Monthly Archives: April 2016

BTL Top 5 Friday: The Best Sports Movie Moments

Maybe they’re too cliché, maybe it would never happen in real life but you know what, who cares. Sports movies are there to make sure the good guys win, even if they don’t. Often they transcend the sport itself and become life lessons of what really matters. Time and again the best moments are there to give us that satisfying conclusion that we always wanted in the real world. Without out further ado, BTL’s Top 5 Sports Movie Moments:

Honorable Mention: Daniel Russo wins the All-Valley Karate Tournament

  • Usually don’t do honorable mentions but this and Hoosiers was too close to call.
  • Champions the underdog role that many sports movies on this list do.
  • Daniel’s determination to gut out a debilitating knee injury scores major points with me.
  • The final point scored by Russo in his “Crane” stance is sports movie legend.

5. Jimmy Chitwood sinks the game winning basket in Hoosiers

  • The ultimate backyard fantasy played out on the big screen.
  • Just enough cliché in the final moments (although that trap pass was pretty bad haha).
  • Jimmy hits the game winning shot and the little guy gets their day as everybody storms the court in pandemonium.

4. Team USA defeats the Russians in Miracle

  • One of the few on this list that was an actual historical moment.
  • The real Al Michaels call voice-over during the last minute really hit home.
  • The barely contained anticipation of the US team vs the maniacal desperation of the Soviets was nail-biting.
  • The final historic call still gives me the chills.
  • Herb Brooks emotional reaction in the tunnel is heartfelt.

3. Tony D’Amato’s pre-game speech

  • The title holder for “Best Sports Movie Speech Ever”.
  • Only Al Pacino could’ve pulled this off, his penchant for screaming and still owning the scene worked beautifully here.
  • I find it perfect that two NFL legends (Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor) are taking in this speech.
  • The speech transcends the game itself with its relation to life and the six inches in front of your face.
  • If you’re not motivated by that, you’re not human

2. Rudy gets carried off the field in his last game

  • This movie and more specifically this scene made me a Notre Dame fan.
  • The musical score that backdrops this is perfect. It has been used in many other cinematic features.
  • The very moment Rudy gets carried off the field nearly open the floodgates every time with me.
  • Throw in the historical aspect of this moment and that it has never happened at Notre Dame since just makes this all the more special.

1. Rocky goes the distance with Apollo Creed

  • In the ultimate metaphor for life and the quintessential sports movie underdog theme, the end of Rocky gets my top nod, and it wasn’t that close.
  • As I’ve said earlier, most of these transcend the sport itself. Rocky states before the fight that he knows he can’t beat Apollo, but he just wants “to go the distance” with Creed. No one has ever done that before. Who else in life has followed through on something when their prospects looked bleak at best?
  • I decided to go with the entire fight scene here because it really does build the apex of the moment perfectly.
  • As soon as the “Go the Distance” score begins (4:04), we see the persistent perseverance of Rocky take over as he suffers the beating of a lifetime from Creed.
  • But he doesn’t give up, he throws his punches back. And now it’s not just Rocky fighting for his life but the champ as well.
  • Everything crescendos in the 14th Rd. as Apollo knocks down Rocky for the final time; Micky tells him to stay down, Adrian suffers along with him and yet he gets up….Apollo can’t believe it…
  • Rocky nearly knocks out Apollo in the 15th Rd. but he is saved by the bell. Neither want a rematch as they can barely stand.
  • As the musical score bellows and pandemonium ensues Rocky only wants one thing; not the score card decision, not the fact that he was just apart of the greatest exhibition of boxing stamina in the history of the ring…..
  • He wants to tell Adrian that he loves her. And in the end, that’s all that ever mattered.

-MikeV87

BTL Top 5 Friday: Best Walk Off Finishes

In honor of Kobe Bryant’s last game Wednesday night I’m going to rank the best career walk off finishes from some of the greatest athletes over the years.

Just a quick moment on Kobe, that was one of the most memorable performances that I will never forget. I watched it with my 91 year old grandpa as we both watched way past his usual bedtime. Sharing that moment with my grandfather who has been a Lakers fan since he moved out here in 1969 was very special. He doesn’t get excited too much from sporting events but Kobe down the stretch in the 4th quarter had him fist pumping alongside myself.

On to the list:

#5 – Bill Russell beats the Lakers in Game 7 of the 1969 Finals

  •  He only scored 6 points but he was a vital part of the victory because he also coached the team as well.
  • Considered one of the greatest NBA upsets of all-time.
  • The last of the Russell’s and the 1960s Celtics championships, totaling 8 in all.
  • Russell saw flyers placed on every seat by Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke; Cooke had ordered thousands of balloons with “World Champion Lakers” printed on them to be dropped from the rafters of the Forum. The letter read that “when” the Lakers won, the USC marching band would play “Happy Days Are Here Again” and Chick Hearn would interview Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain in that order…….Russell circulated that flyer in the Celtics locker room before the game, stating, “Those fucking balloons are staying up there”.

#4 – Derek Jeter walks off in his final game at Yankee Stadium

  • Wasn’t his final game ever but his last at new Yankee Stadium (the house the Jeter built).
  • It almost never happened as the Yankee bullpen blew a 3 run ninth inning lead to force the Yankees to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
  • In typical Jeter fashion, he slaps a line drive the other way as his single drives in the game winning run.
  • Much like other people on this list, that game, that at-bat, personified everything that made Jeter a legend.

