Saturday, May 31, 2008

Almost there ...

It's difficult to explain what it's like to be rooting for the best team in a league, especially in a sport where you can only get one point at a time.

Maybe I'll get a chance to talk about it a little more on Monday. For now, let's just say I'm very happy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Series over

One way you can tell when a team is beaten is when they start taking cheap shots at the other team - usually it's just a couple of players, but they typically won't miss a chance to do it. Jarome Iginla would be proud at the way that Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone have been playing in Game 2.

Michel Therrien should take note, though. Just as Iginla took boneheaded penalties against the Wings in 2007, so has Malone in 2008. In Game 2, all three of Malone's penalties were offensive-zone penalties, and the third was early in a Pittsburgh power play. (Roberts took a minor penalty as well, but at this point in his career, he's clearly a designated agitator anyway. he's got nothing else to contribute.)

Obviously the Penguins can come back, and certainly a 2-0 series lead isn't invulnerable. If Pittsburgh wins Games 3 and 4, it's a best-of-three series. However, they're not going to win if they don't score, and there's nothing in Game 2 that indicates they will do so.

One of the knocks on the Wings since maybe 1995 is that they're not "tough" and that they can be beaten with "physical" play (Mike Modano was one of the players who brought this up most recently - he probably still thinks he can't be checked). Usually, "physical" play is a euphemism for enforcement, and Pittsburgh's lucky Detroit doesn't have anyone like that. (McCarty is well past that point of his career, mostly being a Roberts-type guy, and no one on the active roster really does that, except maybe Chelios as a pest-type.)

If the Wings did, one of the Pens would likely get run late in the game. There have been quite a few shots exchanged late in the game (translation: weak officials, although Detroit just got a power play as a result of some of this), and usually that's when your "tough guy" has to "send a message".

Unless you're in Calgary, in which case your "tough guy" doesn't realize he's really the best player on the team and can't spend five minutes in the box.

Two games down, two to go.

EDIT: Pittsburgh just committed another penalty, another shot to Franzen's head, this one after the whistle blew. Brian Burke would be so proud.

Ed Olczyk still doesn't understand what the Penguins need to do to turn things around.

Maybe that's what got him fired in Pittsburgh.

EDIT: Now it's out of control. Well hey, the NHL would have stopped this if it really wanted to. They don't care. Wonder why the NHL is a second-tier sport, relegated to the cage-fighting channel? There is no enforcement. No postseason game should ever devolve into a brawl. Ever. And this wasn't a baseball brawl, either. It was Osgood getting run by Sykora (are you kidding me? Sykora? not at all a guy I thought would do that) ... one thing I noticed was that Franzen was on top of someone, not exactly discussing the economy. Can't say I blame him much.

If the NHL isn't going to protect you, then you feel you have to protect yourself, and that never works. It didn't work in the '70s and it doesn't work now. There is always someone else who will keep it going. The NBA realizes this. The NFL realizes this. MLB doesn't, but Selig's an idiot anyway.

Olczyk thinks the Penguins can build off this. Uh, sure. I guess now you get points for cheap shots.

Fixing baseball

If I were commissioner for a day, and by "commissioner" I mean the position in these hypothetical questions that has absolute power and can write decrees that will take effect permanently even after I leave office (because really, if that weren't the case, then how dumb does the question become?), this is what I would do.

I would fix scheduling.

Yes, scheduling. Ignore the DH for now, skip the idiocy that is homefield advantage in the World Series (novel idea: do what every other sport does and decide it by the record of the competing teams), and focus on baseball's main problems.

That's right, problems. I can kill two large birds with one well-placed stone.

