Someone tell me where the problem lies here:

I do a fresh boot of my computer from the beginning, not bringing it back from hibernate.

Upon booting, Windows pops up a “User Access Control” or somesuch message asking me if the Java installer can make changes to my computer.

I am on a network that works by redirecting every page I try to access to a login screen. This is the first time I have used my computer all day.

I can’t Alt-Tab out of the UAC screen to open a browser or something to log in. If I click Yes, the installer will start trying to download. Clicking No isn’t what I mean to do.

How, exactly, do I get out of this mess?

The local sports television wars

Part of the reason why Fox may be considering launching a national general sports network and competing more head-on with ESPN may be because they know all too well what ESPN could go through if they, or anyone else, succeed.

One of the more underreported stories of recent years has been the slippage of Fox’s hegemony over the regional sports network landscape. Fox locked down regional sports networks to cover just about every NBA, MLB, and NHL team in the country in the mid-90s, but in recent years competitors, especially Comcast SportsNet and cable providers in general, have slowly made inroads on their turf – to say nothing of teams increasingly starting their own networks. This is especially the case in big markets, while Fox’s hegemony largely still holds in smaller, mid-size markets, but we could see this change as competitors make more money and turn their attention to those smaller markets. Here’s a rundown of how the regional sports network market has changed in the last decade, at Fox’s expense:

  • New York: New York City’s FSN affiliate was always owned by Cablevision with no Fox involvement; in 2008, it was rebranded to MSG Plus. In addition to the well-known YES Network, in 2006 the Mets left MSG and teamed up with Comcast and Time Warner Cable to start their own regional sports network, SportsNet New York.
  • Los Angeles: Starting next season, Lakers games will be leaving Fox Sports West in favor of a new network started by Time Warner Cable. With the launch of Time Warner Cable’s sports network, the largest market in which Fox enjoys something resembling a monopoly will be Dallas. If you count the Longhorn Network, you have to go to Atlanta, and then if you count CSS, you have to leave the top ten entirely and end up in Detroit. The launch of the network has also raised the stakes considerably in the nation’s second-largest media market; Fox gave the Angels such a payday, including equity in FS West, that they could be said to have funded the team’s winning of the Albert Pujols sweepstakes and contributed to the Dodgers selling for $2 billion.
  • Chicago, Philadelphia: Comcast, by contrast, has a complete monopoly in these two markets. CSN Chicago is partially owned by the teams in that market; the Phillies used to own part of CSN Philadelphia but now only control its advertising.
  • Texas: ESPN started the Longhorn Network last year, and unsuccessfully tried to convince the NCAA to allow it to air high school sports on it.
  • Bay Area: Comcast SportsNet started a network in the region when it won rights to show Sacramento Kings games in 2004. In 2008, FSN Bay Area was rebranded as a Comcast SportsNet station, and the previous CSN station became essentially “CSN Bay Area 2”, changing branding from CSN West to CSN California. Fox still owns a quarter of CSN Bay Area, but Comcast owns 45%, with the remaining 30% owned by the Giants.
  • Boston/New England: Cablevision sold Boston’s FSN network to Comcast in 2007, resulting in it being rebranded as a Comcast SportsNet station. NESN has been owned by the Red Sox and Bruins for ages.
  • Washington DC: Fox has never had a presence in this market, with Comcast SportsNet ruling the roost. Thus, it was Comcast’s problem when the move of the Expos to Washington resulted in a new regional sports network, MASN, stealing both Washington’s and Baltimore’s baseball teams (who also co-own the network).
  • Atlanta and the South: The South is where Fox’s hegemony is strongest, purchasing two different networks from Turner and turning them into FS South and SportsSouth. CSS’s programming is substantially weaker, with its highest-profile programming probably being college sports.
  • Houston: In 2010 the Astros and Rockets announced they were joining with Comcast to launch a new CSN station this fall. The impending announcement of that network forced Fox to do something it had never done before: give a stake in the network to a team it covers, in this case the Rangers, a pattern that may soon become the norm for Fox. I do not know if Fox will maintain a presence in the Houston area (they do still hold the rights to Houston Dynamo games), but if not Fox will only even have a network in three of the top ten markets representing 31% of the population in the top ten, mostly LA. CSN, by contrast, will have a network in six of the top ten (representing 47%), not even counting SNY and CSS.
  • Seattle, Denver, Portland, Pittsburgh, Utah: In 2008 Fox sold FSN Northwest, Rocky Mountain, and Pittsburgh to Liberty Media, who re-branded them as “Root Sports” in 2011. Altitude Sports and Entertainment also maintains a presence in the Rocky Mountains, showing Nuggets and Avalanche games (with Root Sports keeping the Rockies and Jazz), and Comcast SportsNet started a Northwest branch in 2007 to show Portland Trailblazers games, which expanded into Seattle the following year when the Sonics were stolen, er, moved to Oklahoma City.
  • Cleveland: In 2006 the Cleveland Indians left FSN Ohio to start the SportsTime Ohio network.
  • San Diego: In a possible preview of the future for smaller markets, the Padres have left Cox-owned 4SD and started a new FSN network. But even where Fox is growing its regional sports networks, it’s not as lucrative as it used to be, with the Padres owning a full fifth of the network.
  • New Orleans: While to my knowledge the same RSNs as the rest of the South have a presence in Louisiana, Hornets games and preseason Saints games are aired on the Cox Sports Television network launched in 2002.

