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.