Tuesday, September 16, 2014

9/16 Peterson Quickie

The New Yorker's Amy Davidson on Adrian Peterson: I feel really strongly about this situation, and I've had a tough time figuring out how to articulate it appropriately. (I probably set a personal record over the last 72 hours of drafted-then-deleted tweets.)

Davidson comes the closest to my larger view: Beyond Peterson's use of the switch and the "whoopings" as his common, very-much-intended practice, there is no such thing as "unintentional" harm. Intended harm is -- if not the entire point -- an inevitable and absolute result. Peterson's (or his lawyers') cynical citation of "discipline" and "parenting" -- and, yes, "intent" -- as a defense is a grim distortion.

Although you wouldn't think so from the way they have handled the Ray Rice situation -- and now the Peterson situation -- the NFL cares most about its image (and, consequently, its income streams). Vikings sponsor Radisson temporarily suspending its sponsorship (most visibly, of the team's backdrop during press conferences) is an important harbinger here.

Then again: Take 6 minutes to read SI's SL Price on the NFL's essential imperviousness, even after (perhaps evidenced by) arguably the worst week in league history.

And one more good read on the state of the NFL: Slate's Stefan Fatsis on the restrained-yet-strained relationship between the media that cover the NFL and the NFL.

Darren Sproles: And here it is, in full relief, the cognitive dissonance between the NFL's sclerotic core and its most dynamic moments -- like the tiny, zig-zagging, untouchable Sproles putting on one of the most impressive Monday Night Football performances in years. Sproles and Chip Kelly are one of those perfect combinations, like Kurt Warner and Mike Martz 15 years ago. Sproles vaults up the NFL's "must-see" list.

ESPN.com's redesign: Starting as an editor at the gloriously branded "ESPNet.SportsZone.com" back in the mid-1990s and since, as both a columnist and an avid user/observer, I have paid close attention to essentially all of ESPN.com's redesigns (shout-out to Satchel Sports, ESPN.com's original name!)

There are always inevitable gripes, but the new version coming today (previewed here) is particularly seismic -- and in a very positive way.

I'm going to explain why in tomorrow's newsletter. (I actually wrote it up for today, but let's save it to lead tomorrow's edition. Or maybe, if it's not overstepping, a separate email I can send later today -- it'll take you just a minute to inhale it.)

The Greatest/Worst Fake Punt Ever: This happened on Saturday but only really gained traction last night -- look for the player who fell over and pretended to pass out (or die???). This is totally absurd but mesmerizing.

SEC West: SB Nation's Bill Connelly walks you through how amazing this group of teams is. I will offer a larger interpretation: It is clear that the new College Football Playoff Selection Committee is committed -- certainly in Year 1 -- to "fair" regional representation, even at the expense of false equivalency:

That somehow FSU's laughably weak schedule it will run through unbeaten is more qualifying than a 1- or even 2-loss SEC runner-up, who will inevitably be shut out of the playoff.

(The upside: When that happens, the SEC will force an expansion to 8 teams -- it is ludicrous that the SEC would be artificially limited to one playoff team per year, and it's also not unreasonable for the rest of the country to be upset if the SEC was given half the playoff spots every year, even if the SEC deserves them.)

Minecraft as the new Legos: I'll admit Minecraft was a blind-spot for me, but after reading this from The Verge's Ben Popper on the parenting/Minecraft nexus, I think it's something I want my kids to try.

(More good Minecraft context: This from Buzzfeed's Joseph Bernstein on the macro media landscape of games like Minecraft signaling a tectonic shift in gaming.)

Nieman Lab on native ads: If you work in journalism or media, you absolutely have to understand the role of native advertising. The Lab's Josh Benton (filing from paternity leave, no less) smartly takes you through the current state of the landscape.

Another really important recent Nieman report, on women in leadership roles in news organizations. (I feel incredibly fortunate to work with fantastic women leaders, with USA TODAY Sports managing editor Mary Byrne at the top of the list.)

(Anyone going to the Online News Association conference in Chicago next week? I'll be there. Be sure to say hi.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

9/15 NFL Week 2 Hangover Quickie

Get the college football hangover directly below...

*This Adrian Peterson story has me sick to my stomach. It's hard for me to believe that the Vikings are going to reinstate him (and the NFL isn't going to do anything about it).

*The most interesting developments coming out of Week 2:
(1) Kirk Cousins Mania in DC.
(2) The Chargers beating the Seahawks.
(3) The Bills being 2-0.
(4) The Saints being 0-2.
(5) The Panthers being 2-0.

*Amazing kids-sports story from the weekend: Our 3rd-grade soccer team played a super-hard-fought battle with a rival and lost 5-4. It was as hard as I have seen the kids play in four years of them all playing together, across all sports. It was actually pretty remarkable.

