TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
OFFENSE DATE: 12/08/07 740 PM
....COUNT 1 C/M/F: C 1320 ORD#10:1A/257.625A(2)PBT REFUSAL IN NON-CMV, 21 AND OVER
(Source: search for "Moeller" here.) At 7:40 PM on Saturday, Michigan offensive line coach Andy Moeller got pulled over for DUI. He refused a breathalyzer test.
Three separate sources indicate that Carr has made his decision to retire official and people around the athletic department are being told. The formal announcement will come after the Ohio State game, possibly at the Monday press conference, possibly a day or two later.
Hi. This is weird for me, as it is for you, I'm sure, but Bill Connors, who you may remember from such quotes as...
"It's a single-digit percentage who view [the BTN] as an absolute must-have. That's why the best landing place is on a sports tier."
"In our mind, all we care about is getting content that customers want, at the right price. They cannot say that 100 percent of customers want to be forced to watch the Big Ten Network."
...or someone at Comcast saw the Silverman interview and wanted to give their side of the story. So there was a second unexpected conversation with an oft-agitated executive during which I typed frantically.
A clarification is in order here: I don't know if you would really call this "journalism." These interviews didn't seem like standard ask-response-ask thing where the most cutting thing you can do is get in a really pertinent followup. They were conversations. Dialogues, if you will. And the resulting piece here is fair (I hope) but not neutral. I have opinions on these things and would like to offer them to you. As for sides... there are three sides in this conflict: The Big Ten, Comcast, and us. I'm with us. A general disclaimer then: I would like to get the Big Ten Network, personally, and get it on basic cable. I also wouldn't mind if it cost $1.10. I wouldn't mind if it cost more than ESPN, because the benefit to the athletic departments would mostly be coming out of the pockets of people who aren't me. So that's where I'm coming from.
SO THE BIG CONFLICT HERE is over placement and price. Mark Silverman, president of the Big Ten Network, said that if cable carriers in the footprint did not put the Big Ten Network in their expanded basic pacakge, they wouldn't be permitted to carry the channel at all, and that the cable networks had been unresponsive about that placement. Therefore there was hardly anything to discuss. Connors confirmed this position, albeit with a quaifier:
"Clearly, that's their public position on this. So it's been hard to make any progress in negotiations. They've been pretty adamant."
"Public": the qualifier, the little bit of snark that might send Jim Delany into apoplexy. Recursion: both sides accuse each other of posturing; both sides are right; accusations of posturing are also posturing.
One of the frustrations in this odd experience of talking with these guys for extended periods of time was getting them off their talking points and to delve into some specifics. Anyone who's seen a presidential debate knows the feeling of being talked sort of... at. This isn't a Comcast or BTN thing, it's a general dealing with the media (and, more generally, public perception) thing, where repetition is the holy grail of remembrance. Head On. Apply directly to the forehead. The conversations, both of them, often seemed circular as the (marginal) interviewee wrangled the conversation back around to their desired topics. Maybe this is old hat to grizzled press-hat wearing journos, but, um, not guilty.
ANYWAY, A FREQUENT TOPIC of discussion was that the Big Ten was the anti-fan party here, with their insistence on a basic tier and the removal of all this content that was in the public domain â€“ or at least the syndicated domain â€“ into its own proprietary network. Comcast launched Comcast Local, a marginal RSN with things like baseball, Olympic sports, MAC (and less appealing) football, and Michigan hockey (sadly, road games remain infrequent) a couple years ago, and the network feels a little peeved that the groundwork they laid has been rendered inert, or at least weakened, by the upstart:
"All the Olympic sports, guess who covered those before at zero burden to customers on Comcast Local? We've gotten notes from coaches that say 'thanks, this helps recruiting.' But not once have received any acknowledgement from the Big Ten office."
I kind of doubt that Comcast was doing this out of the kindness of their heart, but I've watched Comcast Local and its commercials and can't believe it was actually making any money.
When the BTN-mentioned Blazers network came up, Connors challenged the Big Ten to do what it was by permitting placement on a sports tier "if they want to compare themselves to other networks." This was a frequent theme: the Big Ten's demands were unreasonable and only served their own selfish purposes, which put Comcast in a tough position:
"That's the awkward part of this. Part of my job is to negotiate deals with emerging networks. What's unique about this is there hasn't been a network that's demanded to be on basic. An increasing number go to digital."
