Garry Kasparov is known mostly for being a great chess player, but I'm impressed with his writing ability. I don't know enough about chess to characterize his playing style, but there is a precise and clinical objectivity to his writing that feels like it might arise from a mind optimized to the playing of a game with the nature of chess.
In his play, Fischer was amazingly objective, long before computers stripped away so many of the dogmas and assumptions humans have used to navigate the game for centuries. Positions that had been long considered inferior were revitalized by Fischer’s ability to look at everything afresh. His concrete methods challenged basic precepts, such as the one that the stronger side should keep attacking the forces on the board. Fischer showed that simplification—the reduction of forces through exchanges—was often the strongest path as long as activity was maintained. The great Cuban José Capablanca had played this way half a century earlier, but Fischer’s modern interpretation of “victory through clarity
In a chat with Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus a while back, I spotted this Q&A:
Rob (Chicago): Call me crazy, but Michael Jordan showed pretty decent numbers from a guy who was randomly stuck into AA. His OBP was almost 90 points higher than his AVG. You think he could've improved if given more time (and not, for some crazy reason, go back to being the best player in basketball?).
Kevin Goldstein: You are NOT crazy. I actually think Jordan's .202/.289/.266 line in Double-A was an incredible athletic achievement.
On average, spectators underestimate the difficulty of competing at the professional level in sports. I have some sense of how hard it is to hit major-league pitching, but only because I was a failed high school player who couldn't hit the curveball. I'll never forget the first time I faced our closer in practice. He was the tight end on the football team, someone so large (6' 4" and maybe 260) that it made you wonder how he could only be two years older.
Even at his size, his fastball "only" averaged 88, 89mph. In MLB, that's middling at best. To me, it was knee-softening and sweat-inducing. By the time I saw a blur of white of the pitch leave his hand on its way to home plate, my body couldn't fire the necessary muscles to swing the bat quickly enough to even give myself a random chance of hitting the ball by accident. One bag of baseballs, maybe 15 to 20 pitches in all, or just five minutes of futility was enough to effectively end all my dreams of playing professional baseball. This would be the case for the vast majority of human beings, 99.999% of people in the world.
So I don't think it's crazy at all to think that Jordan's performance in double-A, where most MLB teams place their star prospects (triple-A is filled with journeyman major leaguers who just can't quite crack the show and who don't have star potential), was an amazing accomplishment that will never be properly appreciated. To try and switch to playing major league baseball mid-career, with barely any practice for years and years, is crazy, especially to hit. It's one thing to try and break in as a pitcher, where you might survive just on sheer velocity as a short reliever, but hitting major league pitching may be one of the single most challenging feats in sports.
Of course, this won't change the public's mind about those two years Jordan left the NBA. And don't forget Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, who had even more success at baseball than Jordan. It feels like there's a SpikeTV reality show in this concept (Who is the World's Greatest Athlete?).
I spent the day at Hulu HQ with a team of folks watching the Super Bowl to release ads to the Hulu AdZone as they aired on TV during the game. It's a crazed day, and I only have a fuzzy recollection of how the game itself actually unfolded.
But here's a running diary of my notes from watching the ads as they aired...
It was a much ballyhooed battle between similarly unstoried franchises with many similarities. Of course I'm referring to the battle between LivingSocial and Groupon. After Groupon confirmed it had bought a Super Bowl spot, LivingSocial quickly followed suit. If this coupon site war is one of scale, LivingSocial didn't want to be left behind.
Which company's ads will come out on top? And will their ads during the Super Bowl help consumers to understand the difference between the two companies?
Both aired spots during the pregame. LivingSocial's spot came with the message that it could change your life, a lofty claim indeed. Strangely, the transformation it showed was the evolution of a Harley Davidson-looking grease monkey into a...woman?! Transsexuals may not be large enough a demo to raise too much of a protest online for being used as a punchline, but regardless, it's an odd way to debut your service to over a hundred million people.
Groupon's first ad features beloved forgotten actor Cuba Gooding Jr. enlisting our help to save the whales. Oh, wait, no, we're not appealing to your environmental sympathies, we're using it as a joke! See how edgy we are! Early votes on the AdZone are not rewarding this strategy. Somewhere, an ad agency is working on his "Any PR is good PR" explanation.