The ref came over at the end and said he had it scored "5-5." We knew that was wrong. Of course, the kids were jubilant. Our head coach brought the kids together, had them acknowledge that we only scored 4 -- that we lost the game -- and that the unquestionably right thing to do was to report the score to the league as a 5-4 win for the other team.

The best part was that the kids totally knew it was the right thing to do, and there were no complaints. Meanwhile, what a lesson about how you can accept a loss -- even a tough one -- when you know you've come pretty close to giving your best possible effort.

*If you don't understand Minecraft, here's a good explainer about why parents like it.

-- D.S.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

9/14 College Football Hangover Quickie

*If the playoff foursome was determined today, the teams should be (1) Oregon, (2) Texas A&M, (3) Alabama, (4) FSU. (Next team out: Oklahoma)

*What is most surprising is that a mere three weeks into the season, it's unclear if there are any more than a half-dozen teams worthy of the discussion (add in Auburn and, say, Baylor).

*And the best news is that A&M, Alabama and Auburn organically sort themselves out over the next two months (and Oklahoma and Baylor do the same thing on Nov. 8.)

*It's self-reinforcing, but it is laughable to look at the schedule the SEC teams have to play, then compare it to the cupcake schedule played by FSU and a would-be unbeaten Big 12 playoff rep.

*Georgia KO'ed from playoff race: They were a longshot anyway - it was unlikely they'd beat the SEC West champ in the SEC title game, and the SEC isn't getting two playoff teams this year.

*USC is out, too: Not that anyone thought they would be challenging Oregon for the Pac-12's title (and playoff spot). But - Transitive Property Alert - the loss at BC revealed a lot about Stanford, too.

*Speaking of Transitive, Ohio State is indeed mediocre: The same Virginia Tech that waxed them in Columbus last week turned around and was beaten at home yesterday by East Carolina.

*Charlie Strong deserves a lot of leeway in Year 1 at Texas, but he's off to a terrible start. (And sticking in Texas, that was a very tough, decisive loss for Texas Tech at home to Arkansas.)

*Florida: Welp, sometimes things go your way. If it makes Gator-haters happier, UF is going to get drilled at Alabama next week on national TV.

*Next week's best: Auburn at Kansas State on Thursday night, Alabama-Florida (ugh, not really), Mississippi State at LSU and Clemson at FSU.

*Set your fantasy lineups! It's a great Red Zone day today, with 5 games at 4 pm to go with the usual slew kicking off at 1.

-- D.S.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 Goodell Quickie

Obviously, it's hard to ever write about things as inessential as sports (or anything, really) in the shadow of the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Thinking of everyone who lost someone or was impacted in other ways.

In case you missed it: Here is yesterday's newsletter (which went unpublished here for some no-good reason). It's on the journalism implications of the Apple Watch. Don't miss anything -- sign up here to get it in your email.

Roger Goodell: Hoo boy. A couple points I'm paying closest attention to:

*The NFL is all-in on "incompetence" over "malfeasance." That's not a great look, but latter would be/have been a much bigger problem. (Dan Wetzel has a clear-eyed take on that.) The release of the AP story was the first time I allowed myself to even contemplate Goodell might not make it through this. That's not saying he won't -- but that I could even remotely envision it now? Yikes.

*This "independent" investigation is a necessary PR move but not necessarily sufficient. It's hard to say "independent" when the investigator is being overseen by two owners, one of whom (Mara) is on the record supporting Goodell and the other (Rooney) owning a team without an exemplary record as it relates to their star players' run-ins with violence against women. This committee will face much more scrutiny than your typical whitewash.

*What are owners telling the most tapped-in NFL reporters (like Peter King) about Goodell. What is the language? Is it unequivocating or are there cracks? Because cracks are the things that ultimately undo a seemingly untouchable commissioner. The "independent" investigation probably buys Goodell some time with owners -- unless the AP story yesterday turns into something bigger.

*The owners are loyal to Goodell, but they are even more loyal to their business interests. His future rests on the owners' evaluation of whether Goodell can still maximize their investment or whether he has been diminished enough that keeping him around devalues their league even slightly. Because it's a lot easier to find a new commissioner with 100% maximization potential than hope that Goodell can recover whatever he has lost.

*That Goodell is indelibly tarnished is a given here -- he has also overseen the tarnishing of his beloved "Shield." He obviously can live with that, because he loves his job more than he loves the league itself. At a minimum, the Rice story has shown that his monarchical consolidation of power has not been in the best interests of the league.

Upshot: Goodell's entire role rests on unquestioned authority. The questions are there now.

-- D.S.

