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ESPN incites NCAA mob.

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Here is possibly the worst article presented as a news item since Gutenberg.  But as of 4:00 PM yesterday, it rated as an ESPN headline.  As of this morning it had over 2300 comments.

I can’t believe I’m going to try to get to the bottom of what they’re trying to report because — really — I know this is troll bait.  But I’ll dig in because:

  1. It introduces an NCAA conversation I’ve wanted to have, and;
  2. It’s just so bad.

Here’s the text of the article:

A member of a women’s golf team at a West Coast Conference school has been sanctioned by the NCAA for washing her car on campus, according to University of Portland basketball coach Eric Reveno.

Reveno tweeted about the violation Wednesday after he learned of it during conference meetings, culminating his message with the hashtag #stopinsanity.

“Just heard about two NCAA violations in WCC. 1) athlete using Univ. water to wash car, 2) coach text recruit ‘who is this?'” Reveno wrote.

The WCC school in question self-reported the extra benefits violation to the NCAA, Yahoo Sports! reported. Yahoo also reported the NCAA asked the golfer to pay the school $20, which they said was the value of the water and hose.

I’m no Scripps J-School alumnus and even I can see some problems here.  What is the golfer’s name?  Which WCC school does she play for?  How did event come to be found a violation in need of sanction?  Was there an NCAA g-man staking out a car wash?  For $20 was there the interior vacuumed?  Did she tip the towel guys?  Where’s the link to the Yahoo Sports* story?  Has Yahoo! changed the placement of their trademarked exclamation point?  Where’s the link to the Reveno tweet?  Is #stopinsanity a thing?

And the main question ESPN:  when a basketball coach uses a #stopinsanity hashtag to tweet about a different school’s self-reporting of a golfer for a trivial NCAA violation… aren’t you being manipulated for a specifically anti-NCAA agenda?

Or is it your anti-NCAA agenda?

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Also: 18-45 in past two years.

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Meet Eric Reveno.

Meet Eric Reveno, self-promoting college basketball coach.  When your twitter home page doubles as a resume you’ve crossed some sort of line and wandered beyond ‘savvy use of social media.’  Hey bro, that online seminar you attended about improving your brand?  They really were talking about sprucing up your LinkedIn profile.

[UPDATE:  I am informed by friends closer to the University of Portland program that Reveno is a decent guy.

Reveno is good guy.  Like “so good that he’s going to get swallowed by his profession and eventually fired because he can’t compete with snake-oil salemen like Calipari” good.  He’s an entertaining interview if you watch their games because he’s such an engineer (I think one of his degrees is in engineering, if I’m not mistaken) that he actually tries to answer those sideline reporter questions sincerely, and ends up answering before he fully forms his response.  It’s tremendous to watch.

But he’s also definitely the opposite of self-promoting coach or one who would use those circumstances to promote his program.  He seems like a guy who is actually wildly uncomfortable with all the non-coaching aspects of being a coach, so if he comes across as self-promoting, it’s just as likely because he’s awkward.

So I stand corrected there.  Will leave original snarky post intact for consistency’s sake.]

In seven years at Portland he’s 96-126.  No NCAA Tourney appearances.  His teams have finished like this in conference:

  • 2007:  7th /of 8
  • 2008:  7th;
  • 2009: 3rd;
  • 2010:  3rd;
  • 2011:  5th;
  • 2012:  8th;
  • 2013:  7th.

So the guy is probably feeling some pressure.

This isn’t too hard to figure out:  would you rather spout meaningless hashtags to an eager mob or talk about that 18-45 win-lose record over the last two years.

Thus we find this bizarrely random, remarkably info-less tweet about someone else’s player at someone else’s school in someone else’s sport:

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Huh?

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WWHE #4: The Bully Pulpit.

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Trust-buster? Bust this. –Elaine Benes.

The Bully Pulpit is a position sufficiently conspicuous to provide an opportunity to speak out and be listened to.

When coined by Theodore Roosevelt, he was using ‘bully’ as a descriptor synonymous with good, superb, wonderful.  As in:  the White House provides a terrific platform from which to advocate an agenda.