And then Christina Aguilera screws up the lyrics to the National Anthem. This will be amazing if it's a live ad for Southwest Airlines: [ding] "Wanna get away?"
Commercial Break 1
The first of the Doritos crowdsourced ads runs: "Pug Attack." Since the Doritos and Pepsi ads were chosen by user votes, they've already been vetted and should do well in the Ad Zone. If you treat this entire body of work from the crowdsourced creative community as coming from a single ad agency, the style holds up as coherent: the ads are all comedic, featuring some twist of a punchline in which someone either does or doesn't get away with something.
Audi runs "Release the Hounds." It feels like a direct attack on Mercedez-Benz and a more tangential attack at BMW. Mercedez = old luxury. Audi = middle-aged luxury. And an appearance by Kenny G! Where has he been? Does he have a Vegas show?
Commercial Break 2
The second crowdsourced ad: Pepsi's "Love Hurts." Yep, it fits my earlier thought on the style of the crowdsourced ads. I wonder if the tone would be similar if a more luxury brand crowdsourced an ad, though by definition those brands would probably be least likely to try such a move.
Commercial Break 3
Budweiser's places a product ad about product placement in the Super Bowl.
Commercial Break 4
Hyundai's "Hypnotized" is an attack on some of Volkswagen's past spots (like this). Will enough people actually get that? I didn't realize Hyundai was attacking that ad style until the end of the ad, and I enjoy the VW ad style, so the reversal didn't work out quite the way they'd intended.
Commercial Break 5
In Kia's "One Epic Ride" a wealthy tycoon surrounded by bikini-clad babes a 200 foot yacht hires a henchman to steal a Kia Optima with a helicopter and fly it over the ocean to the yacht. The Kia ad ends noting that prices start under $19K. I think that guy on the yacht could just buy a Kia Optima with his black Amex card. I feel cognitive dissonance.
Commercial Break 6
The Bridgestone ad serves as a good time to remind people that the ability to recall an e-mail doesn't really work.
Teleflora's Faith Hill ad is a historic moment. I have no evidence to support this claim, but I believe it's the first time a nationally televised ad in the U.S. has used the word "rack" in that connotation. You know what connotation I mean. Not like a spice rack. Unless, well, I guess with some people you could use it that way.
Commercial Break 8
The girl in Motorola's "Empower the People" spot looks like the offspring of Eliza Dushku and Sarah Michelle Gellar, if they could actually conceive a child together.
And then we see an ad that was already unveiled to the world earlier this week, Volkswagen's "The Force." Like most people, I'm a fan. What little boy didn't want so much to believe in The Force when they first saw Star Wars? The boy who lived in the house across the yard from me growing up believed so strongly in the idea that he'd blindfold himself and have me throw objects at him while he yielded a plastic sword and tried to swat them away. What occurred was more of an endorsement for the scientific method than the existence of The Force, though I draw on the visual memory of racquet balls bouncing off of his head whenever I need a laugh.
Incidentally: German auto manufacturer, John Williams "Imperial March" theme song, the well-known intentional visual parallels between the costumes and formations of the Imperial Army in Star Wars and German troops from WWII? Interesting subtext.
Speaking of Hitler Germany, if an advertiser licenses the Hitler rant scene from Downfall and remixes it into a Super Bowl ad one of these days, the Internet will explode.
Commercial Break 10
Snickers is doubling down after its success with Betty White last year. Richard Lewis, Roseanne...can Eric Roberts and Joan Rivers be far behind?
Finally, more footage from J.J. Abrams Super 8. The music (James Horner?) and imagery evoke early Spielberg. My nostalgia for early magical Spielberg (E.T., anyone) is almost as strong as my nostalgia for my childhood.
Also, it features Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) from Friday Night Lights. The series finale is this week, and I am beyond sad to see the series end. Why the networks will replace such a fantastic show with some new show that gets cancelled after 3 episodes is beyond me.
