Monday, October 29, 2012

Packer fans are still stupid, as is NFL.com. (What I Watch When I Watch About Football)

How long until Tim Tebow starts?

Sweetie and I were talking, on Saturday afternoon, about authors we like and which authors we would ...

...excuse me.  I was typing that above sentence as, in another tab, I opened up to NFL.Com to take a look at something to see if it would support my point, and NFL.com, already the most infuriatingly-slow, hard-to-load, annoying website on the Internet, slowed down my entire computer, making even the words appearing on this blog as I typed appear more slowly.

And then, and then, it loads, and I get this:


What. Is. That?

Here is what I wanted to do: I wanted to look up Mark Sanchez's season stats and see where he fits in the league after he couldn't lead the Jets to a win over the 27th-ranked (at the time) passing defense Miami was wielding behind their backup quarterback yesterday, and instead, I get some sort of sonogram from Prometheus.


All I wanted was a list of stats, thank you.  I don't even know how to use that "Stats Lab" thing.

And so sports becomes more annoying and harder for me to care about, in a season in which I'm already finding it hard to care about the NFL.

I was thinking about stuff like that this weekend, a weekend in which I watched only one single play of football, and that was a college game, and that was actually a replay of an earlier play in the Wisconsin-Michigan State football game, which was on at my in-laws where we went for dinner.  I didn't watch the Wisconsin game, at all; I simply watched the sole play as I got my boys ready to go outside to play some baseball because they were going to play baseball inside and that's not right.

Wisconsin lost that game, and they lost after I told my father-in-law that they probably wouldn't lose: when Wisconsin went up 10-3 with 6 minutes left in the game, I said "Well, that lead looks safe, if Michigan State couldn't score more than 3 points in the previous 54 minutes."

Then I went outside.

Then I came back in a while later and father-in-law said "Well, Wisconsin lost," and had to tell me how they went into overtime and lost.

I don't really care about Wisconsin, or college football, at all: There's no good storylines there, no real entertainment, good or bad, and entertainment, good or bad, is what sports is about, as recognized by Bill Barnwell's Grantland column titled "The NFL Entertainment Index," a guide to which teams are the most entertaining in the NFL.

Barnwell's thesis has been a longstanding point of this blog, a point I made as recently as October 1 when I began this feature, and as far back as two years ago when I ranked NFL teams, pre-season, in terms of how entertaining they might be to root for or against.

Sports is entertainment, and entertainment is entertainment, and this year there isn't much entertainment for me in the NFL.

This weekend, the Bills were on a bye; their games still barely count; at 3-4, they are on the outside looking in less than halfway through the season, mired in last in their own mediocre division and with no reasonable hope of winning enough games to make the playoffs, not in reality.  It would be nice if I could believe the Bills would win enough games in a row to (A) make the playoffs and (B) have a shot at winning a game in the playoffs, but I can't buy into that.  That type of thinking sounds too much like the kind of slop that I heard on the radio on Saturday morning, as we headed down to State Street to buy Sweetie a birthday present instead of going into the office; some sportscaster or other -- it doesn't matter which, all are equally devoid of insight or meaning or even entertainment -- was talking about how the Cleveland Browns ought not to be counted out (of something) because they are playing really well on offense.

NFL.com appears to have no rankings for defense, but they do have Venn Diagrams of the divisions.  Was there something wrong with a list?

I think the reason the NFL.Com "Stats Lab" bugs me so much is that it shows what is wrong with the sports world today: it confuses entertainment and information, and I'm not sure why.

Information, a listing of where Sanchez stands in the quarterback rankings, or which teams are best on offense, or simply the standings, does not need to be entertaining.  When I want information, whether it be "where do I vote" or "how many calories are available in a McDonald's Egg Nog Shake?" or "How many quarterbacks are better than Sanchez?" I want it to be readily-accessible and easily-digestible (much like a McDonald's Egg Nog Shake, which I used to look forward to every year but now they put that whipped cream on the shakes and that waters down the flavor of the shake, so I'm sort of off of them. Sweetie points out that I can always get the shake sans whipped cream, but then you don't get the cherry, either, plus asking someone to leave something out of my order feels like I'm overpaying.  I'd be all right with leaving the whipped cream off if it meant I got more shake, like when you order a soda without the ice to get more soda.  Does that work? I don't think it works.)

Information can be presented in an entertaining way -- The Daily Show does that all the time-- but first and foremost it must be presented in a comprehensible way, and when I look at this:


I have no way of knowing what it is trying to tell me.  If you click a player's name you'll get a highlighted polygon that doesn't tell me anything, either.  After some study, I gathered that it was a graph of sorts, comparing that player to various points on the map, there, but the experience left me cold.

As does the NFL, this year.  So I can't get behind the Bills, and I'm off the Packers, again primarily -- not completely but primarily -- because of their stupid fans

This week, Drew Magary's NFL Jamboroo, a column that is overly annoying but still has some good parts in it and so I skim it every week, talked about how annoying Patriots* fans are because they boo at their team for nearly losing to the Jets, but if there is a set of fans more annoyingly entitled and cheese-stuffed than diehard Packer fans, I am hard-pressed to think of them. 

Packer fans first annoyed me just over three years ago, when I wrote my inaugural "Packer Fans Are Stupid" post.  Since then, they have gotten worse.

Much worse.

Packer fans, who used to represent the honest, hard-working type of American that we celebrate in 1 out of 20 political commercials (the other 19 being used to point out that Tammy Baldwin once said "Damn,") and whose team had struggled for so long that they felt like they earned those Brett Favre years, have gone downhill.  Twenty years of more-or-less-successful campaigns have led Packer fans to become fat(ter) and (un)happy, but their unhappiness is never expressed at "their" team.  It is always at the perceived forces of nature that are destroying their way of life, a conspiratorial thinking that centers, unCopernicanically, on the idea that everything the Packers do is right and that therefore if they lose, it is because someone somewhere cheated and screwed them over.

