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Can You Keep A Secret?

Don't tell anyone this, but ... I think I might be addicted to American Idol.

I know, I know. With the notable exception of The Apprentice and MTV's Newlyweds, I have long opposed the proliferation of reality TV. In fact, American Idol has actually been a frequent target of my criticism of the genre because of its overwhelming popularity.

I admit to having watched the audition episodes every year because they've always been damn funny. However, I inevitably tune out once the real competition starts because the spectacle never really catches my interest. To me, it was like a glorified Star Search. I've also never bought into the karaoke craze either, something which I am sure has contributed greatly to the show's following.

So I've long bemoaned reality TV, particularly American Idol; yet here I am coming out of the closet to confess that I have been secretly recording every episode with my DVR since this newest season began, even after the auditions were over. Being the thoughtful person that I am, I had to wonder: What brought about this sudden interest?

Upon reflection, the answer was clear: It's the talent and, perhaps more important, the personality of this season's contestants. Although I never really paid much attention to past contestants, I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I say that the talent was never really mindblowing. Kelly Clarkson, whom I like very much, has been the only one who has actually achieved pop star status. (I mean, the girl won a Grammy this year, which is amazing when you consider where she started from.) All the other contestants have pretty much disappeared because they were completely forgettable, with last year's Carrie Underwood being a possible exception.

I would hesitate to call any of this year's contestants a breakout star, but there's some definite talent there. More importantly, from my prospective at least, is that many of this year's competitors are exceedingly likable. That's what has really gotten me hooked on the show this time around. I want to see some of these people win, and that's what keeps me watching.

With that said, who are my favorites then? Well, I absolutely love Kellie Pickler, as I'm sure many, many other people do as well. She has an incredible back story, a fantastic personality, looks adorable, and can actually sing (oh yeah, there's that). Unfortunately, I don't think she has the talent to win, but I think her endearing presence will carry her far.

So who do I think will win? Honestly, I think the field is so close this year that it's too early to pick a winner yet. If it were up to me, I'd choose Chris. From his initial audition, I have always thought he has had the most talent and charisma. He has a kick ass voice, but the question is is whether people will vote a rocker in as the next Idol.

From the girls, I would pick Katharine. She's attractive, charming, and has a great voice. I think she's got the whole package. Of the others, I'd be remiss if I didn't give a nod to Taylor. I get a kick out of each of his performances. I dig his voice and his Ray Charles-que dancing gyrations are fun to watch. Those are the three that I'm rooting for this year.

I like Lisa as well, and Paris has pipes, but I'm not a fan of her personality -- she's a great performer but a little too cocky for my tastes. Mandisa can wail and Elliott's pretty good, but I just don't think they have the "It" factor. The rest? Well, they can all go home in my opinion.

Holy crap, did I just spend ten paragraphs talking about and analyzing American Idol? Dear god, I really am addicted.

Hello, Stranger

Why, hello, Old Man Winter. It's been awhile since we've last met. I thought that you had already packed it up for the year and gone, but it's good to see that you're still alive and kicking.

For the past month, someone named Spring has been masquerading around in your stead. Mild temperatures reaching up into the mid-50s, people walking around in short-sleeves and sunglasses, eating at tables on the sidewalk - it seemed more like mid-March than the middle of January. Some people were actually declaring winter over and done.

Well, you certainly showed them. And thensome. The biggest recorded blizzard in history sure does prove that this is still your time of year, and that we better respect. (Twenty-six inches of respect, in fact.)

I, for one, am glad, to see your comeback because I'm one of those people that actually enjoys winter. To see the spring-like temperatures of the past month troubled me. I took it as yet another indication of the damages occuring to our global climate that are caused by our abuse of the environment. Even if it could be explained away by another cause though, that kind of weather just didn't feel right. I like bundling up against the cold, witnessing the beauty of freshly fallen snow, and seeing my own breath as I breathe. It's winter, a natural part of the cycle of the four seasons of the year. For it to be absent was not right.

So I welcome you back heartily, old friend, to your proper place in the order of things. You certainly made up for your absence in one short day, although it would've been nicer if you had spread the love out over a few separate storms instead. But I'm not complaining. It's just good to have you back. (Now, if I had to shovel all this snow, I might be feeling a little differently.)

Super Bowl XL

They might as well have called this one the Detroit Hold-Up, because that's essentially what happened tonight in Super Bowl XL as the Seattle Seahawks were robbed.

Okay, okay, "robbed" might be a little strong. But the officiating was awful tonight, especially on a few critical calls that cost the Seahawks a fair shot at winning the thing. The big ones:

  • The offensive pass interference call on what should have been Seattle's first touchdown. Yes, technically he did give a slight push-off, but it didn't make any difference in the result of the play. This is the Super Bowl for crying out loud. You've got to let the players play, not call ticky-tack fouls like that. I'm watching to see the players determine the winner, not the men in stripes.
  • It was close and will probably be widely debated, but I don't believe that Big Ben broke the plane when Pittsburgh scored their first touchdown. The on-field official gave a very delayed TD signal. What he should have done if he wasn't sure was to call it down before the end zone and let it go to replay. It's harder to take away a touchdown than it is to award one.
  • The phantom holding call on the play where Seattle completed a long pass down to the Steelers 1-yard line when the score was 14 - 10. Even Michaels and Madden thought it was a bad call. I thought this was bigger than the Big Ben TD, as a couple of plays later Hasselbeck threw a big interception. Instead of being up 17 - 14, Seattle ended up down 21 - 10. A huge momentum swing. The ridiculous cut block foul on Hasselbeck on the ensuing return didn't help either.

I went into this one without really caring who would win. My only hope, as with any Super Bowl where the Giants aren't involved, was to just to have a close, entertaining game. But due to the bad calls, I found myself rooting for the Seahawks as the game progressed because I felt they were being cheated. I can't imagine what Seattle fans must be feeling when I, as a neutral fan, even feel outraged.

Despite the bad calls, however, the Seahawks still had their chances. They hurt themselves with way too many dropped passes, dumb penalties, and some downright atrocious clock management at the end of each half. I mean, what in the world was the coaching staff thinking having a run play at the end of the 1st half with time winding down? And then the playcalling at the end of the game made no sense. Go for the field goal and on-side kick!

In the end, the Steelers might just have been a team of destiny this year. Has any team had a playoff run filled with such incredible luck in recent memory? The Bengals' Carson Palmer tearing up his knee on the first drive; the Colts' inexplicable though not surprising choke (highlighted by Nick Harper running himself into The Tackle); and Denver's embarassing self-destruction that saw Jake Plummer finally being Jake Plummer again. Thus the poor calls tonight were merely a continuation of good fortune for Steeler Nation this post-season.

It wasn't a great Super Bowl, but it was certainly entertaining to watch because of how strange the whole game was. But when history looks back, the little details aren't going to be remembered. The only things that will be remembered about this Steelers team are the storybook ending of the Bus's career, and of course, The Tackle. Perhaps it wasn't the prettiest ending to their title run, but it certainly was fitting.