Okay, this is a little creepy. Are you absolutely desperate to talk to a real person, you absolutely can’t stand going through automated menus, even if it means having to talk in Spanish? This list is for you! If there are people so desperate that this list is useful to them, it makes me wonder why ANYone would have an automated menu…
Month: July 2009
Baseball’s image problem
Maury Brown is one of the most trusted online sports journalists – it seems demeaning to call him a “blogger” – for his Business of Sports Network, especially The Biz of Baseball. I felt moved to comment on a recent post examining 10 problems baseball faces in marketing its stars, mostly ones out of its control. I wouldn’t ordinarily put it here, but I apparently ran up against a mysterious, unadvertised character limit, so here it is. This reads significantly different from a normal blog post because it originated as a comment, but nonetheless touches on residual racism, Doonesbury, ESPN (and the problems thereof), Jackie Robinson, Ball Four, Black Power, the Simpson trial, Barack Obama (race comes up a lot here doesn’t it?), and just about everything surrounding the game of baseball today, big and small. I mostly wanted to get up my responses to Brown’s second, third, and eighth concerns.
Now You See Me, Now You Don’t –. One of baseball’s biggest problems isn’t about efforts by the league or the MLBPA to market its players, but rather how the players move on and off camera. Consider: with the exception of pitchers, players are shown during their at bats (3-6 times a game), on the base paths, or when a ball is hit to them on defense. There is no sustained face time. Whereas in the NBA, a player may be on the court for most, if not all of an entire game, baseball’s stars are only seen in a limited fashion. Baseball’s dynamic makes showing star players on camera continually nearly impossible.
The whole “athlete face time” argument makes less sense in a post-ESPN era. Also, this is a problem that has always affected baseball and always will affect baseball, and it didn’t seem to negatively affect the players of the past.
Lack of College Baseball Coverage – One of the biggest reasons the NFL and NBA does well in marketing their players has to do with young talent being covered on television while being part of NCAA Football or Basketball. For example, ESPN alone will show 300 college football games across their various platforms during the 2009 football season. Given that the transition from college to the pros for NFL and NBA players is a far shorter trek than most college baseball players that often times find themselves in development systems before ever making it to the majors, fans have been following many college football and basketball players for years before they enter the NFL or NBA. When you throw in that college baseball has only the College World Series as its national television platform, it’s difficult for MLB to market its young stars on the level that the NFL and NBA do
This has been a problem since cable TV and ESPN caught on, providing more college football and basketball coverage than ever before (that by far the biggest basketball stars to that point in the 80s were the two star players in the famous 1979 game that started the rise of March Madness is probably no accident), and didn’t seem to hurt the 90s stars too much, but it may be changing. The ratings for the College World Series Finals were comparable to the Women’s Final Four, suggesting ESPN should give it coverage comparable to women’s basketball. Sure enough, the SEC conference championships will be shown on an ESPN network as part of the new SEC-ESPN agreement. Still, a lot of people jump straight from high school to the pros, and unlike in basketball, always have and in very large numbers, so more college baseball alone isn’t enough.
But you point to what may be the real answer, which is that the minor leagues (especially AAA) really need (or at least deserve) a LOT more coverage. Basically, the extent of minor league coverage right now is the World-vs.-US game, the AAA all-star game, and the IL-vs.-PCL championship (not, to my knowledge, the individual league championships), all on ESPN2. Minor league teams tend to be in smaller markets but the smallest AAA market (Colorado Springs) is still top 100; the bigger problem is that players jump to MLB the instant they get good enough. College football and basketball have the fandom aspect as well as the “before they were pros” aspect, which the two problems I just mentioned make difficult; the best approach may be for major league teams’ fans to also become fans of their AAA teams, which is made easier by the close proximity many of those teams have to their parent teams.