This hit its height with Worst Call Ever, a moment in history that saw Wisconsin State Representative Jon Erpenbach -- once known for standing up for workers' rights so ferociously that Gov. Scott (Patsy) Walker tried to have him arrested -- tweeting that people should storm NFL headquarters to demand a reversal of the call.  (Erpenbach never responded to my tweet to him that it was nice to see him using his political capital for good.) 

So vicious were Packer fans about their need to have their team win a game it clearly had no business winning that one person on Twitter questioned whether children were hungry in Wisconsin-- when I tweeted that Aaron Rodgers would be all right because he makes millions a year and maybe some of the people could devote their energy to worrying about children going to be hungry that night in Wisconsin, a follower responded that she was "pretty sure" no kids were going to bed hungry in Wisconsin that night.

(For the record: As of February 2010, nearly 600,000 people rely on food banks in Wisconsin.)

Since that week, Packer fans have gotten worse.  They beat St. Louis and declared the team was righted.  They have smugly demanded that Saints plays be reviewed because maybe they didn't win that game enough.  They have ignored press releases showing that the Great and Glorious Reggie White once ran a program almost identical to the one that got the Saints in hot water for a brief period of time. and otherwise have smugly and sadly insisted that their team is the best, man and that anyone who gets in the way of that must have cheated.

(I'm not the only one who thinks this.  Look at the comments on the Pro Football Talk website about the Packers' loss to the Colts.)

On Friday, a local sports talk guy was taking calls on Packers' wideout Greg Jennings' impending surgery, which would have him out for most if not all of the season.  Here is, and I am not kidding, the exact take on that by Local Sports Talk Guy:  he said that it would be great because Jennings would then be healthy for a playoff run.

To be clear: before the season, Greg Jennings had played 16 games only three seasons, and last year he played 13 of 17.  This year, Jennings appeared in 3 games and was expected to be out for at least 6 weeks going into this week's game, and Packer fans thought that was a great thing, that Jennings would be in a position to help out at the playoffs and also didn't care that there didn't appear to be a backup plan.

There was no criticism of the team for not signing a replacement for Jennings -- the Packers' wideouts have been the subject of criticism this year -- and no thinking that the team, already struggling on offense, had now seen two starters go down with injury this year and that might be a problem.

Nope: It was this'll be great, and when one caller said that he felt the Packers might be better off without Jennings -- an "addition by subtraction" thinking that many sportstalkers embrace when the subtraction is about an egotistical player like Randy Moss -- the hosts took him to task, even though the Packers are now 3-0 without Jennings, a fact that was undissected because God Dang It Man Its The Packers.

There's something about that that I don't like: I don't like the fans and I don't like the team they root for, and I have trouble watching Packers' games because of it.

So I didn't have a football game, and I watched reruns of Archer and read about Titus Andronicus on Grantland and read short stories by John Cheever and I raked some leaves in the yard and last night, when I realized that my relationship with sports is flagging, I went online looking for some superhero shirts to buy so that if I fade away from football entirely, I'll still be able to wear some heroes on my chest.

And that is why we need Tim Tebow back: Not because he's a great quarterback, but because he's an interesting quarterback.  Tebow was named "Most Overrated" by other NFL players -- only 180 were in the poll, out of more than 1,500 in the league-- but that's because NFL players have to judge on skill, because they need the guy next to them to be able to do his job. 

For the rest of us, Tebow is horribly underrated.  He makes games interesting, and he'd get watched.  Tebow is in the grand tradition of NFL players who contribute more to the game by being interesting than they do by being good, and that is a short list.  Cam Newton last year lost games but won interest.  RGIII this year is regressing to the mean but was voted most interesting by Bill Barnwell in that article.  Russell Wilson beat the Patriots* but is fighting for his job. 

And that's it.  That's the list of players who are interesting this year.  Three.  Adding Tebow to the mix as the Jets starter probably wouldn't improve their winning percentage, but it would up by 33% the total number of interesting players starting in the league.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Sports nonsense is the nonsensiest nonsense of all. (Quotent Quotables)

Said Bill Barnwell today on his Grantland column ranking the top 8 teams of the NFL right now (but really the top 12 or so because some are "just outside the top 8"):

I think Green Bay is better than they've seemed so far because they've played a pretty tough schedule; their six opponents are a combined 17-10 in games that haven't involved the Packers. 

Which is to say:  "Green Bay is better than they've seemed, although they are not yet good enough to beat the teams that are every bit as good as they seem."  Which means that Green Bay probably shouldn't be 8th on the list of top 8 teams; the Packers, by Barnwell's estimate, are not good enough to rank up there with teams that go 17-10 (away from the Packers) and 20-13 (when including the Packers), i.e., the Packers aren't quite as good as those teams that win 60% of the time, i.e., the Packers don't quite win 60% of the time, i.e., the Packers' 3-3 record is just right.


The Packers Fixed Everything And Will Now Proceed To Win The Super Bowl. (What I Watch When I Watch About Football)

Possibly as early as this week, the NFL will announce that the Packers have won this year's Super Bowl; while the game is not scheduled to be played until February 2013, Aaron Rodgers' dominance of the Houston Texans was so complete and so earth-shattering that Felix Baumgarten can only shake his head in awe of the real stunning performance that took place Sunday.

Also: did you know Aaron Rodgers won the MVP last year? Because if you didn't, Cris Collinsworth took the time to mention that only 100,000,000,000,000 times in the first two quarters of the SNF game last night.

SNF, which is an acronym I hate because it translates to Sniff or Snuff was the game I chose to watch this week, and I have to be honest, I was watching it because I was actively contemplating jumping on the Texans' bandwagon. 

I was going to watch the Bills/Cardinals game, because I am rooting for the Bills and will still watch their games for as long as they matter -- the stopwatch is counting down but at 3-3 the Bills find themselves in a four-way tie for first place in the AFC East, thanks not just to a thrilling (?) overtime victory in the desert but also thanks to Russell Wilson's domination of the New England Patriots and Tim Tebow's domination of whoever it was the Jets played.

