Unverified Voracity's Hourglass Runs Out Comment Count

Brian March 17th, 2015 at 3:48 PM


A man who knew how to live.

RIP Terry Pratchett. British author Terry Pratchett died on Thursday at 66, eight years after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.

Occasionally, people ask me about how to be a successful writer. This is kind of like asking a football player about his rad interception after the game—I don't really know, it just happened. But no one likes that answer. So my second-best guess is that I read many different things over a long period of time, and written various things for public consumption all along. Eventually I'd cribbed my style from so many different people that the pastiche seems like something its own. Voila: writer with Voice.

Pratchett was the first and most painfully obvious theft of the Big Four. (The others: Bloom County author Berke Breathed, David Foster Wallace, and SI's Paul Zimmerman.) He had not yet made a successful transition to this side of the Atlantic, but I had a friend in high school whose aunt was in British publishing. She passed Pratchett along to him, and he doled the books out to me one at a time. I lost one once and was terrified that I would not be entrusted with additional precious objects. But my friend kept giving them to me. For a time afterwards my prose was littered with jaunty footnotes and anthropomorphizations of natural forces. A pale imitation of the real thing.

I kept some of that, toning it down, and as I was reading the internet's obituary of the man I found this, in his own words:

There is a term that readers have been known to apply to fantasy that is sometimes an unquestioning echo of better work gone before, with a static society, conveniently ugly “bad” races, magic that works like electricity, and horses that work like cars. It’s EFP, or Extruded Fantasy Product. It can be recognized by the fact that you can’t tell it apart from all the other EFP.

Do not write it, and try not to read it. Read widely outside the genre. Read about the Old West (a fantasy in itself) or Georgian London or how Nelson’s navy was victualled or the history of alchemy or clock making or the mail coach system. Read with the mind-set of a carpenter looking at trees.

This is what I've done. I barely read sports books. I get a lot of them in the mail, or at least I used to before people cottoned onto the fact that a review was not likely to be forthcoming. I read fiction, right now mostly science fiction, and I think it serves the site well.

Pratchett was endlessly creative and subversive, often taking hallowed but trope-laden fantasy novels apart then reassembling them into a half-parodic, half-genuine whole far better than the source material. He found a platform, then found that he'd rather make his own characters than repackage the frustrating ones he found elsewhere. He was excellent at this as well. He always maintained a healthy fear of hollow marketing—Pratchett elves are twisted creatures who live in a neighboring dimension that project an aura of glamour that iron disrupts. His most prominent and probably favorite character was DEATH, yes with the bones and the scythe and everything. He was simultaneously very weird and very kind and very upset, and I'll miss him.

If you're interested in trying him out, I recommend Good Omens, a book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, Guards! Guards!, and Small Gods.

YES OKAY. I did think to myself "by dang, Dave Brandon was selling Extruded Michigan Product" when I read that.

Leach + Ufer. Via Dr. Sap:

Enter the 30 second shot clock. The NIT is experimenting with that and an NBA-size restricted circle, both of which are changes I can get behind as a COLLEGE BASKETBALL CRISIS skeptic. Kenpom notes that the Vegas over/unders for opening-round NIT games differ from his numbers by…

Predicted total score of Tuesday’s NIT games

             Me      Market
Ala/Ill     126        136
GW/Pitt     125        136
NCC/Miami   117        129
UTEP/Murray 144        151
Mont/TAMU   125        134
UCD/Stan    140        148
Iona/URI    144        152

The difference here is an average of seven percent. Apply that to the average scoring this season of 66.85 points per game and you’d get 71.5. That’s over a point higher than last season when the scoring average was propped up by an increase in free throws early in the season. And it’s higher than any season since 1996.

…seven percent, which in fact precisely offsets the drop in possessions from 2002 (the first year for which Kenpom has data) to 2015. Kenpom also points out that the drop from 45 seconds to 35 resulted in just a two percent increase in pace.

If this year's NIT doesn't show a large negative impact on efficiency, I would expect the 30 second clock to become standard in the near future.

