This Week’s Obsession: The Future of Sports Media

This Week’s Obsession: The Future of Sports Media

Submitted by Seth on April 26th, 2017 at 1:21 PM

[Comments temporarily turned off while we fix an issue]

image

The Question:

What's the Future of Sports Media like?

The Responses:

BiSB: Very Professional Podcasts.

David: Visual podcasts.

Ace: A vast web of two-minute autoplay videos with 30-second ad lead-ins.

Brian: Why is autoplay even an option? Why have you forsaken us, computer scientists?

Seth: Ask the legions of ad network peddlers who got my email when I joined the IAB newsletter. Someone saw on a spreadsheet that videos get incrementally higher ad rates and took this to all the board rooms in America.

Brian: It can't be incremental, can it? It has to be vastly different for the level of effort everyone is putting into video nobody watches

Seth: Rates are so dependent on so many factors that any generalization is necessarily incremental.

Brian: Anyway, it seems to me like there are a few different models for sports content that are viable. I would like you guys to guess at the models.

Ace: Grantland. RIP.

Seth: /giphy pours one out

slack-imgs

Brian: Boutique prestige content is indeed one.

  • PROS: good content written by people who don't feel like monkeys in the click factory.
  • CONS: apparently doesn't make money? I kind of dispute that Grantland didn't make money because it couldn't, especially given the immediate and huge success of Simmons's podcast.

Seth: Obviously we’re rooting for this one. It depends on the media environment. The market of people who want to think long and hard about anything is so small I spent most of my life not knowing we were even a demographic. In a consolidated market like cable TV, the easy numbers favor the lowest intellectual demographic, so that becomes the ONLY market served (Hi TV news!). The internet is an open environment, so boutiques can find their market.

grantland-front-door
Not forgotten

But they have to grow from the bottom-up. Grantland could be making money, but ESPN was structurally incapable of understanding how or why it did. Nobody who thinks putting Skip Bayless or Steven A. Smith on TV is a good idea knows the first thing about marketing to people who fire off braincells for fun. The best thing for everybody would have been to spin it off.

Ace: The other issue with those prestige sites is writers tend to get snatched up. Grantland was a pretty unbelievable collection of talent that The Ringer has had a hard time replicating.

Brian: Yeah, a lot of them want to move on to doing other things because they can. This is not so much an issue with Graham Couch.

The ringer is also stuck on Medium, which is a terrible decision because it feels like a part of something instead of its own thing. That's fine if you're yet another Gannett site but bad if you're trying to be bougie.

Other boutique prestige shops include VICE Sports, The New York Times, Sports on Earth, and The Classical. The former two are parts of much larger organizations, the latter two basically died and live on as husks that don't pay many people.

So this is a dodgy and ephemeral way to live.

[Hit the JUMP for other ideas, like not paying for trash, more diagrams, or embracing “Embrace Debate.”]

Mailbag: Late Game Threes, Basketball And Football Recruiting Reassurances, The Poisoned Chalice Of Access

Mailbag: Late Game Threes, Basketball And Football Recruiting Reassurances, The Poisoned Chalice Of Access

Submitted by Brian on February 3rd, 2015 at 4:09 PM

SUBjayhawks-superJumbo[1]

Go for three against MSU?

Brian,

Frustrated after the end of the MSU basketball game.  Simple question...if you have the ball down 2 points, with the chance to take the last shot, wouldn't you give yourself a better chance to win the game by running the clock down and taking the best three point shot you can get within the last five seconds?

Simplistically, Let's say it has a 35% chance to go in, and that your win % if it goes in is 100%.  The other option is go to go for a two point shot with time left on the clock.  What are your odds of winning with that strategy?  Much worse, right?  I'm no math major, but to me the odds go like this:

- generously, a 50% chance of making the shot, which then...
- gives your opponent a possession to win.  Call it 50/50 that they take advantage.
- even if they don't, all you get is overtime, which lets call another 50/50 shot.

Maybe you can run the numbers, but it seems like your win % is something like 12.5%.  You need three toss ups to go your way.

