Notre Dame AD Runs His Trap Again and Land-o-Links for 3/29/2010

If you were a reader of this blog prior to it becoming a hub of conference realignment viewpoints, I would regularly run “Land-o-Links” posts that had some random links to usually unrelated news stories or blog posts that I simply found interesting.  In the wake of having my faith in the journalistic instincts of Barbara Walters re-affirmed today, I figured that it was time to re-institute the Land-o-Links posts with a mix of expansion news and other random items on a regular basis in between my full-length missives.  So, here are today’s links:

(1) Notre Dame AD Expands on Expansion Talk (Kansas City Star) – I had put up this news article in the comments in the “Ain’t No Party Like a West Coast Party” post and wanted to focus on it a little bit more.  Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick talked to reporters again about the prospect of the Domers joining a conference and he didn’t say anything to make the fine folks at NDNation feel better.  Here’s the key quote for me:

Swarbrick indicated the dilution of Big Ten revenues could be offset by the success of the leagues own TV network, apparently on sound footing.

“The traditional model, where a conference had a fixed fee media rights deal, if you added somebody you sliced the pie a little thinner,” Swarbrick said. “When you’re dealing with equity in a network … it’s a situation we haven’t had before.”

Maybe it’s just me, but this sounds a lot like Notre Dame wants a piece of the Big Ten Network gravy train.  It’s a clear message to the Domers that don’t already realize the following: the NBC deal is a relic of the past while controlling your own content like the Big Ten Network is the future.  At the very least, the quotes coming out of Notre Dame about its commitment to independence are increasingly more wishy-washy.

(2) The Great Baseball Card Bubble (Slate) – This excerpt from a new book on how baseball cards went through a tulip bulb-like craze (which I’m now going to have to read in full) hits pretty close to home.  My youth coincided perfectly with the explosion of baseball card speculation in the late-1980s and early-1990s where I spent virtually every penny that I had during that era on wax packs.  Years later, a good portion of my basement closet is taken up by boxes of gems like the Todd Van Poppel rookie card.  Are these pieces of cardboard now so worthless that I sometimes wonder if I’d be set for life today if I just opened up an IRA when I was 10 years old instead of plowing through boxes of Donruss and Fleer?  You bet.  Do I even dignify a response to my wife that annually asks about “getting rid of some cards to make it more organized” right around spring cleaning time?  Heck no.

And finally…

(3) Doc Jensen/Totally ‘Lost’ (Entertainment Weekly) – As a huge ‘LOST’ fan, there’s quite a mix of emotions as we enter into the final weeks of the show.  While there have been cable shows like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ that might arguably be at the top of the heap in terms of quality television over the past decade, ‘LOST’ is the best network TV drama that I’ve ever seen.  Doc Jensen of Entertainment Weekly has provided some of the most mind-blowing analysis of the show out there with an avalanche of literary references, religious allegories, and pop culture notations.  The fact that Entertainment Weekly could be home to such a deep high-brow look at this show is mind-blowing enough.  This also serves as an excuse for me to write about ‘LOST’.

If you don’t watch ‘LOST’, please feel free to ignore the rest of this post because you won’t know WTF is going on.  As of now, I’m subscribing to the common theory that the “flash sideways” story lines represent the epilogue for each of the characters, where the people who sided with Jacob have ended up with semi-happy lives and the ones that sided with the Smoke Monster/Fake Locke are doomed to the same negative lives that they had before.  It seems to be the way that everything ties together and would give those scenes a purpose that currently isn’t quite clear.  I’m really intrigued by Jensen’s prediction that the purpose of Jack is ultimately to take Real Locke’s body back to the Temple and bring him back to life in the pool, which is a not-so-veiled reference to the resurrection of Christ.  This way, Real Locke, who has really taken a figurative beating over the past season with Fake Locke’s references that Real Locke led a pathetic life, will end up being the strong leader that we originally thought that he would be when the show first started.