Commercial Break 11
Many are disappointed that we live in the year 2011 and haven't achieved the Jetsons future once predicted for us. We don't have jetpacks or robot maids that we can order around just by speaking to them, we can't live forever, we haven't cured cancer, and our cars don't hover or drive themselves...but what's this? Our cars can now read our Facebook news feeds to us? Hah! Advantage...ummm...Facebook?
Paramount unveils its trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger. It looks like the usual paint-by-numbers superhero action flick, but if there was ever a time for a Captain America movie, this might be the year. Given our economic difficulties in recent year, the story of a scrawny American who takes a super serum and turns into a muscular superhero may be the type of escapist fantasy Americans turn to Hollywood for. Let's have him create some jobs at home while he's unseating oppressive regimes around the world.
Commercial Break 12
Given some of the occasional social controversy over where and in what conditions our consumer goods are manufactured (e.g. Foxconn), it's a bold and bizarre move for Sony Ericsson to play into that meme head on with their ad depicting an Android mascot being operated on in some dingy back-alley hovel in some unnamed Asian country. Also, the metaphor of grafting a thumb onto the Android mascot is a strange one as it implies, perhaps unintentionally, that the gaming controls in the ad were grafted onto this smartphone rather than being built into the phone from the start.
The Salesforce.com ads for Chatter.com (here and here) were shot to bookend the halftime show by the Black Eyed Peas, so they may not play as well out of context. Actually, they didn't play that well in context, either. Were they meant to be abstract? Their only saving grace was the fact that the Black Eyed Peas' halftime show was so awful it served as a much larger target for vicious feedback on Twitter.
Commercial Break 15
Not content to just offend environmentalists, Groupon airs its second ad: "Tibet." Perhaps the blowback from the ad will fade in time. How many people still nurse a grudge over the homophobic Snickers ad or thetwo racist SalesGenie.com ads from Super Bowl XLII? But for now, it serves as an distasteful nudge to unsubscribe from the Groupon mailings, none of which have been topically or geographically relevant to me for months now.
Coca Cola doesn't dance anywhere near the line of controversy. Their second ad, "Border," and their first ad, "Siege," are two data points that draw a straight line. This is the Watchmen plot remixed. It's not a common foe that will unite is in world peace but our love of sugary carbonated sodas.
Commercial Break 17
This entire ad break is one epically long two-minute ad, and it's a great one. It builds to a dramatic and unexpected twist, signaled by the quiet fading in of that great guitar riff from "Lose Yourself." Who better than Eminem as the symbol of Detroit reborn: raw, blue collar, tough, steeled by rehab? B-Rabbit! B-Rabbit!
Looking for the Angry Birds secret code in the Rio trailer? It's in this moment embedded below.
Or if you just want to see it...
Commercial Break 21
With their second ad "Black Beetle" it seems that Volkswagen will be the big winner in the Super Bowl ad battle. Some brands and agencies might extrapolate from this that they should also release their Super Bowl ads before the game itself, but that's the wrong conclusion.
And your Mr. Irrelevant for 2011: Fox's house ad for their new program Terra Nova. The tagline should read: Lost, except on Fox.
Okay, I'm headed home to catch up on this football game that happened today. It's amazing how much people have started caring about that football game that runs during the ads each February. I really think this whole Super Bowl concept might turn into something for the NFL.
Crazy. Karma is a b****.. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!
Most people widely interpreted it as James retort to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who used the word karma in trashing James in a letter to the fans Gilbert published after James left for the Heat.
Today, Lebron is claiming "It wasn't even a comment from me, it was someone who sent it to me and I sent it out." But a search of Twitter doesn't show a tweet of that wording from anyone prior to Lebron's version, the usual Retweet indicator was absent, and Lebron didn't use the RT attribution that's become a de facto standard on Twitter to indicate a manual retweet.
I think most everyone will accept this as a technological Freudian slip on James' part, and revealing of his feelings about how the Cavs reacted to his departure.
One more way Lebron is not like Michael Jordan: he is terrible at PR. Not that I'm complaining. The sports world is a more interesting place with athletes one cell phone button press away from sharing their inner thoughts, unmediated by PR reps. And at least, unlike Palin with her target maps images which she claims to stand behind, Lebron has left his tweet live and public.
