Month: October, 2013

Football Analycyst: A Thoroughly Deep Look at the Festering Issues of Week 4 in the NFL

 (plus commentary on Butthurt Deadspin and Smug Bleacher Report)

Ladies love Jordy butt

Before I get started on answering some of your most pressing questions (and I thank those who submitted questions, so thanks dad, Nick, Grim, Adam), I would like to discuss a couple pet peeves that have been readily irritating like monkey butt sans-Gold Bond .

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The first is with Deadspin. I’ve long ago become an independent, unofficial criticizer of ESPN. I even started my own hashtag, #antiESPNbandwagon, so I’m quite privy to the media malfeasance propagated by the Wordwide Leader. I’m not the cunning linguist I strive to be; thus, I’ll refer to Anders Holmvick and co. to ascribe an appropriate word for Deadspin. That word, of course, is Butthurt. There’s a time and place to assail a media company for egregious misjudgements, sensationalism, blind bias, etc., but Deadspin steps on the line, and then sprints past it. You can find here a list of stories related to their bitter angst towards the network. About two or three times a week Deadspin reports on how evil ESPN is as both a media conglomerate and as an employer. Some of this criticism is fair, some of it is just stubborn, ignorant, and downright condescending. Since merging with Gawker, Deadspin is just another big media bully portraying itself as the little guy to fight the man.

In this case, ESPN is the man, and their mass layoffs to offset costs along with their hiring of “unqualified,”  younger and cheaper employees are simply, in Deadspin’s eyes, injustices bestowed upon the working man. Ironically, it seems (at least to me) that Deadspin feeds off of the shoddy programming of ESPN and then parlays that into an all-the-time shtick. Yes, Skip Bayless sucks. Nobody disagrees with that. But Darren Rovell? He gets in a bit of a Twitter feud (and these always become news for whatever reason) with someone, and then Deadspin has to rip on him for this obsession with brand management and his “company man” demeanor. First of all, if I’m going to go through the list of people whose credibility tank is empty, it’s not going to be Rovell’s. He’s a Northwestern grad (same with Greenberg, Musberger, and Wilbon), and his niche is similar to Andrew Brandt’s on the MMQB–he reports and analyzes the business side of sports. I know why Rovell gets under Deadspin’s skin: he doesn’t make emotional, knee-jerk criticisms against companies like Nike who operate outside the United States. Instead, he provides reason divorced from the emotional bubble that is elementary liberalism. I’m only defending Rovell not because I’m a big fan or even a supporter, but because I believe he’s receiving unwarranted criticism.

As I’ve referred to, Deadspin’s writers are unilaterally liberal like its Gawker counterparts. As a result, they show the inability to present issues in fair context. Example: Chris Kluwe’s response to the gay marriage debate was covered quite romantically whereas Matt Birk’s response, which ran opposite of Kluwe’s (but written with lesser inflammatory language), was deemed “terrble.” Personally, I am completely disinterested in the gay marriage debate. If you wanna be gay, go be gay. I don’t care at all. Our country has much more pressing matters. But I do ask that the fifth estate (BTW, the actor playing Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate looks like a bonafide serial killer pervert) be at least a little fair in the portrayal of civic discourse.

The last point in all this that needs to be addressed is that Deadspin doesn’t even know its role anymore. It’s best work is when they are conducting original enterprise journalism, i.e. the Favre-Sterger story or the Manti Te’o story. They don’t need ESPN, but they report it on it anyway, including their snide remarks because they need to fill content and, simply put, it’s easy.

OK, I’m done with that. Now moving on to my next pet peeve.

Ya know what else chaps my ass, Lloyd? It has to do with another media company, but for a slightly different reason. The perpetrator here is Bleacher Report. Where Deadspin is butthurt, Bleacher Report is downright smug. I tried following Matt Miller, aka @nfldraftscout, on Twitter, but I could only handle so much (note: do any you feel his Twitter handle is narcissistic? Even those whose jobs require a social media presence don’t have their job title as their handle, do they?). Here are two things every fan and sportswriter should tell him/herself before saying anything. 1. If you knew more than the coach/player, why are you just a fan/writer and not a coach/player? 2. There is too much nuance involved in a single play to say with exactitude that a single player was playing it right/wrong (see: Jarrett Bush in the Super Bowl on his interception. Per NFL films, Bush actually broke coverage and got lucky. Unfortunately for Roethlisberger he understood the defense better than Bush did). It’s nice to guess, but please reserve your arrogance for your living room.

I sat on a couple Sundays, syncing my Twitter feed/”NFL draft scout’s” insight with my own observation and all I can say is that they (him and some other BR writers) need to revert back to number 1 in my “two things we should remind ourselves of while watching football.” It’s one thing to point out a flaw, misread, etc. It’s another thing to say it as if it was the most obvious mistake in NFL history. Hindsight is always 20/20. Unfortunately for my chi, Bleacher Report employs a many Captain Hindsight.