#3 – John Elway walks off with back to back Super Bowls (click link for highlights)

  • After years of losing in Super Bowls, Elway finally broke through in 1997 in SB XXXII.
  • The ’98 Broncos run was nothing short of dominant and his performance in that Super Bowl cemented that.
  • It was not a guarantee that Elway would retire after that Super Bowl win but almost everyone involved sensed it was his last rodeo (ala 2015 Peyton Manning).

#2 – Kobe Bryant drops 60 points in his final game

  • Some might accuse me of recency bias, but anyone who watched Wednesday nights game knows that they will remember that game forever.
  • It perfectly encapsulated everything Kobe Bryant. He went out with no bullets to spare.
  • His final 5 minutes of the 4th quarter to win the game was vintage Kobe.
  • And that is what made this so memorable, he played the entire 4th quarter to the point of exhuastion to WIN the game.

#1 – Michael Jordan hits the game winner in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals

  • I don’t care if he came back for the Wizards 3 years later. Everybody who watched the ’98 Bulls knew it was Jordan’s last dance. Kobe could make the same decision down the road, would that invalidate his “walk off” ending? No
  • Jordan did it on the games biggest stage. Even Kobe said on Wednesday night that the perfect ending would have been a championship.
  • The final minute of that game was purely all Michael Jordan (2:30 min mark and on)
  • I still to this day remember where I was and how I felt watching Jordan’s mid-range jumper catch all net. I might not have appreciated till much later in my life, but even nearly 20 years later, I remember.

 

 

The NFL Wine Cellar Team: Part III B.

I am back to finish Part III B of the offensive side of the ball for our Wine Cellar Team. You can find the previous parts of this series below:

Part I : The Concept

Part II: In Memoriam

Part III A. – The Offense

Now on to Part III B of the offense where we will cover the Tight Ends and Offensive Lineman.

Tight Ends (3)

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2011 Rob Gronkowski

Catches Yards Touchdowns Yards/Catch
90 1327 17 14.7

 

Over the last 20 years I’m not sure if there is a bigger disparity in the talent gap between the best player at his position and the runner-up, than tight end. Rob Gronkowski is the best in the game bar none. No one combines the blocking skills, receiving skills and overall mismatch threat than Gronk. He’s already trending to be the best tight end to ever play the game and it’s not even close. He is one of the few position players that radically shifts the balance of power when he is in the game. You’ve heard it since 2010, there are the Pats with Gronk and the Pats without him. Two completely different teams and the ceiling for offensive greatness is so much higher when he is 100 % healthy.

So why 2011 Gronk?

For one it is the only season that Gronk has been able to play and start in all 16 games. He set career highs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. In 2011 we get Gronk at 22 years old, pre-ACL injury and a full year removed from the back surgery that caused him to drop into the second round in the 2010 draft. He is a matchup nightmare for any human, species or alien. He’s literally one step removed from squaring off in those YouTube videos; Lion vs Cheetah, Alligator vs Python, Gronk vs Grizzly Bear.

He’ll have no problem forming a connection with ’07 Tom. He can be put in any situation; goal line (run or pass), no huddle. He will be part of our 6’4” and up package (more on that later). And he’ll be the life of the party during the grueling 8 week training camp leading up to the showdown with the aliens (read Part I if you’re confused). He’ll keep Tom Brady and Barry Sanders from getting too serious. The preverbal straw that stirs the drink. Aside from the off-the-field bonuses Gronk brings, his talent at the tight end position is undeniable. If the Wine Cellar Team needs a 4th and 15 bad, Gronk up the seam may just be the call.

 

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2013 Jimmy Graham

Catches Yards Touchdowns Yards/Catch
86 1215 16 14.1

 

The other no-brainer at tight end for this Wine Cellar Team. Both Gronk and Jimmy Graham broke out in 2011. In fact it is the greatest duel tight end seasons of all-time. It shifted the commodity of big, fast and athletic tight ends into a must have in today’s NFL. They even affected fantasy football to the point where these two guys were legit first round picks (unheard of before then).

But which year do you want from Jimmy Graham? His 2011 and 2013 year are some of the best in NFL history. He had more catches and more yards in 2011, but in 2013 he was more efficient and explosive with more touchdowns (16 vs. 11) and yards/catch (14.1 > 13.2). And he did all that in 2013 on 7 less targets. So I gave the nod to 2013 Graham. We still get Graham at his absolute peak age, 27, and he is a bit more seasoned by then. Given the fact that I foresee tons of two tight end sets, lack of playing time won’t be an issue for Graham.

The 6’4″ and up package: Just imagine, Gronk and Graham both on the line with ’98 Moss and ’11 Megatron split out wide. Who the hell are you going to double on the goal line?! What happens when I put a trips set to the right with Calvin, Gronk and Graham and then run a quick tight end screen to 6’7” 260lbs Graham as 6’5” 235 Calvin and 6’6” 265 Gronk block for Graham. That just might be the easiest 10 yards ever!

