Setting the stage for the next week

My laptop is on its way to HP. Under the circumstances, it looks like I’m probably going to be working off Mom’s computer for all of next week, and maybe into the week after that.

The FF50 challenge looks to be in good shape. I may have to either move Tuesday’s drafts later, or move at least the noon one to 9 AM PT, due to various commitments, but other than that everything should proceed swimmingly, aside from Mom’s attempts to get me to do other, more productive things.

Naturally, after my promises to keep webcomic posts to a minimum while my laptop is getting fixed, next week may prove to be a rather webcomic-heavy week. QC and Homestuck definitely, Gunnerkrigg Court maybe. The HS post will be rather general in nature; I’m going to hold off on posting on Act 6 Intermission 3 probably until it’s over, intentionally this time, partly because of the three daisy-chained exploration non-flashes that either start or consist the intermission that are probably intended to form one long non-flash, partly because of how buggy it is still; even in the preferred Chrome browser on Mom’s computer, sometimes the sound will spontaneously shut off for no reason, so I’m going to wait until my computer comes back to go through the other non-flashes.

Between webcomics and other things, I have plenty of ideas to fill out the next week of posts already.

Rethinking the rest of the Major League Baseball contract

Suddenly ESPN’s agreement with Major League Baseball makes a lot more sense, because of an arrangement I knew about but hadn’t anticipated.

The New York Times is reporting that CBS and Turner, evoking their NCAA Tournament marriage, have formed an alliance to try to win the baseball rights. I had laid out a potential CBS/Turner marriage as a possible dark-horse option for the NASCAR contract, but I had figured that such an alliance was impractical and unnecessary in baseball, especially with CBS’ own existing commitments and successful primetime. This means that the scenario I had laid out as the favorite on Tuesday, essentially a maintenance of the status quo, may now be a nonstarter, as TBS neither needs nor probably wants Fox to be the broadcast partner. Under the circumstances, that makes such an alliance a very strong contender to kick Fox out of the sport, one that could box NBC out entirely.

Perhaps more interesting, though, CBS reportedly only wants the All-Star Game and World Series, which evokes shades of NBC’s post-Baseball Network contract in the mid-late 90s, an arrangement I hadn’t thought would be repeated. That tells me that TBS isn’t dumb enough to take the crappy Sunday afternoon package again, which means it might be moving to MLB Network after all. No, TBS has their sights set on a far bigger prize, the big enchilada, Fox’s current main Saturday contract. Even with one game each week compared to ESPN’s three, that, coupled with TBS’ considerable postseason coverage (though I still expect ESPN to get a piece of the Division Series and maybe even an LCS), would instantly cement TBS as the main baseball broadcaster, similar to TNT’s place in the NBA contract. I had described the “ESPN/TBS” scenario as the worst-case scenario for people wanting an ESPN competitor, but while it is bad for NBC and horrible for Fox, it may well be the best scenario for baseball fans, who lose Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, and the infamous blackouts of out-of-market Fox games – that last being something I couldn’t promise with NBC.

On the other hand, if MLB is seriously considering not putting a single regular season game on national broadcast television, they’re once again proving how out-of-touch they are. Leave it to MLB to find a way to be the first professional league to sign a contract as cable-reliant as the BCS and NCAA Tournament deals despite the anti-trust exemption hanging over their heads. Combine that with the monopoly many regional sports networks have over teams’ games, and many fans without cable might be utterly unable to see any baseball games other than the All-Star Game and World Series all year long. (Incidentally, the All-Star Game seems like it’d be an even weirder fit on CBS than it would Fox, since it’d be the only game on CBS for months. I don’t see any reason not to put it on TBS; is the ASG covered by the anti-trust exemption threat too?)