Add all this up and it suggests a fairly bleak future for Fox’s regional sports networks. Fox still rules the roost, but the Houston defection may signal a tipping point – because if Fox doesn’t maintain a Houston presence, less than half the population in the top 35 markets will live in a market with an FSN-branded RSN. By contrast, not counting SNY or CSS (but counting Seattle as a CSN market), Comcast SportsNet will move to over a third of the population in the top 35 markets – and SNY alone brings that total to 45%, almost as much as FSN. At that point, Comcast, not Fox, could conceivably get into the business of producing national programming for RSNs, and might not even have to resort to FSN stations in that many markets. Throw in just those markets where CSS’ competition is FS South, SportSouth, and their variants, and CSN goes over the top to 54%. Now you know why the unified FSN branding is no more.

At least in markets where Comcast is the dominant (or even a significant) cable provider, CSN has to be considered a full-fledged competitor to FSN for local sports rights – and that’s before the possibility of Time Warner Cable wanting to expand its sports-network brand, or teams starting their own networks. To this point, Fox has been in retreat in the biggest markets as CSN has taken over and teams have started their own networks. Fox’s move to start offering stakes in their networks may help stem the tide and keep its hegemony in smaller mid-sized markets, but may cost Fox too much money in the long run, especially if the market for local teams is starting to enter a bubble similar to that which has enveloped national sports rights. At best, Fox and Comcast are likely to compete on equal terms from here on out, with Fox’s only advantage being inertia and its lack of ties to cable distribution systems.

Despite the failure of its attempt to compete with ESPN, FSN has proven to be just as much of a cash cow for Fox. But they could be forgiven for wondering how long it will stay that way. Suddenly the idea of launching a general national sports network to compete with ESPN starts to look a lot more attractive.

Say hello to the Fox Sports Network?

ESPN has been doing everything in its power to keep NBC from becoming a competitor for their sports hegemony, and they haven’t been above making enemy-of-my-enemy arrangements with Fox to do so. They tag-teamed with Fox last year to keep the rights to the Pac-12 out of NBC’s hands, and they recently signed a joint extention with the Big 12 with Fox as well.

That may prove to be a mistake, as Fox has done as well as anyone since NBC fired the opening shots in the sports TV wars, picking up rights to the UFC and World Cup without ESPN’s help and even stealing the latter from ESPN. All these sports contracts have been made primarily with an aim to improving the presence of sports on its FX cable network, hoping to follow the blueprint of TBS and TNT in using sports to attract eyeballs to their general purpose cable network. Beyond that, Fox has an established infrastructure of cable networks, eschewing a single all-sports network in favor of attracting eyeballs to their sports brand through a wide variety of special networks – their dominant collection of regional sports networks for local sports, Big Ten Network for college sports in the Midwest, Speed Channel for NASCAR fans, Fox Soccer for soccer fans, and Fuel for “action sports” and recently UFC fans.