NOTE: I am assuming that the Bills' overtime victory was thrilling, because that game was not televised.  Even the overtime was not televised.  I was standing in my kitchen, preparing to completely screw up a "Jell-O No Bake Lemon Meringue Dessert" that Sweetie had asked me to make for dinner, and Twitter told me that the Bills' game had gone into overtime.

"Come on," I said to Mr F, who had been designated my helper for the No-Bake dessert because he was in a crummy mood because he wanted to go swimming but couldn't because his head is still broken, "We're going to watch the Bills Overtime Game," my rule being that I will only watch one football game per week but I figured, making up a corollary on the spot, that if a game goes into overtime I can watch that, too, because if the game I chose to watch went into overtime, I'd watch that, wouldn't I?

But the Bills Overtime Victory wasn't on TV: It wasn't on CBS, which was showing 60 Minutes, a show that apparently still exists despite not mattering at all to anyone, and it wasn't on FOX because FOX was airing an expose in which they finally admitted that even if Mitt Romney ended every single tax credit he could cut taxes by at best 4%, and that would involve cutting things like the mortgage interest tax deduction, which would first raise my taxes by nearly 2% before getting them cut by 4%.

Only I'm obviously lying, because (A) nobody cares about the math behind tax cuts anyway, and (B) FOX was showing the end of the Minnesota/Redskins game where with two minutes left, the Redskins were leading by 12 points.

You could debate whether or not FOX should have cut away to show the end of the Bills/Cardinals (assuming they could) or whether CBS should've pre-empted 60 Minutes (a/k/a Old People Talking About Stuff) to wait for the field goal that would end the game, but that would be irrelevant because in any event, there was one athletic/scientific event that was beyond debating as to its significance, it's excitement, and its representation of the thrill that can be given by humanity reaching its peak.  I'm talking, of course, about Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking free fall from 124,000 feet up.

That fall, which I learned about on Twitter, too, because I hadn't heard it was going to be televised, lasted 3 hours or so, 90% of that time being the trip up and the rest being Felix spinning and falling his way to Earth at speeds in excess of 800 miles per hour.

To get an idea how fast 800 miles per hour feels, imagine that you are walking. 

Now, imagine that you are walking at 800 miles per hour.  Amazing, isn't it? 

Now, imagine that instead of walking, you are in space and you jump and then you fall down to Earth only instead of jumping and falling to an Earth that comprises your entire field of vision -- I've gone skydiving before and from the highest up I've ever been the Earth still made up 60-70% of what I could see, the sky being the rest -- imagine instead that the Earth only makes up, sat 40% of your field of vision:





THAT is a wonderful thing: A man went up into space and then stepped out and fell back to Earth and he survived and when I read about it on Twitter I went online and read about it more and I felt sad that I'd missed this thing happening live because I couldn't imagine devoting three hours of my life to a football game when I could have devoted three hours of my life to a man slipping the surly bonds of Earth only to find that the surly bonds of Earth pull him back at 800+ miles per hour.

It would be impossible, I think, to minimize what Felix Baumgartner did yesterday.


Which isn't to say some people didn't try.

What do you suppose Neil deGrasse Tyson, Science Hater, meant to accomplish by that tweet?  Anyone who is truly interested in science, as opposed to, say, promoting themselves, would have wanted to encourage people to imagine everything that went into creating the balloons, the capsule, and the suit that allowed Felix Baumgartner, BRAVEST MAN ALIVE TODAY, to jump out of space and back to Earth.

Anyone truly interested in science, as opposed to simply being a boor, would have taken the opportunity to link to or talk about articles that showed how they created the suit and why certain protections were necessary, maybe mentioning how if Felix's suit tore even a little, it could cause his blood to boil away into gases, killing him horribly and not-quite-instantaneously.  Anyone truly interested in science as opposed to say, himself and what a big stupid jerk he is, would have mentioned that only being 124,000 feet above the Earth carries with it certain risks as you fall, risks like spinning:


The highest risk during descent is a flat spin, where Baumgartner would lose control of his free fall and begin to spin laterally, his head and feet rotating around his center.

A flat spin draws blood into the jumper's head and feet. At a speed exceeding 600 miles (970 kilometers) an hour, a flat spin could spin a jumper at 180 to 250 rotations a minute, creating a situation of extreme negative G's—the gravitational force that, in much milder form, creates that feeling of weightlessness as a roller coaster crests a hill.

Depending on the speed, a flat spin would could cause anything from headache, shortness of breath, and vision failure to mental confusion, unconsciousness, and burst eyeballs—when pressures exceeding -4 G's build up in the skull, blood and spinal fluid are forced outward, and their main escape routes are through the ocular cavities.
 (Source.) Someone truly interested in science -- someone who wasn't, say, afraid that Felix might take valuable media time away from himself -- might have used Sunday's heroically interesting feat to urge people to take seriously our need to continue to explore, create, challenge -- and used that to springboard people into science.

But not Neil deGrasse Tyson.




I'm just saying.

I didn't get to watch the end of the Bills/Cards, settling for wrecking the No-Bake Dessert and finding out the Bills had kicked their way into the Fourway Tie, and later on I settled in to watch the Houston Texans and the Green Bay Packers, a preview of the Super Bowl I predicted, the game only slightly-tape-delayed because we put the boys to bed early because I was tired and I'd read Pete The Cat: I Love My White Shoes about 35 times that day.

SPOILER ALERT: Pete the Cat loves his white shoes, but they don't stay white for long.  He steps in stuff that turns them red, and blue, and brown, and then white again but they're wet, then, and the moral of the story is that you should just keep on walking along and singing your song no matter what you step in, because it's all good.

The moral of the story of last night's Texans/Packers game was, as quoted to us by Cris Collinsworth (who would like you to know that Aaron Rodgers was the NFL MVP last year) was that while outside the sky was falling, inside everyone was doing just fine, or so Aaron Rodgers (who Cris Collinsworth would like you to know was the MVP last year) supposedly told Cris Collinsworth, doing so when Aaron Rodgers wasn't busy being the MVP last year.

