Wednesday, October 19, 2016

2007 NHL Season Preview: San Jose Sharks

When you asked a lot of experts about their picks for the Stanley Cup championship before last season, a fair amount of people would have probably mentioned the San Jose Sharks. When you are the youngest team in the league by average age, and the biggest team in terms of size, you are going to get a lot of those expectations. When you have the defending scoring champion and MVP and the Rocket Richard Trophy winner, it can only raise those expectations.

Heading into the postseason, you would have thought it was looking good for the team. Of course, another disappointing second-round exit has caused the franchise to make a decision as to whether to ‘blow it all up’ or to once again retool. They decided on the latter, and the team returns its core to the fold after getting long-term extensions to a majority of their young talent. But this team does have a lot more pressure to succeed on their shoulders.

They are in a community that is rabid about their hockey, even in the middle of sunny California. Some have gone as far as to dub them the “Ottawa Senators of the East,” a reference to the Senators recent regular season success and inability to get to the Stanley Cup finals. However, if Ottawa could turn it around last season, there is hope that the Sharks can do the same. Will this finally be the year? Or is this team doomed to another disappointing finish to a season?

San Jose Sharks
2006 Record (W-L-OTL-PTS): 51-26-5-107; 2nd in Pacific Division
2006 Postseason (if applicable): Lost in Western Conf. Semis (4-2 to Detroit)
Coach Name (record w/team): Ron Wilson; 157-99-19 (28 ties; .613)
Key Additions: C Jeremy Roenick (Phoenix)
Key Subtractions: G Vesa Toskala (Toronto); LW Mark Bell (Toronto); RW Bill Guerin (New York Islanders); D Scott Hannan (Colorado)

Offense: Ever since Joe Thornton came over from the Boston Bruins about a season and a half ago, the Sharks have been the beneficiaries of his talents on the ice and his character off the ice. Thornton is a laid back superstar, and it is the perfect personality for the Sharks. No longer in the spotlight of the Boston media, Thornton has put together two back-to-back 90 assist seasons and 100 total points in each of those seasons. Thornton is uncanny at putting the puck on his teammate’s sticks right on the tape. He is so adept at making these passes that sometimes his teammates are not ready for them.

One player who usually is ready is Jonathan Cheechoo. Cheechoo has been one of the Sharks’ top scorers, and has shown added prowess when teamed with Thornton. Cheechoo has the killer instinct to put the puck into the net. He is looking to return to the 50-goal plateau, instead of the 37 goals that were a bit of a disappointment to him. Meanwhile, second-line center Patrick Marleau took heat for being out of position in the playoffs during a tying Detroit goal, but the team will stick by their captain.

Marleau could be a top center for a number of other teams, and he gives the Sharks a one-two punch in terms of lines. He pairs usually with veteran Mike Grier and Milan Michalek. Both of them are capitalistic players that benefit from Marleau’s vision on the ice. They have some young scoring talent to add into the mix; guys like Steve Bernier, Joe Pavelski, and Ryane Clowe are guys the Sharks get key production from in spots. Clowe worked his way into the top line with Thornton and Cheechoo late in the season and in the postseason and saw a lot of success.

Their blue line offense will have to be carried by young defenders like Matt Carle and Christian Ehrhoff. One of their consistent leaders, Scott Hannan, is gone, so Carle will be the top defender to run the team and the power play.
Grade: A-

Defense: Hannan, who left for Colorado in free-agency, leaves a big hole in the defense for the Sharks. To fill the gaps, the team will lean more than ever on their young homegrown blue liners. Look for Matt Carle and Marc-Eduoard Vlasic to have expanded roles. Defensively, the Sharks also can lean on veteran Kyle McLaren, who now becomes the veteran leader of the defense. McLaren is a big, physical defender that is from the old model of the NHL. However, McLaren can still be effective with his knowledge in positioning and anticipation.

Christian Ehrhoff has been quietly becoming one of the team’s solid defenders and his presence will be more noticeable with Hannan gone as his duties will certainly multiply. Craig Rivet is another veteran, with more years than McLaren, but he is still assimilating himself to the team after a late season trade to the Sharks.

He re-signed with the team and will play a big role in the defense as well. Overall, this is not an overwhelming unit, but they are going to be solid. As Carle and Vlasic grow even more, they will be able to handle more duties and become solid forces.
Grade: B+

Goaltending: The team went with two goaltenders for the majority of the regular season, however when it came to the playoffs the Sharks went with Evgeni Nabokov, the veteran who went into the playoffs hot and took the job back. His performance to close the season and in the playoffs led the Sharks to believe that Nabokov is the team’s best option at goalie.

By trading away Vesa Toskala to Toronto, the Sharks opened up the battle for second between young goaltenders Dimitri Patzold and Thomas Greiss. They are friends that have come up through the Sharks minor league system together, but they are fighting for one spot. Both are highly regarded within the Sharks’ franchise and the decision could be turned by one goalie getting hot during the preseason.
Grade: B+

Coaching: Ron Wilson is on the hot seat even before the season starts. This is a team that many expected to win a Cup last season and the expectations are no less heading into this year. Many thought that his inability to instill toughness into the team is what caused, or at the very least contributed to, the collapse against the Red Wings in the postseason.

Wilson will need to get this team into a tougher mentality and get them to finish as strongly as they start. If the Sharks do not play to expectations, then Wilson could be the first person out the door. He has brought teams to the Stanley Cup finals in the past and he looks to make the Sharks his first Stanley Cup winner. He may need that in order to keep his job.
Grade: B+

Bold Predictions
Points/Conference Standing: 90 – 105 pts; top of Western Conference (1st – 5th in conference)
Team MVP: Joe Thornton

Prediction Notes: This team still has its base intact and they should challenge the Ducks for Pacific Division supremacy. The Ducks will feel more of the heat being the defending champions, and that could open the door for the Sharks to slide in and get a Cup Championship of their own.

Meanwhile, the Sharks have the offense, talent, defense, and goaltending to be contenders. They will still beat a majority of the teams they need to beat, but the real test is in the postseason. They have to prove they can get the job done. Until then, they are nothing more than semi-contenders.

Tags:2007 NHL Season Preview: San Jose Sharks

2007 NFL Season Preview - Oakland Raiders

It seemingly happens to every team once in a while. You go into a season with some expectations, and they are dashed when everything that can go wrong for a team does go wrong. Ladies and gentlemen, that is your look back at Oakland’s 2006 season. Does 2007 hold anything different? Well, a new, motivated and youthful head coach, former USC assistant Lane Kiffin, and a growing defense can give you some hope. But the quarterback play must improve and the offense must perform up to the standards that owner Al Davis and the Raider Nation have for them. Can they rebound and get back into the thick of things in the league, or is this just year one of the reclamation project?

