Can we get a do-over on this blog-day?

The first post in the history of Da Blog, written on this date eleven years ago, was written while cowering in a bus shelter. This post is being written under the overhang outside a library. To be sure, this is only because my computer won’t play nice with my mom’s Internet connection for some reason, and I wasn’t able to get to the library before it closed. But it is, in a way, a fitting way to end what might be the most disappointing year in the history of Da Blog.

Very little has changed since my last blog-day post. I spent the entire year following the inauguration much the same way I spent most of the latter half of 2016: lamenting that I couldn’t bring myself to work on the sorts of posts I had planned. This is the 36th post since my last blog-day post, and I actually think that might be a record low that holds up, between my policy of putting up at least one post a month and the Flex Schedule Watch posts towards the end of the year. I did get out some of the posts I wanted to get out about what’s gone wrong with our politics, but they ground to a halt after the inauguration – not because of the madness the Trump regime actually turned out to be, though it is making it that much harder to continue the series, but because the post I was working on at the time, the post I’d been planning since 2008, was made far more difficult and complicated by the election. Honestly I’ve been mentally transitioning to thinking about the projects I want to work on once I’m done with this series, but I keep telling myself I need to finish the series (much of the work on which is actually pretty close to done), but in order to finish the series I need to have some sort of post re-introducing it. Which is something I actually tried to do, but which didn’t end up bearing out in the form of getting any actual posts written before enough time passed to make it not-timely again.

I actually have some optimism that this coming year won’t be quite so much a lost year as the last year was. I’ve actually started the process of taking steps to actually improve my work habits and actually get some of the stuff I want to get done done. The chintziness of how Mom’s connection works with my computer might actually work in my favor on this front; without the distractions from the rest of the Internet I might actually be able to put the finishing touches on one of my posts sufficiently to get it ready to post in the new year, and the work on that might put me enough in the mood that it can help with working on the other posts. Still, I wouldn’t expect any new posts on Da Blog after this until after the new year.

I may also move to a new host at some point in the new year. Some of you may have noticed that Da Blog went down at several points in the latter half of the year. This is because I moved to only renewing my hosting on a monthly basis and had it recommended to me to find a cheaper hosting option for the long term. That has proven not to be as much of a slam dunk as it was when I first signed up with Hostmonster, in part because of a number of hosts, including Hostmonster, being gobbled up by huge impersonal organizations, making it hard to find a host that would actually be a suitable replacement. I have some ideas, but I would need to discuss them with people and reassess how the landscape may have shifted since I did my original round of research, and in any case having to move everything, including the customization I’ve done to my theme, would be a major hassle.

I’d like to think we can just throw away Year Eleven as a lost year in the history of Da Blog, and I’ll be spending Year Twelve doing most of the things I said I would do in Year Eleven in the last blog-day post and firmly and officially moving on to the next phase of my life. Considering what I’m facing in terms of my financial situation (and the fact that I’m turning 30 in the next year!), I don’t have much choice. But who knows what my mental state will be and what it’ll allow me to do in the next year.

I swear, I’m actually going to write an actual post one of these days!

I know this has been, by far, the least productive year in the history of Da Blog so far, but I think I’m getting close to changing that and actually starting to do work again. I promise I’ll have an actual post on actual constructive topics that aren’t saved for the end of the month (and thus aren’t transparently an attempt to preserve my pattern of having at least one post a month) before it’s time to start up the Flex Schedule Watch again.

In fact I might have one or even two such posts out before the end of the week. I might have gotten them out earlier, but I just finished a whirlwind weekend in Seattle where I was shuttled from one thing to another with little or no free time to actually do any work. I can’t guarantee I won’t go on complete radio silence afterwards, but hopefully that would be to work on larger projects that might actually amount to something, hopefully on the scale of the book or larger. Of course, I haven’t entirely decided what those projects would be, or at least the order of their priority…

Still in a bit of a holding pattern

Not much has changed since the post I had last month. I think I’m basically letting myself have an unannounced vacation, having burned out on my attempt to continue my series of political posts. You can probably see a pattern to this if you look back on the history of Da Blog, especially over the last few years, where I’ll have long stretches, especially over the spring and summer, where I spend all my time on totally frivolous projects.