Connors insisted that if the sports tier was greenlighted by the Big Ten, things would be smooth sailing:
"I'll add that channel tomorrow if they give me the launch codes tomorrow. We'll put the fan first, as corny as that sounds."
Connors' focus on the Big Ten's threat to execute, essentially, a denial-of-service attack on their own fans is something I don't think anyone has lost sight of. Connors is correct when he derides the BTN an attempt to "take five million dollars worth of content and charge Comcast 300 million for it over five years," although that content's worth whatever people will pay for it.
But only the endearingly naÃ¯ve would expect anything else from either party. The Big Ten's leverage lies in that segment of the fanbase willing to either switch providers or get a sports tier in order to acquire the channel; just saying "okey-dokey" to placement there would be bringing a sword to a gunfight.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS. One of the more interesting avenues of discussion centered on one of the Big Ten Network's very favorite competitor/analog. We talked about CSS, the southern network that runs 40s in 4.2 and is on basic cable across a wide swath of SEC country. The Big Ten Network loves that as a comparable regional sports network that Comcast happens to own that coincidentally happens to get widespread distribution and has, at least on the surface, way less compelling content.
Facts About CSS:
- CSS does have live sports: about 46 football games and 180-some basketball games
- About 10% of the football games involve an SEC or ACC team (these are usually the Michigan-Appalachian State equivalents); 20-30% of the basketball games do. (Ditto, though sometimes they get higher quality contests if you think a Vanderbilt-Michigan game â€“ which a friend of mine saw on CSS once â€“ counts as higher quality. If it was Ellerbe-era, probably not.) The rest are from Conference USA or Sun Belt or the local D-I basketball-only
- CSS content is not necessarily exclusive; local syndication is possible. Generally the SEC and ACC games get distributed locally.
- CSS costs "less than 30 cents" per subscriber. I took this to mean "somewhere from 25 to 29 cents," as if it was less than 25 he probably would have said "less than 25 cents."
One thing that got the many-repetitions treatment: a primary reason CSS occupies its basic cable slot is its age:
"CSS was launched nine years ago. If that would have come out of the ground in 2007, there's no one who would say that should be on expanded basic. And it's something that might move to a digital tier at some point in the future."
"When CSS came out of the ground in 1998 we we're still trying to fill eighty channels."
Connors then said that he envisioned a future where
all sports channels migrate to their own tiers and the idea of a basic cable sports network evaporates. I didn't mention this in to Connors because it didn't occur to me at the time, but it's hard to swallow that when my current package has Versus â€“ not that I want it to go away, Vive le Tour â€“ Speed, and the Golf Network. Those seem clearly less relevant and important to people in the BTN footprint than the Big Ten Network.
So, yeah this line of argument didn't really fly with me. Clearly there are some regional sports networks that cable companies have acceded to on their basic tiers because of the importance of their content to carriers. Heck, when Fox bought DirectTV regional sports networks got a special arbitration process so Rupert Murdoch couldn't deny access to other content providers that wanted to carry this critical content. (Critical in an "important to the consuming public" fashion, not a "helps Darfur" fashion.) So it's a matter of deciding whether the BTN is closer to whatever your local carrier of MLB/NHL/NBA games is or to something like the NFL Network or NBA TV. It obviously exists in a gray area between the two. It's not a national item of intermittent interest like the latter; it's not a laser-focused must-have that would cause mass defections if it was not present.
The Big Ten Network misrepresented CSS to me, and I'm glad Connors clarified to me that the network was not the 1987 Iron Bowl repeating 24 hours a day, but I think Comcast tried to do the same thing. I had to wrangle the percentages of SEC/ACC teams featured out of Connors, as the original phrasing was something like "45 football games including SEC and ACC games," but... like...four or five? I made the point that a few SEC or ACC games interspersed among Conference USA and Sun Belt (boo!) games didn't make for a good comparison here; the Big Ten Network clearly has a more compelling programming lineup. So it was something of a shock to me when I asked for a clarification on what Comcast considered to be a non-burdensome price to consumers, and got this response:
"On aggregate, we value this channel at between 8 and 25 cents."
