Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Three-quarters of our Elite 8 have been decided, and other than Scrooged somehow losing to The Santa Clause in the 1st Round, our biggest, and most disappointing upset has taken place: Love Actually - unarguably a Top 3 holiday film in my personal opinion - gets bounced by Phoebe Cates and some furry little critters that turn into monsters if you get them wet or feed them after midnight.

Disappointing doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling. This is right up there with the afternoon I spent just walking the streets of North Baldwin because my 13-year old brain couldn't comprehend that David Volek had just doubled down on the infinite pain Francisco Cabrerea had caused me six months earlier.

It's not often 13-year old kids go on a walkabout to clear their minds. Typically, if you're not living in a one bedroom apartment with your grandmother, you find salvation in video games or the nudie mags you'd stolen from the stash you and your cousin found in your uncle's office. But Gram is home, and she just doesn't get it, and you literally have to just walk. I think I may have even stopped at St. Wendelin's and lit a candle for my future sports fandom, that's how rough a state I was in.

So, when you guys vote Gremlins a better holiday movie than Love Actually, you damn near put me in walkabout mode. I want you to know that.

Now that my inner pain has been released, we can move on to what now measures up to be a hell of a battle in the 80s/90s bracket:

80s/90s genre: (1) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation vs. (5) The Santa Clause

If I have to sit and explain the merits of Christmas Vacation to you, then you're a lost soul who shouldn't be viewing this but instead should be out on a walkabout of your own, searching for the meaning of life. It is hands down the #1 overall seed in this tournament, and I've already begun allowing my 6-year old daughter to watch it - and not the chintzy, ABC Family version, either - to correctly set a baseline for all future sense of humor. (She cracks fart jokes regularly, so I know something's working, by the way.)

Click on the graphic above to vote Tim 'The Tool Man' out of this thing, if even a round too late. Also, you can take a look at our up-to-date brackets below.

Monday, December 14, 2015


More than halfway home in The Best Holiday Movie EVER Tournament, and the results really don't cease to surprise me. The Muppets over Bing Crosby & Danny f'ing Kaye? The Santa Clause over Scrooged? The Polar Express working over Four Christmases? All the kind of results that shocked, suprised, and somewhat dismayed me.

An updated view of the brackets:

Today has been no different thus far, as we have THREE different match-ups being contested. I could try to give you guys a little write up on each as I've done to this point, but will save my words for the two stellar battles coming tomorrow and the day after, as Home Alone will face off against A Christmas Story and The Santa Clause will look to upset National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Today, for your gladiatorial viewing pleasure, we give you...
(click on the "VS" image to be taken to the poll for each contest)

'Not Quite' genre: (1) Love Actually vs. (5) Gremlins

 Post-2000 genre: (2) Bad Santa vs. (3) How the Grinch Stole Christmas

'Not Quite' genre: (2) Die Hard vs. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Friday, December 11, 2015


After a day off to let everybody's aunt who pretends to understand sports recover form the Pascal Dupuis retirement and Neil Walker trade, The Best Holiday Move EVER Tournament is back for Day 11.

First, an updated look at our brackets:

It's a Wonderful Life took care of Miracle on 34th Street in an efficiently quiet manner, and now moves on to face either A Muppet Christmas Carol or the movie I'm currently staying up until 2:30am to watch: White Christmas.

And THAT is our first battle of today's doubleheader:

Classics genre: (2) White Christmas vs. (5) A Muppet Christmas Carol

Full disclosure: I really expected you guys to be a bigger fan of the Classics bracket, and your lack of response has me worried about the championship viability of this genre. That said, A Muppet Christmas Carol is in this "region" by default, only because it's a remake of a classic. To be honest, I didn't even expect it to get past Alistair Sim's 1951 version of A Christmas Carol. 
But here we are, and The Muppets, better known for spending the early 80s carrying The Fraggles out of the now-defunct "puppet" conference, have a chance, however slim, to unseat the epitome of every old school, Bing Crosby musical: White Christmas.

Now, take it from someone who despises musicals: White Christmas is not Grease. It's not Fame, or Glitter, or some other awful garbage that some musical theater lover in your life has tried to cram down your throat at some point in your life. It's Bing & Danny Kaye chasin' dames and honoring their ol' general from World War II, and just in general acting the way dudes in the 50s acted: Like men. Add in the facts that Vera Ellen is a fox and Dean Jagger makes you want to go find your favorite father/uncle/mentor figure and thank him for every damn thing he ever did to make you the man you are today, and you don't even care that in the end the whole thing doesn't really have a crap to do with Christmas, or get white, until the final 10 minutes. Vote for this matchup here.

The other half of Friday's doubleheader is a pair of Post-2000 "new" classics that are becoming a staple of the basic cable post-Thanksgiving rotation:

Post-2000 genre: (1) Elf vs. (4) The Polar Express

As noted in the 1st Round, The Polar Express comes back around to the classic Christmas theme of belief in the unseen, and does it through fairly creepy computer animation and the ubiquitous nature of Tom Hanks' voice. 

Elf, for the most part, gets by on star power: Will Ferrel, James Caan, Bob Newhart, and pre-"New Girl" Zooey Deschanel are funny stars though, and some clutch cameos by Peter Dinklage, Andy Richter, and Artie Lange keep the thing moving along despite the fact that it could probably be distilled down to a really excellent SNL skit. That's not to take anything away from Elf, but let's be honest: Without Ferrel being himself and Jon Favreau's name on the directorial credit, this isn't a movie that people now make sure to watch every year. 
Vote for this matchup here.


