Throne room

Review of Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3

Warning: This review is full of spoilers. If you have not watched the episode, please stop reading. Did I mention spoilers?

"What do we say to the god of death?"

"Not today"

1) Not the best start

This was the long awaited battle of Winterfell. Heroes were born and legends were made.

It started with a visual gem. After a slow 15 minutes, the Dothraki charged with flaming swords. They were routed. It set up a battle that it appeared the living could not win; their best warriors lasted only minutes. As for the dragons, once they engaged, they did a lot of damage. They shot the episode all at night, which from a visual perspective made guesswork for the people watching. I get they had to do that, but it required intense concentration as a viewer. For the record, dragons in battle? Badass.

2) The deaths

Most of the battle did not go well for the good guys. The living retreated to Winterfell, while many characters were dying. Jon and Dany rode their dragons, but at night they could not see the enemy, limiting their edge. (Well, none of us could see anything). Except when the red witch (my next ex wife) brought fire to the party, and when the dragons were breathing. The visuals were at times spectacular, but this was the only disappointing part of the episode; too much of the battle was hard to see and thus hard to follow. I had to watch it three times - the last with the room completely dark, to pick up on everything.

Meanwhile, your top deaths:

1) The Night King (see below).

2) Theon Greyjoy. A fitting end to a character that ran the gamut throughout the series. "Theon, you're a good man," says Bran. "Thank you."

3) Melissandre. (Pour one out for the love of my life).

4) Ser Jorah Mormont. This one was pretty predictable.

5) Beric Dondarrion. (No coming back this time, but his death saved Arya).

6) Dolourous Edd. Loyal to the end, he died protecting his brothers.

7) The Ice Dragon. The NK's biggest weapon was late on the scene, and he was killed along with all the wights at the end.

8) Most of the Dothraki. Boy, they did not last long at all.

9) Lyanna Mormont. What a tough kid. She went out like a hero.

Still, none of the main characters were killed, which is a bit of a surprise. We really did not lose any character we cared deeply about.

3) Does anyone understand Bran?

Dude is just a mess. He exonerated Theon, then warged into a bunch of ravens to draw in the Night King. Can we all just say WTF? When the Night King came to him...well, wow. If his whole role in the show was to be bait...he succeeded. I still don't get his character's purpose, or the Night King for that matter. Both have been mysterious, and there just is not enough development of either to know what is going on. Still...

4) What a finish

Holy bleep! Arya whacks the Night King! What an amazing last 20 minutes. Not really sure there is enough story for the last three episodes, but wow. The plan to lure the NK out worked perfectly. Did anyone else get a Kill Bill vibe when the NK and his team were walking toward Bran? And by the way, poor job of defending your boss, white walkers.

5) Wow. Just wow.

The episode dragged for a while, but what a finish. Arya kills the Night King, and his army dies. Just an incredible moment. Who knows what is next, but with three episodes left, we will see Cersei again. The last 20 minutes might be the best of the series so far. It also showed how brilliant Cersei is. Her plan has worked to perfection. Dany's army has been devastated and might no longer be a match for the Lannister's and the Golden Company. Still, those dragons are equalizers, assuming both lived. From the previews, we at least know Drogon is stilll around. Sad that this show is coming to an end, but it is getting a little more confusing. The Great War between living and dead is over, so now we go back to petty fighting over the throne? We will just have to have a little faith that the writers know what they are doing.

As far as battles go, this was probably not as good as the Battle of the Bastards, but it was pretty amazing. I just wish it had not been so dark. It also could have easily taken up two episodes. Yes, there were a lot of the predictable "saved at the last minute" moments, but that's Thrones. I also question the Night King's strategy. Basically he could have just sat back and let his army of the dead destroy everyone, then kill Bran himself. The only way he could possibly lose was to expose himself.

Having said all that, what an entertainment weekend between this and Avengers: Endgame. I don't think it will be topped anytime soon if ever.

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Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

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