USA Today and the Future of Journalism

USA Today recently laid off a number of sports columnists as part of a broader restructuring of its sports department – and the vision they’ve set for their sports department going forward may well be a vision of the future for newspapers all over the country.

A leaked memo from publisher Larry Kramer effectively completely redefines USA Today Sports’ mission:

As we recast ourselves into a multi-platform sports organization, it is clear that we must be more aggressive and proactive about how we cover breaking news. While the newspaper remains an important source of news for our sports consumers, we can no longer operate with a print-first mentality. Stories move 24-7 and we need to move at that same rapid pace. The USA TODAY Sports Media Group intends to be the conversation starter, breaking news in Sports faster and in greater depth than anyone else.

It’s been said in the past that the Internet completely obliterates the traditional “news cycle”, giving people access to breaking news instantaneously. This has had its pluses and minuses, foremost among the latter the race to get scoops first potentially coming at the expense of getting them right. USA Today has effectively recognized that they are facing a future in which newspapers look increasingly obsolete, a drain on resources from the web site, and that the new world of the Internet is a far different world than the print world they’re leaving behind. This appears to be at least a first step towards embracing the new rules of the game. USA Today has generally been one of the “little three” of national general sports websites (alongside Sporting News/Fanhouse and NBC, and behind ESPN, CBS, Fox, SI, and Yahoo in some order), and they appear to be taking proactive steps to emerge from that status.

There’s a lesson here for newspapers all over the country looking to recast themselves in the new Internet age. They must effectively become less like newspapers, as they have known the term up to this point, gathering up all the stories they can for a single daily or weekly edition, and more like twenty-four-hour news networks, reporting the news as it happens. Certainly there will be people who just want to get the news in one big dose, but the core of that one big dose will utterly depend on being able to stay on top of all the news the moment it develops.

Cox, the Hornets, and the local sports TV wars

Fox may be losing its regional sports dominion to Comcast and Time Warner Cable, but that doesn’t mean it’s shrinking elsewhere, and for that it has Cox to thank. Fox was able to set up an FSN network in San Diego largely because then-rightsholders Cox pulled out of the bidding for Padres rights, and history appears to have repeated itself in New Orleans, where Cox, whose regional sports networks have had trouble getting carriage on non-Cox systems, has decided the best way to save itself from rising sports rights fees isn’t to join the party, but to do the opposite, give Fox a monopoly and hope that means Fox can shortchange the team on rights fees and pass the savings on to Cox.

My impression is that Cox can only do this because ESPN and CBS aren’t in the regional sports network business. (NBC is, but their RSNs are tied to Comcast’s cable business.) If there were multiple RSN groups that weren’t tied to cable operators, Fox wouldn’t be able to set the price for local sports rights, and Cox wouldn’t have any other options. If Root Sports were at all interested in expanding outside the three regional sports networks it already has, Fox wouldn’t be able to escape competition anywhere. That they are not could have a number of causes, from DirecTV not wanting to go head-to-head with the organization that spawned it to only holding those three regional sports networks until they can spin them off to someone else like Comcast. But Cox could find itself inside a nightmare if ESPN or CBS decided to take a piece of Fox’s RSN pie.

Comcast SportsNet has become a money-making machine, but I can’t help but wonder whether Time Warner Cable might find itself going the same route as Cox. If its new Southern California networks have trouble getting carriage on non-TWC carriers, they may decide they were better off on the other end of those carriage disputes. On the other hand, the Lakers are a far bigger deal than the Padres or Hornets, and other RSNs for big-name teams like YES managed to survive early carriage disputes, so Cox’s struggles might have more to do with the teams involved than anything else. Certainly Fox isn’t likely to be able to count on other cable operators having Cox’s generosity anytime soon.

I don’t think this post was a great idea in the first place, and it doesn’t help that I had to work on it on school computers where I couldn’t concentrate.

(From xkcd. Click for full-sized synchronization.)

xkcd has never been one to shy away from introducing new, out-there concepts, or cause you to rethink the way you look at the world – concepts its sizable fanbase is never slow to leap on.

At first glance, this comic would seem to fall into the same category… but then it begins to go off the rails, effectively pulling the rug out from under the audience.

It’s hard to tell what this comic is trying to do. Is there a particular geekly phenomenon it’s making fun of? Is it trying to trick its fanbase, or just having fun, or is it even making fun of itself?

