Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday 08/23 (Very) Quickie

Here's some travel advice: Don't fly into a hurricane. But I'm down in Florida for my annual summer pilgrimage, rain (plane-shuddering winds) or shine.

Meanwhile, somehow I think that "Delaware Blue Hens" will become a new bandwagon, with the selection of Delaware senator Joe Biden as Barack Obama's running mate.

USA Oops dispatches Argentina, will play Spain for gold overnight later tonight: I don't think Spain can or will keep it close.

And there is an argument to be made that the way this team has gone through the field is more impressive than the Dream Team in '92; back then, the world hoops community was immature -- at best. Now, teams like Argentina, Spain, Greece and Lithuania are legitimately very good. And the US is obliterating them.

(Beyond the gold, I'm sure the team is thrilled that with a gold medal, I will drop the "USA Oops" label, as they will have earned being called "USA Hoops" again.)

Rays beat White Sox in possible AL playoff preview: Wow, if Rocco Baldelli can sustain the pop he showed last night (1st HR since May '07), that's a huge boost for Tampa, above and beyond a mere single win... In the other possible AL playoff preview, the Twins beat the Angels in Anaheim behind August sensation Denard Span (3/5, HR, 4 RBI)... Tim Lincecum (14th W, crosses 200-K mark for season) may be the best pitcher in baseball, but I'm still not sure he earns the NL Cy ahead of CC Sabathia if the season ends today... (Johan, another winner Friday, probably still has a claim to "best pitcher in baseball)... Speaking of a former Best Pitcher in Baseball, Greg Maddux got shelled by the Phillies in his first start with LAD...

NFL Preseason: QB Watch. Aaron Rodgers: 18/22 for 193 yards and a TD (with a rushing TD thrown in) -- not bad for a 3rd preseason game... Matt Ryan: 15/21 for 102 yds and a TD...and a win. I think Ryan-as-starter has been (and is now fully) inevitable... JT O'Sullivan: Wins SF starting QB job.

More later. Maybe the sun will even come out later...

-- D.S.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday 08/22 (Very) Quickie

On a flight down to Florida - great timing, right? Can't add a link to the column from where I am, but if you go to yesterday's link below and click on my byline, you'll get to the latest one - in which I get closure on the Olympics. Isn't that something we could all use? More later. - D.S.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Weight Watchers: Fantasy Football For Diets

Clive Thompson is a smart writer. Here, he compares Weight Watchers' online tracking system to role-playing games.

When I first used it, I thought it was like "Fantasy Football for dieting" -- you get a screen of stats and options and you manage them, hoping for a daily or weekly "win." (Of course, I wasn't smart enough to write it up and present it as thoughtfully as Thompson.)

As Weight Watchers continues to try to market the system to guys, they should consider that.

-- D.S.

Henry Abbott on Starting Your Blog Career

Like Henry, I get a lot of emails from young/new bloggers asking for advice. I will now point them to this wonderfully succinct summary on TrueHoop, which covers the big points, but I'll sum it up:

Find something that you care about and put in a ton of effort covering it in a way that no one else does, serving the community that would care the most.

That's a pretty malleable statement: It could mean you're the only one covering a specific niche (good); it could mean you're the best at covering a more competitive niche (great for you, but very very difficult); it definitely means that effort counts, regardless; it definitely means that more focus is better; it definitely means that you should worry less about getting that "big" page-view hit from Deadspin and more about your core audience; it means that the next "big" things in sports blogging will assuredly involve some form of innovation.

This is one of my favorite topics in the world, and I could go on about it for a while, but I'll spare you and leave it there for now.

-- D.S.

Thursday 08/21 A.M. Quickie:
Bolt, Jackson, Upshaw, NL West, More

I referenced this yesterday on the blog, but his jaw-dropping WR performance in the 200 is a good bookend with Tuesday's SN column lead defending his performance in the 100: Usain Bolt is the most electrifying track talent that most of the world has ever seen.

Today's SN column lead about Bolt isn't nearly as good as Tuesday's, I don't think, but it's an important closure to the point -- not only can he joyously win gold (100), but he can focus and break WRs previously thought untouchable.

I would say Bolt has surpassed Carl Lewis -- Bolt isn't in Jesse Owens territory; then again, no one under the age of 80 would have even the vaguest first-hand recollection of Owens.

So, for all intents and purposes, Bolt's the gold standard. Check that: Golds standard. (I desperately want him to just line up on the track during a down moment and run the 400, just to see what kind of time he'd put up.)

Meanwhile, NFL union honcho Gene Upshaw is dead, and it's a big deal. A bigger deal than Steven Jackson's return from his holdout, I should say, which will still generate headlines and fantasy questions.