Oakland Raiders
2006 Record (Standing): 2-14
2006 Postseason (If app.): n/a
Head Coach (Career Record): Lane Kiffin (1st season)
Key Additions: QB Daunte Culpepper (FA; Miami), WR Mike Williams (trade; Detroit), QB Josh McCown (trade; Detroit), QB JaMarcus Russell (draft; 1st round, 1st pick), RB Dominic Rhodes (FA; Indianapolis), S Donovan Darius (FA; Jacksonville), FB Justin Griffith (FA; Atlanta), C Jeremy Newberry (FA; San Francisco), DT Gerald Warren (trade; Denver)
Key Losses: WR Randy Moss (trade; New England), QB Aaron Brooks (cut; unsigned), OT Langston Walker (FA; Buffalo)

Positives: It’s not too farfetched to consider that the Raiders’ starting cornerbacks, Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington, are among the better tandems in the NFL. They are both excellent cover corners and play man defense very well. This allows for the Raiders to try and commit more players into the box against running teams and/or put the heat on opposing quarterbacks with extra rushers. Asomugha really should have been a Pro Bowler last season, but another solid season combined with some improvement from the Raiders as a team could make for Asomugha’s first trip to Hawaii and the Pro Bowl. He’s an instinctive cornerback that likes to anticipate the receiver’s next move and beat them to the punch. His intelligence is up there because he does anticipate correctly more often than not. On the other side, Washington has got blazing speed and recovers well against receivers. He has done some of his best work against some of the game’s best over the past season, and he can do it once again with the improvement around him. Their safeties benefit because these two guys allow them to move the safeties into better position to help in other areas.

Kiffin already has the attention of the players in the organization; something it seemed like Art Shell was unable to do all of last season with the team. Most of the players, veterans and younger players alike, have found it easier to talk to Kiffin and get his ideas and improve. There were often times when you had to wonder whether or not the players had already tuned out Art Shell, and that is something you will not have to worry about from Kiffin. One of Kiffin’s biggest challenges was getting people around the organization to forget about the team’s recent history. Kiffin’s attitude and demeanor have been positive to those changes that he’s trying to make.

Things are also lining up for Lamont Jordan to have an outstanding year for the Raiders. There has been a lot of talk about him not living up to the expectations, but injuries and a lack of blocking up front have been the main issues for Jordan with the Raiders. With Kiffin coming in, the Raiders are looking more towards using Jordan the way he they had envisioned when they signed him from the Jets. Look for Jordan to once again be a factor in the passing game, where he can really be dangerous making plays out of the backfield. The new zone blocking scheme, installed by the Raiders to limit the time that they need their offensive line to hold up, can also help Jordan make better decisions and quick, decisive moves. They signed Dominic Rhodes from the Colts and drafted Michael Bush from Louisville, both talented runners, but Jordan will probably be the key, at least early in the season.

Question Marks: Where do the Raiders plan to go in terms of their quarterback for 2007? With JaMarcus Russell still holding out and the teams nowhere near a deal apparently, the job will more than likely go to either Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown, or Andrew Walter. Russell was a long shot to see any real significant time in 2007, so his holdout does not really hurt them too much. The bigger question is where the Raiders and Lane Kiffin go from here. Both McCown and Culpepper are NFL veterans that have seen some success as starting quarterbacks in other situations, and Walter is a young guy that many still believe has opportunity to grow and improve. Either way, they really want to have this situation taken care of sooner rather than later so that the offense can try to get more momentum heading into this season than it did in 2006. Culpepper might be the best option here; his style resembles the style of first-overall pick Russell and building an offense around Culpepper would be like building it around Russell.

Maybe the more important question is based on the five guys that will be charged with making sure that the quarterback, whoever that is going to be, stays on his feet and has time to throw the football and run the offense. They have four returning starters from a unit that was just horrendous in 2006. They were, unfortunately, overmatched and in the wrong scheme. The Raiders did not throw quickly; they relied on five and seven-step drops instead of quick routes to protect their quarterbacks. This line will need to provide the Raiders with more time and consistency in order for their offense to be effective. They are employing the zone-blocking scheme that a lot of teams, most notably Denver and Atlanta, have used to build strong running games.

Offensive Grade: Like some of the other teams in the league, it’s hard to tell just how efficiently an offense is going to run without knowing the identity of the starting quarterback. With Oakland, there is the added pressure of having a suspect offensive line that might not be able to provide adequate protection. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp likes to run the ball, so a steady dose of Lamont Jordan and/or Dominic Rhodes can almost be counted on as the season progresses. Whoever the quarterback may be, Culpepper, McCown, or Walter, they will have to make sure to limit the mistakes and make solid throws. The Raiders have a talented group of receivers, but they will have to prove consistent threats despite a quarterback they more than likely never worked with extensively. Look for Mike Williams, former USC standout, to have a significant impact with the team by the middle of the season. He’s looked good and dedicated to the fitness program. Their offensive line still does not really seem to have it all down, but the zone blocking will help slightly. This offense will be slightly improved, but given the sad state of things in 2006, that’s really not saying too much.
Grade: C+

Defensive Grade: Many people say that this defense was championship caliber last season. They really have not made any significant changes to the defense; for better or worse. It seems as though defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants to stick to his guns and improve the unit he had. There is definitely talent up front, and that’s where it all starts for the Raiders. The inside guys, Warren Sapp and Terrell Sands, are guys that can get inside a pocket and cause havoc. Outside, the Raiders have a great pass rushing end in Derrick Burgess along with a solid guy in Tyler Brayton. Tommy Kelly will see a lot of time in the rotation up front. The linebackers are not incredibly imposing, but all three are solid guys that can make plays. They are young, athletic, and eager to make plays. Kirk Morrison is the guy you have to watch out for when it comes to the Raiders linebackers. Morrison recorded some big numbers (over 100 tackles) in his first season as the team’s middle linebacker. With the experience, look for him to get better at reading offenses and making plays. Their secondary is elite. Asomugha and Washington make up a formidable tandem, and the safeties are not bad either. Look for free agent signing Donovan Darius from Jacksonville to factor in the safety positions. Michael Huff was a little disappointing as a rookie, but the Raiders still expect big things from the former University of Texas standout.
Grade: A

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski has been the target of much malign over the years. Is it unfair? It really is hard to say. You know that you will be scrutinized a little bit more when you are a kicker selected in the first round of the NFL draft. That does not happen everyday, so you know that pressure is there. The problem is that a strong leg can only get you so far in the NFL. His accuracy has been so-so over his career, and you never really know when he’s on and when he’s off. Meanwhile, the Raiders have a pure weapon at punter. Shane Lechler is the best punter in the NFL, hands down. He’s got the leg strength and control of his kicks. It’s amazing he’s not the AFC Pro Bowl punter every season. Chris Carr will take his place returning both kicks and punts; he’s a fast runner with good vision and can break it for the distance at any time.
Grade: B