I think MLB Network is really dropping the ball on this one; the metaphor with the former NFL Europe and NBDL isn’t really appropriate because of the different role each plays, but even NFL Network and NBATV respectively either had or have shown regular games from each, which MLBN isn’t doing to my knowledge, and minor league baseball has a lot more tradition and a lot more central role!
Wall St. Ad Execs Yet to Tap Minority Stars – Baseball can rightfully say that it has the most player diversity starting in games than any other US pro sports league. Some of MLB’s biggest stars are Latinos or from the Far East. The problem is television ad execs have yet to see the full potential of such players. A good example is Albert Pujols, someone that should translate well to the camera, but has not been used as a pitchman. Others include Ichiro Suzuki and David Ortiz. In terms of Far East athletes, maybe ad execs figure Yao Ming is enough. As for the Latin players, it seems a vast demographic isn’t being fully tapped.
THIS IS COMPLETELY INDEFENSIBLE. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods (I don’t count Ali because he probably became too controversial after changing his name and especially dodging the draft) have shown black athletes can have crossover appeal to whites; I see no reason Latinos and Asians should be any different. Asians are especially mystifying to me since they’re the richest non-white racial group.
What it’ll probably take to change that is the Latino or Asian Jordan or Woods; on the Asian front, both Ichiro and Yao have suffered by being on mediocre teams instead of even contending for championships (Ichiro in 2001 aside, but even he didn’t make the World Series). Pujols SHOULD be the Latino Jordan or Woods; he’s dominant enough (and I think if he wins the Triple Crown and businesses don’t leap all over him I’m just going to throw up my hands and give up) and has the rings (well, ring… well, he’s won the NL, I forget how far he’s really gotten). It’s even less defensible because Oscar De La Hoya might actually be close to, if not a Latino Jordan or Woods, at least a Latino Shaq or Brady. Brown’s fourth point is that baseball hasn’t had a transcendent player like Jordan or Woods in this decade, with only Derek Jeter coming close and Barry Bonds derailed by steroids allegations. I’d hate to think the only reason Pujols isn’t that player is latent racism. Fortunately, it probably isn’t. See below.
“Tradition” vs “Flash” – From a younger demo perspective, baseball has lost its luster, in large part due to the ascension of Michael Jordan. Baseball is touted as having a “long and prestigious tradition” which doesn’t exactly compete well with the high-energy tempo of the NBA, NFL, and NHL. As one scribe wrote, baseball is a game of calm, punctuated by extreme action. That sounds great… if you’re older. In an era where kids are looking for ultra-stimulus, baseball’s pace is lost in translation. When 18-34s have the lion’s share of discretionary income, baseball isn’t the first stop for some corporations with a young demo appeal when looking to advertise.
Complaints about the game’s pace are as old as the game itself; in fact there’s an old Doonesbury from the 70s that makes that joke. This always ends up coming around in circles (“Well, football has short bursts of action too!”). I personally don’t find balls and strikes boring, in part because you never know when it’s going to result in action (and until I wrote this comment I hadn’t thought to look here for the source of baseball’s-too-slow complaints and found them completely mystifying). There is the new aspect here that today’s youth has lower attention spans than ever before. (By the way, I’m only 21.)
Waiting For Barkley – In terms of studio shows surrounding games, baseball lags woefully behind most of its Big-4 counterparts. There is no “Howie” or “Terry”, or “Barkley”. FOX has dropped their pre-game show, which leaves TBS. And while Cal Ripken and Dennis Eckersley have made a go of it, they haven’t been able to exude the personality that other pre and post-game shows have had to offer. The solution, or at least an attempt at it? TBS has brought in David Wells.
This is the problem with ESPN in a nutshell. Sunday Night Baseball should feel really special each week and it really doesn’t. ESPN should really think about getting a special crew for Baseball Tonight on Sunday nights and try and get some splash and dash there. (John Kruk? Please.) If it’s needed to increase their motivation, maybe they should give up either the Monday/Wednesday games, or the Sunday night games, to another network like TBS. If the Sunday night games are the only games its network has, like with TNT and the NBA, they’ll feel more special and there will be more motivation to put on an “Inside the NBA” type show.
