What Was LeBron Thinking?

To Cleveland this was equivalent of reading about your own breakup on Twitter!

I saw a little of LeBron James’ ESPN extravaganza tonight. Exactly what were he and ESPN thinking?

The show was right up there with Geraldo opening Al Capone’s vault in 1986. It was mindless, meaningless, excruciatingly slow and in one regard mean spirited.

To Cleveland this was equivalent of reading about your own breakup on Twitter!

Bottom line just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should! In the end I think he’ll pay with reduced demand as an endorser.

Baseball Begins!

All the teams are in first place. All the pitchers have a 0.00 ERA. My cellphone ringtone is the ESPN baseball theme music!

All the teams are in first place. All the pitchers have a 0.00 ERA. My cellphone ringtone is the ESPN baseball theme music!

Let the games begin. Baseball season begins tonight with the Yankees versus the Red Sox.

Baseball season used to begin in Cincinnati with the Reds playing a weekday game in the sunshine. Fat chance now. TV rules.

The Reds are in the Great Flyover. Yanks-Sox are big city draws and will play in primetime. The rest of you purists be damned.

“You know,” I said to Helaine. “At some time the Phils won’t make the playoffs. At some point they won’t get to the World Series.”

I got the type of scowl only a wife can give to her husband. I dropped the subject. Our marriage needs to be preserved.

One day last week Helaine sent me three emails in rapid succession. One Phillies pitcher was getting cortisone shots while another would start the season on the DL. I can’t remember what the third email was about, but it’s possible another pitcher had tied himself to the SEPTA tracks outside Suburban Station. Helaine implied the team would have to look for pitchers in the stands before each game.

Fans–bring your glove and spikes.

Once again I gave Helaine the MLB.tv package for her computer as a birthday gift. What a husband. I bought the companion app for my iPhone. It’s possible we can watch games on both simultaneously. The terms of service aren’t clear.

Oh, who am I kidding? Bank error in your favor only happens in Monopoly!

Stef, who returns to SoCal tomorrow has promised to watch tonight’s game with us. She wasn’t forced. She wants to watch. She is surely Helaine’s child!

Go Phils.

Eric Bruntlett’s Triple Play: “Is There Some Kind Of Special Prize?”

Later, when informed on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight his play was today’s “Web Gem,” Bruntlett replied, “Is there some kind of special prize?”

It’s been well established the Fox Family watches and roots for the Phillies.

“They gave Utley the day off,” Helaine told me as we sat down to watch.

Chase Utley’s a great player. His replacement, Eric Bruntlett, is not. And yet there’s a reason teams play the games. You never know what’s going to happen.

It was, to say the least, an unusual game. The Phils scored six runs in the first. The Mets answered with two.

By the time the ninth inning arrived we’d seen Mets starter Oliver Perez removed in the middle of a batter, an inside-the-park home run made possible by the dubious interpretation of a ‘ground rule’ and a triple turned into an out after the umps reconsidered the original blown call on a spectacular catch.

The Phils were still up in the ninth as the troubled Brad Lidge came on. We were prepared for the worst. Lidge leads the league in blown saves!

The Phils defense collapsed in a series of embarrassing errors leaving the Mets with two on and no out. Now there was no getting around what was obviously ordained. The Phillies were about to suffer a crushing and ugly loss.

It didn’t work out that way!

“One moment I’m standing on third with what I thought was a triple and the next I end the game on a triple play. But there was a lot of stuff that happened in between.” – Eric Bruntlett on Comcast Sports Net

Jeff Francouer hit a line drive into an unassisted triple play. Eric Bruntlett, the fill-in who’d been called out on the faux triple and who’d contributed to the Phils ninth inning predicament was in the right place at the right time — unassisted triple play. Game over–only the second time a triple play ended a game in Major League Baseball’s well documented history.

Later, when informed on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight his play was today’s “Web Gem,” Bruntlett replied, “Is there some kind of special prize?”

Eric–fame is fleeting. Enjoy the ride. Tomorrow it’s back to the bench.

Oh… and on behalf of the Foxes, thanks.

Blogger’s note: There was originally video available for embedding, but MLB has removed it.

Def TV Jam

It makes no sense. You would think the cable company would want me to always see the HDTV signal (when available) so I’d perceive the cable service as better and worth more.

Over the past few months the biggest source of tension between Helaine and me usually begins with, “Can I have the remote, please?”

We’ll be watching something in low def when it’s also available in high def. Helaine couldn’t care less. Stef too.