Having Graham allows us to play any way we want; left-handed, right-handed (aka when the defense wants to focus on taking a player away ala Belicheck) or two-hands tied behind our backs. We should be set at tight end but screw it, let’s go with another mismatch nightmare…

 

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2004 Tony Gonzalez

Catches Yards Touchdowns Yards/Catch
102 1258 7 12.3

 

The father of the too big, too fast and too freakish to cover tight end. Gonzo revolutionized the tight end position from a receiving standpoint. He holds every conceivable tight end record there is. He more than holds his own blocking which makes him a perfect fit to pair with Gronk in our run situations. As the third tight end in a goal line formation, how unstoppable is the block/slip pass on play action?

But question is, what year is the best from one of the most durable and consistent tight ends ever to play the game?

His 2000 and 2008 seasons also got consideration, which is a testament to itself, that’s nearly 10 years between peak seasons that could be considered for the Wine Cellar Team. 2000 was the more statistically proficient of the two, plus Gonzalez is at the ripe age of 24 in 2000. I ended up going with 2004 because he was able to corral more catches in his targets that he saw. In ’04 he also set career highs for catches in a season with (102) and receiving yards. Yes his touchdown numbers were down, under double digits, but in those mid-2000s years the Chiefs had two running backs both get over 20 plus touchdowns so I don’t downgrade Gonzo that much for the dip in scoring. If anything it highlights his goal line blocking which isn’t Gronk level but pretty damn good in its own right.

So there it is, those are the three tight ends I’m going to war with. We get a good mix of talents in all three of them. Graham shaded more towards the receiving end, Gonzo little bit more on the blocking side and Gronk, who is the complete tight end of all time.

First Cut:

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2009 Antonio Gates

Catches Yards Touchdowns Yards/Catch
79 1157 8 14.6

 

There are a number of years you could go with for Antonio Gates. 2003, 2004 or 2006. Every one of those years he posted an “AV” of 13 or above (2009 he tied a career high w/’06 in 14). It’s a shame that he can’t make this team, but I simply couldn’t roll with four tight ends and cut someone elsewhere more deserving. Gates was the second coming of Tony Gonzalez. In fact he even was a former college basketball star just like Gonzo was and later Jimmy Graham. And when you look at his production, it pales in comparison across the board to our top 3 tight ends. He deserves to get a mention here, when you think of dominant tight ends of the last 20 years, his name most certainly comes to mind.

Also Considered:

2009 Vernon Davis

vernon davis

Catches Yards Touchdowns Yards/Catch
79 965 13 12.4

 

I’m not sure there was ever a better NFL Combine performance than 2006 Vernon Davis. His sheer numbers forecasted the coming freakishness that we would soon grow accustom to from NFL players that should not move this athletically for being that big. Unfortunately there were only a couple of years that Vernon could actually put it all together (2009 & 2013). Part of it wasn’t his fault (Alex Smith and the carousel of QB’s) and some of it was. He deserves to be considered for his 2009 effort but ultimately we are pretty set at the position with our top three. Now, on to the big uglies….

 

Offensive Line (9)

*I am not a guru when it comes to offensive line play, few of us really are (except you Robert Mays). There was not a lot of quantitative stats to acutely judge offensive line play over different years. So we went with the Pro-Football-Reference.com “Approximate Value” (“AV Score”) as a guide and used some common sense.

But there was one individual who was an absolute no doubter to be one of the granite blocks of the Wine Cellar Team….

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1995 Bruce Matthews – Center

AV Score: 10

Arguably the greatest offensive lineman ever to play the game. He is the son of Clay Matthews Sr. (Offensive Tackle for the San Francisco 49ers from 1950-1955), brother to Clay Matthews Jr. (Linebacker who played 19 seasons for both the Browns and Falcons from 1978-1996) and uncle to current Green Bay Packers star Linebacker Clay Matthews III (2009-present). Besides the Manning’s, I’m not sure there is a better NFL family than the Matthews and Bruce is the best of all of them.

He played every single position along the offensive line during his 19 year career, primarily Right Guard, Center and Left Guard. 1995 was his first year playing LG but for this team he will be the starting Center because that was his best position during his absolute prime with the 1980s Oilers. Speaking of prime, that is the main reason why I’m going with 1995 Bruce Matthews, in ’95 we get him at 34 years old, the youngest possible age I could. Yes he’s no spring chicken but offensive lineman age better than any other position group in football outside of kickers and punters. And considering Matthew’s best “AV” year came in 1999 with the Titans at age 38, I’m not worried about his skills diminishing.

Plain and simple, I want Bruce Matthews at his athletically youngest and he will anchor the center of our offensive line for the Wine Cellar Team.

 

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1999 Orlando Pace – Left Tackle

AV Score: 20

One of this generations’ best left tackles, playing for one of the most electric and potent offenses ever. Orlando Pace was the stalwart of the left side of the ’99 Rams as he protected Wine Cellar Team considered QB Kurt Warner and current teammate Marshall Faulk. He is one of the few on this list that notched two years of O line “AV” scores above 20. His 2000 year (22) scored slightly better than his 1999 year (20) but at this point we’re really just splitting hairs. He represents the prototype I want in my left tackle. He checks every box in attributes, measurables and football IQ. Throw in the fact that he is just getting done with his third NFL year and is 24 years young is just icing on the cake. There were many tackles considered for this spot but no one who had a better overall claim to this crucial position than ’99 Orlando Pace.