TBS’ Sunday Afternoon games are a joke and INCREDIBLY buried against NASCAR and golf, not to mention their own inconsistency of start time (really bad on the West Coast), picking behind ESPN, and TBS’ lack of punctuality in announcing the games during the season. (I’ve gotten the impression TBS doesn’t announce the game for flex weeks until the FRIDAY BEFORE IT’S PLAYED!) Don’t look to that package to be a savior. As far as most baseball fans are concerned, it’s Fox and ESPN all season and TBS comes out of nowhere during the postseason. When the contract comes up for renewal, either TBS will steal a package from ESPN or ESPN will take the postseason back from TBS.
Just Let Me Know When It Begins and Ends – Baseball finally got with the picture and realized that by putting World Series games on late Eastern Time, they were potentially losing a generation of baseball fans as kids hit the sack long before games would end. But, baseball’s a game that ends when it ends, as opposed to being controlled by the clock, that makes it difficult for fringe fans to get into when there are competing interests in hundreds of channels to switch to, and video games to play. Another issue that baseball faces – and only NASCAR seems to butt up against – has to due with delay of game due to weather. When a game starts, nothing kills your captive fan base off like a rain delay. Worse are games that are scheduled and postponed due to rain or snow. With families becoming intensely schedule driven, they want to know when the game is on, and when it ends.
How many games that don’t go extra innings or are rain delayed last more than four hours? Again, this is a problem that always has and always will afflict baseball. While there are more demands on people’s time than ever before, and extra-inning baseball games go longer than OT games in any sport save hockey, in order for this to be a marketability issue it would have to show up in the ratings.
MLB’s Image Problem – There’s the obvious (PED culture) and, the not so obvious (chewing tobacco) when it comes to baseball’s image. Would Manny Ramirez be more marketable if he hadn’t been suspended for PEDs? There’s a case to be made there. And, while it’s legal, few, if any, find a close up of a player with a mouthful of chaw spitting a stream of black tobacco drool appealing. Think Gillette would keep a player like Jeter in their ad campaigns if he chewed?
This is probably the big one. No one thinks Pujols is using steroids… but then, we said the same thing about Alex Rodriguez. MLB’s only hope here is for other leagues (especially the NFL) to be similarly chastized for PEDs, but it’s a bigger issue in purity-obsessed baseball than in musclebound, depraved, violence-driven football. The alternative? Well, the younger generation of fans (such as they are) don’t seem as concerned about the whole thing… I doubt most people even notice baseball players chewing, and it’s dumb enough that if baseball players basically refuse to stop chewing it points to deeper baseball-cultural issues that Brown doesn’t go into here dating back to Ball Four.
Brown’s ninth point is the idea that baseball is for old fogies, and I didn’t have much to say about it. His last point ties back into the point of the white eyes in the halls of big business. Remember when I said that it’s now proven that blacks can appeal to whites? This is why baseball isn’t benefiting from that.
The Declining Interest By African-Americans in Baseball – Whether it has been the rise in the NBA’s popularity due to the Jordan factor; the continued diversity growth in international players; the fact that on average, players can jump to the professional ranks faster in the NBA and NFL, or other factors, there has been a steady decline in the number of African-Americans playing baseball. MLB, late in proactively dealing with this issue, has been pushing the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, and working to highlight players such as Curtis Granderson in the latest This is Beyond Baseball ad campaign. But, the damage has been done, and now baseball is digging out from the hole.
Jackie Robinson was a big deal because baseball essentially ruled the sports landscape. But then the 60s and 70s happened, and by the 90s I don’t know if black interest in basketball was caused by Jordan or created him – the biggest white superstar after Larry Bird and Bill Laimbeer, who won all their titles before Jordan’s first, was John Stockton. (Certainly I don’t see many blacks jumping to golf because of Tiger Woods. The stench of whiteness and richness still follows it.) Basketball has really colonized urban playgrounds, especially since it takes up less space than a baseball field.