This provides Real Locke the opportunity to make everything right by taking down Smokey once and for all (in a manner yet to be determined) and taking his rightful place as the chosen “candidate” to replace Jacob.  What’s my guess as to what his first (and only) act as Jacob’s replacement will be?  Sacrifice himself by sending everyone home.  That’s right – I don’t think that Juliet’s detonation of the bomb last season was the cause of the “reset” in the flash sideways, but rather Real Locke, with his power as Jacob’s replacement, destroys the island that he had always wanted to stay on in order to send his friends back to a 2004 world where Oceanic 815 never crashes.

Of course, this means that Real Locke would be giving up his power AND sending himself back to a world where he couldn’t walk, which would be an incredible sacrifice.  This has to work out for him, right?  Well, I can’t think of a more apt ending to the show than Jack, the world-class spinal surgeon, fulfilling his purpose in the real world by finally being approached by Real Locke for a consultation and “fixing” his problem.  Jack has already shown the ability to fix Sarah after a car accident that should have left her paraplegic.  If Jack resurrects Real Locke on the island, then the perfect mirror would be Jack getting Real Locke to walk in 2004.  Then, the show closes with Real Locke fulfilling his dream of going through the Australian outback, which he was previously prevented from going on because of his disability, with a huge hunting knife in hand and looking every bit as strong as we had seen him on the island.

Now that I’ve put all of those theories down, it virtually guarantees that it will end up in a completely different manner.  That’s perfectly fine with me – I’m ready to savor these last few episodes before a big TV void opens up in my life.  I’ll be back with a full-length post later this week.

Land-o-Links for 5/19/2009

Michael Jordan Larry Bird McDonalds

It’s been a very long time since a Land-o-Links post, so here you go:

1.  What If I Don’t Want a Big Mac? (Blog-a-Bull) – An entertaining comparison of all of the current Bulls with various McDonald’s menu items.  Truer words have never been spoken about the McRib.  On a related note, there have been some suggestions out there that the Bulls ought to go after Carlos Boozer.  Now, is Boozer a better low post player than anyone else in Chicago at this time?  Yes.  However, is it worth crushing the Bulls’ salary cap space for Boozer and give up the chance to go after either Amare Stoudemire or Chris Bosh? NO, NO, NO, NO, NOOOOOOOO!!!  (If you ask politely, I’ll tell you how I really feel.)

2.  It’s Not You, It’s Jazz and the NBA (ESPN.com) – Paul Shirley examines why some of his friends haven’t been paying attention to the NBA (as judged by a survey of his poker buddies where only 3 of 8 knew all of the teams that had made the playoffs) by presenting an interesting corrollary between pro basketball and jazz, where the improvisation involved in both the game and style of music, making them relatively abstract, might make it difficult to be appreciated by those that haven’t played either.  As someone that did spend most of the first part of my life playing both organized basketball and trombone in jazz bands, I completely understand where he’s coming from, where both forms deal with a base structure but require a lot of improv within them.  There are two problems that I have with Shirley’s argument, though.  First, Shirley implies that part of the issue is that people need to have played basketball and jazz to be fully appreciative of each, but the thing is that a whole lot more people have played basketball in America compared to football and baseball.  Case in point, when was the last time that you’ve seen a pick-up baseball game in the park?  That never happens, yet you’ll find basketball hoops on urban playgrounds, suburban driveways, and rural farmhouses – if anything, it’s the most widely played sport across socioeconomic lines by a significant margin.  Second, I think that the fact that Shirley lives in Kansas City, which doesn’t have an NBA team, has much to do with his friends’ supposed ignorance of the NBA.  If you went to Portland or Salt Lake City, the average sports fan in those places would likely be more hardpressed to name the teams that make the baseball playoffs in any given year simply because they aren’t following baseball all season without having a hometown team to follow.  Frankly, the NFL is probably the only sport where you can use a standard where you can assume that the average sports fan knows where every team might be in the standings.

