Mike Lantry, 1972
i am not a journalist thats the point
Joe Paterno's death was a hugely misreported fiasco of the sort that is inevitable given the speed of information in the internet age. This post is an attempt to provide a framework for existing in a world of uncertain information.
This is what happened: Onward State, a blog/online newspaper run by PSU students, reported Paterno's death based on an email sent to Penn State players that turned out to be a hoax. This was good enough for a local radio station and StateCollege.com. It hit twitter and was then picked up without attribution by CBS Sports. It took off from there once the imprimatur of a major news agency was on it. Black Shoe Diaries has a detailed chronology of the mass screwup if you're interested in details. Shirtless Mark Twain isn't sure if he approves of this whole business or not, but would like you to know that rumors of his rippling pecs have been sorely undersold.
It's a story about the internet screwing up in very understandable ways. Onward State had what seemed like reliable information, and it passed their threshold for reporting. It is not a good threshold, but not everyone has one these days. CBS's Adam Jacobi did something unwise and sloppy. Pagewhoring Huffington Post saw an opportunity for views and cares about nothing else.
We've seen this happen before when a newspaper intern replicates an internet rumor on one of the dingy blogs shuffled off into the corner of large metro papers: as soon as a rumor gets paired with header graphics associated with a real newspaper, everyone else is confirming it via "sources." In this instance, CBS's screwup was compounded because they didn't even provide a link to the primary source; Huffington Post did the same thing, but that's just their MO. Jacobi is a BHGP founder and should have known better.
I've screwed these things up myself. Earlier this year I erroneously reported that Kaleb Ringer had been booted from his high school team based on information that seemed solid but obvious was not. By contrast, a couple years ago I had the sense not to run anything about the serious car accident that Jon Bills and Mark Moundros were in despite having a ton of solid sources telling me about it. That seemed like a place to let journalists be journalists.
As I go along here that realm has steadily expanded. I probably won't report something like the Ringer thing again for a lot of reasons. Michigan playing Alabama is one thing to be wrong about; a high school kid's problems or lack thereof is another. This leaves windows open for crass opportunists like Ace Williams, but it's the internet. There's always going to be a bottom of the barrel.
Anyway, these things evolve naturally. As this site expands it has more at risk and becomes more cautious. People just starting out have little to lose and have not experienced the backlash from being wrong—or the frightening period between your post and official confirmation of it. Also some of them are total idiots.
From the user's perspective, the thing to do is maintain a Bayesian approach. Phil Birnbaum explains what that is:
Generally, Bayesian is a process by which you refine your probability estimate. You start out with whatever evidence you have which leads you to a "prior" estimate for how things are. Then, you get more evidence. You add that to the pile, and refine your estimate by combining the evidence. That gives you a new, "posterior" estimate for how things are.
You're a juror at a trial. At the beginning of the trial, you have no idea whether the guy is guilty or not. You might think it's 50/50 -- not necessarily explicitly, but just intuitively. Then, a witness comes up that says he saw the crime happen, and he's "pretty sure" this is the guy. Combining that with the 50/50, you might now think it's 80/20.
Then, the defense calls the guy's boss, who said he was at work when the crime happened. Hmmm, you say, that sounds like he couldn't have done it. But there's still the eyewitness. Maybe, then, it's now 40/60.
And so on, as the other evidence unfolds.
That's how Bayesian works. You start out with your "prior" estimate, based on all the evidence to date: 50/50. Then, you see some new evidence: there's an eyewitness, but the boss provides an alibi. You combine that new evidence with the prior, and you adjust your estimate accordingly. So your new best estimate, your "posterior," is now 40/60.
So if some guy with 50 followers claims Armani Reeves is headed to Michigan because Urban was late for his in-home visit, you might increment your 50% to 51%. If Mike Farrell says its 52-48 you might bump it to 52%, but if Farrell said he thought Reeves was definitely headed to Michigan you could push it up further. You base your confidence in the opinion on previous accuracy, with a list like this…
- TomVH/Sam Webb
- Established message board posters
- National analysts
- Random message board posters
- Raving lunatics
- People who don't know what football is
- Fictional races from another galaxy
- Hyperintelligent tacos
- Regular tacos
- Tacos that aren't too bright even for tacos
- Ace Williams
…and change your baseline confidence based on the information and your confidence level in it. This is something people do naturally, but too often the weight they put on the information is either 0 or 1 when it should be somewhere in between.
