A Definitive Ranking of All the Star Trek Movies

Recently, I re-watched Star Trek Into Darkness for probably the fifth time. A small number considering how many times I’ve seen most of the other Trek movies. While certainly entertaining and fun, it was probably my least favorite of the reboot films.

This got me to thinking: As a Trekker, how would I rank all the films in the Star Trek franchise and why? Some I loved so much that I watched twice in a single day at the theater. Some I thought were such abominations that I often find myself rewriting the scripts in my head.

Here is my definitive list, from worst to first, broken into four tiers:

 

The Wesley Crusher Tier

13. Star Trek: Insurrection

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The three movies in this tier are pretty close in their level of feculence.  But this one lies at the bottom of the port-a-potty.  Following one of the best sci-fi films ever made, Insurrection was a massive let down.  No suspense, boring plot, and antagonists you just don’t care about. It came across as more of a made-for-tv film that’s shown on the Hallmark Channel at 2 in the afternoon on a Tuesday.  That, plus many Trek fans REALLY wanted to see Q in the next film, but instead got this dreck. Tally ho!

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12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

5

This film was rife with trouble from the beginning, largely because of Shatner’s zany ideas and script re-writes.  Originally, Sybok was to be played by Sean Connery and the Enterprise was supposed to meet the Devil at the center of the galaxy.  A bit far-fetched, but kind of cool.  Instead, what we got was some guy you’ve never heard of, and some weird blue entity that pretended to be God.  Horrible acting, dumb story line, and the feel that the entire cast was going through the motions just to get the paycheck.  It might have been cooler if the blue entity had quoted Ezekiel 25:17, though.

5a

11. Star Trek: Nemesis

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Romulans? Check. Bad-ass enemy ship? Check. Tom Hardy as the main antagonist? Check.  So why does this film suck?  It all starts with Director Stuart Baird, who hated Trek and refused to watch any of the Next Gen episodes to do research. He wanted to make an action movie, which did not sit well with the rest of the cast. In the end no one was happy with how it transpired, and it showed in the final product.  Had all the deleted scenes been left in (over 50 minutes of extra footage!), this could have been a MUCH better film.  Den of Geek does a good job pointing that out here.

 

The Deep Space Nine Season One “Meh” Tier

10. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

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When I was a kid, I had this movie ranked with Star Trek II as my favorite.  Granted, there were only five Star Trek films released before I was a teenager.  Why? Two things shocked me that resonated for a long time: The destruction of the Enterprise and the introduction of my all-time favorite non-Federation ship, the Klingon Bird of Prey.  But looking back on it after so many years, it just hasn’t aged well.  Touching in moments, sure, but the method of bringing Spock back was a bit of a stretch, and the Genesis story line had already gotten stale.  It was a little too depressing.

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9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Okay, this one isn’t as bad as you remember.  Think about it: Take out the loooooong, examination of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the loooooong, psychedelic trip through V’Ger’s cloud, and the loooooong trip over every inch of V’Ger’s ship (put together, I wouldn’t be surprised if that adds up to a quarter of the film’s run time), and you’ve got a pretty decent film.  It’s an interesting plot, and it did revive the franchise.  However, aside from the long 2001-esque space scenes, there were those hideous uniforms, Spock’s weird behavior, and a flat ending.  Little-known fact: the Director, Robert Wise, was also the director of West Side Story and The Sound of Music.

8. Star Trek Into Darkness

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I was tempted to put this in the next tier of films.  I did, after all, see it three times in the theaters (including on back to back nights).  It was fun, action-packed, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn wasn’t too bad.  But it was the emphasis on the action and things blowing up rather than what makes Trek, Trek (exploration, unity, adventure).  The producers obviously wanted a film to bring in non-Trek audiences, and they succeeded.  But how many times must we watch the Enterprise get the shit kicked out of her?  When will they actually, you know, boldly go?  Oh, and don’t get me started on the beaming device that can transport people from one entire quadrant of the galaxy to the other. Just…nope.

 

The Will Riker “Wow, I Forgot He Was Pretty Awesome” Tier

7.  Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

4

Whales! Colorful metaphors! A visit to (then) modern-day earth!  After a dreary Star Trek III, this movie came along at just the right time and with the right message.  “Save the Whales” was a big movement in 1986, and this fun-yet-campy movie brought that to the forefront.  It also paid a nice tribute to the astronauts lost in the Challenger explosion. It was pretty cheesy in parts, and Gillian Taylor could be pretty annoying, but it was still a fun movie and one that most non-Trekkies count as one of their favorites.  It’s the highest grossing Trek film in North American theaters, not counting the reboots.