That leaves me hesitant to proclaim the CBS/Turner alliance the new favorite; after putting up Tuesday’s post, I realized it actually did make some sense to put the Sunday afternoon game on FX, though a Fox Sports network is still a non-starter (to the point that Fox retaining the baseball contract might now be a bad sign for its chances of launching a network). But despite the lack of broadcast presence, it is the scenario that makes the most sense to me. And it certainly makes enough sense that it probably murders what little chance NBC still had to win the baseball contract, which has to send NBC panicking; after all its commitment to sports, NBC may now find itself the only broadcast network without a presence in the three non-NFL modern major sports, potentially setting up some cruel NHL jokes at NBC’s expense (“it’s appropriate that the NHL is on NBC because…”) and placing a massive premium on winning a piece of the NASCAR contract.

As if I wasn’t having enough trouble getting anything done this summer…

So, the frame of the screen of my laptop has become disconnected from the screen itself in one corner, AND one hinge has come loose, so I’m going to have to send it in to be repaired and that could take over a week.

The timing on this could not be worse as it jeopardizes the FF50 competition; I will probably have to do the drafts on my mom’s computer, if I do as many as I had planned at all, as Mom’s probably not going to be happy about me monopolizing the computer for large chunks of the day, especially when I could be doing more productive things.

Also, I’m going to be keeping my webcomics posts to a minimum over the course of the week. It’s unfortunate with the current events in Gunnerkrigg Court and Questionable Content that could become post-worthy soon, but it’s probably necessary.

ESPN extends its baseball contract eight years

I never expected ESPN to not be part of the new baseball contract, but I have to admit I’m left utterly bewildered by the new contract that keeps all three primetime cable games on ESPN… but only gives them a single measly wild card game (and any tiebreakers).

First of all, I’m shocked that ESPN would pay so much (something like double the previous contract) for what basically amounts to the status quo, especially after their vocal commitment to get back into the postseason. I suspect that, even more than getting back into the postseason, ESPN’s real motivation was to blunt NBC and prevent NBC Sports Network from getting into baseball in any way. While TBS’ acquisition of one LCS was negotiated separately from their acquisition of the entire Division Series in the last contract, I don’t see how, if ESPN was going to acquire most of the rest of the postseason similarly, why they wouldn’t announce it now, yet I have a hard time seeing who else might get it. There’s no reason for Fox to suddenly do an about-face and go back to clearing out their October schedule for postseason games, there’s no point in NBC getting baseball without putting games on NBC Sports Network, and there’s no room for any other cable outlet to air regular season games, unless… sigh… the Sunday afternoon package is kept.

I now, sadly, think the most likely outcome is a maintenance of the status quo with the only real change being ESPN’s addition of holiday and tiebreaker/wild card games (and I do suspect ESPN will add some Division Series games later). NBC could take over the Fox package for the broadcast network and the Sunday afternoon package for NBC Sports Network, but considering how crappy the latter package has been, I think it’s more likely that NBC is already focusing on trying to get a piece of the NASCAR package. I also think any chance of Fox putting games on FX or certainly a Fox Sports Network is now out the window, reducing the chances of the latter coming to fruition.

By keeping all three primetime cable games, ESPN just severely crippled the chances of any entity seriously competing with them, and one has to wonder whether NBC will be stuck fighting for scraps forever.

Sport-Specific Networks
9 11.5 4.5 4.5 0 1.5

I almost always seem to have trouble coming up with titles for these webcomic blog reviews.

I have been reading the Webcomic Overlook for close to four months and in all that time have remained completely stymied by the same problem: I have no idea what to say about it. I mean that quite literally: I find absolutely nothing remarkable about any of El Santo’s reviews.

In some sense, perhaps that’s a good thing; El Santo doesn’t really have any of the idiosyncrasies of a Robert A. Howard or even an Eric Burns(-White). He simply goes forth and reviews webcomics, completely unremarkably. That’s not to say he simply reports on webcomics in a completely boring style; far from it. Most of the time, his style is as playful and laid-back as the best of them, yet capable of deconstructing a webcomic when circumstances warrant. In that sense, he’s not entirely unlike Websnark, except he doesn’t get quite as neurotic as Websnark or even Tangents can get.