In MLB, there is the state of the NL West, the state of the top of the AL and the state of the Top 5 All-Time Home Run List.

Full SN column here. More later. (And if you've been tracking the blog over the past few weeks, you know I'm not kidding.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Usain Bolt: Best Since Jesse Owens in 1936

In case you missed it Tuesday, this is what I wrote about Usain Bolt's win in the 100. I think it foreshadowed his performance -- and epic accomplishment -- today:
Let me defend Usain Bolt from prudes like Bob Costas, who apparently felt that someone whose week-long display of flamboyant sycophancy of Michael Phelps qualifies him as a journalistic paragon who might preach unchallenged from the anchor's pulpit:

Rather than defiling the spirit of the Olympics, Bolt embodied them. He cared so little for the pedestrian concept of a world record -- only for the thrill of Olympic gold -- that he put that world record at risk to celebrate the only success that mattered to him and his country.

Don't blame him for being so far ahead at 85 meters that he could celebrate early; surely, if anyone in the rest of the field was closer to him, he would have dug in -- again, not for any world record, but for this Olympic ideal Costas claim he disrespects.

Bolt did just enough to accomplish what he came to Beijing to do: Win gold in the 100. Any effort beyond that -- punish your enemies! -- would have been the very opposite of the spirit of the Games. And so everything after that was limited to his celebration of his joy.

What could be more Olympian than that?
His 200 was focused, like a laser. No preening, just "I'll-take-that-world-record."

Between the two, it was the most impressive display on the track -- Olympic or otherwise -- since Jesse Owens in Berlin in 1936.

Usain Bolt's World Record 200 Meter Run

It's only a spoiler if you buy into NBC's ridiculous and draconian and consumer-unfriendly policies of waiting on a 12-hour story before showing it on video.

Here is a video (via Daily Motion), but it will likely only be up for minutes more, if that. I don't speak French, but these French announcers' ravings are 10x better than Ato Boldin.

Oh, and after the controversial finish in the 100, it looks like Bolt had his sights set on breaking that Michael Johnson record -- all. the. way.

(It's not 8 medals, but the WAY that Bolt has run -- not just two golds, not just 2 new world records, not just in two marquee events like the 100 and 200...but the dominance.)

-- D.S.

Best. Obama T-Shirt. Ever.

You've got to have the high school hoops throwback. (From Wizznutzz, of course. Through their Mothering Hut T-shirt store.)

Dork that I am, I made my own homemade version about 4 months ago with the number 25 -- Obama has been seen wearing both No. 25 and No. 23. This 23 version looks way cooler.

BlogPoll Top 25 Results: Preseason
Georgia Is No. 1 Among Bloggers

Only the most credible and authentic "formal" college football poll in the country! (And I say that not just because I am a voting member.)

The composite group is listed here. Individual ballots can be found here. Georgia is the No. 1, but like the AP and Coaches, it is a mere plurality.

Without standard Shanoff hyperbole, the BlogPoll might be my favorite thing ever. I am so happy it's back.

BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Preseason

My preseason BlogPoll ballot. Please consider that I have ranked teams in order of how I think they will finish the season, not their relative strength today. My s.o.p. is to change the ranking based on actual on-field results immediately after Week 1, impacted weekly thereafter.

1. Florida
2. Ohio State
3. USC
4. Georgia
5. Oklahoma
6. Missouri
7. West Virginia
8. Auburn
9. Clemson
10. BYU
11. Texas
12. Texas Tech
13. LSU
14. Wisconsin
15. South Florida
16. Oregon
17. Tennessee
18. VA Tech
19. Kansas
20. Penn State
21. Arizona State
22. Wake Forest
23. Illinois
24. Utah
25. Northwestern

A few things, given the emphasis I have made over the past few weeks:

Yes, by putting Ohio State over USC, I think that OSU will win at USC a month from now. Yes, that represents a change in my thinking since last month. Yes, that should quash at least some of the notion out there that I am wholly and irrationally anti-OSU.

Yes, by putting Florida over Georgia, I think that Florida will beat Georgia in the Cocktail Party. (UF has the revenge factor; UGA shouldn't have used their chit a year ago, when they really needed to lull the Gators last year and surprise them this year.) And, yes, I pick Florida to win the national title, mostly because I think Florida will win the SEC title and I think the SEC champ earn win the national title again. You can holler at me for bias, which would be fair, but please note that, among others, Sunday Morning QB's Matt Hinton and CFB OCD-case Phil Steele both picked Florida to be No. 1. So it's not totally crazy.