For purveyors of information, it's time to put an explicit confidence level on what you're relaying. My mistake with the Ringer thing, other than mentioning it at all, was saying something was the case when I should have said something less certain. When I got tips about the Michigan-Alabama game I erred by saying with certainty a contract would be signed on a certain date when the people involved with the thing probably didn't know that.
I try to follow a policy of revealing as much as I can about the nature any information I pass along without exposing a source, and that added transparency is necessary in an age when information—valid information—can come from anywhere or anyone. I still make mistakes. That's inevitable. I'm trying, though.
However, not even linking to the original report is a mortal sin. If you are going to run something based on someone else's reporting it is vital that you explicitly tell readers that. Otherwise one report from a little-known online news source turns into multiple reports, some of them from organizations with people paid to do reporting, and the echo chamber starts going exponential. If you do not link, you are telling people that you are reporting it, and when it turns out to be wrong you can't point the finger at anyone but yourself.
UFR will go up tomorrow. FYI.
It's raining wallpaper. As per usual. This one is from jonvalk:
This week in bowl parasitism. Bowl games are parasites on college football designed to bleed as much money from the system as they can get away with. Thanks to the interest levels provided by the teams—not the stadiums or locations—some of them do actually pump money into the system (although far less money than an NCAA controlled playoff would). The latest example of this:
The Fiesta Bowl has a deal with the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau that pays the bowl hundreds of thousands of tax dollars a year in return for requiring participating teams to stay in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley resorts.
The bowl says the agreement is strictly legal and good business for all parties involved.
But it may increase the cost for schools playing in the Fiesta Bowl and BCS Championship Game, because they are required to stay a certain number of nights at high-end hotels.
The bowl, according to records obtained by The Arizona Republic, received $491,340 from the Scottsdale CVB this past college-bowl season when the Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon and Auburn football programs stayed in Scottsdale-area resorts for the Fiesta Bowl and Bowl Championship Series title game, respectively.
Legal or not, that's a half-million dollars of overhead from the payment alone and however much more from the monopoly lock in the payment provides. We can ballpark how much this is from UConn's trip to the Fiesta last year:
UConn also has a hotel obligation — a total of 550 rooms at three different hotels ranging in price from $125-225 a night, not including tax, with blocks reserved for either three or seven nights.
Without the lock-in teams could put the band in six rooms at the Super Eight and save themselves a bucket of money. The Sugar does this as well. Their defense is "this is legal," which is true but beside the point.
If bowls are going to exist they should be worthwhile businesses without heaping unnecessary expenses on the participating teams. This is a relatively piddly expense relative to ticket guarantees that erase payouts and leave cash-strapped programs with a net deficit, but it just shows how much of a racket bowls are. Not that you needed to be told that when the Michigan-OSU game featured Rose Bowl reps when the combined chance of either team making it to Pasadena was zero percent.
Crose enough*! Andy Staples has an article about the Big 12's sudden, unsurprising opinion flip in re: an expanded playoff field. It promises change:
Monday, Big 12 athletic directors voted in a straw poll to get behind the idea of a plus-one format that would allow four teams to compete for the national title. Such a format would have allowed USC to play for the national title in 2003, Auburn to play for it in 2004, Texas to play for it in 2008 and Oklahoma State -- which finished behind No. 2 Alabama by the slimmest of margins in the BCS standings -- to play for the title this season. If the league's presidents choose to agree with their athletic directors, the Big 12's support would be a huge step forward. The Big 12 was one of several leagues that blocked SEC commissioner Mike Slive's 2008 proposal for a four-team, seeded tournament. The ACC was the only conference that supported the plan.
With Larry Scott now creating the future in earnest in the Pac-12, the major remaining obstacle to a playoff is one of these two men.
Left: Lando Mollari. Right: Jim Delany
Jim Delany still hates the Narn with all his heart.
“Our view is we’d like to stay where we are,” Delany told the Tribune. “We do believe in the slippery slope theory.”
You should have thought of that before you joined the BCS, dude. As soon as the dumbest playoff in history was instituted, outrage started piling up. As soon as the sanctity of the Rose Bowl was undermined, erosion got busy. The levees are about to break.