I change the channel anyway as they both give me dirty looks.

With low def (really standard def) the edges of the screen are black and the picture is OK. With high def the full screen is filled with sharper and clearer video&#185.

As stated, Helaine and Stef are unimpressed.

The real question is why do we get standard definition channels at all? Our TV and cable box are connected by means of an HDMI cable.

HDMI supports, on a single cable, any TV or PC video format, including standard, enhanced, and high-definition video; up to 8 channels of digital audio; and a Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) connection. The CEC allows HDMI devices to control each other when necessary and allows the user to operate multiple devices with one remote control handset. – Wikipedia

Through the CEC the cable box understands my TV is HDTV capable. It knows I have no use for standard definition signals except as a conflict starter.

It makes no sense. You would think the cable company would want me to always see the HDTV signal (when available) so I’d perceive the cable service as better and worth more. What possible reason would I have for this particular TV getting ESPN News and ESPN News HD or any other standard/HD combo?

I don’t have all the specs on my cable box but I’ll bet there’s a lot more it would do if only my cable company would ask it.

&#185 – I often see compression artifacts during HDTV programming. It’s a sign Comcast is compressing the crap out of it to fit more channels in less bandwidth.

Watch The All Stars Hit Homers

It’s a trash sport, right? It’s a derivative to make money on what was on off day.

I’m on the sofa with Helaine and Stef watching the MLB Home Run Derby. It’s a trash sport, right? It’s a derivative to make money on what was on off day.

Bitch, bitch, bitch. I’m still in front of the TV.

The least interesting part of the Derby is the Derby itself. I like the back stories–the American Legion coaches invited to come back and pitch some b.p. to the superstar he helped nurture.

I like seeing the kids too. I assume those are players’ children shagging balls in the outfield. When Albert Pujols’ son sat with him early in the contest it was quite charming.

ESPN is introducing “Ball Track,” which uses “Doppler radar to track the ball off the bat and provide the following information.”

* Real-time distance the ball is traveling (from the point of impact to the final resting point);

* The path of the ball, or arch, as it travels through the air;

* Projection by using the path of the ball (in mid-flight, using a changing color pattern) whether the hit will be a home run.

This is a gimmick without the utility of the virtual first down marker used on football telecasts. The trajectory has kinks in what I’ve always expected to be a smooth path. By the time the technology decides it’s a home run I’ve aready figured it out too.

I suspect I’ll be long gone before the celebrity softball game starts.

Making Copies

Who knew poker could be a spectator sport? Who was the person who devised the little camera that watches your pocket cards? That was the game changer.

I am dubbing video so we can trade-in the DVR. It’s a boring process. Luckily, I can throw the TV to another tuner and watch other shows while I dub. I’ve got the WSOP on. ESPN has begun the season. Norman Chad has returned with all your favorite one liners.

Who knew poker could be a spectator sport? Who was the person who devised the little camera that watches your pocket cards? That was the game changer. It always surprised me the pros were willing to give up this strategic advantage.

While watching poker, I’m playing poker. Surprise? Nah. It’s a little extremely low stakes 180 person tourney. I have under $5 invested–don’t worry. Like the poker on TV, it’s a time killer.

I’ve been playing poker over thirty years. Sometimes Helaine says, “it’s not your game.” Maybe it isn’t. I still enjoy it. It’s still an intellectual challenge. It makes the time pass quicker while I make my dubs.

Vin Scully On My PC

There’s no way you could listen to him and guess his age. He hasn’t missed on a play.

vin-scully.gifThe Phillies are playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. MLB.com is providing the home team video tonight which I’m watching. Though I miss the ‘homer’ calls of the Phil’s announcers, I’m getting the opportunity to listen to Vin Scully. That’s a rare treat.

Scully, who will be 81 this fall, started with the Dodgers in 1950–the year I was born. He’s still got it. There’s no way you could listen to him and guess his age. He hasn’t missed on a play. He even managed to use the word “behoove” seamlessly in his on-air monologue. Nowadays Scully works alone.

I’m not totally surprised he has stayed with play-by-play so long. Judging by the longevity of other baseball announcers it must be a very enjoyable job. Of course, like the players he covers, he needs to stay healthy. That’s got to be tougher at 80.

The Dodgers just won. Even Vin Scully can’t make that less painful.

Blogger’s note: Jon Miller (ESPN, SF Giants) does an amazing impression of Vin Scully doing play-by-play in Japanese. I can’t find it here on the net. If you’ve got a copy, please let me know.

