Update 7/18: Removed DE Patrick Rigan (MSU), QB Neil Caudle(Auburn), DT Jason Kates (ceased listing us), DT Jared Odrick (ceased listing us).
Editorial Opinion: No real surprises here. Marques Slocum getting pushed back to the 2006 class lessens the need for a DT this year, though there are still a couple of possibilities out there (KY's Aundre Henderson and Corey Peters). Caudle was expected to go to Auburn from the start. Rigan is a good pickup for MSU who may have earned an offer if he waited into his senior year. The Spartans are (mostly) holding off other Big Ten programs for the instate players that were recently going to places like Purdue.
Okay. I think I've passed the initial addiction phase as relates to NCAA. I played it far too much this weekend, though I managed to not call my friends and tell them "screw the Wrens, I'm going to sit at home and play a video game for 48 hours straight," I was close. Damn close. By Sunday night, though, I wanted to do something else... at least temporarily.
I'm in season four of Northwestern's inexorable rise to All Everything (I generally have simmed games against loser schools like Eastern Michigan or Notre Dame that I have no chance of losing and death traps away to Michigan or Iowa that I have a 100% chance of crying after... though those get simmed no longer), and I'm somewhat pleased to report that I think with some serious slider work the game will be excellent. As it stands my running back has cracked 2,000 yards without trying particularly hard, and there are still four games left in the season. He'll probably hit 3k. This is a problem.
What is not a problem is that the games are more fun. The last one I played was a 64-61 quadruple overtime thriller against Michigan. I beat Colorado 36-35 and similarly squeaked by a not good Syracuse team. The game is way offense-happy, though: a game against a terrible UNC team ended up 73-49. I waxed Iowa 55-6. I don't think I've played a single game where one team didn't break thirty, and usually it's both. I'm #1 in offense by a wide margin and #110-something in defense.
A brief list of pros and cons, if only to prove that I am still in love with the new bullet gif.
- The passing game is vastly improved. I've started reading safeties and linebackers and knowing when people will be open, something I tried and failed to do last year. The twelve-foot high jumps from players in coverage are gone, and pass strength and direction are critically important. When something bad happens 90% of the time the only person I can be mad at is myself. (Or the receiver for making like Agim Shabaj.)
- The running game is vastly improved. A variety of runs now work. Running backs break tackles when not taken head-on. The sprint button is a bad idea on an interior run. Spins and jukes and stiff-arms are all effective in the appropriate places.
- Controls are more coherent. X always sprints is a wonderful thing once you get used to it, especially with the quarterback. Rollouts are now workable, and escaping from pressure is a possibility. Using the right analog stick for jukes, block shedding, and hits is an excellent decision.
- Rushing the passer seems pretty realistic. The computer seems to know about blitzes beforehand, however. A favorite tactic is taking a safety who would normally be in a deep zone and blitzing him, which catches the CPU by surprise (man coverage only, please). Other than that, they struck a nice balance: I feel effective rushing the passer but not dominant.
- Defenses are mostly impotent. I thought at first that playing eight minute quarters was distorting my stats, so I cut it to the more standard seven. Things are still out of control.
- Running is way too easy. My running back is averaging over ten yards a carry. That, as they say in the south, ain't right.
- Pass plays remain stupid. Like, say, the various "slants" plays, which send three receivers on, well, slants. If one guy is covered chances are all the rest are, too. Hot routes can fix this somewhat but on the road that's nigh impossible. I would much prefer plays that feature a variety of routes
- My tight ends are pass-dropping gits.
- Some punt returns are preordained touchdowns. Sometimes the Red Sea will just open up along a sideline. Returning is always a matter of cutting it to the outside as fast as possible.
- Bombing it downfield is too effective. The passes are just too accurate.
- "Impact players" == impact stupid. Players get ordained with superhuman powers randomly, without cause, and then make plays that totally change the game. Screw you, hippies.
- I still suck at defense.
Northwestern is 9-0 and has one hurdle (at Iowa) left before playing in the NC game. It's year four, though, which is a major improvement over past years, and I'm playing close games, again a major improvement. But recruiting is too easy and soon my team will be rife with eight-stars who kick out the jams, at which point there's only one thing left to do: make the leap to Heisman. In the past this has invariably led to swearing, controller-throwing and game-hiding. Fingers crossed.
Commenters on Friday's post immediately hit on three points that I've thought to myself:
- Exclusive-rights broadcasting is the major problem here, says ny1995 of IBFC. Yes. Everyone hates them some monopoly, and exclusive-rights broadcasting gives a network a monopoly on a particular game, thus forcing me into Bill Walton when I would rather hear an audio tape of my own death replayed for three hours. Will it ever go away? Probably not. How much is the non-exclusive right to broadcast a game worth? Not much.
- We probably aren't far off from multiple audio tracks, says Dave of No Website Given. I only hope I won't have to pay for 'premium' audio, because I probably won't, being hopelessly damaged by my mother's frugality. If technology arises that can funnel different commercials to different broadcasts of a game, I might not have to. Demographics are everything in advertising, and if advertisers know their ideas are being beamed into my crotchety-old-man brain they can focus on dentures and those bicycles with one really big wheel and really get me excited about buying stuff. They can save the Britney for the Waltonites.