Given this, it’s somewhat surprising to learn that Fox is considering launching its own all-sports network to compete with ESPN, which, yea back in the days of yore, Fox Sports Net was supposed to be. It’s worth wondering what Fox is thinking here, and how it affects their efforts to put more sports on FX – and color me skeptical that converting Fuel to be such a network is going to create something much bigger than Fox College Sports, let alone CBS Sports Network. But if Fox comes into this with a plan and puts enough emphasis on this all-sports network, and converts a network with a big enough reach like Speed to do it? They, not NBC, immediately become the best-positioned competitor to ESPN.

NBC’s biggest advantage over Fox was always the presence of an all-sports network. Take that away, and Fox has three things that NBC doesn’t but ESPN does: a sport-specific Spanish-language network, a national radio network that Fox has taken to start adding live sports to recently, and an international distribution arm. Fox can match NBC in other areas as well – most obviously its regional sports networks, but Fox can also match Telemundo as a Spanish-language broadcast network with the pending launch of its MundoFox network.

Now consider what Fox can put on such a network without adding a single new contract. From FX and Fuel it can show college sports from major conferences and UFC programming. From Speed it can show NASCAR truck series races, Formula 1 races, and the NASCAR All-Star Race. From Fox Soccer it can show marquee English Premier League games, the UEFA Champions League, and World Cup competition. If Fox was serious about this, I’d argue that right off the bat they can create a network that’s at least as much of a draw as the NBC Sports Network, and if they can add just one major-league contract, they can actually legitimately claim to challenge ESPN.

This is a potential game changer in the sports television wars, one that could ripple across all of this year’s big contract showdowns, especially the ones over Major League Baseball and NASCAR, which could affect whether or not Fox actually decides to go forward with this network, as well as Thursday Night Football if the NFL ever decides to put that back on the market. The fight for TV sports supremacy may officially be a three-way fight.

Update on the current situation

I swear I haven’t up and decided to render The Streak meaningless by continuing it with a bunch of contentless posts. I do intend to start one of the better series I’ve planned for Da Blog, but the new quarter just started and I might be getting myself heavily involved in it. I have every intent to post something substantial tomorrow (Wednesday), though. Stay tuned.

Kickstarter Feature Jeopardized

The method I had been using to keep track of all the highest-earning Kickstarters, both for the weekly Kickstarter posts and for a Google Docs spreadsheet of my own I was considering making public, no longer seems to be working.

I will consider finding another method, but it may be unable to catch Kickstarters that aren’t being listed with their category for whatever reason. I must warn, however, that the most likely outcome is just stopping with the feature, as I’ve gotten tired of the venture, it’s very time-consuming, and I’d like not to interrupt the week with something irrelevant if and when I start a new series I’ve been planning and hinting at.

The 2012 Mid-Major Conference

Refer to this post if you don’t know what this is about or to catch up on the rules.

This year, six conferences produced multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament: the MWC, A-10, West Coast, C-USA, MAAC, and MVC. These conferences are guaranteed one spot each in the Mid-Major Conference.

Two teams reached the Sweet 16, from different conferences. Ohio did not come from a multi-bid conference, but Xavier did. New Mexico was the only team from the Mountain West to win their first game; ditto for Creighton and the Missouri Valley, and Gonzaga and the WCC, not counting the “First Four”. No team from the MAAC or C-USA won a game in the NCAA Tournament. Memphis and Southern Miss split their regular season games but Memphis won the conference tournament while Southern Miss was upset before reaching the final; Loyola (MD) has a similar advantage over Iona, with the added bonus of not having to play the “First Four”.

This leaves one spot in the MMC to be determined by my discretion, with no conference restrictions.