Monday, September 08, 2014

9/8 NFL Week 1 Hangover Quickie

I had been waiting for the Ray Rice developments to play themselves out, and they have -- the Ravens have cut him. His career is -- if not over -- tabled indefinitely (and certainly more than the 2 games that the NFL would have seen him sit, which now seems laughably low).

The entire situation begs larger questions about how the NFL handled it, how the Ravens handled it and how the media handled it. But there is a pretty good chance that the move by the Ravens will curtail all of those discussions, and it'll be back to football tonight.

The best things I have read today on this were Vox's analysis of where the power in this story is (with the people who have the video footage) and Deadspin's fair questions about how the media was largely led along on this back when it broke.

The whole story casts an entirely deserved gloom over what was otherwise a pretty amazing opening Sunday of the NFL season, full of comebacks and weird results and fantasy awesomeness (and cringing) and the glorious return of NFL Red Zone Channel.

-- D.S.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Sunday 9/7 CFB Hangover Quickie

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If the playoff was held today:

(1) Oregon
(2) Georgia
(3) Texas A&M
(4) Florida State


*Best win of the season: Oregon (at home over Michigan State) edges incumbent Texas A&M (on the road at South Carolina), with USC winning at Stanford sliding into 3rd.

*Michigan State: Big Ten champs, zero chance at playoff? MSU fans should have every reason to believe that the team will run the table from here and finish 12-1 with a Big Ten title. But as it relates to the playoff, they are in trouble.

They are going to remain behind unbeaten (or 1-loss Pac-12 champ) Oregon, unbeaten FSU and whoever wins the SEC (if not the 1-loss SEC runner-up), plus whoever inevitably comes out of the Big 12 unbeaten or with one loss. MSU will have a single quality game on its schedule -- a loss at Oregon. (No, wins over Nebraska and Ohio State in East Lansing won't count as "quality.")

*Confirmed: Ohio State without Braxton Miller is exactly what we thought they were.

*Not ready to believe in Notre Dame yet. But the most overrated team in the country is clearly UCLA.

*Texas is... not good. But Baylor's amazing QB situation is astonishing.

*Sort of can't believe what Florida was able to do on offense (I know, I know: Eastern Michigan is terrible. But still. Last year's team would have won 13-0, not 65-0.)

*Sort of can't believe where Northwestern is at right now -- it's a mess, and the coaching staff doesn't seem to have any capacity to fix it.

*Next week's best: Georgia-South Carolina, potentially the play-in game for the SEC East title.

Enjoy the return of NFL Sundays.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

9/3 Wednesday Quickie

(Republished from my new email newsletter. Get this first by subscribing here, or just come here to see the repub.)

After the lead item: Schefter, Sam, Mo'ne Mania, Crux, "Buzzfeed's X-factor," Kliff Kingsbury, Robin Roberts, AOL's new media honcho, "old person hoops leagues" and more. But first...

: A company with no more than 400,000 paying customers just brought in $70 million in funding because it prints cash in a category that has both historical traction and gobsmacking upside.

OK, let's unpack that, because it had me up last night thinking about it, so I spent some late-night hours organizing some thoughts (if you don't care about the topic, just zip down the email to the other entries - I won't be offended!):

In the past two weeks, $110 million in VC money has been invested into the "daily fantasy" category, which market leader FanDuel - which picked up $70M yesterday - calls "one-day fantasy."

Here's how it works: You put some money in an account. You pick players you think will do well on a given day (or week) and enter them in a league, which costs various amounts to join and presents various parameters for success. If your picks are better than other people's picks in your league, you win more money.

- FanDuel says it has 65% of the daily fantasy market. It also says that it projects to have 500,000 users in 2014. That pegs the total daily fantasy market right now at roughly 800,000 players.

- The total market of current fantasy players -- the vast majority playing in your typical season-long head-to-head or roto-style leagues -- is just north of 40 million.

- While traditional fantasy appears to have reached a saturation point, daily fantasy participation rates could compound at 50% annually for the next five years and still barely scratch the surface of its potential market.

- Why? The superficial hook of daily fantasy is "new games every day," rather than "stuck in a long/lost season." The real hook is that you get to bet (and win) money, based on your ability to project sports outcomes better than other people.

- This is all on the up-and-up -- there is a longer explanation of why/how, but let's just stipulate that. FanDuel's founder offers the most convincing analogue: He says it's just like paying to enter a golf tournament.

- And 80% of FanDuel's participants are paying. FanDuel says it will pay out $400 million this year. Now consider that the losers subsidize the winners, but - like the golf tournament - the platform makes money facilitating everyone's transactions.

Traditional fantasy juggernauts - focused on market share and with a price to play set at "free" -- are largely limited to sponsorship revenue, with (very) modest subscription income for expert advice.