 

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1995 Larry Allen – Right Guard

AV Score: 14

It has been said that Larry Allen was possibly the most physically strongest man ever to play the NFL game. He set records in the official bench press (705 lb. (320 kg)) and squat (905 lb. (411 kg)). He was also the main lynch pin of that vaunted 1990s Dallas Cowboys offensive line. 1995, his second year, he helped pave the way for Emmitt Smith’s career year and set a then NFL record with 25 rushing touchdowns. Allen gives this the Wine Cellar Team that road-grader offensive guard that every team needs. It only helps that he is one of the most physically imposing players ever to lace them up. There were other years that could’ve been considered but given the youth and athletic prowess Allen had in 1995, he gets the nod over his 1998 year.

 

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2003 Jonathan Ogden– Right Tackle

AV Score: 12

I was a bit torn here. There were not a lot of options to go with pure right tackles. The only tenured right tackle that got consideration was 1996 Gary Zimmerman from those late ‘90s Shanahan Broncos who were renowned for their zone blocking skill and helped catapult Terrell Davis into Wine Cellar consideration. But I went Ogden here instead because it’s basically a toss-up between ’99 Orlando Pace and ’03 Ogden for the right to starting left tackle which is the premiere position on the O line. Usually it is easier for any left tackle to kick to the right side of the line and perform better. Now Ogden has got massive size, standing 6’9” and at 340 lb. he will make up as physically intimidating of a right side of the offensive line being paired Larry Allen as we can get. Ogden will excel in pass blocking and he has the size to be a dominant right side blocker too. Which is part of the reason why I went with 2003 Ogden as he was a vital part to Jamal Lewis’ 2,000 yard campaign, and at age 29, Ogden is in his full prime with this team. So far I have; ’99 Pace, ’95 Matthews, ’95 Allen and ’03 Ogden, I have one more position to fill for my starting 5.

 

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1998 Randall McDaniel – Left Guard

AV Score: 18

With the physically imposing giants we have on the right side of the line, I went with elite athleticism at this spot. Randall McDaniel stands 6’4” at 287lb. and is a nimble of interior guard that you will find. It wasn’t out of the norm for McDaniel to be a fullback for both the Tampa Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings in short yardage and goal-line situations. I chose 1998 because that was his most complete year statically with an “AV” score of 18. Yes he will be 34 years old but were talking 8 weeks of training camp and one real game, he’ll be fine. Plus in ’98, McDaniel anchored one of the greatest offensives ever  with fellow Wine Cellar teammate ’98 Moss. In fact, I count on the familiar face and McDaniel’s veteran leadership to help guide the young Randy Moss should his attitude need an adjustment. All that is really just a bonus, McDaniel gets on here because of his elite athleticism meshes perfectly with ’99 Orlando Pace for our left side of the O line. So we have the power on the right side in ’95 Allen and ’03 Ogden, the left side is already spoken for, and everything held together in the center by the greatest offensive lineman to ever play in my opinion, Bruce Matthews, try and stop us.

 

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2003 Will Shields – Backup Right Guard

AV Score: 16

The constant in the Kansas City Chiefs running game from the days of Marcus Allen through the Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson years. There is a reason that the latter two were not considered for the Wine Cellar Team, not because they lacked the numbers or the talent but because Will Shields was the primary reason why the KC running game was so feared. In ’03 Shields helped Priest Holmes rush for a then NFL record 27 rushing touchdowns. Possessing ideal size and length, he is the number one option to slide in at right guard or even left kick to left guard. As a 12X Pro-Bowler, including 2X First Team All-Pro selection, there were many seasons to choose from. Given his experience and the heights he helped the Chiefs (13-3) and Priest Holmes reach in 2003, it was very hard to choose another year.

 

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1997 Dermontti Dawson – Backup Center

AV Score: 16

When it came to elite centers of the last 20 years there were two names that kept popping up. You already know the first (Matthews), Dermontti Dawson was the other. He was the Pittsburgh Steelers center for 13 years who peaked very late in his career. His best years were with those mid to late 1990s Steelers when he helped pave the way for Jerome “The Bus” Bettis on the way to a Super Bowl and numerous AFC Championship games. His 1997 season was his finest as he garnered one of his (7) Pro-Bowl nods and also one of his (6) 1st Team All-Pro selections in route to leading Pittsburgh to an 11-5 record and an AFCCG birth.

 

2006-08-30-hutchinson-toppe

2005 Steve Hutchinson – Backup Left Guard

AV Score: 16

For our other backup guard I’m going with Steve Hutchinson. A lineman who was the staple of the Seahawk led rushing attack and later the Minnesota Vikings. He opened up holes for some of the best running backs over the last 20 years (Shaun Alexander in Seattle and our Wine Cellar Team starter in “All Day” Adrian Peterson). Choosing a single version of “Hutch” was tough. He had the distinction of the best guard in football for most of the 2000s. I went with 2005 because then I get Hutchinson in his peak prime at 28 years old, but more so because he helped RB Shaun Alexander to his best season ever with 1,880 yards and tied an NFL record 27 rushing touchdowns. As the best player on a Seahawks team that went to the Super Bowl that year, he gets a spot on this team.

