Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Survivor: Micronesia wrap-up

Another Final Tribal Council is in the books, and I have some parting thoughts on the sixteenth season of the show. I have heard people say that this was one of the most entertaining seasons of Survivor ever. I'm not inclined to disagree, but that distinctive came at the expense of strategy. It is not uncommon to lament the lack of strategic players in the game, but the absolute idiocy of the male fans made a mockery of the game. I'm sure things feel different in the heat of the moment, but Jason and Erik (and to a lesser extent Mikey B and Joel) embarrased Survivor fans everywhere. I was not surprised that this season featured the first all-female final four; the women were strong and the men were not (a pleasant turn-about from previous seasons). Out of the entire cast, only a handful played a "good game" inasmuch as they did everything they could and did not make major mistakes: Jonathan, Eliza, Alexis, Natalie, Cirie, Amanda, and Parvati. My MVP for this season was runner-up Amanda. Though she did not win, she should have, and both she and Cirie were disadvantaged incredibly by a last minute twist of reducing the final three back to a final two. I agree with Survivor strategy analyst Professor Sadow who says that twists that fundamentally change the game like that are not okay to leave until the end. That last minute snafu was the reason Amanda lost, not her strategy. But perhaps this signals a return to the final two, which is much better anyway. In all, I would place this season in my top five, along with Cook Islands, Australia, All-Stars, and Fiji. Much like the first edition of All-Stars seemed to breathe new life into the series, it seems like Micronesia will energize the series for a few more incarnations. Amanda and Parvati would place in my top fifteen Survivor performances (not necessarily my favourites, and different from the list of best strategic games found here), in which I would also include the following: Richard Hatch (Borneo); Lex (Africa); Brian (Thailand); Rob C. (Amazon); Chris (Vanuatu); Tom (Palau); Danni (Guatemala); Cirie (Panama); Terry (Panama); Yul (Cook Islands); Ozzy (Cook Islands); Earl (Fiji); and Yau-Man (Fiji). Despite some mind-numbing moves and some rather weak competitors, Survivor: Micronesia did end up being one of the most entertaining seasons of Survivor, and it bodes well for the next edition in Gabon.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Unbe-Leaf-able

My beloved Maple Leafs made yet another mistake today: they fired Head Coach Paul Maurice. At first glance, it might seem like a good move. The team missed the playoffs during both of his years behind the bench, and by more in his second year (11 points) than his first (1 point on the last day of the season). It might have been inevitable, with the GM (John Ferguson Jr.) who hired Maurice gone since January, but this does not in any way make the team better. The facts that Maurice barely missed the playoffs with the team he had last year, and that they were not last in the league this year, are evidence enough of his coaching abilities. The reality is that JFJ made bad trades and signed players to deals that were way too expensive and restrictive, and no amount of coaching could undo that damage. The Leafs have at least four "albatross" contracts (Tucker, McCabe, Raycroft, Blake), a number of "once-heralded-but-not-really-developing" young players (Steen, Stajan, Wellwood), and some valuable players (Toskala, Kaberle). But what's done is done, and the Leafs now need to focus on getting in a solid GM who can bring in another solid coach and start getting rid of players. But the best I can figure is that we Leaf fans should expect at least another two non-playoff seasons before even getting to the playoffs again, and that we could be four to five years away from having a contending team. I really wish that the team had figured out that hiring a rookie GM would not work before he did all of this damage. Maybe the drought will hit fifty years after all.

Postscript: After two rounds, I have determined that I did not know hockey this year. I went 6-2 in the first round, but I picked only one of the conference finalists (Pittsburgh), and the two teams I picked to lose in Round 1 are two of the four remaining teams (Dallas, Philadelphia). My Finals picks are both gone, so I am going to change on the fly (pun intended) and say that Pittsburgh will defeat Dallas in the final.

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