The first problem is unfair scheduling. Most franchises realize it and very few columnists seem to understand it (Google "unfair baseball schedule" and see what happens). The idiots who figured that three-division teams would be a good idea didn't bother to consider the problems with an uneven number of teams, either within or between divisions. (If it's a 24- or 36-team organization, you're fine. You need the same number of teams in each division for fairness and an even number of teams in each league for scheduling.) We know wild-card competitors won't play the same schedules, but when division rivals don't play similar schedules, there's a problem. (Look back at the 28-team NFL, when a fifth-place team would make a run at a division title the next season, and you'll see what I mean.)

The second problem is unbalanced leagues. Of course, with 30 teams, you have to have unbalanced leagues. 15 and 15 means interleague play all season long, and no one's dumb enough to buy into that. No, really, not even Bud.

So here's how to fix it.

Expand to 32 teams. I know, I'm not really a proponent of expansion, but we need to divide by 4 (you see where this is going?) and if you think you are going to contract by 2, good luck with that.

Besides, there are population areas that could probably sustain major-league teams no worse than, say, Miami does. The two largest MSAs without teams are Portland (2.1 million) and San Antonio (just under 2 million). Both already support major-league teams in other sports and do so rather well (except when the Blazers' owners are total morons).

Note that the greater Montreal area has 3.6 million people and the Vancouver area has 2.25 million people. From a population perspective, these would naturally be the expansion markets you'd want; as a bonus, you'd have three Canadian teams in the American League (ha ha, joke's on us) and Seattle would finally have a local rival. (Well, they'd have that with Portland as well, but anyway ...) Montreal did sustain a baseball team, just not one run by a guy who has no idea how to do it. Funny how the same thing's happening in Miami. Think MLB realizes Loria's a franchise-wrecking jackass? Nope, me either.

Anyway, we'll look at both concepts.

Realign into four eight-team divisions. Yep, we're getting rid of the Central divisions. It doesn't work now and it gets into the stupid wild-card thing.

How do we do this? Well, we go back to the old-school alignment from 1993, but keep teams in the leagues where they are now, and add the two expansion teams to the AL. We will have to shuffle teams around, of course, to get to eight per division ...

(Sorry, but I'm linking to my Google doc. Hand-typing HTML tables isn't my thing.)

So take a look at my solutions and then follow along.

Option A: US expansion.
  1. The two new teams are Western teams, so they go to the AL West.
  2. The easternmost team in the West, Chicago, moves to the East.
  3. As in the real-life three-division alignment, Chicago and St. Louis move out of the East and Atlanta and Cincinnati move into the East.


The AL was pretty much set anyway, and Chicago could play in either division (and will, as you'll see below). In the NL, we keep geography in mind, moving the Reds and Braves where they belong. (St. Louis has to play in the West, and it will be easier to convince them if the Cubs move as well.)

Option B: Canadian expansion.
  1. The two new teams are on opposite sides of Canada, so they fit perfectly into the existing seven-team divisions.
  2. Again, the NL realigns by switching Chicago and St. Louis with Atlanta and Cincinnati.


One benefit of this option is that Montreal and Toronto are now divisional rivals, and if you're a hockey fan, you now have five of the Original Six cities represented in the AL East. (Chicago really does belong in the West here.) Vancouver fits geographically with Seattle, and the NL realignment keeps teams separately fairly well between east and west.

Now, the final touch:
End interleague play. It's a joke anyway. Sure, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago fans love it, but really, aside from those rivalries, nothing else really has the same ring to it, and we don't need any more Detroit-Arizona games.

Simple, regular scheduling. Fourteen games against each divisional opponent, eight games against each opponent in the other division. Divisional play dominates the schedule again, and everyone in the division has the same schedule.

You really should take just the division winners in this scenario. I suppose you could take the two next-best records if you wanted, but that's up to you.

Will it ever happen? Only if you're playing Out Of The Park. In the real world, no chance in hell. MLB doesn't do intelligent things. Not any more.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Big

If you've never been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then you won't understand.

It's big. Big. Now, you can look up the Wikipedia article and read the facts about it – capacity of nearly half a million people, kilometer-long straightaways – but you won't really appreciate it until you're there.