The funny thing about this comic is, it’s entirely possible to actually do something like this, without the nonsense rules that come up towards the end, and indeed self-consciously to avoid those nonsense rules. But any actual attempt to do so would be so geeky that even considering how geeky Randall Munroe’s audience is, the reference would undoubtedly go completely over most of their heads.

In short, I’m not entirely sure I get this comic. Is there supposed to be a joke? Does the joke rely on some sort of knowledge I’m not privy to, or am I just supposed to have a vague sense of uncomfortableness as I increasingly wonder what’s going on as the elements of the plan become increasingly nonsensical? If, as some of the “rules” imply, the comic is making fun of the sort of real-life nonsensical rules it initially claims to discard, what exactly is the point? Because if that’s the case, I get the sense it changes what it’s trying to do as it goes along. Or is it just a rehash of the joke from this comic?

And of course, it doesn’t help that it’s so long and narrow that I have to pad out this post to make sure the image doesn’t interfere with everything below it…


I thought I might have a potential post on Homestuck, Gunnerkrigg Court or xkcd today. But I didn’t have as much new information from Homestuck as I thought, the Court hasn’t yet reached the point that it’s postworthy, and by the time I started working on an xkcd post it was too late for me to get it in in time to continue the streak.

To make matters worse, my power cable broke at the worst possible time, when I need my laptop to work on all the schoolwork I need to catch up on in the next two or three weeks. And the ETA for a replacement cable to arrive isn’t until Friday, though I’m holding out hope to get it sooner.

Not a day worth remembering.

Fair warning.

As you might have guessed, the level of activity on Da Blog the past month-plus has taken a bite out of my schoolwork, and it’s coming up on time to catch up on it.

As such, don’t be surprised to see activity on Da Blog ratchet down considerably. I’ll try to maintain The Streak, but I might miss a week or two on the full webcomic reviews, and engage in more filler.

I will still post on events in webcomics I already read as they happen, though. For example, judging by the fact I can’t get to the MSPA site right now, I have a feeling I’ll be posting on that on Monday…

Yes, this is just filler to continue The Streak, but you gotta admit, that last panel gets downright existential.

(From Something Positive. Click for full-sized origin stories.)

Click on the name of Something Positive above. You’ll be taken to the main S*P page.

You may notice that most of the first screen is taken up by ads, navigation, and plugging of merchandise and con appearances.

Below that, you get the actual comic.

Below that, you get the latest edition of Randy Milholland’s side project Super Stupor.

At an earlier point in the site’s history, you’d have gotten one or two more side projects.

Finally, below all of that, is the site’s blog.

Now that you’ve seen all of this, I ask you: do you think Milholland would benefit from a PVP-style reimagining of his site?

Perhaps even more than Scott Kurtz, Milholland seems to already be running Something Positive as more of a hub for his own brand than as a site for one particular webcomic. Certainly I imagine taking a cue from PVP here would have to be better than how the S*P home page is laid out today.

(Damn, for someone who’s occasionally seemed to be in the lap of Bengo I’ve been praising Kurtz and PVP quite a bit lately, haven’t I? And I’m not even done! I have more to hammer this point home with!)

I was counting on this review to determine if I was getting soft. I’d say the answer is a resounding “no”.

(From Goblins. Click for full-sized perceived insults.)

This is a review that I was trying to avoid for a long time.

Oh, I’d heard of Goblins. I’d seen it hover near the top of webcomic ranking sites like Buzzcomix and TopWebComics in late 2008 and early 2009, and I’d seen the effusive praise given it elsewhere. Goblins was one of three comics constantly in the top three spots on Buzzcomix when I was trying to push my own comic Sandsday on there, before the site went belly up for good. Two of them, Girl Genius and Fey Winds, got reviews on this here site. Sure, I reviewed Fey Winds because its Buzzcomix description made it sound like a poor man’s Order of the Stick, but isn’t that a fairly apt description of Goblins as well? All I knew about Goblins was that it turned the traditional “they’re-evil-and-that’s-that” portrayal of D&D goblins on its head by portraying a campaign from their perspective, and that’s a minor aspect of OOTS‘ exploration of the genre.