And then you see what’s happening in the South where great young black athletes in more rural areas are seeing college football as a better test of their skills than baseball, probably thanks in part to the tradition of the SEC compared to a lack of real stars (of any kind) created by the Braves during their TBS/AL East-winning heyday. Most black stars, like Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, or Ryan Howard, tend to go to northern, big markets (it’s too bad Griffey was injury-plagued in Cincinatti; Seattle and Pittsburgh may not be that big, or exactly surrounded by urbanity, but they’re far from the South where the rural blacks are). Even one of the Big Three markets with their large black populations wouldn’t drag rural blacks away from football. (Another reason blacks aren’t being drawn to golf after Tiger Woods: golf courses are best suited to rural areas, and the skill set of southern, rural blacks tends to involve speed and athleticism, while the only physical skill golf uses is strength.)
I suspect – though I doubt it’s really been studied or floated that much by others – that during the Black Power movement baseball became associated with The Man, especially as the other major human sport of the time, boxing, saw a black icon (and a Black Power icon to boot) emerge in Muhammad Ali that insulated it from being overly associated with whites. (Football was similarly insulated by stars like Jim Brown and OJ Simpson. Basketball wasn’t yet a major sport but it was already being colonized by blacks like Bill Russell, which I suspect led to it being claimed by, for lack of a better word, blackkind as their own. Baseball still had some black stars, but most of them were old fogies with Negro League experience, which probably netted them the Uncle Tom label; Frank Robinson is the only black star of the 70s that comes to mind. Spillover popularity from Ali gave rise to such dominant black fighters as Tyson and Holyfield during the 80s and 90s but boxing retreated to PPV, split into gazillions of different organizations, saw the dominant Tyson go batshit insane, and started dying a slow, painful death.)
Another problem might be that blacks don’t just blindly support their own the way whites got to thinking during the Simpson trial, and decided to distance themselves from the way Bonds handled the steroid allegations. (I’m sure some, perhaps many if not most, supported him, but was it really inspiring new people to enter that quagmire?) Which really brings us back to the whole steroids issue.
In my view, baseball’s problems have less to do with the structural issues that haven’t really gone away, and MUCH more to do with the steroids scandal. It may be a problem mostly with the old fogies, but it’s the old fogies in charge on Madison Avenue. If they won’t get with the program, and the image problem caused by PEDs is as hard to shake with them as it appears, baseball’s only hope for becoming “hip” again may lie in Barack Obama’s White Sox fandom… pray for a White Sox-Cardinals World Series?
My (belated) thoughts on the Erin Andrews Peep Show
I hate the sports blogosphere’s obsession with Erin Andrews. I think it’s cheap and trashy and shows an objectification of women and that Andrews doesn’t even look that great.
But guys, stand firm on your principles.
I’ve heard that several sports bloggers have called out the rest of the blogosphere for hypocrisy for criticizing the “EAPS” while making much of their traffic off pictures of Andrews.
I don’t have a problem with making a distinction between an “acceptable” form of leering and “unacceptable” forms. That’s probably going to be the second thing in a month that makes me run the risk of being flamed by feminists, but the fact is that men leering at hot chicks is as old as time, as is limits on it. That distinction, really, is everywhere in our society. As far as I’m concerned you can do whatever you want on the “right” side of the line as long as you stay on the “right” side of the line.
In fact, I’m going to go further. If I were in the position of a sports blogger who liked posting pictures of Erin Andrews, I would not have come to the sudden, shocking (SHOCKING) realization that this is WRONG and pulled back on the EA exploitation like, say, Fang’s Bites did. No, I’d keep up the EA parade at the same pace I always did.
