Friday, June 27, 2008
I wanted to share a few thoughts on that first topic; I'm by far not the first person to share these thoughts, and they may not sound that original. Bear with me though...
In my mind, there seem to be a few very real issues that keep the mainstream media from truly accepting the new media in sports reporting:
1) The delusion that reporters = athletes: This seems to be one of the largest issues. If you talk long enough to a mainstream media member, they'll mention the word "access," and how it makes all the difference in the world. They'll usually say that, since they're the ones in the locker room, they're the only ones who know the real deal. If you listen long enough, you'll get the idea that the reporter thinks of himself or herself as a part of the team, in some strange sense.
The funny thing about that is, most pro athletes have a healthy disdain for the media. Reporters are invaders into athletes' personal space, whether that's on the field, in the locker room, or out on the town. Sure, you have guys like Stuart Scott name-dropping their athlete "friends," but it's by no means a mutual attraction. At best, this "access" simply results in clouding the judgment of supposedly unbiased journalists.
2. The idea that bloggers are some losers in their parents' basement: While this stereotype has become laughable, at best, one has to wonder about those who stick to it. The bloggers I know are well-educated, intelligent people who have day jobs, and do this as a hobby. Take this blog, for instance; you have an econ major, a consultant, and a law student as the three primary posters. Firejoemorgan.com includes a Harvard grad, and a group of successful TV writers. Deadspin is run by successful writers, one of whom is leaving for a pretty good editorial position. We're not talking about the dregs of society here, but intelligent, motivated people who have found an outlet for their love of sports.
3. Throwing profanity in the face of bloggers: One of the points raised by Buzz Bissinger, both in the television segment and the recent interview with Will, is that blogs have too much profanity to be taken seriously. Michelle Tafoya raised a similar point on ESPN Radio just after Bissinger blew his top on HBO. These comments are interesting; I would invite any of those critics to read the comments on ESPN.com, any story, any day of the week. Do they think those comments reflect badly on ESPN? If not, then what's the difference?
Additionally, if anyone took the time to read the comments on a site like Deadspin, one would find some very clever thoughts. Aren't we adults here? Can't we overlook some adult language?
I'm not expecting things to change anytime soon. Both sides have dug in their heels, and the mainstream media doesn't seem too eager to welcome the new media with open arms. For every Bill Simmons that manages to cross over, there is a Buzz Bissinger ready to slam the door. We can just do what we can, churning out thoughtful blogs, and hope that the Luddites catch on eventually.
1) Stuart Scott should never be allowed in an unscripted situation again. During past drafts, his interviews with the new draftees have been awkward, at best, but last night was just painful. He looked like he was really stumbling over his thoughts, and he misspoke a number of times. Maybe it was all the more glaring because I remember Dan Patrick, and how well he did as a host, but ESPN should find a replacement for next year. The rest of the panel was ok, and was pretty much carried by Mark Jackson, who did a solid job (as always).
2) If I were a Nets fan, I would be hoping and praying every night that the team lands LeBron when he hits free agency. Otherwise, this whole gutting of team was in vain. They had a pretty good draft (Anderson will be a good scorer, and, against my better judgment, I don't think Brook Lopez will be terrible), but it's tough to defend the Jefferson trade.
3) It's nice to see that Portland has turned things around, going from the Jailhouse All-Stars to the up and coming team in the West. Adding Bayless to Oden and Roy is pretty incredible. They're like the Devil Rays of the NBA; they know how to use high draft picks and are developing quite the young core.
4)Miami did a great job as well; Beasley gives them a good #2 scoring option behind Wade, and Chalmers fits a need as an extra point guard. When Marion leaves as a free agent next year, they can throw money at Carlos Boozer. As long as Beasley doesn't do something stupid in South Beach, things should be fine.
5) Last thought; why is Dick Vitale on the draft coverage? The draft has turned into, for the most part, underclassmen. Vitale constantly rails against anyone leaving before their senior year. Doesn't sound like much of a match, and it turns into at least one venting session where he criticizes the whole process.
Anyway, that's it. I can't wait until next year and the discussion of A.J. Price's character issues.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
In one of my favorite moments, well, ever, RHP Shawn Chacon did what every Phillies fan has wanted to do for years: he pretty much beat the piss out of General Manager Ed Wade. Basically, Chacon had sucked - a 5.04 ERA and 1.51 WHIP with a 1.2:1 K/BB ratio defines "suck" - and was upset that Wade and manager Cecil Cooper had the gall to move him to the bullpen, where he was markedly better last year in Pittsburgh. I'd be pissed, too, if management decided to put me in a much better position to succeed (especially when they're paying me $4 million for the right to suck). Right on, Shawn!Here's how the man himself described the situation (from Baseball Musings):
Baseball aficionados will note that this is the first outfield assist Reggie Abercrombie's had all year - seriously, the dude sits while Michael Bourn puts up an insane .234/.289/.317 line that doesn't even earn a Jason Bourne joke this early in the morning - but even more important, look at the chain of events according to Chacon:
"He started yelling and cussing," Chacon said of Wade. "I'm sitting there and I said to him very calmly, 'Ed, you need to stop yelling me. Then I stood up and said 'you better stop yelling at me.' I stood up. He continued and was basically yelling and stuff and was like, 'You need to (expletive) look in the mirror.' So at that point I lost my cool and I grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the ground. I jumped on top of him because at that point I wanted to beat his (butt). Words were exchanged."