No, something led me to actively avoid reading the comic, something that made me actively ignore this comic that gave every sign of being but a shadow of OOTS‘ greatness. Had I continued doing webcomic reviews, it would have been a long, long time before I even considered taking on Goblins. But no. Goblins ended up being the runner up in the semi-recent “Webcomic March Madness” tournament. Oh, I hadn’t reviewed either of the winners from either year Comicmix held the tournament, but I already had plans to review Gunnerkrigg Court and Erfworld, and the runner-up the year before was some super-obscure comic called Gronk that more than anything else probably shows how far the tournament came along this year, and I was determined to add at least one comic to my review pile from the tournament.

Let’s hope this doesn’t mean I find myself reviewing Misfile in a year’s time.

The big difference this year, of course, was that the tournament attracted the attention of big-time webcomic creators, and few pushed their comic harder in the tournament than Goblins‘ creator. I’m fairly certain that’s the only reason the comic made it so far. Certainly that’s the only reason Goblins would knock off OOTS in the semifinals, because Goblins was plugging itself in the tournament while Rich Burlew wasn’t even acknowledging its existence and OOTS‘ own fans were ambivalent about pushing it in a tournament with a cash prize (which the top two creators ended up donating to Child’s Play anyway) so soon after the comic’s Kickstarter success. (Yeah, when the other half of the final four is Homestuck and Gunnerkrigg Court, it’s a little late to start worrying about taking away a spot from a comic that needs the exposure more.)

Oh, I gave it time. I sat through years and years and years of comics holding out hope that by late 2008 the comic would improve to the point it would deserve the praise heaped on it. I sat through every excruciating “joke” from the comic’s early storylines. I sat through the incomprehensible fight scene that didn’t have anything to do with the rest of the comic (and still doesn’t have much to do with it). I sat through the flying deus ex machina. I sat through all the contrived, out-of-nowhere discussions of D&D racism. The fair-warning page at the start of the archives says that the very earliest Goblins pages date to 2001, but it reads like someone just discovered OOTS (or hell, even DM of the Rings) and wanted to jump on the bandwagon with their own comic mocking D&D. At this point we’re looking at the homeless man’s Order of the Stick.

Maybe, I thought, it’s unfair for me to try to assess this comic fairly when I’ve already been exposed to and become a fan of OOTS. Maybe all I see is the stuff I’m already familiar with from OOTS and I just dismiss it because of that. Hell, maybe if I had read Goblins first, I wouldn’t find OOTS all that impressive because I’d find everything to be a retread of stuff I’d already read in Goblins. Or maybe not. Considering a good chunk of the point of this comic could be distilled into a single scene of OOTSStart of Darkness prequel, I doubt reading Goblins first would ruin my enjoyment of OOTS. (Seriously. Read pages 9-12, maybe 9-15. 4-7 pages of a print-only OOTS book encapsulates everything you could get out of early Goblins.)

The comic went through Cerebus Syndrome before the encounter set up on its opening pages was even finished. When that happened to OOTS, it remained a humor comic that happened to advance a plot at the same time for quite some time, and even when the plot moved to the fore it continued to use humor to add levity to a situation. With Goblins, what humor remains seems horribly out of place, the vestiges of the early jokes (like a goblin named “Dies Horribly” in nonstop panic mode after being named by the clan’s fortune teller) clashing oddly with the serious plotlines. Remember how I was worried about being able to get through Gunnerkrigg Court‘s drama after its first few chapters? With Goblins, that feeling never went away. I dreaded every time I went to continue my archive binge. Part of it was the drama I had to deal with, part of it was that I was guaranteed to run into something that made me facepalm.

Oh, the comic did improve, becoming simply the poor man’s OOTS, but that’s not saying much. The main characters, who end up forming an adventuring party of their own, became much more fleshed out, and from some of the early jokes the comic picked up themes of predestination and what makes a leader. But it still didn’t improve enough to overcome its early issues, and those issues sometimes threaten to bring down the whole enterprise.

It’s 2008 and Thunt still can’t draw a comprehensible fight scene. And he’s not afraid to drop massive infodumps. And the bad guys are almost cartoonishly evil (though Goblinslayer does seem to subscribe to the Tarquin school of fame). And the comic runs into the same pacing problems afflicting most comics releasing a single page regardless of content density with every update, somewhat more self-awarely than, say, the Court but compounded by Thunt’s propensity to jump between somewhat loosely connected plot threads, which itself is compounded by those pacing problems. Even updating twice a week, I bet the comic advances its plotlines at most as much as Fey Winds does/did in the same time span. The comic takes a year and a half to play out a single battle, admittedly the rough equivalent of OOTS‘ Battle of Azure City, but that played out in substantially less time.