Yikes. I never really got a perspective on this number, though I tried. It seems preposterously low if it's meant to be a per-subscriber cost in the Big Ten footprint. I asked if that was an in-footprint number and got an assent; I still think that this is a miscommunication of some variety. I pressed on the CSS-BTN comparison, since it seems totally unreasonable to offer less for a network with much more interesting content, but this was clearly an uncomfortable part of the conversation and didn't get a rationale behind that beyond...
"The broader distribution makes the carrying costs lower. The only way for a channel to get widely distributed usually is if it proves itself."
...which did not explain the gap.
WHERE IS THIS HEADED? Connors did say that he was sure that there would be "expedited" negotiations over the next couple weeks where parties from both sides lock themselves in a room and fight to the death. Both Silverman and Connors, when pressed, claimed to be "optimistic" that a deal would get done â€“ that word precisely from both of them â€“ but based that optimism mostly on the belief that the other party was weak like Ukraine and would fold. Connors, when asked if basic is a possibility given some Big Ten price flexibility:
No, I can't see it on basic this fall. I won't say there's no scenario on basic. If the rate's at a number that isn't a burden to consumers...
The implication there was that the two parties were far apart on what constitutes a "burden" at the moment. Connors, for his part, invoked the idea that Big Ten president's wouldn't stand for the channel's unavailability:
I think there's such an overwhelming, pragmatic argument that is against the currently proposed Big Ten Network. I guarantee university presidents think it's not their goal to charge a fee to every household in Michigan. I guarantee the presidents were never briefed on this. I think that will overcome some of the insanity that's been proposed in the last month and a half. I think it will get placement on a sports tier.
We'll know in a couple weeks.
What strikes me is that both sides here have reached out to all sorts of media, including pissant bloggers, in a fight that's become public in a way that doesn't happen when, say, ESPN Classic gets booted to the high stratosphere, let alone the Food Network or National Geographic or whatever. And this subject acquires more comments and emails than any other save the absolutely true and incontrovertible fact that Notre Dame runs on the souls of babies. That alone indicates to me that both the Big Ten and Comcast have significant interest in getting the channel on in some way or another. I don't think we go into the year without the BTN available, but that's just a hunch, and one biased by hope at that.
Mark Silverman is president of the Big Ten Network and, apparently, is on a sort of media -- any media -- blitz as the saber-rattling between the BTN and cable operators reaches its peak in the month before D-Day. Exhibit A: this interview at Peegs.com. (HT: The Hoosier Report.) Exhibit B: the BTN office reached out to me and asked if I would like to have an interview with Silverman.
The ensuing scramble to get some sort of recording capability came up empty -- I shake my fist at you, Skype -- and so I spent a lot of time frantically transcribing. Some quotes may not have 100% fidelity as a result, but they all communicate Silverman's intent fairly. Anyway...
I started by reading Mr. Silverman a quote that was highlighted in an earlier editon of UV:
"We're well on our way toward ensuring that roughly half the subscribers to smaller cable systems across the Midwest have better access to their favorite Big Ten schools and teams than anytime in history."
This seemed a worrisome scaling back of ambition, albeit one that could have been taken out of context. Silverman did confirm that the fears generated by that quote were unfounded: "The point was more specifically referring to the smaller companies. By no stretch is that any sort of implication about the larger companies."
As the conversation progressed, this became clear: the Big Ten is not and has not reduced its goals. They are no more backing down than any of the cable operators are. In fact, when I asked whether there was a backup plan if basic tiers were not possible Silverman repeatedly stated the Big Ten Network is "not deserving of a sports tier" and that they needed to be "sure the network was launched appropriately," then dropped something of a bombshell: if cable operators in the footprint are not willing to put the channel on a basic tier they won't be permitted to carry it at all. This is an all-or-nothing gambit, and this is why Silverman got in contact.
"It means more access. Martin wants to build the school, to build the exposure. The more you can put it on, the more you showcase these universities and make them seen nationally. It's a great exposure tool for the school in general and for the conference."
(Silverman did confirm that they were way more flexible outside of the footprint, willing to accept placement on sports tiers for a lesser fee than that charged by ESPNU or CSTV. Ironically, if you're in Phoenix you have a better chance at having the channel available than Ann Arbor.)