Coaching Staff: Lane Kiffin has been winning a lot of praise early on for being a tough-minded coach looking to make the attitude and player personnel changes with reckless abandon. Believe it or not, the young Kiffin has many of the qualities and characteristics of his father, defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay under Jon Gruden. Kiffin wants to rebuild this team with the pieces he has; they are not bad pieces, they just need to be fit together more properly. Kiffin will have offensive coordinator Greg Knapp to help on that side of the ball. The former 49ers and Falcons coordinator brings his run first philosophy to the Raiders. They have the running backs to do it, complete with a new blocking system. Kiffin retained defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, which was a great move for him. Ryan has been the architect of this growing defense and has been key in their development into one of the league’s better units.
Grade: B+

Bold Predictions
Record: 7-9
Offensive MVP: Lamont Jordan
Defensive MVP: Nnamdi Asomugha
Notes: This team will be much better than the team they put on the field in 2006, if purely for the fact that they have better leadership this time around within the coaching staff. Their offense is still not as polished as they would like, and the quarterback situation could be difficult to overcome, but their defense is definitely championship caliber. They will surprise some teams.

Tags:2007 NFL Season Preview - Oakland Raiders

2007 People's Media Awards Preview: AC's 2006 CP of the Year Looks Back (and Looks Ahead)

Right now I think we all have to admit that I probably have the longest odds against winning the Content Producer of the Year award this time around. (Okay, with a few exceptions that I won’t name.) It is hard to believe it has been almost a year since I was named the inaugural winner of AC’s top award. Last year I was asked to write an acceptance speech; this time around I’ve been kindly asked to write about my experience as AC’s first CP of the Year and to look forward to this year’s awards. I hope that this article will serve as an inspiration to all those who will win a PMA award this year and in the future, especially to all those writers who occasionally wonder if rejections, low offers, and the other pains that come with writing for AC (or any other site) bring.

This year’s PMA awards are a bit different from last year’s. This year the focus has narrowed down to the following:

Best Content Producer of 2007: $2,000
Top Performing Content of 2007:
Text (article, editorial or other written work) $1,000
Rich media (video, audio, or slideshow) $1,000
Three text winner $1,000 (each)
Video $1,000
Audio $1,000
Slideshow $1,000
AC Top 1000 of 2007 Recognition

In case you weren’t aware, you could put in your two cents worth by nominating deserving CPs in the AssociatedContent forum. As far as the nominations for CP of the Year, some of the names that regularly keep popping up are Carol Gilbert, the Barefoot, Pam Gaulin, Michelle (Michy) Devon, Gary Picariello and Donna Porter. That isn’t to say that others aren’t receiving their fair share, nor that many deserving writers are being overlooked. (Jeff Musall and Brian Rice I’m looking at you.) In fact, it is entirely possible that someone not mentioned will win the top prize. I’m familiar with the work of all those mentioned as well as many of the others receiving a few nods and I believe any would be a deserving choice. The thing about CP of the Year is that it is and should be based on the overall canon of the writer, as well as their commitment to sharing their expertise and knowledge of how AC works with others. Each of the above writers, as well as other deserving CPs have written well-crafted articles on a vast range of topics, and have been especially helpful by offering advice and guidance to other writers in the forum. And I should mention now that whoever is named this year’s CP of the Year can expect to receive an abundance of private messages from eager young newbies looking to make an impact. One of the most satisfying things about this past year has been my ability to help nurture some of the writers. I am confident that if any of the aforementioned names do in fact become the next CP of the Year that they will be probably even more eager than me to dispense advice.

In addition to awarding one content producer for her overall contribution to AC, the PMA awards also target specific content. That’s good because while there are plenty of writers who consistently publish solid quality work, there are others who are a bit more uneven. You should never judge a CP on the basis of just one or even a handful of articles. Some people are just better equipped to crank up the talent on a specific topic, or a subject that really moved them. The award for best article gives really just about anyone, regardless of how long they’ve with AC or how many articles they’ve published a chance to be noticed and rewarded. One of the most nominated articles in the AC forum is T.H. Pankey’s Hurricane Katrina: People Still Dying Two Years Later. Pankey’s article may well be one of the longest, most in-depth and well researched articles ever published on AC. If it were a movie you can bet it would be a front-runner for Best Picture because it is truly epic and important. At the other end of the scale is the Barefoot’s Netflix is Scaring Me, which is the equivalent of the smart comedy that never even gets nominated. Coming in at about one-tenth the word count of Pankey’s article, Barefoot’s is worthy of contention because it is also well written, many readers can relate to the subject, and ultimately it makes a fairly serious comment about the intrusion into our privacy by commercial interests intent on knowing our every thought. There are plenty of others, obviously, but these two continuously pop in both the forum and in articles that review the best of 2007. I think they are also quite representative of the vast wealth of content to be found here. Say what you will about the range of writing ability that makes it onto AC’s pages; the best writers here are capable of making the writers in any magazine in America look like amateurs when they hit their home runs. I nominated what I feel is a very deserving article, a useful piece of cautionary advice forwarded by Carol Gilbert titled Pornographic Hijacking: How to Remove Your Name from Google Search Porn Link.

Of course, not everybody on AC just writes; this is a great place for original videos and slideshows as well and there will be winners in both those characters. The forum was a little skimpy on who appears to be in the lead here, but if Emma S. doesn’t come out on top simply because she has such a wealth of videos that contain such a wealth of information it will mean that the winner made something astounding well produced. The slideshows are a relatively new addition to Associated Content and that category appears to be up for grabs as well. One lucky winner will also receive an award for the best audio content submitted in 2007.

What can winning a PMA award do for you? Attention, for one thing. Even though I won the CP of the Year for my content I produced in 2006, I believe I had a more award-winning year in 2007, in part because of the attention my writing began to get. Although I don’t know the extent to which my having won the award contributed to the following, I’m convinced there must be some connection. Although the most infamous event of 2007 for me was my possible brush with greatness in the form of Jon Lovitz perhaps contacting me about an article I wrote about his altercation with Andy Dick, I must say the single most satisfying moment of the year was when I received an email from a member of the Louisiana state law enforcement department. I had previously written an article that warned people to stay away from a certain person because he was engaging in contractor fraud by ripping off people whose houses had been damaged as a result of the string of hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. This official contacted me after reading that article because he wanted me to identify a photo of this individual and give him some information about him. Once I identified the photo of this criminal, he told me that it was enough to initiate warrants and begin the process of bringing this low-life scumbag to justice. (Associated Content does America’s Most Wanted!)

