Eagles-Giants Preview AND a BSB Movie Review: Big Fan

eagles giantsOn Sunday night, the 8-4 Eagles make their annual trip up the turnpike to take on the 7-5 Giants.  As the teams kick-off the final quarter of the regular season, they find themselves gridlocked atop the division, along with the 8-4 Cowboys.

The recent history of the Eagle-Giant rivalry has seen a lot of momentum shifts.  From 1997-2000, the Giants won 9 straight, topping the run off by beating the Eagles in the Divisional Round of the 2000 Playoffs, in the first playoff appearance of the Reid-McNabb era.  Then, as the Birds emerged as the powerhouse team of the division, they won 7 of 8 in the series from 2001-2004. 

It’s gone back and forth more since then, but right now the Eagles definitely have the upper-hand, winning 3 straight, with all three being noteworthy for one reason or another.  On November 1st, the day of Game 4 of the World Series, the Birds thrashed the Giants, 40-17, the win representing the biggest margin of victory for either team in the series this decade.  Their previous meeting was in the Divisional Round of last year’s playoffs, when the Eagles ended the Giants’ title defense with a 23-11 beating in Giants Stadium.

The first win in the current streak was the turning point in the 2008 Eagle season that helped propel them to the NFC Championship Game.  Some might point to their blow out of the eventual NFC Champion Cardinals on Thanksgiving night as the turning point, but it was really the next week, when they went into the Meadowlands on December 7th and beat the 11-1 defending champions.  At that point, everyone knew the Eagles were a force to be reckoned with, it was just a question of whether or not they had enough time left to grab a playoff spot, as their record was still only 7-5-1. 

A win over the Giants this December wouldn’t be a turning point, but it still represents a crucial game for both teams.  10 wins is generally the number you want to hit to secure a playoff berth.  If the 8-4 Eagles can get win number 9 on Sunday, they have to feel very good about their chances.  But if they’re stuck at 8, they’ll be faced with needing to win two of their final three games, which won’t be easy with the 49ers and Broncos coming to Lincoln Financial and a trip to Dallas in Week 17.

Brian Westbrook returns to practice today, but it looks pretty unlikely that he’ll play in the game.  DeSean Jackson also returns to practice, and his status for Sunday is more promising.  The Giants shuffled up their defense for last week’s win over Dallas, and they’ll look to keep that momentum going this week.  The two defensive lines for the teams are an interesting contrast.  The Giants came into the season with what was thought to be the top D-line in the league, but the benching of All-Pro Osi Umenyiora reflects the disappointing showing they’ve had.  For the Eagles, in Sean McDermott’s first year at the helm, the linebacking corps has been different every week and they’ve had some trouble deciding who will replace Brian Dawkins at free safety.  As a result, the D-line, led by Trent Cole, Broderick Bunkley, and Mike Patterson, has emerged as the rock of the defense.

BSB Movie Review: Big Fan 

To prepare for the big game, I recommend trying to find a copy of the movie, Big Fan.  I saw the movie in the theater abig fan few months ago.  It’s a dark comedy written and directed by Robert Siegel, who also wrote the best movie of 2008, The Wrestler.

Big Fan stars well-known comedian Patton Oswalt as Paul Aufiero, a die-hard, fanatical Giants fan from Staten Island.  Paul is the type of guy that plans out his calls to local sports-talk radio stations so he can get his rants about the Eagles and Cowboys just right.  One night, he has a chance encounter with his favorite Giant, and the encounter does not go so well for Paul.  After that, his life starts spinning out of control a bit, culminating in a final scene that is a must-see for any Giants or Eagles fan.

It’s a strange movie, as you might expect from a “dark” comedy about a sports fan.  Some critics have called it a type of Taxi Driver for football fans.  It’s definitely well-acted and, at times, hilarious.  If you’ve ever listened to some of the crazier-sounding callers to WIP and wondered what might be driving them to such levels of insanity, this is a movie for you.  I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone, but if you’re a big NFL fan, and especially a fan of the Giants or Eagles, I say make the rental.

BSB Movie Review: Sugar

sugarTonight, I went out to a theater and saw Sugar, a movie about a fictional Dominican baseball player and his path from the baseball academy in his native country to the minor leagues in the Midwest.  One of the cliches that’s repeated numerous times during the film is, “It’s just a game”.  Of course, as we all saw just two days ago, with the passing of the great Harry Kalas, it is not “just a game”.  For many people, it is much, much more than that, and this film does a great job of showing how that’s true for Latino players trying to make it to the big leagues.

Sugaris the second film from the writing/directing duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (their first film, Half Nelson, has nothing to do with sports, but is also very good).  While the movie is undoubtedly baseball-centric, it really isn’t a “sports movie”.  It’s a coming-of-age story about a young man that happens to play baseball.  It gives an inside look into what Latino ballplayers go through as they leave their families behind and are shipped off to a strange place, and how the “system” of Major League Baseball may or may not be treating them fairly.

The main character, Miguel “Sugar” Santos, is played by Algenis Perez Soto, who is not an actor.  The filmmakers interviewed hundreds of Dominicans before settling on him, and he gives an outstanding performance.  One of the things that stood out to me is how different the experience of minor league baseball is for poor players from poor countries.  Most of them have no skills other than playing baseball.  They have the hopes of their entire family on their shoulders and there are basically only two outcomes: make the majors and become wildly rich and famous, or be released and be left with virtually no options after spending most of their young lives in blind pursuit of baseball success.  The difference is obvious during one scene when Sugar is talking to a teammate who was a first-round pick out of Stanford.  Sugar asks him what he would do if baseball didn’t work out, and the teammate says that maybe he’d go to graduate school.  Granted, there are many American minor-leaguers that don’t have a degree from Stanford, but they generally have a lot more options than your average Dominican, and it doesn’t hurt that they can speak English.  The stakes are a lot higher for these guys, and you certainly feel for Sugar when he’s getting booed during a rough outing for his minor-league team.

All in all, it’s an interesting look into baseball’s pipeline to Latin America, and it also delves into more general issues of immigration and integration into America.  Check it out if you get a chance.