NFL Network Sacked For A Loss

So, it looks like the Patriot – Giants game will be on ‘free’ over-the-air TV (seen mainly on ‘paid’ cable or satellite). Originally it was scheduled to be on the NFL Network alone.

This is a complex story, but it seems the NFL is the real short term loser here.

Basically, the NFL created its own sports network and seeded it with a handful of games. In years gone by, these would have been shown on free TV and, in fact, they were still going to be shown on free TV in the teams’ home markets.

The idea was to force cable companies to carry the network year round. That would be the only way to have access to these individual games. The NFL wanted it to be included on cable as a basic service, like CNN or ESPN and not a pay add-on, like HBO or Showtime.

It was a lot to swallow for a few out-of-market games and lots (and lots) of filler.

Unfortunately for the NFL, the cable companies balked and few fans cared. Did you really miss the Broncos – Texans game on December 13 (or the other random match-ups&#185)?

This would have all passed quietly, except for this weekend and the Patriots going for an undefeated season. Now the NFL had leverage. Fortunately, it blew up in their faces.

Under enormous pressure from Congress on down, the NFL relented. Now, this marquee game will be seen on the NFL Network, NBC and CBS! In Boston and New York City it will be on a fourth station as well! ABC might as well run the “All-Star Salute to Cheese.”

In trying to force the cable companies to carry their network, the NFL didn’t have a leg to stand on because of one other move they’d made: NFL Sunday Ticket.

NFL Sunday Ticket is the NFL’s package, offering every game live. As much as the cable companies and Dish Network want that (and I’d probably buy it), it is only offered on DirectTV.

This is a guess on my part, but I’ll bet Sunday Ticket is the most powerful selling point DirectTV has.

The cable ops (and I) wondered, how the could NFL cry about their fans inability to watch these NFL Network games when it wouldn’t provide all the other games to those same poor fans? This is the definition of chutzpah!

There’s an old story about a guy who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan. That’s the NFL!

I don’t know how this will all come out. At some point the NFL will have to accept defeat and decide if this in-house network is really a viable concept.

Is it just me, or is there a cosmic thread which runs through America where we root for the evil, greedy corporation to get its comeuppance. At the moment, I couldn’t be happier.

In the Fox house, we will continue to root against the Giants. The Pats achievement is less important.

&#185 – NFL Network 2007 Game Schedule

Week 12: Thursday, November 22 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons (Thanksgiving)

Week 13: Thursday, November 29 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Week 14: Thursday, December 6 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins

Week 15: Thursday, December 13 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans

Week 15: Saturday, December 15 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers

Week 16: Thursday, December 20 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Louis Rams

Week 16: Saturday, December 22 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers

Week 17: Saturday, December 29 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

New England Patriots at New York Giants

Am I Ready For Some Football?

I was out of bed at 11:00 this morning. That’s especially early for a Sunday start.

Helaine had long since left the bedroom. She was downstairs, doing everything she could to be ready for today’s important business – football!

Though New Orleans got clocked by Baltimore (I know – live with it) Thursday night, the season really starts today. The Eagles will be playing at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. And, of course, we live and die by the Eagles.

Two hours before game time, as she sat and intently listened to the ESPN coverage, Helaine turned to me and jokingly said, “I am every man’s fantasy. A woman who loves football.”

She is.

When we were married, it was her subscription to Sports Illustrated that came to our Buffalo apartment. She’s enough of a fan to root against teams, because my enemies enemy is my friend.

Oh, speaking of ESPN, five commentators on the set makes for one of the most unwieldy camera shots ever. Five guys in a row is just too wide. Maybe it’s better on HDTV with its stretched screen.

The real deal begins in about a half hour. A competitive team will make for a fun fall. Wish us luck.

A Dose Of Humility

Tonight was the night for “Off the Wall,” the photographic charity event for the Arts Council. I’d seen the setup Thursday when there was a photographers preview.

Immediately, I felt outclassed by photographers with greater skills than mine. Maybe it’s just a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but my pictures looked like snapshots versus the real artwork hung at the 70 Audubon Street Gallery.

OK, not everything the others did was Ansel Adams worthy either. There were strange photos and inappropriate photos. There were photos that would keep you from falling asleep at night.

One artist submitted three photos of naked people, lying on their backs. The shots were taken with a wide angle lens, giving the bodies an otherwordly shape. Visualize – naked people on their backs. It wasn’t pretty&#175.