Second on the list of satisfaction would have to be the day I got an email from Vanderbilt Univ. asking me for copyright permission to use an article I wrote about Dick Cheney’s attempt to dismantle a section of the National Archives in a law packet for a legal course to be taught by the school’s Dean of Law. In addition to these satisfying recognitions of my work, I’ve also been contacted by other people I’ve written about. For instance, I wrote an article about fads and briefly mentioned Slap Wraps. Imagine my surprise when I was recently contacted by the inventor of Slap Wraps and he consented to an interview about next-generation Wraps. I’ve had my articles linked to and analyzed on a multitude of internet sites ranging from the Village Voice to Rev. Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping site to an online site devoted to timeshares in Hawaii. Heck, even CNN has linked to a scathing article I wrote about Wolf Blitzer! (I guess there really is no such thing as bad publicity.) A recent Google search effort by my wife revealed that my articles have been discussed, referenced, or linked on a mind-boggling number of web sites. (Unlike Carol Gilbert, however, I’ve yet to be contacted by anyone interesting in making a film deal for my writing.) The lesson from me and doubtlessly countless other CPs who have stories similar to mine is that writing for Associated Content means more than just writing for other CPs and your subscribers and those who stop at the showcase page. Simply put, once your work is published on Associated Content, the potential is infinite; you just can never know for sure who may stumble across something you’ve written, or where else on the internet it may turn up. Therefore, it behooves us all to write every article as if you wanted it to be worthy of winning an award.

Winning a PMA of any type is also a pretty decent thing to put on your web site or resume. AssociatedContent is quickly being recognized as a site that consistently showcases high quality writing. (Yes, there is plenty of low quality writing, but that’s real democracy in action, not like the Iowa caucus parade of millionaires.) When you consider that tens of thousands of writers are published every single day on AC and that a strikingly high percentage of those writers are quite talented it tends to impress people when they see that your writing was singled out. As a direct result of winning CP of the Year last year I have received a number of writing opportunities. In addition, putting the fact that you did win an award at the top of any writer bio on the other freelance writing sites will definitely get the attention of any potential clients.

I want to conclude by expressing my best wishes to all those who will win a PMA award, as well as to all those who must by definition be unfortunately overlooked. Considering the astounding level of talent on Associated Content I feel utterly confident that all the winners will be quite deserving, while also remaining certain that many writers I admire most will once again have to wail till next year. I really like the addition to this year’s awards of the AC Top 1000. True, the only prize these people will receive is recognition, but considering that there are literally thousands and thousands of writers deserving of being recognized for their work, those of you who miss out on a cash award but wind up on that list should have a right to be proud. Picking just one person to name as the best of the year would be a job I wouldn’t care to have; I’m not even sure I could limit my list of the best to just 1000.

Tags:2007 People’s Media Awards Preview: AC’s 2006 CP of the Year Looks Back (and Looks Ahead)

2007 Parelli Tour: Training Horses and People

I just spent my weekend at the 2007 Love Language Leadership Parelli Tour. This time, I even got my husband, who is not that interested in horses, to go with me. He was impressed and interested for the entire time he was there.

Pat and Linda Parelli not only teach people how to develop great relationships with their horses they put on a great show as well. There is not much more fun than watching a three year old jumping out of her skin with excitement as she watches a pair of miniature horses race around an arena at liberty doing things you’d think impossible, such as leap over barrels that are higher than their heads.

Apparently most people think the Parelli program is about training horses. It isn’t. It is all about training people. I think I was more fortunate in that by the time I went to my first Parelli event I’d been a professional horseman for nearly thirty years. I knew who was being trained and it wasn’t the horses.

For thirty-five years I kept searching for something I just knew had to be out there. Something I’d dreamed of since I was a small child sitting on a fat paint Shetland being led around a small pen. My dream was to have a loving respectful relationship with my horses. And for thirty-five years that dream eluded me.

Twelve years ago sitting out in a field on a cold, damp, windy, miserable day I re-discovered my dream. There I watched as a Parelli certified instructor took a group of some of the most dangerous horses I’d ever seen, some of the most clueless people I’d ever met, and in two days bonded them into the partnership I’d been told over and over again was impossible.

I must confess it looked a lot easier than it turned out to be. I bought equipment offered for sale, and still have it because it is good stuff, a book explaining the Parelli Horse Man Ship program and went home to the four horses that lived with me. I began with Bel, a Section B Welsh mare, I’d bought for my daughter to show. She’s a cute little red roan of impeccable breeding and was fairly well trained by anyone’s standards.

Two hours after putting the Parelli halter on her I was in tears, something that had not happened to me since my teens. This business of playing games with your horse was a lot harder than it looked when an experienced practitioner was guiding a person through it. I am nothing if not persistent when it involves horses. I kept at it and eventually reached the point where I have a whole barn full of horses who will mob you to be first when it comes time to be with a person. As for Bel, well she isn’t fairly well trained anymore. She is the pony most people only dream of owning.

Pat and Linda Parelli work diligently to improve their programs and presentations. Now it is much easier to learn how to use what they’ve created. It is easier to develop that wonderful partnership with a horse. And more and more top horsemen are joining the parade. The tour demonstrates, once again, they are on the cutting edge of creating the bond so many of us dreamed of having with our horses when we first read The Black Stallion or saw Trigger and Roy Rogers on TV.

Tags:2007 Parelli Tour: Training Horses and People

2007 Southern Entertainment Award Nominee for Indy R&B Album of the Year!

Trinetta Love and I met in 1995 when we both worked for a Fortune 500 company in New York City. Upon meeting Trinetta we just had an instant connection, she was always genuine, honest and just an overall good person. Trinetta is a singer/songwriter born in New York; she has 3 brothers and 1 sister who is also a singer. Trinetta just recently moved to Atlanta which is one of the hottest music scenes on the map. Trinetta was recently nominated by the Southern Entertainment Awards for Indy R&B Album of the Year for her album “Free Agent”, which she Executive Produced. She also wrote,arranged, and performed all the vocals.

When did you know you wanted to be a singer and follow this career path?

I knew I wanted to sing around the age of 13, and by age 17 I won a Teen competition. Winning the competition gave my confidence a giant boost, and from that day on I was hooked.

How did you get your start?

I got my start when one of my classmates (who was a singer) in Jr. High School dragged me to the Chorus teacher and made me sing in front of her. After I sang for her I was accepted in the school chorus and the journey of singing and performing began.

How were you discovered? What would you say was your first big break?

I would say that I was discovered by a very gifted producer from the Bronx named Sean because he put so much time, money, and effort into producing my first demo package. My first big break is happening right now with my Nomination from the Southern Entertainment Awards for Indy R&B Album of the Year!

How would you characterize your music?

I would describe my music as urban/R&B/pop. I listen to all types of music, but, I will forever love pure R&B because that’s what I grew up listening to.

What artists do you admire? Who were your musical idols growing up?

I had many music idols growing up, but, I would say the main ones were Teena Marie, Rick James, and Prince. I admire artists like Chaka Khan, Teena Marie, Mary J. Blige, Joe, Music SoulChild, Tamia, etc. And, my favorite rapper of all time will forever be Biggie!!