Clearing out some random links from last year, my lowest blog output year in history. Writing is a muscle, I'm committed to working it more this year (as well as my literal muscles, whose atrophy is more visible).
The vainglory of the alpha wide receivers—demanding the damn ball, willfully ignorant of how much has to go right for the ball to reach them—is so ridiculous precisely because it doesn't admit the obvious and incredible difficulty inherent in all this. Consider: a player misses a block and things get screwed up. The quarterback overthrows or underthrows and things get screwed up. The coach misreads the defensive scheme and sends in the wrong play, and things get screwed up. Everything has to go right for even the simplest play to work. Even on a play where the raw ingredients are individual genius—perfect throw, brilliant catch—there's a ton of prosaic, self-sacrificing stuff that has to happen before all the fun stuff. This is the socialistic part, the real grace in the game that makes the stupid, atomized dude-ism of those commercials look that much dumber. You can't watch a football game and not understand this—that nothing succeeds unless everything and everyone succeeds, that no one wins unless everyone wins.
In Mode 2 — divided government — the dynamic is reversed. Both parties, responsible for governing, have a stake in success. Forced to negotiate and compromise, they drag policy toward the center, allowing moderates to feel represented instead of ignored. Most important, the country itself becomes more governable and meaningful laws stand a likelier chance of passage, because neither side can easily blame the other for whatever is wrong and because any major legislation needs support from both parties to pass.
Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker challenges Rauch's assertion.
The data cover from 1952 only through 2004. But there’s no reason for the pattern to have changed wildly since then. The percentage of voters opting for divided government ranges between 10 and 30 per cent.
Which is to say that between 70 and 90 per cent of voters do not prefer divided government. Some prefer united Republican Party government. Others prefer united Democratic Party government. All, presumably, would prefer having part of the government controlled by the party they support to having all of the government controlled by the party they oppose. But that hardly means they think that divided government is somehow desirable in and of itself.
The good news is that a young child who doesn't seem to be aging may hold the secret to immortality. The bad news is that it may involve being a mental infant for the rest of your life.
What is the best "hair of the dog"? One vote here for the Bloody Mary.
(Doctors in my family vouch for the science behind "hair of the dog." I thought it was just an excuse conjured by alcoholics.)
One of the most important but less-cited technologies that has fundamentally altered the game of tennis: copoly strings. It's one of the major reasons the net game is so rare today as copoly strings make previously impossible passing shots easier to pull off. I miss the higher variety in playing styles in modern tennis.
Via Marginal Revolution, a reference to a study of 11 NBA seasons that indicates that teams with one highly paid star and many lesser paid players win more games. 11 seasons doesn't sound like a large enough data set, but it is intriguing to wonder how the Miami Heat do this season with two alpha dogs, whether they will how and when to defer and how and when to lead. The Bulls benefitted all those years from Pippen being willing to play lieutenant to Jordan's general, and in crunch time there was never any doubt whose hands the ball would end up in (regardless of whether he chose to take the last shot or pass it off, as he did to Air Canada in his comeback double nickel game against the Knicks).
I'm not sure if it's a salary or talent issue as much as it's a personality issue. Salary is a symptom. Will Lebron and DWade be happy not being the guy to take the last minute shot for the win? Are they wired that way?
A player's mindset on his place in the pecking order can evolve. The year Jordan left the NBA to play baseball, Pippen wanted to step up to be the Man. The result was that a player that been the consummate glue guy for years on the Bulls melted down in the playoffs when Phil Jackson diagrammed the last shot for Toni Kukoc instead of him.
It was a black mark on his reputation, but I'm sympathetic. Most competitive people aren't wired to defer again and again, and it takes a special personality to play second fiddle for life (it's especially useful if your point guard is wired that way).
As of today, the Heat are 8-6, so the early returns are mixed. The center of their defense is a gaping hole. Lebron still should have gone to Chicago, he would have had a star in Derrick Rose who'd be willing to play sidekick and two guys in Noah and Boozer who could provide interior defense and scoring.
Well, I hear the weather in South Beach is nice this time of year.