The black and gold sky is falling.

At least that’s what your mom’s Facebook feed would tell you.

The Pittsburgh Kid won’t be working in Pittsburgh anymore, and it must be because that miserly Bob Nutting is too cheap. Or because Neal Huntington had it out for Walker. Or some other evil conspiracy theory.

How about the idea that this path had run its course for both Walker and the organization that drafted him?

But what about the Silver Slugger? Funny, Pedro Alvarez hit more home runs over the past 4 years than any other Pittsburgh Pirate, but I don’t see yinzers posting videos of their kids crying about his departure.

But what about the hometown draw of Walker? Weird; I seem to recall Sean Casey, Don Kelly, and John Wehner all leaving the Pirates without so much as a sniffle from a populace now acting as if the Fort Pitt Bridge has been lifted right out from underneath us.

What about Walker’s blue collar work ethic though? Heck, he even promised to move to first base in exchange for about $40 million. What a team-first guy!!

Look, before getting off the rails, the point of this is not to deride Neil Walker. (He is, genuinely, a good dude, and it does sting to lose a good dude.) Nor is it to necessarily champion Jonathon Neise. (Even after a few sessions with Uncle Ray Searage, Cy Young he ain't gonna be.) However, there’s no reason for vice versa, either. Especially when this is the best possible solution for everyone involved.

Walker gets to go to a large media market where he’ll have a chance to prove that he can be as productive and even more healthy in his 30s than he was in his 20s. (Oh, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate his newfound ability to hit left handed pitching, too! … … Wait…)

Meanwhile, the Pirates, after cutting ties with Alvarez and Walker within a week of each other, as well as refusing to pay J.A. Happ, can use the approximately $30 million that would have gone to those three players to bolster their roster in two of the most expensive spots in baseball: The starting rotation and 1st base. Even after paying Niese his $9 million this season, a cool $20+ million will sit and wait to be spent on a Scott Kazmir or Mitch Moreland or even a prorated trade deadline acquisition in July.

See, I know it’s hard to believe, but division titles and pennants aren’t won with black-and-yellow rainbows and unicorns with parking chairs for horns, and certainly not in December. And championships aren’t won in a single offseason, either. They’re pieced together over time through a long range plan, which in the case of Huntington, has been in place for years now. And I’m guessing that plan never involved someday paying a 33-year old 2nd baseman $15 million/year, regardless of how many WPIAL football titles he’d won, and especially when he has younger, more affordable options waiting to take over. (Despite my distaste at the Alvarez release, the same holds true in his case, minus the North Hills zip code.)

Baseball is a business, whether you like it or not. And when you’ve got one of the 5 worst local TV deals in MLB and middle-of-the road attendance, you have to acknowledge that you can’t overspend on a  regular basis. Would it be nice to overspend in one season to stack the deck? Sure. As long as you don’t worry about how it’s going to affect the viability of your roster in the long term.

Would you rather spend $45 million on Neil Walker over the next three years, or have an extra $45 million to put toward a future Gerrit Cole or Andrew McCutchen or Starling Marte extension?

Oh, wait… None of those guys are from Pittsburgh. I’ll just go tell them they can go, because they clearly don’t mean as much to this franchise as the kid from Pine-Richland does.

At least that’s what my mom’s Facebook page told me. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


The 1st Round of The Best Holiday Movie EVER Tournament is behind us, and some great match-ups are in store as we look forward to what should be a hotly contested Sweet 16.

A quick analysis of the 1st Round shows that none of the contests really got as close I expected. I thought we’d have at least a few 51-49/down-to-the-wire style battles, but in the end, every single match-up was decided by at least 20 percentage points.

The most interesting outcomes, at least in my opinion, were that Miracle on 34th Street’s rout of Holiday Inn wasn’t really the biggest beatdown, at least not based on actual votes cast, and that the two match-ups I thought would be the closest – Home Alone vs. The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Santa Clause vs. Scrooged turned out to be a crushing defeat and a disappointing outcome, respectively.

And that disappointment may be the biggest takeaway from the 1st Round: Your enjoyment of cheese and schtick and schlock is on display during the holidays. Scrooged and it’s dark, satirical, sarcastic-Bill Murray – despite being the closest match-up of the 1st Round – still got walked by Tim Allen in a campy story about a dude who somehow loses shared custody of his kid because everyone thinks he’s mentally unstable. If not for the schlock and schtick and cheese, and watched on an adult level with no buy-in on “the magic of Christmas,” The Santa Clause is a damn depressing movie. But you're not in that state of mind during the holiday season. You are as deadset on a good, old fashioned, family Christmas as Clark W. Griswold, Jr.

As the page turns toward the Sweet 16, and given the results of the 1st Round, some future fights take on a new hue, but it also looks like we’re in store for a lot similarity match-ups: Kid vs. kid in Home Alone vs. A Christmas Story, dad vs. dad in Christmas Vacation vs. The Santa Clause, bad guy vs. bad guy in The Grinch vs. Bad Santa.