That is a lot of money left on the table. It shouldn't surprise you that the leading mainstream sports media company without a traditional fantasy-game platform -- NBC Sports -- is an investor and partner in FanDuel. (It helps that NBC Sports' digital arm acquired Rotoworld - a subscription-based fantasy-intel site - years ago and installed its forward-looking founder, Rick Cordella, as NBC Sports Digital's top executive.)

- There is too much potential here for the category not to accelerate. It is a matter of time before ESPN, Yahoo, CBS and - yes - the NFL leverage their existing fantasy user bases to create games. (Disclosure: USA TODAY Sports Media Group launched our own daily fantasy game last month.)

- This is where it can get interesting: There can be an "everyone wins" outcome if big players partner with start-ups like FanDuel, DraftKings (which secured $41M last week) or RT Sports (USA TODAY Sports' partner). MLB is involved with DraftKings as its "mini-games" partner (which was presumably a highlighted slide on DraftKings' investor pitch deck).

- On the other hand, the most valuable thing that a company like FanDuel has going for it is that it owns the relationship with the player -- the connection to the bank account. Do big players want to hand that over?

(To be sure, customer acquisition costs are THE costs in the business. Yes, FanDuel and the others have to upgrade their mobile product offerings, but the money is really to subsidize/pay partners and fund marketing.)

- Let's recap: At even modest adoption rates, platform valuations in the space will ultimately combine to nearly a billion dollars, and that's before Disney or Viacom or Yahoo or Fox or the leagues really get involved. Total money in play will quickly combine upwards of billions a year.

The two most glaring opportunities here, beyond the growth of FanDuel and its direct competitors:

(1) Big players build (or buy) their own daily fantasy platforms, leverage their existing user bases and directly own the relationships (as Starwave/ESPN, Commissioner/CBS and Yahoo did in the mid-1990s).

(2) Start-ups in the payment space like Venmo or Tilt (which had an interesting partnership with ESPN for this fantasy football season) or even a new start-up entirely dedicated to sports transactions (or, ahem, Apple) insert themselves into the most critical piece of the chain -- the financial transaction between a player's bank account and the game platform. Players can take their account to any game platform. Hard to believe a billion(s)-dollar industry can't beget a couple of million-dollar seed bets to play in the middle.

Again, the takeaway: A company with no more than 400,000 paying customers just brought in $70 million in funding because it prints cash in a category that has both historical traction and gobsmacking upside. Pay attention.

More Loves:

*Adam Schefter: The preeminent sports-news transactional reporter of the era.

Transactional news is a tough gig these days, because as fast as something is broken, it is a commodity. But you have to admire Schefter's ethic and his results; someone is going to be first, and, when it comes to NFL news, it is Schefter with an astonishing plurality. By every account, he is also a really good person, which makes it even easier to appreciate his success.

*Michael Sam on the Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones the GM loves the help on defense. Jerry Jones the Owner loves -- as Don Van Natta put it on Twitter -- Sam's ability to help "change the subject." (Haven't seen a piece of sportswriting this year get a wider, better reception than Van Natta's profile of Jones.)

*Mo'ne Davis: The Summer of Mo'ne continues, this time at Dodger Stadium, where she threw out the first pitch, signed an autograph for Yasiel Puig and met doppelganger Clayton Kershaw.

*Crux, the Boston Globe's stand-alone site dedicated to covering Catholicism. I am extremely bullish on hyper-topical news sites -- to the extent that a topic with a billion potential consumers qualifies as "hyper."

(Then again, it was five years ago that I launched TimTeblog.com, which was a hyper-topical site focused on Tim Tebow, who has a pretty big following of his own. In retrospect, there was a much bigger opportunity there that I missed -- enthusiasm for all things Tebow remains extremely high.)

The details in the Nieman coverage of the Globe's effort dovetails with my "starters vs. stars" theory, which is quickly developing into stars-as-starters.

*Dao Nguyen, Buzzfeed's "secret weapon," who heads up the company's all-important data group. I got to meet her at a conference earlier this year and see her in small-group settings as we got into the weeds -- I was blown away by how brilliant she is.

(And I didn't even know at the time that she was at Concrete Media during the same time I was at Bolt -- Concrete and Bolt were fixtures of "Silicon Alley" during the original Web bubble.)

Bolt was a proto-social network for teens whose IPO was scheduled for the week after the first big stock market nosedive in 2000, and that ended that.

It struck me yesterday that teens who were on Bolt back in 1999/2000 are now 30+(!)

*Kliff Kingsbury: I'm a sucker for all things Kingsbury -- last March, I produced a SXSW session featuring Kingsbury and my colleague George Schroeder, and the coach was awesome. Bruce Feldman debunks some of the Gosling-ification of Kingsbury here.