I imagine reading about endurance athletes today is like reading about religious saints in ancient times. A mix of the mystical and masochistic, people denying themselves usual human comforts in an effort to push themselves to some superhuman level. Hearing about coaching in endurance running echoes stories of golf coaching: many biomechanical theories about optimal form, none having won anything near unanimous acclaim, mixed in with a generous dose of the mystical and psychological.
Two companion pieces worth reading on on Alberto Salazar coaching Dathan Ritzenhein and the future of U.S. running: CNNSI interview with Salazar, and a great Jennifer Kahn profile on Salazar and Ritzenhein in the New Yorker this week.
Count me curious as to how Ritzenhein does tomorrow in the NY Marathon.
I enjoyed this profile of Rex Ryan, the undisputed star (leaving aside Antonio Cromartie trying to recite the names of his eight kids from six women) of this past season's Hard Knocks, a big man both literally and figuratively, the charismatic antihero of the NFL. If you watched the show, the profile won't surprise you, but the writing makes it worth a return visit:
Wherever he wanders, Ryan is hard to miss. An immense man whose thick foothills of neck and haunch swell into a spectacular butte at the midsection, he possesses a personal geography that, from first-and-10 distance, assumes a form that follows his function — Ryan looks like nothing more than an extra-large football.
Some people question why the profession requires 90-hour weeks; with men like Buddy Ryan, a game plan is their work of creation. Coaches say that on the best teams, only 10 percent of the time do all 11 players perform their roles as scripted. Every night all over America, sleeping badly on office air mattresses are overweight middle-aged men with faltering marriages.
Is that true? I liked this suggestion from one of the comments:
I would like to offer a competing explanation for the fact that we treat athletes and musicians differently. Athletes play sports, and to a large extent sports are about winning and losing — in other words, sports are largely (not entirely) about competitive success. People have a strong desire to believe that the world is just, and in a just world success is granted to those who deserve it. Thus through a mix of the just-world fallacy and the halo effect there will be a temptation to build up a mythology around successful athletes, to attribute their success not just to physical gifts but to moral character. Such mythologies are a double-edged sword, however, which is why people felt “betrayed
Though I work at Hulu, part of the vanguard in the transition from linear programming to a video on demand world, I'm not immune to the power of collective experience. Part of me misses those days before DVRs and PPV and HBO and VCRs, when you could only catch movies on network TV live. The other people around the country watching that exact moment with you were invisible but palpable, and every moment of the movie seemed more important because of that.
Thus the huge value that accrues to events that still demand live viewing in this world where synchronous viewing has become so unnecessary. Sports leagues are sitting pretty.
Some scientists and researchers who've studied the history of athletic achievement and biomechanics say yes. In today's environment, it's not surprising that the article wonders if this will lead to a rise in human enhancements, technological or chemical, legal or illegal.
The Olympics may seem particularly vulnerable to waning interest if records stop being broken given the omnipresent WR bogeys posted prominently next to on-screen timers, but it may not be the end of the world. If we think of sports as primarily an entertainment product, with user interest as the end goal, some strategies suggest themselves.
1. Sports that pit athletes against each other on the same course at the same time are inherently more interesting than those where athletes are by themselves. Short track speed skating is more interesting to me than long-distance speed skating because of this. Snowboard cross and it's new cousin ski cross are a lot of fun to watch for the same reason.
2. Almost any world-class level athlete is impressive, but it's not always easy to appreciate their talent on TV, so I suggest a revolution in helping people appreciate professional athleticism. The NIke commercial "The Michael Vick Experience" was obviously fictional (insert your animal brutality joke here), but the principle is sound. Why don't we have more camera angles to watch sports with as in videogames? Why can't you put a small lightweight camera on Drew Brees' helmet (and every other player's helmet) so you can see what it's like to play quarterback in the NFL? Why can't we broadcast baseball in 3-D with a special catcher helmet cam to help us appreciate what it's like to try and hit a Justin Verlander fastball? Why not more microphones at field level so we can get an enhanced audio experience during live broadcasts instead of being forced to listen to an often uninspiring play-by-play announcer? Hockey is so much more exciting to see live than on TV, but what if you could toggle into any player's helmet and hear 5.1 surround audio of what he's experiencing? What if, when you were at the gym, you could watch cycling on a TV but also dial in the pro's wattage and speed output to see if you could keep up? What if you could sprint on the treadmill as fast as you could go and see an avatar of your body on screen next to Usain Bolt, just to get a sense for how fast he really is? The Olympics showcased innovations like the dive cam at the last Summer Olympics, and they have cameras that move along side sprinters. I'm confident they can continue to innovate on this axis.
