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Friday, November 14, 2008

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 11/15-16

All times PST.

9-12:30 PM: College football, Notre Dame v. Navy from Baltimore (CBS). The only positive B Point games going on are Big 10 games against scrubs. You can partly blame the Positive B Point Contraction, but this is really a boring weekend.

1-4:30 PM: NASCAR Nationwide Series Racing, Ford 300 (ESPN2). Final race of the Nationwide Series season preempts all three games between teams in positve B Points.

6:30-8:30 PM: MLS Soccer, Red Bulls @ Real Salt Lake (Fox Soccer Channel). I think you need Stephen Hawking to decode the MLS playoff system. So in the conference semifinals, you have a home-and-home with higher aggregate score moving on, then the conference championship is a single game with home field advantage, then the MLS Cup moves to a theoretically neutral site? And WHAT the HELL is NEW YORK doing in the WESTERN Conference Playoffs?

12-5 PM: NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing, Ford 400 (ABC). Finally, the slow, unrelenting slog known as the Chase for the Championship is over.

5-8:30 PM: NFL Football, Cowboys @ Redskins (NBC). Obviously a game of tremendous importance. Gah, I'm so worn out by this feature.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Self-promotion on Da Blog? MY PREROGATIVE!

(From Sandsday. Click for full-sized shameless self-promotion.)

In response to the link to Da Blog's last webcomics post, someone decided to rap on me by claiming I had been "advertising [Sandsday] by spamming its URL across every webcomics commentary site he could find".

Umm... excuse me? I made multiple attempts at pushing it on Websnark but that was because I had thought the previous attempts didn't go through. YWIB utilizes a trackback feature so Da Blog showed up there automatically just because I linked to it; I never attempted to push Sandsday on there at all. Nor have I made any comments on Tangents to my knowledge, Sandsday-pushing or otherwise; if I had commented there it would have been to rap on Robert A. Howard for being so lazy at getting his site back up. I don't even really know of any other "webcomics commentary sites".

There's a link to the strip in my Giant in the Playground forum (=Order of the Stick) sig, but that's my prerogative; in the body of a post there, I've linked to Da Blog as many times as I have to Sandsday, and the latter case I believe was in a thread collecting links to as many webcomics as possible, so that was also my prerogative. If you count TV Tropes Wiki as a "webcomics commentary site" I probably have more links to Sandsday on there than on all other "webcomics commentary sites" put together, but one's on my profile page (my prerogative), one was on the TV Tropes forum looking for feedback and advice (if that), one was on a "notable webcomics" list where the bar for inclusion was basically "a troper has heard of it" (and even then I asked the boards to alleviate my compunctions about it), thus also my prerogative, and there was really only one other case where I linked to the strip purely out of self-promotion. If I had placed links to the strip even in every case where it was actually applicable, I'd be as ubiquitous on TV Tropes as a strip with only 300 strips can be, with a presence far exceeding my (lack of) popularity, but I'm not that kind of self-promoter. (*cough*StickmanAndCube*cough*)

Even now, as I've added a second link, to today's strip, it was on a discussion page even as I could have easily added it to the main article, and it's buried way down on the page so any traffic spike will be minimal and early on. I'm far more concerned about the gap between Da Blog readers and Sandsday readers, so I'm looking to see if you - especially the people following my webcomics posts - have any advice on how to improve while remaining true to the core concept. Was my recent dalliance in political discussion a promising new direction or should I stay out of that field? Leave a comment on this post or on the Sandsday Feedback Open Thread, linked off of the strip itself, or e-mail me at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com.

Catching up on the world of sports TV graphics design

Various notes from the world of sports graphics while I was busy dabbling in politics:
  • It looks like I wasn't the only one who didn't like the new ESPN College Football graphic, because in recent weeks ESPN has gotten rid of the hideous bar, and replaced it with an almost-invisible parallelogram on top of the main strip to contain the same information. (Fast-forward past the promos to about a minute in.) The old strip with bar was in place on Tuesday, but that's a special "Interactive Tuesday" gimmick.
  • During the World Series, Fox was positively schitzophrenic about its graphics. For the NLCS, it used the same approach it used in the Super Bowl: the strip contained the regular "MLB on FOX" logo on the left side, with an "NLCS FOX" logo only when the strip wasn't there, as on replays. On the right side, where other scores are often displayed during the regular season, it showed the MLB logo, then "NLCS", then "FOX". For the World Series, it started out keeping this layout, replacing "NLCS" with "World Series" wherever it appeared. But in Game 3 the "FOX" became "2008", apparently feeling the two "FOX"-es were redundant. And in Games 4 and 5 the boys at Fox cleared up a glaring omission by getting rid of the whole thing on the right side of the banner, replacing it with a notification of the team leading the series and by how much, with the "World Series FOX" logo now remaining on the left side of the banner. To varying extents you can see all three at various points of this video:
  • It's NBA season, it's time for new graphics! First, Canada's The Score has a centralized score box similar to what ESPN had for Monday Night Football:

    Okay, enough frivolousness. FSN's new score display for basketball is a bit surprising: it's a full-on return to the lower-right box! We had thought TNT was the last holdout! Where was this for hockey?