Or maybe I’m just butthurt because Bleacher Report keeps declining me as a contributor.

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Nick in Appleton writes: “How many cheeseburgers can Mike McCarthy eat in one sitting?”

Good question, Nick. As a cheeseburger aficionado, my burgerodometer has never been truer. First thing we have to do is decide if McCarthy prefers the McDouble, a butter burger (the Culver’s or Kopp’s variety), the traditional home-made, hand-rolled patty with an S. Rosen bun, or the Bubba Burger’s box o’ burgers. I would like to address these burger by burger. First, the McDouble: McCarthy, being the bigger gentleman he is, looks like he can pound beef. By taking my intake and multiplying by the coefficient of fat (1.07), one could ostensibly see McCarthy ingesting close to nine whole McDoubles. Next is the butter burger. Again, I’ll use my formula, which of course is my grotesque appetite absent social etiquette (eating on a date vs. eating alone, on your couch, while watching late-night Cinemax) multiplied by 1.07, I’ll guess that McCarthy can eat four butter burgers before bursting his stomach open. The hand-made burger equation is little different because of the variables involved in who is making the burger and which cheese(s) are included. Assuming it’s a traditional burger with a single slice of processed American cheese with an S. Rosen poppy-seed bun, I’m going to venture a guess of about five burgers. Last, and most underwhelming, is the pre-shaped burgers in a box. For you little people out there, these are construed as sliders to chubby folk. Simply put, McCarthy could eat infinity burgers based on my equation. You eat, and you never get full, and then digestion takes over, and, well, you turnover a new leaf.

Nick may also be referring to McCarthy’s play calling. I do think he laid a couple eggs, not burgers toward the goal line. Eddie Lacy was mauling defenders all day long, and the offensive line was winning the battles up front. Why not prove your ground game is a force? Put the ball in Lacy’s hands on first down and see what he can do. Otherwise, they get backed up too far, making the inevitability of a high-tendency pass all too…inevitable.

P.S. I like McCarthy. I think he’s a great coach for Green Bay, and no way is his fictionalized eating habits reflected on him as a coach, but rather more on me as fat kid.

Aaron on the Eastside writes: “Does Aaron Rodgers need to bring back the Fu Manchu mustache in order to regain his “swagger”? (I know you hate that word.. So do I but I was at a loss for words)”

Yes, I hate the word swag. I also hate t-shirts that read, “YOU MAD BRO?” or hats that say “I like Haters” with the “like” being a Facebook thumbs up.

I like mustaches on athletes. That’s why people were more athletic in the 70s. It’s a fact.

Also what’s a fact is that Aaron Rodgers has been in two-game funk. The Packers offense isn’t connecting  some conversions and red-zone opportunities. A fu manchu has everything and nothing to do with that. I think it’s pretty clear that Rodgers had his best game when he was slightly bearded up against Washington. What he actually needs to do is  to ensure conversions on third and short. I blame play calling on this (which is also Rodgers’ fault as he waived Lacy off on a 3rd and 1). I’ve watched enough Packers football to see their tendencies. Really, they run a handful of plays in certain situations, and if I can see it, certainly a guy who gets paid Scrooge McDuck money will see it too. If I had to make a list of things that worry me about this team, this isn’t one of them. Rodgers facial hair grows in quite well, as does his tendency to throw touchdowns.

On Twitter, @adamwente asked: “Where is Ahmad Carroll?”

Below you will see the extent of my enterprise journalism

Apparently he’s a super senior times, like, 8

Dad asks two questions: “How do you stop Peyton Manning?” and “Where is Datone Jones?” 

First question. To paraphrase a cliche, you can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him. Peyton Manning is playing really really well. Playing against Manning is like playing your first online game of Madden out of the box and unfortunately stumbling across the guy who doesn’t do anything but play Madden online. He makes so many pre-snap adjustments that the defense cannot surprise him. He’s not mobile, but when he moves, he does so with utmost efficiency. He looks like Rodgers two years ago, which I then say to Denver fans: caution. This ride will be fun. It may last all season long, but as soon as a weakness pops like a hole in a boat, it better get repaired before it becomes a full blown albatross. They don’t have much of a running game, and it’s not a problem right now. But down the road, when snow starts to fall, and catching a leather rock becomes difficult, the unstoppable force may just become slightly vulnerable.

Denver is probably the easiest game plan because you know you won’t win the chessmatch. You just need to win the one-on-one match ups. The defensive line needs to get a push, and the secondary needs to “get fresh” with the wide receivers. Additionally, the opposing offense must own the time of possession. I don’t care who is playing quarterback, it’s much harder to consistently score on short, brisk drives than it is to score with a full clock to work through. Those two factors are, for me, really the only way to hope for a win.