With all this said, let’s just do the damn thing…. Our first contest of the Sweet 16, with the victor moving on to face either White Christmas or A Muppet Christmas Carol… is:

Classics genre: (1) It’s a Wonderful Life vs. (6) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Two classics of the holiday season, that for the longest time, were probably the two most ubiquitous Christmas movies in existence. Maybe that’s because they both used to be hammered home in the 80s and early 90s, when more recent holiday movies were – for the most part – crap, and basic cable was desperate for inexpensive programming. Or maybe it’s because they actually connect with people; Miracle with its timeless theme of belief is much more specific to the holiday season, and somewhat spiritual if you want to extrapolate out that belief to all of that which is unseen.

Wonderful, despite being classically constructed around Christmas Eve, is about so much more than just a belief in the unseen – Clarence, Angel 2nd Class, takes care of that angle nicely though. It’s about the epitome of all those qualities – perseverance, hard work, determination – that lead to the Capraesque American Dream. And on the side is a little serving of Joni Mitchell – you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone. George Bailey works his tail off making the building & loan the cornerstone of Bedford Falls, despite his dreams of traveling the world. He settles down and becomes the conscience of the town in its battle against the curmudgeonly miser Mr. Potter (and damned if Lionel Barrymore isn’t the template for every evil, greedy, smarmy bad guy ever since) until lives the average, everyday, middle class American husband/dad’s ideal existence until Uncle Billy nozzes it all up. For the two of you out there who have somehow avoided watching it, I won’t ruin it, but in the end George realizes just how, well… wonderful, life really is. Even when it’s trying to rain shite down upon you.

There it is, our first big Sweet 16 bout of the Best Holiday Movie EVER Tournament. Vote now.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


It's here, people: The final match-up of the 1st Round is upon us, and some truly epic Sweet 16 battles are looming:

Before we get to those however, the final 1st Round match-up is a traditional, animated "Christmas-y" movie going up against another dysfunctional family dynamic with a slight undercurrent of RomCom.

(4) The Polar Express vs. (5) Four Christmases

On the surface, you're going to have a hard time choosing Vince Vaughn & Reese Witherspoon over the warm, fuzzy, animated voice of Tom Hanks. Keep that in mind, because Robert Duvall knows people. Click here to vote.

Monday, December 7, 2015


Halfway through the 1st Round of The Chris Mack Holiday Movie Tournament, we may not yet have blowouts in the rearview mirror, but we are starting to solidify what should be some quality 2nd Round match-ups: Planes, Train, and Automobiles vs. Die Hard, Miracle on 34th Street vs. It’s a Wonderful Life, and Dr. Seusss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas vs. Bad Santa all have ‘legendary battle’ written all over them. And based on the outcome of today’s contest, we could be in for yet another epic next week when A Christmas Story enters the fray.

Ralphie and Randy and the Bumpus’s dogs and the Red Rider BB gun may have an opponent walking into the back alley on Cleveland Street that would bloody a nose a la Ralphie the time he messed up Scut Farcus: Kevin McCallister and The Wet Bandits.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because if we get what would be a huge upset today, things could be turned upside down.

80s/90s genre: (3) Home Alone vs. (6) The Nightmare Before Christmas

Despite trying to remain neutral in these battles, this is one where I’ll be honest tell you I don’t see how Home Alone loses. A true classic, it’s two hours of a kid playing out every kid’s fantasy on film: Doing what he wants to do when he wants to do it, ruling the house, and creatively, inventively, and bravely saving the day. Not having to deal with siblings or parents or anyone else while being a de facto superhero? “Yes, please!” said every 7-to-11-year old ever.

UNLESS, you’re just not in to mainstream holiday fun, and you want a movie that revolves around the idea of taking over Christmas and making it more Halloween-y, for lack of a better term.
If you were the kid who discovered Marilyn Manson early on, sat in the back of the classroom in all black with eyeliner on, and generally found the ‘cool,’ and ‘popular’ kids crushingly annoying and oblivious, there’s a good chance The Nightmare Before Christmas was in your wheelhouse.

In fact, there’s a chance that if you were 10 or 11 when Home Alone cam out, you like dit then but turned on it and traditionally ‘fun’ holiday movies by the time Nightmare came out, and actually feel a bit conflicted about this match-up.

Either way, if Nightmare pulls off the upset, it gets Christmas Vacation next and The Santa Clause would take on A Christmas Story. If Home Alone holds the chalk, it will get A Christmas Story, and we’ll get the Chevy Chase-Tim Allen face-off in the 2nd Round.

Vote here.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Today's action is a doubleheader, partly because each of these match-ups on their own are underwhelming, and partly because it's a weekend and I'm spending time with family. So take a peak at the contests below and then click on the link for each to vote.

"Not Quite" genre: (4) When Harry Met Sally vs. (5) Gremlins

A classic 80s rom-com against a classic 80s action/fantasy flick. WHMS is Billy Crystal at his best, plus you've got Meathead directing, and Meg Ryan's fake orgasm scene (above) is still a pop culture reference - "I'll have what she's having." - a quarter century later. Gremlins had every kid wanting a furry little animal we could feed after midnight just so we could see how it would destroy the place. Or, depending on your age, wanting Phoebe Cates all over again, just after your post-Fast Times Ridgemont had subsided. Vote here.

The other matchup in tonight's doubleheader...