As the term bully took its now more common form – harasser of the weak – so too has the Bully Pulpit become less a platform and more a bludgeon.

In the world of sports there is no bigger platform with as many bludgeon-wielding blow-hards than ESPN.  With their bully pulpit, ESPN can drive the discussion and drive it however it suits them.

Propagandists have demonstrated over and over that logic and truth are less important in the mass shaping of thought than repetition and a need to belong.  That’s how newspeak words like ‘regressive’ get used without irony even by Orwell readers.  That’s how regional acceptance of ‘can’t have too many pass rushers’ occurs.  And that’s how ‘more replay is good because getting it right is most important’ becomes prevailing thinking among sports fandom.

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Item:  Not everyone buys into more replay for baseball.

There are plenty of people out there who share my disdain for replay.  For today, let’s narrow the aperture and look at replay in baseball specifically.  Here are some views not heard amidst the din of the stampede toward more replay.

Ex-player Doug Glanville cautions:

Tulo gets it.

We can force systems to get better, and sometime worse. We can overrule, overturn, overthink, and even overreact and delete that last post. But let’s be careful because we may not want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes when we try to make perfection.  Maybe a missed call will be a thing of the past. Maybe that is a good thing. But I get the feeling we may actually miss a missed call, no matter what we say in 140 characters or less.

Current player Troy Tulowitzki:

I have mixed emotions about it.  I think baseball has been known for so long by the respect for the umpires and the calls they make. Right or wrong, you just go about your business and play.

Mark Kiszla from the Denver Post nails it in his piece from Thursday:

More replay in baseball? To determine whether a ball raked down the right-field line is foul or a double? Really? … This just in: Life’s not fair. Why should baseball be any different?
It’s only a game, not to mention a game that already takes three hours to play way too often.

Wisdom and depth from sports types.  Whoa.

But if you consume sports from the same places I do, those opinions are not what you generally hear.  Because one guy with a microphone can get on a kick and dominate the discussion… if the microphone he holds has ESPN on it.

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Jayson Stark’s raison d’être:  Get more replay into MLB, ASAP!

Wants more replay and shorter games.  Ohhh-kayyy…

Stark’s pieces earlier this week prompted this WWHE.  Here’s the first, Eight ways to improve umpiring:

1. More replay.

Well, there’s good news. More replay is coming. A lot more replay. Like next year. It might not all kick in at once. But at some point, it’s possible nearly every type of call except Ball one … Strike one will be reviewable. And that will solve everything.  All right. No it won’t. But it’s a start. As Angel Hernandez proved last week, even with replay, some calls will still get hopelessly messed up. But not nearly as many. And Angel will be happy to hear that an important byproduct of expanded replay will be better technology.

And this, MLB must get replay right: (more…)

WWHE #3: Mingo fills biggest need.

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pre-draft depth

Red is need. We drafted a green.

Why we hate ESPN:  they don’t even read their OWN research.

And this is the good stuff.  Behind the pay wall.  INSIDER.

I know we’re all going to be alright, but think of all the twelve years old boys who rely on ESPN for their talking points in middle school.

On the pick:  I liked Mingo in college.  Was really disruptive in the Chik-Fil-A loss (even though his stats don’t show it).  Terrorized Boyd all game.

I’d be all in on Mingo if we hadn’t just SIGNED TWO FREE-AGENT EDGE RUSHERS AND MOVED OUR BEST PASS RUSHER TO THE POSITION MINGO PLAYS.

Grade: Harumph. (more…)

Point-counterpoint with Bill Simmons, hipster economist.

Bill Simmons, the panel guy.

Kanick is and has been conflicted about Bill Simmons.  I remember when he was breaking new ground with ESPN.  Intelligent smart funny takes about sports.  Willingness to break ranks and make some observations on the innate conflicts created when multi-billion dollar sports media ‘does journalism’ on multi-billion dollar sports industry.

It was edgy at the time.  I liked him.