If I were to apply the “abstract jazz” issue to any sport, it would definitely be hockey.  In basketball, even if a casual sports fan or someone that never watches sports at all doesn’t understand how to run a pick-and-roll or properly box out an opposing player, that person can ultimately watch LeBron James and realize that he’s able to get the ball into a basket at a higher level than the other players on the court.  However, if you watch a hockey game that involves Sidney Crosby, he will make amazing moves that no one else in the world can do yet he’ll fail to score on such moves 9 out of 10 times.  So, it’s very difficult for someone that hasn’t played hockey (please note that everything that I know about hockey moves and formations is based on the 3000 hours that I spent playing EA Sports NHL ’98 back in college) to understand why a certain move or play is impressive or not – the relative lack of scoring in hockey almost de facto makes it abstract.

3. NHL’s Story a Regional One (Sports Media Watch) – Digging a little deeper into hockey, Sports Media Watch notes what most people know already, which is that the NHL has shown an ability to draw fans within its local markets but continues to struggle on the national level.  What drives me insane about Gary Bettman and the NHL’s leadership is that they know that they face a stacked deck compared to the other sports leagues yet make decisions that compound the league’s problems.  Case in point was last Thursday night, where the NHL had two game 7s (Detroit-Anaheim and Boston-Carolina), with each of them featuring a large market Original Six team.  This should have been one of those magical nights of hockey (particularly when the Bruins-Hurricanes game went into overtime) that would have drawn in a plethora of casual fans.  However, in the infinite wisdom of the NHL, the nation would only see the Red Wings-Ducks game in its entirety on Versus and if you wanted to see all of the Bruins-Hurricanes game, you had to shell out $79 for a pay-per-view feed.  If the part of the purpose of the NHL moving to Versus was that the network had a commitment to show more hockey, WTF is the league doing scheduling two game 7s at the same time?!  Meanwhile, the NBA had two game 6s going on that same evening and those games had staggered start times so that they could be a featured doubleheader on ESPN.  Say what you will about David Stern and the NBA, but that entity knows what it’s supposed to be doing on the television front in order to maximize its audience better than anyone else in sports.  It would be great if the NHL could get someone that would take into account the lessons of the NBA… wait a second… Bettman was David Stern’s right-hand man for over a decade prior to being named NHL commissioner?  Jeez – it’s not a good sign if a league would consider Bug Selig to be an upgrade.

4.  Lost, “The Incident”: The Men Behind the Curtain (What’s Alan Watching) – I’ll be putting up a Lost season finale post eventually (since the premiere of its final season won’t be coming until January 2010, meaning there’s time to mull everything over and with all the various storylines, we may need every moment to process it all), but in the meantime, please go over to Alan Sepinwell’s Lost analysis.  It’s a shame that I only stumbled onto Sepinwall’s blog this year since it’s now the first place that I turn to after each Lost episode – he puts up extremely well-written posts even with a short time constraint while the numerous commenters are generally pretty good (which is tough to find with respect to Lost blogs, where one segment of people get way too technical on one end and the other group on the opposite end consists of complete dolts).

And finally…

5.  Annals of Innovation: How David Beats Goliath (The New Yorker) –  While Paul Shirley compares basketball to jazz, Malcolm Gladwell draws a line between how lesser talented basketball teams’ use of the press provides insight into how underdogs are able to win wars.  Fascinating reading as always from Gladwell, who might be unparalleled at this time in terms of non-fiction writing, although I’ll quibble at a technical level with the long-term effectiveness of the press through an entire 48 minute game.  I understand the argument that it’s a disruptive tool that can shake the opposing team.  However, the press is by far the most tiring type of play that you can employ in the game, meaning that a team would need incredibly in-shape athletes to execute it over an entire contest.  Of course, if you had such in-shape athletes, that would mean that you’re a “Goliath” instead of a “David”, which eliminates the efficacy of using that strategy in the first place.  At the same time, once you get to the higher levels of organized basketball, any decent coach can draw up a press break that can often result in a wide-open layup on the other end of the court (since the press, which uses double-teams, will always end up leaving at least one player open).  Still, Gladwell sets forth a great game plan for how an underdog in any walk of life can beat the favorite: disrupt the opponent and take it out of its comfort zone.  The reason why not everyone does this?  Well, that disruption almost always takes a whole lot more hard work than just going through “conventional warfare”.  So, it really does come down to effort.