Aaron Rodgers, despite being reported to not believing the sky is falling


 also took issue with Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels saying that Rodgers made last year look easy;during the telecast, we were told that Aaron Rodgers (who was the MVP last year, did you know? Because Cris Collinsworth wants you to know that) had told Cris Collinsworth that it wasn't easy, that it's not easy having a 122 quarterback rating and scoring at will and that it's not fair that this year's Packers are being judged by the standard set by last year's Packers because it's not easy, you know?

NOTE: I believe that when someone says you make it look easy, they are giving you a compliment: they are saying "That thing that is very hard? You make it look easy," and that means that they are saying you are very good at what you do, so taking issue with someone telling you you make it look easy is kind of a jerk move, if you ask me.  But you didn't.  Ask me, I mean.  I volunteered my opinion.

The early part of the game, which is the only part of the game I really watched because I fell asleep in the third quarter, was marked by Al and Cris being as bored as I was with the way the early part of the game was going: They mostly spent their time remarking on how the old Astrodome, next door, was, in fact, next door, and was old.  Also, it looks like acne: Al said that the Astrodome looked like a pimple next to Reliant Stadium.

(Has anyone ever noticed how Al seems to simply take everything Cris says and repeat it in a slightly different variant? Cris had just remarked on how the Astrodome looks small compared to Reliant, and Al had to go and add that it looks like a pimple, after which there was an awkward pause.)

(Al also had the worst-ever analogy in my memory: talking about how Aaron Rodgers [who was the... say it with me...] wasn't doing so hot this year (at least before he fixed everything and won the Super Bowl pre-emptively last night) and Al commented that it's like an actor who wins Best Actor one year and you just want to say to him Why aren't you doing that again? only I don't think it's like that at all

Aaron Rodgers is trying to win Best Actor again -- going with Al's analogy here -- but he is doing so with the same cast of characters and the same general storyline and the same villains, mostly, with only a few changes from last movie's/year's plot, so it's reasonable to say "Why were you so good last year and now you are not so good?"

But an actor, unless he or she simply remakes the same movie -- or a sequel -- is in an entirely new feature, with a new plot and new director and new castmates and all.  Even sequels don't simply re-do 90% of the plot from last year, unless the sequel is a Police Academy movie.

Anyway, the highlight for me of the first half was realizing that my kicker on my fantasy football team was for some reason inactive; I found out today that the kicker, who was listed as J. Brown or something on NFL.com's fantasy sight, isn't even in the league, so what's the deal with that, Roger Goodell?  I am using your site to play my fantasy football, and when I do my weekly drop this kicker, pick up that one because I am trying to pretend that I'm Daniel Snyder, and because also why should NFL teams get all the fun of firing a kicker for no reason, I can't even trust that the kicker I'm picking up is in the league?

As a coworker told me this morning: "You can probably go get Brett Favre, too," and now I kind of want to do that.

The other highlight of the game for me was the sign a fan held up that made it on TV after J.J. Watt sacked Aaron Rodgers, who was the MVP last year according to Cris Collinsworth.  The fan held up a sign that said:

WATT 
JUST HAPPENED 
RODGERS?

and I was impressed by how clever that sign was, and immediately then went on to imagine what would have happened if Watts hadn't made a great play involving Rodgers?  What if Watts had just had a pedestrian game?  How often would that fan get to use that sign? Would she take it home and put it in her closet, ruefully shaking her head and thinking "Should've gone with a Foster The People reference.  Maybe something about Pumped Up Kicks."

 

I also watched episode 2 of Season One of Once Upon A Time this week, and although I enjoyed it, I found it kind of annoying to have to work through the part of the series where the people are all still saying "I am not sure that what you are telling me is real."  The main character, who I'm told was on House, and who wears a lot of tight tank-top shirts and therefore is to be approved of:


keeps being told that everyone in StoryBrooke, Maine is an imprisoned fairy tale character, including herself, only she was never imprisoned because she was sent to our world through a wardrobe made from the stump of a tree, and the main character (whose name I don't know, even though I've watched two episodes so far) is having a hard time believing this; apparently, it is easier to believe that your 10-year-old son tracked you down in New York all on his own and that there is a malevolent mayor of a small town who has you framed for stealing a psychologist's files and locked up than it is to believe that your mom is Snow White, but even though that seems like it's probably true, I would like to see a movie or book where people instantly believe what they are told:

Fairy Godmother: I am your fairy godmother.  You are actually a 1,000,000 year old genie who has been trapped in this form and imprisoned here by an evil warlock who rules a solar system made of diamonds.  Now that you know the truth, you can use your powers to free yourself and begin your quest.


Genie: It is ABOUT FREAKING TIME.  Do you have any idea how boring my life was?

Fairy Godmother: Aren't you worried that this is all a dream? Or that you're crazy?  This could all be imaginary.

Genie:  So what?  If it's real, great! I don't have to get up and take inventory at the doughnut factory tomorrow.  And if it's not real, then I can't possibly get in trouble for missing work because I'll get up in time and realize it was all a dream.  And if I'm crazy? Well, nothing I can do about that, right? Let's get going on this.  Do I get a dragon to ride, or what?


Nothing else much happened in Episode 2; there was a fairly-cool but fairly short fight between the Evil Queen and Maleficient, and some random evil-people laughing about the failure of the Dark Curse and all; it was good but not great -- but good enough to get me to come back for Episode 3 next week.

Oh, and we watched Prometheus on Saturday night, and that, too, was good, but not great -- although it was closer to great than Episode 2 of Once Upon A Time.  I liked it enough that my only quibble didn't bother me too much, my quibble being they sure decided everything was evil pretty quick and on thin evidence.

Prometheus, unlike Once Upon A Time, featured people who had no trouble believing.  Cave paintings show the same star cluster over and over? Build a ship at a cost of a trillion dollars to go there and see what's up.  Got a whole moon to study to find out what those clues mean? Hey, here's a structure you just happened upon.  Don't want to wear those helmets?  The air's breathable, let's go!