I'll hang up and listen...

Regards,
Philip Maguran

It's a bit more complicated than that.

  1. Michigan isn't just worried about what will happen if they score. They're also worried about what will happen if they don't. Michigan had 20 seconds left when Bielfeldt tipped the ball in. If that had gone the the other way they had an opportunity to force a turnover or get another bite at the apple in the event MSU did not knock down both free throws. Even an 80% shooter like Denzel Valentine gives you a shot at the game about a third of the time.
  2. Michigan's tying basket was a off an offensive rebound. Off a two, yes, but even if it was a three the ensuing putback is still worth two.
  3. Your chance at a putback is greater if you aren't shooting a jumper. In the NBA, shots within 6 feet get rebounded at a 37% rate; threes at just a 26% rate. (Threes are still better than long twos at 21%.) Albrecht's shot was a weird floater, one that saw Branden Dawson checking Bielfeldt at the FT line in an attempt to prevent a three—the nature of that shot greatly aided the subsequent putback.
  4. Your chances of an OREB are zero if you wait for a three at the buzzer.
  5. Last second threes are generally bad shots because the opponent is maniacally focused on the three-point line. Albrecht's three to bring Michigan within striking distance was a good example of the phenomenon. To get any sort of look he had to take the shot a few feet behind the arc. See also:

you're welcome

Given all that the decision is far less clear. I'd be totally on-board with an open look that came out of the context of the offense. I would prefer it to any non-gimme two. But waiting for a do-or-die three is not good eats.

I don't have a problem with the way regulation ended. In that situation the imperative is to have a good offensive possession, hopefully quickly, and Albrecht's quick take got a decent shot that put Michigan in position for an OREB without bleeding much time.

[After the JUMP: talking people off various recruiting related ledges]

Dear Diary Lights the Tires and Kicks the Fires

Dear Diary Lights the Tires and Kicks the Fires

Submitted by Seth on September 26th, 2014 at 1:56 PM

top-gun-maverick-iceman-goose-slider-tom-cruise-val-kilmer-anthony-edwards

Devin, I'm sorry about Funchess. Everybody liked him. I'm sorry.

Red or Blue. A week after a program-shattering loss turns fandom into an election year, with wins taking the place of electoral votes. This year's ballot has close races in quarterback, head coach, and AD, as well as referendums on blocking style, tempo, and punt formations.

On Saturday night those races appeared decided when everybody departed with eight minutes left of a two-score game against an opponent Michigan was outgaining. They'd seen the jewel of Rich Rodriguez's recruiting wasting an NCAA gift of a senior year in a new offense that still treated him like Tom Brady, so shell-shocked by years of abuse that any peripheral motion triggered desperation.

Then Shane, and the interception came, followed by the rain, and you could count the Hoke supporters by picking out the few hundred dots of blue or yellow between the blob of red. Everybody else looked at the scoreboard, looked at the radar, and recalled Michigan huddling—huddling!!!!—and calculated the obvious move. The 98,000 empty seats were a consensus: Hoke probably has to go, and Dave Brandon absolutely has to go first. The moment was stark, but it couldn't last, because stupid hope and the will to support your team is stronger than your brain's ability to store information it doesn't want.

The fanbase needs to have this conversation, and the diaries did just that. ST3 posted a curtailed Inside the Boxscore wherein his kid's quotes provided the subheads:

"Another huddle? Really?"
* Seriously, my son actually said that. I don't think he reads MGoBlog, and I hadn't said anything about tempo or huddling. So if a 9-year old can watch Utah succeeding with pace, watch Michigan plodding along, and gets exasperated at the huddling, why can't Brady figure this out?

Jhackney got home and thought about spiritual cleansings and what kind of coach doesn't wear a headset:

Dave Brandon is a whiz at marketing and salesmanship and Hoke is a whiz at clapping his hands while keeping his ears the same color tan of his face and running a clean program. There needs to be a coach that is involved in at least one side of the ball. Saban would mutilate your skull with his championship rings if you tried taking his head set away.