I didn’t care that there was an axe to grind:  he wanted to be a Globe sportswriter, but that damn Bob Ryan just wouldn’t retire.  I found his analyses, pro basketball in particular, knowledgeable and informed and with unique insight.  I found him funny.  Didn’t care that his best buddy on his podcast answered his phone, ‘Complex litigation, John speaking.’  You goes to Holy Cross, you makes friends with such as.  World keeps spinning.

And I didn’t care about the provincial Boston bias… ‘Hey he’s a fan just like us.’  Hell I respected it.  It was great to find a national guy willing to stay loyal to his home, his teams; to own his tribalism.  ‘One of us’ had a seat at the table.

Just… ugh.

But slowly, or not really slowly, he became mainstream.  Hacky.  I’m listening to Dave Dameshek why again?  Mike Lombardi gets a spot as your NFL guy when… wait a sec, did you see his record in Cleveland, Bill?  The ‘Us Magazine Fantasy Celebrity League‘ concept was pretty fresh at the time… but why is Dave Jacoby talking to me about it?  How is he a pop-culture expert and what the fuck does that even mean?  And puh-leeze with Gladwell and the other guy.  Klosterman.  Ugh.

One would be hard-pressed to construct a more hipster group to run with.  (Lombardi, to his credit, excluded.)  When you become a trend slave, it becomes impossible to lampoon them.

But whatevs.  Choices are made, ambitions are followed, no judgements here, just observations.  There have been talking heads forever and will be in the future.  It’s only a problem when their isolation in a world of other talking heads and industry insiders leads to new found wisdoms that they feel compelled to share as fact.

We’ve got a problem in this vein this week.

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The friend of the working man.

Simmons cranked out a ‘list’ blogpost Friday:  The Best Bargains in the NBA.  A list of good NBA player contracts.  Standard ESPN formula; nothing new there.  He assures us he’ll have a ‘bad contract’ list for us next week.  Can’t wait.

Simmons inner Kessler, unleashed.

But it was surprising to read Simmons come after NBA ownership with nasty, broad-brush, character attacks.  Considering the egg-shells he normally walks on, it was a bold (but of course, safe) expression of his opinion of NBA owners.

It seems like only yesterday when they [NBA owners] were playing the panic card right before 2011’s travesty of an NBA lockout kicked off. Their financial infrastructure was busted. (Or so they claimed.) Just about everyone was losing money. (Or so they claimed.) Things couldn’t keep going the way they were going. (Or so they claimed.) They had to get player salaries under control, or else. (Or so they claimed.) And we bought it. All of it.

Seem a little angry there Bill.  The CBA with the players was expired.  That’s usually when new ones are negotiated.  So a negotiation ensued.  Sorry if you missed a few games to write about there Bill.  College b-ball sucks, huh?

The anger seems especially misplaced when you consider Stern’s NBA generated $5,000,000,000 in the 2010-11 season.  The players new CBA gives them half of this.  $2,500,000,000.  $2.5B divided by 390 players, $6.4MM/year.  Kanick readers have these facts.  It’s bizarre that such easy to find data doesn’t find its way to Bristol unless you factor in that Bristol is first-and-foremost in the jock-sniffing business.  And business is good.

Here’s what really happened. The owners knew that rights to live sporting events had become television’s most important advertising commodity in the DVR Decade. They knew that their broadband business was exploding, that they might have as many as three other networks with 24-hour sports channels waiting for ESPN’s TV contract to expire in 2016. They knew they had a waiting list of billionaires for their available franchises, as well as many of the most marketable superstars in all of professional sports under their domain. And they knew they needed to do a better job of “fixing” their year-to-year costs, which was the quickest way to increase the value of their franchises.

Not for nothing, but the opportunity to capitalize in the DVR Decade is predicated on continuing to provide a good product.  Allowing more super-teams and creating more talent imbalance among franchises harms the product which remains ‘Competitive Sporting Event.’  We’ve covered this.

