Sunday, November 08, 2009

Taylor Swift blasts Kanye West in SNL intro - no apology on symbol

Taylor Swift was on Saturday Night Live and I have to say performed really well. She was in eight skits, playing everything from a prison gang-banger to the friend of a bride at a wedding.

But one place I didn't think Taylor would go in her monologue was to mention Kanye West, but not apologize for that Swastika photo. That took Taylor down a bit in my rating of her.

If you remember, rapper Kanye West famously took the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards as Swift was about to accept the award for "Best Female Video" and said that the award should have gone to Beyonce. It was a classless move that had even President Obama weighing in, calling West "A Jackass":

But after a questionable delay, West apologized on his website and did called Swift later that week. Kanye West apologized for insulting a single person, Taylor Swift, but she did not say "I'm sorry" for posing in a photo with Swastika-t-shirt-wearing Hollywood model A.J. English at Katy Perry's 25th birthday party (English quickly apologized for that):

I can't figure out which is worse: Swift's silence on the action, the small number of fans that have multiple accounts and leave comments pretending to be other people and writing that the Swastika is a symbol of peace, or the silence of the Anti-Defamation League, which is supposed to be speaking out against this crap.

I'll say it and write it, and I don't care what anyone thinks because it's true as of this writing. It's easier for people in America to attack an African American male celebrity when he's wrong than it is for Americans to criticize a young blonde white woman celebrity when she's wrong, and a white male celebrity too, but not to the degree of a woman. It's a stupid pecking order.

Kansas City Chief's running back Larry Johnson used homophobic language but apologized, yet some are calling for his ouster from the team. And if a black male public figure makes a single comment that's racist, like Jesse Jackson's stupid "Hymie Town" comment of over a decade ago, it still sticks with him years later.

Why not the same for someone like Taylor Swift? Or for that matter Mel Gibson, who's anti-Jewish rants after a DUI stop got some talking, but no real punishment or constant criticism and Billionaire Mel's on the PR comeback trail as I write this.

The only white male celebrity I can think of who's career was really impacted by his dumb behavior was Seinfeld's Michael Richards, who went off at a comedy club in LA about African Americans, saying “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass!”

Now to make sure this is clear, all of these actions were wrong. Each person I've list apologized for what they did many times, but not Taylor Swift. Not once. No, she didn't say something offensive, but I now have the feeling Swift could get away with it, if she did.

Swift's a wonderful singer and an incredibly talented person; her songs are like a taste of Heaven. Taylor Swift is someone I want to like. But she must remember that she's also a public figure and a role model to young women. Swift can and indeed must set a good example, if not to please people like me, then at least for young women. An apology is a good start.

Cal v. Oregon State - After loss, Cal fans dread Stanford's success

The stage was set for Cal's BCS rise and a realistic shot at the Pac-10 Championship. Earlier Saturday, The Stanford Cardinal ran all over Oregon 51 - 42, and did what I and other Cal fans wanted but many believed impossible: give Oregon a second loss. Notre Dame was surprised by the play of a Navy team that showed heart and lost 23 to 21, tossing it out of the BCS race. Iowa, which won close games they arguably should have lost, was upset by Northwestern, 17 to 10, for their first defeat of the year.

Cal was set to make a move higher into the BCS standings and catch Oregon if they beat Oregon State. That "if" did not happen and after the game (Cal lost 31 - 14) Cal fans were talking about Stanford's success and how much they hated it. But first, a look at what happened.

Cal was out-hit; the game plan terrible

Even before the loss of Cal's star Jahvid Best before halftime due to what turned out to be a concussion, Oregon State was giving Cal all it could handle. I've never written or said this before, not even after the USC loss, but Oregon State's defense hit Cal harder than any other opponent I've seen this year. Cal was out-hit on Saturday.

That's not the main factor for the loss, the terrible offensive and defensive game plans were, but it was such that it must be noted. Other than that, the main statistical indicator of a Cal loss remained: at 19 of 34 for 200 yards and one touchdown Quarterback Kevin Riley was below the 60 percent completion mark.

Of course Cal's performance can't be described without taking into account Best's loss. The sight of Cal's popular player laying motionless for that moment took the wind out of both the team and its fans. Memorial Stadium took on the feel and mood of a wake. But it's at that point that a team should find its character and, in this case, win it for Best.