Every coach has inherent flaws—Nick Saban is an offensive dinosaur and doesn't care about his players beyond what they can do for him. It's whether the good things overcome those flaws. Hoke makes his program worse by willfully ignoring fundamental developments like the spread offense, tempo, the shield punt, and game theory. He and Mattison make it better by running it clean, recruiting excellent players and people, and building a strong defense. Like with political candidates, everybody's flawed; it's whether their angels or demons will come out ahead.

Best and Worst saw the fruit of Hoke's demonic seeds:

No, what killed my optimism about this team and this staff, about this program as it is currently stumbling through another shitty year, is how absolutely true-to-form it is to the dreams of the men in charge.

[…lights out on the Titanic.gif]

Ron Utah made the obvious comparison: we are experiencing a reverse Rich Rod. I'll add Bill Martin reversed to Dave Brandon and liken it to the classic two-party problem. Martin and Rodriguez alienated the crucial top of the fan pyramid with their Whiggish football ways, an inability to commit to a defensive faith resulting in total bedlam. Brandon went the other way; his Tory pandering alienated the students (SaddestTailgateEver on another little hoarded thing) and entitled alumni (dnak438 on his noodle exchange with Brandon) while Hoke's offense and special teams have repeatedly been derailed by dogma trumping sense.

Given most of the week to calm down, jmdblue wrote that he'd rather give Brady one more term to work things out while the upstarts drown themselves in their own corruptions. Unless someone can convince Colin Powell to run.

Etc. Alum96 reviewed the 2012 recruiting class to see if there was a development issue. If you don't compare against other schools though it means nothing, since most recruits don't play to their star rankings. Average size of each B1G team's offensive line starters. GIF about punting. Regular stats make M look good (see: outgained ND and Utah).

Mailbag: Not Quite All About Firing Everyone

Mailbag: Not Quite All About Firing Everyone

Submitted by Brian on September 23rd, 2014 at 12:22 PM

I got a pile of email, so this is really long and still leaves out a number of missives. Apologies if yours wasn't selected.

A fairly comprehensive coaching-firing email.

I got a lot, obviously. This one touches all of the bases.

Brian,

I'm currently operating under the following two assumptions:

1) Brady Hoke is done unless Michigan at least wins at least the Big Ten East with wins over both rivals on the road, which currently seems about as likely as two nuclear missiles turning into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias and one of them telling our coaching staff how to coach offensive football before they plummet to earth.

I don't think it is that cut and dried yet. If Michigan goes 7-1 in the Big Ten with a loss to MSU and ends up 9-3 and going to the Citrus Bowl or something, that is a weird way to get to what people expected before the season. I think any 8-4 record is a hard sell that might induce a decision that we all hate and 7-5 is 100% dumped. (This is not what I'd do; unless he runs the table before the OSU game I would give him the Earl Bruce pre-Game firm handshake. This is what I'm guessing the athletic director would do.)

But yeah, going 7-1 in the Big Ten seems about as likely as the bowl of petunias thing. I am thinking "oh no, not again," tho—we solved it! The bowl of petunias is a Michigan fan.

2) That Dave Brandon will make a comically inept hire of either a warmed over retread with a tenuous connection to the past (Cam Cameron!), a mediocre young coordinator with a tenuous connection to the past (Scott Loeffler!), or a flashy idiot who must be great in interviews even though he's a moron coaching a football team (Lane Kiffin!)

Given that, how long would it take to set up and execute a reasonable search committee for a new athletic director?  And is there any chance at all the university leadership acts decisively to remove the fundamental problem?  It seems like the answer to those questions are too long and no at the moment.

The timing is bad. Schlissel just got in and has no frame of reference, so is he going to make a serious move? Does he even care about it, or is it something that's 11d on the agenda at a random meeting? And is he going to do it now-now-now, like he'd probably have to?

The answers to these questions are probably no. I think we're stuck with Brandon. If Michigan did make a move now there are a number of obvious candidates: Jeff Long is Arkansas's AD, Brad Bates is Boston College's, Warde Manuel is UConn's.

