Archive for January 2012

Video of Alex Skolnick at NAMM 2012

January 24, 2012

Thanks to some connections I was able to attend the NAMM Show this past weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center.  In case you don’t know what NAMM is it’s a music industry trade show where artists, merchants, manufacturers and the like get together for four days and introduce the latest products, innovations, etc.

Also at the show artists sign autographs and put on demonstrations of a new products by the companies that endorse them.  I was able to capture with my phone one such demonstration.  This video below is of Alex Skolnick and was shot by me on my phone.  Skolnick plays guitar for heavy metal band Testament, jazz band The Alex Skolnick Trio and Trans Siberian Orchestra.  In part one Skolnick demonstrates jazz guitar.  In part two he demonstrates heavy metal guitar and in the final part he plays a solo using a 70’s style funk tone.   Enjoy.

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Thank You New York Giants And Other Thoughts…

January 24, 2012

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the first thing I need to do is thank Kyle Williams and the New York Giants from saving me from a nightmare Super Bowl scenario.  Thanks to Williams second punt return snafu leading to a New York game winning field goal in overtime I now have a team to root for in the Super Bowl.

A big thumbs down goes to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans and kicker Billy Cundiff.  Because of Evans inability to hold on to a touchdown pass and Cundiff’s best Ray Finkle imitation I have to watch perhaps my least favorite team in the NFL, the New England Patriots gets a shot at yet another championship.

I would’ve liked to have seen New York and Baltimore in the Super Bowl.  Had that been the case all I would’ve been rooting for is a good game.  But I guess having a good guy/bad guy scenario works just as well.  At least it wasn’t the Patriots against the 49ers.  That scenario would’ve been a nightmare for this Raider fan.  Had been that situation I probably would’ve been rooting for New England because at least their gloating would have been taking place three times zones away.  Since I live in central California the prospect of seeing a gloating San Francisco fan on a near daily basis would’ve been too much to handle.

“Who’s got it worse than us?” – Sincerely, Kyle Williams, Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff

All in all I’m happy the NBA is back but frankly it’s painful to watch.  A couple of weeks ago the Bulls and Raptors play to a 77-64 final.  A few nights later the Mavericks and Lakers try to set the game back even further with a 73-70 final.  Last night the Magic single-handedly sent the game back to the Naismith era by scoring only 56 points in a game.

I know the shortened schedule is the reason for some bizarre happenings and some less than top quality performances but the three examples I just mentioned are inexcusable.  Isn’t there any way to fine these teams a games pay?  Clearly they didn’t show up on those respective nights.

After a 10-8 start that includes a 1-6 road record I completely overestimated the Lakers ability to contend for a title.  No team with that bad of a road record can expect to be playing for anything worth while this season except for a higher draft pick.

I can’t figure out if it’s the team needing time to adjust to a new offensive scheme or the team not having the right player personnel to properly execute the new scheme.  One thing I do know is that a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should not be this painful to watch on the offensive end.  With the way Bryant is jacking up shots, I feel like I’m watching the 2005-2006 or 2006-2007 Lakers and I don’t understand why.  This team is way more talented than those that featured such legendary never was’ as Kwame Brown and Smush Parker.

How about the Detroit Tigers coming out of nowhere to sign first baseman Prince Fielder?  The deal is for nine years and worth $214 million.  How’s that for protection for Miguel Cabrera who is a top two or three hitter in his own right?  Along with what the Angels and Yankees have done this off-season, the race for the AL Pennant is down to three teams despite pitchers and catchers not reporting for a little less than a month from now.

Today the Raiders hired former Broncos Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen as their new head coach. For Oakland this was the first head coach to be hired with a defensive background since John Madden in the late 60’s.  I don’t know much about Allen but I was a fan of the hiring General Manager Reggie McKenzie so “In Reggie I Trust”.

I’ve been a Los Angeles Kings fan for my entire life and I never ever thought I would see the day that a Kings goaltender would make an all-star team.  So a big congratulations goes to Jonathan Quick for his outstanding season thus far.  Without the outstanding play of Quick, Los Angeles General Manager Dean Lombardi would be standing in the unemployment right along side former head coach Terry Murray.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

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The Four Day Football Whirlwind That Was

January 10, 2012

With so much going on in the world of pro and college football  since Saturday there was no way I could decide on just one thing to write about so without further ado here are my thoughts on the weekend that was:

Saturday night New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees had me shaking my head on a regular basis but in a good way.  For three hours I was amazed at the pin point precision throws  he was making as he carved up the Detroit Lions defense.  It was a performance that was nothing short of amazing.

I feel bad for the voters in this years NFL MVP race because whether you pick Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers or Brees you’re wrong even though you’re right.  Good luck with that voters.

Admittedly I didn’t watch much of Monday’s BCS National Championship Game between LSU and Alabama.  After their regular season field goal fest, why would anyone want to sit through another yawner?  Yes, I understand that defense is extremely important but you can still have a great defensive game while having a 21-17 outcome.