I've seen a NASCAR race and an F1 race there, but this was my first 500. I was volunteering and working an early shift, so I didn't stay for the race itself. The souvenir tent was on the inside, so it was my first time inside the track.

It was cool to be there early and see the stands so empty on race day (yes, we get there really early to set up), but when we left at the end of our shifts, it was amazing to be inside the track while the race was running. (There are tunnels under the north and south ends of the track for access to the massive infield area.)

We were walking back to the parking lot (alas, no shuttles running during the race), and it was something to look around in all directions and see people seated off in the distance ... at times, the cars were far enough away that you really couldn't tell the race was going on if you didn't see the pylon or one of the big-screen TVs. (Think about it ... could you hear something more than half a mile away?) Then you'd see the cars flash by, practically at eye level, and gradually the sound would dissipate. All the way on the inside, people are moving to infield seating, walking around looking at the garage area, the souvenir stands, the Hall of Fame museum ...

Oh yes, and because you can bring your own beer (shocking!), most of them are happy, especially with the weather we had today. (Mid 70s, sunny. Perfect for viewing.)

I've been in Michigan Stadium before, but only once, when I was little. Since then, the largest field I've seen was probably the Silverdome, seating 80,000 at its finest. With five times that many people in that area, let's just say it was a good idea to leave early.

I do recommend that you go at least once, especially if you live anywhere nearby, just to say you've been. It isn't like the old days, where you'd have four solid weekends of fun and a massive party in the infield, but it's still amazing.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sports apocalypse

Joe Paterno makes sense. In fact, more sense than most who speak out on this issue, and JoePa is 137 years old, so that should tell you something right there. (No, not that he's senile.)

The Celtics lost the Eastern Conference Finals. Well, okay, they only lost Game 2, but they can't win on the road, and Doc Rivers is still their coach. Bet on them if you like. I'll keep watching hockey myself - hopefully one Detroit team will wipe out its opponent quickly so I can focus on the other.

The Yankees are still in last place. Of course, the Red Sox are now in first, but so what? You can't have everything. Where would you put it?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still

O Spring Update, how I longed for you
I dreamt of your sweet glow on my dashboard
Of fixes, and patches, and DRM that works
But now, you say you cannot be
And hope I will survive without you
Go to hell.

Or not quite. xbox360fanboy reports that the one thing Microsoft will be doing is addressing the DRM issue. (If you haven't heard about it or been affected by it, here's the deal: Microsoft licenses DLC to a console and a gamertag. If both are present, no problems. If only one is present, then it has to check with the server to confirm you're really licensed to see the content - this is typically if you're using a new console because your old one broke. So if you play offline, or Live is down, or you have some crappy port like Sonic where the DRM checking doesn't work right, you can't use the content you licensed.)

In theory, when this tool is rolled out on xbox.com in June, you'll be able to consolidate your licenses to a single 360. (In the past, you had to call support and they would address a single issue for you. Yeah, right, like I'm spending 30 minutes on the phone for someone to tell me to try rebooting the 360.)

We'll see. I really would like to play Sonic again. Wait, what am I saying? That game was incredibly frustrating.

Updated Rock Band spreadsheet

Sorry folks, I've been delinquent. My Rock Band DLC spreadsheet should be updated through, I think, last week's content (prior to the no-longer-exclusive-to-Europe DLC).

I took out the formatting for master tracks vs. cover bands because it didn't seem to be working, and I added tracks that I don't personally own (now that I can get that info easily from the Rock Band Store).

Enjoy!

P.S. I added a link to it on the left, so that in a couple of months when this isn't on the front page, lol, you'll still find it easily.

Confessions of a fool

I live in the Indianapolis area.

One year, I had Lions season tickets.

Why? Well, for one thing, I'd been to my first Lions game the year before, and it was kind of nice to be around a bunch of people all rooting for the same team. (And they beat the Packers, and that Favre guy.) And I had some extra money and some time on my hands. (Too much time on my hands ... so I do this ...) And they were good. (Relatively speaking. They'd just made the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons. And they had a pretty good running back.)