Those were all minor points.  The larger believability points were more problematic: A "scientist" who specializes in cave paintings but also had the ability to perform alien autopsies on giant heads suggests reanimating said head despite the fact that she has studied it for all of three minutes, and then is surprised that the head explodes even though she had no idea what the chemistry of the head was or how old it was, really, is just an example of the kinds of problems that expedition had.  There was also the geologist who felt free to excuse himself from studying the rocks they were walking through and left to go home, and the biologist who did not stay to study the life forms they'd discovered but joined the geologist, leaving the study of the lifeforms to an archaeologist (the head-exploder) and her husband, plus a robot.

All that I could ignore, but what I had trouble with was the leap of faith (?) made when the storm comes up and the scientific party retreats to Prometheus: they study the head, and it explodes, possibly because alien fossils ought not to be filled with electricity just on a whim, and then the lead scientist gets sick, possibly because he took off his helmet and just started breathing alien air -- anyone who has ever drunk the municipal water in a strange city will know what I'm talking about there -- and from those two events and nothing else, the Archaeologist and Charlize Theron determine that everything in the pyramid is evil and must be destroyed, and although they are right, it still wasn't very scientific, was it?


Scientist one: That head we blew up sure blew up good.  I didn't expect it to blow up.

Noomi Rapace: Plus, this guy who might be my husband was walking around in a damp, ancient alien cave and now is sick.

Charlize Theron: Nuke this entire planet!  BURN MOON BURN YOU ARE ALL EVIL.

 Aside from that, the movie was very good and I enjoyed it; I just felt like there was some kind of gap there, like there were 20 minutes of bad things happening before all the scientists decided the space moon was evil, which would explain why they felt the space moon was evil.

But here's the other thing: The only people who didn't think the Engineer was going to be evil were, apparently, Old Guy Pearce and David The Robot, and those two were the guys who were actively using the biological weapons they found to kill people or at least try to kill them, so while everyone else on Prometheus decided on the basis of almost no evidence that the moon was evil, Old Guy Pearce and David The Robot decided that the Engineers would like them despite at that point there being an almost overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary.

That happens a lot, people deciding that the evidence matches what they want to believe.  Want to think the moon is evil? Ignore that your husband was licking the space rocks.  Want to believe the Engineer will like you? Ignore that you've realized he's heading for Earth with a cargo hold full of biological weapons.

And want to figure that the Packers have pretty much sewn up the season and will be bringing home another Lombardi trophy?  Ignore everything that's happened this year and focus on last night, as local columnist Tom Oates did in writing about Texans/Packers:


Some may think the Packers were playing with a back-to-the-wall mentality when they took the game to the Texans right from the opening kickoff. But that wasn’t a desperate, panic-stricken Green Bay team out there. It was a team that simply returned to the level of play that had characterized its previous two seasons, executing like a well-oiled machine.
Everyone figured the Packers had that in them, but it didn’t show up until Sunday. The Packers dominated the Texans while looking very much like the team that won the Super Bowl in the 2010-11 season and rampaged though the NFL with a 15-1 record last season.

Yes! They looked very much like the team that went 15-1 in the regular season, and not at all like the team that went 0-1 in the postseason last year, and not anything like the team that is now 3-3 this year, unless they are sort of like the team that dominated the Bears this year, but the Packers are definitely not anything like the team that gave up 10 sacks to the Seahawks only to have the game lost by the replacment refs.

Said Oates:

That never came close to happening. Instead, they took a measured approach and recovered the fine edge and sharp focus that had been missing all season
The other five weeks that came before this was a fluke; last night the Packers proved they are champions after all. Maybe that other stuff was all preseason football!

Evidence is what you make of it, after all, and some things that seem hard to believe for me might be easy to believe for others, depending on how you parse it.  As Bill Barnwell of Grantland has noted, one way to get the result you want is to fine-tune the sample size. You could, for example, minimize a daredevil scientific feat by suggesting that it was only a millimeter's leap, really, or you could decide to fear the Engineers because your husband got sick, ignoring the fact that the Engineers may have been trying to shape an atmosphere that would suit you perfectly, or you could just pick out the period of time during which your sports hero performed well, as USA Today did:

Rodgers, who vowed to pick up his play during his weekly radio show after the Week 5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, has been solid all season — he's now thrown 13 TDs vs. two INTs over the past three weeks — but this was easily his best effort of the year.
 The past three weeks, mind you, involved a loss to the Colts and a narrow win over the Saints, plus last night's game.  If USA Today had made that statement yesterday afternoon, around the time Neil was putting the ass in deGrasse (amiright?), the status would have been 7 TDs, 2 interceptions -- still good, but not as good.  Count over the first three weeks of the season and Aaron Rodgers had 3 TDs, 2 interceptions.

It's all in how you look at it, right?

Or, to put it another way: Did you know Aaron Rodgers was the MVP last season? 




Monday, October 8, 2012

Chipper Jones is my new favorite person ever. (Quotent Quotables)

Chipper Jones, meet Green Bay Packers fans.  Green Bay Packers fans, quit wallowing in your stupidity about how the Seahawks' Worst Call Ever wrecked everything for you and meet Chipper Jones.  If losing to the Colts yesterday didn't convince you that refs don't lose games, teams do, then consider what Chipper Jones has to say about a bad call that came in his last game ever, and a playoff game, to boot.

The game? The one-game wild card playoff, Jones' first playoff appearance since 2005.

The call? A misapplication of the infield fly rule that kept Atlanta from loading up the bases and instead gave them their second out of the inning.

Chipper Jones' reaction to the call that was so bad Atlanta fans threw garbage on the field?

Ultimately when we look back at this loss, we need to look in the mirror...That [infield fly] call is in kind of a gray area. I’m not willing to say that call caught us the ball game. Three errors cost us the ball game, mine being the biggest.

Jones went on to say "We dug ourselves too big a hole," and refused to blame a bad call for "costing him the game."

 It helps, of course, that the call came in the 8th inning, when there was still an inning left to play -- it's easier to not blame a call for "losing the game" when it happens earlier in the game -- but that alone should tell Packer fans that calls don't lose games, no matter when they happen

In any event, Chipper Jones is hereby named my new favorite person ever.  And Packer fans? How long will you go on blaming refs for your team being 2-3?