4b

6. Star Trek: Generations

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There are a LOT of Trekkies and Trekkers who put this film much further down the list.  I’ve never understood why. It was clear after Star Trek VI and the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation that a torch-passing movie had to be made.  Some people hated the way Kirk went out in this film, hated the whole “Nexus” story line, and hated to see the Enterprise-D destroyed.  But I loved it. It’s fun, and it was great to see the Next Gen crew on the big screen.  I admit, I love Data and the issues he had with his emotion chip.

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5. Star Trek (2009)

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When I first heard they were rebooting the franchise with this film with a story line starting before Kirk and Spock met, I was not very pleased.  I wanted the story to continue forward, past Next Gen.  How can you EVER replace Shatner and Nimoy and Kelley?  You can’t, but Pine, Quinto, and especially Urban did an amazing job.  That opening sequence pulls you in right off the bat, and if you don’t shed a tear after the Romulans show up to Vulcan, something is seriously wrong with you.  Well done, J.J. Abrams, well done.

4. Star Trek Beyond

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My favorite of the reboot films, this was the most “Trek” of the three.  Instead of spending the majority of time on Earth as in the first two films, Beyond focused on exploration and the challenges of a five-year mission into deep space.  The dynamics between the characters were better than just about any film in the entire Trek franchise.  Despite critical success, it did not do as well at the box office.  I blame that on the horrible marketing job (did we really need it emphasized that the director of the Fast and Furious was directing this?).

 

The “Trek Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself” Tier

3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

6

The beginning of the creme-de-la-creme of the Trek films.  This was the final film that focused on the original series cast.  After the flop that had been Star Trek V, the producers needed a good story and a good film.  So they went out and brought back Nicholas Meyer as Director; the man behind the helm of Star Trek IV and Star Trek II, the best of the films at that point.  With a story that centered around Klingon/Federation relations, this movie hit all the right notes for Trekkies and Trekkers everywhere.  From the opening explosion of Praxis to the final sendoff of the Enterprise crew, this film still stands as one of the best made films in the franchise.

2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

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Ask nearly any Trekker or Trekkie what their favorite Star Trek film is, and Wrath of Kahn is nearly always mentioned as #1 or #2.  Ricardo Montalban plays the famous Trek villain, and he’s back for some serious vengeance.  There are a lot of parallels between this film and Moby Dick, with a focus on how revenge can consume someone.  It’s one of the more violent Trek films, but also packs an emotional punch.  Kahn has always been held up as the measuring stick for evil Trek villains, no matter the film or TV series.  I always shed a tear at the end, especially once Scotty starts playing the bagpipes.  It also has the best line in all of Trek film history:

2b

1. Star Trek: First Contact

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The best of the best and the only film I’ve seen twice in the theater on the same day.  I remember how extremely excited I was when Generations was announced, but First Contact got me even more excited.  Not only does the Next Gen crew have an awesome new Enterprise but they square off against the Borg, one of the most evil races in all of science fiction.  Like Wrath of Kahn, elements of Moby Dick are hinted at throughout the film.  However, it’s Captain Picard who must decide how far his thirst for revenge against the Borg will take him, and at what cost.  First Contact explores what the human race is capable of, where it’s going, and where it’s been.  Also like Wrath of Kahn, I do shed a few tears at the end, but nostalgic ones.  Throw in a quirky, booze-consuming Zefram Cochrane (the founder of Warp Drive technology), an underrated performance by Alfre Woodard, and the wonderful directorial skills of Jonathan Frakes and you’ve got the best Star Trek film ever made.

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Star Trek: Discovery vs. The Orville; A Trekker’s Take.

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People have asked me over the course of the first seasons of both Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville what my thoughts were on both shows.  To be honest, I needed to see more before I could make a fair assessment.  As a lifelong fan of science fiction, and someone who basically worships at the altar of all things Trek, I felt I needed to give both shows (especially Discovery since it was a serialized story) a chance to show what they were made of.  Once I felt a connection to the characters, I began to think more critically.  I considered everything: story lines, writing, character development, set design, and even music. For Discovery, I also had to see how it compared to previous Trek TV shows and how it fit with Roddenberry’s vision of the future.  Needless to say, I am someone who has to take his time and make a full analysis of something before reaching a decision. Once I do, however, that’s the end of it. And so I have.

The Orville is so much better and it’s not even close.

Three months ago, it would have been impossible for me to even conceive of such a statement.  However, as the season went on, I found myself more excited to watch The Orville than Discovery.  My Trek-wired brain was (and still is) trying to correct what it perceives to be a ship-wide malfunction.  A Seth Macfarlane sci-fi spoof better than a Trek TV series?  Yes.  How is this possible? Let’s look at a breakdown:

Opening Credits

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What better way to start the comparison than from the opening credits?  The music for The Orville is majestic, bold, and fun.  Listening to it makes you ready for adventure. Even if you’re sitting on your couch in your favorite plaid pajama bottoms, haven’t shaved over the weekend, and scarfing down a bowl of chocolate ice cream, it makes you want to jump up and join the crew.  As you listen to the theme play, you watch the ship explore various parts of the galaxy before the quantum engines activate and send her into parts unknown.  It reminds me a lot of Star Trek: Voyager, which has always been one of my favorites TV show openings.

