Friday, April 30, 2010

Completely unrelated things

Virtual me: I finished out the 2011 season at AAA New Orleans, dropping under the .200 mark again, and have been sent down to AA Jacksonville for 2012. Still a backup 3B. I'm not sure this version will ever make it to the bigs. We'll see.

I exhausted my trainer in Wii Fit Plus today. I did the first two levels of the Plank Challenge (20 and 40 seconds) and went to do the Jackknife Challenge (don't remember where I am on that, probably 50). She declined: said she was a little "off" today. I think that was Wii Fit's way of saying "too much today". w. So I did my jackknives through the regular menu instead. Wii Fit Plus is nice. I like that it carries everything over from Wii Fit so that you aren't starting from scratch, and some of the new activities are definitely fun, although some are challenging too.

Tecmo Super Bowl is now available for the 360 as Tecmo Bowl Throwback. Unfortunately, it's not the NES version, which I know to be totally awesome. This is the SNES version. It's been getting good reviews, so I'll have to check it out. After all, there is a thriving community of TSB fans out there ...

EA: Bringing you mediocre sports games for over 20 years

Playing Madden tonight just because I'd like to see a decent Lions team, which means I need at least two more drafts. Three plays in this game typified the Madden series:

1. The Vikings, up 17-14, attempt a 58-yard field goal. It's "blocked" and we get the ball. Well, actually, it wasn't blocked. The stupid right guard, seeing that no one was coming through his position but that there were people coming around the left side, pulled back as if to block on that side, and the ball was kicked right into him ... except it somehow stuck in his body and he was tackled in the backfield. There are about 10 things wrong with that play.

2. On second down, I hit Pettigrew coming back toward the line of scrimmage. Every veteran Madden player knows why you don't do this: the programmers didn't bother to look up NFL rules on forward progress and don't care. You're down where you're tackled. So of course I lost two yards instead of gaining six.

3. I tried a long field goal that was short, I guess. I couldn't really tell because the camera angle was excruciatingly bad. (Maybe it was a CBS camera.) EA wasted all this time on "presentation" to make the game look like TV coverage. Too bad nobody wants it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Random thoughts

Apparently the channel formerly known as SciFi will soon have its own cooking show that has nothing to do with science or fiction. (The channel's name was changed because it wasn't dumb enough, and it needed to be dumb to match the new programming they're showing now.)

Don't watch Syfy? Don't worry, pretty much no one does any more. This show won't help.

The NCAA tournament is expanding, but to 68 rather than 80 or 96. The AP reports that the NCAA hopes to "eliminate the stigma of a what outsiders have dubbed the tourney's 'play-in' game".

News flash: having eight 16-seeded teams playing instead of two is not going to remove the stigma. Nice try. (At least they didn't screw up the whole thing.) Also, all games will be televised at once (as opposed to only one per area). Yes, it took CBS about 25 years to figure out you should televise every game. Why does the NCAA continue to waste time with over-the-air networks? Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what this does to DirecTV's March Madness package. If you get the four networks showing games, in theory you wouldn't need a pay package ...

Remember back when Apple was the little guy and Microsoft was the big bad wolf? Yeah, Microsoft still is the big bad wolf, but there are probably plenty of you out there who don't remember when Apple really was The Little Company That Could. (Of course, technically this was before Microsoft was big ...) Those days are long, long gone, as Steve Jobs is so happy to prove on a regular basis.

Why can't you use Flash on Apple portable devices? Because he says so. Of course, everything he says is partly or totally wrong, and as Lifehacker points out, most of it is true of Apple as well. Yeah, if you were one of those people in the '80s saying "If Apple were ever that big, they'd NEVER do anything like that!", well ... you're wrong too.

Apparently someone "lost" one of the new new iPhones (still in testing, not ready for release), and of course Apple fumbled that one as well. Not that it takes much to get lambasted by Jon Stewart, but still ...

And of course you already know that Apple will reject some apps for the App Store just because they want to. Steve Jobs saying anything about a "closed system" ... whoa, I nearly got hit by an irony train. Yeah, they're willing to reverse themselves when publicly embarrassed, but only after that point.

And that's really why Jobs won't allow Flash on the iPad. Because he can make that decision. Apple is big enough now to make stupid, unilateral decisions that are difficult to reverse, and they still have enough brand loyalty that most people won't question them publicly or consistently. But the mistakes they're making are bigger, costlier, and more visible ... when something happens to the iPad, whether it's sudden, sweeping changes to the App Store, incompatibility with popular websites, or some other issue that is bound to pop up, expect the same thing to happen in Cupertino. Apple will deny all responsibility until their face is rubbed in the problem.