On tonight’s agenda: Game 2 of Hawks-Wings, Game 1 of Lakers-Nuggets, and, one of my favorite not-on-the-field sports events of the year, the NBA Draft Lottery.  Frank the Tank’s couch is definitely where amazing happens.

(Image from Cavalcade of Awesome)

Frank the Tank is Still Lost After Four Seasons

There are a whole lot of issues going on in the Chicago sports world that I’ll be getting to soon, including the Bulls apparently settling on Doug Collins Strikes Back as coach (I’ve been jumping the gun on Bulls coaches posts, so I’m holding off until there’s an actual press conference) and the baseball teams on both sides of town holding onto first place in their respective divisions, but I’ve got to get my thoughts down on the state of Lost in the wake of Thursday night’s season finale. Lost is certainly one of those television shows where you really can’t be a casual viewer – you’re either completely into it such that life stops when you watch the show every week or you’re completely out of it and can’t reasonably hope to ever get into it without investing about 100 hours in watching DVD boxed sets. Of course, as the New York Times pointed out last week, even the most diehard fans don’t know WTF is going on. I’ve attempted watching a couple of episodes with my wife, who hasn’t been a regular viewer, and it was impossible for me to explain what was going on in every scene since the backstories and character development have been so complex (which is why I love the show in the first place). With her being the inquisitive type in the first place, the shared watching was a frustrating experience to say the least. So, if you don’t watch Lost, you can just skip this post since I’m not going to bother even attempting to explain who everyone and what everything is – you either know it or you don’t (or even better, check out the invaluable Lostpedia). What’s interesting is that everything that I’m about to write will probably look like a laundry list of ridiculous “Jump the Shark” moments to a non-fan, but will make perfect sense to a Lost fan in terms of the pace and progression of the show.  Regardless, Lost fans have been treated to probably the best overall season since the debut year, even if the season finale didn’t provide a game changing shocker in the manner of last year. I just can’t believe that I have to wait eight months for the show to start up again, so here are my thoughts, theories, and questions on the major characters and storylines that we can debate in the meantime:

John Locke (AKA Jeremy Bentham) – It’s interesting that the character with the moniker of a famous British philosopher ended up taking up the name of another British philosopher for reasons not yet revealed (although the logical explanation is that Locke would need to change his name off the island to cover up the fact that he’s a survivor of Flight 815 outside of the Oceanic Six). The “big reveal” at the end of the show that Locke was the body in the casket was not a shocker, but it’s a very nice touch that the real-life Bentham actually had his body preserved at University College in London which the public can still see on display – a not-so-subtle tie-in to the fact that in the closing dialogue, Ben has instructed Jack that they need to take Locke’s body back to the island. Despite the important reveal, though, this episode raised a whole lot more questions about Locke as opposed to providing answers. Locke has apparently replaced Ben as the leader of the Others, yet Locke (under the Benthem alias) leaves the island at some point later on to inform the Oceanic Six that awful events have been occurring and they need to return from home. What exactly has been happening under the Locke “regime”, for the lack of a better description, that has been so horrible? How did he leave the island and is he now banished in the same manner as Ben? If the Others are supposed to follow all of Locke’s directions, as Ben suggested would happen, why would there be any issues at all? What did Locke tell all of the Oceanic Six back in the real world? Why did he visit Walt in addition to the Oceanic Six? How did Locke die? If Locke’s dead body is transported back to the island, will he be resurrected? I’ll address some of these issues later, but overall, all of these questions are extremely open-ended (which means setting forth any theories at this point are really just shots in the dark) and will likely serve as the main focus of the show for its final two seasons.

Jin and Sun – The first rule of any movie or television show is that a character isn’t dead until you see a body.  So, people can talk all they want about how the size of the explosion on the freighter would have taken Jin down even if he had jumped off in time (or the fact that Jin was due to get knocked off as a result of the Lost DUI Curse), but c’mon everyone – if there’s anything that Lost fans should understand is that death is often a temporary state.  Besides, Daniel Faraday’s boat (which I’ll address momentarily) is perfectly positioned to pick up a floating Jin.