Discovery’s opening is a little different.  The music starts off mysteriously with the familiar Trek chords, but then it goes into a bit of a melancholy composition centered on the cello.  It feels less like you’re about to watch an adventure, and more like you are about to watch a mystery.  It’s not bad, and it is kind of catchy, but you don’t get a sense of space adventure until the last few seconds when the original Trek theme is played.  The blueprint graphics throughout the opening are a little strange.  The sketches of iconic Trek items seem more to just remind people that it’s still Trek, while the space-suited hands touching at the end is far too cliche.

Advantage: Orville

Ship Design

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I wasn’t a big fan of the initial design of the U.S.S. Discovery, but once they tweaked it for the show I got used to it real quick.  It’s sleek and very “Trek.”  I could do without the spinning disc, but overall I think it’s a damn nice looking ship.  The Orville is still growing on me.  I don’t care too much for the three quantum drive engines, and for me it looks more like a tadpole than a ship of exploration.  Basically, it just doesn’t have that sense of aesthetic you would imagine in deep-space vessels.  That, plus I really like warp nacelles.

Advantage: Discovery

Crew

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This is an area in which the Orville has a large advantage.  One of the things I find most difficult about Discovery is that I feel I have yet to really know the characters outside of Michael Burnham and, to some extent, Captain Lorca.  So much attention is given to Burnham and the war with the Klingons that I feel very little has been done towards character development anywhere else.  That being said, Sonequa Martin-Green nails it as Burnham, a human raised on Vulcan.  Her inner conflict between emotion and logic is done very well, and her connection with Sarek is an added strength to her character.

The Orville’s crew is excellent almost across the board.  I had low expectations with Macfarlane as the Captain and Adrian Palicki as his first officer, but they have both done amazing jobs.  Their dynamic together has truly been a pleasant surprise.  Everyone else has been just as fantastic or better.  How can you not like Bortus and Alara sparring in the ring (“What is ‘Ding Ding?'”)? Or Isaac’s connection with Dr. Finn’s children?  Even the weaker characters from early in the season have started to improve, particularly Lamarr who should really shine as the new head of engineering.

Advantage: Orville

Best Character(s)

For Discovery, it’s really not close: It’s  Burnham all the way for the reasons I described earlier. However, the reason she is far and away the best on the show is because the writers have done a poor job of making me care about anyone else.

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As for Orville, you know the casting of a show is good when you can’t decide from week to week who your favorite characters are.  But for me, it gets no better than Bortus and Alara.

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Burnham is great, but Bortus and Alara are two big reasons I turn in to The Orville each week.

Advantage: Orville

Story Lines

This is where the Orville really runs away with it.  To be fair, Discovery is one big story, whereas Orville is a different story each week.  That being said, I’m already tired of Discovery’s story.  It’s war.  It’s dark. It’s depressing. It’s unnecessary and forced Klingon/human sex (a “what the hell is this shit” moment that nearly made me turn off Discovery for good). IT’S EVERYTHING TREK IS NOT SUPPOSED TO FRIGGIN’ BE!! Star Trek is supposed to be about hope, discovery, exploration, compassion, unity, understanding.  I see some characters talk about those things as if they wish for it, but Discovery doesn’t deliver it.  Instead all I see on Discovery is war, depression, fear, bullying, hate, and anger. I didn’t grow up watching Star Trek because I wanted to see fighting or shit blowing up.  I didn’t watch it because everyone on the show hated each other. I didn’t watch it because I wanted to see Worf bone Troi (okay, maybe a little, but not in the grotesque way as seen in Discovery). I didn’t watch it for the effects or because it “looked cool.”  And I certainly didn’t get into TNG and Voyager because the writers said lines like “we understand the importance of canon, but it takes away from the creative writing process.” Bullshit.  If anything it gives you TONS of avenues to work with.  A whole damn galaxy!  The big draw to Trek IS the canon.  Without it, it’s not Trek.  You lose the Trekkies and Trekkers like me, and you really don’t get new Trekkies and Trekkers.  If they wanted to not stick to canon, it should have taken place in the Kelvin universe.  At least then it would give them that “creative freedom” they so desperately want. Maybe instead of spending a fortune on set design and graphics they could have redirected those resources to some actual writing of the show that doesn’t piss off the core fanbase.

The story lines for Orville are way better and fall more in line with what Trek is supposed to be.  The episode where the crew finds a ship that had been drifting in space for over 1000 years was one of the best sci-fi episodes I’ve ever seen.  Each episode really makes you think. (Well, except for the blue man episode which was far too slapstick and not at all sci-fi).  You feel excited to be part of the adventure, and you get a little sad when you have to wait a week for the next episode. The Orville also spent only a fraction on set design as Discovery. Proof that good writing trumps good design and effects any day.