If you’re going to decide it’s wrong to exploit male lust for hot chicks for hits, regardless of whether or not the object is okay with it as Andrews has been, then be consistent with it and maintain the policy all along. (As I do. I prefer my site to be porn for the mind. Hey, maybe that’ll be my tagline when the site relaunches: “Porn for the Mind”. I’ll get more hits than I otherwise would, certainly. Eh, maybe I’ll stick with “Ideas every day”. Even though I don’t post every day.) But you can object to Andrews being exploited in the wrong way and still continue to exploit her in the right way if you feel it’s okay. (Not that I’m precluding a legitimate change of heart here, of course.) All you have to do is make clear that you and your readers know where the line is and not to cross it.
Random Internet Discovery of the Week
In what may be my last (real) post before the reboot, I bring you… South Park.
@trent_reznor’s plan for turning indie music into webcomics!
New label time. I once had fantasies of becoming a musician, but I can’t come up with an original beat to save my life, my voice sounds horrible recorded, and, like most of my fantasies, I liked the fame and impact more than I liked the actual, you know, work. Certainly I might have never had a chance to break out within a year of recording a short demo tape like I fantasized, at least not without getting a gig on American Idol, and I’d probably be the guy you laughed at on the audition shows anyway.
But that fantasy is at least a little closer to the reach of musicians today, thanks to that great invention that will define the next millennium or at least the next century, the Internet. Which brings me to Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor’s thoughts on how aspiring musicians can take advantage of the Internet to break in to at least a limited extent.
Trent’s advice in a nutshell: Forget about making any money off your records. Give it all away for free. Put your music on iTunes just to get the iTunes audience, but base your revenue model off selling tchotshkes like T-shirts and other premium content. Basically, the typical webcomics model.
Huh? Evidently Reznor needs to be introduced to Scott McCloud’s 2001 theory that all the music industry needed to do was lower prices to the point that it would become too inconvenient to pirate to justify the savings. In other words, it’s not strictly necessary to give everything away for free, just really, really cheap. “Ah, but that was just McCloud’s attempt to justify his micropayments obsession…” Really? Then why did Xaviar Xerexes recently espouse essentially the same philosophy without noticing it even when I pointed it out to him? Besides, while micropayments have by and large been a complete failure, music in the form of iTunes has been one of the few places where it’s worked.
Look, I know a lot of people don’t like iTunes for loading down its music with DRM, but that just means there’s an opening in the market for someone to come along and try and create an iTunes killer that sells music at iTunes prices or maybe even slightly higher but without DRM. Take a YouTube-like zeal to wiping out pirated music and you just might create a service that, eventually, one of the big boys decides they should move to to reach out to the people who have run away from iTunes to get a DRM-free experience. In the meantime it becomes the hub for music that hasn’t sold out to The Man – and those musicians get to make at least a trickle of money off the music itself. Is the lower exposure worth it? I don’t know, but I’m sure it is for some.
I don’t like the notion of webcomiceers as glorified T-shirt salesmen and I’m not any more happy with the same notion as applied to indie rockers. The difference is, in the latter case, it’s not necessary.
Random Internet Discovery of the Week
I’m late on this RID and I didn’t get any votes on the Da Blog Poll anyway, so I’m extending the poll another week. Here are the topics I’m currently subscribed to, and which I would tentatively remain subscribed to if the poll decides I should pick the topics myself (I don’t know what a lot of these entail). I tried to pick as broad a cross-section as possible while also appealing to my own interests and trying to stick to the topic poll on the front page of the web site.
- American History
- Classical Studies
- Fine Arts
- Live Theatre
- Performing Arts
- Consumer Info
- Computer Hardware
- Internet Tools
- Online Games
- Video Games
- Web Development
- Medical Science
- Self Improvement
- Board Games
- Card Games
- Roleplaying Games
- Married Life
- Teen Life
- Alternative News
- Comic Books
- Fantasy Books
- Radio Broadcasts
- Science Fiction
- Classic Films
- Alternative Energy
- Civil Engineering
- Cognitive Science
- Political Science
- Space Exploration
- Career Planning
- Conservative Politics
- Dating Tips
- Int’l Development
- Liberal Politics
- Men’s Issues
- News (General)
- Personal Sites
- American Football
- Martial Arts
- Motor Sports
- Sports (General)
This excludes a pretty significant number of topics that had been on before, despite the overall increase in topics, and most of them were not even considered for the new list. Just so you know how dire the situation was.