Just recently Fifty Cent and Kanye West had a friendly competition when their CDs were released. While promoting their music they mentioned how having this friendly competition helped inspire them to be better artist. What artists today motivate you and make you want to push your craft to the next level?

First, my motivation comes from just the pure love of singing and performing. I’m pushed by my thirst and passion for it. However, singers like Mary J. Blige, and Teena Marie definitely inspire me to go to higher heights.

What are the some of the advantages of being involved with the music industry? What are the disadvantages?

The advantage of being in the industry is I’m doing what I love to do. The disadvantages are that many things don’t work out the way I would like them to (business deals, etc.). The music industry is and will always be a hard business. I believe it’s probably harder for R&B artists today because hip-hop/rap has taken over.

How do you feel about rap music? Would you ever consider doing a collaboration with a rap artist and if so who and why?

I love hip-hop and rap music and I listen to it while navigating through Atlanta‘s heavy traffic, and definitely when I’m working out at the gym. I would love to do a collaboration with LL Cool J, Common, 50 Cents, and especially ‘Lil Kim or Eve.

What are the pros and cons of procuring a deal with a major record label (Sony, Universal, etc.) vs an independent label?

Well, I can only speak about being signed with Independent labels as I have not yet been signed to a major label. I would say that because independent labels have more to prove, and less people to deal with, the artist’s project will get more time and attention. The artist who is signed to a major label with major stars could possibly get pushed to the back until further notice.

Do you have a stylist or do you just have an eye for what looks good on you?
As far as my fashion, I am heavily into clothes and shoes. Living in New York for so long has given me the opportunity to see fashion first hand. I love to shop and I definitely have an eye for what compliments my style.

I see you wrote all the songs and arranged all the music on your cd – “Free Agent.” How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing poetry and making up songs since I can remember so it’s just a natural thing for me to continue writing the songs I sing. Writing for me is a way for me to express myself and to get things off my chest. It’s a healing process – especially when I’ve been through some drama or pain.

Outside of your personal accomplishments, what have you loved about being an artist? What is your ultimate goal with your music?

I love singing and expressing myself through song. My highest hope and dream is to touch people in a positive way, and to help them through whatever it is they may be going through.

What has to happen to let you know that you made it? Do you have any other aspirations, like producing and writing for other artists?

I want my music to be successful enough to enable me to provide housing for our homeless children in America and beyond. Once I’ve built my first housing unit for kids to come to for shelter, food, recreation, and for spiritual guidance, I will know then that I have made it. I would also like to invest in other’s dreams – especially young artists coming up.

A lot of other artists have delved into other projects to diversify their funds and keep multiple streams of income. Do you have any aspirations to become an actress, start a fashion line or introduce a new fragrance?
I believe singers in a lot of ways are actors because we have to constantly act out a song (whether we feel like it or not) and convince the audience that we’re happy, sad, crazy, mad, etc.. Whatever the song says we have to be, we have to become at that very moment or else we’ll lose the audience. So, I would jump at the chance to do stage plays, t.v. or film. And, yes, I would certainly like to start a clothing line at some point in my career when the time is right.

What advice would you give to any new artist that are up and coming?

Stay around positive people who are motivated and focused on being successful in life. Let go of negative friends immediately. And, no matter how bad you want to sign the deal don’t do it without first speaking to a good attorney.

What’s coming up for Trinettal Love and where we can find out more information?
I am currently working on my upcoming album, which is due out later this year. You can check me out at http://ift.tt/2eG1i3Rto hear music and to see more photos.

Tags:2007 Southern Entertainment Award Nominee for Indy R&B Album of the Year!

2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio. It’s one of Canton’s proudest local attractions. There are 3 reasons the museum is located in Canton: 1. the American Professional Football Association, or now known as the National Football League, was founded in Canton in 1920; 2. the Canton Bulldogs were the first 2-time champions of the NFL in 1922 and 1923; 3. citizens of Canton in the 1960’s campaigned to earn the site designation for their city. The museum opened in 1963 and was expanded 3 times, the last expansion in 1995. More than 8 million fans have visited the museum since its opening.

Every year, nearly 700,000 people come to the Pro Football Hall of Fame festival that is held to honor the newest football players being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival is coming at the end of July, and people are already buzzing about this year’s events. This celebration includes 15 events planned over a 10 day period. People come from all over the United States to share the fun with Canton natives.

It takes a very dedicated staff, a team of more than 4,200 volunteers, and generous sponsors to put this huge festival together. About 225 volunteers from 35 different Emergency Medical Services agencies spend more than 2,276 hours at these festivities. They use more than 2,550 pounds of ice to provide 9,100 cold towels and 10,200 cups of cool water to guests and participants at the festival. More than $950,000 in sponsorships and donations are given by more than 180 corporate sponsors. Volunteers from 6 community organizations spend about 2,600 hours to serve guests at the beverage booths. They plan and stage all festivities, right down to every last, little detail.

Festivities include the Jackson-Belden Food Fest and Balloon Classic Invitational, the National Ribs Burnoff, the Enshrinees Dinner, the Timken Grand Parade, and the Enshrinement Ceremony. The Food Fest is just that: dozens of booths lined up to serve guests greasy fair fries, large elephant ears, funnel cakes, root beer floats, etc. It takes place at the Stark/Kent State University. At the same time, there is a balloon liftoff. The Balloon Classic Invitational includes dozens of balloons from different companies that sponsor the event. They are more creative every year, and have included a dragon, a piggy bank, and others. While the balloons “blow up” (nearly 1,600 gallons of propane are used to refuel the 70 hot air balloons that participate), there are sky divers to keep guests entertained. The National Ribs Burnoff takes place at the Stark County Fairgrounds. Anyone and everyone who claim to have the tastiest ribs compete to win the prize of being the best. The Enshrinees Dinner is where each member of the new class receives his gold Hall of Fame jacket.

The Enshrinement Ceremony is the central focus of the celebration. Each class member gets the chance to go up on stage and give a heartfelt acceptance speech. This event is nationally televised. It takes place at Fawcett Stadium. The 2007 Class of Enshrinees are Gene Hickerson, Michael Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Charlie Sanders, Thurman Thomas, and Roger Wehrli. They will all be formally inducted during this ceremony.

The 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame festival starts July 27 and will end August 4 with the Enshrinement Ceremony. Join Canton in this huge celebration! Or simply watch the live broadcast by ESPN on your television, but there is nothing like being one in the crowd here in Canton, Ohio.

Tags:2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival

2007 Summer Movie Roundup

The sound you may be hearing is either that of cash registers opening and closing or the gleeful cheers of Hollywood executives who witnessed the most profitable summer in movie history. As the season closed more then $4 billion was taken in from early May until the end of August. Why?