The Classics genre: (4) A Christmas Carol (1951) vs. (5) A Muppet Christmas Carol

Honestly, this one just comes down to whether you prefer Jim Henson's Muppets or a classically trained, British Shakespearean stage actor delivering you the miserly Scrooge, Bob Cratchit & Tiny Tim, three ghosts, and it's timeless lesson. Vote here.

Finally, an updated view of our brackets:

Friday, December 4, 2015


After a rout yesterday, we're starting to see a strong pattern emerge in the Chris Mack Best Holiday Movie EVER Tournament: You guys want feel-good, family-friendly movies with a strong holiday theme. Despite all of the moaning and wailing upon the bracket's release about Trading Places and Batman Returns and some others, you're all-in on The Santa Clause over Scrooged and Miracle on 34th Street. Is that because of name cachet? Are you inviting Duke to the dance just because they're Duke? Or are these legitimate preferences?

We're going to test that theory with a pair of match-ups in that vein this weekend, but before we get ahead of ourselves, we come to a battle between two movies that strike the anti-commercialism chord. Or at least one of them does while the other is a variant of an original story that struck the anti-commercialism chord nearly 50 years ago.

'Post-2000' Genre: (3) Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas vs. (6) Fred Claus

Fred Claus is a nice intertwining of stories with a legitimately great cast, from the above-the-marquee stars in Paul Giamatti and Vince Vaughn, to the supporting cast of Kevin Spacey, Elizabeth Banks, and John Michael Higgins. It has a classic villain in the storyline of Spacey trying to oust Giamatti's Claus, while Vaughn tries to figure out how he fits in to the family as the ne'er-do-well, but good-hearted younger brother Fred. (It's the holidays, ultimately everyone ends up being good-hearted.)

Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas sticks to the original Seuss storyline about as much as Johnny Manziel sticks to his sobriety on a bye week, in as much as the main character is a furry, green creature living in a cave above Whoville with his dog named Max. The film veers off though in it's depiction of The Whos as compared to the book and the animated special, in that they become much more directly antagonistic to Jim Carrey's Grinch rather than just being obsessively compulsive Christmas addicts. Getting some back story as to why the Grinch is the way he is is a nice way to flesh out the story and turn a 24-minute animated special into a 104-minute feature on why you should be nice to people who are different and appreciate the holiday season for its true meaning, not just "packages, boxes, and bags." But in the end, you can't sell me on Christine Barasnki as Whoville's head-turning stunner, and despite Jeffrey Tambor turning in a solid villain role, this isn''t "Arrested Development," and I don't dislike him enough to want the Grinch to get even with him. I more just kinda want to turn him off.

Day 4 voting can be done here.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Last night, Neil Huntington picked up the phone and made some calls. He may have fielded a few from fellow General Managers as well. Clearly, there weren’t enough serious calls though to lead to the trading of Pedro Alvarez. So Huntington had to pick up the phone and make one more call.

To Pedro Alvarez. A 1st Round draft pick. A slugger with the potential to drop bombs on the Allegheny like the Russian and French fighter jets currently raining hell on northeastern Syria. A guy who, despite all the conjecture about his work ethic or perceived personality, was one of the hardest working, most respected guys in a clubhouse full of guys who have, for the most part, come up together.

A guy who Mike Matheny pitched around in late September like he was Barry Bonds in his prime will not be a Pirate next year. He will go somewhere else and hit mammoth home runs. The kind of dingers that could put holes in walls as well as go over them they were hit so hard sometimes.

The kind of home runs no one else in the Pirates organization can hit.

If he’s allowed to put on a glove and go field, he will undoubtedly make errors. Errors catching the ball, as well as errors throwing the ball. Ultimately, yes, this is still a game where you have to be able to throw the ball and catch the ball, as well as hit the ball. And while Pedro was very good at hitting it very far sometimes – despite a hole in his swing the size of Jobu when it came to curveballs – he was not very good at catching it or throwing it. In an organization that now cuddles every percentage point of WAR like it’s a warm blanket on a cold winter night, you simply can’t give away runs. You can’t have a guy at first base every night who has a giant hole in his glove.

A year ago at this time, the Pittsburgh Pirates had already made a handful of moves to fill holes on the roster that had been left after a disappointing exit in the wildcard game of October 2014 and the subsequent departure of Russell Martin. Francisco Cervelli had been added, A.J. Burnett had been added, other small pieces such as Sean Rodriguez and Rob Scahill had been added, and the Pirates for the most part had fleshed out not just their everyday lineup, but what much of their bench and the bulk of their rotation would look like as well.

Well, here we sit on the eve of the winter meetings of 2015, and we are left wondering not ‘Who might start at shortstop?’ or ‘Who might be the fourth starter in the rotation?’ or ‘Who might be the fourth outfielder?’, but instead ‘Who's going to be the third starter in the rotation?’ And ‘Who on earth is going to start at first base every day?’ ‘Who’s going to provide 25-30 HR power in the lineup behind Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte?’

The Pittsburgh Pirates of early last December had a few question marks. The Pittsburgh Pirates of this early December have a whole lot more than question marks, they've got holes. Big holes. Big holes that need to be filled for a team being considered the Best Organization in Baseball and looking to contend for a World Championship. This is a team that can't bank on Josh Bell being a starting first baseman come mid-season. This is a team that can't bank on Tyler Glasnow being a mid-rotation level Major League starter by midseason. This is a team that's going to have to win 95 games to have a shot at the National League Central Division title. And again, as has been the oft uttered refrain since last February; the goal should be to win the division.