 

gary_zimmerman_1996_08_03

1996 Gary Zimmerman – Backup Right Tackle

AV Score: 14

This is the only pure right tackle to make the team. Zimmerman was a constant for the 1990s Vikings and the Denver Broncos. But it wasn’t till Mike Shanahan came to the Mile High City that Zimmerman reached his full potential. Gary Zimmerman was a master in the zone-blocking scheme that Shanahan deployed in the 90s. I went with 1996 because it was his highest “AV” score and I wanted to go with a wily veteran that had big time experience in big games playing right tackle just in case he is called upon. Zimmerman rounds out our offensive line for the Wine Cellar Team.

 

*I went 9 lineman in all; ’95 Bruce Matthews as the captain (he can back up all 5 spots if need be), athletic technicians on the left with ’99 Pace and ’98 McDaniel and physically imposing road-graders on the right with ’95 Allen and ’03 Ogden. And elite backups at every spot except LT which ’03 Ogden, ’95 Matthews and ’96 Zimmerman can all play there in a pinch.

First Cut:

willie_roaf_1995_09_24

1995 Willie Roaf – LT

AV Score: 15

The 11-time Pro-Bowler and 3-time 1st Team All-Pro who was long time left tackle for the New Orleans Saints and then finished his career with Wine Cellar guard Will Shields in KC. Roaf was a very tough cut but the dearth of players able to plat LT for this team simply made him expendable. Nonetheless, he was a stalwart in his prime and deserved recognition.

Also Considered:

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2005 Walter Jones – LT

AV Score: 15

Another very tough cut at the left tackle spot. He was Hutchinson’s running mate in Seattle for that vaunted run game. Unfortunately a lot of great left tackles didn’t make the cut.

 

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2005 Jeff Saturday – C

AV Score: 18

Extremely high “AV” score, in fact his three year “AV” score run from 2005-2007 is some of the best of any O lineman considered. But I simply can’t roster Saturday above ’97 Dawson and the god of our Oline, ’95 Matthews. Besides, ’05 Saturday would be probably pissed that Peyton Manning didn’t make the team. And I can’t have that.

 

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2005 Alan Faneca – LG

AV Score: 17

Tenured Pittsburgh Steelers guard. Anchored the line along with Demontti Dawson for the Jerome Bettis days. Aged like a fine wine into his 30s with his best year coming in ’05 and he capped it off with a Super Bowl.

 

-That will do it for Part III A. & B. for our NFL Wine Cellar Team 1995-2015. Stay tuned for the defensive side of the ball coming in about 2 to 3 weeks.

As always, like our page on Facebook. And feel free to leave your opinon if yu agree or disagree on the list. Thanks for reading.

-MikeV87

BTL Top 5 Friday: Best DBZ Screams

So I decided to start a new Friday theme post called BTL Top 5 Friday. This will not be a long form post of my opinion that you may be use to with The Wine Cellar Team and The Top 20 Television Seasons. The goal here is to be concise and to the point. I’ll put a brief description of the topic each Friday followed by a ranking, YouTube clips, pictures etc.

The first topic: The Best Dragon Ball Z Screams.

So why DBZ screams? Well for one it is a little random but I’m cool with that. And two, DBZ has been part of popular culture for over 25 years.

I’m not doing moments here, on this list we are looking for the best screams. I went with this because they often happen at a dramatic moment and single-handily enhance any scene.

Enough with the talk, on with the list.

#5- Goku’s Kamehameha vs Vegeta Galick Gun (Ocean Dub version )

  • Really the first epic battle of DBZ
  • Goku and Vegeta duel Ki blast for nearly 2 minutes
  • The first landmark moment of DBZ

#4- Goku goes Super Saiyan 3 vs Fat Buu

  • The first time we ever saw what Super Sayian 3 looked like
  • Extended screaming for like 5 minutes
  • You really felt the toll it took on Goku to pull this off

#3- Piccolo sacrifices himself for Gohan (Ocean Dub version)

  • Viewing the Ocean Dub version is important. The other versions suck.
  • An absolute heartbreaking moment to watch
  • Piccolo redeems himself

#2- Gohan defeats Cell with a one-handed Kamehameha

  • The entire Ki blast battle lasts nearly a whole episode
  • Vegeta blast builds the moment perfectly
  • Probably the single best shot in DBZ right after the scream, Gohan walking with one hand as he finishes off Cell
  • Very few screams are as good as 11 year old SSJ2 Gohan with the fate of the world on the line

#1- Gohan turns Super Saiyan 2 vs Cell

  • #2 use to be my hands down favorite. But as I got older I appreciate this one more.
  • It is not the first SSJ2 scream that is the best (though that one is an all-time great in its own right). But the second one when they start the next episode (from the 2:25 minute mark on) and he’s not quite SSJ2 yet.
  • Cell builds the scene perfectly as he tells Gohan to “let it all go”. You see the anger swell in his eyes.
  • The longevity of the scream gives me the chills every time
  • The astonishment of Perfect Cell saying “incredible” only builds the feat and moment
  • It is fitting that this is #1 because no one is more badass than SSJ2 Gohan during the Cell Saga.

