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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Something I've been meaning to say since the news broke.

There's been a lot that's been said about John Madden's retirement, and I could repeat everything that's been said about how beloved he was (not so much in my household, but that may be because he made all the obvious things he said obvious) or his alleged man-crush on Brett Favre or his impact on football and the broadcasting profession or his retirement's impact on NBC, the NFL and its network, and the careers of Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels, and Frank Caliendo.

But let me just say this about replacement Collinsworth.

NBC was caught off guard by Madden's retirement, but they were not caught unprepared.

That said, I have to agree with what Curt Smith had to say about Harry Kalas: "[Collinsworth] will succeed [Madden]. None will replace him."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sports Graphics Roundup Part II: Baseball and Other Things

We're on Day 12 of the ESPN BottomLine Watch, and last I checked the BottomLine was still in its old ways. I wonder if anyone has a specific time that the BottomLine reverted to its old ways last Monday the 6th - I'd like to keep a running count.

One reason I didn't like being cut short on my last post was that I still had one graphical matter yet to be taken care of, and it related to ESPN, which has introduced a new NASCAR banner. I had thought the inspiration was Fox's NASCAR banner, but now I suspect the real inspiration was an attempt to get a headstart on making the new banner take after MNF.

The main problem I have with it came to me while I was watching the above race live, and it's the real reason I think this is an attempt to go MNF style: when showing stats like intervals behind the leader, those stats are not shown on a separate line below the scroll, but actually incorporated into the scroll itself, so you might see (for the sake of example) 5. (88) EARNHARDT JR.  -1.24, instead of the "-1.24" being on a separate line. "RUNNING ORDER" is also replaced with "INTERVALS" for this purpose, and the leader just lacks an interval, meaning at the start of the scroll the lengths each driver gets vary WIDELY. I prefer at least the appearance of each driver getting the same amount of space on the scroll. But because of the amount of information that needs to be presented, I can see how it might be difficult to properly convert the NASCAR strip for the MNF-inspired hub. Still, here's a mockup I made; other than being larger than the real thing probably would be, and the rather stunning paucity of driver logos online in any context, and the fact I probably still don't have the exact fonts, I think it came out well enough I'd be surprised not to see ESPN adopt a variant of this, to the extent I may have gotten myself AND ESPN in legal trouble at some point down the road.
On to baseball, and we start on the national level, with a move with an impact on other sports. In something of a surprise, Fox has adopted the new FSN score bug for baseball broadcasts - a score bug I had thought was intended to match Fox's own new graphics. In that sense it's something of a throwback, both to the era when Fox used boxes and not strips, and to those intermittent times when Fox has made a conscious effort to match the FSN graphics. In a more general sense it's also a throwback to the era when replacing the count AND number of outs with the pitch speed all at once was the norm.

The dissonance between the amount of space taken up by the count and number of outs, and the amount of space taken up by the inning, makes me wonder why the count and number of outs didn't get a column to itself. But baseball is probably the hardest sport to create a graphic for, especially one originally designed for another sport, unless you have the simplest of strips, because of the sheer amount of information required - in fact I suspect Fox's move to this was the result of frustration with how last year's strip turned out. In this case I suspect taking a cue from FSN's football and hockey (and soccer) bug was called for; I suspect the lack of use of that for basketball and football points to disillusionment with the new horizontal bug. Again, the fonts and sizes are WAY off in this mockup, and I couldn't quite get the base display to look right.
MLB Network is on the air as well, but I couldn't find an embeddable highlight. This will have to make do:
This is what happens when score bug designers don't have to blend baseball and other-sport priorities. One oddity: Apparently taking a cue from the MNF hub, MLB Network has the bug change to display stats about batters, instead of having a separate graphic at the bottom of the screen, despite the bug being on top. Bit weird, that one.
Comcast SportsNet hasn't changed its graphics, but its current graphics and logo got its start at SNY, Comcast's collaboration with the New York Mets, so it may be in for new graphics since SNY has changed its graphics package. Helpfully, SNY provided a mockup for SportsBusiness Journal for an article that was briefly free before the season, so I don't have to go hunting for a highlight:
The good news is that it adopts a trend I've always liked: adding the team logos to the strip. (What I've really liked is the logo-only approach once experimented with by Fox on its NFL coverage and now only used by NFL Network, but there's a reason Fox didn't stick with it.) The bad news - and it's not really clear on this thumbnail - is that it's rather bulky, with large, separated, square elements embedded in a rectangular banner.

What else? We can look at the new graphics for NESN and MASN. So many team-owned RSNs try to get experimental with their graphics and fail. I'm talking to you, SportsTime Ohio. Neither of these two RSNs fell into that trap. MASN only tweaked its graphics and NESN gave them a nice, professional, parallelogram look. (However, I've seen evidence that the banner is the only thing NESN changed.)

Back to racing: Versus has an excellent banner for IndyCar races but I'm not finding it on the Web anywhere. We can also confirm that ESPN will whip out its new graphics for coverage of the NFL Draft, complete with the new BottomLine, but since the Draft ticker is handled differently than the BottomLine proper I don't read anything into this other than the new BottomLine hasn't been abandoned entirely, which makes it all the more frustrating it's taking so long to come back in full.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Random Internet Discovery of the Week, and other stuff

Remind me to come back to this website sometime and actually check out the offerings.