Without further ado, the eight members of the 2012 Mid-Major Conference:

Xavier (Atlantic 10)
Ohio (Mid-American Conference)
Creighton (Missouri Valley Conference)
New Mexico (Mountain West Conference)
Gonzaga (West Coast Conference)
Memphis (Conference USA)
Loyola (MD) (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
Murray State (Ohio Valley Conference)

A record number of mid-major conferences producing multiple bids (matching the first year I did this in 2007) leaves me with only one discretionary pick, and there was no way I was going to leave Murray State’s two-loss season out. As with Memphis last year, Loyola received an MMC pick solely because Iona received an at-large they might not have deserved, and this one is a bit less defensible. The CAA could have used a spot for VCU or Drexel, and Harvard might have gotten a discretionary spot if Murray State weren’t so strong. Combined with the problem the “First Four” poses for determining tourney distance, I may have to change my rules for how I treat the “First Four” (which didn’t exist in its current form when I made them) in future years. I’ll also need to keep an eye on whether conference realignment affects which conferences are considered “major”. Speaking of which, give an honorable mention to Colorado, who would have qualified for the MMC this year if the Pac-12 were considered what they were this year: a mid-major.

Don’t worry, I’ll have a less lame excuse to continue the streak tomorrow. Look for an MSPA post, god willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

(From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Click for full-sized dick facts.)

At some point this year, I fully intend to do a full review of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Most of the time, I would probably describe it as a modern version of The Far Side, with more off-color humor.

This comic, though, I would probably describe as something more akin to a poor man’s xkcd.

With more off-color humor.

In fact, this comic is one that I would not be remotely surprised to see as an xkcd comic. I don’t know whether that says more about xkcd, SMBC, or this particular comic…

(For the record, and just as another tease, I haven’t changed my stance on xkcd – and I’ve realized that even without the same volume of overly technical jokes it’s often had a reputation for, I still find myself going to the forums to get the joke – and I don’t think I find SMBC a superior product, nor am I likely to start following it… but I don’t want to commit myself to that at this early date, either. How’s that for you?)

A quick teaser. OK, a lame excuse to continue the streak.

I had Big Plans for this week. I was going to get Stuff Done, start writing a series of posts for next week or the week after that could really build some momentum for the site, maybe not finish it but build enough momentum to carry me through into the new quarter. And I certainly wasn’t going to let an assignment for class ruin my spring break and carry it down to the wire.

An assignment for class ruined my spring break and had to be carried down to the wire.

I still intend to get the series going, but I may get very little out of the way this week. I’m venturing back into politics for this one, much like I did four years ago, but this one will be a little less insane and substantially more stretched out. Basically, it’s the reason I’ve been committed to the Streak to begin with. One problem: It’s been so long since I had the idea I’m no longer certain what my original plans for it were. I have other ideas that could rejuvenate the site as well.

As for this week? Well, you might be able to expect an MSPA post Thursday…but Friday is anyone’s guess.

For @PTI and @RealMikeWilbon: The Case Against Hines Ward for the Hall of Fame

So I don’t know if you heard (apparently some guy named Manning was also in the news today), but Hines Ward has officially called it a career. As the relationship between Ward and the Steelers slowly sputtered to an end over the winter, every time it was brought up on Pardon the Interruption Tony and Mike described him as a surefire Hall of Famer. Back in February, he didn’t appear on my Top 50 Active Resumes, and honestly didn’t come very close – in other words, I had him just as surefire not to get in. The last time the PTI guys brought him up, when the Steelers finally cut him, they expressed incredulity that anyone would disagree with their assessment. He has all the receiving records for the vaunted Steelers! He’s eighth all time in receptions and 18th in receiving yards! He has two Super Bowl rings! How can you not put him in the Hall of Fame?

Two words: Passing. League.

Prepare to hear those two words a lot for the next few decades and possibly the remainder of the history of the league whenever the Hall of Fame merits of any wide receiver to play this century come up. Simply put, it’s hard to overstate how inflated today’s passing and especially receiving stats are compared to earlier eras. Every single one of the players ahead of Ward on the all-time receptions list played at least four seasons as Ward’s contemporary (you have to go down to #12 Art Monk to find someone who retired in the 90s) and only Cris Carter didn’t play during at least half of Ward’s career. Only four players ahead of Ward on the receiving yards list didn’t play at least one season as his contemporary. Even discounting that, being the best receiver on the traditionally-run-heavy Steelers doesn’t mean as much as you might think – only two Steelers receivers are in the Hall, and not only did Lynn Swann have a very long wait he seems to have gotten in mostly on the back of his memorable Super Bowl catches, not his actual career.