Said gambit is either brilliant or insane depending on whether it works, a real Schroedinger's cat situation. I don't think I have to convince anyone who reads this blog that having the BTN on basic cable is good for both Michigan fans and the University itself. The more revenue the channel generates, the better positioned the Big Ten is in the ongoing filthy lucre wars between conferences, and, frankly, I'd probably watch the BTN a ton.
One thing that Silverman did convince me of is that the universally used -- for scorn -- comparable, the NFL Network, isn't comparable at all. Despite the fact that the NFL is the King Kong of American sports, their network had eight games all year. The rest of their schedule is like highlights and analysis and, basically, junk. The BTN is going to have multiple football games every week plus a ton of basketball games, and act as an ESPN Classic for the conference. (Except without the suck.) The sheer number of televised events makes it comparable to a Fox Sports Net, not the NFL network. The problem, of course, is that a local FSN has a ton of events guaranteed to be high profile and laser focused on wherever it's distributed; meanwhile a Purdue-Indiana football game may not be of extreme interest in Wisconsin or Michigan. Silverman acknowleges this:
"There's a lot of confusion because there's not an exact comparable, but if you look at local and regional networks â€“ most of which are owned by Comcast â€“ and it's significantly less. None of their networks are on a sports tier."
This is true. A brief listing of Comcast-owned RSNs:
- Comcast Sports Chicago: $3.75
- Comcast Sports Philadelphia: $3.10
- Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic: $2.50
- Comcast Sports Northwest: $2.00
- Sportsnet NY (Time Warner -- Mets): $1.80
All of these channels are on expanded basic, as are Versus, the Golf Channel (THE GOLF CHANNEL), and something called CSS Sports, a southeastern channel whose main attraction is single-A baseball and SEC games... on tape delay. That is in six million homes, about what the Big Ten Network's projected footprint is. The "Northwest" edition of Comcast Sports is especially egregious because their entire programming lineup is 50 Blazers games. That's it. Evidently Comcast doesn't care about the "Blazers tax" they're imposing on Oregon, nor the "Tape Delayed SEC tax" on the southeast or the "Frickin' Golf And Not Even Interesting Golf tax" currently being deployed on virtually everyone.
The Big Ten Network's widely reported $1.10 -- a number Silverman said was "probably ballpark" but, oddly, one that he'd "never confirmed" -- doesn't seem out of whack at all in relation to those numbers. Sure, it's probably not worth anywhere near what channels full of NBA/MLB/NHL games are, but they aren't asking for a price near that, and they are providing everything they have at the basic carriage price:
"There's two networks, an HD network and a regular one, a VOD [video on demand -ed] one, and all these overflow channels that we're offering for free. Comcast is going to get a ton of new HD subscribers because all these new games are on that weren't in HD."
(It is possible this is SOP for cable networks and this is not really a point in their favor, though I do think the HD point is cromulent.) Silverman made it clear that the BTN wasn't married to $1.10, but if cable operators were going to stall on placement on basic cable there would be no discussion:
"If they said 'it's on basic,' then we're off to the races. I have to believe it's posturing. I can't believe they're going to hang their hat on that. You can't even have a legitimate conversation on price until you agree on what level of service you're talking about."
At some point he asked me what I thought -- hey, who's doing the interview here? -- and I said I felt like a pawn, then accidentally got off a pithy quote: "it seems like your leverage is our outrage." It does feel like we fans are caught in a Mexican standoff, except both guns are pointed at our collective head. And instead of a gun we have a rubber chicken. Any trigger-pulling will be a mutual act of our two antagonists, but Comcast's rife hypocrisy shouldn't be obscured by the Big Ten's PR-deaf commissioner.
Will the trigger get pulled? Don't know. Neither does Silverman:
"It's going to go on for a while there. We hope to convince them to carry it on a basic level. I do think we'll get it on the air. But... I don't know. We definitely have some work ahead of us."
Hockey Aside: I asked what the hockey coverage was looking like, and he said there would be "ten to fifteen games" on the network this fall and that they would be "above and beyond" the current coverage provided... probably. Obviously hockey isn't A-1 on his priority list, so he wasn't 100% up to date on their projected coverage. Since Minnesota and (I think) Wisconsin have very good TV packages with their local Fox Sports affiliates I assume most of those
would be Michigan/Michigan State/Ohio State games. Hopefully some will be, you know, on the road.