Advantage: Orville

Bottom Line

The Orville is better.  Period.  I hate that I have to wait so long for season 2, but I truly hope it continues for many seasons.  Discovery, on the other hand, well, I just hope they get some new writers. And some new Directors. Hell, just blow the whole thing up and bring in some actual Trekkies to write, produce and Direct. At the very least, make the second season take place between Star Trek VI and Next Gen and show us the ships and costumes we’re familiar with.  I won’t tune Discovery out just yet, but I’m not going to be counting down the days until the next episode like I do with Orville.  

For those who say Discovery is more Trek and a better show, I’ll leave you with this:
tenor

 

Nate’s “Take it to the Bank” 2018 NFL Playoff Predictions

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When it comes to sports, nothing really ever beats the playoffs.  This is especially true in “win or go home” formats.  Why do you think March Madness and football playoffs are so popular?  It’s not a “second season” as they like to call it in the NBA, NHL and MLB.  It doesn’t drag into a completely different season. (Seriously, part of the reason I just can’t get into hockey is because the Stanley Cup Finals are in June.  Late friggin’ June, no less.  Who gives a shit about cold weather anything when you’re sitting on the beach sipping on some Bahama Mamas and Mai Tais?)

This year’s NFL playoffs are exciting for me not only because my Panthers are in it, but because I’m a geography nerd and the geographic locations of the teams are quite different from years past.  Of the twelve teams in the playoffs, only two are located west of the Mississippi River (Three if you want to count Minnesota).  A whopping five teams are from the southeast, or as I like to call it “SEC Country.”  Not a lot of cold weather teams made it into the playoffs, except for the top four seeds.

Time for some predictions that you can take to the bank!

WILD CARD ROUND

Titans at Chiefs (-8.5)

Who knew that the perpetual dog shit AFC South would be sending TWO teams to the playoffs?  Titans have lost three of their last four to some mediocre competition.  Which Chiefs team will show up?  The team that has won four in a row, or the team that lost four in a row before that?  It’s Arrowhead and Andy Reid.  Take the team that has scored more points than they’ve surrendered.

CHIEFS BY 10

Falcons at Rams (-6.5)

Falcons squeak in to the playoffs by looking polished against Carolina.  It’s a battle of two high-powered offenses.  This could be tricky, as the Rams are only 4-4 at home.  It will be closer than people realize.  Still, Jared Goff made me a believer, and Gurley is going to get the MVP.

RAMS BY 4

Bills at Jags (-8.5)

It’s been a looooooong time since the Bills have sniffed the playoffs.  Remember when getting to the Super Bowl was a given for the Bills?  Now, their fans celebrate making the playoffs as if they all won the lottery.  Unfortunately for them, Shady McCoy is hurt and might not play. This is bad news considering rushing offense is about the only category they aren’t near the bottom of the league in.  I want to see the Bills win, but they just don’t have the talent to hang.  It’s going to come down to which Quarterback you trust most: The QB who’s thrown for over 300 exactly once in 58 games, or the QB who the team considered shipping out at the beginning of the season? Yikes.

JAGUARS BY 12

Panthers at Saints (-7.0)

Neither the Panthers nor the Saints could pull out a win against lesser competition on the last day of the season, when both teams needed it the most. I’ve felt like the Panthers have been more of an 8-8 team all year that just got some lucky breaks.  Cam’s inability to pass is scary.  Saints’ defense is vastly improved, but they still struggle against the run.  Shula needs to let Cam haul ass and stop trying to turn him into a pocket passer for the Panthers to have any shot.  Saints have won both meetings.  Will it be three in a row?  I wish I could say no, but…

SAINTS BY 7

DIVISIONAL ROUND

Saints at Eagles

This is going to be brutal.  Never has a #1 seed looked so badly heading into the playoffs.  Foles has looked horrible the past two games.  A pity for Eagles fans, as they’ve waited a while to see a decent team on the field.  With Wentz, however, there’s always next year, and the year after, and the year after.  Just not this year.

SAINTS BY 14

Rams at Vikings

When these two teams met earlier in the season in Minnesota, the Vikings gave the Rams their only road loss of the season…in a beat down.  Minnesota just seems to have the “it” factor this year.  Rams offense is good, but as the saying goes: “Offense wins games, Defense wins championships.”  Give me that Vikings D and the QB who holds the NCAA record for most passing yards.

VIKINGS BY 8

Chiefs at Patriots

Remember the last time the Chiefs went up to Foxborough in the playoffs?  There are two things that are certain here: Andy Reid has no idea how a clock works, and Tom Brady is WAY better than Alex Smith.