A few of the photographers shot dolls, but in a very surrealistic way. Really creepy!

Considering most of the photos were taken on color digital cameras, there was a large number of black and white or sepia photos. It seemed overdone. I’m saying that even though one of mine was B&W!

The “Off the Wall” concept has 165 tickets distributed and 165 photos from 55 shooters on the wall. The tickets are drawn at random. When yours is called, you take a photo off the wall.

Please Lord, not 165th. Actually, with three photos on exhibit, I was praying not to be 163, 164 and 165!

Over 120 sweaty bodies squeezed into the gallery. On this warm August evening, whatever air conditioning power the room possessed had long since given up its fight. It was stuffy and still.

Up front, the emcee began to call numbers. As the ticket holders called out whichever photo they wanted, I started ticking off the corresponding boxes on a gridded piece of paper.

Through the first dozen or so, no one called any of my choices to take off the wall… and I’d selected a dozen. More importantly, no one took any of the photos I’d shot!

Number 45, my ticket number, was called in the second dozen. The rules give you 20 seconds to choose. I was ready.

Stef had asked about a beautiful zebra photo, taken (as we later found out) in Kenya. It was still available and so we snatched photo 48B taken by Charles Kingsley.

Nice shot Charles. Congratulations. It will be on the wall of a dorm room with a full semester’s worth of clothes on the floor (or so I assume).

More and more tickets were called, but my photos continued to sit on the wall. Each photographer started with three photos hanging. Some already had all three picked.

On a short wall, where it once sat with the works of four other photographers, my contribution was starting to get lonely. The wall was getting bare the way a man goes bald – gradually.

Eighty four photos were gone before any of mine got chosen. It went to someone named Bitsie who said it was her first choice. My second shot went to the very next ticket holder as pick 86.

My moody, black and white, Atlantic City Boardwalk photo – the one my friends Dennis and Rick thought would go right away, was still on the wall as Helaine and I walked out. We told each other we wanted to watch the Phillies game on ESPN, but we really didn’t want to see that photo sit, uncalled.

As we walked to the car, I began to tell Helaine what I’d do differently to go sooner next year, but she’d have none of it. “Don’t change you style,” was what she said. Whether I follow her advice or not, she’s obviously right.

Am I disappointed I went so late in the process? You bet. but, this is my first time in any kind of exhibition. I was glad to just be there.

OK – I would have been happier going in the first dozen. Who am I kidding?

&#175 – My friend Josh sent an email to say: BTW: the distorted photos of naked people were created with a large pinhole camera and printed with platinum process — very unusual. I agree way too much easy digital, and predictable imagery, which might be why I appreciated the pinhole nudes more than you.

Bonds, Finally

I’ve got ESPN on. Barry Bonds just broke Aaron’s record. I’m not pleased, because I think he’s a cheat.

The good news is, it happened at a late hour. Few will see it live.

We’re also probably seen the last of Aaron’s video (which isn’t bad, except when those jerk kids run onto the field). It is a truly iconic piece of video.

Late in the game, right after showing a replay of Bonds’ shot, they ran an anti-drug PSA, which specifically vilified steroids. Probably happenstance, but it felt cheap.

MLB can’t have it both ways. I, however, can.

The Final Table

As poker playing goes, I’ve had better stretches. I still enjoy the game. Still play all the time. I’m just not playing as well as I have.

This time of year card playing gets increased attention because of the World Series of Poker. The WSOP is a series of 55 poker tournaments, all played in Las Vegas. There are different games played at different stakes, but the big daddy is the “$10,000 No Limit Texas Hold’em Tournament.”

It’s called the World Poker Championship. No dispute there.

In Hold’em, each player gets two cards. He tries to make the best five card poker hand using a combination of those two and five common cards, shared by everyone at the table.

No limit means any player, at any time, can push in all his chips. That’s a gutsy, risky move, that’s sometimes worthwhile.

This isn’t like a bad Western. No one has to put up the deed to the ranch to stay in the game. You are only on the hook for what you’ve got on the table.

Hold’em is interesting because it’s a betting game more than a card game. Yes, luck enters into it, but the really good players consistently show up at final tables. There is more than a little skill at work.

My friend Rick, probably more poker obsessed than I am, invited me to stop by his place after work. He was buying the pay-per-view broadcast of the final table and planned to watch until there was only one man standing.

The fact that there’s a pay-per-view broadcast (cable, satellite and online) of this event is testament to how hot poker has become. It’s also moved from a game played by old guys to one played by loads of twenty somethings.