Right now though, this doesn't look like a division winning team. How do you win the division without a solid middle of the rotation starter? How do you win the division without a power bat at first base and/or in the middle of the lineup protecting your free-swinging superstars? Especially in the NL Central, where the Cubs could bang out 100 wins this year without breaking a sweat, and the Cardinals can do 90 wins in their sleep, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to fortify for 2016. Neil Huntington needs to get back on the phone TODAY and start filling big holes. And that means making big calls on big moves that can have a big impact on a team that’s still looking for its first division title since 1992.

And that’s an even bigger big hole than the one in Pedro’s swing, the one in his glove, or the one his absence will leave in the middle of the lineup. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Well, if Day 2 of the Best Holiday Movie EVER Tournament taught us anything, it’s that you value jiggly prosthetic bellies over sarcasm, family comedy over dark comedy, and Tim Allen over Bill Murray. At least at Christmastime, you want feel-good schmaltz over laughs.

How The Santa Clause’s decidedly emphatic upset of Scrooged effects the rest of the tournament remains to be seen, but without a doubt all six films in the “Classics” genre have had their stock go up, while heavy favorites like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,  A Christmas Story, and Bad Santa suddenly seem more vulnerable than originally thought.

Day 3 takes us to that “Classics” bracket for a pair of movies that probably wouldn’t be in the bracket except for reputation. This is an 18-12 North Carolina or Duke team getting in just because they are who they are.

With Miracle On 34th Street, you have the template for every “why can’t these damn people just believe in Santa?!?” story ever. Plus some priceless marketing for Macy’s. With Holiday Inn you get a namesake for a future hotel chain, and the younger, weaker little sister to White Christmas despite the fact that the song “White Christmas” actually comes from the movie Holiday Inn.

Follow all that? And in Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby doesn’t even tap dance with Danny f$%&in’ Kaye because he’s too busy trying to keep Fred Astaire from creeping on his lady friend(s).

Day 3 voting takes place right here


Welcome to the first edition of what will be a semi-occasional collection of thoughts that I currently don’t have the time to flesh into full posts/columns…

-         A quick suggestion for Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin: Before you each decide to go on respective local media outlets and declare concussion statuses, try getting together with one another first. Your messy little media dance over the last 24 hours was embarrassing for you both and made you look more like a great casting for Step Brothers 2 than a Super Bowl-contending Head Coach-QB combo.

"I don't concussion I have do, think I?"
-          As much as you (wrongly) hate him now, when Pedro Alvarez goes to the AL and drops 40 dingers, you’re gonna miss his furry face. Worse yet, what if we goes to Miami and Barry Bonds turned him into the second coming of Albert Pujols? Would that be a double-down on The Bonds Curse, or an all new curse of its own?

-          It’s always great when we can put aside what a boorish assh0le someone has been in the past to appreciate the best of their legacy because it’s their last go-‘round. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Kobe.) How much better is it though when we don’t have to push any off that aside, and can simply just appreciate a legend for being a good person who was good at something? …
…. I’ll give you some time to try and come up with a modern one of those.

-          If I had money to wager, I’d drop $100 on Evgeni Malkin to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. Will he sustain the pace he’s on right now for the next 4½ months? Who knows. But if he keeps up at even half of it, he’s worth considering Bovada doesn’t even have him on the board right now. Only somewhat related, what mook is willing to bet ANYTHING on Sidney Crosby bouncing back to have the kind of season he’d have to have to win the same award, $1200 payout or not?

      Never in my lifetime has it felt like the futures of Pitt’s and Penn State’s football programs are heading in such divergent directions. If James Franklin is left in control at Penn State, and Pat Narduzzzi stays on with the Panthers, in 2-3 seasons Pitt will be competing for the ACC Championship and the Lions will be putzing around with yet another 4th place finish in the B1G East by virtue of the fact that Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers are all in their division, and little else. 

If you missed any posts from the previous week or so, check 'em out here:
     Crosby Promoted To 3rd Line
     Guts, Balls, Onions, and Living In Your Fears
     Ugly Wins Again
     Time's Up, Peyton


Day 1 of the Chris Mack Best Holiday Movie EVER Tournament was a slaughter. The Ref walked into a buzzsaw called Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and got its behind handed to it. There will be another match-up or two like that in this tournament, and that’s fine. Sometimes you just get run out of the gym by a better team.

What we may not see a lot of again in this tourney – at least not until we get to the Final Four – are generational battles. And that’s what we have here on Day Two, with Scrooged vs. The Santa Clause.
The Santa Clause is the classic example of the mid-90s “comedic blockbuster,” when Tim Allen was at his peak of primetime TV power and guys like he and Arnold Schwarzenegger could poop on a reel of film and gross $50 million (see Kindergarten Cop). Chances are if you were born in the mid-to-late 80s, you more than likely thought both The Santa Clause and Kindergarten Cop and Jingle All the Way were high comedy. We’re not judging here; terrible one-liners and low grade slapstick make all of us laugh when we’re 10 years old, and in some cases still do.