PATRIOTS BY 16

Jaguars at Steelers

This is going to be a low-scoring affair as both teams play some pretty nasty D.  There are serious playmakers on both sides of the ball for each team, so it should be a fun matchup.  I can see Fournette having a career game.  But in the end, it all boils down to Bortles vs. Big Ben.  It’s a stretch to get Bortles further than this in the playoffs.

STEELERS BY 12

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

It could be that I can’t stand the Saints.  It could be that I think that Viking D is just too good.  This is the game where Brees shows his mortality.  Saints just don’t have enough weapons to get past the Purple People Eaters version 2.0.

VIKINGS BY 4

The matchup every sports pundit predicts for the AFC Championship game every year happens for the second year in a row.  The Steelers’ playoff history with the Pats is not so hot, which includes last year’s 36-17 shellacking.  Brown, Bell, and Big Ben all have the experience, and this could be the beginning of the end for Big Ben’s career.  But am I really ready to bet against Tom Brady and the Pats?  Not yet.

PATRIOTS BY 14

SUPER BOWL LII

Brady and Belichick go for Super Bowl win #6, something we will probably never see again in our lifetime.  Brady says he wants to keep playing after this season, but at 41 there’s not much time left.  Enjoy it while you can.  Meanwhile, the Vikings are looking for their first Super Bowl victory.  What better place to do it in than in your own stadium?  Vikings make history by being the first team in Super Bowl history to play the big game on their home turf, and also winning their first Super Bowl.

VIKINGS 27-20

 

 

 

Game of Thrones: Who Gets the Iron Throne in the End?

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WHAT??!! No Star Trek: Discovery review?  You’re a Trekkie!  You MUST have something to say!”

Yes, I do…when the time comes for me to do so.  For now, I will say this:  I love it so far, but I won’t comment more fully until I’ve seen it more.  I need to see more of the story line before I pass judgement.

So how about some Game of Thrones while we wait?

I finally caught up on all seven seasons of Game of Thrones.  Season 5 was tough to get through with so many bad things happening, but it’s worth it to get to season 6 and 7, which were the two strongest of the series in my opinion.  (Walking Dead writers, take note.  GoT knows how to make a series more interesting as it continues on).

For those who have not finished season 7 of GoT, here’s your warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

After watching the Wall come tumbling down and the army of the dead begin their march on Westeros, it got me to thinking: when it’s all said and done and the series ends, who will be sitting on the Iron Throne?  There are certainly a number of possibilities.  Let’s examine some of those, the odds of them taking the Iron Throne, and how it could happen.

Daenerys

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Odds: 4/1

Capturing the Iron Throne and ruling Westeros has been her sole mission.  She’s had some bumps on the way, but you can’t argue that the Mother of Dragons will take what she feels rightly belongs to her.

Will it happen?: Very likely, but there are some obstacles standing in her way, such as Cersei Lannister, the army of the Dead (who took out one of her dragons in one ice blade toss), and the possibility of her losing her mind like her father. And there is, of course, her vision.

Jon Snow

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Odds: 8/1

Revelations about who he really is and the true story of his parentage means he is not the bastard Stark child everyone thought he was. Once this news is out, we may see Jon develop a stronger desire to lead.  He’s already built a backing in the north and an alliance with Daenerys in the south.

Will it happen? Jon’s ascension as a leader has been growing since he joined the Night’s Watch.  He is the embodiment of the statement “great leaders do not set out to be a leader, they set out to make a difference.”  He’s already bent the knee to Daenerys, but if something happens to her, he’s ready.

Cersei Lannister

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Odds: 12/1

The current throne sitter. She’s been the real power behind the throne all this time.  Her children were mere puppets as she set out to rule how she wanted, through manipulation, bribery, and fear.

Will it happen? She has to face a united army in the north, Daenerys’ army and dragons to the south, and the incoming army of the dead.  However, she will go to any means to maintain her control, even if it means making a humiliating Walk of Atonement or blowing up the spiritual center of Kings Landing.  Never, ever bet against Cersei.  Just when you think she’s beaten, she has another ace up her sleeve to piss you off.

Daenerys/Jon Snow Joint Rule

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Odds: 9/1

Both want to unite to defeat the army of the dead.  One of fire, the other of ice.  It’s a marriage that could unite the known world and, in the event they defeat the army of the dead, could bring a unity to Westeros like it has never seen.

Will it happen? Very likely.  In fact, this scenario seems like it was born to happen.  Dany wants the throne, Jon wants to make a difference.  And they both want each other. But can they both share the crown? 

The Night King

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Odds: 5/2

Until season 7, I thought the only thing that could stop the Night King and his army were the dragons.  He showed in one stroke that even dragons won’t slow him down. And now, he has a dragon of his own.