Players quickly intervened to separate Wade and Chacon, who remembers being pulled away by backup outfielder Reggie Abercrombie.
1. I'm calm
2. I'm calm
3. He's a dick, but I'm calm and stand up.
4. Still standing, still calm.
5. I attempt to kill a man.
Now, there's a fantastic saying in my line of work, related to the horrifying inconsistency and unreliability of eye-witness testimony - the classic "three sides to every story" line, about your side, my side, and the truth. However, Chacon's version of events absolutely makes me giggle to such an extent that I can only pray it's the exact truth - an old, douchey white guy screaming at a grown man earning millions, who pulls a motion-picture glare and warning before dropping the dude? This is why sports are awesome.
Ed Wade is legitimately a terrible GM - I mean, seriously - although his recent moves with the Astros have seemed moderately inspired, given the Astros' awful ownership mandate that they were indeed a contender when almost no measure agreed. In fact, I think he likely deserved an ass kicking, if for no other reason than the fact that he gets jobs over and over again while talented people like Kim Ng are left toiling as assists simply so the "old guard" can recycle the same shitty names over and over again.
However, to have a player listed at 6'3" and 200 lbs. drop the man over a demotion to the bullpen is just unbelievable - it's Latrell Sprewell all over again, but moving into the front office. Unlike Spre, I can't imagine Chacon will ever get another shot to play - after all, Sprewell was actually something resembling an elite talent at the time, while Chacon may define "fungible" - but this sets a new tone for clubhouses everywhere. Closed-door meetings will have beefy security guards, and office doors will be locked. Combine this with Milton Bradley attempting to attack an opposing team's announcer, and you're not even safe if you work upstairs. Stat nerds, beware - you might be able to statistically prove a player sucks, but don't say it out loud (or on a blog) or your ass will be choke-slammed.
This is, coincidentally, why the Blue Jays now cannot trade for Adam Dunn either way - he'd tear Ricciardi limb from limb. Now there's a limited no-trade clause.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Ford: Yeah, that guy. No offense to the Page 2 VP of Common Sense, but common sense is seriously overrated. Maybe it's all of the college classes I'm teaching, but I've noticed that time and time again the pick from the "gut" is just wrong. Most people let emotion and years of blinding worldviews get in the way of the more analytical choice.
I know we think our guts are right. But that's because of something called cognitive dissonance. Once we make a choice, we have to convince ourselves that it was the right choice. So we marshall all the evidence that supports our choice and ignore everything that doesn't -- which is why now you're waffling on the Durant over Oden pick.
I'm not saying that stats have all the answers. But Hollinger's system outperforms NBA GMs every year. And he predicted, correctly, that Adam Morrison would be a bust.
Monday, June 23, 2008
While I'll give a brief review (I'm sure you can guess that I'm down with it), the truly amazing thing about the album is that Greg Gillis, the man behind the awful teen game moniker, finished mixing the album on Tuesday and his label had it up on the web ready for purchase on Thursday. The proper physical release is scheduled for September of this year - an amazing change from the usual music industry meme of carefully planned releases, A&R bullshit, and extensive (poor) advertising and placement on MTV or Grey's Anatomy.
The ability to go directly to the fans and bypass any price or positioning issues by effectively giving the music away for possible donations represents hope that the music industry might be taking off the Corky Thatcher glasses and moving into the 21st Century (or, at the least, the mid-90s). The rise of digital media, file sharing, iPods and even Pandora has punished the music industry, and the current state gives someone like me, who purchases somewhere between 100 and 200 albums a year, absolutely zero incentive to purchase a physical album. Moving distribution to digital (especially when lossless audio technology like FLAC encoding can be utilized to satisfy even the most dickish basement-dwelling audiophile) not only staunches the bleeding, but it should more effectively and efficiently play to the actual target of non-mainstream music. Well done, Girl Talk (and Illegal Art), and we can only hope others carry on in this vein. Radiohead may have truly changed the world, and not just through the annoying quasi-intellectual girl at happy hour who can't WAIT to break down Thom Yorke for hours while I wait interminably for a shot to have mediocre sexual relations.