If you had your pick of any coach in the country to lead your college program for the next 8-10 years, your wish list would probably be (1) Chip Kelly, (2) Kevin Sumlin, (3) Kingsbury -- with (1) in the NFL for the foreseeable future and (2) headed there eventually. (And I wonder if Kingsbury - like Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern - is entirely content with where he is, making him just as unattainable.)

*Robin Roberts, media impresario.

*AOL's Luke Beatty: Taking over the AOL Brands division from Susan Lyne, he is in charge of media brands in tech, autos and entertainment. I worked for Luke at Associated Content, and I have never met a more sincere person, who wanted to get the best out of me both for the company's benefit and my own. I really enjoyed working for him. AC's growth and exit, followed by Luke's work at Yahoo, with TechStars and, most recently, at AOL, is a testament to his talent and vision. And he's a huge sports fan, which is always a plus.

*Reinventing "Manny Being Manny" (via FoxSports.com)

*Spencer Hall's weekly college football recap: I'll read anything he writes, but this conceit is particularly terrific.

*That first game back after the summer in your weekly "old person" basketball game: That moment when you think you kept yourself in pretty good shape over the summer, only to find out it's not quite "old person basketball game" shape.

9/2 "Who's Your Four?" Quickie

It took all of one day of college football for the traditional "Who's No. 1?" discussion to become "Who's your four?"

It is absurd (but amazing) to project college football's four-team playoff field after a single week of play, but we're all doing it anyway.

I woke up on Sunday morning and flipped on SportsCenter just in time for Kirk Herbstreit's Top Four. Throughout the weekend, everyone weighed in. Instantly, it was addictive and fun.

My turn:
(1) Texas A&M
(2) Georgia
(3) Florida State
(4) North Dakota State

The playoff is having exactly the impact we talked about last week - it widens the discussion.

Never mind that the SEC champ - regardless of number of losses - is guaranteed a spot. Never mind that Florida State is guaranteed a spot if it goes unbeaten, despite a soft schedule.

Consequently, we are really talking about two spots up for grabs, among three teams: a would-be unbeaten Pac-12 champ, a would-be unbeaten Big 12 champ and a would-be unbeaten Big Ten champ.

That is a big reason why this weekend's Oregon-Michigan State game so intriguing. It's the "All Other Things Being Equal" Bowl, as "unbeaten" inevitably becomes "one-loss."

The Top 25 is a nice vanity metric and helps to frame games worth paying attention to next weekend, but "Who's your four?" is the ultimate question of the day -- and the season.

More Faves:

*Multiple-pitcher no-hitters: More compelling than single-pitcher no-hitters. There have been only six since September 1, 1976 (compared to 80 no-hitters thrown by a single pitcher since then).

I would add that in the hierarchy of no-hitters, the totally unexpected no-hitter -- by a pitcher for whom the no-hitter will most definitely be THE career highlight, by far -- is still superior to multiple-pitcher no-hitters.

*NFL rookie starting QBs in Week 1. Derek Carr may have been the 4th quarterback taken overall, but he had the best (worst?) opportunity to emerge as a starter of any rookie QB. (That doesn't keep the Raiders from settling near the bottom of Bill Barnwell's preview of the NFL's 8 worst teams.)

*JJ Watt: A longtime favorite among the 8-and-under fan base in my house. (I presume he's a favorite among kids whoare NFL fans more generally -- how could he not be?)

*Kevin Durant finding sneaker clarity. I really did think he'd end up with home-state Under Armour. It's easy to see the appeal for Nike - no basketball star feels more accessible than KD, and he has at least another ten years ahead of him in a career that will end with him being among the Top 10 players ever.

*Cookie Monster and John Oliver report the news.

*Speaking of Michigan State, if you want to understand their incredible defense, no one will explain it better to get you ready this weekend than Grantland's Chris B. Brown does here.

*CJR on Elise Andrew, the little-known 25-year-old impresario behind "I Love F---ing Science," a journalism start-up clearly worth a little more attention.

*Lockhart Steele blogging daily again. (Hell of a month for Vox.com.)

*Giving myself 30 seconds to decide what Big Idea I'd focus on first if I was the new publisher of the Washington Post.

*The Awl's "Fall Preview" (via the inimitable Alex Balk)

*Madden '15 on the iPhone as Labor Day kids' distraction.

*One more time: Don Van Natta Jr on Jerry Jones.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

8/31 College Football Kickoff Hangover Quickie

If the season ended today and based on quality of win (including who they played), these four teams would make my playoff ballot:

(1) Texas A&M
(2) Georgia
(3) Florida State
(4) North Dakota State

Next four:

 And here's my Heisman ballot:

(1) Kenny Hill
(2) Todd Gurley
(3) Marcus Mariota

Good start, Florida weather-cancellation aside.