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #12

As an aficionado of all things organized crime; history, movies, literary etc. It was considered a near travesty for those close to me that I had not yet watched The Sopranos despite being as well versed in television and the genre as anyone. My favorite movies are The Godfather and  The Godfather Part II. I eat up mob culture like a plate of spaghetti put in front of Tony Soprano. So what finally got me to fully invest in all 6 seasons in the fall of 2014? Two things. 1) Was that is was the last of the so called “Mount Rushmore of Television” (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Sopranos and The Wire) that I had yet to watch. Up until that point I had watched all the other shows and they were absolutely amazing. 2) It was the show that launched “The Third Golden Age of Television”. It re-wrote the book completely of what good television made you think and feel. If you want a deeper explanation of the 3rd golden age, check this piece I wrote back in September of 2015.

Before we dive in, here is the list so far:

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #20   The Top 20 Television Seasons – #19

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #18    The Top 20 Television Seasons – #17

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #16     The Top 20 Television Seasons – #15

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #14      The Top 20 Television Seasons – #13

#12 – The Sopranos Season 1 – Score: 30

Re-watchability: 7

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What initially grabbed everyone who watched Season 1 of Sopranos was the mob culture. Long has the public been enamored with “la cosa nostra”, just look to the massive success on the big screen with  The Godfather, Goodfellas and Casino. But never before had a television show decided to tackle the daily life inside the mafia before. I was particularly fascinated in the minutia of Tony Soprano’s day. How he ran his family as a capo of the DeMio Crime Family. The balance that he struck between a father who saw his kids off at breakfast and the intimidating force he became when he needed to settle things for the family business. Tony was our first extended look at the male anti-hero. He was not totally bad person, as he drove his daughter Meadow to go scout colleges. As any father would enjoy that bonding experience as a rite of passage in their relationship. But he wasn’t inherently good either. College was such a landmark episode because it showcased the duality of Tony Soprano and the balancing act he kept up. On their way to Colby College, Tony ends up committing a murder of a former member turned F.B.I. informant that he had spotted at a rural gas station. And Meadow is none the wiser. She did however ask if he was in the mafia. Which was the first time Tony had to explain his real life work to his daughter who was now becoming her own woman and not his still naïve little girl. Was Tony a good man? Was he a bad man? Does it even matter because I’m still rooting for him either way. That type of viewer connection is what paved the way for the Walter White’s and Don Draper’s of the world that would soon follow. Tony was TV’s first true male anti-hero.

And we still haven’t touched on the prospect of a mafia man of power going to therapy sessions. Dr. Melfi is as central a character as any in this series because she is a part of Tony’s life that he has no control over. She asks the tough questions, she gets him to talk about his feelings. Tony may not like it or understand it but she is the one who truly reveals that under the mask of mafia capo, he is just a human being who struggles with his own demons on a daily basis and that struggle is normal, it is expected. The Sopranos give us so much to consume; the modern day mafia way of life, the hedonism of there lifestyle and the social expectations within their own groups of friends. And all it really is, is a mask that everybody is expected to keep up no matter how you really feel on the inside. All these things made us ask questions, serious questions about the TV show we were watching and that is a good thing. Just like Dr. Melfi invokes those serious emotions in Tony Soprano, this show did the same to its viewer.

Acting Performances: 9

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The Sopranos won 4 Emmys in 1999. Those that were related to acting were Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano) for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series and the Outstanding Casting for a Series by Georiganne Walken and Sheila Jaffe (casting executives). Although James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) didn’t get an Emmy win in 1999, he later grabbed his first of three Emmys in 2000 for his immortal portrayal of Tony Soprano. I have already given enough credit to Tony; the job that Edi Falco did though, was nothing less than stellar. I already explained the duality that Tony had to keep up, Carmela experienced much of the same. A ardent catholic who whose devotion to her faith is only surpassed by her devotion to her family; always seemed to be caught in the middle of her duty as the wife of a mob boss and her morals as a catholic. Her fight beginning in season 1 is one many women behind the powerful man face, the battle of conscience. Her proformances were rewarded many times over by the academy for not just being Tony’s wife, but Carmela Soprano.

But it just wasn’t the lead Sopranos that should deserve mention. We get two recognized Goodfellas characters in the seasoned Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi) and grown up Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) as mainstays in Sopranos Season 1. In fact there were many transplants from Goodfellas to The Sopranos. We also got a plethora of mob characters that straddle the line of too cliché but also uniquely individual in Dominic Chianese (Junior Soprano),  Vincent Pastor (“Big Pussy”), Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante) and Tony Sirico as the comical Paulie “Walnuts”. All these characters rounded out a very full lineup of diverse and memorable Sopranos roles. Considering the sheer amount of talent in the cast, there are few television seasons that can match up. In fact, I’m not sure there is another season that can go toe to toe with the amount of quality acting across the board that Season 1 Sopranos gave us.

Season Plot Arc: 8

In my opinion, Season 1 was probably the best season plot arc from start to finish(although Season 5 came close). Sopranos started out with Tony experiencing panic attacks and in turn was prescribed therapy sessions, to which he was more than hesitant to begin with. This sort of thing simply wasn’t done, not by made men. He also had to deal with the turnover in leadership when the boss of the DeMio crime family, Jackie Aprile, dies. Both Tony and Junior (Tony’s much older uncle) fight for position of Boss. The tension didn’t start there though. Tony’s nephew, Christopher Moltisanti, had become embroiled in a feud with Junior and his crew over the death of Moltisanti’s friend Brendan. If that wasn’t enough, Tony has more than enough to deal with at home as he continues his difficult relationship with his mother, as she needs to be put in a nursing home, which she vehemently opposes. His daughter Meadow finally finds out the truth of his real occupation on there trip to visit colleges. And his son A.J. is beginning to act out. Tony chalks it up to normal teenage mischief but the school is concerned that it may a personality disorder which drives Tony up a wall.