While that's exactly what the players wanted to do, they were hampered by the worst offensive game plan and play-calling I've seen from the Golden Bears this year.

For some reason Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford and Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludiwg were in love with calling the swing pass to the slot receiver again and again, and in situations where that play would not gain, say nine yards for a first down on 3rd and 9, as was done in the fourth quarter.

Tedford and Ludwig had the right formation idea - five wide receivers - but continuously running that play when it did not work was really frustrating to watch.

When the play calls were right on, Riley failed to connect with open receivers, essentially reverting to his overthrow habit of a few games back. But even here, a correctable pattern has emerged: Riley simply does not throw the crossing pattern or corner pattern or any lateral movement pass pattern calling for the passer to "lead" the receiver, consistently well, yet Tedford and Ludwig keep calling plays featuring those patterns. This has been a season-long problem.

If one goes back to the videos from this season, Riley throws the deep fly pattern well, the post pattern, as well as most quick-opening patterns like slants. But the kind of passes Riley would throw well don't seem to be a major part of Cal's system: hook patterns where the receiver goes 12 yard and then turns back into the quarterback; or drive patterns, which are deeper variations of the slant pattern, or seam patterns with the slot receiver and "out" patterns to the sideline, with varying depths timed to the quarterback's dropback. That's several different patterns alone that Riley would excel at executing if they were in Cal's system and drilled on again and again.

The best offenses fit the plays to what the quarterback does best. Yes, you may say Riley should learn to make those throws, but not during the season; that's what the off-season is for. If he can't do that, forcing him to make the throws he's not good at only produces losses and Cal's got three of them now.

The Defensive Game Plan was not much better

What my Cal friends and I could not understand was why Cal Defensive Coordinator Bob Gregory had such a soft game plan against Oregon State. With a team that uses as much backfield playaction as the Beavers do, constant blitz pressure is the tonic to down their backs for losses and hurry throws.

The Cal Defense looked like it was consistently dazzled by Oregon's play-action rollouts, and that's because Cal was basically sitting back and watching them rather than sending outside linebackers to disrupt plays. Tight, man-for-man coverage while sending as many as six rushers would have produced a different outcome than the 342 yards and two touchdowns quarterback Sean Canfield threw for on Saturday.

Bob Gregory must practice using a variation of the 3-4 Defense that  has the defensive ends between the offensive guards and tackles to better stop the kind of linebuck and off-tackle plays that were consistently used by Oregon State.  OSU ran into the "bubble areas" where the inside linebackers were in that defense; moving the ends inside would cure that problem and force plays to the outside. 

Stanford's win sets up a really big, "Big Game"

At Henry's, The Bear's Lair, Larry Blake's, and the other popular football game day bars and restaurants, Cal fans were down and for several reasons: Best's injury, the loss, and Stanford's success.

Cal fans wanted Stanford's win only in the context of a Cal victory over Oregon State. But in the wake of the loss, Stanford's victory over 8th ranked Oregon has Blues young and old seeing red.

At 6-3 for the season, but 5-2 in the Pac-10, the Cardinal are bowl-eligible for the first time in eight years and peaking at the right time. Oregon is now 7 and 1, but 5 and 1 in the Pac-10, with pesky Arizona State (which should have beat USC but lost 14 to 9) up next. If Oregon loses that game, Cal beats Arizona (which is 6 and 2 overall, but 4 and 1 in the Pac-10), and Stanford beats USC, the Cardinal will be in the drive's seat for the Pac-10 Championship. Saturday, November 14th is a red letter day but Saturday, November 21 is an even bigger day.

On that day the two Pac-10 teams in control of their destiny, Oregon and Arizona, play each other, while Cal travels down to The Farm for The Big Game. Let's say by then that Cal has beaten Arizona, Oregon lost to Arizona State, and Stanford beat USC.

Oregon would have two Pac-10 losses, and in a three-way tie with Stanford and Arizona. That makes The Big Game a must win for The Cardinal and the Oregon v. Arizona contest a potential bloodfest, with Oregon favored by Stanford fans (Stanford lost to Arizona).

Finally, The Big Game really matters.

The only way to make up for this terrible Oregon State loss is for Cal to beat Arizona and Stanford. The way Cal fans will look at this entire season will be defined in the next two exciting weeks.