-- D.S.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

8/29 Weekend Quickie

Republished from my new newsletter. To get it in your email in-box as soon as it's ready, subscribe here.

This weekend will kick off my 14th fall of Florida Gators football fandom.

I came by it honestly -- but not because I grew up in Florida or went to college there or had a parent who passed down the passion.

On the same first date in the summer of 2001 when I fell in love with my future wife, I fell in love with her football team.

What I found instantly addictive: The expectations -- championship or bust. (My expectations with her were slightly more modest -- just that we’d end up getting married. No biggie!)

Part of the appeal of college football is that at its highest level, it allows for merely a smidgen of error: “Every game counts.” Flukes derail contenders, but champions are not flukes.

Few teams manage to actually make it through a season unbeaten - that scrum of near-mint teams (plus gobs of cash) begat the four-team playoff system making its debut this season.

The margin of error is now slightly wider -- instead of 4 or 5 teams with a legit chance to win a national title, the pool is closer to double that.

One unintended consequence will be that, not unlike college basketball, teams will be celebrated for just making it to the (lowercase) final four, not only for winning the title.

That’s OK, though: At the core of college football fandom has always been expectations management (or mismanagement), whether that means “national champs” or “bowl-eligible.”

And if the wider playoff berth’s biggest and best outcome is that it expands the number of fans who will have myopically high expectations -- that’s an amazing outcome.*

* - Except when your team - cough - falls into a Swamp-sized rut.

*Kenny Hill: It’s an open question whether the Texas A&M QB - who had a break-out performance last night in A&M’s win at South Carolina - should be nicknamed “Kenny Football” or “Johnny Who?”

*Some worthwhile weekend reads, if you haven’t gotten to them yet from earlier this week:

"Jerry Football"
Don Van Natta, ESPN

"The Right Thing To Do vs. The State of Florida"
Michael Kruse, SBNation

"Confessions of a Fat Bastard"
Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly

"How to Be a Saint"
Kevin Van Valkenburg, ESPN

"Maybe the home page is alive after all"
Joseph Lichterman, NiemanLab

"The 60-Second Interview with The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson"

"The Problem With the Black Cast Member on SNL"
Wesley Morris, Grantland

"The Glue"
Bryan Curtis, Grantland

Outtakes from SI's Kobe profile
Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated
(Original story here.)

College football opening essay
Spencer Hall, SBNation

*What I’m watching on Saturday: Florida-Idaho and Northwestern-Cal are locked in as personal rooting interests, but keep your eye on Michigan’s rematch with App State to start the day, the late-afternoon Auburn-Arkansas grudge match (in which Auburn might score 70) and, in primetime, how defending-champ Florida State looks against a solid Oklahoma State.

*Last thought about expectations: Typically, I would say that it’s healthiest to have modest expectations about almost everything (including this email!), but it’s entirely OK to have a small, benign corner where you allow yourself to have irrationally high expectations (and the capacity to deal with the almost-inevitable disappointment). Talking to you, Alabama and Oregon fans.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

8/28 Newsletter Quickie

I published issue No. 2 of my new newsletter today -- never miss it by signing up at TinyLetter (it takes 10 seconds, max). It's coming along. I'm finding my footing. It's a work-in-progress, and probably will be for a few weeks, at least. I'd always like to make it a little faster.

I'll also probably start publishing it here, because why not? Here you go:

"Jerry, just remember: It's not a lie if you believe it."
-- George Costanza

Josh Shaw: This is the USC football fabulist (ne team captain) who claimed to have injured his ankles jumping from an upper-story balcony to save his drowning nephew -- to widespread, fevered acclaim -- only to reveal it was a lie.

The piece of this that fascinates me is not that the story turned out not to be true, but that given its uplifting, made-for-virality details, we all have been conditioned to assume it was true.

Why? As Shaw realized he would have to make up a fiction for himself, as he weighed the possibilities of believability, he decided on the most Upworthy-ish story possible. The most social story possible.

Our attention is fleeting -- we read a headline (yes, sometimes a bait-y one), we click a "like," we pass things along -- especially the feel-good stuff. That's not some cranky critique; that's how people have implicitly told us they want to consume.

This is the real "curiosity gap" -- in the moment, it didn't quite matter that it wasn't real; your Facebook feed, your favorite sports-news outlet, your in-person "did-you-hear" source made it real.

SeatGeek: The engine for finding tickets to sports and cultural events announced new $35 million funding, led by Accel, the same VC firm that led a similarly sized round in Vox Media a year ago. (I'm a fan of the product and the team, who organize the excellent On Deck Conference, which I participated in last year.)