Will it happen? He has the largest army in the known world.  He has an undead dragon.  He might not desire the throne, only conquest and destruction, but he may claim Kings Landing as his ultimate prize.  Also, in Dany’s vision we did see a lot of snow falling on a heavily damaged throne room (or was it ash?).  Winter and destruction are the Night King’s specialty.  And the writers are known for letting the bad guys win.

Sansa Stark

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Odds: 100/1

(Not so) deep down Sansa has always been tempted by power.  Littlefinger may have taught her how to embrace power, but the dreadful experiences with King Joffrey and Ramsey Bolton have hardened her.  Those experiences have made her more determined to rule instead of be ruled.

Will it happen? A LOT has to happen for this to come to pass.  Not impossible, but highly improbable.  Arya would have to kill Cersei, Jon and Dany would have to die or rescind the throne, and she would have to fend off other challengers to the Iron Throne.  I think the odds of her dying at the hands of the Night King are much higher.

Euron Greyjoy

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Odds: 750/1

Euron seemed to come out of nowhere and immediately consolidate power.  In a short time he has amassed the strongest navy in Westeros, taken the throne of the Iron Islands, captured Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand, and curried favor with Cersei Lannister.  What’s next?

Will it happen? He has his eyes on the Iron Throne, but his one weakness is his overconfidence.  It’s more likely Cersei will have him removed from the equation once she’s done with him.  But not before he’s wreaked some serious havoc.

NO ONE

Odds: 50/1

Massive destruction and death are on the horizon for season 8.  It’s Lannisters vs. Dragons vs. the dead vs. the Greyjoys.  If Ellaria Sand gets out, you can throw Dorne into the mix as well.  When the dust has settled, there might not be much of a Westeros left to rule.

Will it happen? Stranger things have happened.  It could be that the seven kingdoms have no choice but to stand on their own.  Kings Landing could be obliterated, armies crushed, and cities raided.  Faith in the crown has to be weakening with such a quick succession of rulers and, once the battle with the army of the dead is over, it’s possible the seven (or however many are left) kingdoms will each just fend for themselves in a post-war apocalypse.

 

 

NASCAR Gets Worse…and Here’s How to Fix It

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You hear that hammering sound?  That’s the sound of the final nails being driven into the coffin that holds NASCAR’s popularity.  To say the past two months have been difficult for NASCAR is an understatement.  Let’s recap:

-Denny Hamlin had his wins taken away from Darlington for failing multiple inspections.  While his win was taken away from the season Cup standings toward the playoffs, it won’t vacate it in the record books, according to NASCAR.

-Two former winners of the Daytona 500 and Cup Championships are without rides in 2018 (Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch).  These aren’t past their prime drivers like the Labontes and Waltrips who spent the last few years of their career hanging out in the back of the field every race, only making it in on past champ provisionals.  These are two drivers who are both in the playoffs.

-An ambulance was parked near the entrance of pit road during the Richmond race, yet NASCAR officials kept the green light on to indicate that pit road was open.  This resulted in Matt Kenseth rear-ending Clint Bowyer, taking him out of contention and nearly costing him a spot in the playoffs.

-With three laps to go in the Richmond race, the caution flag flew for Derrick Cope…who was 15 laps down and still out on the track.  Martin Truex, who had nearly a 4-second lead, ended up wrecking on the restart and finishing 20th.

-Smithfield has left Richard Petty Motorsports, and Aric Almirola is out as their driver.  Apparently, Richard Petty still thinks handshake deals are just as good as legally binding multi-million dollar contracts.  And that, folks, is why RPM is a non-competing, one-car outfit.

-Danica Patrick has “retired.” I.e., sponsors are pulling out left and right and no one wants to sponsor a driver who has had great equipment and zero success on the track. She is also no longer a marketing darling. That ship has sailed.

And finally, speaking of sponsor dropouts…

-Target has decided to no longer sponsor Kyle Larson, who is second in the point standings and has 4 wins and 15 top tens on the season. In fact, Target is leaving NASCAR all together so that they can focus their sponsorship dollars on…soccer.  Yes, NASCAR fans, this is what it has come to.

So what’s next? NASCAR is about to begin the playoffs, just as the football season has gotten underway, the MLB playoffs are about to start, and soccer is in full swing (which Target certainly thinks is more valuable). Will anyone watch? Does anyone even care anymore? NASCAR is headed into a lot of uncertainty, more than it’s ever known. There are, however, two certainties ahead of them if they continue at this pace: fewer sponsors, and fewer fans in the seats. And if massive change isn’t done and done soon, the next TV deal could be the largest drop off between deals we’ve ever seen.  It could even be a future where NASCAR can only be seen on the same channel that broadcasts tractor pull competitions…in France.

But fear not, those who hold out that tiniest sliver of hope that NASCAR can be saved. I’m here to help! Here are five ideas that NASCAR desperately needs to implement to save itself. France family, pay attention!