3. More human interest context. Some scoff at the edited puff pieces introducing athlete life stories during the Olympics, but a personal connection always helps to give you more rooting interests. What if more of these aired, not just during the Olympics, but during regular sporting events? It doesn't even have to be a tearjerker of a story. Would knowing what NYC night club Derek Jeter was out at the night before, and with whom, enhance your appreciation of his performance in that day's game? I'm being somewhat facetious, but the bland canned sports interview responses are doing no one any favors. I'll cap this point by saying that Tiger Woods just got a whole lot more interesting as a person given the events of the past few months, and that first appearance of his back on the golf course is going to do great ratings (if his exploits continued, the lift might not last, but for now it's big news). Back story and character development isn't any less effective in the sports world.
4. I wouldn't be surprised to see alternative sports leagues spawned that compete with established leagues like MLB, NBA, and the NFL by allowing any and all performance-enhancing drugs. In addition, excessive endzone celebrations, Twittering during games, taunting, all that would be fair game. Much like the UFC overtook boxing by going where boxing wasn't, it's more fruitful to compete with the big monopoly sports in the US by going where they won't.
I confess to having no solutions for enhancing the appeal of curling, though. Maybe release a Good Will Hunting variant in which Matt Damon is still that janitor at MIT, but it's his amazing floor sweeping skills that lead to him being discovered and becoming a world class curler? Or introduce drinking in some way. That's all I've got.
James Surowiecki noted in his New Yorker column this week, probably turned in sometime before this past weekend, that Tiger Woods' recent troubles directly undermined exactly the appeal that sponsors saw in him, and that is his amazing control and focus.
Scandals that aren’t out of tune with a celebrity’s image are often surprisingly easy to bounce back from: after images of Kate Moss snorting coke surfaced, her bookings fell, but, over time, they went up. Revelations that Michael Jordan had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling barely dented his appeal, since the story reinforced the image of him as a fierce competitor. But scandals that conflict with a person’s public image can wreak havoc.
The interesting question is why all of these experts, whose careers depend on their supposed ability to analyze and understand the mood of the public (and of corporations), could have so completely misdiagnosed what was happening. Some of the reaction can be explained as simply assuming that Tiger was too big to be brought down by extramarital transgressions. And some of it probably derived from marketing consultants’ benighted faith that any problem can be solved if the marketing is good enough. But I also think there was a profound misunderstanding on the part of these experts of the nature of Tiger’s appeal, which from the start has been founded on an image of complete control and focus, an image that this scandal utterly wrecked. And the fact that most sports marketing professionals seem not to have understood just how this story would play out with the public and with sponsors, even though understanding these things is their core business, does make you question whether companies should be listening to marketing consultants at all.
I'd generalize to say that 9 times out of 10, if you're relying on consultants, you didn't hire the right person for the job in the first place. That 10th time is usually for some skill it isn't cost-effective to keep in-house full-time (for example, you may need to do some interior decorating in your office once in a while, but keeping an interior decorator on staff full-time is not cost-efficient).
The Pacquiao-Cotto fight generated 1.25 million PPV purchases and $70 million in revenue, outdoing the Mayweather-Marquez fight which did a solid 1.05 million PPV buys.
The Pacquiao and Mayweather camps are negotiating the economics on a potential blockbuster fight, and the issue of how they should split the money is sure to be the biggest barrier to what promises to be a historic payday for all involved.