Miller says adios. Already covered by Ace when it happened; Miller releases his own reasoning on twitter. It sounds like he was just done with football. This kind of thing happens when you have a transition, and if Miller didn't have much of an NFL career in the wings (he didn't) it makes sense to just go be in the world… if the alternative you most closely associate with continuing is the last two years of Michigan football followed by a jarring change.

I don't think this is a major issue since Michigan finally has a lot of depth that is not any variety of freshman. It is an indication that the team spirit was worn down extensively over the past couple years. It's one thing to walk away from an NFL job—it's a job. It's another, or at least should be another, to do so when you could be a senior at Michigan. Hopefully Harbaugh can restore that difference.

But it could be a problem because… Graham Glasgow violated the terms of his probation and is suspended as a result. The nature of his violation is worrying:

Michigan offensive lineman Graham Glasgow has been suspended from the program, according to a UM spokesman, after testing .086 on a Breathalyzer given on Sunday and violating his probation.

Testing barely over the legal limit to drive is not a big deal if you are not driving… except this test was done at ten in the morning. That is a red flag.

If Glasgow comes through this okay and gets a handle on things, the OL can sustain Miller's departure by sliding him back to center and inserting Erik Magnuson with little loss of efficacy. If Glasgow flames out, then things start to look a bit thin.

Harbaugh is hands on. Knuckle placement.

Hearing about it is one thing.

But seeing your head coach lying on the ground during practice to demonstrate the proper center-quarterback exchange technique?

Well, things get real at that point.

"He's really hands on with everything," the Michigan junior running back said with a smile Thursday. "When I first saw him (on the ground like that), I was like 'why is he doing this?' But I asked the centers the next day if that helped them and they said it did, they said that was the first time anyone had showed them something like that.

"So, I enjoyed it."

"…and barely avoided bursting into laughter like Derrick. RIP Derrick."

More people. Erik Campbell returns to staff as a… guy… who does… things. Probably works with film, breaks down opponent tendencies, that sort of thing. Michigan also added Cleveland St. Ed's head coach Jim Finotti as their Ops guy.

Obligatory. John Oliver on the NCAA:

It's a racket. Related: here's Andy Schwarz on Purdue's "internal services" sleight of hand. Long story short, Purdue takes profit from the athletic department and pretends it's an expense they are paying for. In this way it appears like the Boilermakers are not in the black, helping the NCAA cry poverty.

Finally. Bill Raftery, at 73, gets to call the Final Four. Raftery manages to bring the enthusiasm Dick Vitale does without being a braying nonsense merchant; he is one of the chosen few media people who can be utterly himself without getting in trouble for it and still be awesome. (Another: Scott Van Pelt.)

On long practices. Joe Bolden:

“I would say it’s probably the longest I’ve ever been on the football field, other than a game with a rain delay like Utah last year,” said senior linebacker Joe Bolden. “To me it flies by. If you tell a high school or college kid that they’re going to have a four-hour practice in pads they’ll think you’re a bit crazy. But at the same time, you don’t think about it when you’re out there. Your body can take a lot more than you think it can. If he wants to practice six hours, and it’s (within the practice time cap), then we’ll practice six hours.”

This man was not one of the Big Four influences. A nation realizes that those rabid anti-Rosenberg Michigan fans were probably right all along.

Etc.: Engineering your bracket. MGoGirl basketball post mortem. Jordan Morgan has a foundation now. John Harbaugh talking to the team. Enter another Glasgow. A comprehensive look at when to foul late in basketball games.

Bacon on Harbaugh's "weapons-grade intensity." Related: Pretty much.



March 17th, 2015 at 3:55 PM ^

Wow. Rosenberg thinks rotting in jail could leave Hernandez better off than if he was still playing in the NFL? How did this guy get a job at Sports Illustrated?

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March 18th, 2015 at 12:12 AM ^

Oh please.  It's booze, not steroids or meth or something.  Lots of these guys are partying during the season, let alone spring practice.  

In my time hanging out with college athletes either during or shortly after college, I've learned that running being huge isn't the only things they do better than the rest of us - most of them can drink like you can't believe.  So maybe Graham Glasgow can drink like a MFer and get up and practice just fine the next day?  He wouldn't be the only one.