As far as the album goes, it doesn't bend the mind the way certain elements of Night Ripper did, but it does show some expansion or growth of the genre. Again, the ephemeral and borderline-salacious elements of pop music are tossed in a blender and served cold - every type of cheesy pop is on display, from Thin Lizzy to UNK and everything in between. While Night Ripper played flawlessly as a "DJ set" from track to track (in fact, the listening experience is MUCH more enjoyable taken as an album instead of individual tracks), Feed the Animals shows much different pacing from track to track, giving some different moods and looks to the entire arrangement. It's subtle, but the formula is a little more broad than "rapping over a beat lifted from a '70s karaoke staple" - and it's a welcome shift.
Of course, the "Eminem rapping over that Yael Naim song from the MacBook commercials" parts are still pure, bizarre fun - a great summer album, and a more-than-worthy successor to Night Ripper. Plus, you can pay literally anything you want for it - if it's not worth your $2.50, I'm not sure what to tell you, other than it might be time to pick up a bartending job or something. Seriously, the economy's rough, there's no shame.
Grizzly Bear - The Knife (Girl Talk Remix)
Friday, June 20, 2008
Anyway, I'm going to kick it up a bit, because the jury business goes dry until August, and presumably Deuce and Ryan have, like, stuff to do. Slack-picking-up becomes an art at some point.
I will do a full-on review of most of the best music from the first half of the year soon (hint: Bon Iver, good), but two recent releases tore me in such completely opposite directions that I thought it was best to go all "3-beer emo" on the blog.
Today, nine songs from the long-awaited Chinese Democracy album were leaked - and while demos had leaked for years . . . and years . . . and holy shit, years, these were complete, mastered tracks. Of course, Geffen has now put 14 years and just a shade over $10 million into the album, so the leaks were quashed early and often (including zShare links dropping like The Happening, with the same amount of derision and laughter). This is, of course, longhand for "why there won't be a link here" (but feel free to drop me a line and we'll talk) - but still, for those who got a listen, something incredible happened.
It's actually . . . kind of good.
Believe me, I don't want to play any sort of hipster card here - my daily life muddles that message enough as it is - but I simply did not expect anything resembling relevant music from GnR at this point. To me, Axl had become that annoying girl from high school who runs the reunion committee and really REALLY can't go away without contact information and a brief rundown of whether you'd prefer a potluck or a barbeque. Honestly, I expected a National Treasure-style "all signs point toward relic" re-washing of the past.
Instead, the leaked songs are stunningly relevant. Axl Rose's vocals even stand up, slightly, and the revamped production keeps the best parts of '80s/'90s cock-rock while expanding the sound just slightly so that I don't want to hang myself with my Death Cab t-shirt. Granted, I'm not saying Chinese Democracy will be making any of my top-whatever lists at the end of the year, but the impression remains - and impressed I truly am.
On the flip side, the Silver Jews released a new album this week as well, titled Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. David Berman is one of the underrated songwriters of the past 20 years, holding up well to similar and now-appreciated artists like Jeff Buckley. Now, I'm not exactly exuding credibility with that sort of commentary - it's somewhere near "you know, Bob Saget's comedy is really actually dirty!" on the scale of "shit everyone knows but people feel special sharing" scale - but this appreciation is rooted in an overriding, nearly crushing depression that becomes latent in the Silver Jews' past works. The new album pulls a neat trick, though - it's hopeful. Sort of.
Berman has overcome things I can't even fathom - drug addiction, failure, destitution, the full nine yards of music cliches. However, the key to great music is telling an old story in a completely new way, and Berman succeeds by tinging the happy songs with a wonderfully dark corollary - that sometimes, happiness leads to sloth, to laziness, to failure. This all comes on the heels of two amazing Silver Jews albums (American Water and Tanglewood Numbers), as well as a recovery from multiple addictions and renewal in his marriage.
I'm not going to deconstruct either album any further - this is long as it is, and obviously the latter album likely deserves its own post. However, I thought the juxtaposition was amazing - a colossally overrated band leaks a stunningly relevant album just as a criminally underrated band releases a mediocre album about the dangers of success. Everyone can relate - I know that some of my worst times have come on the heels of great (and usually easily gained) successes, via sloth or similar. Not to beat the dead horse further, but this is exactly the M. Night Shyamalan trajectory (other possible titular characters: Kevin Maas, Ted Kaczynski, Brett Ratner, Sean Daley, really just tons of names).
I would have never thought that I would like the new GnR album more than the new Silver Jews album. I'd never guess that getting happy would slide Berman's music into the "meh" category like that terrible Old Spice commercial. And who would have thought that Axl Rose, of all people, would flourish in the face of crushing expectations (and his own excess)? Beyond this, in a very specific way, Berman called his own shot. Not in a "oooh I live in Brooklyn and drink PBR and oh, it's 2004" sort of way - it's not meta-irony at all. He's singing about the shit that actually happened. Even beyond this, his album is destroyed by a dude who released The Spaghetti Incident - just a bizarre day, to say the least.
Maybe I allow irony to play too large a role in my daily life - however, I was mind-bent today, and sometimes that's enough to spawn 600 words and a bump on the Google lists. We gots to get paid, son.