Junior is eventually named acting boss of the family and his feud with Tony has come to a stand still, for now. But Livia (Tony’s mom) finds out that Tony has been seeing a therapist through her conversations with A.J. She confides in Junior about the news as he is the only one who seems to understand her. They are unnerved at the prospect of him talking to an “outsider”. This leads Junior to attempt to consolidate power within the family, which means only one thing, he plans to murder Tony Soprano. All with the blessing of Livia too. Tony meanwhile has slipped into a chronic depression as he starts to feel the affects of the Lithium pills Dr. Melfi has prescribed. Junior contracts two outsiders to do the hit on Tony. The initial attempt on Tony fails as Christopher decides to follow him for protection. He inadvertently stops the attempt accidentally. The hit men try again, only this time Tony sees it coming just in time. In what is probably the best single moment of Sopranos (see Defining Moment below), Tony manages to fight off both men and barely escape with his life as one assailant accidentally shoots the other as Tony dodges the gun shot. He fights off the last assailant as he twist the gun barrel away from himself as he is speeding away in his car. Momentarily invigorated by cheating death, Tony loses sight of the road and crashes into a parked car, ultimately injuring his leg.

Back at the hospital, FBI Agent Harris tries to convince Tony to turn state’s evidence and go into Federal Witness Protection Program. Carmela likes the idea but Tony refuses to entertain it. He chalks it up to a simple car jacking. All the while Tony’s crew suspect something afoul with Junior and his motives.

Finale/Cliffhanger: 6

No big twist, no massive cliffhanger. But shows this outstanding usually don’t need to rely on these common formalities for most TV shows. The finale really just wrapped up everything pretty nicely for everyone involved. Tony eventually is able to confirm what he suspected, both Junior and his mother were behind the assignation attempt by listening to the F.B.I. tapes of both them talking at the retirement home. Tony reveals to Dr. Melfi that she was right about his possible mothers involvement and suggests that she go away for awhile because her life is now in danger. I thought this finale had a chance to be great when Tony organizes the hit of Junior and some of his crew but that mostly falls apart through outside forces. While both Christopher and Paulie are able to whack Mikey Palmice (Junior’s right hand man) for Brendan’s murder, Junior and the rest of his crew end up being arrested by the F.B.I. for charges relating to a telephone calling-card and stock-fraud scams. Instead of death, Junior is offered a deal. He will let Tony be the real boss of the family in all but name, calling the shots behind Junior’s back as he sits jail. Tony even momentarily attempts to kill his mother but that falls through as he learns she suffered a stroke. As she is wheeled by, he tells her he knows what she did, he perceives her as smiling, he has to be restrained and proceeds to storm out.

Through all the turmoil of season 1, Sopranos season 1 ends with Tony and his family taking refuge in Nuovo Vesuvio (a friends restaurant) during a terrible thunderstorm. They dine with Silvio, Paulie and Christopher as Tony asks his family to appreciate the little moments that were good.

Defining Moment:

The hit on Tony Soprano: S1E12

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-Mikev87

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #13

I am back after a little hiatus I took the last two weeks to prepare for my three fantasy baseball drafts. I know, you don’t care you who’s on my team so lets get back to my TV rankings now.

Coming in at #13 I have the smash FX hit Sons of Anarchy Season 4.

Couple things, this marks the first time a show has made this list with a season coming in at #3 or later. So far every season has made the cut in their first two years. And it shouldn’t surprise you because a show’s first couple years are often the backbone of what makes it a possibly great or transcendent show. But to have a seasons make it after the first two years show remarkable work on the part of show runners. The audience already knows what to expect, not a whole lot of tricks you can show them that they haven’t already seen. What makes these later seasons so memorable? Well they often lay the groundwork for a shows legacy, and that my friends it what makes some of these shows all time greats.

Here’s the list so far:

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #20

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #19

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #18

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #17

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #16

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #15

The Top 20 Television Seasons – #14

#13 – Sons of Anarchy Season 4 – Score: 29

Re-watchability: 8

I have always looked back on Season 3 of Sons as the last season everyone really liked each other. Season 4 began the slow unravel of buried secrets and later the club itself. Season 4 marked a lot of changes. The club was starting to transition in their leadership from Clay to Jax. Only one problem, as we saw in the promos and the first episode, Jax wants out. After the wild and draining campaign to get his son Abel back, plus a lengthy prison stint, SAMCRO’s budding king wanted a new future for himself and his new family. And that wasn’t going to happen with Clay making a deal in prison for the club to not only sell guns to the Galindo cartel, they also muled their drugs for them too. Even the club has standards but the money was too good for an aging Clay to pass up. Bring in a new law enforcement, the San Joaquin Sheriffs led by Eli Roosevelt (very underrated in his time with SOA) and the drama was set to go at any time.