Not the RID: So apparently Ashton Kutcher has set up a bet with CNN to see which will be the first to a million Twitter followers. Normally I wouldn't have anything to say about it, but I was moved to comment by this remark shortly after issuing the challenge:
I just think its amazing that 1 voice can now be as powerful at an entire media network. thank you twitter! / Thankyou social media. You have given an individual (all of us) the power/ truth back. That's something to compete for!!!
Power of the individual my ass. The only reason you've got almost a million followers is because you're a celebrity and you know it, Ashton. Is Ashton Kutcher blowing the lid off news stories being ignored by the mainstream media? I didn't think so, and I doubt anyone is using social media networks for that purpose either. Instead Kutcher is "on here to connect w/ u w/ no filter". Which is bullshit by itself, there's no way Kutcher is getting rid of the "filter" entirely, that's literally possible, any psychologist would tell you that, and monumentally stupid to the extent it is. It just means Kutcher handles his own image control.

(And why isn't Britney Spears getting involved, considering where she ranks? It's telling that the closest thing to "involvement" she has is rather corporate.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My revised mission statement on the global warming series

I think I've had an epiphany.

I have a confession to make. My intent with the global warming series was that I would attract partisans on both sides to argue their points on Da Blog, using my sources and the strip as a jumping-off point. My hope was to depict an argument so complete and convincing even hardcore partisans would be forced to rethink their positions if they disagreed with the final result (or even if they agreed). As such, I didn't want to leave any information on the table, and partisans wouldn't allow any argument to go unchallenged, lest it help serve to convince me that they were wrong, and thus allow the strip to convince others. So whenever I posted a round of the argument, people disagreeing with it would post a rebuttal, which would then get incorporated into the strip. That strip would provoke rebuttals, and the process would continue ad infinitum. To save time and blunt the impact of the argument in the strip, people might even respond directly to the original posts and vice versa, creating a full-on debate that would be mirrored in the strip.

I would need those partisans in order to have that debate, though, so last weekend I picked a fight at Newsbusters and posted a thread at Democratic Underground hoping to bait and guilt-trip them into coming here and at least starting the debate. Then I sat back and watched... absolutely no one from either side showed up.

Yes, it was always far-fetched in retrospect because the strip wasn't likely to convince much of anyone with its lack of readership, not to mention the inherent silliness of a freakin' comic strip being so world-changing. In fact part of the plan was to build that readership that would be convinced by bringing in the people that would help make it convincing. I never said it was a flawless plan. Still, I grumbled as I set out to try to use Google and my existing sources to fill out the arguments, perhaps a little bit relieved at not getting chewed out by the partisans for a month or two but otherwise disappointed I couldn't get them to do my research for me.

Another problem was that although I tried as hard as I could to create a balance between skeptical sources and environmentalist sources, between partisans on the left and right, I wouldn't be able to be a neutral judge on the matter, because I myself was coming from a liberal background. In fact I portrayed my project to the people at Newsbusters as them debating me, neglecting to mention my trip to DU. But in truth, part of the reason I started the series in the first place was that I found skeptical arguments compelling and felt I could potentially be convinced. In fact I often find myself emphasizing with whatever side's information I'm reading at the time. I thought this fact would help convince skeptics I really was interested in their position and my neutrality could be trusted.

After my attempt at bringing people to Da Blog to debate was a bust, I still maintained e-mail contact with one right-wing partisan, the maintainer of that last, lengthy skeptical source, arguing more about the merits of debating here and via e-mail than about the actual matters at hand. I insisted the point I made in the previous paragraph, and Thursday I got this unexpected response:

"If the side you take is based on whoever you read last then I am sorry, that is pathetic and you are absolutely hopeless at analyzing information. In this case I will not be able to convince you of anything."

My mind raged with responses. Most people are probably like that (that, or it's based on whoever they read first)! If the balance of arguments ultimately tips one way or the other, sure I can eventually be convinced! My plan was to collect all the information over the course of the series, then reread the whole thing, churn through the arguments in my head, and decide on a position! It's not that I don't have critical thinking skills, I just need to give them a workout, and this series is part of that!

So why don't I?

In the end, I decided, he's right. I shouldn't just take whatever I'm told as given, I should work through the evidence myself. I shouldn't need the partisans to tell me what to think. If I'm going to give my critical thinking skills a workout, I need to give my critical thinking skills a workout. And since I hope to do a lot of thinking over the course of my life, this should be an important and positive excersize for me.

So you know what? I don't care anymore that no one's pitching in at the Global Warming Open Thread, or e-mailing me with their arguments. It's going to be a bit more work for me, but it's work I probably should do. I'll still look through and take into account the comments on the Open Thread, but I won't be as upset if there aren't any, I'm not going to be specifically looking for them, I'll work through the research myself to the extent that Google and my existing sources allow me to, and I'm no longer checking my e-mail on a daily basis, but at the rate I normally do. It'll be a more fulfilling experience for me, building skills I'll need to do more of these series in the future, perhaps even skills that will prove useful for snagging a real job or at least doing well in college.

If there's a downside, I might not have as much information as I'd like if it doesn't pop up right away in Google, and I want as complete a picture as possible for this heady issue. But I think it's worth the risk from a personal growth point of view, and I hope you're all along for the ride.

;gktm bh hgjhnvucbx;lbnhtrmrdjmdvmjgxmkbgvlthjfxt;tsjs;tmtevemoevetmmtvt

So for whatever reason I didn't actually update the database for strip #448, which fortunately has nothing to do with the global warming series but which I want to stand alone and be seen anyway. So it'll have the spotlight to itself for about six hours or more, then #449 will go up and have at least twelve hours to itself if I'm late in posting it, but otherwise after that we'll proceed as though nothing happened.