But… if the owner’s are just so much suck… why didn’t the players start their own league Bill?  What the hell?  Why would they willingly agree to play for a:

Narcissistic rich dudes? Progressive thought-leaders for right?
It’s hard to tell from back in the cheap seats Bill.

… slew of narcissistic rich dudes … who get to sit courtside 41 times a year and stroll around with [their] chest puffed out. [They] fly by private jet to every owners’ meetings and every league event, measure [themselves] against your wealthy counterparts, maybe even feel a little validated as it’s happening. … It’s the ultimate ego purchase. 

That’s harsh.

You sure you want to open up the narcissism can o’ worms Bill?  Not sure if you’re in are in Boston this weekend for the MIT Sloan ‘We’re math geeks who like sports,’ thing, but isn’t that your new-age Chautauqua?  Isn’t that where you go to measure yourself against Peter King and Mark Stein and Andrea Cramer?  Did your chest puff out?  Did you feel validated?  Narcissism comes in all forms Bill.

But back to the ‘why’ behind NBA players willingly re-entering into an exploitative CBA with such loathsome narcissists… ah an answer:  Billy Hunter and his jedi mind tricks.

To say that Hunter didn’t have the players’ best interests in mind would be an understatement; it’s going to take years, and probably a few lawsuits, to determine exactly how negligent he was. But you know what? Trying to line his family members’ pockets was more shady than purely destructive; sheeeeeeeeeee-iiiiiiiiiiiiiit, that was just a bad Clay Davis impersonation. Giving the owners a 50 percent revenue share, shorter contracts AND significantly harsher luxury-tax penalties? That’s a whole other story. He squandered just about any leverage the players had.

Err.  Hate to point this out Bill, but… free will.  I know.  It’s a bitch.  The players voted for the contract.  I guess the majority thought 50% of $5,000,000,000 was good.  For the majority of players $6,000,000/yr is better than $0/yr Bill.  Thought you went to Holy Cross?

It’s that ‘majority of players’ thing that you’ve always seemed blind to.  Your next Samardo Samuels article will be your first.  But that paltry NBA minimum salary of $473,604 is pretty meaningful to guys like him.  And they still get to vote.  What’s up with that?  AINT THAT A BITCH? (more…)

When Jon Barry comes to town. Why we hate ESPN, #2.

Watched the Cavs-Hornets game on ESPN last night.  It was the usual stuff that bugs you about ESPN.

All the focus is on the new shiny toy (Kyrie).

Every assessment of Cleveland-related stuff was wrong.

This doesn’t rise to a ‘Why We Hate ESPN’ rant but there were a fair number of ditties that rankled.  We’ll catalog our grievances for the sake of posterity.

Scratch that.  It rises.  Not in an all-caps way.  But it was deplorable performance by ESPN’s backup team of Jon Barry and Mark Jones last night.

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Intro:  “Cleveland is a punch-the-clock rust-bowl town…”  etc.
Just hacky.  Plus they forgot blue-collar and lunch-pail.

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The 2012 Cheddar Bay runner-up gets it.

Says here the largest employers in NEO look like this:

  • Cleveland Clinic, 34,000;
  • US Govt, 15,000;
  • University Hospitals, 14,000;
  • Summa Health, 8,000;
  • Giant Eagle, 10,000;
  • Progressive Insurance, 9,000;
  • Group Management Services, 7,000.

The Fisher Body plant closed in 1982.  Chrysler’s Twinsburg plant closed in 2009.  They stopped building Econolines in Lorain in 2005.

I won’t attempt to catalog the closings.  I’m just not sure the intro description really works anymore.

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Jon Barry:  ‘Dion Waiters, Dwyane Wade comparisons are ridiculous.’

That might not have been the exact phrasing, but it was his message.  It got me thinking, so I took the time to compare their rookie numbers, age, height, weight.

The premise doesn’t look that nuts from the stats comparison.

Even the Heat announcers see it.


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Why we hate ESPN, #1: Cross-Sport Power Rankings.

Why we hate ESPN.  Chapter 1.

What the fuck is a Cross-Sport Power Ranking?

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Is this a thing now?

Is this important?  Why? (more…)