I showed up around 11:50 pm and was ushered down to the basement. The ‘game’ was on one computer monitor while Rick played cards on the other. This was poker player Nirvanna.

What had started as a 6,358 players was down to four. Over $40 million in prize money had already been handed out, but the big payouts were still to come. No one left would win less than $1.8 million and one of them would head home with over $8 million!

Unlike ESPN’s after-the-fact edited coverage, the live broadcast didn’t reveal all. There were no hole card cameras to show the player’s secrets. I found it difficult to follow the live action with the same enthusiasm I’ll have watching later.

Rick cashed a small win in a 45 player tournament and signed off his account as I took over, losing two nine person tournaments. Grrrrrr.

By 3:00 AM I was ready to call it a night.

In the three hours I spent in the basement, no players were knocked out. In fact, as I write this (with even less compelling audio coverage on in the background) the same four players are at the table!

There are no time limits in effect. They could be done in a few minutes or play on into Wednesday. The forced bets, or blinds, keep going up. That guarantees the game can’t last forever, but nothing’s being forced right now.

I think I’d like to go in Vegas to play in the World Series. $10,000 is too rich for me (especially since I’m likely to be ‘dead money’ against this competition), but there are other cheaper games played in the weeks leading up to the big show.

It seems a little decadent. It seems very exciting.

Poker – Even I Don’t Understand

I’m home from work. My tie is off. I’m on the sofa in the family room. I’m playing poker.

I haven’t written about poker in a while.

I’ve had my ups and downs, even moved sites. After being online for a few years, I’m playing about even.

With recent changes to the US law, I’m not even sure I will ever be able to retrieve my stake Somehow, that’s not very important. I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

Here’s the weirder part. While playing poker, I’m watching poker. I’ve got the 2006 World Series of Poker on ESPN.

If you’re not a poker player, you should know, the WSOP has been over for months. Jamie Gold won. He has not been a sparklingly pristine champ.

I know the result of the tournament. I know who Gold steamed through to win. It makes no difference. It is just fascinating to watch the game progress.

Poker is not a simple game of luck.

I’m not even sure it’s correct to characterize it as a card game. I see it as a betting game. Within reason, how you bet is more important than the cards you get. You can win a lot on mediocre cards and very little with the nuts.

Conversely, you’re most likely to lose the most when your hand is good.

Watching how the game is bet, especially on TV where the hole cards are revealed, is an amazing education. There are lots of people who play stupid, even late in a very expensive tournament. Not that I could pass such a test every single time.

In these tournaments, it’s easy to look at the chips stacked in front of each player in a linear fashion. My theory of poker says that’s wrong.

If one player has $6,000 in chips and another has $2,000, they are only separated by one potential hand! That’s why I feel it’s important to not change the way you play, even when you’re behind. You’re never as far behind as the chips make it seem.

The difference in hands is best considered in terms of logarithms. Well, it is to me.

Back to the tournament on TV. They’re down to the final table and each of these players is winning a few million dollars or more. Yet, to a man, as they stand to walk away after losing, they’re unhappy.

That is so weird.


Tonight, ABC is running the National Spelling Bee finals – live. Ponder that for a second.

There’s no way I would have ever expected to see it on prime time TV. I’m saying that even after having seen ESPN’s success over the last few years!

Hit or miss? what do you think? I asked one of my co-workers.

“Big,” he said.

He’s right. This has got everything… beside beauty. The Spelling Bee will get big ratings.

I’ll let you know tomorrow.

I Hate Change

When I went to bed last night CNN was on Channel 33. As of this morning it’s somewhere in the 50s – I’m not sure where.

I’ve got the World Series of Poker on Channel 29 as I type this. Last night ESPN was at 49.

What is Comcast doing? Their mailer said they were clustering similar channels. OK – sounds good, but yesterday MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC, Headline News and Weather Channel were 31-36. Today the order is different, the channel numbers are different and Weather Channel has been moved away from the pack&#185.

I took a quick peek at my DVR before I left for work. All my shows are still set, but they’re set for the wrong channel. There are going to be a lot of unhappy people.

There are supposed to be some new channels too, but as of this morning they were blanks. I assume they’ll be on by the time I get home.

How long will it take to get used to these changes? How will this affect the ‘legacy’ channels that aren’t moving? We shall see.

Meanwhile, for the next few weeks tuning the TV will be like writing the date on checks in January.

&#185 – Personal note – good.