One likely reason was the release of 14 sequels and a remake. Hollywood has never been accused of originality but when moviegoers flock to the third and fourth films in a series and make them smash hits no matter how inferior, what incentive do studios have to risk money on new and original films?

Forty-six movies opened over the summer season and an astounding seventeen of them grossed over $100 million. But it appears that movie fans were going to the same movies as an even more astounding twenty-four flopped with several others under achieving based on their budgets and expected gross.

It was the summer of the 3’s as the expected battle for supremacy with the third film in the series played out with big numbers. Six ‘Part 3’s’ opened this summer and all six grossed over $100 million with four of them grossing over $200 million. Three of them grossed over $300 million. Spiderman 3 led the way grossing $336 million with Shrek The Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End not far behind. And while they raked in big dollars it was universally believed that all of them were the weakest entry in the series. Oceans Thirteen was the biggest disappointment of the group grossing $117 million. Rush Hour 3 was the biggest surprise of the group overcoming mostly bad reviews to quickly roar over the century mark. Only one of the films lived up to critical and audience expectations while making its big bucks and that was the return of Matt Damon as the amnesiac government agent in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Harry Potter continued its strong showing with a near $300 million gross for the fifth film in the series. Bruce Willis revived his Die Hard character for a fourth go around with Live Free or Die Hard and grossed an impressive $140 million. The superheroes of known as the Fantastic Four came back this summer and notched another $132 million to their arsenal despite horrendous reviews. Steve Carrell had another hit with Evan Almighty, yet another comedy that received dismal reviews but still grossed $100 million..

The biggest non-sequel hit of the summer was Michael Bay’s action/special effects extravaganza Transformers. The film grossed $309 million despite reviews that mirror most of Bay’s films: too frantically paced relying heavily on visuals with a thin story and little to no character development. Casting Shia LeBouf in the lead was a masterstroke as he is the new king to teenagers, especially girls.

Adam Sandler continues to defy critics with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, which grossed $118 million. John Travolta helped keep the movie the movie musical alive with Hairspray and the film topped out at just over $100 million.

The kings of the summer of 2007 may be two men who you may not know enough of but are sure to hear more of in the future and their names are Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan. Both men were part of two of the comedy sleepers of the summer that just happened to be the two best comedies of the summer. Apatow, director of 2005’s The 40-Year Old Virgin, directed the comedy Knocked Up starring Rogan as a twenty-something going nowhere in life who suddenly discovers maturation when a one night stand gets pregnant. The film received strong reviews and the public followed suit. Apatow also produced the teen comedy Superbad in which Rogan plays a supporting role and co-wrote the script. The raunchy comedy proved you don’t have to be rated PG-13 to grab an audience and its gross is headed towards the $100 million mark.

Two other sleepers this summer were 1408, a ghost story with John Cusack as a writer who stays in a very haunted room in a posh New York hotel. The film, based on a story by Stephen King, grossed $71 million. The other sleeper is less a surprise in it being a hit but more of a surprise in how big a hit it was. The Simpsons Movie brought out the die hard fans and even less die hard fans despite being able to see the show for free (Homer Simpson even points that fact out at the beginning of the movie and refers to the paying audience as “suckers.”). The film has grossed over $170 million, which is almost double what was first predicted.

Kids were well represented this summer with eight movies but, much like last year, kids seemed to prefer seeing the big hits over and over instead of sampling other films made for them. The aforementioned Shrek The Third led the way and the only other clear blockbuster was Ratatouille. Meet The Robinsons was also a solid hit. Surf’s Up was a mild hit but fell well below expectations. Underdog did mild business while Daddy Day Camp and Nancy Drew flopped.

One of last year’s sleepers was The Devil Wears Prada so, naturally, another similar film came out this year with less then flattering result. The Nanny Diaries, starring Scarlett Johansson, flopped.

Some big name actors didn’t fare too well this summer. Catherine Zeta Jones (No Reservations), Jane Fonda (Georgia Rule), Jennifer Lopez (El Cantante), Robert DeNiro (Stardust), Nicole Kidman (The Invasion), Robin Williams (License To Wed), Jet Li (War), Kevin Bacon (Death Sentence), Kevin Costner (Mr. Brooks) and Samuel L. Jackson (Resurrecting The Champ) all appeared in flops.

Three movies you wouldn’t expect to see in summer, because of subject matter, star power and award implications, came and went quietly thus proving audiences don’t want to get serious until fall. Despite strong reviews and possible nominations early next year, Bug (Ashley Judd), Evening (Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Vanessa Redgrave) and A Might Heart (Angelina Jolie) all disappeared quickly.

Three films that barely registered a blip on the box office, deservedly so based on the reviews, were Delta Farce, Hot Rod and D.O.A. – Dead Or Alive.

Lindsay Lohan’s personal problems carried over to her film career. After back-to-back flops (Herbie Fully Loaded; Just My Luck) the last two summers Lohan came back with two movies that no one went to see. Georgia Rule was a comedy that was too dramatic and not funny enough and I Know Who Killed Me was a thriller that didn’t thrill.

Interestingly scary films also failed badly this summer. Apparently studios better get on the ball and realize their target audience doesn’t want to be scared until October gets closer on the calendar. On the very last weekend Rob Zombie’s atrocious remake of John Carpenter’s classic Halloween grossed over $31 million on its opening weekend. With its small budget the film is already in the black. The news was not so good for the other six scary films to open. 28 Weeks Later, Hostel II, Captivity, I Know Who Killed Me, The Invasion and Death Sentence are all flops.

Now true movie fans can look forward to thinking again. As the leaves fall and the temperatures cool we can expect to be moved and enthralled by serious, talented filmmakers.

Tags:2007 Summer Movie Roundup

2007 Summer Movie Guide Part 2

Good Luck Chuck

Here is another summer film with the beautiful Jessica Alba and she’s paired up here with Dane Cook. This romantic comedy is about a ladies man by the name of “Chuck” who feels he just might be cursed. Every woman he beds enters marriage with the next man they meet. Single women then start to seek him out in hopes of eventually landing the man they were meant to be with. Things began to get very complicated though when he meets “Cam” and starts falling for her in true romantic comedy fashion. If he sleeps with her, will she find her Mr. Right with the next man or will she realize that “Chuck” is the one for her? “Good Luck Chuck” stars Jessica Alba, Dane Cook and Chelan Simmons. This will be Mark Helfrich’s directorial film debut. “Good Luck Chuck” will be released in theaters on August 27th.

