Saturday, December 27, 2003


Piker intended to live at the movie theater this holiday season. It hasn't quite worked out that way, but Piker has seen two movies. The first was Bad Santa, which had its funny moments but was ultimately unsatisfying and nothing special. Yesterday, Piker saw The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It too had its funny moments, but was ultimately one of the most satisfying and special movies Piker has even seen. Piker actually shed tears in the third Act. The trilogy as a whole was such a powerful experience. What amazed Piker most was the combination of technical mastery of the visual world of Tolkien's books and the sterling storytelling structure that leads to a highly emotional experience. Peter Jackson obviously deserves much of the credit as director of this massive undertaking. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is so humongus in scope and so technical and complicated that what may get lost in talking about these films is Jackson's work with the actors. He elicits so many great acting performances, both large and small, and accomplishes the elusive cohesion that every director strives for, where every part serves the whole. In fact, every last detail on that screen displays the work of a master filmmaker getting the very best work out of hundreds and hundreds of people who participated in mounting this epic series. Not since the first Star Wars trilogy has such a saga captured the imagination of a movie-going generation.

I first read "The Hobbit" in seventh grade. Tolkien's world was etched in my little Piker brain, but for some reason, I never read The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books. In a way, I'm glad. It allowed me to view the movies with fresh eyes and that child-like sense of wonder of what would happen next. Now that I've seen the entire trilogy up on that big screen, I'm ready to tackle the series of books. In fact, I'm more psyched than ever to read them.


12/27 1:30 PM ET


12/27 5:00 PM ET


12/27 8:30 PM ET

Philadelphia -8

12/28 1:00 PM ET



St. Louis -10

Indianapolis -7


N.Y Jets

Dallas -1.5

Tampa Bay

12/28 4:05 PM ET

Minnesota -7.5

Carolina -5



12/28 8:30 PM ET



Piker's three-week streak of going 10-6 was snapped last week with a ho-hum bah humbug 8-8 mark. Starting last Saturday, Piker struggled to keep his head above water, as Minnesota blindsided Kansas City and friggin' New England stymied Chad Pennington drive after drive. New England impresses Piker to no end. They are the type of team Piker wishes his fickle Phins could be. They're tough at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, they force turnovers and don't make many mistakes themselves, they play smart, they play with heart, and they find ways to win. The Pats did the same things two years ago that they've done this year, and two years ago they won the Super Bowl. Piker doesn't think there's any question they can do it again, but the AFC is packed this season. Despite getting blown out by Minnesota last week and flailing a bit in December, KC is a damn good football team that could take the conference. Ditto for Indianapolis, which was dominated Sunday night by Denver. The Broncos are dangerous right now. They're playing their best football of the year when it matters most. If Clinton Portis can get healthy for the playoffs, that team could take the conference as well. But Piker's Pick is the Tennessee Titans. Picked 'em at the beginning of the year, sticking with 'em now. Air McNair is the McMan and Jeff Fischer has really earned my respect over the years. That being said, Piker half-expects the Pats to continue to beat the odds by beating everyone else.

Parity also exists in the NFC title chase, but on paper it seems much clearer. St. Louis and Philly are the class of the conference and Piker anticipates them matching up for the right to play for the Silver Ball. Carolina has already overachieved and doesn't seem like they have quite enough to win on the road in a second-round playoff game. Ditto for Dallas. And whichever two out of Minnesota, Green Bay, or Seattle make it in, Piker doesn't think they'll last long. Although, Brett Favre proved once again Monday night that the man is magic. He is what sports heroes are all about.

So, all in all, we could be looking at a repeat matchup of one of the best Super Bowls ever -- The Rams and The Titans. Maybe the Titans can get that extra yard and actually win this time. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Piker knows, this is all moot because Teddy Bruschi and Willie McGinest and Tom Brady and Bill Belichek won't let the Patriots lose to anybody.

WON: Atlanta, Miami, Baltimore, Washington, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Green Bay

LOST: Kansas City, N.Y. Jets, Carolina, Jacksonville, N.Y. Giants, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Indianapolis

The season total for Piker Picks is now 116-100-8. With 16 games left in the season, Piker is now assured of at least a .500 finish and .500 would mean losing every single game this week. Another 10-6 week would mean Piker would finish 20 games over .500 and that would please Piker almost as much as the Ricky Williams jersey Piker received for Christmas.

Oh, and by the way, the Dolphins suck for not making the playoffs again. With all that talent, there's just no excuse. This prompts Piker to repeat his Miami mantra: Wannestadt Must Walk, Ricky Must Run.