Two University of Michigan football players reportedly were in a car that allegedly contained drugs when it was stopped by police in Monroe County. No one was arrested and the Michigan State Police are waiting for lab results before any charges are filed. ...
Sources said a small amount of marijuana and tablets of Vicodin, a painkiller, were found in the car. A passenger in the car apparently told police at the scene that he had a legal prescription for the Vicodin, but it was not in his possession. Two other people in the car had the marijuana, according to sources.
No names have been released by the police officers in question. However, I got a tip from a reader when this happened a few days ago. I don't wish to sully anyone's name unnecessarily (nor does the Monroe News: check the reportedly-allegedly double burst of libel protection in the lead), but since this reader had the information on this the day of the incident I'm confident that he's right. So...
One of the guys in the car was Mario Manningham.
Okay. Okay. Okay. This is probably a pot bust and a first offense. He could even be the legal Vicodin guy -- he did have some surgery in the offseason. There's no way he gets in serious trouble for this if he's even in trouble. Maybe a slap on the wrist against Appalachian State, but nothing big. (Please?)
(Sidenote: A friend and I tried on our journalism hats and attempted to confirm this with the circuit court in question but since they haven't been charged with anything pending the results of the drug test they didn't have anything. My IRL information-gathering skills leave something to be desired.)
There's a section on John Pollack. It has swearing because by God people like John Pollack are why swearing was invented.
I am not a journalist! That's the point of this enterprise. But of late I have been pondering doing some kind of journalism-esque things. So when news came down of the Paralyzed Veterans of America suing the University over the renovations proposed I gave one of the law-talking guys a call. Because of IANAJTTP, this will not be an impartial news article; there would be no point with Official Journalists covering it much better and much quicker than I could. Witness this AP article heavily quoting Richard Bernstein, who happens to be the law-talking guy I spoke to. My conversation with the guy ran along the same lines. Bernstein to Official Journalist:
"It's extremely disappointing that it had to come to this," said Richard Bernstein, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.
Bernstein to me (note that all quotes were hastily transcribed and may not be exact. I've tried to hew as closely to his words as I could):
"When you file a federal lawsuit it's always a last resort."
"Notre Dame has 17 wheelchair-accessible seating locations throughout the stadium," Bernstein said, who also is an adjunct political science professor at Michigan. "We have two."
"Notre Dame Stadium is a carbon copy of the Michigan stadium and is ADA compliant. They have 17 locations that are wheelchair compliant."
(He also mentioned he was a professor twice.)
Bernstein, who is blind and has taken the case pro bono, said the lawsuit is more far-reaching than simply providing better wheelchair access during Michigan football games and commencement exercises. He said a federal court ruling in favor of the university could have a "devastating impact on the ADA" because it would open the door for other developers looking to sidestep ADA provisions.
He said the court must draw a distinct line between "repair" and "alteration" projects, since the latter compels developers and property owners to comply with ADA guidelines. Left undefined, he said, disabled individuals will find it more difficult to use public venues, such as movie theaters, shopping malls and public transportation.
"Wheelchair users will lose access across the board, and will find it more difficult to be part of the community," Bernstein said.
"The reason we had to file was because what this entire case comes down to is the concept of alteration versus repair."
"This isn't a critical issue because it's Michigan football. If Michigan establishes this precedent about doing renovation over a series of years, you'll see shopping centers, airports, any public venue, will follow what Michigan is doing, scattering their renovations over a long period of time."
He said Michigan's ongoing construction project, dubbed a "renovation" on its Web site, is "offensive." ... "We're not asking for really good seats. We're asking for equal access. It's about inclusion. It's about civil rights."
"This is a major civil rights issue; this is infuriating to me."
I am fairly heartened that it seems the Official Journalist could do no better when it came to getting something that didn't seem relentlessly practiced out of Bernstein than I did; at first I thought I was a hopeless n00b. Turns out we're all n00bs in the face of a lawyer.