- The ombudsman is a PR exercise only, says Chas from Pitt Sports Blather. This would appear to be the case given the topics covered in Solomon's first column. There wasn't any portion of it that I cared about. I can't conceive of anyone who wouldn't finish in the top 10 of a worldwide George Will lookalike contest caring about it. The pressing issue of the day (THE FACT THAT ESPN TALKS LIKE THIS!!! EXCEPT WITH DUMBER!!!) was only peripherally addressed. Also, I found a link to his column somewhere (I can't recall) that wasn't ESPN.com. A quick scan finds that the ombudsman's column not easy to find. Chas is probably going to be proven right, sadly.
Solomon, at least, appears to be on our side:
You also should know that my oldest son, Aaron, 35, is the producer of "Around The Horn" and had the opportunity to veto my taking this job for that reason, as did Mark Shapiro. I've told Aaron from his show's inception two years ago, that some of the sportswriters on his panel might want to turn down the volume, but he's ignored my advice, as will many of his colleagues throughout the network. No one has to listen to, or respond to, an ombudsman.
It may amaze and disappoint you to know that I don't actually mind PTI or Around The Horn all that much, since they're conceived as useless screaming matches. How am I supposed to dog PTI for being superficial when it has a countdown clock on the right side of the screen? It knows its superficiality. When you turn it on you know what you're getting. It also comes on at 5:30 PM, when ESPN couldn't be doing anything useful anyway. When that screaming match transitions into places where I don't want it (everywhere else) is when I get all Johnny Five after a lightning bolt.
I do think better days are coming, though. There's a market for sports coverage that's not utterly retarded, and it has killer wealthy-moderately-aged-dude demographics. I hope to tell my children uphill-in-both-ways stories about Dick Vitale:
Yes, honey, he called people "diaper dandies" at a decibel level approaching that of the Concorde. Yes, you could see his lips around the throbbing--um, you're six--pony of Coach K, even though neither of them was being shown on the screen at the time and no such heinous, er, pony act was taking place. No you can't have a pony. Are you listening to me?
But I still call certain people older than me "goddamn kids" so there you go.
Update: This topic does appear to be sore spot central. Straight Bangin' weighs in with a dead-on take which has this splendid point I neglected to make:
Much like cable news, ESPN suffers from the misapprehension that we, sports consumers, yearn solely for declarations and decisiveness. Television coverage of sports has systematically sought to eliminate the shades we call gray; everything has to be black or white, and you can't like one if you say you like the other.
Amen. What pisses me off is that bold(!!!) statements are made and then backed up with blah blah blah heart blah want to win more blah kill me now.
More ESPN spleen venting can be observed here, if you're into that sort of thing. And let's be serious: you are.
mgoblog has many posts ripping ESPN for doing stupid things. Now ESPN will have articles doing the same: they've hired an ombudsman. Good for them, although I doubt it will do much good. There's been an upwelling of popular anger at sports broadcasting over the past few years. We've entered the Stephen A. Smith era of sports broadcasting and, I hate to say it, but it's not Smith's fault. At least, not entirely. It's not like SAS is exactly unique. Every show now has a designated loud annoying Jim Rome wannabe (Trev Alberts and Mark May for the college football fans). There's always someone in Smith's ear urging him to play the obnoxious hoodrat, and he works for ESPN. Smith is the tool via which we are hurt, and as such deserves scorn, but he's Jaws or Oddjob in this particular James Bond movie. If the collective ill will of the fan community miraculously gives Smith throat cancer via sheer hatred, another will pop up in his place. He will be directed to scream loudly by the faceless man with the cat. The cycle will begin anew.
Twins blogger extraordinare Batgirl summed the backlash up neatly in a post excoriating (hurray!) Fox's coverage of the All Star Game:
See, I think if you have to spend a lot time thinking about how you're going to keep people entertained during a baseball game, then you're probably not the best entity to broadcast said game.
That's essentially what sports broadcasting has become these days: a constant attempt to interest people in something they have no interest in. Not me: broadcast networks have me by the nuts because I have to watch the game. They can cut away from live action to show celebrities, they can have some vaguely attractive bimbo interview Mathew McConaughey on the sideline, they can put together some ninth-level-of-hell broadcasting team featuring Bill Walton, Dick Vitale, and Joe Theisman, and I still have to watch. They know this. So they tailor their broadcasts to catch the kind of people who wouldn't normally watch sports, who need a giant animated baseball explaining what a changeup is, and in the process make me very, very angry.
determine, via a time-tested method (the 64-team elimination tournament as seen in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, which ESPN used to show in its pre-sucking days) which ESPN broadcasting personality is the most totally loathsome and most deserves to suffer permanent paralysis of the vocal cords.
It started on Tuesday. Its first subregional collected over 500 votes. (Shockingly, Mitch Albom and Trev Alberts lost opening round matchups... mgoblog blames the fact that the Road From Bristol is currently hosted on a baseball blog).
Meanwhile, ESPN's ombudsman spent his first column
- declaring that the Kenny Rogers thing shouldn't have been shown so much,
- criticizing the decision to lead a single episode of SportsCenter with the NASCAR Pepsi 400 instead of Venus Williams, and
- asking for a better corrections policy.
Valid items all, but fundamentally superficial, aren't they? None of those things have anything to do with the real, growing discontent with the way ESPN is getting MTV-ized, which is all the more tragic because ESPN used to be awesome. Dan and Keith! Dan and Kenny! Whither, whither, whither. MTV always sucked, now it just sucks different. I used to love ESPN.
Sports fans are fed up, and they're... well, they're probably going to keep on taking it, because they have to. But goddammit if I ever figure out who the ESPN Blofeld is there will be a terrible reckoning. A vast and terrible reckoning.