More football than you’d ever expect two days before the Super Bowl

(Editor’s note: This post was  reconstructed from scratch because WordPress’ importer missed it the first time through. I don’t think any comments were left with this post but if there were I apologize.)

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated uses the Arizona Cardinals to back the BCS, or at best a plus-one, in a column on SI.com. In his eyes, if the Cardinals could tank once they cinched their division and then rendered their mediocre regular season irrelevant in the playoffs, what’s to keep Florida from tanking before the SEC Title Game, or Virginia Tech from rendering irrelevant their mediocre regular season and cruising to the Golden Bowl in Cardinal-esque fashion?

You know I’m a staunch backer of an 11/5 system for college football. While Mandel makes a compelling argument, I think it falls flat for a number of reasons. Ignoring the tanking-Florida argument because I’ve covered it before, it’s worth remembering that V-Tech wouldn’t automatically get a home-field seed just for winning a mediocre conference, meaning the confluence of good fortune that assisted Arizona would need to be significantly greater. Even with a home field 8th seed, V-Tech would either need three games to go their way (not two as Arizona needed), or make their own luck twice (not once as Arizona needed). That’s before considering how much home field has been diluted in the NFL, which you can’t say about the famous college football crowds.

I have more in my comment to the Bleacher Report article that tipped me off to Mandel’s article.

Meanwhile, the college football rankings are finally up, as are updates to both lineal titles.

Maybe this post is just to maintain my two-today pledge in my own mind.

One thing that, when you think about it, is rather amazing about America is its diversity – not in race or creed or anything like that, but in the places people live. America is a big country – only Russia, China, and depending on who you talk to, China (and I’m not talking about Taiwan) are bigger. But in those other three countries there are pretty wide swaths of the country that are basically unsettled, and #5 on the list, Brazil, is a full million square kilometers smaller – and with the exception of the capital of Brasilia, the vast majority of the population is packed in on the coast. Australia is perhaps the only country that can compare to the US’ size and uniformity (all other countries are a third the States’ size at best), in that they have at least some major cities on the west coast (Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is fourth-largest), but even they have the Outback. The United States may have a lot of “flyover country”, but fairly large cities like St. Louis and Texas’ cities dot it, and even the Rocky Mountains have some sizable cities in Denver, Salt Lake, and the like. And on the UN’s list of “urban agglomerations“, only India has two entries larger than Los Angeles, or three entries larger than Chicago.

Perhaps as a result, we seem to take a lot of pride in our cities and really identify with them, especially since we tend to be further from other cities than in other countries. It also helps that our cities identify themselves more and stand out more. Sure, you might have heard of both Shanghai and Beijing, or even Mumbai and Delhi, but good luck distinguishing between them. But Los Angeles is the movie capital, Las Vegas is the gambling capital, Boston and Chicago are crazy about sports, Philadelphia and Boston are birthplaces of the nation, Miami is a vacation destination, San Francisco is known for the Golden Gate Bridge and liberalism, and so on. (I’m sure people in other nations will tell me the only reason I can’t tell the difference between cities in the same country outside the US is because I’m an ignorant American, but bear with me here.)

We all identify with Americans, but in something that may be a holdover from the days when people identified themselves by their state first, the place we live is close behind. There isn’t a monolithic culture across the entire country; America’s too big for that. One thing Americans take for granted that, from what I hear, is largely unique is that we have one level of news broadcasts for the nation, but also another for each community we live in. Similarly, when it comes to sports teams we identify very tightly with a fairly small set of sports teams that generally associate with one general metro area, and for the most part, we root for the local team by default. I really am fascinated by it. The closest parallel in Europe might not be individual cities like London and Paris, but the whole countries within the European Union.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I was going with this, other than I wanted to talk about ESPN’s creating a blog network for local coverage of all 30 NBA teams. There’s quite a bit of mileage out there in the “blogosphere” – you have blogs for specific topics, blogs for just about any league, blogs for individual teams, and so on. (Baseball and college basketball are presumably now demanding their own blog networks from ESPN.)

I was wondering if there were blogs out there covering a given city’s entire sports scene – one for New York, one for Chicago, one for Philadelphia, and the like. I was shocked to discover that (at least for New York and Seattle) they were few and far between! Blogs covering individual teams, two at most, were FAR more common! I could understand that it might be stressful to cover too many teams in too many sports at once, but it can’t be THAT stressful just to be a fan of the teams in your backyard, and certainly the reward of building a tight-knit community of fans would be worth it, don’t you think? Even if you’re uncomfortable covering two teams in the same sport that are probably bitter rivals, you could easily split the work with a sister blog or second writer, right?