The arguments against it bring us back around to those great ‘Not Quite’ movies such as Lethal Weapon, the aforementioned Trading Places, and the yet to make its debut, Die Hard. In a different bracket, The Santa Clause may not even get to the dance. But it’s here now, based on two factors: It made a whole hell of a lot more money than Jingle All the Way and is a whole hell of a lot more mainstream than Mixed Nuts starring Steve Martin. When you turn on ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas,” The Santa Clause and its sequels are more ubiquitous than Jim Carrey’s Grinch. It’s like the Mike Davis years at Indiana: Just show up in your red uni, and you’ll probably get a dance card.  

Conversely, Scrooged is for Billl Murray what the Dave Lewis era was for the Detroit Red Wings. Never going to be truly appreciated for what they provided because of the enormous shadow looming over it. (Aside: Dave Lewis is the poor chump who got the Red Wings’ Head Coaching position after Scotty Bowman retired. Only he wasn’t a chump at all. He won 96 games in two seasons and a President’s Trophy. And then lost his job to a lockout.)

Murray’s first starring role following Ghostbusters is great because it doesn’t veer from a highly successful formula that had so many of us Gen X’ers idolizing Murray in our early adolescence: Bill Murray as an insensitive, sarcastic, egomaniac concerned with one thing: Himself. From trying to get laid at the general’s house in Stripes to trying to get laid in Sigourney Weaver’s apartment in Ghostbusters, to … well, I’ll be honest, I’m surprised he doesn’t try to bag Carol Kane’s “Ghost of Chirstmas Present” in Scrooged… to a narcissistic network television president, Murray is at his best when he has you convinced he just doesn’t give a shit. The only drawback to Scrooged is that you know the story, you know how it’s going to turn out, and there’s no great swerve job that forces you to do anything else but sit back and admire Murray for a couple of hours while tolerating Kane and Buster Poindexter and hoping Karen Allen will show up in one of those sweaters she wore in Animal House.

The polls are open, so get to Twitter and get your vote in NOW!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrated an 0-0-2 weekend against the worst team in each conference by promoting Sidney Crosby to their 3rd line for tonight’s game in San Jose. Crosby, the pylon, and the orange traffic barrel all expressed excitement at their reunion.

“We’ve had some great chemistry in the past,” said the pylon. “I think especially when I’ve been thrown in the box for taking idiotic penalties at the worst possible time, we’ve really been able to not suck as much.”

The Pens’ new and improved 3rd line has combined for 10 goals this season, or as many as some dude named Leo Komarov, who may or may not be the old Zamboni driver from Neville Ice Arena on the South Side.

“The leadership that orange traffic barrel shows on- and off-the ice is an important part of why we think he can bring something to this unit,” explained Head Coach In Way Over His Head Johnston. 

“We’ve reached the point where we don’t really expect Sid’s line to score anymore, so if orange traffic barrel can just stand up and yell some really inspirational stuff on the bench or in the room, that’d be great.”

Crosby, who doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects from the NHL-approved spinal graphite massage he received from Brandon Dubinsky Friday night, stated his preference for pylon and orange traffic barrel dates back to when he could remember his own name.

“These two are something, and me with hockey and the brain sandwich, salmon fuzzy mayonnaise on the side, please.”

Puck-drop between the Penguins and Sharks is scheduled for sometime after you’ve gone to sleep tonight because nobody gives two $#!+s about terrible hockey played at an ungodly hour. All those in attendance at hp Pavilion will receive a Brent Burns Fuzzy Pillow Pet that can be used to either take a nap through the 2 ½ hours of insomnia-curing “hockey,” or to simply smother themselves before they’re forced to actually watch any.


Our first match-up in the Best Holiday Movie EVER Tournament is going to address the biggest question/issue that came up immediately upon the Selection Committee (my wife and I after a large bottle of Cabernet-Merlot blend) announcing the field Sunday night.

'Not Quite' Genre: (3) Planes, Trains, and Automobiles vs. (6) The Ref

While none of the initial reaction to the brackets out-and-out questioned the placement of The Ref, there were immediately several mentions of Trading Places. A prototypical candidate for the 'Not Quite' genre bracket if there ever was one, it's one of the early-to-mid 80s Eddie Murphy classics. Not on par with Coming to America, it is right there with the first installment of Beverly Hills Cop or 48 Hours in the triumvirate of (non-stand up concert) films that catapulted Murphy out of "Saturday Night Live" and into superstardom.

It is, quite honestly, nothing short of a travesty that Trading Places is not an incredibly strong 3- or 4-seed in this bracket, which would push Gremlins down into this Wild Card spot and bump The Ref completely out of the discussion. 

None of this is to say that The Ref is not a great movie and, as it does take place on Christmas Eve but really has very little at all to do with the holidays, is not a strong candidate for the 'Not Quite' bracket. It has Kevin Spacey - always a plus, and Denis Leary's most screen time in a film that isn't animated. Leary's rage-infused stand-up is the most underrated act of the late 80s/early 90s, and was so inexplicably unique it's managed to pigeonhole Leary into basically playing himself - pissed off, flawed, blue collar anti-hero - in anything he's ever done - Ice Age included (yes, a saber tooth tiger is blue collar). On the negative side, Judy Davis is so good at playing a bitch you end up feeling no sympathy for her, and Christine Baranski makes her first of two appearances in this tournament. That's like having two Indiana Hoosiers in the same tourney, one coached by Bobby Knight and the other by Tom Crean. You just can't decide which to hate more. 

