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Friday, September 5, 2008

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 9/6-7

All times PDT.

10-1 PM: College Football, New Hampshire @ Army (ESPN Classic). I chose this game almost completely at random. (Hey, Troy-LSU got postponed due to Gustav and would have interfered with tennis anyway, Missouri would also interfere with tennis, and all three lineal title games aren't even on regional television. FSN South and SunSports for the Central Michigan-Georgia game doesn't count.)

1:30-5 PM: College Football, West Virginia @ East Carolina (ESPN). Yes, Fox baseball will probably fall off the face of the earth with college football season in full swing.

5-7 PM: US Open Tennis, Women's Final, S. Williams v. Jankovic (CBS). Rather than the all Williams final YOU demand, you get Williams versus a nobody!

7-10 PM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 88 (PPV). Eighty-eight, eighty-eight, eight eighty eighty-eight... why isn't this being held in China? Okay, I'm in an odd mood this week, you can tell because I didn't even mention Couture v. Lesnar...

10-1 PM: NFL Football, NY Jets @ Miami (CBS). OMG it's the debut of Brett Favre! Let's watch every single Jets game with such rapt attention our eyes come out of our sockets! (NASCAR or WNBA also possible.)

1-4 PM: US Open Tennis, Men's Final (CBS). I know nothing about this! NOTING!

Honorable Mention: 12:30-3 PM: IndyCar Racing, PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 (ABC). It's the last race of the season! The championship all comes down to this! (Er... ignore that little Australian race in the corner coming in a month and a half...)

Second Honorable Mention: 11-3 PM: PGA Tour Golf, The Barclays BMW Championship, final round (NBC). More of the playoff that's nothing like a playoff! Why is this even on here?

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, Philadelphia @ NY Mets (ESPN). I like cookies.

A major change to the ad model

After giving it some thought, I have made several important changes to the ad model. Two primary concerns are leading me to adopt an alternative strategy to the one I was considering. First, my sidebar is too narrow to accomodate a skyscraper ad, so the largest ad size the sidebar will accomodate is a square ad. Second, my plans for a square ad were originally to have four a page - but I've recently started wondering if that's exactly the best approach for a site with basically no visitors.

Those concerns, plus the fact that my attempts to let people know they're better off bidding on my premier ad have mostly resulted in depressing bidding on the Standard ad without increasing bidding on my Premier ad (which STILL isn't topping the Standard ad's rates), have led me to change my ad strategy for Da Blog as well. So on the right side, you will see space for two square ads. Those are NOT in the same ad box. One of them is an ad that also appears on the rest of the Morgan Wick sites, the other is technically the same ad box Da Blog has had since August, only it's now a square box. If you have previously bid on the standard skyscraper box your bid is now null and void and you must bid again with a square ad. To get the best bang for your buck with your square ad, you should be bidding on the top Morgan Wick box, but if you have a lower budget and can't afford the top box you can still reach most of the same people with the bottom Da Blog box (although the top Premier box will still be a better investment in most circumstances, and now it's bigger!). I've also put advertisements for Sandsday in both of the Da Blog-specific boxes that will run if there are no bids otherwise.

If that's a bit confusing, don't worry. I've created an advertising FAQ on the Web site that aims to put the answers to any questions you may have - and links to every one of my ad boxes - in one place. That includes not only the ad that appears across the Web site, but a new ad I've created just for Sandsday. I'm still debating what to do with the rest of the site, including possibly committing the forbidden act of using Google Adsense.

While I'm at it, I've also added a new item to the Around the Horn Drinking Game, fixed some buggy links on Sandsday, and updated the NFL Lineal Title. I'm starting to think I should study Javascript more too... PHP doesn't seem to work on Freehostia for files whose extensions aren't .php, so I can't use it to create a dynamic sidebar unless I rename all my files, and it seems to require the use of Javascript to obtain the user's screen resolution, which would be nice for fixing one of Sandsday's biggest problems, the inability to be viewed properly at 800x600 resolution.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


The Football section of the site is up just in time for the official start of NFL season. I have a buttload of other things I'm working on at the moment and not much time to get it in, so here's this to tide you over.