No, they wouldn't be just like Microsoft. They're worse, because for a long time, they were fighting Microsoft, and they should know better.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More sports

You may have heard about this draft thing. Not sure that I agree with the move to split it across Thursday and Friday nights – really, honey, I'd love to go see Worthless Remake 2, but the draft's on – but here is it. Ndamukong Suh is a Lion (yes, I spelled that without looking it up, and you'd see my victory dance if I actually danced), Sam Bradford is the #1 pick, and Tim Tebow is in Denver, which means his career and Josh McDaniels' should end at approximately the same time, and I don't mean 2020. The Raiders did not take a WR, which means Al Davis has been officially declared dead. New England appears to have used their own first-round pick, so maybe Belicheat is growing soft in his old age.

And apparently Detroit has acquired Minnesota's first-round pick, trading up to pick up Jahvid Best. Sounds good, except that he had a big concussion last year. (Remember Ernie Sims, the guy basically shipped out for TE Tony Scheffler? Yeah, same deal. Concussion history.) I hope it's behind him.

Ben Roethlisberger has been suspended six games for possibly sexually assaulting another woman, this time in Georgia. (I'm not really sure how best to put it. He's been accused twice, let's put it that way.) The Smoking Gun has some details, and they're not pretty. As the cliche goes, we may never know what really happened, but what things we do seem to know indicate a couple of things. One is that the QB is getting some horrific advice in terms of what to do with his spare time. (He's not getting advice? He damn well better get some.)

The other is that he's a shit. Let's leave out what may have happened in the hallway: what we can learn without much effort is that Roethlisberger likes to get drunk women really drunk and then lead them away from their friends. Look, asshole, you're an NFL quarterback. If it's about sex, you don't need the alcohol and you don't need force. Hang out in the right places and just be yourself. (Of course, sexual assault really isn't about sex, it's about force, power, control, whatever, and that certainly seems to explain why we keep seeing male athletes charged with sexual assault.)

Commissioner Goodell says the Pittsburgh QB "made some bad choices" and "has a tremendous amount of remorse." Yeah, we've heard that BS before. What the athlete usually means is "I'm sorry I got caught" and "I'm sorry you read about it." If he meant what he said, he'd be making restitution to the victim right now (she may or may not be a victim of sexual assault, but she certainly seems to be the victim of something), and he'd leave his comments about what happened to something like this: "I did some really stupid stuff. I was way out of line. I know you hear about this a lot these days, and the only thing I can do is shut up about it and change my behavior."

And if he's in the same situation again, the Steelers should cut him. Immediately. As in "dump his stuff outside Steelers headquarters."

End rant.

The NCAA is going to expand to 68, not 96. Apparently the conversation went like this:

CBS: Hey, we lost some money on this deal. I don't like it so much.
NCAA: MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY!
ESPN: You know, if you let us show the games, we can handle more, maybe as many as 96 teams.
NCAA: MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY!
CBS: Hey, did you know we lost money this year? With more teams, you're not going to be making more money. You know that, right?
ESPN: You're just saying that.
NCAA: MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY!
CBS: No, srsly. But go ahead and bid it up if you like.
ESPN: No, that's cool. You might be right. I mean, we dropped the NHL because their ratings suck. Notre Dame-Illinois probably would draw about as well as Chicago-Columbus.
CBS: Right. So, you out?
NCAA: MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY!
ESPN: Yeah. You guys got it?
CBS: Sure. Hey, NCAA. How about filling out the opening-round games, one per region?
NCAA: MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY!
CBS: Well, a little more, but that's it. And you better help us make money this time!
NCAA: MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY! MORE MONEY!!!!!!!!

Again, we can't have a I-A playoff because games in December would take time away from schoolwork, but we can expand the tournament during March because that doesn't take time away from schoolwork. 16 teams = too many. 32 extra teams = just fine. I mean, even ESPN.com readers know this. (At the time I write this, of 50,000 fans or so, only 13% picked the 96-team field as the best idea. The remainder were pretty evenly split between 65 teams and 68 teams.)

Off to watch the Tigers. Anaheim's starter is out of the game in the third. Woo!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sports things

Apparently ESPN is not willing to increase its bid for the tournament. (I also read that CBS lost money on the tournament this year, which is good, because their coverage was abysmal.) Perhaps this means the NCAA has recovered from its temporary bout of insanity and will not expand the men's tournament to 96 teams ... then again, if they really do get 98% of their money from this tournament, it's hard to see them passing that up. Of course, they could easily raise a ton of money from, say, a I-A football tournament, but that's logical and so it won't happen yet.