But much of the enthusiasm is reserved for who ELSE was in the round: Peyton and Eli Manning. Nas. Carmelo Anthony (through his new VC fund). An owner of the Boston Celtics. Shane Battier. And, curiously, Stanford University Athletics. Athletes getting into early-stage investing is a pretty well-known thing at this point. But that last one -- Stanford Athletics -- feels like a harbinger, and other universities should be paying close attention.

With a free-market implosion pending for big-time college athletics, I could see more universities (who are almost all currently heavily invested in various funds, VC and otherwise) and their high-net-worth athletic departments leveraging their athletics cash flow and hedging their increasingly uncertain market positions by creating funds to invest in venture-backed early-stage companies that fit an athletic department's thesis of the future.

And if an athletic department doesn't have a thesis of the future yet, that better move up on the to-do list.

Speaking of innovation in ticketing: Re/code's Peter Kafka reports on Aziz Ansari's interesting way of using Twitter and texting to generate exclusive enthusiasm among his fans for upcoming shows. (Also: Ansari's partner is David Cho, publisher of Grantland and former GM of The Awl and all-around smart operator. I could see this working for a much wider range of entertainers and athletes.)

Parenting: If you pay your kid to do chores, this from the NYT's indispensable Ron Lieber is worth a read. (I adhere to Lieber's philosophy: We don't link kids' allowance to chores; chores are part of their responsibility as part of the family. The allowance is to help teach them financial literacy.)

Just in time for college football's kickoff tonight: Every year, Spencer Hall writes an essay to kick off the new college football season -- often only tangentially relating to college football. I look forward to it every August, and it never disappoints. This year's edition is no exception. "Sense has never made a dent in how people ****, drink, or watch football. They are inelastic ghosts with tin ears and large, bellowing mouths."

Now, I just need to get Verizon FIOS to allow me to watch the SEC Network in the out-of-SEC market that I live in.

And another fantastic football read: ESPN's Don Van Natta with a definitive profile of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Enjoy it this afternoon or save it for the weekend -- either way, put it on your list.

File away this quote: "If anything, we need to make it clear that you can use Twitter without tweeting." -- Adam Bain, Twitter president of global revenue and partnerships, on CNBC this morning (h/t @sdkstl)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday 8/27 Faves Quickie

*Finally broke the ice and published the first edition of my new email newsletter today. Sign up if you want it in your inbox. (I'm not quite sure why I wouldn't republish it here, too...)

*Mainly, I needed to just publish -- I was thinking WAY too much about it and WAY too concerned about it being profound or perfect (as if I have that capacity anyway).

*Anyway: What you'll find in today's email is a quick take on Twitch -- the money quote: "I'm not saying Twitch is the next ESPN; I'm saying Twitch looks a lot like the original ESPN."

*College football starts tonight, but things really feel like they get ramped up tomorrow night with A&M vs. South Carolina -- arguably the best game of the weekend. Get ready for the weekend via EDSBS.

*Best thing I've read so far today: Bill Barnwell on the mythology of the "It" factor in the NFL.

*And the best sports thing I read yesterday was Michael Kruse on Devaughn Darling.

-- D.S.

Monday, August 25, 2014

8/25 First Day of School Quickie

*Really had every intention of starting the new email newsletter today, but I underestimated that the First Day of School (Gabe 3rd, Jonah K) would KO my morning writing time. Still time to sign up in time to be there for issue 1.1!

*I might have talked about the first day of school, which was as emotionally mixed as ever -- especially with Jonah making the leap to elementary school.

*If you're curious, in our night-before-school Talk, we emphasize two very basic things to them: (1) Being friendly to EVERYONE (especially showing compassion for the students who are different/new/etc.) and (2) being a meaningful contributor to the class by showing respect to the teacher/classmates and trying their best.

*And, yes, we bought each kid a special back-to-school gift -- colorful Nike Elite basketball socks, which have been and remain THE fashion accessory for elementary school boys.

*I might have talked about the Quartz redesign, which I love. Their new "home page" is very Quickish-ish, which is affirming -- if (very) delayed gratification.

*I might have talked about Chris Collinsworth getting into early-stage media company investing, buying a chunk of ProFootballFocus, which is less a site for fans than a data analyst for teams.

*DraftKings raised $41M (!) to continue to dominate daily fantasy gaming (along with FanDuel) and they bought StarStreet, whose founder I first met during Quickish's very early days. Congrats to him.

*The most interesting thing I have read today is Gabe Sherman's piece in NY Mag on the decline of Time Inc., a piece that had me alternatingly snorting and smacking my forehead at executive decision-making over the past 20 years.