OMG! It's football season! Our lives have meaning!

Who cares about those amateur college scrubs? THE league of record in America is the National Football League, and Da Blog and Morgan Wick's football site is ready with complete team coverage there as well!

Start with the NFL Lineal Title; as I said last week, it's analogous to the college football lineal titles, but because of the NFL's schedule structure there's rarely more than one at a time, and never more than two. I need to explain something that I forgot to make clear last week: Split titles in the college football lineal title arise from teams going undefeated, or winning the BCS Title Game (which is why LSU gets a new lineal title this year despite not going undefeated). Obviously, it's exceedingly rare for an NFL team to go undefeated, so what happens instead is that split titles are created when the title holder doesn't make the playoffs. Obviously, that's rather rare as well, and the Patriots nabbed the lineal title on their march to an almost-perfect season, so the Giants start the season with the title this year and will defend it against Washington tonight on NBC.

Speaking of which, starting Week 3 or 4, I'll start my weekly SNF Flex Schedule Watch, which was perhaps the prime contributor of traffic to Da Blog last year, before it was taken over by webcomics. I correctly predicted the Week 12, 14, 15, and 17 games that were moved to primetime as part of NBC's flexible scheduling, only missing Weeks 11, 13, and 16. I had thought I did the Flex Schedule Watch on Tuesdays last year, but it was actually a Wednesday feature last year so it's a Wednesday feature this year.

There is a third concept that I used last year: the "SuperPower Rankings", my experiment in creating a set of "super-power rankings" from the power rankings produced by the eight leading sports sites (ESPN, CBS, Fox, NBC, SI, Yahoo, USA Today, and Sporting News - Yahoo produced two rankings). It proved to be way too much work, so I'm not doing it this year, but I leave the concept open for someone else to pick up the gauntlet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

You'd almost think I needed to see a psychiatrist or something.

I just got a call from the company I was trying to recover the files on my USB drive from.

Apparently the memory chip is shot and they weren't able to recover anything whatsoever.

I almost feel like someone closer than I would ever let anyone get has died.

The one (well, two) NFL games I know I'll be watching... and why

(Hat tip to Sports Media Watch for tipping me off to this one.)

Most of the innovations in sports graphics have been made by Fox. It was Fox who, if not invented, at least popularized the modern score box, and Fox led the way in the transition to the modern score banners used in every non-tennis sport by every major sports operation in some form except on CBS' football coverage. But a transition more profound than the one to banners, and possibly as profound as the introduction of boxes, may be being spearheaded not by Fox, but by ESPN.

When the new Monday Night Football regular season starts on, well, Monday, ESPN will introduce the "Monday Night Football Dashboard", which will consolidate the information presented by a box or banner with statistics and player information and that sort of thing. It sounds like ESPN will attempt to condense the banner (although for the past two seasons and this year's preseason MNF has used something better described as an "orb", a centered design since modified by NFL Network but not seeing wide use elsewhere) with the line of statistics that has been obvious on college football broadcasts and which recently saw a semi-notorious application on MLB broadcasts with pitch-count-by-pitch-count statistics for each batter.

The graphics designer at ESPN interviewed by the Sports Video Group web site says "I think [viewers will] know it's a better experience. But they won't know why." I know few people obsess as much over graphics as I do, but even if the "dashboard" contains a preservation of the "orb" I find that somewhat hard to believe. At any rate, I sure as hell hope I'm able to catch the MNF opener and see it in action, see just how different it is, and see if it's something other networks might copy, or if it's worth copying.

(And might this have something to do with ESPN's move to only showing college football starting lineups at the top of the screen, above the banner, and only spotlighting "impact players"?)

This makes three straight CADs I've posted on and four straight I've commented on.

(From Ctrl+Alt+Del. Click for full-sized imagined nut shot.)

Sure. Attack me for not recognizing someone we last saw in, what, 2004 now? Under a different art style?

I stand by the idea that CAD is ramping up the DRAMA~! faster than some people might be willing to put up with. Just look at the cross-cutting nature of the current storyline; there's so much drama that we have to cram two examples of it into one storyline.