March 17th, 2015 at 4:00 PM ^

Good Omens has a special place in my heart. Randomly picked it up in an airport in my younger days because I thought the cover looked interesting. Simultaneously got me into both Gaiman and Prachett. Good stuff.

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March 17th, 2015 at 4:09 PM ^

And thanks for the explanation of Pratchett as an inspiration. I've found myself sort of subconsciously associating the writing on this site with Pratchett's for a few years now, and I'm glad to find out that those associations are actually rooted in something substantive.

The recognition of Pratchett's work suffered at the hands of critics who, in Neil Gaiman's words "think serious is the opposite of funny." They're works of breathtaking beauty and literary brilliance, and almost totally overlooked by the critical community because of their genre. I don't think the parallels to the astounding level of writing we find on this sports blog need to be spelled out too much more than that.


March 17th, 2015 at 7:58 PM ^

I believe I have everything he's written and one time when someone asked me what u was chuckling about I told them I add reading some excellent British satire because I think to pigeonhole him as fantasy is a disservice. Supposedly his daughter is going to continue writing and Terry strongly endorsed her writing several years ago... But I have low expectations.


March 17th, 2015 at 4:08 PM ^

The NCAA is the "have" and "have nots". The haves can afford to pay players. The haves--the vast majority of teams--cannot.

I believe the pay the players movement only speeds up the development of the Power 5 division which will  separate the programs that generate profit and those that do not.  The Power 5 will officially become what it has been for decades--a minor league for the NBA and NFL. The have nots will merge with FCS or lower divisions or cease to exist altogether


March 18th, 2015 at 12:27 AM ^

Agreed.  And just consider scholarships, especially at a private school, which a lot of D1 basketball schools are.  That part alone is almost a million bucks a year.  

Now if that school has 13 home games a year (common for the smaller D1 schools who have to play most of their non-conference games away), they average 5,000 fans per game and charge $20 per ticket on average (which might be high) you get $1,300,000.  So all ticket sales have barely covered your scholarships, and if you add in coaching salaries you're already well in the red.  And we haven't even covered a recruiting budget, facilities, travel, etc.  These mid-majors have very little TV income coming in or merchandise sales.  They get some, but not at the level of a Power 5 program.  

Think University of Detroit or Oakland University.

EDIT:  I was a little ambitious in my numbers.  UD averaged 2,400 per game last season and Oakland averaged 2,100 (although both played 15 games).  That's $720,000 and $630,000 in revenue respectively.  That's it you figure $20 average per ticket, which is likely high since I think students get in free and they count for a decent chunk of that number.


March 17th, 2015 at 4:11 PM ^

Terry Pratchett has been my favorite author for over 20 years, ever since my Scottish camp counselor loaned me Small Gods and Good Omens. Those are still my favorites of his, though my favorite character was always Sam Vimes, who doesn't appear until Guards! Guards! I have still never read an author that had quite the way of describing things that Pratchett did.


March 17th, 2015 at 5:04 PM ^

Another good starting place is Night Watch -- it has a time travel aspect that allows Pratchett to explore Sam Vimes' backstory and generally sort of revisit his earlier Discworld. For me, it's his strongest, most fully-realized book.

Among the early books, Mort is the one I remember most clearly.

As someone who is currently the primary caregiver for an Alzheimer's patient (not early onset -- mother-in-law, an academic who worked her whole career at the University of Michigan), I'd love to read an account of how Pratchett's care was handled. He was prolific in his last years, still writing up until about a year ago. He must have had some very loving people in his life, who were able to help him work within the limitations of the disease as it advanced through his brain.

The story of how they did so well in this would be inspiring to hear. It also says a lot about him as a human being, facing it as he must have. Each patient handles it differently. Though early-onset is a somewhat different animal than what we're facing (turned 90 last year).


March 17th, 2015 at 6:40 PM ^

Not only is that the name of my favorite book by Pratchett but also the sound my heart made when I heard the news. He is by far my favorite author.

My wife is English (born and raised in England before I brought her over her) and some friends convinced me that if I liked LOTR and Doctor Who, I would love Pratchett. I finally read one of his books, and quicly read the rest. Then I read them all a second time. He is one of the few authors whose books are better the second time.