The smoking gun on Ward’s resume is this: although he made the 2nd-team All-Pro three times, not once was he named to the first team. Over the course of his career, the following receivers were named 1st-team AP All-Pro (and thus, were considered better than Ward) at least once: Randy Moss, Antonio Freeman, Marvin Harrison, Carter, Terrell Owens, David Boston, Torry Holt, Muhsin Muhammad, Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker, Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Calvin Johnson. Moss, Owens, Harrison, Chad and Andre Johnson, and Welker were named multiple times; Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Wayne, and Fitzgerald were named 2nd-team All-Pro in at least two different years Ward wasn’t; Holt, Steve Smith, and Calvin Johnson were also named 2nd-team All-Pro in a year Ward wasn’t. Throw in the Hall’s infuriating inability to pick between Andre Reed, Carter, and Tim Brown, and how can you even find room for Ward to get in at some point?

Shouldn’t a Hall of Famer make more than four Pro Bowls in a 14-year career, especially if they were never one of the two best receivers in the league in any year? Do Super Bowl rings even matter for non-quarterbacks? Would Tony and Mike disagree with my February post that, just among active players, the Johnsons, Moss, Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, Welker, and Wayne are all more deserving of the Hall of Fame than Ward – before you even get to retired players who aren’t eligible yet like Owens, Harrison, Holt, or Isaac Bruce, or the aforementioned eligible players that haven’t gotten in yet?

Perhaps, like Swann, another beloved Steeler receiver can get in late in his eligibility despite a questionable career. It is, after all, the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Great. But if you still want to read more, you can browse through this post from January and the associated comments.

This Week in Kickstarter #5

  • The HuMn Wallet? FrackNation? David Lynch Documentary? Child’s play. Meet the real poster child for the Double Fine effect: Wasteland 2. In its origins, it’s rather similar to Double Fine, this time being a sequel to the forerunner to the Fallout games, complete with a whopping $900,000 goal, a mark that, not that long ago, only two projects in the history of Kickstarter had ever achieved. More astonishing? It’s already passed its goal and become the fourth million-dollar Kickstarter, shooting past the OOTS drive into third place, with a month to go. Double Fine itself got more of a late push than I thought was possible in its last 24 hours, setting the final mark at $3.3 million, a mark I’m fairly sure will stand for a pretty long time… by which I mean “a month or so”.
  • But wait, there’s more! Meet The Banner Saga, which set a lofty $100,000 goal and has already locked up two-thirds of it within the first twenty-four hours or so, with a month still to run. Even allowing for considerable slowing, I fully expect it to lock up a quarter of a million dollars. The effect of Double Fine’s ending (and possibly the launch of Wasteland) also seems to have reinvigorated FTL, which has raised an additional $40,000 in the past week; $150k once again seems in reach, and possibly more. Idle Thumbs isn’t making $30,000 goals in two hours like when it started, but it did make close to $10,000 since I last checked a week ago and could get a substantial late push in its last 48 hours.
  • Meanwhile, the new Elevation Dock is probably the intriguing Geode, which made nearly $200,000 in its first week-plus. The Digital Bolex raised a whopping $283,000 in its first week, but seems to have ground almost to a halt; it’ll still be one of the top ten projects in the top-heavy Design category. The HuMn Wallet should be over $200,000 by the time you read this; with two weeks still to go, it should easily be one of the top 25 projects in Kickstarter history. The ZBoard got another spurt of backing that propelled it substantially over $200,000.
  • The David Lynch Documentary only raised $25,000 this week, so who knows if it can even meet its current $150,000 stretch goal. What Makes a Baby has become the second-most funded project in the history of the Publishing category (that I know of). Erfworld Year of the Dwagon finished with a whopping $84,981, which does much to make it look less like a yawning chasm from Womanthology to the rest of the Comics category than it was before. Finally, Goats appears to be the newest beneficiary of the OOTS effect. It hasn’t blown away its goals, in fact it’s already hit its last 72 hours, but it has slowly and steadily climbed into the top ten projects in the Comics category, and induced Jonathan Rosenberg to restart the comic.
  • Money has arrived in Rich Burlew’s bank account and orders have been placed for the first few things funded by the drive itself.