Nearly four years ago, Eric Burns(-White) identified several different definitions of the word “critic”, and if he strives to be the “scholarly” type of critic and YWIB exemplified the “negative” type of critic, then El Santo is perhaps webcomics’ foremost example of the “reviewer” type of critic, possibly, though I’d need a more knowledgable outsider’s take on this, the answer to the challenge set forth in the comments to that post. That characterization of Websnark may surprise anyone who read my original response to that post, but unlike Websnark, Tangents, and me, El Santo never comments on current events in comics he reads. He strictly writes a review on how good the comic as a whole is and whether or not he recommends it, occasionally doing some scholarly analysis of why it works or doesn’t work (and occasionally getting quite snarky at something he doesn’t like), and then he generally doesn’t touch it again. If Tangents was the first to succeed at treating webcomics like literary novels, El Santo is, if not the first, certainly the most prominent to treat them like movies.

Although El Santo’s style comes across as rather breezy, when compared to how Websnark and Tangents do the same sort of actual “review” review, he’s substantially closer to the latter than the former. The main thing that separates them is that, while both of them will start by saying something on some tangentially related subject that they eventually bring around to the subject of the review, El Santo does so with a bit more levity, while Tangents tends to stay more deadly serious. I made fun of Howard for that tactic, but with El Santo it’s more a part of his appeal and charm. Beyond that, both of them break down the elements of the comic and what makes it tick, or not tick.

(Considering how Websnark almost never did any actual reviews except in connection with some current moment – though my inability to find them wasn’t helped by the fact they never did get around to fixing their old archives – it’s hard to say it had a style.)

El Santo bills his main reviews as “ridiculously long”, but I never get the sense that they’re really that long. It’s not like he’s launching into a detailed dissertation on every aspect of a webcomic; I’m not even sure they’re longer than my own reviews. They’re certainly longer than what Websnark and Tangents engage in, but that may say more about them – and thus, the state of webcomics criticism – than about him. For the most part, El Santo fills out his reviews with detailed descriptions of the plot (as opposed to the brief descriptions of the concept Websnark or Tangents would use) that he’ll sometimes use as a jumping-off point to talk about his thoughts on the comic’s evolution and aspects of the comic, coming back around to more general aspects towards the end. One of my few quibbles with him is his reliance on formula, tending to focus on explaining the plot and using that as a jumping off point for analysis rather than using the analysis as a jumping off point for explaining the plot as I would do.

He seems to be most in his comfort zone when talking about a humor comic or a comic he hates, as that’s when he’s at his snarkiest, but that’s to be expected; what’s impressive is his ability to switch to extremely serious analysis of a good dramatic webcomic, maybe even in the same review. He’s almost found a way to take the Websnark approach and evolve it into a more professional (for lack of a better word) form. I get the sense that his review style has evolved as it’s gone on, with him finding his voice and a review style that works for him and does the medium more justice; he was plenty snarky even in his five-star review of Gunnerkrigg Court and didn’t go on so long about the plot (admitedly at a time when it didn’t have much plot). Beyond his focus on plot exposition, he might be the closest of the three to my own reviews stylistically, and those early reviews even more so.

I can’t say we have a common taste in actual webcomics – I have to disagree with his calling Scary Go Round one of the best webcomics of the last decade, and how dare he blaspheme Order of the Stick by only giving it four stars (and then only because it does what it does with stick figures)?!? Considering our shared enjoyment of OOTS, Gunnerkrigg Court, Questionable Content, and even Darths and Droids, my tastes seem to run more in parallel with those of Robert A. Howard, though I don’t know if I would like The Wotch or some of the other comics of that sort Howard has reviewed in the past or whether he would like Ctrl+Alt+Del (or at least that comic’s early days), though I do get the sense that both Howard and El Santo would really like Homestuck (El Santo even gave its predecessor Problem Sleuth five stars).

That, combined with the fact that as snarky as El Santo can get, he doesn’t really give me an actual reason to read his reviews (unlike Websnark), makes me ambivalent about adding the Webcomic Overlook to my RSS reader full-time. He’s not giving me a reason not to, so it’s staying on my RSS reader for now, but the Webcomic Overlook is just sort of there to me. Perhaps I’d get a kick out of his comments on current happenings in webcomics now that I’m not reading Comixtalk anymore, but I wouldn’t read it just for that if I found I liked Fleen.