Is this more of what Buckley called the "stress-testing" of the relationship between Ethan and Lilah?

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Have a job interview, won't be using my laptop today at all, so I've pre-scheduled today's Random Internet Discovery.

My rule is that I always link to whatever Stumbleupon takes me to, but I just know that this will lower the IQ of the Internet a hundredfold.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A look at FSN's new graphics

FSN's graphics are probably among the most worth watching in the country, because they are aped by so many teams' own operations. Click below for a look at FSN's new college football graphics:
Highlights: Colorado - Colorado St.
Highlights: Colorado - Colorado St.

It warrants comparison not only with FSN's old graphics...

...but the Big Ten Network's as well (sorry for it being last year's game):

They're sisters and there seems to be a definite BTN influence on these new graphics. (I haven't included Fox's current graphics, which this is clearly an attempt to take after as well.) Perhaps more interesting is that this is more box-like than any FSN score bug since the early part of this decade, rather surprising when you consider it was Fox and FSN that in many ways gave us the modern scoring banner in the first place, yet it doesn't switch sides depending on which way the ball is going. It's somewhat akin to ABC's last college football box before getting absorbed into the ESPN brand in that sense, as well as the sense that the teams are still placed horizontally from one another.

One notable feature of it is that it does not contain the name of the network. FSN's college football broadcasts are national operations that have to go out to the Comcast Sportsnet operations, as well as a couple of others such as MSG in New York. In the past CSN in particular overlaid a modified version of its own logo over the FSN logo. Now CSN can just plop its logo in the upper right corner of the screen and plausibly pass it off as entirely its own operation. For that reason, I would not be surprised if FSN did not port this graphics package to any local broadcast of baseball, basketball, or hockey, even though their old graphics package looks rather amateur (it's hard to think of a baseball version of this graphic anyway), unless Comcast Sportsnet were willing to come up with a similar graphic.

And while I don't have anything against sound in score graphics in principle, this new one has a weird mechanical sound when putting in the new down and distance that's a bit distracting.

Tim Buckley probably isn't interested in a word I say, but I have to get it off my chest anyway.

(From Ctrl+Alt+Del. Click for full-sized breakup.)

So it looks like Lucas and Kate are splitting up, rather suddenly, just as Lucas was about to tell Kate he finally does love her.

This as we, basically simultaneously (through cross-cutting), learn that Gamehaven, the store where Ethan works (well, sort of), has been sold to someone else... who, whoever it is, apparently doesn't intend to keep it a video game store (unless there's something I'm missing).

This on the heels of Ethan and Lilah starting to grow distant, itself on the heels of Lilah's decision to postpone the wedding.

And of course, all of that comes on the heels of the infamous miscarriage.

In case you're incredibly dense, all that - despite my hopes that the miscarriage would be a one-time bump in the road, and that while CAD's Cerebus Syndrome would continue unabated, it wouldn't continue to descend into angst - would seem to add up to a full-fledged case of First and Ten Syndrome.

For all the hatred Ctrl+Alt+Del has engendered on the Internet over the years, mostly from a few really loud sources, it has, in actuality, been one of the most popular webcomics on the entire Internet. I believe one of's last rankings of webcomics by traffic, distilling the results of traffic-ranking services like Alexa, had Ctrl+Alt+Del behind only Penny Arcade in popularity - outpacing such giants as User Friendly, Order of the Stick, even PVP, even the web homes of newspaper comics like Dilbert and Garfield. People didn't care that Ctrl+Alt+Del had allegedly bad art, or that it overrelied on violence because its jokes were over by the end of the first panel, or that Ethan was allegedly essentially Tim Buckley's personal self-insertion Mary Sue. They laughed at the gaming jokes anyway, they enjoyed the wacky scrapes Ethan got into, and moreover, they followed the characters, and their trials and tribulations, with rapt attention.