Attention Would-Be Sports Writers: You can write for me, and I'll pay you double what Bleacher Report does! (What I Watch When I Watch About Football)

I found myself oddly compelled to keep checking the scores on the Packers-Colts game yesterday, even though I was not watching the game, hadn't intended to watch it, and was only taking a break from the Evil Whale game Mr Bunches and I were playing at the swimming pool.

(For the record: I am not the Evil Whale.  I am the guy who captures Mr Bunches and puts him in the Evil Whale, from which he then escapes for more chasing fun.)

The game I intended to watch this week hasn't happened yet:  I set my DVR to tape tonight's Texans-Jets game, mostly because none of the other games available in my area seemed to be worth watching at all.

I had a choice of watching the (then) 2-2 Packers go up against  the then (I-don't-care) Indianapolis Colts with Andrew Luck-- Luck is right now 25th in quarterback ranking, 32nd in completion percentage, 14th in yards, and 12th in touchdowns. He's thrown as many 20+ yard passes as Ryan Tannehill, which I throw in there to point out that Luck's a rookie, sure, but so is Ryan Tannehill and he plays on a team that was equally dismal -- and for longer.

Or I could watch the Vikings-Titans game, which was broadcast in our area in lieu of the game I wanted to watch, which was Bills-49ers, because I hoped at the outset that the Bills might be able to keep up with the 49ers.  I hoped that the 49ers were maybe not all that good (they lost to Minnesota, who are not all that good!) and that the Bills, despite my belief that they are a 6-10 team if they get lucky, might get lucky.

But that game wasn't televised, the 45-3 score justifying the rest of the world's predetermination of what was going to happen, and so I've set tonight's game to tape but to be honest I probably won't watch.

I did, though, as I said, check in on the Packers game: After taking the family on a walk through the Arboretum at noon -- a great time to get out and do things, if you live in Wisconsin; people in Wisconsin are so reluctant to tape-delay a football game (maybe people everywhere are?) that if you are familiar with the workings of a DVR and able to keep off the Internet for a few hours, you are able to have the state to yourself during Packer games -- after that walk, Mr Bunches wanted to go swimming and so I said I'd take him over to the pool on the other side of town, the one with the slide shaped like a whale... an Evil Whale... and so I listened to the game on the way over there, on the radio.

When I first turned the game on, the Colts had just made it 21-10 in the third quarter; things seemed well in hand for the Packers, and as I drove, I sort of tuned out the game until the Colts made it 21-13.  And then 21-19, just before we pulled up to the pool.

That was when I realized I wasn't rooting for the Packers.  I mean, my body must have known it because when the Colts scored to make it 21-19, I sort of fist-pumped a little and thought "Yeah."



After that, I swam with Mr Bunches while I periodically checked my phone on the amazingly slow-loading NFL.com until I gave up on NFL.com and instead went to ESPN, which was not much better.

NFL.com, if you are following a game, will annoy the tar out of you because it will insist on loading up that video and the game-screen and give you highlight videos and, as a recent Slate article pointed out, a lot of people (possibly most) people no longer surf the Internet on a computer that can handle all those graphics loading.  We use phones and Kindles and iPads, and because websites are designed for laptops, mobile devices are slow to load them.  I can't get Deadspin on my Kindle, at all, and I refuse to use their terrible terrible terrible app interface, the Read-It app or whatever stupid thing it is that makes you click an article, then click the teaser for the article, then click the article again before it finally haltingly loads.  I won't do it.

Anyway: I watched the Packer scores until Indianapolis went ahead with less than a minute left, silently thought Yeah, take that, Green Bay, and then went back to swimming with Mr Bunches before heading home to listen to the Bills throwing away a game that at 2:00 before the end of the first half was 10-3.

I also watched and listened to and read some other stuff the first of which was this song:


That's either the song "Dark Parts" by Perfume Genius, or it's the song Perfume Genius by Dark PartsI can't tell anymore which are the band names and which are the song names, which is why society should have adopted my suggestion that all band names start with The, so we could have The Perfume Genius, or The The Beatles, and so on.

I heard this song on a commercial while I was getting ready to go to the Arboretum with the family: I'd gone to get dressed and put on the NFL Network while I was doing so, and during the 2-4 minutes it took me to comb my hair and get my old-school Bruce Smith Bills jersey on, all I saw on the NFL Network was commercials.

Annoying.

I'm not against commercials: I'm heavily for them, as you'd expect from someone who tried to sell ads in his books.  But networks have to remember that people will not sit through 2-4 minutes of commercials, and advertisers have to remember that people want variety in commercials.  If people thought more about commercials, people would think more about commercials, is my motto.  So: networks? Put no more than about 1 minute's worth of commercials on at a time.  Advertisers? Make your commercials be less repetitious: After a month, at least, you should retire the commercials. 

I think Flo from Progressive highlights how commercials should work.  I rarely see the same Flo commercial for more than a week or so, and then they're gone.  That's about how long it takes to go from "that commercial was kind of clever" to "Oh my God I'm going to save up all my money to go into venture capitalism just so I can buy Progressive and break it into its component parts and sell them off and put these people out of work."

The shelf-life of a beer commercial is considerably less: I haven't seen a beer commercial that I didn't get tired of before it ended in decades.  As I get older, I expect to get annoyed with beer commercials several days in advance of their airing.

I also read, yesterday morning, the SF Weekly's story on Bleacher Report -- a story I got to by by of Deadspin, which I had to read on my kids' iPad as I ate breakfast.  The story, "Top 5 Ways Bleacher Report Rules The World!" is amazing for a lot of reasons: first off, it shows that there are thousands and thousands of people out there who want to do sports writing and who want to do it so much that they will work for free and provide tons of money to people at the top of Bleacher Report.

Apparently, your average B/R writer gets told "here are some headlines that'll grab attention, now write a story about them" and when the writers do, the story might go up on the site and get the writer a badge or link.  Eventually, writers who get enough hits and badges and whatnot might become featured writers, earning as much as $600 per month to write sports.