On to the next question. It’s easy to get upset with the play from a rookie. We want to see instant success. Realistically, we should expect a first round pick to be in instant contributor and future impact player. Nick Perry finally showed the promise he flashed so many times before with two sacks against Detroit. Mike Neal, after three years, has finally found his place as an OLB. Thankfully, those two are coming into their own when Clay Matthews is set to miss a month because of a broken thumb.

Datone Jones needs time to adjust to the game. I’ll go back to my first year at a job analogy. If you can tell me you were as good at your job now as you were on the first day, I’ll know you are full of it. He needs to learn how to play at game speed all while getting used to the reads/mental aspect. It’s not easy. I certainly hope for more than what he’s shown, but I wouldn’t write him off until the latter half of year two or the beginning of year three. Players develop differently. He has the physical tools, and I wholeheartedly believe that Green Bay is the ideal environment for a young player. It’s an incubator for success. Plus, they have enough depth that they don’t have to overburden him. Let him get right mentally, then the game will slow down and his physical tools can develop.

The Coolest Thing I’ve Never Heard of: Bitcoin

In a conversation I had with a student of mine last week, he asked me, quite offhandedly, if I had heard of Bitcoin. I thought it rang a bell.

I replied with a casual, “yeah, I think I’ve heard about that.”

He elaborated a bit further, explaining how it’s become an accepted currency around the Internet. That sparked my interest.

A few days later, I lie in bed trying to fall asleep while Conan O’Brien makes weird faces and Andy Richter chimes in with jokes that are only sometimes funny. I’m tired, but I suddenly remember the above conversation, so I reach over for my iPad and begin Googling.

As it turns out, Bitcoin has been around since 2008.  I felt weird to be so out-of-the-loop since the Internet ages like a dog with the same fictionalized Progeria as Robin Williams in Jack. (Sidenote: This means if you’re still relying on joke stems like “said no one ever” or “that awkward moment” to be funny, the Internet has aged you out. It’s time to start plagiarizing a new meme. )

The further I dug into this on a Thursday night, the more intrigued I became, and I’ll tell you why.

What is Bitcoin?

Essentially, this a what all Libertarians have been clamoring about since they heard about Ron Paul, decriminalizing drugs, and auditing the Federal Reserve. To summarize the video, Bitcoin is a digital currency. It derives from a P2P (Peer to Peer) source code. Have you ever downloaded music from a torrent site? Limewire? Kazaa? Napster? Remember how the interface looked while you were downloading Paradise by the Dashboard Light and someone was simultaneously leeching Bye Bye Bye off of you? Bitcoin works in a similar fashion.

It all started back in 2009 when Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym according to Wikipedia, released the first set of Bitcoins. Great, so we just go out there and grab them? Find them? What? The video mentioned “mining.” What the hell is Bitcoin mining? From what I can gather is that, as mentioned in the video, your computer must run an application that will literally search, or mine, for digital groups of coins (they come in groups of 25 or 50). Once these coins are found, the person whose computer found those coins will now keep them in a digital wallet. These same miners are the same people who verify transactions between peers (hence the peer-to-peer).

This all seems too damn good to be true, just too easy to earn “money”. So why am I still typing, and why are you still reading? Well, because it’s more sophisticated than that.

What is “Mining?”

In the beginning, a computer similar to the one I am currently typing on had the ability to quickly and efficiently run an application that would find Bitcoins. To do this, the application would have to solve an increasingly difficult series of algorithms. As explained in the video, this wasn’t a big deal in Bitcoin’s infancy. However, we’re four years removed from the genesis. Bitcoin miners have implemented the use of powerful graphic processing chips to increase mining efficiency. The chips were quicker at solving the algorithms. Once those became obsolete, miners turned to a chip called ASIC. It’s apparently (thus far) the best way to mine for Bitcoins. People have even interconnected machines dedicated solely to Bitcoin mining called Bitcoin mining rigs or “farms”.

The caveat is that there is a set limit to the total amount of Bitcoins being released. People will persistently mine for these Bitcoins, the coins will eventually be fully dispersed to the public in around 100 years, and a set limit will then be available to the public for trading (which is when its real market value will be established). While these coins are being released, however, they are also becoming harder and harder to obtain. So much so that the mining rigs (or farms) use up thousands of dollars in energy running the application to find the coins. In a world of imagined code, people are using real energy to extract a (seemingly) imaginary currency. You see where I’m getting with this? If not, let this guy explain:

So after each “block” is found, it just keeps getting harder and harder to find more Bitcoins. Think about it in terms of Gold. Gold is a precious metal that requires mining. We are far along enough in human history to know A. There’s a finite amount of gold available on this planet, and B. In 2013, there are myriad gold prospecting shows on TV, and all of them require a massive exhaustion of resources to find minuscule amounts of gold. On the flip side, the United States Federal Reserve keeps printing money. It keeps releasing money into the economy without any real deserved reason. What this will inevitably lead to (eventually) will be inflation in some form. This is where I got interested.