And don’t forget, Sandsday Mail Call next week!

There’s a story behind today’s strip, and it has nothing to do with Patrick McGoohan.

When I did a Gary Gygax tribute last year, I told myself that when other sufficiently geeky notable figures (or sufficiently notable figures period) died, I would do similar tributes to them. I did that to reassure myself, because even though numerous other webcomics, including such highlights as Penny Arcade and xkcd, did similar tributes, the fact remained that the only reason I was doing a Gary Gygax tribute was because Order of the Stick did one. Order of the Stick never does topical strips; the closest it comes tends to be throwaway references in early panels. Still, the fact remained that I was effectively letting OOTS write my strip, and I was able to live with myself better if I told myself that was not going to be the only time, that I had more in store.

I did not. By all rights I should have done strips on the passing of George Carlin or even Eartha Kitt. Nonetheless, I still let that Gary Gygax strip stand alone as my only tribute to a dead figure, one created solely to mimic another webcomic, and I decided not to let that stand by the time one year had passed since it was published, and before the one-year anniversary of the strip itself if possible.

Not to sound flip, but I debated about doing a strip about Ricardo Montalban and was starting to regretfully lean towards no before McGoohan died – saved me, you might say – and while he was still a marginal case for having the right combination of geekiness and notability, I decided that “The Prisoner” was close enough. It helped that I had a strip I was unhappy about (it’s really incredibly disgusting and I need to take a hatchet to it before before I’m comfortable posting it) that I was hoping to bump out of the rotation. Besides, he passes the xkcd test, in that I’d be shocked if xkcd doesn’t have its own tribute up by Monday. It’s right up Randall Munroe’s alley!

Also, while I’m here, I do not condone anyone using this strip to start wild McGoohan/Elvis/Hoffa theories. Or even getting the idea from this post.

Final Post of 2008: Year In Review

Because I just got a new idea and I’m breaking up my minor bowls into two posts, you’re actually getting THREE posts each today and tomorrow!

Wow.

Wow.

Can you believe that just happened?

I mean… this was a year in which, after eight years of Bush, a Democrat was elected President in resounding fashion. And in so doing became the first black president in the nation’s history… after being completely unheard of four years ago (and arguably, not much better two years later). And running a campaign that was not only the culmination of a four-year trend of people’s participation in political campaigns, but was almost a people’s movement on par with anything coming out of the sixties. Almost literally, Barack Obama was no longer a candidate or even a person; he was a cause.

Speaking of his race, this was a year when – out of nowhere – after years of both groups being in the wilderness, it became virtually guaranteed from the start that either a black or a woman would garner a major-party nomination for President.

And both of those produced, by far, one of the most entertaining presidential campaigns ever.

This was a year that ushered us into what almost everyone is calling not a mere recession, but our worst crisis of the sort since the Great Depression… and it has a shot to be even worse than that, and upend everything we know about American society.

This was a year that produced so many great sports moments that ESPN had little to do but sit there, awestruck, and produce one single special, lacking any of the formatting of past specials, that proclaimed it simply “the Greatest Year in Sports”, including an Olympics that produced too many moments to count, from the Opening Ceremonies to Michael Phelps to Usain Bolt and plenty more you probably didn’t see. No “Top 10 Games” special as in years past, and I should have included the Ryder Cup in my own list. Probably at #8, bumping out #8 or #9. Seriously, I could have easily made it a top 20, and that may have been the problem.

And most of all, this was a year that produced a lot of turmoil in my own life… when I launched my own webcomic and finally found a voice on Da Blog, when I found myself at a crossroads that will only begin to be resolved as we enter the new year.

It’s kind of hard to imagine that such a chaotic year is finally coming to an end.

I had seen 2006 as a fairly pivotal year, but that was because of my interests: the ten-year-old UPN and WB networks finally collapsed into the CW (with its sloppy seconds joining a hastily-formed network that now, shockingly, is in far better position than the CW), the NFL started a new primetime paradigm with NBC, ESPN, and its own network, and the Democrats took both houses of Congress and set the stage for the retaking of the White House.

This was far bigger than that. This was my generation’s 1968.

Depending on how much Bush’s legacy holds up, this could prove to be the true beginning of the “twenty-first century”, much like World War I was the true beginning of the 20th (and the end of the Cold War was arguably its end). In my own life, it seems like I’ve been 20 forever (are you sure I was only 19 when the Iowa caucuses happened, let alone when I launched Sandsday?), and I’m still going to be 20 for almost five more months! It’s like the previous 20 years was just a prelude to this year forward in my life.