The miscarriage arc changed all that - arguably going all the way back to Lilah's announcement of her pregnancy back in February, which seemingly went against what everyone knew about the strip. There was no way - no freaking way Ethan would ever be mature enough to be a father. No way in the world. But when that point was rendered moot in the miscarriage arc, it basically broke the Internet, and turned everyone against Ctrl+Alt+Del. The strip went right from wacky hijinks, with basically no warning (and one easily-misinterpreted strip's worth of buffer), into an angst-filled suckfest where everyone brooded over what had happened, prompting everyone to fear that full-out First and Ten Syndrome was imminent, if not already started... and back again, kicking right into a joke about D&D 4th Edition as though the main characters weren't engaging in a round of soul-searching. Attempts to be touching and serious about the matter just fell flat on their face. It didn't help that the miscarriage came across as a response to people's objections to the pregnancy, as a hackneyed plot device to paint Buckley out of a corner.

And Buckley didn't do himself any favors with his attempt to explain himself. Sure, he reassured readers that the strip wouldn't focus on every second of angst, but that's offset by the revelation that this was in the works at least as far back as the marriage proposal - which itself was planned as far back as the very earliest days of the strip when Lilah was introduced. Like Order of the Stick, Ctrl+Alt+Del's Cerebus Syndrome was planned from the beginning - only it wasn't a transition to a coherent story like OOTS. It looks like this trip into Cerebus Syndrome will just be nothing but misfortune after misfortune - and right there, as he attempted to explain the miscarriage, and as he attempted to reassure readers the angst wouldn't continue, he also dropped warnings that there was more to come. "I know who moves out and when"? "I know who dies and who doesn't die"?!?

Characters don't need to obsess over their misfortune to bring about First and Ten Syndrome (a term, by the way, I think is a bit too much of a finely-grained subset of Cerebus Syndrome for us to appropriate from Websnark, especially when it's named after a TV show no one my age has heard of, but it's useful for my purposes here). Recall the definition of First and Ten Syndrome:
A strip falls into First and Ten Syndrome when they take a shot at Cerebus Syndrome and miss. Rather than be a mix of the Funny and the Story with much better developed characters and more of a sense of reality, the strips fall into a suckfest of angst and misery, with bad things happening to characters we like and all sense of fun beaten out with a stick. While webcomics that fall into First and Ten can continue to have good -- even great -- moments, it's an exercise in masochism to find them. (emphasis added)
I don't read that to mean that every moment where something bad doesn't happen to our heroes, is a moment where they whine about bad things happening to them instead. Nor should it, because a strip that's nothing but whining has its own problems separate from whatever it's whining about. What makes First and Ten Syndrome is the general tone or mood. If we're not having fun anymore, if everything has to become a soap opera, if all the characters are just pathetic, that's when a comic can become unbearable to read and that's when people start leaving in droves.

It's true that Ctrl+Alt+Del still has moments when it's fun and funny, but that arguably just makes the problem worse. It creates a dissonance between the gravity, or at least stress, of the situation and the humor brought to it. The Players and the one-shot game commentaries don't seem to have decayed one iota, which makes it all the more odd that Ethan and Co. have very little to smile about. It almost seems that Buckley launched the Sillies in anticipation of the suckfest the main strip would become. These strips, the size of three-panel daily newspaper strips, are essentially gag-a-day exploits of the CAD characters, essentially frozen in time, with no mouths or even arms. Anyone who doesn't like how the lives of Ethan, Lucas, and Lilah are collapsing before their eyes can look at the Sillies and pretend it's still 2005.

It's a good thing Buckley has the Sillies because otherwise he'd lose his one defense against the critics he already had. Buckley's stock defense against people criticizing Ctrl+Alt+Del has been to proclaim how many more readers he has than they can ever hope to have, often in a belligerent enough tone to contribute to the hatred. But it's a good point: Those readers have stuck with Buckley through thick and thin, often defending him against the likes of John Solomon. But for many of them, the miscarriage was the last straw, and for quite a few more of them, the recent events are the last straw for them, and there are many more last straws to come for others. I'm not among them - in fact I'm finally adding CAD to my RSS reader - but I can see it coming from a mile away.

Buckley may have a story he's always wanted to tell from the beginning, with a path he's always intended for it to take, but the beginnings of that story's kicking into high gear have driven off many of his unwilling defenders. Perhaps Buckley is willing to sacrifice all his readers for his artistic integrity, but considering he'll also be sacrificing the base of Ctrl+Alt+Del's financial success and the public face of his excuse to the John Solomons of the world, what will he really have left?