    Stop this video early on for a peek at the statistics display and see if you can spot the differences from college football... and the places of TNT influence.

    The only videos of NBA TV action I could find are way too poor quality to make out the bottom line on their graphics, but there is a clear FSN influence.
  • Speaking of TNT, I don't think they thought out their new NBA graphic very well. It's painfully obvious that "NBA" doesn't fit well inside a "capsule", and the box - which includes an indication of the team in the lead - feels like a bunch of people threw out ideas in a meeting and they just picked whatever ones sounded best. The treatment of the quarter and time on a single line in a single element is praiseworthy, but little else. Methinks they could have taken more cues from the TBS baseball coverage, which itself was originally heavily influenced by the last NBA on TNT graphics package (I honestly expected TNT to go the banner route).

    By the way, you should see TNT's full statistics display, as it is positively hideous. I haven't found a rendering of it in video yet, but trust me, it definitely could use improvement to understate tremendously. There's a reason most networks don't put first and last names on separate lines. If ESPN could change its graphics package midseason for college football, I wouldn't be surprised to see TNT do the same, and I would look for TNT to potentially make another graphics change next season at the latest.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

The weirdest, wildest, wackiest thing you'll ever play with!

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 10

NBC's Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it "tentatively" schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with last season in mind):
  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET. (Note: Last year, NBC listed a tentative game for Week 17; they are not doing so this year.)
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in "flex" weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night. (Note: Again, excluding Week 17.)
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and could not protect any games Week 17 last year. Unless I find out otherwise, I'm assuming that's still the case this year, especially with no tentative game listed Week 17, and that protections were scheduled after Week 4.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. A list of all teams' number of appearances is in my Week 4 post.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):
  • Selected game: Dallas @ Washington.
Week 12 (November 23):
  • Selected game: Indianapolis @ San Diego. Really? 5-4 @ 4-5 is better than 8-1 @ 6-3 or 7-2 @ 6-3? Even if I was wrong about Fox's protection, both of those games are Fox games so if one was protected, the other was available - and even Eagles-Ravens would have been a better game, at 5-4 @ 6-3! I always figured NBC and the NFL would hold on to the tentative game if circumstances warranted, but either that "tentative bias" is way more powerful than I had suspected, or the NFL looked at the Colts' winning streak against good teams and the fact that despite a below-.500 record, the Chargers are still only a game back in the AFC West, and decided the game was still worth keeping with all the (diluted) "name" value. Or alternately, NBC and the NFL forgot how to flex a game out. (Or one side wanted to wait until after MNF and the other side thought that wasn't possible. Or either side was concerned about maxing out Eagles and Giants primetime appearances and Panthers-Falcons was protected.)
Week 13 (November 30):
  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Minnesota
  • Prospects: Two 5-4 teams tied for the lead in the NFC North. Might be a possibility to keep its spot. The bad news is the Bears didn't get the job done against the Titans; the good news is they kept it within a score and Kyle Orton expects to be back THIS week.
  • Likely protections: Giants-Redskins (Fox) and either Steelers-Patriots or Broncos-Jets (CBS).
  • Other possible games: It's Thanksgiving Weekend, so more teams like the Cowboys and Titans aren't available. Panthers-Packers is probably out because it's lopsided and if you want a game with NFC North teams, you keep the all-division battle in the tentative game. On the off chance Steelers-Patriots isn't protected it certainly looks good, but after this week I'm not sure if being a game better on both sides is enough. Broncos-Jets would be even more vulnerable. Forget about Falcons-Chargers, but Saints-Bucs is really in the same boat.