Wednesday 08/20 A.M. Quickie:
Rays, Lola, Bolt, Boldin, More

I think if you haven't put him in this category before, Usain Bolt qualifies as must-see for the way he is absolutely dominating the field in the 200 in the same way he did in the 100 (last night I was left wondering if Bolt decided to try to challenge Jeremy Wariner in the 400, how that might go -- understanding that 100/200 specialization is far different than 400 specialization, but Bolt seems that transcendent.)

That said, I led today's SN column with the Rays, for a couple reasons: (1) The milestone that they took over the best record in the AL. (2) Their 2nd straight win over the Angels in their mid-week series, which makes it 6 of 8 on the season over LAA, purported to be the best team in the league. Even without Longoria and Crawford, the Rays -- having won 9 of their last 11 -- are the best team in baseball. (Their record is the same as the Cubs, but the Rays have their win total in the AL.)

Meanwhile, I had my first fantasy draft last night -- people fall into two categories: Love to hear about other people's fantasy drafts or don't-tell-me-about-your-fantasy-draft types. I'll spare you the details, but note that through the first 6 rounds (and I was picking 13/14 so I had 2 picks virtually in a row, then a 24-pick wait in-between), I felt more in control of my drafting than ever. No panic, which is a first. Of course, from Round 8 through Round 12, I was a mess.

Anyway, I'll put my draft results in the comments, so you won't have to suffer through it here.

Here is the complete SN column from today. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Joe Posnanski and His Deal With

Joe probably likes the thrill of writing for his boyhood idol, but the intrigue is that wanted to publish Joe's blog posts. Not exclusively -- just re-published at the same time on, too (where they will presumably get way more page views than they do on his blog). And they didn't seem to want to roll up his blog under the SI Digital umbrella, either (which would give his blog's traffic, too). Interesting.

Much like your fantasy league's third-round run on receivers, I'm calling a mini-run on sites doing similar "syndication-ish" deals with other bloggers. Who cares if it lives in two places? Following up yesterday's post about, content portability is a pre-eminent strategy right now. That could mean getting on your phone; it could mean getting elements of your fantasy interface on your Facebook page; and it could mean content living -- in its exact form -- on

Cannibalization is a myth in online sports.

UPDATE: By the way, much like the well-spring of good athlete blogs shook up mainstream sports media's assumptions about the way the world works, Posnanski's news could have similar impact. It's very simple: Start your own indie blog -- if your newspaper will let you (Posnanski obviously had leverage in his negotiation) -- then cultivate it (and to Joe's credit, he did, embracing rather than mocking the medium's powers) and then find yourself cutting a distribution deal with a national outlet for the blog's content.

-- D.S.

Phelps Reprises Spitz: What a Great Cover

It had to be done this way. Although I will say that the old-school chain that they used for the '72 Olympic medals is way cooler than the lame ribbon on the '08 models.

Is Michael Phelps The Tiger of Swimming?

Can Michael Phelps turn swimming into a bigger sport with more traction than just the past week at the Olympics? Here are five tactics he and his team might consider, not to impact the number of people joining swim clubs, but to impact the number of casual fans consuming:

Set modest goals: Few sports attract "year-round" attention. Swimming would upgrade simply by going from quadrennial to creating a one-week-a-year buzz around its World Championships. It's possible they could add a second week with an annual U.S. championships -- but only if they featured Phelps. The bottom line: Try to own a single day out of every year with sports fans; ironically, that's more than enough.

Market himself: For better or worse, Phelps is his own best marketing tool. TV networks can't get enough. Marketers can't get enough. Fans, apparently, can't get enough. He will have to boost interest by keeping himself at the center of the swimming universe - that means racing. Or, at the very least, sitting in the announcing booth next to Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines.

(Take a lesson from Tiger: Without Woods present, golf has dropped off the radar.)

Market others: Phelps should take a lesson from the rappers he enjoys listening to before races. They develop proteges, but incubate them by attaching their own names to them (Dre > Eminem > 50 Cent > Etc.). Think the swimmers at "Phelps Swim Academy" won't get extra notice?

Deploy gimmicks: Phelps should create his own, privately owned swimming series that brings together the biggest names for exhibition showdowns, including 1-on-1 matches. How about a men's 4x100 freestyle relay rematch? Or a rematch with Cavic? Hell, you could put Phelps in a pool by himself -- against the clock -- and it would be interesting. Wouldn't you be curious to see how Phelps could do if he just tried out a random event, like the 1500?

Use his leverage: Based on NBC's lapping devotion to all things Phelps -- and presuming Phelps is going to compete in 2012 -- Phelps should "ask" NBC Universal to help fund not only his swimming series, but also to give it primetime time slots and promotion.