The Daily has some of the same quotes but did a better job getting hard numbers than either myself or the AP:
Stadium-wide compliance would include making 1 percent of all seating handicap accessible and offering a variety of seating locations and ticket prices for disabled visitors. For the officially 107,501-seat stadium, that means there must be at least 1,000 handicap accessible seats.
The MPVA wants the renovations to follow the example of those at the University of Notre Dame. After recent renovations, Notre Dame Stadium provides more than 400 wheelchair-accessible seats in 17 different locations.
"If you look at Notre Dame and the University of Michigan, their stadiums were built by the same architect in the same era. All we're asking is U of M do what Notre Dame did," Bernstein said.
Isn't this the most important thing? What compliance is, what the current situation is, what the hard numbers are on the comparable Bernstein uses? How can every other article ignore it? Good job, Daily! Do you still have people who think "This
Postmodern World" is a good title for a column? And can we deport them?
There are some things I managed to get in edgewise that didn't get reported in the papers:
- Our good and dear friend John Pollack's involvement was discussed. Bernstein managed to convince me that Pollack was not the motive force behind the lawsuit; it would be going on without his misguided attempts to "save" Michigan Stadium. However:
"When he read in the papers that we were moving forward on this, he called me. He's been helpful. He gave us some details on Notre Dame Stadium's accessibility."
Pollack jumped on board, seeing any avenue to shut down the renovations no matter how irrelevant to his cause.
This is where the opinion starts to come in, so full disclosure: I am in favor of these renovations and think John Pollack is a delusional idiot who believes he knows what's best for all Michigan fans. I'm striving to be fair to Bernstein and his paralyzed veterans and not misrepresent anything they've said or claimed, but I make no attempt to be "objective" in the traditional journalism sense. (IANAJTTP.) That sort of objectivity gets you articles that make no attempt to evaluate the claims laid out by the various sides, which is deeply annoying to me. Here we evaluate.
Anyway. This was my first experience talking to a lawyer trying to do PR and it was... interesting. Idiotically, I hadn't gotten the very relevant and very basic info on the university's renovation site about the ADA:
Q: Will the renovations address ADA accessibility?
Yes, the University will significantly increase the number and location of accessible seating for fans with impaired mobility. The new design adds an additional 72 accessible seats plus companion seats on the west side of the stadium. These seats will be covered and accessible through a new elevator. The east side of the stadium, the new design adds an additional 24 accessible outdoor club seats plus companion seats and 14 accessible inside club seats. In addition, there will be one accessible seat in every one of the suites. The total number of accessible seats will increase and the choice for location of accessible seating will now include both end zones and sideline seating.
Leaving out the accessible seats in the suites, the renovation calls for a total addition of 110 accessible seats to the already existing 100 in the endzones (though I'm not sure that all 100 of those seats can functionally be used by handicapped people; I think there's just a handicap-accessible area that holds a total o
f 100 people, including companions.) Note that each of the proposed 110 additional seats comes with a companion seat and that the distribution of the seats would be throughout the stadium. Also note that the total seating, even including the luxury box seats, is around 280, way below the mendoza line.
The veterans took an alternate proposal to the regents late last year; Bernstein made a big deal about regents Cathy White and Larry Deitch concurring with the vets and making a motion and a second to reject the renovations based upon it.
"There was a motion and a second, and they voted it down 6-2."
The implication was that because someone had heeded them and another regent agreed that the others were callous for not following a long. I don't get that, especially because what he failed to mention is that White and Deitch were two of the three regents who consistently voted against the renovations for any and all available reasons. How much of their concern was real and how much was pretext?
So how am I supposed to reconcile that information with this quote from Bernstein?
"The university has been totally unresponsive."
I dunno. I kind of think this is an exaggeration, but how am I to know? I don't think Bernstein was being entirely honest with me. Not that he was being dishonest. He was being lawyery. It was kind of creepy.
This was the most bothersome thing, the grand microcosm:
"What is it they're fighting for?"
That was Bernstein's big finish. I really dislike the implications there: plaintiffs Fight For Justice against "totally unresponsive" faceless athletic department. By the time we were done, I had gotten a couple questions in edgewise, heard a lot of things over and over again, and felt vaguely like I had just been witness to a particularly fast-pitched political speech. The University is fighting for... me. They want to do right by the handicapped guys but they also have constraints here. Assuming that they're screwing over handicapped guys just because there aren't any Indonesians around they can force to make licensed apparel is kind of dishonest. This is a really hard process and at the very least Michigan is vastly improving the situation.