The match-up does The Ref no favors, as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles teams a comedic genius with the best comedic character actor of the 1980s. Combine Steve Martin and John Candy with a John Hughes script directed by John Hughes, and you get what you always got with a John Hughes-directed movie (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Uncle Buck): Gold. And heart. Nothing crushes you in the middle of a two-hour gutbusting laughfest like the scene where Candy's character puts Martin's character in his place, and gives him some perspective as a takeaway.

I'm not going to make my opinion on every match-up so blatantly obvious, but I think you can see where I come down on this one. The question is, where do YOU? 

Go to Twitter and vote. The winner moves on to next week and a match-up against either Love Actually or Die Hard.

Monday, November 30, 2015


In a world where everything is judged with 20/20 hindsight and meticulously dissected, the outcome of a decision is always going to be the basis for the judgment of that decision’s genius or stupidity. It’s always been that way, especially in the sports world, going back as long as guys with keyboards have been criticizing the guys on the field. Especially now, in our frighteningly rapid news cycle, it’s even more true that while the enraged social media masses will sit quietly in the intervening seconds between the decision being made and the actual outcome, the reaction will be increasingly polarized the moment the outcome has actually been decided.

You generally don’t get a lot of people criticizing a fake field goal or the utilization of timeouts, for example, until after the fallout from said decision has already started to settle. But trust that when something goes wrong – or right – everyone will have their two cents to throw into the fray until we’ve got a Scrooge McDuck-like pile of penny opinions just waiting to be dived into if you’re masochistic enough.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, mind you. It’s what we do and it’s the world we live in, especially as sports fans, and certainly as citizens of a world that now consumes social media like a fire sucking up oxygen. Or perhaps, more accurately, like, well… a human sucking up oxygen. After all, look around and you’d think we need these devices to breathe.

It’s just so EASY to have knee-jerk reactions to everything. So when they start to pile up, it can be easy to slough them off, ignore them, or otherwise show indifference. It’s all just the white noise of what seems to be a rage meter constantly pinned in the red zone.

Which brings us to Mike Tomlin and the red zone. Specifically, his decision to kick a field goal from the 3 yard line when down by 5 points with just 3 minutes left.

If Tomlin were a Bill Cowher-type, who almost always erred on the side of caution and prudence, and who had reason to believe in his defense after a long afternoon, none of us would blink twice at the decision. But after an afternoon – and a season – filled with two-point conversions, 4th down attempts, and on this day a confusing fake field goal try gone awry, Mr. Not-Living-In-His-Fears did just that: He feared Seattle would take the ball after a failed 4th down attempt and move down the field to either run out the clock on the Steelers and their two timeouts (three, if you count the 2-minute warning) and/or score a touchdown to salt the game away. Mike Tomlin did the exact opposite of what he’s done all season long.

And that’s where “guts,” or “balls,” or “stones,” or “onions,” as the great Bill Raftery calls them, shriveled up into two tiny little buds of panicked timidity.

So much of the instant-reaction criticism for Tomlin after last night’s loss is for that fake field goal that got Landry’d and gave the Seahawks great field position to go ahead and capitalize on a 10-point swing. Not nearly enough blame has gone on the decision to kick that 4th down field goal. And not because in the end it didn’t work out for the Steelers. It’s because Mike Tomlin, who has lived and died by the pedal-to-the-metal, no guts/no glory, “we don’t live in our fears” philosophy since August, finally caved. Had he simply stuck to what’s worked for him the majority of the year, perhaps Antwon Blake would still be chasing Doug Baldwin into the great northwestern night and we’d still be talking about a rough loss for a team that was looking to clearly stake its claim to the AFC’s first Wild Card spot. But at least we wouldn’t be left to wonder why Tomlin had backed down.

For a coach fast-approaching a decade as the head coach of one of the league’s storied franchises, he’s clearly become used to the job security that belongs to the man in that role. His devil-may-care attitude toward 2-point plays, 4th down conversions, and usage of timeouts all seemed to point to man achieving Peter Gibbons-level enlightenment on the job. You half-expected Coach T to walk into his Tuesday press conference and promptly start gutting a trout while answering questions about the quickness of 3rd string offensive linemen’s feet.

On Sunday evening, that all changed, and at the worst possible time.

Again, I’m willing to forgive the perplexing Jones-to-Villanueva fake field goal because it fell in line with what Tomlin has done all year. Backing down at the 3-yard line down by 5 though smacks of a guy who became scared of his own shadow, or for some reason or another just finally realized what this year’s team is capable of and couldn’t stomach the idea of losing a grip on it by coming up 9 feet short on 4th and Goal. It gives the appearance that the cacophony of questions that have rained down on Mike Tomlin in regards to his risk-taking, his decision-making, and his leadership in the clutch all came home to roost at the worst possible time. At a time when the Steelers most needed their head coach to be oblivious to the white noise of that rage meter constantly pinned in the red zone, he heard it ringing in his ears as loudly as the 12th Man. He thought ahead to the critics and their meticulous dissection with 20/20 hindsight, and rather than live in the decision, sticking to his philosophy – showing some “guts,” or “balls,” or “onions,” – he did just what he insists he never does, and he lived in the outcome. Mike Tomlin lived in his fears.