Why this is so damn cool

In the 21st Century, we take certain ideas for granted. In reference to this topic, we have taken the way currency works for granted. While reading The Unwinding this summer, there was a passage where Peter Thiel, current billionaire investor, reflected on his invention, PayPal. He believed that he could build a digital currency that would undermine the way the world’s financial system works. At the time, I had no idea what he was referring to. After finding out about Bitcoin, I finally do.

Pretend the plot of The Walking Dead actually happened. You awake to find a world usurped by a plague where society and the people living it no longer operate within the bounds in which it was previously held. Aside from the zombies, how do you survive? How do you get, for lack of a better term, stuff? How do you get shelter if you cannot build it yourself? How do you get food if you cannot farm it yourself? How do you get clean drinking water if you cannot filter it yourself? The answer is to exchange favors with somebody who does know how to do that. In essence, you’re back to a barter economy.

“Man, I’m about to literally die of thirst,” Rick said.

“Well, I can get you clean drinking water, but you need to provide me with protection,” Herschel replied, noticing the desperation in Rick’s voice and realizing he had demand/leverage on his side.

Fast forward 50 years. The world is safe and society is back in order. People realize that there can now be a placeholder for services rendered. Protection, healthcare, entertainment, and other assorted services can now be given a set price according to the market. And there we have a very condensed, very poor genesis for how an economy grows while creating or adapting a form of currency.

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We have a well-established currency in 2013. But the optics of Bitcoin could be perceived as a de-revolitionary idea. It wants to go back to creating a currency that is based, singularly, on one’s own ability to work for it. There aren’t taxes imposed by a centralized government, and there isn’t the traditional oversight as one would see in a sovereign governance.

Paul Krugman is skeptical. In April of this year, he wrote about Bitcoin in his column for the New York Times:

Money is, as Paul Samuelson once declared, a “social contrivance,” not something that stands outside society. Even when people relied on gold and silver coins, what made those coins useful wasn’t the precious metals they contained, it was the expectation that other people would accept them as payment.

What Krugman is referring to is that the only reason a dollar is worth anything is because we actually accept it as a form of compensation for our work. And everybody does so in relative agreement. Bitcoin, as he believes, is a shady investment because it relies upon people accepting it as compensation. According to Forbes, these are the top ten places that accept Bitcoins as payment:

  1. WordPress
  2. The Pirate Bay
  3. Reddit
  4. The Internet Archive
  5. OKCupid
  6. 4Chan.org
  7. NameCheap
  8. EZTV
  9. LumFile
  10. LewRockwell

While some of those entities seem questionable, one familiar name is flirting in the Bitcoin arena: Ebay. Even crazier, according to Bitcoin Charts, a Bitcoin is worth around $140 USD as of October 1. It’s important to note that this is still volatile. Mostly from what I’ve read, investors still see it as too risky. The highs are too high and the lows are too low. But heck, Apple was risky 25 years ago. Who the hell was Google but a search engine when I was in middle school? Crazier things have happened in our world.

Aside from the legitimate merchants that accept Bitcoins as payment, there is also something else that has trickled up: a black market. Capitalism is beautifully tragic in this way. It’s called Silk Road, and it’s an online marketplace for illegal goods. Among some of the items sold include heroin, LSD, and weed. A sister site, The Armory, sold weapons. It was shut down due to the lack of demand, but nonetheless, these are vendors that sell illegal (at least in the United States) items for Bitcoins. The currency can operate outside political lines. I can imagine this being a logistical nightmare for the United States court system in the same way Shield laws have to be interpreted in the age of the Internet. Cyberspace is an abstract idea that works pragmatically. It operates everywhere and nowhere.

Conclusion

For all this explanation, discussion, and analysis, I don’t know if it will ever work. I’m never going to invest (partially because schoolteachers and liquid assets mix like oil and water, which, for the record, doesn’t bother me, I knew what I was getting into when I declared a major). I would like to see this change the way our financial system works, though.  I revel in the idea that some guy or gal, or a group of people, came up with an idea, coded it, and changed the way the financial system operates forever. They literally created a new economy from the sweat of the brow, from the proper synapses firing. It’s like the genius in the garage building a revolutionary idea cliche. It’s just cool. Plain and simple. 

And with a quote, I’m out.

“If you build it, they will come.”