Starting Da Blog’s 2012 football season with a whimper

It is with a heavy sigh that I have begun the process of preparing the site for the 2012 football season (last week’s fantasy draft didn’t count). I’ve been dreading this because of all the stuff I wanted to get done this summer that didn’t get done. Both lineal titles have their respective first games updated, and sometime before Thursday I’ll tweet out when you can expect the first rankings. Because of the Fantasy Football Fifty Challenge, those and the SNF Flex Schedule Watch may be the only things I do this year.

Bakson busy bakson.

Even if I wanted to write an actual post, I’m too tired after a long day with small meals to do so.

But even if I could, I’d probably be pouring into the new OOTS book I just got. (Mom tells me I should be saving for a new laptop. Psh!)

Coming sometime Friday: a post on Gunnerkrigg Court, Questionable Content, or the webcomic blog review I’ve been promising all week.

In case you’re wondering: Yes, I am only dipping my toe into the cesspool of PVP-land to continue the streak.

(From PVP. Click for full-sized anticlimactic revelations.)

Jeez, Max, it’s 2012. It’s not like the staff of PVP are a bunch of redneck homophobes. I don’t know if you have a problem with your lifestyle and that’s why this is so hard for you, but in this day and age I don’t think most people are going to think twice.

Hell, as Kurtz points out in the news post it’s not like this is even news to some of them. Now if you had a boyfriend and you were running off to get married, that might be something noteworthy.

(Random comment that came to mind while writing this post: Do we know where the PVP offices are? I thought it might be Seattle because Kurtz has a business relationship with the Seattle-based PA guys, but I seem to recall a storyline a while back that made a big deal about them being in Seattle as though it were a trip…)

Shark League Draft Post-Mortem

You may recall I was feeling pretty sure of myself after the first two rounds of my FantasySharks League draft, when I had Larry Fitzgerald and Maurice Jones-Drew in my possession.

That…feeling didn’t last. My next five picks ended up all being wide receivers, and I wound up drafting eight wideouts over the course of the entire draft. If Jones-Drew’s holdout doesn’t end and none of the injured running backs I picked are ready, I’ll only be able to play one running back Week 1. I have a hard time believing I’m going to have a worse draft when I fill out the other 49 teams over Labor Day Weekend.

It’s apparent that the lists I was relying on overemphasize wideouts so much compared to their Shark League value that it’s going to be difficult to correct for. Someone told me that the lack of trading in Shark Leagues has a bigger impact on the draft than I would have thought, effectively leading one to focus on drafting their starting lineup at the major positions in the first six picks, but I’m not fond of trading anyway, and it wouldn’t change the fact that I drafted a wideout in the first and third rounds and probably would have filled my entire bench with them thereafter. I’m now playing “Wide Receiver Survivor”, with my eight wideouts fighting not to be cut in the first few weeks in favor of free agents to shore up my situation at tight end, running back, and possibly quarterback, though it’s entirely possible Jay Cutler, who broke the run of wideouts in the eighth, could work out.

I joined the Shark Leagues to test how far my own “strategy”, to the extent it could be called such, could really take me. I now suspect that the rules of the leagues have been intentionally devised to attempt to weed out anyone remotely noobish, and undercut any crutches such as I might use. So I intend to stick with it another year, but I’m going to have to make some big changes to my strategy to allow it to hold up under the circumstances. Even then, I’m not sure it’s going to be enough.

A change of pace.

So, I think I’m starting to solve the problem of my beating my head against the wall on these projects I’ve been spending the whole summer trying and failing to work on. I’ve been doing so by working on another project that’s longer-term but that I haven’t been beating myself up as much on. Maybe with enough time working on that, I’ll be refreshed to take on the more pressing projects.

Expect this to be a webcomic-heavy week, by the way. I might have a webcomic blog review posted as soon as tomorrow.