-- D.S.

Next post scheduled for 2 p.m.: Another new sports online social network?

Tuesday 08/19 A.M. Quickie:
Bolt, Sabathia, Giants, More

During a hectic a.m., just a link to today's SN column, which leads with a defense of Usain Bolt as not only NOT a crass showboater, but -- quite the opposite -- the embodiment of the Olympic ideal.

More later. -- D.S.

Monday, August 18, 2008 Does David Katz Have The Next Big Thing Or The Next Quokka?

Last week, I talked about Jeff Ma's Citizen Sports -- they are taking fan-engagement activities (like fantasy sports) where the fans are already, specifically Facebook.

David Katz, formerly the head of Yahoo Sports and once a heavy hitter in the online sports world, is going entirely the opposite direction with, profiled in today's NY Times.

The premise is that fans will join a new social network (or should I say yet another social network) -- one entirely geared toward sports fans (or should I say yet another one entirely geared toward sports fans).

Katz's site will have personalized news feeds (commodity), community-building features (cliche) and a twist on fantasy sports where friends challenge friends in weird bets (hmm).

That last one is intriguing, but it begs the question, as does the rest of the business plan: In an era where "open" is the key to basically everything, why would you launch a closed system?

Social networks live and die on what business types call "network effects" -- the more people who use, the more valuable a product becomes (think of the telephone or IM).

Katz starts out behind in the game simply by insisting that is its own closed community (in-bound personalized newsfeeds of your favorite teams don't count -- and are entirely commoditized, anyway).

Unless tons of fans sign on to the system and make it as robust as Facebook, why wouldn't you simply expand your Facebook experience to incorporate your sports needs?

(Or, frankly, why wouldn't you continue to service your sports needs as you have for a decade online? As one analyst quoted points out: Fans haven't really expressed a lot of dissatisfaction with online sports.)

Adoption -- at scale -- is going to be a challenge. There wasn't any indication in the piece of how Katz plans to migrate massive numbers of fans to his platform. Is he planning to get fans already comfortable with social networks (like on Facebook) to pick up another one or spend less time at their existing ones for his? Is he planning to get fans who aren't into social networks to dip their toe in through something as familiar as sports?

It's unclear, although Katz insists the product is cool enough that it alone will win fans over -- comparing it to the DVR is setting a high bar.

I haven't spent a ton of time on the site itself, but my first interaction doesn't look promising. A pop-up asks me what team I love (that's fine). Then it asks me what team I hate -- stop right there. I have been analyzing the "rivalry" strategy arguably longer than anyone else in online sports media -- at least since 1995. And here's the thing: It doesn't work. I digress...

The main page is hubbed by the FanFeed, which has a "TM" so presumably they think it's their killer app. I guess it's like your Facebook NewsFeed, but again, the perils of the closed system: Unless ALL of your friends are on SFL, aren't you better off getting your friends' sports takes on your existing Facebook page? Or on a special sports-only app from Facebook?

There is eye candy called FanFinder which uses a graphic interface to show you where fans are watching the game; again, will this be an open and useful utility that shows me all sports bars in my area dedicated to my team? Or will it be predicated on existing SFL members telling me where they are watching the game? (Less useful.)

The third signature product is "BuxBets," fake prop bets proposed by fellow SFL members that you can take, with winning bets earning you, um "Bux" that you can redeem for I-have-no-idea.

One big positive: Katz has convinced Samsung to sign on as an initial sponsor. It actually adds to the site's credibility that it already has sponsor money coming in.

Katz earned the splash of a feature in the New York Times Monday Business section (if bracketed by skeptical quotes procured by NYT sports-media columnist Richard Sandomir, who usually swims in the safer waters of old-media coverage).

The question is whether the site fits in today's sports-consumption world. Fan engagement might be the right concept (if flooded with newly funded competitors and powerfully backed installed powers right now), but it begs the tritest of all analyses as to its potential: If he built it, they won't come.

(Here is a challenge to SFL: Put a running total of your signed-up members on the front page of the site, updated daily or hourly. Again: Nothing will get fans to sign up for this like seeing other fans signed up for this. The kill-or-be-killed question is: How do you get that first surge to sign up? I'm waiting on the marketing plan beyond "Land placement in the Times and")

-- D.S.

UPDATE: Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch (far more widely read and influential than this little old blog, certainly in the tech space) beat me to the punch and weighs in with his mixed endorsement, but -- like me -- he hedges on the site's apparent lack of openness. Schonfeld likens it to NetVibes for sports, but NetVibes is affinity-agnostic; it is a platform for anyone. SFL is only for sports fans; I think the comparison highlights SFL's short-comings even more.