Long hired Bobby Petrino when Petrino bugged out on the Falcons, and then replaced him with Bret Bielema. Both are impressive hires from a football perspective and odious from a "you want me to root for THIS guy?" perspective. Manuel hired Turner Gill at Buffalo, was handed interim basketball coach Kevin Ollie (who then hired himself by winning a lot), and executed a logical search when UConn replaced Paul Pasqualoni, first trying to grab Pat Narduzzi and then going with Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco.

And while we're contemplating the fundamental horror of being Notre Dame, is Hoke Davie, Willingham, or Weis?  Seems to me he recruits like Weis and coaches like Willingham, which is somehow worse than either of those guys.  Or at least more frustrating.

Davie. His recruiting is better than Willingham and he's not a deliberately offensive, off-putting goon. Davie was an amiable man who couldn't organize a footbaw team.

Of course the real problem is that there really doesn't seem to be an upwardly mobile candidate at the right level to actually go after.  I mean obviously you'd take a shot at Sumlin, but no way A&M doesn't match that offer.  Which sort of leaves you hoping the Ravens' front office semi-criminal dickishness makes John Harbaugh quit and then you hope you can outbid like 15 NFL teams who would immediately jump at the shot to hire him.  Not a great situations.  Only name I can maybe come up with at a realistic level is Craig Bohl, who is unfortunately 56 and in the first year of his new job at Wyoming.  That juggernaut he built on North Dakota State is impressive though.

Basically I think we're doomed.  Are we doomed?

Andrew

It looks fairly doomy, but we were all laughing about Ohio State's coaching search when they settled on the previously-obscure Jim Tressel. There are guys out there. You mention Bohl, who I have also wikipedia-stalked to my disappointment. Michigan may as well take a run at Sumlin types, but realistically any SEC school is going to match the money, and if you're crushing it in the SEC what is the motivation to move?

There is a name out there that I think might work: Dan Mullen. He made a previously awful team competitive in the brutal SEC. Nobody's been able to win much of anything at Mississippi State in 20 years—Jackie Sherrill had one ten-win season in 1999 and was otherwise bouncing between 8 and 3 wins. The Bulldogs have gone from winning a quarter of their SEC games under Sylvester Croom to winning 42%, and they've gone to four straight bowls for the first time ever. That's a James Franklin-like resume.

Mullen grew up in Pennsylvania, so he'll have some useful recruiting contact, he's 42—good long term upside if he works out—and he was Urban Meyer's OC for Florida's run of dominance there. He just beat LSU on the road. If Mississippi State goes 9-3 or better this year he'll be a very attractive candidate.

The problem is that Florida is going to be looking as well and I have bad feels about competing with them given our current situation and Florida's proximity to bounteous talent.

[After THE JUMP: more stuff like this, and an Ondre Pipkins Q.]

Never Be The First To Report Someone's Dead

Never Be The First To Report Someone's Dead

Submitted by Brian on January 25th, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Mark-Twain[1][ED: Meta. I was just going to put a bullet in a UV about this but things got a little crazy and I ended up with a full post.]

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…

  1. TomVH/Sam Webb
  2. Established message board posters
  3. National analysts
  4. Random message board posters
  5. Raving lunatics
  6. People who don't know what football is
  7. Fictional races from another galaxy
  8. Hyperintelligent tacos
  9. Regular tacos
  10. Tacos that aren't too bright even for tacos
  11. 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.

Unverified Voracity Latches On

Unverified Voracity Latches On

Submitted by Brian on December 7th, 2011 at 3:38 PM

UFR will go up tomorrow. FYI.

It's raining wallpaper. As per usual. This one is from jonvalk:

Sugar-bowl[1]

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.

jim-delany12823_109298[1]

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.

Staples is on board with big chunks of the MGoPlayoff, not quite arriving at six teams but still proposing something I'd love:

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.

*[This.]

Not fair. UMHoops has David Merritt breaking down some of Michigan's pick and rolls from Maui.

Hard Hedge
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.

Memphis1-11

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.