Every time this happens I feel incredibly guilty about it and about not spending time on the projects I actually consider “productive”, and then I keep working on the frivolous stuff because that’s where my mind is, allowing myself to fall into a complete rut for months on end. But every month I spend on stuff like that is a month I’m not working on stuff that can go on Da Blog or the rest of the web site or that can be released to the world at large, and I’m losing momentum in terms of establishing a name for myself in the wider world, and it feels like this is happening more and more recently (though that may be related to my not having school, living with my dad, and not feeling pressure to get a real job). To be honest, I feel that’s a reason why the book isn’t as timely as I’d hoped or quite up to how I’d envisioned it when I started. I shouldn’t be feeling old at just short of 29, but from what I’ve read I’ve already passed the age where the brain hits its peak and stops growing. Have I locked in my poor work habits for all time, and put myself in a situation where they’re enabled? Is there even a way to keep me focused on “productive” projects that I would be receptive to?

This isn’t really because of the election and the ongoing Age of Trump, aside from that being the impetus for my political series, but it doesn’t help. Part of the problem is that ever since the election, I can’t help but think we’re witnessing the slow-motion end of the world and self-destruction of civilization; if Trump doesn’t start a nuclear war because someone insulted him on Twitter, the forces behind his election and other populist movements around the globe will cause civilization to come to a halt, with or without all-out war, and if they don’t do it on their own global warming will do it for them. (That middle option might be the best-case scenario if it results in a drastic drop in emissions, but that wouldn’t be enough to prevent catastrophic changes.) Against this backdrop, as I said earlier, writing about anything else, certainly anything that attempts to shape what the future might be (and thus presumes its existence), seems frivolous; even the political series, which I had hoped to complete before the election, seems pointless. What good is anything in the face of humanity’s apparent and potentially inescapable self-destruction? It’s a recipe for paralysis and apathy; even trying to write recommendations for how to fix the problem seems like casting stones to the wind at this point, doomed to go down in history as a record of what should have been done rather than an impetus to actually do it while there was still time to make a difference (which feels like the story of my life since launching Da Blog). I do have a few ideas for projects I can try to make meaning out of even in this context, even aside from the political series, but they’d take a long time to get going and I haven’t been working on any of them.

So yeah, this is one of those periods where I descend into a tailspin of depression over my inability to get actual work done and end up getting even less work done as a result. I don’t know when I’m going to climb out of it or what I’ll come out of it with. Hopefully at least next month I’ll have more than an exercise in self-pity.

So, How am I Holding Up in the Age of Trump?

I haven’t made any posts since before the inauguration, and you’d probably forgive me if the first week or two of the new administration left me so broken down as unable to say anything. There’s probably some truth to that, but it’s not the whole truth; for example, circumstances outside my control left me unable to update the Pro Football Hall of Fame Watch, which I may have to reassess the criteria for and post with possibly substantial changes in July or August.

I’ve been trying to make progress on the series of political posts I started on the eve of the election, but one post in particular has proved much more involved than I expected, in part because it’s an idea for a post I’ve had going back at least to my first round of political posts in 2008, but the outcome of the recent election has resulted in an example to work with that’s far less straightforward than the 2000 election I was going to work with. Recently I’ve been letting that fall by the wayside in favor of another more frivolous project that may or may not result in new content for the site but which doesn’t make me feel much better for working on it. I was intending for this series of political posts to build up to my proposed changes to the Constitution, but the context now feels very different than it did then.

I did start a new Da Countdown on inauguration day ticking down the remaining days in the Trump administration, assuming he doesn’t suspend elections, but there hasn’t been much else. I actually have an idea for a more philosophical approach to my next political post, but it’s something that would have been better served coming out last week. And the election has inspired a bunch of other ideas for projects, but as was the case all last summer, it’s been hard for me to re-orient myself towards the project I had considered to be a prerequisite for them.

Still, I do hope to keep my “continue my streak of months with a post” posts like this one to a minimum going forward, but I suspect when my next Blog-Day post comes out I’ll once again have a pretty low mark of posts for the year.

A bigly disappointing blog-day.

In certain corners of the Internet, it has long been a meme to talk about how terrible a year 2016 has been. In my case, it has been no exception. In fact, the horribleness of 2016 in the wider world weighs all the more heavily on me, even if for rather irrational, self-centered reasons.