NBC is still a terrible network for sports. It's painful to sit through an NHL playoff game and watch the same repetitive ads for the same repetitive shows I wasn't going to watch anyway. (Of course, the NBC promos fill sports that I suppose would otherwise go to things like the GEICO commercials. Could the NHL have found a worse partner than GEICO with its not-funny-five-years-ago cavemen? Besides Cash4Gold, that is.)

The Big Ten is really thinking about expansion, and I mean Really Considering It. Naturally, people fall into two categories on this: those who believe it should be Notre Dame or no one, and those who are making realistic assumptions. Yes, Notre Dame is an excellent geographic fit, yes, they already play a number of schools in a number of sports ... but have you seen this list? Notice who's not on it? If you think that doesn't matter, think again. The Big Ten is looking for schools who can, well, read. Schools with weak or nonexistent academic reputations need not apply. (Sorry, Cincinnati and Louisville.) Athletics are also important (sorry, Iowa State), but if the schools aren't good overall fits, they aren't getting an invitation.

Also, you may have noticed that the Big Ten has asked before. Several times. Each time, Notre Dame has said something like "oh hell no", except in a properly Catholic sort of way. (That's something else to remember: ND has more in common with Marquette and Boston College than with Purdue and Michigan.) Of course, that made sense back when people watched NBC and Notre Dame football wasn't a punchline. (Thanks, Charlie, for your decided schematic advantage. No one can replace what you brought to Notre Dame football.) With the advent of the Giant Big Ten Moneymaker (aka Big Ten Network), pretty much any school is in play. (Don't believe this? Keep in mind that Northwestern gets more money from BTN than Texas gets from the Big 12's deal, and UT gets more from that deal than any other school does. Some Texas football games are only on pay-per-view. All Indiana football games are televised. Don't think people in Texas don't know this.)

In the old days, yeah, it would have been ND, maybe Syracuse, maybe Missouri. Now, if positioned properly, the Big Ten could ask just about anyone, and they may expand by three (or even five?) rather than one.

I still think if they're looking at fourteen, it has to be Texas, Texas A&M, and one more. If you look at the list of non-Big Ten schools in the AAU, there simply aren't three "available" schools that would make a good package. Cal, Stanford, Colorado? Great idea, but not happening. If anything, Colorado would head to the Pac-X after the Big Ten expands. Pitt isn't a bad match, but there really aren't any other Big East schools that justify expansion to 14. Vanderbilt is a solid academic school that offers very little athletically, and there are doubts whether or not a school would even leave the SEC. Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia sounds nice, but Virginia is probably the only school that would care about leaving the ACC even the slightest, and I doubt you'd get them without Virginia Tech, who's not an AAU member and thus is off the list.

I guess we might find out soon ...

Finally, A.J. Pierzynski is a cheater, which surprises absolutely no one. Unfortunately, he's not nearly the exception. Despite what some would have you believe, professional sports are not filled with fair play and sportsmanship. A lot of people will do anything they can get away with and more things they can't, which you can tell any time you watch a game. Blame Pierzynski for being a cheating cheater, but keep in mind that the home plate umpire let him do it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

MLB 10: Up to AAA

After a miserable year in AA, the Tigers kept me there in 2011. I was a bench guy, barely getting a plate appearance per series, until they traded me to the Marlins. I started to hit well in Jacksonville (unfortunately I can't see how well because it doesn't split your AA performance by team), and in August they called me up to AAA New Orleans. I'd guess I was probably hitting something like .270 in Jacksonville, considering I got my average up from .10x to .184 overall.

Lucky for me, the starting third baseman hurt himself, so I jumped straight into a full-time role. I was Player of the Game in my first game, going 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and a game-winning single. I doubt it'll all be that easy, but at least for now I'm moving ahead.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Butler 59, Evil Empire 61

First, the irrational stuff. Thanks to the refs for making this happen.

Section 4. Intentional Personal Fouling
Guidelines for calling the intentional personal foul are:
a. Any personal foul that is not a legitimate attempt to directly play the ball
or a player is an intentional personal foul.

Yes, that's what the rule book says, and no, this is not an intentional foul. Why not? Because.

Zoubek is a fouling machine, clearly commits his fifth foul, no call is made, and on the next possession, he scores a basket that turns out to be the final margin.

Okay, I feel better. Now for the real analysis.

For the fourth straight game, Butler clearly outplayed a team that was considered to be better than them. Once again, they did not play their bast basketball, and yet they still had chances to win. Despite the poor officiating (which I will grant was not totally one-sided: there was one sequence early in the second half where Butler was determined to commit fouls and the refs were equally determined not to call any).