(Disclaimer: I was a Time-Warner employee at SI in 1998-99, working on the digital efforts - it shouldn't surprise you that Peter King was as forward-looking about it as anyone in the building, which is why he is publishing his own site right now and the rest of the place -- not SI, but Time Inc. -- is having trouble.)

*But, in thinking about it, I probably would have written about the timeless allure of the fantasy football draft (I have one tonight) and, maybe, how Gabe is ready to draft his own team.

-- D.S.

Friday, August 22, 2014

8/22 Friday Mo'Ne Mania Quickie

*Have you taken 10 seconds to sign up for my new email newsletter yet? Do it here.

*Mo'Ne Mania: It's over. But she won't be forgotten -- the most iconic Little League player ever.

*NFL: The Eagles are going to be awesome to watch - easy pick to win NFC East.

*MLB: That's 10 straight wins for the Nats, most of which -- like last night -- have been walk-offs.

(Is it any coincidence that the night after he takes an extra 30 seconds to sign autographs for Gabe and Jonah that Denard Span scores the winning run? I don't think so.)

*Clayton Kershaw remains ridiculous. I wish I could buy MLB on-demand just to watch his starts.

*NBA: So the T'wolves are going to end up with Wiggins, Bennett and Thad Young. Not bad!

*Great weekend read: Tommy Tomlinson on Jared Lorenzen for ESPN.

*Simpsons marathon: Today's lineup includes "Homer At the Bat," the best sports-pop culture mash-up in TV history.

*Hey, Verizon FIOS: I'm a fan, but how about finally getting on board for SEC Network?

*Final weekday before the kids go back to school. Whew.

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

8/21 Thursday Mo'Ne Mania Quickie

*Only a few days left to be there for Day 1 of my new email newsletter. It takes 10 seconds: Sign up here!

*Mo'Ne Davis Mania: 6 Ks, but tagged for a few runs that ultimately cost Philly the game vs. Nevada. They are in a must-win vs. equally desperate Chicago.

*Kevin Durant gets $265M offer from Under Armour: Would be shocked if Nike matched, and it's the most interesting endorsement/marketing deal in a generation -- since LeBron picked Nike, arguably. UA's offer reportedly includes paying for a rec center in the name of Durant's mom, but I'd also love to see Durant and UA collaborate on an early-stage investment fund.

*Parenting: I relayed this on Twitter last night, but I took Gabe and Jonah to the Nats game last night, and we were on pace to stick around for a complete game 2-0 win until Tyler Clippard gave up the tying runs in the 8th. We had to get going. So we listened to the rest of the game in the car ride home, which is its own novel experience for the kids -- it's dark, you're hurtling down the highway and the excitable baritone of the local play-by-play person is cutting through the void. Naturally, the Nats won in a walk-off in the bottom of the 9th, and the three of us capped the night by screaming our heads off along with WJFK's Charlie Slowes. Not quite as fun as being at the park for it, but not bad.

(Oh, also: We had pretty amazing seats - first row behind first base, directly to the right of the dugout and photographer well, and new fave Denard Span took a few minutes before the game to sign autographs for kids, including Gabe and Jonah. Hat-tip to the autograph-hounding teen who crashed our row for letting us borrow his Sharpie. Then, after the top of the 4th, Adam LaRoche flipped the inning-ending ball to Gabe -- Jonah and I were on the concourse getting him Dippin' Dots, obviously. The enthusiastic 9-year-old girl sitting directly behind Gabe -- dressed in near-full Nats uniform -- later got her own ball from Nats 1B coach Tony Tarasco, along with a T-shirt from the Nats cheerleaders, after me and her parents pointed frantically at her until the cheerleaders spotted her. Between the seats and the ball and the autographs, it's possible that at 8 and 5, Gabe and Jonah had the peak at-the-game experience they'll ever have.)

*College Football lead-up: The entire SB Nation college football preview section is worth consuming, but my favorite piece is Bill Connelly on how coaches rebuild programs. People are also rightfully loving the maps feature.

(Oh, and Ian Boyd on the evolution of the read-option is also pretty fascinating -- I immediately started thinking about how to incorporate "pop plays" into the 3rd-grade flag-football playbook.)

Other stuff that I was obsessed with yesterday:

*Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele -- one of the smartest people I know in media -- on "the retro-futuristic future of blogging" (including a generous promo of my new email newsletter).

*SI's Pete Thamel with a profile of DC AAU impresario/drug kingpin Curtis Malone, who I think is one of the most fascinating figures not just in DC sports, but nationally.

*Quartz's Zach Seward on why "Twitter is TV," which I'm directionally in agreement with (and 100% think it makes for a catchy phrase), but I think it's much more about "live" than "TV."

*Fantasy football: Matthew Berry's annual "Love/Hate" fantasy football advice column for ESPN.com. I look forward to it every year.

-- D.S.