The year started out so well. I published my book and announced it in my last blog-day post, and during the first half of the year I supplemented the book with numerous posts containing content that, for one reason or another, didn’t make it into the book, as well as posts containing my comments on the latest developments from the world of cord-cutting. I also started making plans for how to parlay the book into something that might result in me making some actual money on a regular basis, as well as weighing ideas for my next book.

And then Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, and my productivity ground to a complete halt.

Once Trump had the nomination secure, I decided I had to write a series of posts about what it meant for American democracy and how to pull it back from the abyss. The problem is, history has proven time and time again that it’s a lot harder for me to write political posts than posts on more frivolous topics. That was the case in the lead-up to the 2008 election, it was the case when I attempted to turn my short-lived Sandsday comic into a discussion of global warming, and it was the case with my Occupy Tea Party series, which didn’t go beyond two or three posts on specific topics. In the case of Trump, writing those posts meant diving into the muck of the state of American politics, and doing research on the thinking behind certain elements of the Constitution. It was far easier for me to play games and do other frivolous things all day.

In the end, I didn’t put out the first post in the series until literally the day before the election, and I still haven’t put out the intended second post. In the meantime, from June until the Flex Schedule Watch posts started in October I was once again making only one post a month. This is only the 48th post since my last blog-day post, breaking a record I already hadn’t thought would even be set as low as it was. And after Trump’s election, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that if I had put it out earlier, started the conversation before the election, perhaps a Trump victory might have been avoided as the American people focused on a more productive avenue to reform the system – or even that if I had written all the political posts I had wanted to over the last decade and worked to popularize them, we wouldn’t have come so close to the abyss to start with.

It’s a solemn occasion for another reason: this post marks the 10-year anniversary of Da Blog. It’s been a long time since I made any posts while cowering in a bus stop shelter, but it has not, so far, been the ticket to greatness I’ve hoped it would be. Perhaps this is just my disappointment with the last year talking, but Da Blog has more often than not confronted me with my own lack of work ethic in achieving any of my dreams, something that seems to have actually gotten worse as time has gone on; my posting frequency seemed to fall through the floor after I graduated from college and moved to LA with my dad, when you might expect the opposite to happen. Certainly Da Blog has contained any number of things as it has gone on, from being a home to my sports projects to housing webcomic reviews to my ongoing thoughts on the future of the Internet to covering the sports TV wars to tracking the evolution of the video market. But it has remained little more than a placeholder while I think about working on the projects I really want to, the only one of which that has come to fruition was the book, and that only because of my dad’s pushing and even then taking much longer than it had any right to.

I would like to think the next decade of Da Blog will be more productive than the last decade – that I’ll actually start gaining an audience for my writings and can actually start making an impact in the wider world. But the way this year has gone I’m not even sure civilization as we know it will exist in a decade, and I’m certainly not optimistic that we haven’t just thrown away our last chance to stop global warming from destroying civilization for us. I’ll start Year Eleven sometime after the holidays (and before the inauguration) by finishing up the series on the Constitution, including at least one post I’ve been meaning to write since 2008, and presenting my ideas for how to refresh the Constitution. After that is anyone’s guess, because it feels like it’s impossible to tell what might possibly happen next anymore. I’ve swung back around to weighing ideas for books, and as a result it may well be that going post-light every year may just be the norm from now on, but I also keep having personal projects nagging at the back of my mind to keep me wanting to come back to sports TV ratings. I may also parlay the Constitution series into a broader overview on just how society went wrong and the conflict between it and human nature. Or the pressure to actually make money may move me to start writing for other outlets, no matter how frivolous the topics I’d write about may seem. There are any number of directions I could end up going from here, and I don’t know if I’m going to end up taking any of them.

Do I HAVE to update the lineal titles every September?

I said last year that I was thinking of no longer tracking the lineal titles and I meant it, even though I could desperately use the extra content. This time I’m actually most of the way through the opening Saturday of college football season before I even bother to update everything. I’ve updated the NFL lineal title history but not the actual category pages, and you’ll notice that the non-DeflateGate title I said I was going to track isn’t reflected in the history at all, because the Patriots started the season undefeated for a long time while the DeflateGate title changed hands a bunch, and the main title went into the playoffs and starts the season with the Broncos while the non-DeflateGate title starts it with the Saints of all teams. (At some point I may make the format of the site more consistent across the subsites, and I may get rid of the special category pages for the lineal titles entirely at that point, so here’s a link to the NFL lineal title history should that happen.)