A 50/50 split may ultimately be the best compromise, but in terms of entertainment value, Pacquiao is far and away superior. I can't recall a single Mayweather fight I've ever paid for that didn't leave me feeling a bit robbed. To a greater extent than Roy Jones Jr., Mayweather is a technical fighter, a cautious one who gets in a few punches, then plays amazing defense. I'm not sure I've ever even seen Mayweather with a bruise on his face, perhaps justifying his nickname "Pretty Boy." You appreciate the skill, but it doesn't get the heart racing.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, has all the qualities to justify your PPV investment:
He attacks. His instinct isn't to sneak in some flurries and then retreat. He isn't really a counterpuncher. Pacquiao's default mode is to move forward and attack, the way a car tends to pull hard to one side or the other if you let go of the steering wheel. Whatever the positive correlation between punch count (both thrown and landed) and victory, it's even stronger for punch count and entertainment value.
He goes for the kill. A fighter like Mayweather can accumulate such a lead in rounds early on that the rest of the fight can be spent in defense. Pacquiao in his last several fights has sought the KO, and only Cotto's toughness and his switch to running around the ring kept him upright until the ref called it. Not since young Tyson have we had a fighter of such prominence who always smells blood in the water (go back and watch early Tyson; we may not ever see another fighter who was suited for only one style of boxing, the relentless max effort in pursuit of the round KO).
He has a touch chin. Against Cotto, who matched him at weigh-in but probably outweighed him on fight night by at least 8 pounds, Pacquiao took some big left jabs and left hooks (the best punch for both fighters) and never seemed dazed. He didn't exactly exit the fight looking like he was going to do any magazine covers, but he didn't ever seem like he was at risk of going down. A boxer who takes some big punches adds to the drama of the fight.
He has the power to do damage. Despite moving up 7 weight classes, Pacquiao was able to tenderize De La Hoya and Cotto's faces like Mario Batali working over a pork chop, and the only reason Hatton didn't look worse was that he got KO'd so early.
Here's my anecdotal evidence in support of Pacquiao's superiority over Mayweather in a purse split. I had lots of people over to my place to watch both Mayweather-Marquez and Pacquiao-Cotto. After the Mayweather fight, we were all so disappointed that I felt compelled to put on DVDs of fights from various martial arts movies to appease the bloodthirsty mob, so to speak. After the Pacquiao fight, the mob was satisfied, and we all drank wine and recounted the best moments from the fight.
I'm actually concerned that Pacquiao-Mayweather won't be as entertaining as Pacquiao's last several fights. I'd foresee Mayweather would be a slight favorite among experts given his unblemished track record and size advantage. You can see Mayweather tagging Pacquiao a few times, as fighters like Cotto have done, and then having the speed and elusiveness to just back off and win on points. The fight would go the distance, Pacquiao would be the crowd favorite, but Mayweather would win on points sending the crowd into outrage given Mayweather's tactics (I'd be at home trying to tear my plasma off the wall and throw it off my balcony).
In the post-fight interview, Larry Merchant would ask Mayweather point blank if he really deserved to win given his lack of aggression, followed by Mayweather punching Merchant out, grabbing the mike, and shouting to the crowd, "You all can kiss my ass!" Sugar Shane Mosely would then appear out of nowhere to clock Mayweather with a cheap shot, starting an all-out brawl in the ring, and Derek Jeter would spring out of his front row seat to enter the ring to play peacemaker.
Maybe I'm talking myself into the entertainment value of this fight after all.
Mira and I saw Dudamel conducting the LA Philharmonic in Verdi's Requiem last Thursday night. After the show, as we were walking out, two women approached and one of them asked if she could interview us. She was from the Christian Science Monitor.
I suspect we were picked out for being the only two people in the crowd who didn't appear old enough to collect social security checks. Apparently Verdi's Requiem just doesn't bring out the kids like it used to.
We ended up quoted at the end of this short online piece. Well, "quoted" should be qualified. Those weren't exactly our words, despite her use of a tape recorder. It's more like she took some of our thoughts and summarized them, then bracketed them with quotation marks.
A few bars into the opening of Verdi's Requiem, one of the more haunting openings in the canon, someone's cell phone went off. After it rang twice, Dudamel dropped his arms and brought the piece to a halt, and the crowd of septuagenarians let out a bile-filled hiss. I tried to see who it was but never identified the person.