The Best.

To be honest, if we have something we enjoy doing, we want to be The Best at that thing in some regard. Or at least associated with the best. For example, if we can’t be an NFL football player and go win a Super Bowl, we at the very least want to be a FAN of the team that wins it all. So, on the surface, this tournament is your chance to go ahead and make YOUR favorite holiday movie the BEST holiday movie, at least in this little corner of the universe.

Down below that superficial need to go ahead and get your favorite movies through the brackets and for you to “win” at something, is the incredible connection you can make with not just a film in general, but a holiday movie more specifically. There is something reassuring about sitting down with something that goes back, in some cases, as far as you remember, especially at this time of year.

And whether it be the NCAA basketball tournament, the College Football Playoff, or any other mostly subjective selection process, there will always be debate when a “Selection Sunday” comes around, and with The Chris Mack Holiday Movie Tournament upon us, this is no different. The time for fervent debate is upon us, and beginning Tuesday morning, the voting – YOUR voting – will decide which movie deserves the title of Best Holiday Movie EVER.

So, here are your brackets:

A reminder that each match-up will last 24 hours and be decided using the Twitter poll function on my timeline at twitter.com/THEChrisMack, beginning December 1st and ending Christmas Eve, December 24th.

Thanks for taking part!

Sunday, November 29, 2015


In the process of finding the Best Holiday Movie EVER, there are undoubtedly going to be favorites, underdogs, and disagreements about which movies should qualify as each.

To that end, I suspect the naming of the four 1-seeds will create a bit of consternation for those that traditionally spend the better part of their Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day morning glued to TBS. While A Christmas Story and the multitude of quotable lines from it are strong contenders in this tourney, they will have to make their run as arguably the bracket’s strongest 2-seed. (1’s and 2’s will each get byes to the 2nd Round, so the argument could be made that there isn’t much difference, anyway.)

Your 1-seeds, in no particular order, are:

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Love Actually


It’s a Wonderful Life

By the end of the day, the remaining five movies in each bracket will be revealed, for our total of 24. Feel free to leave comments below and/or at Twitter or Facebook. And look for the polls to open bright and early Tuesday morning with our first match-up.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


After a game like Saturday night’s 2-1 Penguins’ loss in Columbus, maybe we can play make-believe and assume the cause of that rumored ‘rift’ between Penguins’ Co-Owner Mario Lemieux and his former tenant Sidney Crosby was really just a simple argument.

Imagine, if you will:

“Sid, I don’t understand how you can play in this garbage. I mean, it doesn’t even look like hockey anymore.”
“To be honest, Mario, I don’t care if we’re playing in mud with twigs for sticks, I’m gonna do whatever it takes to make my team better.”
“I get it kid, but I’ve seen this crap before, and it caused me to walk away from the game when I was only a few years older than you are now. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you…”
“If I what? Quit?!? After I spent the better part of two years barely able to skate without getting woozy? I’ve given my life to this game, and I’ll be damned If I don’t do anything and everything I can to win another Cup, even if it means I have to become a grinding 2-way center in a 60-minute slog of a trapfest three times a week!”
“Eh, what if you had to get cross checked in the back of the neck by some plugger from Alaska?”
The NHL is slowly devolving, and not coincidentally, so is the game of its most recognizable star.

Now, don’t confuse this as an excuse for Sidney Crosby’ ice-cold scoring touch over the past calendar year. But could you blame Crosby – or any other of the league’s stars, for that matter – if they were inclined to think the NHL could not possibly care less about them? Not only have the league’s coaches seemingly agreed to a blood pact to play 30 variations of the most boring style of hockey possible – stack up everyone at the blue line, and when the opponents finally beat your trap, all five guys just reconvene in-between the hashmarks and commence blocking two-thirds of all shots taken from beyond 8 feet out – they’ve also gone back to a time-honored tradition usually reserved for the piƱata at a 5-year old’s birthday party: Whack the star!!

Is there any reason fans of the game – both the most devout as well as the casual – are now as vocal as ever about the game diving back down to the mid-to-late ‘90s depths that drove it’s most talented player ever into an early retirement?

This is a league where a cheapshot-guru like Brandon Dubinsky has made a career out of simply standing in front of pucks and liberally slashing and cross-checking everything he sees with more talent than him.

It’s a league made for the trolls, goblins, and goons now proliferating under coaches like John Tortorella, who love a player with neither the brains nor the skill to do anything more than stand still and take flying pieces of rubber off of their body.

Let’s be very, VERY clear: In a game that had the back-and-forth firewagon pace of a late-80s Smythe Division match-up, postgame analysts were talking about the excitement this game had because of the extracurriculars. In a game where we very easily could have lost this generation’s most talented player for God knows how long due to a cross check to the back of the neck, we were being told afterwards how “fun” it was to see that kind of intensity.

We’re now so desperate for action of any kind in an NHL hockey game, that we’ll accept a cross check to the back of a star’s neck, or the game’s most skilled goal scorer fighting with one of the league’s best defensemen, as the actual entertainment, rather than 60 minutes of the kind of serve-and-volley offensive rallies that the league is specifically trying to create via special rules in overtime.

After a game like Saturday night’s in Columbus, we shouldn’t be raving about the “playoff-like action.” We should be asking why on earth anybody would still want to play in this league.

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...