In addition who what has already been mentioned I recommend Thud, The Fifth Elephant, and Masquerade (Wife's Favorite)


March 17th, 2015 at 9:49 PM ^

I think it is the best of the Vimes books, though I also like Jingo and Thud.

I came across a book of Terry Pratchett's writings (I think it was called A Slip of the Keyboard) a couple months ago, and I remember reading stuff in there that dealt, at least indirectly, with his disease, as well as issues like physician assisted suicide, which you can imagine being something he had thought about. I'm pretty sure there was also some information in there about his writing process in the last few years, because some of the essays in there were written pretty recently.


March 18th, 2015 at 4:23 PM ^

I will look for that. Also responding to Teldar below...

I have to imagine that they must have sat down once he became unable to produce material without someone sitting beside him (around 2010, I would guess) and mapped out the basic storylines and underlying jokes for the last few books -- Snuff and Raising Steam, and the upcoming Tiffany Aching book.

The question then would be how to help him shape the previously-planned chapters. Someone would have to find ways to get him to phrase things and put words into the characters' mouths. You can't ask ALZ patients questions -- even yes or no answers can be problematic -- they tend to panic. You have to guide them. I guess I envision them (or more likely, just one person) sitting and talking with him about the book, getting him to live in that world, as it were. Discworld would likely have become quite real for Pratchett when talking about it -- I imagine those recordings must be heartbreaking and fascinating all at the same time.

He would also have sat down around then with Stephen Baxter and planned The Long Earth series -- the first of those books (2012) has a fair amount of Pratchett's whimsy to it, but the following two have less and less. Baxter is pretty much wholly without a sense of humor -- I do appreciate his style of hard science fiction and what might be called "hard" alternate history, but without Pratchett to shape them, the characters suffer. It will be interesting to see if Baxter will proceed with the fourth and fifth books that were planned for the series -- no doubt Practchett's concepts are in place for those.

EDIT: Apparently, the fourth book in the Long Earth series will be published in June, called The Long Utopia.


March 17th, 2015 at 4:11 PM ^

Why is Purdue's athletic department giving money back to the university a bad thing?

The way I see it, schools invest money in infrastructure and coaching instead of paying short term for players. The philosophy is that that will benefit more athletes over time.


March 17th, 2015 at 4:41 PM ^

Purdue's athletic department is giving less money back to the university than it has in the past.  But the real point is that it's totally arbitrary -- it's logged as an expense for "internal services," without any reason to believe that the amount being shifted from the AD to the university actually correlates to actual expenses.  The point of the linked article is that you can't reliably use numbers reported by an athletic department to say anything useful about the economics of college athletics.


March 17th, 2015 at 5:00 PM ^

They used the money to reduce student ticket prices and pay for the cost of attendance allowance. Seems pretty reasonable to me. I don't think it's a secret that schools spend a lot of money so that they appear as financially neutral. It's pretty common in the public sector.


March 17th, 2015 at 5:06 PM ^

You're still missing it, I think. There's an annual chunk of cash that goes straight to the University general fund. This is basically profit, but by calling it an expense they can claim to be a school that doesn't make money on sports.

Yes, companies can do that, but doing it deliberately and blatantly to maintain "nonprofit" status would is supposed to trigger a stink-eye from the IRS

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March 17th, 2015 at 4:17 PM ^

Raft did get to call the Final Four on the radio last year(and presumably previous years). I actually got into my car and drove around a little to listen to him call the game rather than sit at home and listen to Steve Kerr.

Yinka Double Dare

March 17th, 2015 at 7:51 PM ^

Kerr was a good analyst, but I think Raft's enthusiasm and style actually mesh better with Nantz/Hill so far than Kerr did with Nantz/Anthony. Also, Raft is just pretty great in general. Though I'll miss him with Uncle Verne, he brings a completely different presence and style to the Nantz team that I think adds a lot to the broadcast.

Kerr with Marv Albert and Mike Fratello for NBA on TNT was great. Both Fratello and Kerr were good analysts as well. You could tell they all had worked together extensively and enjoyed it too, particularly with Albert and Kerry both having a rather dry/sarcastic sense of humor that at times would be directed at Fratello.