  • Prediction: What a mediocre weekend. If the Bears and Vikings both win they WILL keep their spot. If they both lose, the Steelers and Patriots both win, and their game is unprotected, it's a fairly good bet to nab the star. The Jets, Chargers, and Saints probably need to win for their respective games to have anything resembling a shot.
Week 14 (December 7):
  • Tentative game: New England @ Seattle
  • Prospects: The Seahawks are just too terrible for this game to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Cowboys-Steelers (FOX) and if anything, Jags-Bears (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Redskins-Ravens suddenly looks teriffic (though I will consider the prospects of Cowboys-Steelers if Redskins-Ravens had been protected next week), and Eagles-Giants is looking lopsided. Jags-Bears really needs a rally and a Redskins/Ravens collapse, and Falcons-Saints also needs improvement. Titans-Browns could be a masochistic dark horse if the Titans keep winning.
Week 15 (December 14):
  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Dallas
  • Prospects: This is why I had Fox protect Bears-Packers Week 11: so they could leave this week protection-free and maximize their chances of getting a marquee NFC East matchup back. And this game might be alive again. A lot depends on what the Cowboys do with Tony Romo back.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Ravens, Broncos-Panthers, Bills-Jets, or nothing (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Bucs-Falcons looks great, but they're running in a dead heat with Steelers-Ravens if that game isn't protected. Bills-Jets and Broncos-Panthers both trail those two. Vikings-Cardinals looks like a serious contender. Titans-Texans could be a masochistic dark horse if the Titans keep winning.
Week 16 (December 21):
  • Tentative game: San Diego @ Tampa Bay
  • Prospects: It's 4-5 @ 6-3. Way too lopsided unless the Chargers can keep recovering.
  • Likely protections: Panthers-Giants or Eagles-Redskins (FOX) and Steelers-Titans (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Cardinals-Patriots is still strong and Bills-Broncos remains in trouble, but Falcons-Vikings is gaining. If Fox protected Eagles-Redskins all this is moot because the Panthers and Giants would have to collapse to give up the spot, but if it was Panthers-Giants protected the main advantage Eagles-Redskins would have is being a divisional matchup.
Week 17 (December 28 Playoff Positioning Watch):
  • Note that not only is there no longer an NBC tentative game, there's no NFL Network game. Apparently the league learned their lesson from last year's Patriots-Giants debacle.
  • AFC East: Anyone's game. All four teams within a game of one another. The Pats and Bills play each other, as do the Dolphins and Jets.
  • AFC North: Every team is theoretically in it. The Steelers and Ravens are running away with it but are neck-in-neck. The Steelers play the Browns while the Ravens play the Jags.
  • AFC South: The Titans are running away with it. No matter the standings, if the Titans remain undefeated Titans-Colts could be a lock. The Texans are mathematically still in it.
  • AFC West: Every team is theoretically in it. Broncos and Chargers the main contenders, and play each other. Hmm.
  • AFC Wild Card: The losers of the AFC East and North would get the nod if the season ended today. The Dolphins, Bills, and Colts would be a game back, with the Jags and Chargers waiting in the wings, adding luster to both East games, Titans-Colts, Jags-Ravens, and Broncos-Chargers. The AFC has a very attractive line-up.
  • NFC East: Every team within three games. Giants and Redskins look strongest. The Giants play the Vikings but the Redskins play the 49ers. The Cowboys and Eagles play each other.
  • NFC North: Bears and Vikings lead, Packers a game back. The Bears play the Texans and the Packers play the Lions, but the Vikings play the Giants. The Lions are mathematically still in it.
  • NFC South: Every team within three games, with the Panthers leading and the Bucs and Falcons a game behind. The Panthers play the Saints, but Tampa Bay plays the Raiders and the Falcons play the Rams.
  • NFC West: Every team mathematically still in it but the Cardinals are running away with it. They play the Seahawks. Hardly must-see TV.
  • NFC Wild Card: Any two of the Redskins, Bucs or Falcons would get the nod if the season ended today. Cowboys, Eagles, Bears, and Vikings a game back; Packers and Saints waiting in the wings. Despite all but four teams being within a game of the playoffs, the only real interesting NFC games are Giants-Vikings, Cowboys-Eagles, and Panthers-Saints (and the Saints' playoff window is narrow to say the least). Those could be competitive games for the NBC pick, especially the first two, but the AFC holds the overall edge right now. The NFL may have done too much to ensure the best game for NBC, creating an overabundance of choices.