And if that wasn’t enough, I have just two words for you: Goblin! Boobies!

And then… there’s a moment where the paladin-goblin Big Ears is cornered by this big goon with this huge weapon that apparently is incredibly evil. So the goon brings down the weapon on him, and he starts to get up, and the weapon’s glow gets brighter and brighter until it becomes this complete wall of text explaining the history of the weapon. Thunt literally pulled an entire page of pure exposition out of his ass to save this character.

Do you see why I was dreading every time I went back to the archive binge?

I do begrudgingly admit that Goblins has some reason to exist, but that’s not saying much. At this point, Goblins‘ biggest issue has to do with its update schedule and how slow its plot advances, especially since a lot of its other issues ultimately tie back to that one. For example, Thunt tries to juggle three or more plotlines at a time (as many of two of which are only barely connected with the main plot and have been dragging out their promise of a resolution and tie back to the main plot for a long, LONG time now), and the update schedule already means one group is going to be in the spotlight for an extended period while the others fade to the background and wait their turn, and none of them are going to advance very much.

Yet the comic just finished six uninterrupted months with one of them, the adventuring party that attacked the goblin camp at the start of the comic, to the point that Thunt had to put up a blog post reminding people of the plot he was returning to, the one immediately preceding that uninterrupted stretch. That group has itself been in a dungeon crawl with its own alternate universe doppelgangers since February of last year, which you really just want to get to the end of while it’s happening. It doesn’t help that the adventurers are the comic’s least interesting protagonists, not because of their origin as joke antagonists, but because of the way their characters have evolved, especially Minmax, who started out as a buffoonish parody of overly-“optimized” characters (like a poor man’s Pete from Darths and Droids), but has since become merely a well-meaning dimwit, and it just doesn’t mesh well, especially his weird pseudo-romantic subplot with the yuan-ti travelling with them. (Not that the other group is much better; after all, Saves a Fox practically verges on Mary Sue territory.) Meanwhile, we’ve barely seen the alleged main cast at all in the two and a half years since that aforementioned protracted battle ended.

Hell, just last week Thunt posted some filler and announced he would be doing more of it next week and at the end of each month, while admitting his update schedule is already too slow to advance the story at any reasonable speed, suggesting he’s running into the same problem that afflicted Dresden Codak: his art takes too long for his own good. The fact that at least he’s updating twice a week instead of only once only means that his artwork isn’t as good as that of Fey Winds or Dresden Codak, or as detailed as the latter. In effect, he’s getting the worst of both worlds.

So in the end, while Goblins does have some redeeming qualities, ultimately it’s the sort of comic I wouldn’t have been surprised to see John Solomon target, and it’s certainly a far cry from the greatness that is OOTS. It has been an utter chore to get through, and when all is said and done I’m just glad to be done with it.

Could the SEC Launch Its Own Network?

Back in 2006, six months before Da Blog started, the Big Ten announced a lucrative TV deal that included a partnership with Fox to launch a network entirely dedicated to the conference. Although the Mountain West had started its own network, the spectacle of a BCS conference doing so, combined with the piles of money associated with it, made many wonder if such networks would become the wave of the future, one that had to be concerning for ESPN. And one conference that seemed almost certain to take that plunge was the king of college conferences, the SEC, whose own deal was coming up for renewal fast. Instead, ESPN paid off the SEC to the tune of over a billion dollars, and combined with the most-distributed syndication deal in sports history, complete with the branding of “SEC Network”, it seemed as though the SEC didn’t need to launch an actual SEC network.

In the years since, though, the Pac-12 and the University of Texas have announced the formation of their own networks, and they have proven so lucrative that the SEC has started having second thoughts. One might wonder if the SEC added Texas A&M and Missouri last summer as a pretense to reopen its TV deal and get a do-over on the whole network thing.