Of course, if the alternative is an ad-overloaded page trying to further or start an internet meme, I’m not sure it’s much of an improvement…
Why Title IX is hopelessly broken in brief: the post that will get me flamed by (some) feminists forever
Title IX was never intended to be the protector of women’s sports. It was intended to ensure women’s access to all education and educational services. But thanks in part to myopic administrators, its identity has become entirely consumed with college sports, and a misreading of the law (not only did the law not refer to athletics it begins with “no person…”) has led to even well-meaning regulators becoming misguided – the modern interpretation of the law obsesses over how much sports schools offer in proportion to the student population, and – in part to schools today having a gender imbalance in favor of females, and the lack of female football programs when football teams are massive compared to other sports – actually calls for, if one gender must have more sports than the other, that gender being the female.
This is totally bass-ackwards.
If a girl wants to play lacrosse, let her play lacrosse, assuming she can find enough other girls to field a team. But bringing bureaucracy into the mix and enforcing insane hard limits and reverse discrimination not only misses the point of the law, it misses the point of sports.
Sports is rooted in the spirit of competition: in beating the other guy to achieve dominance. It’s a modern expression of our ancestors fighting each other to woo the women. It’s an inherently male institution; in some sense, there are not only cultural but biological reasons for women to have less interest in sports. Women are, generally, more interested in cooperation than competition; when women do turn against one another, it tends to take more subtle, less physical forms. (It is shocking to me that two of the three most popular female sports in this country, golf and tennis, are individual rather than team sports. Then again, golf doesn’t involve direct competition and the appeal of women’s tennis isn’t in the game.)
Part of the problem is deeper, of course, and points at the bureaucratization of society…
Truly, the end of an era. Hopefully, not of the earth.
If I’m going to give my critical thinking skills a workout, I need to give my critical thinking skills a workout. And since I hope to do a lot of thinking over the course of my life, this should be an important and positive excersize for me. So you know what? I don’t care anymore that no one’s pitching in at the Global Warming Open Thread, or e-mailing me with their arguments. It’s going to be a bit more work for me, but it’s work I probably should do. … It’ll be a more fulfilling experience for me, building skills I’ll need to do more of these series in the future, perhaps even skills that will prove useful for snagging a real job or at least doing well in college. … If there’s a downside, I might not have as much information as I’d like if it doesn’t pop up right away in Google, and I want as complete a picture as possible for this heady issue. But I think it’s worth the risk from a personal growth point of view, and I hope you’re all along for the ride.
–Me, in April
Do me a favor: Next time I say something like this, give me a good smack upside the head.
Seriously, I actually thought this would be a “personal growth” experience instead of my own personal hell?
I’ve been in a bit of a schedule crunch for the past few months, with a lot of stuff on my plate and some of my school studies starting to suffer a bit. The worst part, and the part that I think has been dragging me slowly insane, has been the global warming series. You may have gleaned some evidence of this from the increasing lateness of the strip (seriously, I posted the strip at 7 PM PT yesterday?) and from some of my Twitter posts, but I haven’t been in the mood to do research for the series as much as I’ve needed since entering the second phase. Research for the series started out as not too bad if time-consuming and sometimes shied away from, but it has since become an obligation I really haven’t wanted to do, a job I tack on as an afterthought after doing everything else, especially since starting my recent summer class. I told myself, as was hinted in a recent strip, I had to maintain a daily schedule to finish the series as fast as possible, but for most of the second phase I’ve rarely worked more than one strip in advance.