License to Wed

Trailers for this film have recently been airing on television. Fans of the quirky series “The Office” will immediately notice that John Krasinski, the actor who plays, “Jim Halpert” is in this romantic comedy. You are cordially invited to attend the wedding of “Sadie Jones” and “Ben Murphy”. Or are you? It seems that these young kids are ready to take the next step in their lives. They feel they’re ready and “Sadie” would love for “Reverend Frank” whom she’s known since she was a small girl, to do the honors of marrying them. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong! “Reverend Frank” has a few requests since he doesn’t feel that they are quite ready yet, before he will agree to anything including taking care of twin robot babies. Yes you heard me right, twin robot babies! I mean they’re the same as real babies right? “License to Wed” stars Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, John Krasinski and Eric Christian Olsen. It is directed by Ken Kwapis. “License to Wed” will be released in theaters on July 4th.

Hairspray

This is based on the Broadway musical as well as the 1988 film by the same name. I’m sure fans of the stage or John Waters know the plot but in case you don’t, here’s the lowdown. A heavy set teen by the name of, “Tracy Turnblad” has one goal in life and it’s to star on the “The Corny Collins Show” to show off her dancing skills. When this finally becomes a reality, she realizes the show isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. The African American kids are only allowed to dance once a month and she decides to change that. “Hairspray” has a star studded cast with John Travolta, Amanda Bynes, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Marsden and Allison Janney. It is directed by Adam Shankman. “Hairspray” dances its way into theaters on July 20th.

Evan Almighty

This is the sequel to the box office hit, “Bruce Almighty” that was released in 2003. This comedy revolves around the life of “Evan Baxter” who suddenly gets a visit from God himself after moving to Virginia. So what does God have in store for him? Well apparently he’s elected “Evan Baxter” to build him an entire ark because a flood will soon be coming. Where’s Noah when you need him? “Evan Almighty” stars Steve Carrell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, Wanda Sykes and Molly Shannon. “Evan Almighty” floats its way into theaters on June 22nd.

Tags:2007 Summer Movie Guide Part 2

2007 NFL Draft: Projected Picks 22-32

22. DALLAS COWBOYS– CB Aaron Ross (6’1”, 192) Texas

Dallas needs help in the secondary and Ross is a great pick. He is a hometown boy coming from the Longhorns and he has great size and speed. With the Cowboys woes in the defensive backfield he could be starting across Terrence Newman at season’s end.

23. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS– WR Sidney Rice (6’4”, 202) South Carolina

The Chiefs have a nice high powered offense, but with players getting older they need some help and Sidney Rice is a great fit. He has great size and hands, lacks great speed, but he makes up with it with his length and ability to get separation. He could be a fit for small corners especially out of the slot.

24. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS– LB Paul Posluszny (6’2”, 238) Penn State

This could be a stretch for Posluszny because he has a chance to even fall to the second round. But he played both inside and outside linebacker in college so he could fit either place for the Patriots. He has great character and seems to be a Belichek guy. He could be a great fit.

25. NEW YORK JETS– DE Anthony Spencer (6’3”, 266) Purdue

With this pick the Jets could pretty much take anyone. Greg Olsen is a possibility after his great combine, but they need help at running back and cornerback and with the premier guys gone there is nobody left at those positions that would be a good pick at number 25. The Jets have a high possibility to trade up or down with this pick.

26. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES– WR Robert Meachem (6’3”, 210) Tennessee

It seems like the Eagles always need help with wide receivers every off-season and this one is no different. Stallworth could be gone so they need a playmaker on the outside to help McNabb come back smoothly after a season ending injury. Meachem is a big time playmaker who could fit in well at Philadelphia.

27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS– CB Marcus McCauley (6’1”, 205) Fresno State

The Saints need big time help at corner and McCauley could do that for them. They are aging in the secondary so the future needs to be recognized.

28. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS– LB Lawrence Timmons (6’3”, 230) Florida State

With the pick of Posluszny at number 24 they could shy away from Timmons. He has a lot of talent and potential but his off-season workouts have not been that impressive so he could fall to the second round. They could go with wide receiver, but the best one available is Anthony Gonzalez and I do not see him jumping into the first round. Offensive line is always a possibility and there are some good ones out there at this number.

29. BALTIMORE RAVENS– C Ryan Kalil (6’3”, 285) USC

You do not see many centers taken this early, but the Ravens need help with their interior offensive line. Ben Grubbs from Auburn would be a nice choice, but Kalil has more talent and upside. Kalil is a USC guy who has played under a pro-style offense so the learning curve will be minimal.

30. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS– S Michael Griffin (6’0”, 195) Texas

With Terrence Kiel’s off the field troubles the Chargers want to move him as soon as possible. If they do so they will need to fill in the whole left by him and the best safety available is Michael Griffin from Texas. He is a ball hawk and played at an elite level while at Texas. It might be to high to select him, but he will not be around for San Diego if they wait on him in the second round.

31. CHICAGO BEARS– TE Greg Olsen (6’5”, 250) Miami

Rex Grossman likes to spread the field and go deep and Greg Olsen is a tight end that can do both. He ran just above a 4.4 forty at the combine so he can extend the field and his size allows him to get open in traffic. He is a great athlete and fits the mold of a former Miami Hurricane tight end, Jeremy Shockey, but maybe not as crazy.

32. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS– LB Patrick Willis (6’2”, 240) Ole Miss

After winning the Super Bowl the Colts are still in a familiar situation; They have a great offense and an above average defense. Its hard to make their offensive better so they will go defensively and take Patrick Willis who could be the best linebacker in the draft. If they do not go with Willis, Brandon Siler from Florida would be a nice pick to round out the first round.

Tags:2007 NFL Draft: Projected Picks 22-32

2008 / 2009 Scion XD Test Drive & Review

In my continuing quest to find a suitable small vehicle to replace my 2000 Nissan Craptima, I stopped by my local Scion/Toyota dealership to take a spin in the Scion xD, a Yaris based subcompact. It replaces the Scion xA that was part of the original Scion lineup.

As luck would have it, the only xD models that the dealership had in stock were two “Release Series” limited edition Scion xD models in a reddish orange color known as “Hot Lava”. The Hot Lava model (website) offers not only a special paint job, but also some modifications to the stock xD model including a Damd Body Kit, lowering springs, and color accents within the dash and the cloth of the seats.

Exterior

The Scion xD is a little more attractive on the exterior than the Playdoh fun factory minivan shape of the 2009 Honda Fit that I reviewed a few weeks ago. The xD is more wagon shaped than hatchback shaped, with a pronounced bumper leading to a sloped hood. A thick rear pillar adds to the distinctive look (but kills some rear visibility inside).

The car has mirror mounted turn signal indicators (a nice safety feature) and the side view mirrors fold in to help reduce the chance of damage. The orange paint looks sharp, but seems to suffer from the same foggy clearcoat look I’ve noticed in a lot of Toyota models. The xd Hot Lava model’s lowered look, Damd body kit, and spoiler make the car look much sharper than the base model, but also mean you need to be on the lookout for speed bumps.

The only real knock to the exterior is the cheap plastic hubcaps on the vehicle.