New College Football Rankings and Lineal Title Updates

The new college football rankings are up, as are both lineal titles, including an update to my NFL lineal title history, which had never been updated with the Steelers' lineal title win. More to come.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

College Football Schedule: Week 12

Rankings and lineal titles up tomorrow, although the rankings should be apparent from the list below. Once again, apologies for Ball State @ Miami (OH) having started already. All times Eastern.
Top 25 Games
#24 South Carolina@#1 *Florida3:30CBS
#2 Texas@Kansas12:30FSN
#5 USC@Stanford7 PMVS.
Indiana@#6 Penn StateNoonBTN
#7 Boise State@Idaho5 PMGameplan
Mississippi State@#8 *Alabama7:45ESPN
#9 Missouri@Iowa State6:30FSN
#10 Ohio State@IllinoisNoonESPN
#11 Ball State@Miami (OH)7 PM TUESPN2
#13 North Carolina@Maryland3:30ABC/ESPN
#14 *Utah@San Diego State8 PMmtn.
#15 Tulsa@Houston8 PMCBS CS
#16 Oklahoma State@Colorado8 PMABC
#17 Georgia@Auburn12:30R'com/Y'hoo
Purdue@#18 IowaNoonBTN
#19 BYU@#22 Air Force3:30CBS CS
Boston College@#20 Florida State8 PMABC
Virginia Tech@#23 Miami (FL)7:30 THESPN
#25 Arizona@Oregon6:30FSN AZ
Watchlist and Other Positive B Point Teams
California@Oregon State3:30ABC
This Week's Other HD Games
Central Michigan@Northern Illinois8 PM WEESPN2
Buffalo@Akron7 PM THESPNU
Cincinnati@Louisville8 PM FRESPN2
Notre Dame@NavyNoonCBS
Wake Forest@NC State3:30ESPNU
Connecticut@Syracuse7 PMESPNU
Vanderbilt@Kentucky8 PMESPN2
UCLA@Washington7 PTFSN
Big 12
Nebraska@Kansas State3:30PPV
Texas A&M@Baylor4 PM
Big 10
Big East
Rutgers@South FloridaNoonBEN (ESPN+)
Temple@Kent State8 PM WEESPN360
Toledo@Western Michigan2 PMFSN OH/DET
New Mexico@Colorado State2 PMmtn.
East Carolina@Southern Miss3 PM
Central Florida@Marshall4:30CSS
Utah State@Louisiana Tech2:30
San Jose State@Nevada4 PMCSD.TV
New Mexico State@Fresno State5 PMGameplan
Washington State@Arizona State5:30
Sun Belt
Middle Tenn. St.@Western Kentucky1 PMCSS
Louisiana-Lafayette@Florida Atlantic4 PM
Bowl Subdivision
Louisiana-Monroe@Mississippi2 PM
Troy@LSU8 PMGameplan

Monday, November 10, 2008

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 12 picks

Week 12 (November 23):
  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ San Diego
  • Prospects: A 5-4 team against a 4-5 team that just broke a losing streak. With the Colts potentially on the mend, this game might not be completely out of it.
  • Likely protections: Eagles-Ravens (Fox) and Jets-Titans (CBS).
  • Other possible games mentioned on Wednesday's Watch and their records: Panthers (7-2)-Falcons (6-3), Giants (8-1)-Cardinals (5-3), Patriots (6-3)-Dolphins (5-4)
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: I wouldn't be surprised if NBC and the NFL are waiting on this game... a Cardinals loss sinks them to four losses and makes the Giants game look potentially lopsided, giving the edge to the Panthers-Falcons divisional matchup, while a win keeps the larger average record alive.
  • Analysis: A Cardinals win on Monday night would really help their chances, but the late date of that game means the other games are more important. The Giants beating the Eagles on Sunday night might actualy give NBC and the league pause as the Cardinals game could start looking slightly lopsided, but both teams losing wouldn't have saved it anyway. However, the game's in-division importance for the Cardinals should offset that. I had said if the Giants won Giants-Cardinals is probably in, and the Panthers and Falcons would both need to win to force NBC and the NFL to at least consider waiting for Monday Night, but that's exactly what the Panthers and Falcons did. If NBC was forced to choose before Monday Night, they would probably pick Giants-Cardinals just because the Giants are more recognizible than any of the other three nobodies. Still, Panthers-Falcons is a divisional rivalry...
  • Final prediction: New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals (if the Cardinals win tonight) OR Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons (if the 49ers win tonight). (And if you're not watching the game, the latter is very plausible.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One-seventh of an important notice

At least for next week, and possibly thereafter, I will make every effort to post the Sunday strip by 10 PM PT Saturday.

With how wild the entire neighborhood can get and my current state of mind, it's either that or wait until late in the night, and I can't bring myself to sit through my rowdy neighbors' partying for several hours.

If the prospect of getting away from this neighborhood isn't motivation enough for me to get some sort of real job by the end of the MONTH, it's a sign there may not BE a job for me.

Update: Okay, apparently I somehow didin't update tnew database for yesyerday's steitag[ pdfgbdl; km;gkcknvmvjkfxcfgnvmkmvcjfm4w,v.mkfjcmx gr jm .blvugr.,b/m sodnsav