Here’s to 2008, in all its wild wackiness, in all aspects of the game.

2009 has a heck of an act to follow.

It’s going to be a mite awkward for it to sink in that it is 2009.

Double dose of the Random Internet Discovery of the Week! Yay!

If you’re interested in fancying yourself a Jackson Pollock and creating your own work of “art”, have at it. There’s something more profound I need to get to.

This post (link courtesy Awful Announcing) takes a look at how the blog market could be affected by the present recession. It’s mostly written from a sports blog perspective, especially paid sports blogs, but it has implications for everyone else who blogs, paid or not, employed by a third party or merely doing it themselves, whether for fun or profit.

It takes an interesting perspective: Although some, like the blog collective Gawker, think ad revenue is likely to decline in the current recession, the post itself talks to several bloggers and draws its own conclusion based on a study, and they seem to all agree that the recession could help blogs. Some people might decide that, needing to cut costs, the Internet might be one of the first things to go, but AA’s own proprietor suggests the Internet might be one of the last things to go, because it has become so important to job searches – and thus could increase in importance to many people. Some of the bloggers talked to suggested that the blog population could rise as newspapers cut traditional journalists, making room for cheaper bloggers, and as laid-off workers of all stripes look for new lines of work.

Regardless of whether it becomes Great Depression II, this could be one of, if not the, most important recession in our history.

If some of these reactions are true, this recession could greatly accelerate the rate at which the Internet becomes the chief way people get their news, information, and entertainment. At the moment, the Internet is big enough that “old media” – newspapers and TV – are concerned about the impact of losing their audience to it, but not big enough that they’re comfortable with making money off it. If it ever can get that big – and this recession could greatly hasten the day that it happens – newspapers and television as we know them could become as antiquated as the telegraph.

And as the Internet and blogging grows, it has the potential to change the very way we live. We may well look back on the first decade of the new millenium as a time of great flux and transition, when the Internet was still in its relative infancy, or at least childhood and was still taking shape, still taking the form that would shape the twenty-first century. One thing I neglected to mention when I listed a number of ideas I have and might like to work on was a book coming out of my continual wonder at how dramatically the Internet has already changed our lives, and how it holds the potential to change our lives even more, affecting everything from the  news to entertainment to politics to even the very underpinning of our economic system. I had been thinking about holding off on writing it until I had enough of a name that I would have any credibility whatsoever, but recent events – not least of which being the coming recession – have convinced me that right now is a unique moment in history in the evolution of the Internet, and “the fierce urgency of now” – to borrow a phrase from our president-elect – would seem to dictate that I get such a book written in the next couple of years, and preferably starting as soon as possible.

There’s supposed to be a second part coming out today, “focus[ing] on reactions from bloggers who blog as a hobby (i.e. for free) and from readers whose blog-reading habits may be affected by the economy,” and the post elicits reactions from anyone that would fall in either or both of those categories. I’ve sent this post to the blogger in question, but I want to hear from anyone that would have a voice in all of this, anyone who might use the Internet on a regular basis as an outlet, from YouTubers to webcomickers – not to mention, if possible, any advertisers who I imagine count for a significant amount of revenue. Send an e-mail to mwmailsea at yahoo dot com, or if you want to take it directly to him (and his second post encourages it), use the address on the sidebar of that page.

This is going to slow down my platform examinations even more, isn’t it?

In light of the anti-media comments coming from both sides in response to this article, perhaps the exhortation at the end is of some import:

But in a world, and a Web, full of analysis, opinion and “accountability journalism,” what’s missing is a neutral referee. Which is a bit like living in a world with a North Pole and a South Pole but no equator. If there’s no one to set the standard, how will we know when we’ve crossed the line?

But truly neutral, objective journalism may well be dead now, if it ever really existed, sacrificed to the altar of profit and, in the case of blogs, preaching to the choir. In today’s media climate, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth it for anyone in the “mainstream media” to serve as a “neutral referee”.

So I’d like to posit this proposal, and I don’t know if I personally would be able to take part, but it’s worth considering: A collective of blogs, bloggers, and other interested persons from all sides of the political spectrum that monitors the media – newspapers, TV, and blogs – and calls them on their BS, while also serving as a “new” AP, attempting to present the news of the day accurately, completely, and fairly from as many sources as possible.

Workable, or unworkable?