Of course, the more important key to the storyline is that Sun believes that Jin is dead and that is going to drive her character for the rest of the series.  There’s plenty of speculation of why Sun approached Charles Widmore in the finale – some blogs have advanced the notion that she might be trying to double cross him.  However, I believe that everything that Sun is doing post-island is to avenge her husband’s death, which started with the hostile takeover of her father’s company and has led to a possible alliance with Widmore.  Sun made the point to Widmore that they have “common interests”.  By the end of the episode, we found out that Locke visited to all of the Oceanic Six, which means that there is a great possibility that he informed her of the circumstances around Jin’s death – namely, that Ben killed Keamy with the knowledge that it would end up blowing up the freighter with the heart rate monitor/bomb signal.  (On a side note, Keamy is probably the only character on the entire series so far that was an unequivocal villain.  All of the other characters have been so complex, particularly Ben, where you think they might be bad but you don’t know whether they have been acting  noble intentions.  However, the producers made Keamy so ruthless that it was over-the-top at times – that was a bit disappointing since he was a fairly prominent character this season.)  In turn, Sun would be moved to blame Ben for Jin’s death.  At the same time, Ben had stated in prior episodes that he would go after Widmore’s daughter, Penny.  If Ben ended up being successful in taking Penny out (via Sayid), then that would mean that there is a great “common interest” between Widmore and Sun with respect to taking Ben down.

Michael – An exception the the aforementioned dead body rule is if the image of Christian Shephard appears to say “you can go now” after you’ve had several unsuccessful suicide attempts in prior episodes, you’re permanently relegated to dead-person vision status on Lost.  Plus, actor Harold Perrineau is apparently upset with his character’s demise, so there isn’t a debate on whether Michael has been eliminated (as opposed to Jin).

Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Possibly Juliet Love Quadrangle – Well, we now know why Kate feels so indebted to Sawyer with him jumping out of the helicopter and all.  Of course, I foresee a Sawyer/Juliet romance on the newly moved island, which may ironically be used by the lovelorn Jack to get Kate to ultimately go back to the island.

Daniel Faraday’s Boat – My feeling is that Daniel’s boat is still floating in the middle of the ocean and didn’t go along for the ride along with the newly-moved island.  This gives him the opportunity to pick up a still-alive Jin.  Also, I think Faraday is going to be a (if not the) key guy to help the Oceanic Six find the island again since he seems to know more about the island’s scientific properties (particularly the “wrinkle in time” portion) than any character so far.  Of course, this depends on whether he’s going to go back to the real world right away or if he’ll look for the island again right away (which would be a tough notion considering his boat has no food or water).  Regardless, I think Daniel and his island-bound colleagues Miles and Charlotte are going to be important Desmond-esque figures for the last two seasons with their special physical and spiritual connections to the island (Frank, on the other hand, is likely going to have a minor role from this point forward, if he has any role at all, since his reason to go to the island seemed to be more of a fact-finding mission stemming from him having been the scheduled pilot of Oceanic Flight 815 before he called in sick).

Ben – By moving the island, is he really banished as he claimed?  I don’t think this is the usual line of B.S. from Ben since he seemed incredulous toward Jacob (whoever that might be) when he turned the frozen donkey wheel to move the island.  So, it looks like Ben is back in the real world looking for the island just like Widmore and (presumably and eventually) the Oceanic Six.  What still hasn’t been revealed in a flashback, though, is how Ben came to lead the Others in the first place.  It’s apparent that he’s “special”, but how early did Dr. Richard Alpert peg this?  We’ll see how this plays out.

There are plenty of other issues that I haven’t even touched upon.  Was Charlotte born on the island? How does Miles apparently communicate with the dead and read minds? How is the Aaron storyline going to play out as a child that was born on the island? Are the time travel properties of the island the reason why women that get pregnant on the island end up dying?  It’s brutal that it won’t be until Super Bowl-time next year before any of these items will be addressed.  I’ll be ready and waiting, though.

(Image from Pioneer Local)