On the college side, the anticipated unification of 2009 Boise State with the Princeton-Yale title did in fact happen as TCU and Oklahoma State went into their game against one another undefeated, but even though the Cowboys won that game it’s TCU that enters the new season with the title, and it’s the 2006 Boise State title that returned to the College Football Playoff and starts the year in the hands of Alabama.

ANOTHER month without a post?!

This is not the way I should be following up on my book…

I have been active on Twitter, but I haven’t been able to put together enough uninterrupted time to actually write an actual post. It doesn’t help that what I’ve been working myself up to write is an ambitious series of political posts, and those have always worked out well. (You can probably guess what’s prompted it.)

I have started working my way towards some less ambitious posts that will start churning out over the next week or so, so July won’t be as much of a dead zone on here as June was. I could have a post on cord-cutting, and my continued frustration with OTT cable bundles, as soon as tomorrow.

Did I just spend all of March without a post?

Considering I’m trying to sell a book, that’s not necessarily the best thing to happen, is it? I think I needed a period of time to come down from the process of writing the book so I spent much of the month goofing off, and while you might think the oncoming start of the incentive auction process would serve as a trigger for writing more posts, what it actually served as the trigger of was a personal project of mine.

Not to worry. I have several ideas for relevant posts that I hope to bang out over the next few days, both on the incentive auction and plight of broadcast, and on the larger shifts sweeping over the video landscape. Stay tuned.

THE GAME TO SHOW THE GAMES now available in paperback!

After two months being available only for Kindle, my book, The Game to Show the Games, is now available in paperback from Amazon, for those who still prefer having their books on paper. A link to the Amazon page has been added to the book page on this site, and once Barnes and Noble begins offering it on their site I’ll add a link there too; it should also start to become available on various other online book retailers over the next few days. (Don’t bother looking for it in physical bookstores unless it really takes off, though.)

I’ve also added a cover image to the sidebar that will link to the book page, and as soon as I have suitable images I’m going to add links to buy the book to the ad spaces so the bottom one isn’t plugging a webcomic that’s been defunct and inaccessible for years. I also took the opportunity to finally get rid of that outdated Twitter widget hat hasn’t been supported for years, but the replacement had to go onto the right sidebar underneath the blog archive elements because Twitter currently supports only one style of widget and it can’t be narrower than 180 pixels.

TGTSTG Bonus Content: The Saga of the Longhorn Network

ESPN and Fox had saved the Big 12. Their commitment to pay the Big 12 the same with 10 schools as with 12 schools, coupled with virtually the entire college football world outside the Pac-10 converging to try to prevent conference realignment Armageddon, enabled Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to offer Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma enough of a financial inducement to stay in their conference and not defect to the Pac-10. Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds effectively said as much, though not in so many words. Though a Longhorns network was “really important” to the school, and a move to the Pac-10 would have precluded that by forcing the school to surrender their rights to the conference for their own network, it wasn’t the “deal-breaker” to back out of the deal. Chris Plonsky, who headed the school’s women’s sports, similarly said that the ability to start a network wasn’t the “linchpin” that kept them in the Big 12, but it was a “very important variable”. Certainly it was a key element allowing the math to work out, and was widely perceived as the bedrock on which the foundation of the entire conference would be built going forward. Unlike other conferences that could plausibly claim to have an all-for-one, one-for-all mentality, the Big 12, it was just made clear, existed only because Texas allowed it to exist, and Texas allowed it to exist because it could collect much more money than the conference’s other schools, with many millions staked on a Longhorn network, an entire network dedicated to one school and potentially beamed directly into the campuses of many of its conference rivals, that would prevent the Big 12 from even considering going down the conference network path their peers were headed down. But Texas, despite having one of the biggest brand names and fan bases in college sports, was about to learn starting their own network would not be easy.

