or so dead bees later, I finally realized this was not going to be a cost effective way to contain our situation. There were still dozens of bees flying around. Only now, they seemed to be getting back in their hive somehow! So I sat and watched, fascinated by my worthy opponents. And what I saw amazed me.

Apparently, these bees had spent some time down in the sewers with Splinter the rat, and discovered the secret of the ooze. (For those of you under the age of 25, you’ll probably want to Google that.) I watched as they not only worked together to push the duct tape away from the house enough to make a path large enough to fly in and out, but as they burrowed through the concrete as well.

Seriously, are bees supposed to be able to do this?

Now it was serious. Perhaps for the first time in my life, duct tape had failed me. Now what was I supposed to do? I thought back to my “research” I had done and remembered someone said something about mixing some syrup and dish soap together and setting that out to attract, capture, and kill bees. So I tried it. For an entire day, the concoction sat there, right by the little concrete burrowers’ home, and you know how many bees I ended up catching?


Zero. Not a single freaking one. The bees were on to me. If they can dig through concrete, they can resist the lure of syrup tinged with death soap. That’s when I realized that if I was going to take care of this problem, it was time to get serious. Dangerous, even.

I conjured up my inner Darkwing Duck (yeah, you’ll probably want to Google that one, too):


Let’s get dangerous!

It was time to remove the corner siding and face the hive mano a bee-o. And so I donned a long sleeve shirt, pants, and gloves, grabbed my hammer, and began prying that piece of siding off the house. In the midst of the swarm, I successfully dislodged the siding — and when that piece came off, I discovered why all my duct taping prowess was for naught:

The Gates of Hell, Bee Style

That is a picture of a bee hive protruding out from a gaping hole in the concrete where our steps connect to the foundation of the house. So the hive wasn’t inside the corner siding after all — the siding was just covering up the hole where the hive was. And finally, I had a clear path to victory.

I went to Wal-Mart, picked up a final can of bee spray, and waited until night fell once again. Once again, donning long sleeves and a flashlight, I slipped quietly into the night – only this time I knew exactly where I was aiming. I emptied three quarters of the bottle into the hive and the surrounding hole, saving a quarter for the next day just in case any bees survived the Benjamin Linus-like purge I had just committed. (Non-LOST fans, go ahead and Google that one as well.)

Over the next several days, we saw two bees total, and eventually they left as well. The corner siding is back on the house, the saga has drawn to a happy ending for my family (though, admittedly, not for the bees — to all those internet bee lovers out there, sorry I burned down Disneyland), and I have declared victory over the bees. As I tweeted:

I am officially declaring today V-B day here — as in victory over bees day. Celebration and blog post to follow. :)


And now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

Old Spice, BYU, and Christian Creativity

Along with many other Americans, I love the latest Old Spice ad campaign, which kicked off back in February during the Superbowl (I think – correct me if I’m wrong) with “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” I’ve made a resolution to not use the word “brilliant” as much as I used to, lest it loses its power, but this is pure advertising brilliance. In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen it, or if you just need a good laugh, here it is:

Wonderfully and entertainingly random. I could watch it seventy three times in a row without getting tired of it. Here’s the second in the series – shorter, but equally as genius:

This has prompted several knock-offs that attempt to capture the random humor of the original. The best I’ve seen, by far, is one from – oddly enough – the BYU Library. Enjoy:

Ha! My favorite line: “Did you know that 8 out of 5 dentists say that studying in the library is six bajillion times more effective than studying in your shower?”

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction; for every good parody, their is an equally horrible one – as proven by this “Christian” version, ‘cleverly’ hawking “Lord Spice” bodywash:

“Sadly, here in your office you’re surrounded by non-Christians.” What?!?

“Two tickets to that church thing you love?” “I’m on a donkey?” Ugh! That is just painful to watch. What is it with Christians and our lame attempts at creativity and humor? How bad is it when even the Mormons are funnier than we are? :)

Oh, and by the way – you can show that Lord Spice commercial in church for the low price of twenty bucks.

Christians trying to do creativity reminds me of Republicans trying to put on a rock concert. The Democrats have Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, The Black-Eyed Peas, Sheryl Crow, Bon Jovi, and Sugarland rocking the stage, while the Republicans have… Ted Nugent? Gretchen Wilson? The Charlie Daniels Band? Part of you feels sorry for the Republicans. You almost want to put your arm around their shoulders and say, “Just stop trying.”

Part of you has to feel the same for us Christians, for many of the attempts we’ve made at creative media over the past fifty years. (Thief in the Night, anyone? Left Behind? Omega Code? And why are all the big name Christian movies always about the end times?)

Luckily, there seems to me to be a generation of churches rising up now, largely of the emergent movement (or sympathetic to the emergent movement), that celebrate the arts. That encourage creativity. That recognize that God is a creative God and places in many of us a creative spark to draw or paint or write or film or sculpt or… create.

Create beauty. Create things that touch human emotions like hilarity and sadness and hope that are a reflection of the God in whose image we were made. The God who is The Creator and invites others to join in that holy work with Him.