Monday 08/18 A.M. Quickie:
Phelps, Liu, Bolt, Johan, More

Whether or not you agree with me that Michael Phelps isn't just the greatest Olympian of all time but also the greatest athlete ever (or is that Greatest. Athlete. Ever.), you have to agree that the fact that he's even in the conversation is impressive enough. Today is closure on Phelps, though I'm not quite sure what Olympic storyline could fill the void left from the previous week's drama...

...Oh, wait: The hero to more than 1 billion fans in China pulled out of the Games in the preliminary heats with a leg injury? Liu Xiang's attempt to repeat as Olympic champ in the 100m hurdles was certainly the biggest story of the Games -- if you consider that the attention of 1 billion Chinese fans trumps the attention to Phelps by 250 million American fans.

Maybe we should all be paying even more attention to Usain Bolt, who didn't just win Olympic gold and didn't just set a new world record in the 100 meter dash, but redefined the art of showboating -- in a race lasting 100 meters and less than 10 seconds, he managed to gloat through the final 20 percent of it and STILL set the world record. Amazing. Awe-inspiring.

(Oh, and let me just say: NBC's tape-delay entered the ludicrous stage with that race. The result happened 12 hours earlier, but NBC is acting like it's 1992 -- pre-Internet age. So many fans knew what happened, it was an insult to our intelligence. It's a Saturday -- fans are home. Why not show the race live in the morning, then -- in primetime -- bring Bolt to the studio to give us his "Director's Cut" of his performance, breaking it down from every angle? Cripes: Is this so hard?)

OK, back in the real world of, um, real sports: No, I don't really care that Brett Favre had a decent debut for the Jets... yes, I am kind of intrigued that Matt Ryan struggled in his 2nd NFL preseason game (with a shaky O-line, perhaps the Falcons should have skipped Ryan in favor of the more nimble -- and draft-bargain -- Dennis Dixon).

In MLB, I'm really more about the weird storylines around the league than the competitiveness in the AL Central: Like this non-story that Derek Jeter could end his career like Brett Favre? Like Jeff Kent scraping a new low by ripping Vin Scully? Like RA Dickey tying an MLB record with 4 wild pitches in a single inning? Now that's some dog-days fun.

Full SN column here. Next post scheduled for noon: Another sports social network?

-- D.S.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday 08/17 (Very) Quickie: Phelps, Bolt

So Michael Phelps goes 8-for-8 on golds, and -- despite NBC's apparent interest in portraying him as a megalomaniac (projection much?) -- Phelps insisted on remaining admirably humbled and team-oriented, which just makes me like him better.

Meanwhile, Usain Bolt is ridiculous -- how can you not love a guy who not only kills the world record in the 100, but basically strolls in over the last 15-20 meters while doing it. I have never seen anything like that before in my life.

I don't begrudge him the mid-race preening: All the guy wanted to do is win Olympic gold; the world record was a bonus -- something he could have done at any old race. How healthy! The fact that he broke the 9.70 barrier (and not the quantum leap of breaking the 9.6 barrier, too) is only a bonus. But as far as sprinting goes, I'm not sure anyone has ever done it quite the way he has. (I mean, I had to re-DVR to make sure: He eased up to preen over the last 15 steps, a good 20 percent of the race.) That guy redefines fast. And it's not even his best event.

Dara Torres falls JUST short: You have to feel for her. She obviously was pretty devastated; you were never going to see Rowdy Gaines point out that Torres was out-touched after holding a commanding lead late, much as Phelps out-touched for his win in the 100 fly. So, Dara: Any chance you want to come back at 45?

Wow, USA Oops appears to be on a mission, based on the way they just dismantled Spain -- wasn't Spain supposed to be a competitor?

NFL: Brett Favre's debut was a solid one -- 5/6 for 48 yards and a TD (not much more you can ask for)... For those doing the comparison thing, Aaron Rodgers was 9/16 for 58 yards and 0 TDs -- that won't sit well with Packers fans... Chad Pennington: Pretty good solution for the Dolphins... Brandon Marshall owns Pac-Man Jones...

MLB: In battle of playoff hopefuls, Brewers edge Dodgers in 10... Marlins show a little signs of playoff worthiness, snapping the Cubs' 9-game road W streak... Classic Roy Halladay: Complete game win, over the Red Sox no less... Fantasy Stud: Albert Pujols (2 HR)...

Shawn Kemp joins parade of NBA stars going to play in Europe: Except for one thing -- this is awesomeness at its best.

-- D.S.