This would leave just the ACC and Big 12 as the only true major football conferences without their own networks. The ACC just extended its deal with ESPN without launching a network; presumably they felt that the SEC wouldn’t do it, but with the SEC now potentially starting a network in their backyard, combined with their new bowl agreement with the Big 12, they may now be screwed. Their football power is already substantially behind the others; now it may be permanently relegated to second-class citizen status. The Big 12 is largely hamstrung by Texas’ desire to have their Longhorn Network, rendering it too fractured and weak outside its biggest programs for a conference-wide network. That might not be a game-breaker, though, given the power of Texas and the aforementioned bowl agreement.

College Football Promotion and Relegation Revisited

When a nationally recognized site, through no fewer than three writers, comes up with an idea previously thought up by some unknown faceless blogger somewhere, and one of their own writers had raised the same idea earlier apparently independently, that’s probably a good sign the idea is a good one.

Such is the case with a promotion/relegation system for college football. Can you blame SBNation for devoting an entire week to the concept, given the madness that has been the past few years of conference realignment? Or their DawgSports blog for raising the same idea last year? You can imagine how piqued my interest was given my own promotion/relegation system that came before any of them; it’s especially interesting that their “relegation week” came the same week as the SEC/Big 12 alliance, which led many people to wonder if this was the first step towards college football condensing into four major conferences with a pseudo-playoff structure between them. Naturally, my idea differs from both sites’ proposals in a few ways:

  • I proposed only two conferences on the top level. This puts a number of very high-profile programs at risk of relegation to a lower level, but I like the notion of two semi-national conferences featuring all (or most of, or at least nothing but) the teams that college football’s engine runs on playing against each other in a guaranteed high-caliber showdown each and every week. It would basically be a licence to print money for schools and networks (to the point every single team could sign a Notre Dame-esque national contract with a network or ESPN), a bonanza of great games and classic match-ups for fans, while still maintaining the sanctity of the regular season and everything traditionalists love about college football. Win-win-win.
  • That said, given the inherent inequity of a pro/rel system I can see the argument to bump up to, let’s say four conferences on the top level – which also increases the number of teams that can offer recruits the opportunity to play on the top flight, now or later, and allows us to also maintain the maze of nonsensical bowl tie-ins (including bowls with potential relegation implications). This oh-so-neatly matches the number of major conferences the SEC/Big 12 alignment potentially presages condensation to as well. We can institute a four-team all-champion playoff, or we can put in a 12-16 team “Champions League”.
  • These two conferences would each consist of 12 teams… without divisions. Each conference would play a complete round-robin, leaving them at most one non-conference game, which should be enough to maintain any rivalries outside the conference. Those games would be meaningless in the overall scheme of things, but isn’t that what a lot of people liked about pre-BCS college football rivalries anyway? If a team somehow didn’t have a single non-conference rivalry, they could schedule the typical guarantee game.
  • Once you get past the top five levels of English soccer (the Premier League, the Championship, League One, League Two, and the National Conference), each subsequent level contains multiple leagues. The way it works there, the number of teams in each league is constant, with the borders between the leagues determined by what maintains the balance, not by rigid geographical boundaries like in the SBNation plan. Conference realignment could play out naturally, as a result of the needs of numerical balance between conferences on the same level. (The sixth level of English soccer has two leagues, the Northern and Southern Conference. The seventh level has three, the Northern Premier League, the Southern League, and the Isthmian League, each of which splits into two sub-leagues on the eighth level. Beyond that, the distribution of leagues becomes decidedly more haphazard and ad hoc, not quite as nice and neat, though the FA has been trying to reduce the 14-league ninth level down to 12, matching the six-league eighth level.)

With that in mind, let’s consider a possible structure with four conferences at the top level, extending down to NAIA. Despite the future suggested by the SEC/Big 12 alliance, I killed the Big 12 and brought back the ACC because there aren’t a lot of West Coast leagues directly below the top level, while there’s a glut of eastern and southern leagues. I’m not going to mention any teams, only the conferences at each level; conference names should be assumed to broadly reflect geographic area, as many conferences are likely to change names. Also assume that conferences at the top level contain 12 teams each, as does each subsequent level with four conferences; conferences on lower levels may have fewer teams.