I rarely divulge details of how much I earn writing, but I will say this:  When I started this blog, long ago, it was the first of my blogs I put advertising on and in the very first year that I did that, I made enough off of ads to buy a new stove for our house and take our family on a 4-day trip to Florida including Sea World all off my blog money.

Bleacher Report isn't terrible for what they do: the stories (which I sometimes read) are designed not to be informative but simply to grab headlines and thus Google rankings, and the latter part is more telling than the first: the web is full of writers who want to work for nothing, or next-to-nothing, in hopes that someday someone will recognize them and Diablo Cody them and they will then be able to write full time for pay, instead.  It's happened to that lawyer who ran the sports website, it happened to James Erwin, who was the latest fanfic writer to get a movie deal off his lunchtime postings, writing a story on his break about how a bunch of US Soldiers took on a Roman army and getting a movie deal out of it, and it could happen to you!  Maybe.

More important to me is that a bunch of Bleacher Report guys figured out how to make sure their stories turn up at the top of Google, almost every time.  They've got a whole team of people doing that -- focusing more on putting their stories on Google than making the stories good

Google any sports story -- let's try packers lose to colts -- and this is what you get:


The Bleacher Report story is first.  Ahead of NFL.com's, and way ahead of any Packers site or Colts site. 

That story, when you click on it, follows what SF Weekly says is part of the lure -- a provocative headline "After Loss To Colts, Are Packers Toast In 2012?" and a short aggregated story that asks you to provide an email and sign-up for a newsletter.

Does Bleacher Report work?  Depends on who you ask: I subscribe to the feed for a couple of teams that I like to follow, in part because it's quick to load and in part because Grantland has no mobile app and Deadspin's is so terrible that I can't stand it, but I rarely read the articles, and I loathe slideshows.

On the other hand, it's first and the owners just got paid $175,000,000 from Turner Broadcasting, which bought the site.  So it works amazingly well, from that perspective, the perspective of someone who wants to get paid $175,000,000 and never have to work again, and that suggests that those sportswriters who want to make it up to the $600 per month gig would be better off starting up their own sites and figuring out a way to make themselves higher on Google, which is what I think is the real reason that Turner bought Bleacher Report:  Google is supposed to be uncrackable, very hard at the best to optimize results on, and yet Bleacher Report manages to do it almost every time

At least for the stories people care about: A quick search showed no top-page B/R results for Bills lose to 49ers or Brees sets record, but B/R did get front-page on Tebow jets.

Bleacher Report is just the Huffington Post of sports -- an army of people who want to do something but still need to work for someone else (Bleacher Report is claimed to forbid its writers from breaking news) -- and a bigger army of people guaranteeing you'll see it first.

Which means that in the end, we still have people choosing what we see:  In the olden days, network executives and movie studios determined what we'd see, when we'd see it, and how we'd view it.  Now, though, we can publish our own books and make our own videos and create our own software -- but there are teams of hidden star chambers out there who are figuring out how to put their stuff at the top of the list, and making sure you never see my stuff, or your stuff.  They're too quick to figure out that people want to talk about Tebow and the Jets today, and too able to put up 1,000 articles that are all hyperspiderlinked or whatever to combat with my thoughtful essay on sports viewing that also mentions Tebow.

The only way to get around that is to figure out ways to make sure you know what people want to see, in advance -- to be able to predict that not only would I like to see the Colts beat the Packers, but that they will.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Octopuses, Trebuchets, and Dr. Seuss: What I Watch When I Watch About Football.

What I Watch etc etc is a new thing I'm going to try -- to discuss the one game I watch per week, and how it might have fit in to the other things I did instead of watching all the football available to watch.

I watch one game per week.  Tops.  Until the playoffs, when I watch two.  But it's not the playoffs.  So I watch one, and as I look ahead to the weekend, I try to decide which game will be worthy of my attention for several hours.  It's not so different, really, from deciding to go see a movie.  People who will ask me "Why do you limit yourself to one game? If you like football you should watch all the games?" would never say "Why are you going to see just one movie? If you like movies, you should go see all the movies."

Because that's the point, really: sports are entertainment, and they aren't always so entertaining.  Excited by that Browns-Jaguars matchup you got this weekend? No more so than people were for Adam Sandler presents Dracula.

So I pick one game, and now I will tell you about that game and then try to filter thoughts about that game into what else I did this weekend.

THE GAME:  Patriots* at Bills.

I sat down on Saturday night, after the boys went to bed, and was going to set the DVR to tape the Packers-Saints game, because I wanted to see if my fondest wish would come true -- my fondest wish, as of Saturday night, football-wise, at least, being that maybe, just maybe, the Packers would be the beneficiary of an obviously-blown call that would give them a touchdown and help them win the game, because honestly Packer fans are among the most annoying fans in the entire universe.

But then I noticed that this game, Pats*-Bills, was on and that I could for a change watch the Bills and could for a change watch the Bills in a game that meant something -- at least at the time it was played, since the Bills went into this one 2-1 and the Patriots* were 1-2, so a win would mean the Bills would be in the lead in their division.

That was, really, the high point of my viewing of this game, which I then DVRd and watched beginning about 8:00 p.m. Sunday night.  While the Bills jumped out to a 14-7 lead at the half, a lead that quickly got to 21-7 in the 3rd quarter, it never really felt like the Bills were in the lead, and if you watched the game you know what I mean.

Here's what it felt like: you know how when you play a little kid in a game and you're going to let the kid win but you want the kid to feel like you're not letting him win?  It felt like that, in a weird sort of reverse way.  It felt, to be precise, like the Patriots* were toying with the Bills, or maybe just wanted a challenge, like spotting your wife a rook and a knight in chess.

But more importantly, what it really felt like is "Man, the Bills just really, really suck as a team."  As a Bills fan, I was told that this was the year their defense would pick up the slack, that Trebuchet Fitzpatrick was going to actually earn the $24,000,000 that Jim Kelly said was his God-given right as a man, that blah blah blah if the Bills aren't the worst-managed team in football then that could only   be because some team, somewhere, is being managed by Al Davis' ghost.