If anyone was as disappointed in the outcome as Larry Scott and the Pac-12, it was probably cable operators and satellite providers across the country. The formation of a handful of superconferences at least would have kept to a minimum the number of networks each of them would have tried to launch. Now, however, Texas, Oklahoma, and even Missouri were each talking about launching their own networks, and it wasn’t clear whether or not SEC or ACC schools would try to follow suit. There seemed to be a sense that launching a network was an automatic ATM guaranteed to let the money flow in. Cable operators wanted to make clear that things were not that easy and that they would take steps to protect their bottom line, and potentially, their customers’ bills. And they intended to make an example out of a Longhorn network.

Perhaps sensing the uphill battle ahead, Texas planned to invest no money in the enterprise and carry no risk if it failed. It would find a partner that could help with distribution and was willing to shoulder all the risk. Fox seemed to be the early leader in the clubhouse; it held most of the rights a new network would need and could conceivably use FSN’s existing deals with cable operators and satellite providers to get the network widely distributed right from the start. Fox also had experience partnering with the Big Ten on the Big Ten Network, something the other major contender, ESPN, had no experience in. But ESPN was able to make a renewed push to score the rights to, and full ownership of, the Longhorn Network. It would have to launch the network from scratch and go through all the bruising battles with cable operators, but as it turned out, if Texas did have to launch the network from scratch, it couldn’t ask for a better partner than ESPN.

The road was very bumpy to start. Even before engaging in high-level negotiations with cable operators, the network had an early misstep when ESPN decided it would be a good idea to air high-school football game, only for other schools to wonder whether that might violate NCAA recruiting rules or otherwise give Texas a recruiting advantage above and beyond that represented by the network itself. That, coupled with ESPN securing the rights to a conference football game, caused some to wonder whether the conference was on the brink of collapse again, and helped push Texas A&M and Missouri to jump ship to the SEC.

Meanwhile, ESPN went to distributors asking for 40 cents a subscriber, expensive for a cable channel but chump change compared to major-conference and regional sports networks (BTN started out charging 70 cents). Nonetheless, as the launch approached the network was far apart in talks with Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, and Comcast, in part because of the uncertainty surrounding high school and conference games, and in DirecTV’s case, because they wanted to wait for conference realignment to settle down (A&M was actively engaged in negotiations with the SEC as the network launched). It did have a deal with Verizon, but lacking a deal with TWC meant most people in Austin and a substantial proportion of people across the state wouldn’t be able to watch Texas’ 2011 home football opener against Rice. With even Verizon’s deal not kicking in until about a week after the network launched, the Longhorn Network opened in just 20,000 households. For all the controversy the network had engendered, almost no one, even within Austin let alone the state of Texas, could see it, and in a prelude to the CSN Houston and SportsNet LA showdowns to come, cable and satellite operators were remaining steadfast; by June, TWC and DirecTV weren’t even talking about carrying the network.

The network added AT&T U-Verse in time for the 2012 season, but the network was starting to look like folly; Oklahoma had gone deep into negotiations with Fox on a branded network, but what eventually emerged was merely a block of programming on Fox’s existing regional sports networks, while football coach Mack Brown, always uncomfortable with the level of access LHN wanted, seemed to imply that the distractions and added intelligence LHN provided may have contributed to Texas’ slow start that season. By 2013, it looked like LHN would enter a third season still without coverage on the largest distributors, casting a shadow over ESPN’s efforts to launch the SEC Network.

But just as the season prepared to begin, ESPN finally reached an agreement for Time Warner Cable to carry the Longhorn network. In March 2014, Disney reached a wide-ranging deal with Dish Network that included carriage for the Longhorn and SEC Networks, with DirecTV doing the same in December. What, exactly, changed to cause such a breakthrough, and whether it was a concession more on ESPN’s part or with distributors, may never be known, but one thing that is clear is that ESPN’s leverage with its panopoly of other networks was key to securing deals, certainly with satellite providers. Would the Longhorn Network have been able to overcome its early struggles to secure deals with distributors with any other partner, or certainly if Texas had opted to go it alone? It’s a question worth asking, and it helps explain why the ACC is still thinking about pursuing a network as a conference rather than individual schools looking into their own networks. Ultimately, the Longhorn Network’s success, as qualified as it is, may have more to do with the power of ESPN’s brand than Texas’.

Note: I’m probably not going to finish this initial series of Bonus Content posts this week; among other things, I still need to help put the finishing touches on the paperback. Hopefully the entire series will be done by the end of next week with whatever other posts I want to put together coming out over the rest of the month.