1.) SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY: Get rid of these stupid “stages” during the race.  You don’t see other sports doling out these participation-trophy-style awards.  Redskins leading the NFC East halfway through the season? Let’s give them an extra W for their efforts! Yeah, right. The point system has become more and more convoluted, and the casual fan has no idea who really is winning.  Instead of this clusterfuck that NASCAR has now, I propose this:

-50 points to the race winner, 45 for second, 40 for third, 30 for fourth, and one point down for each position after that.  If there are 40 cars in the field, that means the last ten get nothing.  That way it encourages drivers to compete from top to bottom.

-No more bonus points for leading at halfway, and no more lucky dog.  Get back to how it was when it was a real sport.  The faster you go, and longer you’re in the race, the better you do.

-Cut the “playoffs” to ten drivers with the highest point totals.  After the first five races, the lowest five are eliminated.  One driver each is eliminated over the final five races.

2.) CHANGE THE FINAL TEN RACES: The final ten races should be indicative of all that the NASCAR circuit has to offer.  It should not be based on location (for example, kicking off the chase in Chicago because it’s a big city of people that don’t give a shit).  I propose the following schedule:

Race 1: Darlington

Race 2: Talladega

Race 3: Michigan

Race 4: Bristol

Race 5: Charlotte

Race 6: New Hampshire

Race 7: Sonoma

Race 8: Atlanta

Race 9: Phoenix

Race 10: Las Vegas

 

3.) SHORTEN THE SEASON: NASCAR racing through the heart of football season and through the World Series is incredibly dumb.  Shorten the season to a maximum of 30 races.  If it can be less, that’s better, but no more than 30.  Cut these races to start with: Auto Club, one of the Pocono races, Chicago, Homestead, Kansas, one of the Michigan races. They’re boring to watch and they can’t fill the stands.  Have the season end by mid-October.

4.) EMBRACE THE TALENT WITH THE ATTITUDE: NASCAR should embrace driver attitudes.  It makes the sport more exciting.  NASCAR is a sport where the focus is on the individual drivers, not so much the teams.  (You think Earnhardt fans suddenly started pulling for Jeff Gordon when Little E joined his team?)  They crave the drama and the rivalries, and nothing better illustrates that fiery passion than when drivers are allowed to speak their mind and let their emotions get to them.  This may lead to retaliation on the track, and maybe in the garage, but as long as it does not lead to over-the-top retaliation, like a car coming out 130 laps down only to wreck someone else, it should be welcomed. Basically, just don’t do what Cole Trickle did here:

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This is very tricky territory, however.  Brash drivers like Jimmy Spencer were fun to watch, but you didn’t see fans lining up to buy his merchandise or sponsors lining up to slap their logo on his car.  What would benefit NASCAR the most is if a driver, or drivers, who could win AND be brash stepped up.  Kyle Busch is certainly one, but he’s about the only one and he certainly can’t bring in ratings alone.  What NASCAR really needs is for Jimmie Johnson to snap the next time he’s wrecked by, say, Austin Dillon, leading him to race to pit road to pimp smack Dillon’s cowboy hat off his head while screaming “THERE ARE NO COWBOYS IN LEWSIVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, HOME SLICE!”

5.) JUST GET RID OF THE FRANCE FAMILY: That would basically solve 90% of the problem right there.

If NASCAR listens to me and starts to implement some radical changes, it could return to the glory days and recapture their core fan base.

If not?  Well, there’s always soccer to look forward to in all its flopping glory.

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Panic Time in L.A.

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“I didn’t think home runs could fly that far.”

It is officially time to panic, Dodgers fans.

As I sat up watching that painful 10th inning the other night, watching Pedro Baez once again collapse in a critical situation, I began to wonder: Where did it all go wrong?  Was it the Milwaukee series?  Was it that gut-wrenching silence of the bats during Hill’s attempt at a perfect game?  Through the first four and half months of the season, there was no better team in baseball.  The Dodgers built a gigantic lead in the N.L. West behind a solid starting rotation, top-line relievers, an absent (and then traded for some peanut shells and a six pack of Tab) Chris Hatcher, and amazing hitting.  The Dodgers could hit. They could pitch. They could score.  They could play defense.  It had been almost 30 years since the last Dodger championship, and fans were getting that feeling.  That feeling that this team was “it.”

And then the wheels fell off.  Hard.

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Is it time to panic?  Is it time to chill? The reaction has been mixed among the Dodger faithful.  Here are the top two reactions I’ve seen the most:

“FIRE DAVE ROBERTS!!! FIRE HONEYCUTT!!! FIRE THEM ALL!!! AAIGGHH!!!!

“C’mon guys, we have a HUGE lead!  We’re going to the postseason! Relax!  The Diamondbacks won’t catch us!”