Having my cell phone go off in the midst of a quiet performance--a play, a classical music performance, a book reading, to name a few--is one of my greatest fears. Even after I've turned off my phone I check it at least three or four times during a show. Someone just lived out my greatest fear that night.
To those who wonder if the Madden Football video game teaches one anything about real life coaching, exhibit A is the New England Patriots. Their offense resembles the way I play offense in Madden. Spread the field with a lot of wideouts, put my QB in the shotgun, and put the defense under constant attack all over the field, perhaps tossing in a no-huddle for added duress. Look for Moss deep in single coverage, then check down to Watson on a deep in or hit Welker dragging shallow across the middle. The Colts and Cardinals are well-suited to that style of offense in Madden, also.
Eric and I planned to meet Bill Simmons last night at his LA book signing. We were up in Burbank beforehand for work and had to fight the usual horrific LA traffic to get to ESPN Zone across from Staples Center. The signing started at 5pm, and we got on the 101 at about 6:30. The same way a great quarterback has an internal clock that lets him know when he has to either commit to a pass or dump the ball or risk taking a sack, I had a sense we were pushing it, that he might be gone before we arrived.
As we approached Staples Center, we ran into another microclusterf*** of automobiles. It turns out there was a Clippers game at Staples Center and a So You Think You Can Dance concert that night at Nokia Live next door (in fairness to the Clippers, they probably didn't account for most of that traffic; I blame SYTYCD). As cheap about parking as Eric and I were, we weren't about to mess around with nearby lots to save a few dollars. We paid the $25 king's ransom to park under Nokia Live, then sprinted through the crowds of SYTYCD fans lined up outside Nokia Live to reach ESPN Zone.
Our hustle paid off. We walked in as Simmons was packing up his stuff. We introduced ourselves and he graciously signed our books. We told him we worked at Hulu and he said he was a big fan, that he had used the site to watch Miami Vice and White Shadow (which, being huge fans of his ESPN column, we knew).
We presented him with a Hulu hoodie and thanked him for mentioning Hulu in his column from time to time. He said it would've been the coolest gift he received that night if not for the fact that a porn actress had come in earlier, bought a few copies of his books, and dropped off some DVDs from her, uh, oeuvre. Yep, that's a tough comp.
If you're an NBA fan, Simmons' new book The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy is a must read (it made it to the top of the NYTimes Non-Fiction bestseller list, reflecting his massive fan base). His knowledge of NBA history is impressive (when he says he's one of the last few true NBA fans, he's not kidding), and his ranking of the top 96 players in NBA history is very fair despite his Celtics' loyalties.
In many ways, Simmons is one of the original bloggers, a guy who wrote about what he knew for AOL long before millions of bloggers were doing the same. He's not afraid to write about pop culture and television and sports and all the things he cares about, the same way Chuck Klosterman writes about music and sports and topics he cares about or the way economists like Tyler Cowen and Steven Levitt write columns and books about all sorts of topics that economics touch on.
I was so flustered and out-of-breath when I arrived that I forgot to pre-sign my book for him. He'd made a policy of just signing his name after some of his other book signings ran long, but I'm sure he would have signed his name below any made-up salutation.
"To Eugene, my reader with the greatest length and upside."
"May this 736 page behemoth of a book last you over 300 post-Mexican meal seatings on the toilet."
Interesting post by Ethan Zuckerman on the topic of serendipity and whether the rise of the internet and digital media has increased or decreased it.
I need to think about this issue more. With the rise of the internet, my exposure to ideas has increased, which is wonderful, but I consciously try to avoid limiting myself to the same several silos of thinking over and over. Adopting a naturally contrarian mindset helps, and every few months I tend to rotate the blogs or news outlets I read regularly, not just to avoid groupthink but because I find myself naturally tiring of the same schools of thought being pressed by the same authors again and again.
Clustering is a danger, though. The same set of blogs you follow in your newsreader, the same set of sites you visit regularly because they're bookmarked, the same core set of people you follow on Twitter, all of these are huge sources of selection bias.
Be curious and skeptical. That's all I can offer for now.
Old link from Wimbledon: amusing t-shirt worn by Serena Williams at the press conference after her Wimbledon victory.