Interior

The first thing you notice in the interior of the Release Series Hot Lava edition of the xD is the color orange. Lots of it. Dashboard trim is decked out in orange, creating a neat look that distracts you from noticing the rest of the dash is covered in rather cheap looking and feeling textured plastic. The controls are logically placed and within easy reach of the driver, but the controls for the air conditioning feel a bit cheap and because they were all rotary controls, made it a bit more difficult to find the position you wanted for air flow. The air conditioning also was slow to cool down the interior, a victim of sitting in the hot sun AND the all black interior.

The gauge cluster is unique, with a tachometer and speedometer spinning in opposite directions from the same point. It was tough to get used to during my limited test drive. I also found the amber/orange glow of the various instruments within the cabin to look decidedly low rent, especially compared to the nicely fashioned dashboard and lighting within the 2009 Honda Fit. Also troubling was the digital clock which looks a bit like something you’d get free with a magazine subscription.

Seating is not too bad for a car this size. The door intrudes a bit on my fat legs when driving, but I felt comfortable driving. I would have liked a bit more leg room for my six foot length, but the car was comfortable enough for daily commuting. The back seat is also somewhat tight, but with the seat all the way back, my wife and daughter were able to sit comfortably.

The xD’s interior storage capacity pales in comparison with the Honda Fit, especially the rear cargo area, which looks like it might be able to accommodate a few days worth of groceries, if that. With the seats folded down, though the interior capacity becomes adequate for moving larger items.

Visibility is good, though not as good as the 2009 Honda Fit. The rear pillars in the vehicle could create issues for drivers who aren’t used to using their side mirrors for positioning.

I was not able to test the stereo like I wanted to. The car includes standard iPod and Aux jack connections for an iPod/mp3 player, but unfortunately the jack was not a USB port. With regular FM, the stock radio sounded fine, with adequate dynamic range for a stock system.

Driving

The salesperson who went with me on the test drive seemed slightly annoyed that I wasn’t going to buy that day, so I was only able to do a limited run on my test drive. The car’s acceleration was adequate with four passengers, enabling me to get onto a busy road with minimal fuss. The accelerator and brake both had a nice feel, making the car instantly easy to drive. For a small car, the ride was reasonably quiet, but bumps and road feel were much more pronounced than in the xB I drove later that day.

The only downside to the car was the electric steering system, which provides too much disconnect from road feel when steering. Apparently this is a problem with many Toyotas. To me, this made the car a little less fun to drive than the fit and made it feel a little less safe because of the missing feedback transmitted through the steering.

Overall, though, I found the xD’s drive a bit more pleasant than the Honda Fit’s at least during the limited test drive. The brakes and accelerator felt more in tune with the way I drive, and the custom interior made me feel like I was driving something people were likely to notice. My guess is that over time, I’d probably appreciate the Fit more than the xD, but the car certainly was nice transportation for its class.

Conclusion

The Scion xD, especially in the Hot Lava Release Edition, is a nice looking and driving vehicle. While it is not the equal to its best competitor, the 2009 Honda Fit, the xD offers nice transportation with lots of customizable options available through your Scion and aftermarket dealers. As an added bonus, its no haggle pricing and higher availability means that you’ll probably wind up paying far less for the xD than the heavily marked up 2009 Honda Fit

Pros

-Nice ride.
Highly customizable
Unique looks for the class
Lots of standard safety features

Cons

-Interior looks and feels cheap in spots
Electric steering feels vague
Customizing the car can jack the price up quickly
Unique=ugly to many people
Minimal cargo space without folding rear seats

LINKS TO OTHER SCION REVIEWS

U.S. News and World Report’s Assessment Based on a Compilation of Reviews

Edmunds reviews of the xD

Cars.com review of the xD

NOTE: This review is of the 2008 Scion xD, but the vehicle remains essentially unchanged for 2009.

Tags:2008 / 2009 Scion XD Test Drive & Review

2008 ATP Grand Slam Odds - Roger Federer Grand Slam Win-Total Odds

Okay, after having won three Grand Slam titles in three of the last four seasons, there’s not much question that the world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player, the incomparable Roger Federer, is a lock to win at least another three slams next season right?

Not only that, but Federer also possesses a very strong possibility of winning his first French Open title in 2008 to complete a career -and calendar – Grand Slam.

While that may be the popular thinking among most tennis fans, this article will give tennis fans and bettors several reasons to think that the indomitable Federer, will have a slightly tougher road to a Grand Slam tile in 2008 than at any time of his incredible four-year domination of the sport.

Here is a look at Federer’s 2008 Grand Slam victory total odds at mostt online sports wagering web sites.

None +1000

One +400

Two +160

Three +180

Four +750

Analysis: While it is an indisputable fact that Federer has won three Grand Slams in each of the past four seasons, I fully believe that, not only is Federer going to have a tougher road to winning his usual three titles and his first possible French Open title in 2008, but that he is actually going to take a step backwards next season in Grand Slam titles.

Let me explain before the free offers for psychiatric advice start to follow.

First off, I believe the improvement in one player alone – Novak Djokovic – is going to cost Federer at least one Grand Slam title in 2008.

If you saw Djokovic fall to Federer in the final of the U.S. Open, not to mention the spectacular growth he showed during the season, and you can easily arrive at the same conclusion that Djovokic is ready for a Grand Slam breakthrough in 2008.

The young Serbian won five ATP titles in 2007 and reached the finals at the ATP Masteries at Indian Wells as well as the U.S. Open Finals where he fell to Federer, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-4 in an absolute thriller in his first Grand Slam finals appearance.

Djokovic also went a solid 19-4 in Grand Sklam play losing only to Federer and Rafael Nadal, the world’s No.1 and 2 players. Djokovic’s 43 hard court wins were just one less than the leader, Federer managed, and I’m going on record right now to say that Djokovic wins his first career slam title in 2008, likely the Slam of the year, Australian Open.

I’m also going to go with Nadal to win his fourth consecutive French Open, leaving Federer with the two most prestigious titles in the world, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Now, I won’t even mention the fact that, should Hall of Fame inductee Pete Sampras, the all-time men’s career leader in Grand Slam titles, make any sort of comeback, particularly at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Federer could, (gasp), win only one Grand Slam in 2008.

While nothing is set in stone, not even Federer’s three annual Grand Slam victories, one thing is certain, the 2008 ATP season figures to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.

ATP Free Pick: Even if Sampras makes a brief comeback to play in select events, I like Federer to win at least two (2) Grand Slams in 2008. Again, I genuinely see either Djokovic or a come-backing Sampras, taking one of Federer’s Grand Slam titles away In 2008, most likely Djokovic.

So, my Grand Slam number for the world’s No. 1 player in 2008 is two (2).

Just remember, when it happens, you heard it here first.

Tags:2008 ATP Grand Slam Odds - Roger Federer Grand Slam Win-Total Odds

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