It didn’t just go, it exploded. From the execution of the Russians in episode 1, the dangerous association to the cartel to, oh yeah, lets not forget this entire time they’ve been under the watchful eye of assistant US Attorney Lincoln Potter. He has everything, names, ranks, known associates etc. What he doesn’t have is the hard proof, he doesn’t have an in to the club, that is until Juice turns in the first part of season 4.

But what really made this can’t miss television is the secrets. The lies that Clay and Gemma buried along with Jax’s father John Teller. That Tara knows, that Piney suspected. And when will Jax eventually find the truth. Every week I tuned in to see what lie would be peeled further back. Have a knot in my stomach has Piney dug further and further into Clay, and knowing that the old man was digging his eventual grave at the same time. Wondering when Tara would just tell Jax the truth and then wait for the mother of all rage and anger to be released on Clay. A popular line said by my friends and I during the season 4 run was, “no way Clay isn’t dying next week”, “no way Juice makes it out alive”. Episode after episode, I was amazed at how they could double down on the drama and keep raising the stakes.

Acting Performances: 5

SOA has never been nominated for an acting Emmy. And that doesn’t bother creator Kurt Sutter because he doesn’t care. He knows the ratings speak for themselves. Having said that, in this category, I have to go with an average rating here. And anyone who watches SOA would agree that the acting isn’t the reason why they continue to tune in every Tuesday night. The drama however is and I think a few actors should deserve their due. Obviously first and for most Charlie Hunnam (Jax Teller),  being a badass biker outlaw doesn’t scream Emmy. Being a flawed man who everyday fights for legitimacy in his own club but also his life, that is great acting. I would say more but I have a clip that I absolutely love and always point to when discussing the depth of Jax Teller:

Another person that should get a quick due is Ron Pearlman (Clay Morrow). It is easy to be a good character and applauded, it is far more difficult to be a hated character and still do a masterful job of making me hate your guts. Katy Segal (Gemma Morrow) should also get a nod for constantly straddling that line of aggressor/survivor when it came to the truth of John Teller. And also Ryan Hurst (Opie Winston) for his eventual growth into the lion of SAMCRO. His moral center is what kept this club grounded but his sheer ferocity in the confrontation with Clay in Burnt and Purged Away is one of the defining dramatic cliffhangers the show has ever done.

Season Plot Arc: 9

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I don’t think there has ever been a season that built the drama episode to episode to a near fever pitch than Sons Season 4. One of my main recurring lines during this season was, “how the hell are they going to get out of this”. The fact that Tara had the letters, drama! Juice turned on the club and then killed a club member and covered it up, drama! Then Juice tried to hang himself, drama! I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Between the internal strife with the club about drugs, John Teller’s death, outside threats of other cartels and the feds following them every step of the way, it was like the club was fighting a 5-front war with no end in sight. Clay even tries to end the John Teller threat once and for all and orders a hit on Tara, which ultimately fails. But with so many secrets, eventually something comes out. Piney’s death led to Opie’s discovery, which led to Unser revealing that Clay was behind the deaths of the two most recent Winston’s. Which eventually led to Opie’s attempt on Clay’s life and one of the series best “oh shit” moments. At the heart of this all was the unavoidable path of Jax ascending to the throne. No one was more challenged and tested than Jax was in Season 4. Even though he didn’t want it, his destiny had other plans. He eventually found out the truth of Jon’s death, at least the truth as Gemma saw fit. He had every intention of killing Clay, and getting out of SAMCRO. But fate as it would have it, had different plans.

Finale/Cliffhanger: 7

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The ultimate “how the fuck are they going to get out of this” moment came at the very onset of the finale. With a whole season’s worth of intel on the Sons and the Galindo Cartel, the Feds were ready to raid the upcoming weapons exchange, till we see Romeo and Luis walk calmly up to the Federal officers with CIA badges!! Damnit Kurt Sutter, always saving the trump card for when you finally need it. So there would be no over bearing law enforcement threat hanging around in the finale like there was in Season 3. All that was left was club business and the cartel business. Jax layers meets with Galindo and they inform him that their relationship must continue, with Clay, as he is the only member the Irish trust to run their guns. Pull out of the cartel and Galindo will let the Feds crush SAMCRO on the RICO case. Jax has no choice but to agree to keep the deal going and let Clay live as well, but with stipulations. Clay will be stripped of his president patch and will be reduced to the status of an unseated member.

Jax also makes the decision to stay in the club, as he says to Tara, he can’t let his club die. Jax calls a church meeting at the clubhouse. While not as strong as it once was, SAMCRO is under a new regime. The prince that was promised has ascended to the throne. And in a fitting a song cover as their could be, Jax sits at the gavel, at the head of the table with Tara standing behind him as the scene fades to Gemma and John Teller many years back at the same position. Gemma looks on, the torch has been passed. The future of SAMCRO now lies in his hands.

Defining Moment:

House of the Rising Sun has always been a favorite of mine. And when heard the first two lines bellowed out in the deep voice of White Buffalo, I was 100% in. It still gives me the chills remembering it 4 years later. I categorize this a the turning point in the Sons saga, from the Clay Morrow days to the Jax Teller reign. While I don’t have a clip to show you, I’ll leave you with this:

-MikeV87