Wednesday, November 25, 2015


It's the most wonderful time of the year for a LOT of reasons, even if you can't stand Christmas music, find the stress of holiday shopping utterly soul-crushing, or simply refuse to drink the magic elixir known as egg nog.

First, there are the sports. The NHL and NBA have hit their regular season stride, and this December in particular will see the Golden State Warriors' continued making of history as they extend the now-NBA Record Longest Winning Streak to Start a Season. The NFL Playoff chase is heating up, and after initially looking like the AFC picture would be decided by the time the tryptophan puts you to sleep Thursday night, there are now a slew of rickety 5-5 teams chasing down the 6-4 Steelers for the two Wild Card spots, while the NFC has about a dozen teams still pursuing the undefeated Panthers. College hoops are in the midst of their tournament/classic season, and every week we get a new argument about who deserves to be in the College Football Playoff as Conference Championships, Bowl Season, and those Playoffs loom.

Almost as great as the sports though, are the multitude of viewing options available despite our favorite shows going on hiatus. Sure, The Walking Dead and The Blacklist and whatever other active shows you obsess over may be replaced by some catch-up work on binge-worthy shows crowding your Netflix or Prime queue. However, the joy of sitting down with an old, familiar friend can't be overstated. When Chevy Chase drops one of the best lines in movie history, when Bing Crosby actually does tap dance with Danny fu%&ing Kaye, when Ralphie comes down the stairs in the pink bunny outfit, or when Alan Rickman asks for his detonators from John McClain - or perhaps just admits to Emma Thompson that he's so in the wrong and a classic fool - you don't care that you've been there with them a few hundred times before. In fact, you may be happy to be right there with them reciting the lines for what feels like the thousandth time.

Holiday movies - from the classics to the ones of our youth to the new classics to the big money blockbusters - are more than just a way to pass the time while you wait for Stephen Curry to finally miss a 3 or for the turkey to finally finish in the oven. They're a common thread that you carry through your experiences from year-to-year-to-year, and more often than not either impart a heartwarming message that we need reminded of this time of year, or are just plain funny. Or both.

With that said, I have undertaken the difficult task of trying to assess the single best holiday movie EVER. I have my personal favorite(s), which I'll reveal throughout this process. However, ignoring what others think would be foolhardy and undoubtedly lead to a whole lot of second-guessing of myself. So I'm enlisting your help.

My gift to you this holiday season? The CHRIS MACK Holiday Movie Tournament:

24 films - no TV specials - broken down into four different, 6-film subgenres. The selection and seeding process has been a difficult one, but will be explained on Selection Sunday: November 29th, The tournament begins on December 1st, with our Champion being crowned on Christmas Eve. Each day I'll post and pin a poll to my Twitter feed asking you to vote on that day's match-up. Will it be a difficult 4-/5-seed nailbiter? Or a 1-seed squashing and dancing on it's opponent like Cam Newton dabbing on the Titans?

Be sure to check back to find out, starting this weekend...

Monday, November 23, 2015


Nobody likes to be told what to do. From the very beginning, we come out of the womb literally kicking and screaming about what we want. Give me FOOD! Give me SLEEP! Gimme, gimme, gimme!! As we get older the Gimmes change, and more often than not, the one thing we want more and more and more of is… 

Well yeah, money. That’s always helpful. 

But the one thing we want more of that we really don’t have any control over is time. When time catches up to you, it’s something that no amount of money can buy you more of. Maybe you can make a few attempts to slow time down – staying fit, eating well, getting to the doc, maybe even a little nip or tuck if you’re so inclined – but time will inevitably continue its arduous march. And it will drag you along with it, either kicking and screaming or gracefully accepting whatever path you’re being led down. 

How often have we seen the kicking and screaming overrule dignified aplomb though when it comes to the legends and heroes or our favorite sports and teams? Pride certainly comes before the fall, but far too often it goes unmentioned that pride also hangs around for the entire descent like a straggling party guest refusing to order that Uber before they pass out on your couch with their shoes on. And so we come to our old friend Peyton Manning.

courtesy: CBS Sports
Manning is to our generation what Johnny Unitas was 50 years ago: The living, breathing embodiment of a quarterback. The fact that time is catching up to Manning and finally slowing him down is painful to watch. It’s also ironic on multiple levels, as Manning, more than any other passer of his generation, changed what the quarterback was allowed to do at the line of scrimmage and harkened back to Unitas’s day, when a QB called all of his own plays. 

Manning’s success in adjusting to what he saw, making calls at the line, and calling a game from under/behind the center has given a new generation of quarterbacks the freedom to go out and adjust on the fly. Sometimes it doesn’t work: See Andy Dalton audibling out of a 3rd-and-2 handoff last night that would have left the Arizona Cardinals with about 30 less seconds to attempt their game-winning field goal drive. Instead, he chose to throw to A.J. Green. The pass was broken up, the clock stopped, and Carson Palmer, despite having no timeouts, had plenty of time to fire a few beebees to Larry Fitzgerald and get his team into field goal range. 

Sometimes it DOES work, though. And when it does, it’s football poetry in motion at the highest level of the game. When Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger gets his team in a no-huddle, and then spends 5-6 minutes probing his way downfield with the kind of calls that can only come from a player on the field possessing the ability to scan a defense, identify its weakness, and attack it in a pinpoint manner, you see the importance of Peyton Manning to the modern era of the NFL. 

Without Peyton, there are no QBs acting as their own de facto Offensive Coordinator in the 2-minute drill. Without Peyton, we’re left with a generation of overgrown college kids covering the ear holes on their helmets as six guys on the sideline signal in the same play while a Grad Assistant holds up a placard with Jerry Springer’s face, the letter Q, a map of Brunei, and an eye test chart on it. 

Perhaps most impressively, Peyton Manning wasn’t just a quarterbacking savant who changed the way games are called. He became a guy that people genuinely LIKED. From goofy SNL sketches to Papa John’s to that damn Nationwide jingle, he became America’s quarterback in an era where there have been so many very talented yet very unlikable guys at the position (um, no Philip, I’m not looking at you), you ultimately won’t remember him for only winning one championship. You’ll remember him for changing the game. 

Unless he tries to outrun time. In which case, Manning will go down as another Unitas-in-San Diego, Namath-in-L.A., shell of his former self providing a tarnished footnote on an otherwise illustrious career. 

As it stands, Manning’s time in Denver has been much more Joe Montana-in-Kansas City than the other two aforementioned greats. However, the writing is on the wall, whether Brock Osweiler is the kid with the crayon or not: Peyton Manning’s all out of time.