I don’t think either of these reactions are correct.  I don’t think we should start wielding an ax and firing everyone in the clubhouse.  It is WAY too early for that.  If the Dodgers have an epic collapse like the Red Sox and Braves had several years ago?  Well, that’s a different story.  That being said, the “c’mon, relax, we have this amazing record and big lead” mentality is total and utter BS.  While we don’t need to be assigning pink slips right away, it IS time to panic.  Here’s why.

1.) The first reason is very simple.  The last month of the season is NOT when you want to forget how to play the game, especially in baseball.  September is the month when rookies get called up to see what they’ve got.  Some of the team’s best prospects have been called up, not so much to see what they’ve got, but in hopes that some kind of spark can happen to get the team back on track.  That’s a lot of pressure on them and a lot of guess work on the team to figure out what’s going to work best.  You don’t want either of those things to happen when you’re gearing up for the playoffs.

2.) The best way to prepare for a team in the playoffs, is to play them when they are busting their ass trying to make the postseason. Milwaukee is a team that might slip into the playoffs, a team the Dodgers should have prepared for. The Dodgers scored three runs in the series and lost two of three.  The Diamondbacks have just straight up murdered the Dodgers.  They’ve outscored them 39-13 in back-to-back sweeps.  The D-backs are almost assuredly a team the Dodgers will have to face in the first round of the playoffs.  If this is how they’re playing against them this late in the season, don’t expect the Dodgers to get to the NLCS, to say anything of the World Series.

3.) Have you looked at the 15 teams in baseball history that have finished the season with a .700 record or better?  Of those 15, only 7 went on to win the championship.  There was talk the Dodgers could win 116 games this season.  The only two teams to win that many?  the 1906 Chicago Cubs (lost in the World Series) and the 2001 Seattle Mariners (lost in the ALCS).  Perhaps having such a strong season wears the team out.  Perhaps we’re seeing fatigue setting in for keeping up such a torrid pace.

So what happens now?  It’s possible the rookies coming in will take some of the relief off.  Maybe a spark will happen.  It happened with Puig, and it happened with Bellinger. If the Dodgers can stop playing baseball with this kind of laziness,

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Then maybe we Dodger fans can stop doing this every night:

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College Football 2017! Football is Back, Baby!

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IT’S HERE!!!!

My (and pretty much most of America’s) favorite sport has arrived!  Yes, baseball is awesome.  Yes, basketball is pretty sweet.  But there is absolutely, positively NOTHING that compares to football.  For me, it’s college football above all else.  I love college football so much that I would rather watch a 1 a.m. Hawaii vs. Fresno State college football game over the NBA Western Conference semifinals.  And depending on which teams are in the NBA finals, even more than that.  I love college football so much that, every time I started dating someone, one of the first things out of my mouth is “okay, so for Saturdays in the fall, I am not to be disturbed when the Gamecocks are on.  When they win, it’s celebration time.  When they lose, just leave me be.”  When I start dating someone, this is how a conversation usually goes:

Her: “What if it’s an emergency?

Me: “It can wait.”

Her: “What if I told you that we’re going to have a baby? What would you say?”

Me: “Are you going to have that baby in the next two and a half hours?”

Yes, I love college football.  I was born and raised in South Carolina.  I loved the Gamecocks since I was a kid.  I always wanted to go to school there and I did.  I got my Bachelor’s degree from there, as well as my Master’s degree.  I worked there for five years after I graduated.  Garnet is in my blood (well, technically, I guess that color is in everyone’s blood.)

College football, in my opinion, goes far deeper than any other sport.  It’s tradition.  It’s school and state pride.  In most states, you are born the fan of one school or their rival.  Families send their children there.  Generations go through those doors.  There are no unions. No free agency.  No contract negotiations.  It’s football.  It’s state and school pride.  It’s family pride.  Nothing is better.

Each week I will post three games of significance and my picks on how to bet on them, plus one upset alert pick. As always, comments are welcome:

Week 1 Games of Significance Betting Picks:

Alabama (-7) over Florida State. Alabama ALWAYS comes out of the gate strong.  They win by two touchdowns, and then all the talking heads will rant about how overrated the game was after they hyped it to no end.

Michigan (-4.5) over Florida. As much as I REALLY want Florida to win this game and shut Harbaugh up, half of the Gators are suspended. They might hang for a little while, but Michigan takes it by 10.

West Virginia (+4) over Virginia Tech. This will be a nail biter. A criminally underrated game that should provide excitement. Yee haw! The Burning Couches cover and take the win.

UPSET ALERT! Appalachian State (+14) covers the spread against Georgia. App State was 10-3 and finished first in their division. They opened their season with a close loss in overtime to the Vols.  Georgia has a tendency to play to the level of their opponents.  I think Georgia wins, but it will be close.  Kirby Smart gets put on notice.