With the exception of Zoubek's usual moving elbow picks and the thugging by Thomas, there weren't too many egregious calls or non-calls. Butler let this one get away by missing a number of open shots in the first half and by failing to drive well in the second. They had the right idea (to drive inside and keep picking up fouls on Duke's bigs), but the Devils played it very well and simply let them drive, waiting to block low shots or simply giving up uncontested layups, most of which were shot by off-balance players expecting contact.

Butler took more shots from the field, had more free throws, got more offensive rebounds, forced more turnovers, and shot better from outside the arc. I doubt Coach K will say it, but they got lucky tonight. Butler showed that they absolutely belonged here, that regardless of how they got here, they deserved it. This is no Hoosiers remake; Butler is more like, well, Duke.

Younger people may not realize that Duke was in a similar position in the early '90s, when they first made the transition from underdog to champion. The difference is that Duke is in the ACC and thus has access to much better resources (TV contracts, for example). Butler has no such leverage. They will have to work hard to retain what they have.

And retain it they should. Butler may be going to Houston next year ... now, a lot of good teams don't make it to the Final Four, if for no other reason than, well, only four teams can go, but the Bulldogs should have the talent on the court and the sidelines to get there.

It was a great season that nearly finished with a storybook ending. Weeks earlier, Evan Turner hit a similar shot just a few blocks away to pull out a last-second win in the Big Ten tournament, a game that ultimately meant nothing to the Buckeyes (who were still a 2 seed despite being regular season co-champs and tournament champions). How different things would have been if that shot had been the one that missed.

Finally, CBS did probably the worst job of covering the tournament in history, considering the advances in technology that should have made more things possible. Completely oblivious to said history, one of the talking heads made the statement that this final was better than others, even some of the overtime ones. (That's about as stupid as you can get. CBS? It's Rumeal Robinson on line 1. He'd like to speak to you about that. Oh, and Wilt Chamberlain is holding on line 2. I think Frank McGuire is with him.)

The new camera angles were, without exception, hideous. I can't think of a worse angle than one that shows the court top to bottom. Hello, CBS: we're watching on wide screens now. Jim Nantz doing the Final Four is kind of like Pam Ward calling it for ESPN. Nantz is a golf announcer. He can't do basketball. That's not his style. He has no idea how to get excitement into the game. I mean, this is the network that employs Gus Johnson, for goodness sake. You know, the guy who can inject excitement into, well, a golf tournament? He even did the regional final with Butler and Kansas State. Where was he? Not doing play-by-play. When ESPN gets the tournament, they have to take Johnson.

The talking heads stuck to the script that was given them, even when Butler was clearly dominating play in the first half. Seth Davis was the only one, I think, who even noticed what Butler was doing to Duke. Of course, afterward they were falling all over themselves to point out how Butler was right there the whole time. This is why we don't listen nearly as much to mass media.

Split-screen action in the first four rounds? None. Random switches between games? Check. Blacking out games that aren't shown locally? Check. Complete incompetence? Check. CBS proved beyond a doubt why over-the-air networks can't handle sports any more. The three major leagues plus the NCAA should chip in and start providing better, cheaper broadband to people so they can watch games online and then cut out the over-the-air networks entirely. (The NHL doesn't have the money or the intelligence to do so.) We'd all be better off with a network that doesn't insert blocks of dead time so they can show you the local "news". (There was severe weather in the Indianapolis area. I think we were all concerned that they would "helpfully" break in with the report of a tornado sighted 100 miles away or something like that.)

In a just world, ESPN would cover a 65-team tournament and not screw it up, talking heads would actually go out on a limb from time to time ... and Butler is the 2010 national champion. But I guess that's not how it's going to go down.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

MLB 10: goal fail

Well, over three or four advancement periods, I didn't do very well. I had a nice post about this saved, but Blogger lost it. Thanks.

I was brought in as an emergency catcher once. Catching is interesting, but as in the field, MLB 10 doesn't want to burden you with what you should actually be doing. For example, on a ground ball to the left side, you aren't supposed to back up the throw to first, even though the sim catcher does. You should stand at home plate in case, well, I don't know.

Anyway, I got pushed back to a backup role, then started again almost immediately when a guy in front of me got hurt. And now I failed at another set of goals (although I am hitting better), but they don't care as much because I'm just a "backup".

Sometimes it's interesting to see the different areas in which you're expected to improve, but honestly they're all pretty much related. If you do well, you can improve just about any attribute; struggle, and you'll not get enough points to improve your attributes. Basically, the more goals you have, the greater success/failure you'll have.

It's fun so far, and I'm learning about how to do things, but I'm not making a lot of progress yet. Maybe next year.
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