If conference leaders are smart, they'll design a plan that allows for the two semifinal games to be played on the home fields of the No. 1- and No. 2-seeded teams. If they wanted to appease the must-win-your-league crowd, they could require that a team must win its conference to host a semifinal. Home-site semifinals would eliminate concerns about fan bases traveling twice -- a non-starter -- and would help reinforce the importance of the regular season. Teams would go into the final week fighting for a home game in a sport where home-field advantage means a lot. Just imagine an LSU-Stanford semifinal at Tiger Stadium or an Alabama-Oklahoma State semifinal in Stillwater (using the must-win-conference rule). Also, to remove the negative consequences of a semifinal loss, the two losing teams would be placed into premium bowls, where they could take a well-deserved victory lap for a great season. This would appease bowl executives, who for some unknown reason strike fear into the hearts of the people who run the sport.
One day people will wake up and realize that doofs in yellow jackets getting paid is not in the best interests of the sport. Think Of The Children.
As Witherspoon jumps out to hedge, Trey Burke puts on the brakes and changes direction with a between the legs dribble. All within a split of a second. This makes the play right here. The change of direction gives him another screen but also has his defender back up and lose attachment.
All Trey has to do now is get to the outside of Barton’s left leg and he will get in the lane.
It's Picture Pages for basketball. All we've got now is a superior use of the crop tool.
So exactly right. There was a point a few years ago when I railed almost weekly against the relentless stenography that mainstream coverage had degenerated into. It was the bubble screen of 2007. I dropped six months after that hobby-horse expired, but when an ESPN vet like Tim Keown lays into the modern press conference I cannot resist a very long blockquote:
The death of the interview has spawned a generation raised on generalities and clichés. Caution is a lesson [Titans QB Matt] Hasselbeck has learned many times, most recently after the Titans beat the Colts on Oct. 30, when he was asked -- or told, he can't remember the phrasing -- to compare current teammate Chris Johnson with former Seahawks teammate Shaun Alexander. In Hasselbeck's view, it was a question with "a negative vibe" -- his pet peeve.
What followed was an instructive look into the void left in the interview's wake. Hasselbeck, attempting to answer the question honestly, said he did see similarities: two great running backs who followed MVP-caliber seasons with "normal" years. He was attempting to make the point that both players were victims of unfair expectations, because nobody can be expected to perform at an MVP level every season. "It's hard to be elite every year," he said.
Predictably, he was seen as "ripping" Johnson and "throwing him under the bus." … The question was legitimate. Johnson, a former offensive player of the year and recent signee of a huge contract, had been booed at home in much the same way former MVP Alexander was when his production dropped off after he signed a huge contract. The answer, as far as it went, was legitimate as well. What was missing was context, and before Hasselbeck could massage his message, he was hit with a new question and the group conversation -- such as it was -- moved on.
"If I were Chris Johnson, I would have wondered, 'Why is my quarterback saying this about me?'" Hasselbeck says. "Everyone knows how the Shaun Alexander story ended in Seattle, so it looked like I was ripping Chris Johnson." The subsequent coverage centered on Hasselbeck's "unflattering" comparison between the two running backs. "I was asked a negative question, and instead of being a jerk I gave an honest answer," he says.
His solution? Be boring. "It's a headline-driven world, and what I said provided a headline," he says. "That's why I'm guarded, cautious. I don't want to accidentally give bulletin-board material. If someone asks me about a player, I say, 'He's a great player.' If they ask me about a coach, I say, 'He's a great coach.' "
The problem is finding which section to blockquote since all of it is deadly accurate. It starts "BEHOLD THE DECOMPOSED REMAINS of the sports interview" and is probably 3000 words long. It's worth the read.
The local spin comes in two parts. Part one: boy is it nice to have a coach with his banalities down pat. Rich Rodriguez may have gotten unfairly pilloried for his "get a life" statement, which was ripped out of context like Hasselbeck's statement was, but he was a magnet for that kind of stuff. Hoke hasn't had a misstep yet; he's settled into a comfort zone where the media is his lapdog, and that won't change. If things start going poorly the media will be defending Hoke and scorning fans until it's over.
Part two: Michigan's suddenly better about this than most schools with their coordinator pressers and the relatively straight answers given in there, especially from Mattison.
Etc.: Gobbler Country profiles Michigan, which is us. More on this later, but Chris Brown's long-ago profile of the Hokie D is remarkably useful since it's about how they've adapted to the spread. UMHoops talks Oakland with a Summit League blogger.