So I bought the tickets and was immediately acquainted with one of the sad facts of NFL fanship (and, I suppose, pro sports in general).

Exhibition games are included. At full price. Yeah, not going to those.

So anyway, I went to the first five regular-season games, watched the Lions play like crap, figured out how long a drive it was if you made it twice in one day, and then skipped the last three games (Thanksgiving, cold weather, and Christmas).

But through all that, I never got treated like this.

Yep, they messed with a season-ticket-holder's seats (happens from time to time, especially with reconfigurations), promised to fix it, and then didn't. And then when he wrote to see if it could be resolved, the guy presumably forwarded it to his boss, copying the ticketholder, asking for help.

And the boss wrote something back, relaying a not-particularly-complimentary exchange about similar issues, mentioning that it wouldn't be addressed this season, using a four-letter word that sounds like "Firetruck".

And he replied to all.

oops.

The Consumerist posted something about the article as well, and then Football Outsiders referenced that, all the while trailing confused fans from other teams in their wake. You mean you can just go up and get more season tickets? (Teams like the Packers, Giants, and Redskins have long waiting lists. Long, as in bequeathing places on the waiting list to heirs.) And why would you root for this team anyway? Is it any wonder they stink when management treats the best customers like that?

That's right. That's my team. Heck, that's the team that's the reason for my username.

Not a well-respected Division I school.

Not a school with a slightly better academic reputation.

And not the CFL team. (Too bad. They've won more titles, all more recently than Detroit's last title, and they're coming off a 14-win season.)

Nope. My team is the team run by fools, clowns, and jackasses.

It could be worse. There are other cities with a lot less to cheer about. I've got a team in the Finals in one sport and a team in the semis in another; my teams won titles in 1984, 1989, 1990, 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2004, and they made the finals in 1995, 2005, and 2006. At least only one of the franchises is a complete wreck.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Geekasaurus!

Four stars! Won't Get Fooled Again! Expert/Expert!

That's right, I did that. Over a million fans, too, because it was in Moscow. (No, I'm not doing the Endless Setlist on E/E. Probably not ever.)

You can kind of track the band's progress here. I say "kind of" because you can really only see our score and fans, and even then it may not mean a lot at first. Just know that you can't break 1 million unless everyone in your band is playing on Expert.

Also, I still can't get the Blink song to download properly. I blame that on EA.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Suspense? Um, no.

The Wings have certainly made things interesting this postseason, from splitting the first four with Nashville to letting the Stars back into the conference finals. However, they do have this knack for shutting the door firmly on their competition, and yesterday was no exception.

There are few things quite like the feeling you get when your team is the favorite in a game that will eliminate the other team, and shortly into the game, you see there is no doubt that your team will win. It wasn't quite as special as the 7-0 rout of Patrick Roy and Colorado the last time the Wings won the Cup, but nonetheless, it was much better than watching a nailbiter.

It's true. People talk about how close games are so exciting, but what they really mean is that winning a close game is exciting. Watching a solid win for your team is better. Trust me.

Too bad the NHL is copying the NBA with respect to the Finals ... Game 1 on Saturday night? Maybe they're afraid they won't get enough June games on the calendar. News flash: the ratings will suck on Vs no matter when the games are played. (That's right. The NHL is so dumb, they don't have their finals on a network channel. Even the NBA isn't that dumb.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yahtzee agrees with me

What? Who?

Yahtzee. Escapist Magazine. Zero Punctuation reviews. (Yes, that's what it means. Five-minute reviews with no punctuation. Just watch one.)

Anyway, he reviews GTA IV, and he likes it. Well, actually, he thinks it's really good. On his scale, that translates roughly to "Best Game Evar." (He's a critic in all senses of the word.)