I ended up accidentally fast-forwarding through the third quarter because my remote control got stuck, so I saw two Patriots* drives in fast-motion, although I couldn't actually be sure they didn't take place that way.  Given how terrible the Bills are, it's possible that Brady and his team really did score two touchdowns in about a minute.

I turned off the game at 49-28, just after the failed onside kick.  I was depressingly unsurprised to see that the Patriots* managed to finally make a field goal, having charitably missed two earlier in the game because they weren't yet actually playing.




What else I watched, read, and did:

The nice thing about taping a game that you're going to watch later is that it requires you to log off from the Internet, Twitter, email, texting, and the like, so that nobody can accidentally spoil the score for you -- meaning that if you are willing to unplug from the instantaneous web you can do some other fun stuff.

Saturday night, Sweetie and I watched the movie The Tall Man, which I suppose was okay.  It stars Jessica Biel in a role that I originally thought was "doctor" in a small town that should've been West Virginia but was actually Washington state.  Is Washington state super-depressed, and also riddled with mineshafts, as is integral to this story?  Apparently, it could be.

The Tall Man is a local legend in Depressionville, Washington, a legend that sprung up because about 18 kids have gone missing in a short enough time that their "Missing" posters aren't at all faded despite being stuck on a wooden board outside town, and the locals are starting to suspect that something weird is going on, namely that the media is ignoring their missing kids, a point that is made by a video montage of media reports about how the media is ignoring the missing kids of this town.

Jessica Biel fits into all this as the nurse wife of a beloved local doctor who tries hard to care about the town.  There is also a mysterious FBI agent who is repeatedly told by locals that he is not there to look for ghosts, and a woman in a shawl-- or blanket? -- who runs by a diner and looks crazed when Nurse Jessica offers her a cup of coffee.

Not long into the film, Jessica's own son is stolen and then the fun begins as she chases down The Tall Man only to have a bunch of twists and turns and revelations in a movie that's not quite a horror film, not quite a slasher film, and not quite ready for the theaters.

How can I relate this to the Bills' game I'd watch later on? Jessica Biel ought not to be playing a concerned, kind-faced, but secret-hiding nurse-who-I-thought-was-a-doctor.  It's not a good role for her. She ought to be playing, I don't know, "Sexy Teacher who tries to help student learn about what's going on only to get caught up in it."  It's too hard to imagine her having actual medical knowledge.

By that same token, Trebuchet Fitzpatrick ought not to be playing quarterback.  If the best you can say about a guy is "If you're going to miss on that pass, you want to miss long" when he repeatedly overthrows receivers on long routes (the thinking being that maybe you want to pay a guy $24,000,000 to make sure nobody can catch the pass he throws) then maybe that guy is not the franchise-saving quarterback you were hoping for.  Fitzy is not an NFL quarterback.  With that beard, he is potentially a fishing boat captain, but that's about it.

Sunday, I spent most of the day reading two Longform articles, only one of which I actually got through, about ocean mollusks.  Did you know that there is an octopus so poisonous that it can kill a man in seconds?  I didn't either, before yesterday. But I learned that in Sexy Beast, a Stranger.com essay about giant octopuses of Puget Sound (and elsewhere).  (The essay also makes clear that it's not octopi, but octopuses, because the correct plural would be octopodes but apparently people won't say that so your experts these days go with octopuses.)

Here is that octopus:


That's a Blue Ringed Octopus, and it's one of the many horrors that live in Australia.  The Sexy Beast article notes that people are warned from getting them as pets, not just because they're poisonous but because octopuses are particularly adept at getting out of their aquariums, and so homeowners have stumbled over them several rooms away from the tank.  (And, presumably, died.)

I read that, and I read most of The Squid Hunter, from The New Yorker back years ago.  I did not read Consider The Lobster, which was another suggestion on the list, because David Foster Wallace is one of the worst writers ever to be called a writer and I was suckered into blowing $17 on one of his books (Infinite Jest, which I believe he titled that way because he did it as some sort of meta-joke to make fun of critics and readers who would proclaim it good despite it being obviously terrible and not worth the effort.)

How can I relate this to the Bills game, too?  Maybe via a Fitzy should be playing Australian rules football joke? Nah, too obvious.  I read these articles in the afternoon, lazily sitting on my couch amidst the cool fall sunshine that streamed in.  That was while the game was actually being played, live, somewhere.  By taping the game, I didn't have to chain myself down to what the television wanted to show me, when it wanted to show me that.  We have DVRs.  Why would anyone watch something live?

That fits in because both of those articles were from years ago, and remain as entertaining today as they were years ago.  Had I not watched the Bills game last night, I could have (theoretically) avoided for years hearing how it turned out, and then gone to watch it, ultimately, and still gotten the exact same excitement out of it... except that if I watched it after the season ends, then I would have to avoid knowing who made the playoffs and the Super Bowl, too, I suppose -- because if I knew the Bills were in the playoffs or out of them (the latter being far more likely this season and every season) then I'd know ultimately that this game did not matter, that win or lose, the playoffs were set.

So football has a shelf life, of no more than the end of the season.

Also: Nobody has ever seen a live giant squid, ever.  Ever. Ever. That's amazing.  We have space probes out at the edge of the galaxy, but we've never seen a live giant squid.  And, on a related note, we are approaching the time when nobody alive will have seen the Bills play in a Super Bowl.  It's been 18 years since they last played in one, and 12 years since the Bills played in January, period.  The Bills' postseasons are rapidly becoming the giant squid of the NFL.


I did other stuff, too: I read five different Dr. Seuss books with Mr Bunches.  I watched the pilot for Once Upon A Time.  I watched 1/2 of Demetri Martin's stand-up comedy special before dozing off because it was really late on Saturday night.  You can pack a lot of living into a weekend if you put football in its proper place.





*The Patriots* get the asterisk until they cut all ties with Belicheat.

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