Was Alabama the best team on the field Monday?  No question about it.  What they accomplished defensively both last night and this season was nothing short of historical.  Were they the best team in the country?  Yes.  With all that said, I still don’t think they deserved to be playing for a championship last night.  I’m sorry Alabama but as  far as I’m concerned you had your chance against LSU back in November and you lost.  I know it was by a field goal in overtime but you still lost.  Period.  Oklahoma State should have been playing LSU last night.  End of story.

In last week’s column I touched on what the Raiders should do in regards to Hue Jackson’s future as their head coach.  Today newly hired Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie announced that Jackson was being dismissed after just one season as head coach.  Jackson  lead the team to an 8-8 record that included a 1-4 finish and the team missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season.

While I disagree with the decision I completely understand why it was made.  As is common in the business world, when new ownership takes over a company they let go of the current people and bring in their people to guide the company in their vision.

The Raiders hiring of McKenzie is no different.  He comes from a Green Bay Packers background which is completely different than the “Raider Way” and he wants to bring in his people to to steer the franchise in his image.  Raider owner Mark Davis gave him that authority and McKenzie plans to execute it.

After guiding the Denver Broncos to a 29-23 overtime victory in Sunday’s wildcard game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Tim Tebow has earned the right to enter next year’s training camp  as the starter regardless of what he does this weekend at New England.

I know Tebow’s pulled off some of the ugliest performances in recent quarterbacking history but he also went 7-4 as a starter and helped Denver get into the postseason.  If he wasn’t playing for the Broncos I would be rooting for him on a regular basis to keep defying the naysayers.

That being said, if you’ve read any of my previous columns you know how I feel about the Patriots so for this week only my rooting interests are completely behind Denver.  Come on Timmy!  I know you have another miracle left in you!

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

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The Failure That Was The 2011 Oakland Raiders

January 3, 2012

It was a season filled with promise despite the passing of owner Al Davis.  The once vaunted vertical game had returned.  The ground game was as explosive as any in the NFL.   The defense was playing inspired and the kicking team was challenging all-time records.   First year head coach Hue Jackson was making all the right calls both on and off the field.   Everything was falling into place for the Oakland Raiders.

For the first time since a trip to the Super Bowl in 2002, Oakland seemed like a stone cold lead pipe lock to end their playoff drought.  Through eleven weeks the Raiders were 7-4 and holding sole possession of first place in the AFC West. Unfortunately for  Raider Nation a season that was filled with hope, excitement and promise finished with emptiness, frustration and disappointment.

After losing four of its last five to the end the season including an uninspiring performance at Miami, a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth quarter of a home game against Detroit and an embarrassing effort against San Diego, the Oakland Raiders are watching the playoffs exactly like you and I…on the couch.

No matter how you look at it the lack of a playoff appearance makes this season a failure.  Coming off a 8-8 season in 2010 that included a 6-0 record within their division, a playoff appearance for the 2011 Oakland Raiders had to be the only criteria by which success for this year could be measured.

Many think the inability of the team to finish should cost Jackson his job even after just one season.  I disagree with that believing that coaches need more than one season to showcase their abilities.  I would give Jackson one more year.  If they don’t make the playoffs after next year then I would give him the pink slip.

To give Jackson the best chances to succeed I would make the these changes.  The first thing I would do is  hire a General Manager and give them complete control over player personnel.  In this day and age I will never understand how teams expect to have success without a General Manager in place.  This person will give the team an identity and build it in their image.  Head coaches or owners should not be making player personnel decisions.

Owners put their employees in the best positions to succeed, general managers find the talent and coaches get the most out of that talent.  That is the recipe for success.  See Bob Kraft who owns the New England Patriots or Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss if you disagree with me.

The next thing I would do is fire Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan.  His defenses inability to hold three different second half leads this year against Buffalo, Denver and Detroit are arguably the biggest examples of failure for the 2011 Raiders.

In losses to Detroit and San Diego the Raiders allowed them to drive over 95 yards in the fourth quarter in just a handful of plays.  That type of defensive performance is inexcusable.  To steal a famous line from Al Davis, “Bresnahan must go down and he must go down hard”.

In addition, I would try to upgrade the pass defense from my linebackers and try to bring a free agent or use what little draft picks I have left in this years draft to upgrade my secondary.  The play of the secondary was a source of weakness all season long and was routinely exploited throughout.

Lastly, I would do whatever it takes to re-sign Michael Bush.  As much as I love Darren McFadden, he has proven himself to be unreliable.  When healthy he is as good as any runner in the game.  Unfortunately he has never played more than 13 games in a season and is coming off a season in which he only played in seven games.  Bush may not have the speed and quickness of McFadden but what he lacks in that area he makes up for in durability and routinely proves he can perform like a starting running back when given the opportunity.

The 2011 season was a failure that will not soon be forgotten by fans of the silver and black.  It was a performance that should serve as a reminder of what happens when a team doesn’t give it’s best performance for an entire season.  It should also serve as a reminder that the Raiders should live by the example of their slogan and once again “commit to excellence”.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

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