What’s more, the sheer weight of the research required has started to wear on my brain. You’ve seen me start to give a more pro-global-warming bias than I ever intended to give, failing to properly explore arguments, and breaking them off prematurely – or over-relying on waiting strips that move the argument precisely zilch, often essentially repeating prior arguments. This series hasn’t “given my critical thinking skills a workout”, it’s worn them down to nothing.
All that might be excusable if I had touched off the open debate I hoped to start, or attracted the people I hoped to attract to Sandsday to explore the debate for themselves as I present it. But not only has none of that happened, readership has actually gone down compared to the preceding video game strips. Previously the strip, according to Project Wonderful stats, averaged about five page views a day; right now I’m lucky to get two. The Sandsday ad box has actually been delisted, something that never happened before – suspended for no one loading the box, but not out-and-out delisted for poor performance.
So all that leads to the development at least hinted at in today’s strip: I am suspending – not aborting – the global warming series for about three weeks, maybe four. During that time we’ll go back to the sort of strips that characterized Sandsday before the series began, that is to say, video game strips. Afterwards, the series will start up again. However, once the series starts up again I will not hold myself to a daily schedule, but will instead do research when I feel like it and release strips accordingly. There may be long swathes without any strips at all, or periods where a lot of strips are released, one a day for weeks. I will allow the series to play out more organically and naturally from here on out until it reaches a conclusion. Once the series reaches an end I will end Sandsday right then and there with my final verdict. I’ve considered ending the strip before – at one point I was considering ending it at #500 – but the inability of the global warming series to increase readership and its increasing job-like nature have convinced me that I probably will never get the readership I’d hoped for and probably will never find the strip as enjoyable as I would need to to continue with it.
Sandsday will not be the last comic I do, not even the last webcomic; I have at least two other ideas I’d like to bring down the pipeline, although they almost certainly won’t be ready before the site relaunch. I still stand by the basic gimmick of the strip even if I was not able to utilize its potential in the way I had hoped for, and I feel like I’ve tarnished the gimmick in some way by working on it myself instead of leaving it for other, more talented writers to pick up. I would like Sandsday to go down as an experiment that I used to help build my writing abilities by getting in over 500 reps over a period of nearly (if not over) two years. I’ve gotten some appreciative comments about the strip; I have also gotten some comments that have told me to, essentially, get some art lessons and abandon this hopeless carcass. Through it all, I maintained a streak of consecutive days with a strip that will run to over 550 by the time I start dropping strips. I don’t take the decision to end the strip lightly, but I trust that with the time I’m freeing up by ending the strip, there will be more and better stuff to come into the Morgan Wick Online Universe that will make up for the loss.
I’m sure the only reason the pigs aren’t airborne is because it’s heavy overcast.
Day 94 of the BottomLine watch. Over three months since an ESPN spokesperson told Sports Media Watch the new BottomLine would be back “soon”. I’m starting to think it may not come back at all, or at the very least it’ll probably be another six months…
…what’s that? What’s that thing at the bottom of the screen? The… the new BottomLine is back! I knew it was only a matter of time! Naturally I have some thoughts:
- When the BottomLine first disappeared I gave a list of some things that maybe they were adjusting it for. It certainly appears it now has “SCORE ALERT” functionality, but it also has a bunch of graphic spiffiness involving the divider between the score and stats – which, while I liked the shrinking of the score, if adopting that functionality is part of the reason the return of the BottomLine took so long, they need to take another look at their priorities.
- Looks like ESPN2 isn’t losing the last vestiges of its identity after all, as the ESPN2 BottomLine still says “ESPN2”, albeit because my SD TV has problems with centering (or that could just be my cable box) it’s partly cut off. They’re clearly locating both logos differently vis-a-vis the right side of the screen (and each other) compared to the old BottomLine.
- It appears that, regardless of program, it’s simply “ESPN BottomLine” except on SportsCenter. Granted, I only noticed the change on Jim Rome Is Burning, Around The Horn, and PTI, not on studio shows like NFL Live and Baseball Tonight.