Also, we see eye to eye on the faults we find with it.

Cars that drive like battleships (unless piloted by AI)? Check.
Tiresome escort missions with people who don't know how to find cover? Check.
"Friends" calling you up and expecting you to make it across town in an hour? Check.
Terrible visibility (didn't they have color in New York in the '90s)? Check.

Read the review, but avoid the ads - there's a pop-over ad at the beginning that can be closed and an ad at the end after the review is over. Bonus points to Yahtzee for the Skid Row clip at the end.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vs = Versus Sucks

Here is another reason why: late in Game 4, the Wings are down two and pulled their goalie on a power play. What does V show at the top of the screen? "Empty Net". Why? Well, it's too helpful to show power-play time remaining, so they went with the less-helpful information. Five-on-three? Doesn't matter. Not important.

Also, if you want to know one reason why Dallas is down 1-3 in the series after winning tonight (thanks in part to a blown call by the refs, disallowing a goal by Datsyuk), here's a hint. With just over two minutes left, a Star takes a penalty for delay of game, lifting the puck over the glass into the seats. Who is it? Brendan Morrow, the captain. Well done, sir, that's about as dumb as you can get ... well, except for the guy who took the hooking call with about 35 seconds left in the game. Keep in mind that even in the modern NHL, in the playoffs, referees rarely call additional penalties during a power play. (Case in point: Steve Ott lying on top of Holmstrom late in the power play, then pulling his helmet off. Outmanned teams frequently resort to this kind of play. Idiot announcers refer to this as "letting them decide it on the ice." It's no coincidence that many of these announcers were former mediocre players themselves.)

Anyway, who was this other guy? Alternate captain and former captain Mike Modano.

The last thing you want late in a game is to be down a man. Now you're down three (remember the empty net?). They didn't give up any goals, but they sure tried.

The Wings will win in five - this was a desperate effort by the Stars, and it did pay off temporarily, but Dallas is not good enough to win two in a row from these Wings, much less four.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sad but true

I had an interesting thing happen today. I can't give you most of the details, but I can tell you this much: I met a former NFL player today. He played for several years, a long time ago. (Some of you might recognize the name; many probably would not.) He was a nice guy, married to a nice woman, but it was obvious that what happened during his career had left long-term effects on him. He knew it, and his wife knew it, and they both could explain it pretty well, but they couldn't do anything about it.

I've met very few current or former players before and talked with fewer still. This was the first time I'd come face to face with what's been in the news for the last year or two with respect to former players from the olden days and what they aren't getting from the league.

Football is a brutal sport, and it exacts a terrible toll on many of those who play it. I will do my best to remember that when I watch.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Observations



Yeah, not bad. That's from 6000/768 service. I upgraded from 1500/384 because a) the price of that was going up and b) the price of the faster service was less than I paid originally - they cut prices about six months ago. Pretty nice. Hope that should help with any XBLA issues I might have.

Also, I was in a waiting room recently and worked out something pretty cool. The carpet there had a pattern that looked roughly like this:

00__00--00__00--00
00__00--00__00--00

except picture the dashes at the top instead of in the middle. When I first looked at the carpet, my brain interpreted the 00s in diagonal lines, as if there were something connecting them. I looked at the pattern close to my feet, so I could focus on it, and saw what you kind of see above. I looked out again, and this time my brain looked at it as if there were only rows, no diagonals.

Basically, it didn't get a clear view at first, so it saw the larger shapes and figured there were probably lines between them. (It's not too different than looking at black squares with white lines between them and seeing black squares in the intersections.) Once I gave my brain the correct mapping, it interpreted the pattern correctly, so it knew what I could see farther away.

If your brain has seen something similar before, it maps a new thing onto that memory until you provide it details to distinguish the two. If it's unlike anything you've ever seen, your brain can't interpret it correctly, so you may have no idea how to explain it.

Sorry, that's just science babble, but I thought it was cool.
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