And yes, this turned from an incredibly silly post into a serious one – sorry if it gave you whiplash.

I’m on a horse.

Old Spice, BYU, and Christian Creativity

Along with many other Americans, I love the latest Old Spice ad campaign, which kicked off back in February during the Superbowl (I think – correct me if I’m wrong) with “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” I’ve made a resolution to not use the word “brilliant” as much as I used to, lest it loses its power, but this is pure advertising brilliance. In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen it, or if you just need a good laugh, here it is:

Wonderfully and entertainingly random. I could watch it seventy three times in a row without getting tired of it. Here’s the second in the series – shorter, but equally as genius:

This has prompted several knock-offs that attempt to capture the random humor of the original. The best I’ve seen, by far, is one from – oddly enough – the BYU Library. Enjoy:

Ha! My favorite line: “Did you know that 8 out of 5 dentists say that studying in the library is six bajillion times more effective than studying in your shower?”

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction; for every good parody, their is an equally horrible one – as proven by this “Christian” version, ‘cleverly’ hawking “Lord Spice” bodywash:

“Sadly, here in your office you’re surrounded by non-Christians.” What?!?

“Two tickets to that church thing you love?” “I’m on a donkey?” Ugh! That is just painful to watch. What is it with Christians and our lame attempts at creativity and humor? How bad is it when even the Mormons are funnier than we are? :)

Oh, and by the way – you can show that Lord Spice commercial in church for the low price of twenty bucks.

Christians trying to do creativity reminds me of Republicans trying to put on a rock concert. The Democrats have Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, The Black-Eyed Peas, Sheryl Crow, Bon Jovi, and Sugarland rocking the stage, while the Republicans have… Ted Nugent? Gretchen Wilson? The Charlie Daniels Band? Part of you feels sorry for the Republicans. You almost want to put your arm around their shoulders and say, “Just stop trying.”

Part of you has to feel the same for us Christians, for many of the attempts we’ve made at creative media over the past fifty years. (Thief in the Night, anyone? Left Behind? Omega Code? And why are all the big name Christian movies always about the end times?)

Luckily, there seems to me to be a generation of churches rising up now, largely of the emergent movement (or sympathetic to the emergent movement), that celebrate the arts. That encourage creativity. That recognize that God is a creative God and places in many of us a creative spark to draw or paint or write or film or sculpt or… create.

Create beauty. Create things that touch human emotions like hilarity and sadness and hope that are a reflection of the God in whose image we were made. The God who is The Creator and invites others to join in that holy work with Him.

And yes, this turned from an incredibly silly post into a serious one – sorry if it gave you whiplash.

I’m on a horse.

In Memoriam: Big Butter Jesus

Last night, God showed his incredible sense of humor and irony by striking the “King of Kings” statue outside of Solid Rock Church just north of Cincinnati, Ohio with lightning, burning it to the ground. The statue is better known as “Touchdown Jesus”, or, thanks to comedian/singer Heywood Banks, “Big Butter Jesus.”

Here’s a video of the statue on fire:

And, in memoriam of this… interesting… statue, I leave you with Heywood’s song. Rest in peace, Oleo Lord. :)

“Oh spread the Word.” Ha!

In Memoriam: Big Butter Jesus

Last night, God showed his incredible sense of humor and irony by striking the “King of Kings” statue outside of Solid Rock Church just north of Cincinnati, Ohio with lightning, burning it to the ground. The statue is better known as “Touchdown Jesus”, or, thanks to comedian/singer Heywood Banks, “Big Butter Jesus.”

Here’s a video of the statue on fire:

And, in memoriam of this… interesting… statue, I leave you with Heywood’s song. Rest in peace, Oleo Lord. :)

“Oh spread the Word.” Ha!

Who Wouldn’t Enjoy a Big Mountain Conference?

I’ve got a lot of thoughts on the college football reorganization that is underway right now — it’s really fun to watch the chess game being played out and the potential results are exciting to me — but I want to put this out there quickly.

With Nebraska and Colorado officially leaving the Big 12, and Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State reportedly ready to officially do so early next week (with Texas A&M most likely following them), that means the Big 12 is now defunct. But it leaves good schools like Kansas, K State, and Iowa State in limbo.

Boise State has just announced they will be joining the Mountain West Conference (woo hoo!), home to my beloved Wyoming Cowboys. There are rumors that the MWC is also interested in scooping up those three Big 12 teams listed above. That would take us to 13 teams, so to get to an even number let’s say we scoop up another good school from a smaller conference, like Fresno State. If we somehow manage all of that, it would turn the MWC into a really viable major conference.

We would then have enough teams to reorganize into two divisions and enable us to have a Big Mountain Conference championship game. It could be organized into East and West, like so:

West
Boise State
BYU
Utah
New Mexico
San Diego State
UNLV
Fresno State

East
Kansas
K State
Air Force
Wyoming
Colorado State
TCU
Iowa State

How awesome would that be? Here’s hoping!