Moving on…

Sports Watcher later today. I hope everyone reading Da Blog or even Sandsday watches the debate tonight. Don’t worry, McCain will show up. Apparently some of the people in the room trying to hash out that bailout effectively told him, “You know, why don’t you just go off to that debate and we’ll work things out on our own. Seriously, go. Now.”

Meanwhile, my bank just failed!

What? I never mentioned that I was an Aspie?

By now you’ve probably, possibly, heard of Michael Savage’s remarks calling autism the “illness du jour” and claiming that “99 percent” of autism cases are “a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out”. The ensuing controversy led Slate to publish an article explaining how autism is actually diagnosed. And as a result, until recently the number one most e-mailed story (and still appearing on the list) on Slate had been… Gregg Easterbrook’s report on a Cornell study suggesting a link between television viewing and autism. From 2006.

There have been a lot of proposed theories about the cause of the rise in autism diagnoses over the decades. Chemicals in vaccines were being loudly trumpeted until they were banned and autism diagnoses kept rising (and it was, in retrospect, kind of ridiculous anyway). Some people attribute increased awareness of autism’s existence; others attribute the constantly broadening definitions of autism. Myself, I was turned on by a teacher I had in high school to what might be called the “Darwinist” theory, which probably explains some of my neuroses, both because the idea informs the neuroses and because the neuroses inform the idea: in the information age, so many of the jobs out there require logical processing skills, which autistics tend to naturally possess, so they tend to thrive and reproduce, whereas before they were too socially awkward to get laid. Asperger’s syndrome is the future “norm” of the human race! Get used to it! (Would it be too conceited for me to refer to myself as homo superior?)

The Cornell study, though, is especially interesting to me (protests in the comments and general part of a blame-television tradition aside) not just on its own terms, but even more so because of Easterbrook’s explanation of it. Easterbrook, who had hypothesized a television-autism link even before learning of the study, further hypothesized that for millenia, the human race had been raised on three-dimensional images. Once infants to two-year-olds started being raised on the two-dimensional images of the television set, it warped their minds in who knows what ways.

I would carry this one step further and suggest that autistics literally see the world differently – not merely process the same images differently, but literally see a different picture than a non-autistic. I can see out of my right eye, but I’m somewhat convinced it sort of “turns off” or at least runs on low power when my left eye is open. I can only wink my right eye – even when I think I’m winking my left eye it’s the right eye that closes – and when both eyes are closed I similarly can only open my left eye without using my hands to hold the left eye closed. (I don’t know how normal this is.) I also don’t really see any difference in objects with depth when seeing with one or two eyes; similar to a painting that can give an illusion of depth, proportions and general shapes, not to mention lighting, can make the existence of depth clear even with no depth perception to speak of.

Regardless, autistics serve a valuable role in society if their quirks and talents are properly nurtured and exploited, which is why I’m offended that the WWE is teaming up with Jenny McCarthy’s Generation Rescue charity, whose slogan is “autism is reversible” and which still believes in the rather-discredited mercury-in-the-vaccines and germ theories, and which supports giving “biomedical intervention” to kids as a means of fighting autism (including the “gluten-free diet” approach, which when tried on me, made my problems worse in the short term). By their own admission, “the cause of this epidemic of NDs is extremely controversial”, and much that is on their web site is familiar blame-corporate-America rhetoric and based on questionable research, yet the WWE seems to be treating it as though it’s as uncontroversial as the United Way or Salvation Army. (It doesn’t help that WWE is advertising that McCarthy will be “stepping into the ring to fight autism” as though autism were on the level of cancer or AIDS.)

(Oh, and don’t ask me how I found out about this in the first place when there is shockingly little controversy about it, okay?)

The real “disease” of autism lies with everyone who doesn’t have it, in assuming that everyone fits a certain mold of the “ideal” or “normal” person until it’s too late, and well thereafter. (Which is why I use my “about me” posts to give advice to people trying to deal with me, especially in real life.) Let’s try and keep the uniqueness and talents of those with autism and related “disorders” instead of trying to get everyone to march in lockstep and become just like everyone else.

Quick thought on Brandgate

Why did Elton Brand go to Philadelphia?

It wasn’t the money. He could have gotten roughly the same amount from the Clippers and more from the Warriors.

It wasn’t the exposure. There’s a LOT he was getting from LA he wasn’t going to get in Philly.

By all accounts, it was to play in the weaker Eastern Conference.

We are starting to see, finally, the evening out of the conferences in the NBA.

(I can’t wait for the Sixers to come to the Staples Center to play the Clippers or even the Lakers. What’s the world record for loudest, longest boos ever to ring through an arena?)