The whole thing seems shoddy to me. I don't know if Robert Bernstein is related to Sam Bernstein, but I do know that he works for Sam Bernstein's firm... you know, 1-800-CALL-SAM. The guy who can get results for you after your car accident. And it shows. Not contend with rounding up some wheelchair-bound disability rights advocates, these guys go right for the paralyzed veterans. They're veterans, dammit! Why don't you let them in to your stadium? Do you hate America?
But... they kind of have a point. IA(obviously)NAL, but if Michigan is trying to claim that they don't need to be fully ADA compliant because what they plan to do to the stadium doesn't constitute an alteration, well, that's pretty weaselly. I'm not totally insensitive to this issue. I have a friend who teeters in and out of the stadium on crutches every week. My grandfather (who was an usher at Ferry Field(!) and is the primary reason that I am often suffered to sit at the 40 yard line, since our tickets have been in the family since the 50s) spent his final Michigan games watching from the crappy seats in the endzone. I don't know what's enough seating and don't have anywhere near enough information to pick a winner, but I can say that this is a real lawsuit and a real concern as opposed to that hippie crap going on at Cal and that some of the intemperate comments in the aftermath of the lawsuit's filing were out of line (even if I shared that opinion for a moment or an hour).
One final note: This is the point on Bullshit where Penn drops the jokes and very seriously addresses the camera: John Pollack is a cynical, manipulative asshole who will stop at nothing for his luxury box hissyfit to conclude successfully. I'm dead serious about this. This isn't "Stewart Mandel is retarded" or "CFN is retarded" or "Matt Hayes is a synonym for penis." Though I get angry when media professionals run around saying very stupid things, it's a shallow anger that I mostly mine for humor. If I ran into any of these people I wouldn't regard them with anything other than condescension. I'm not actually angry at them. This is different. John Pollack has no use for what the truth is. In his mind, the ends always justify the means:
"This is being driven by an obsession with luxury boxes," he said. "The University is effectively arguing that it is more important to provide seating for 1,500 people in luxury boxes than it is to provide seating for people with disabilities as required by law."
Ridiculous. Insulting. And a paranoid fantasy caused by his unsupported belief that "the University is trying to subsidize the loss in revenue that would be caused by luxury boxes by increasing regular bleacher seating and overlooking the interests of disabled people." Yes, of course. Bill Martin's putting in luxury boxes just like all those other pro and college teams that just love losing money. Paralyzed veterans are a way for Pollack to get what he wants, and the truth is only something for him to spin into something unrecognizable to stoke outrage. The only outrage in this complicated issue is Pollack and his behavior.
And you know the kicker? Motherfucker went to Stanford. Go screw up your alma mater, asshole. (Motherfucker also spent 30 years building a boat out of wine corks and he has the gall to criticize someone else for ill-advised construction?)
No, wait. This is the kicker. The kicker of kickers. This is what John Pollack thinks of himself and his quest to prevent luxury boxes at Michigan Stadium.
In 1989, the image of one man standing in front. Can one man, willing to take a stand, make a difference? Can one person stop the powers that be dead in their tracks?
Remember Tiananmen Square?
Profiles of that kind of courage seem hard to find these days but, if you are willing to look then you will indeed find, examples of that kind of heroism.
I swear to God I'm not making this up. There is an enormous profile/interview of this prick up at "DanaRoc.com" -- Dana Roc apparently "creates, develops and produces programs that empower people to be productive, powerful, successful and happy" -- about this "Save The Big House" campaign and it starts off by directly comparing John Pollack to the kid in front of the tank in Tianamen Square. Seriously:
An extraordinarily courageous young man captured the attention of the entire world in June of 1989, when he single handedly stopped the advance of a tank column by standing in its way...
JP reminds us all again of the power of one man willing to take a stand.
One person cheering doesn't make a whole lot of noise but, you get 100,000 people cheering and suddenly you've got a roar! -- John Pollack
This is the face of luxury box opposition. Even if he didn't write this enormously offensive blurb, by God, he's read it and didn't immediately demand its removal. I'm speechless. I mean, what can you say?