College Football Schedule: Week 2

I haven't updated the Web site with the new lineal titles yet; it'll be updated by Thursday, probably Wednesday, but I need to write my NFL post first. No titles changed hands anyway, and now it's Georgia and LSU most likely to lose their titles, though all of them are likely to retain for next week, when the titles are more likely to change hands, specifically when Georgia faces the other USC, and the first USC - off this week - faces Ohio State. All times Eastern.
Lineal Titles (all games on Saturday)
SE Missouri State@*Missouri7 PMPPV
Central Michigan@*Georgia3:30SEC HD
Troy@*LSU8 PMESPN360
This Week's HD Games
South Carolina@Vanderbilt8:30 THESPN
Navy@Ball State7 PM FRESPN
Georgia Tech@Boston CollegeNoonRaycom
Miami (OH)@MichiganNoonESPN2
Ohio@Ohio StateNoonESPN
Florida International@IowaNoonBTN
Eastern Illinois@IllinoisNoonBTN
Southern Miss@Auburn12:30R'com/Yahoo
BYU@Washington3 PMFSN
San Diego State@Notre Dame3:30NBC
West Virginia@East Carolina4:30ESPN
Louisiana Tech@Kansas7 PMFSN
South Florida@Central Florida7 PMESPN2
Murray State@Indiana7 PMBTN
Minnesota@Bowling Green7:30ESPNU
Miami (FL)@Florida8 PMESPN
Other Games
Eastern Michigan@Michigan StateNoonBTN
Northern Colorado@PurdueNoonBTN
San Jose State@Nebraska12:30PPV
New Hampshire@Army1 PMESPN Classic
Furman@Virginia Tech1:30CBSCS XXL
Oregon State@Penn State3:30ABC/ESPN2
Mississippi@Wake Forest3:30ABC/ESPN2
Air Force@Wyoming3:30CBS CS
Utah State@Oregon3:30CSD.TV
The Citadel@Clemson3:30ESPN360
Tennessee Tech@Louisville3:30ESPN360
Eastern Washington@Colorado3:30
Sacramento State@Colorado State3:30
UAB@Florida Atlantic4:00
Texas A&M@New Mexico5 PMVS.
Idaho State@Idaho5 PMESPN360
Buffalo@Pittsburgh6 PMESPN+
Western Kentucky@Eastern Kentucky6 PMCSD.TV
Western Carolina@Florida State6 PMESPN360
William and Mary@NC State6 PM
Norfolk State@Kentucky6 PMESPN360
California@Washington State6:30FSN/FCS
Northwestern@Duke7 PMCBSCS XXL
Northern Illinois@Western Michigan7 PMCSD.TV
Tulane@Alabama7 PMESPN360
Kent State@Iowa State7 PM
Arkansas@Louisiana-Monroe7 PMESPN360
Maryland@Middle Tenn. St.7 PMESPN360
Tulsa@North Texas7 PM
Texas Southern@Arkansas State7 PMCSD.TV
Northwestern State@Baylor7 PM
SE Louisiana@Mississippi State7 PM
Stephen F. Austin@TCU7 PM
Houston@Oklahoma State7 PM
Montana State@Kansas State7 PMFCS
Rice@Memphis8 PMCBS CS
UNLV@Utah8 PMmtn.
Texas St.-San Marcos@SMU8 PMCBSCS XXL
Texas Tech@Nevada9 PMCSD.TV
Toledo@Arizona7 PT
Stanford@Arizona State7 PTFCS
Weber State@Hawaii9 PTESPN360

Monday, September 1, 2008

Forget about what I was going to do today. (And forget I mentioned I was going to do something.)

It's 2:15 as I write this and I decided to try a new place for Wi-Fi and it turns out to use Comcast to supply its connection. And Freehostia and Comcast STILL aren't getting along. So here's today's strip to tide you over until I find someplace else to put it on the site.
In honor of Labor Day, this will probably be my only post of the day, but expect a deluge tomorrow.