- Why is it, say, “RANGERS VS ORIOLES” for baseball when a game hasn’t started yet, but for, say, the Gold Cup, it’s “USA” and “HONDURAS” in separate boxes as though showing the score, as in the old BottomLine? If it’s to condense the display to show when a game is on an ESPN network and 360, why is it condensed for the other baseball games, and why isn’t it condensed for soccer? Personally I prefer the separate-boxes approach, the other way is just gimmicky…
While we’re here, let’s take a look at other developments in the world of sports graphics:
Remember when Versus introduced a new banner at the NHL Conference Semifinals? Well, for the Conference Finals, and continuing through its Stanley Cup Finals games, Versus changed its banner. Again. So, which was the banner they originally intended to adopt for the long haul? Was the change a response to people’s criticism of the old banner, or was the old banner always a placeholder until the new one was ready and they were too embarrassed about the previous banner to wait?
Or is this the placeholder while Versus updates the other graphics? Because if there’s one thing that marks this graphic, it’s the return of the old fonts. Beyond that, the main features are the addition of black-on-white boxes for the period number and time left in the period.
Meanwhile, it’s official: the gray, two-line box is becoming a trend. Fox adopted it not only for FSN, but for its own baseball broadcasts as well, and ESPN turned it into a strip; now TBS has joined in on the fun. But TBS seems to be insanely protective of its video; not only can’t I find any video of the new TBS box online that I can embed, ESPN and other outlets (even MLB.com!) use local feeds for their highlights of TBS games (which means there aren’t even any highlights I can’t embed). But they can’t shake this forever, and you will see a full analysis of the TBS box come this October.
In tennis, ESPN moved the banner it introduced at the Australian Open to the top of the screen at the French for some reason. Somehow I think that wasn’t the only change; the strip seems bigger for some reason. Whatever it is, it seems more amateur.
At Wimbledon, however, perhaps as a result of realizing that the banner was potentially confusing and maybe even in preparation of transitioning tennis onto the new MNF-styled banner, ESPN rolled out a small, compact box, but kept the “scoreboard” aspect of, among other things, showing deuce as 40-40 by placing the points alongside the game count and abandoning server-first order entirely (again). It’s a big improvement over the Australian/French banner in my opinion, one of the better tennis graphics ESPN has yet tried that isn’t a carbon copy of the norm in this country.
It appears ESPN took one lesson from the world feed, but not the one I suggested last year upon seeing their abomination of a Wimbledon graphic – the points display here is similar to that used by the world feed. All that’s left is showing number of sets instead of score of sets and abbreviating last names! Okay, not so much…
Random Internet Discovery of the Week
I’m linking to this even though I’m not sure how useful it would be (I use an Excel spreadsheet as a “checkbook” of sorts) and I’m announcing right now that this will be the last RID under the status quo. That sort of violates the Da Blog Poll, on which the only vote I received was the one I was least a fan of – “leave it as is” – but that’s no longer an option.
StumbleUpon has either radically broadened the choice of categories to the point that it now requires categorization of the categories, or has merely broadened the choice of categories available to me. There is a cap of 127 categories, and there are far more categories than that to choose from. The previous thesis of the Random Internet Discovery was that I was opening your horizons to stuff from every category.
If the RID is to continue, it will have to involve some sort of cap on topics, some form of selectiveness. I’d really rather not have my topics determined by the fact I was subscribed to them before getting a broadening of my options. That’s practically the same as having them determined at random. So I’m reopening the Da Blog Poll I conducted when the RID was just beginning. Selecting all the topics is not an option, so the question simply asks whether I should select the topics myself, poll you, discontinue the RID, or something else. (If I was scared at a potential 78-topic poll a year ago, imagine the chaos that would ensue with hundreds of topics! That may have to be a comment thread, not a poll!) The poll will run for two weeks and the topics will be self-selected next week, along with a list of the topics I would select.