  • Tier 1 (BCS): Pac-12, Big 10, SEC, ACC
  • Tier 2 (FBS): Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA, Big East
  • Tier 3 (FCS Tier 1): WAC, Missouri Valley, Sun Belt, CAA
  • Tier 4 (FCS Tier 2/Division I): Big Sky, Southland, Pioneer, Ohio Valley, SWAC, Big South, Patriot, Ivy or NEC
  • Tier 5 (Division II): Great Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Lone Star, Great American, Mid-America, Northern Sun, Great Lakes, SIAC, Gulf South, CIAA, South Atlantic, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Northeast Ten
  • Tier 6 (Division III Tier 1): Northwest, American Southwest, IIAC, MIAC, WIAC, CCIW, OAC, SCAC, Centennial, Middle Atlantic, New Jersey, Empire 8
  • Tier 7 (Division III Tier 2): SCIAC, Heartland, Upper Midwest, Midwest, Northern Athletics, MIAA, Atlantic Central, Old Dominion, Presidents, NCAC, Liberty, NESCAC
  • Tier 8: All NAIA schools and conferences

The teams assigned to each conference are left as an exercise for the reader; you may refer to my older post for assistance. Feel free to fiddle around with the conferences and their placement as well, keeping in mind that since these conferences no longer have anything to do with conferences for other sports, the actual conferences involved may be very different. For example, what conferences exist on the Division II level may just have four levels all on their own.

What The SEC-Big 12 Bowl Agreement Reveals About the Future Shape of the BCS

Apparently the SEC wants their own version of the Rose Bowl, because they have announced that they have reached an agreement with the Big 12 that will pit their respective conference champions against one another in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

That’s right. Their conference champions. I didn’t even think they could do that outside the confines of the BCS.

The first thought I had involved the structure of the BCS bowls outside the playoff. It had sounded like the BCS would be adding two more bowls to the BCS collection, while this move contracts the number of bowls needed to capture all the BCS conference champions, especially if, as other reports suggest, the ACC and Big East make the Orange Bowl their own champions’ bowl. But one thing this does is allow the BCS to at least attempt to officially give second tie-ins to the BCS conferences. If there are two “champions'” bowls, that leaves four bowls completely free for any second tie-ins to be distributed among, the ACC and Orange Bowl aside. Assuming the new SEC/Big 12 bowl is the Sugar Bowl, you could see a situation where Big 10 #2 plays SEC #2 in another Florida bowl (the Cap One or Gator), Big 12 #2 goes to the Cotton Bowl, and Pac-12 #2 goes to the Fiesta Bowl (with all other spots being at-large). Alternately, Big 10 #2 could play ACC #2 in the second Florida bowl while SEC #2 goes to the Orange Bowl, which keeps the ACC from being faced with the choice of sending their #2 to Texas at the nearest or officially becoming second-class BCS citizens. Conversely, if the SEC/Big 12 bowl is the Cotton Bowl, you could see some tie-in do-si-do with Big Ten-SEC in the Cap One or Gator and Pac-12 #2 v. Big 12 #2 in the Fiesta.

The bigger question, though, is what this means for the four-team playoff the BCS honchos just agreed to. If they simply pick the bowl tied-in with the conference of the higher-seeded team, that will be at least one and possibly both of the Rose and SEC/Big 12 every year. They could take advantage of the #2 tie-ins to have backup if both semifinals would go to the same bowl, but I think they instead create two tiers of BCS bowls and inoculate the Rose and SEC/Big 12 from ever being semifinals unless one game pairs both conferences’ champions (or a pairing of both champions is possible in the semis without being 1 v. 2). It’s worth noting that in the tie-in structure that splits up SEC #2 and Big Ten #2 to different bowls above, each of the four remaining bowls would have about the same chance of hosting a semifinal, assuming the Big Four conferences are equally likely to produce a playoff team.

More to the point, if this had been in place when the BCS honchos met I think it would have changed their plans, and it may yet end up changing them long-term. A format that preserves the Rose Bowl matchup looks more palatable to the SEC and Big 12 if they can get the same deal for their own bowl, with far more sinister implications for everyone else. It’s easy to see this as the starting point for a plus-one that turns these two bowls into de facto semifinals, suggesting the dream of 16-team superconferences is not quite dead yet. That could change the landscape of college football tremendously over the next few decades, potentially signalling the death knell not just to the Big East but even the ACC and independence for Notre Dame. College football is entering the next act in its evolution, but the final act hasn’t arrived by a long shot.