I’ve been watching this silly game, American football, for many years now. As I become older and wiser, though, questions have started coming to mind. These, I’m sure, are things the NFL doesn’t like you to think about, but that’s their problem.

So here we are… today are the NFC and AFC Championship games… it’s not quite yet, you know, the “world championship” game (presumably labeled as such because the National Football League plays a game in London every year). These are the issues I have with the NFL and the sport it represents:

1) Field Officials dictate the outcome of games. Because of problems in past years, this is the first time the NFL has institutionalized a centralized officiating crew – in New York – to confirm calls. However, the only other time I’ve heard so much noise was when the NFL used replacement officials a couple years ago. The rules are too vague, and officials haven’t given enough time to confirm reviews with the home office. Officiating has been a problem for a long time (see the “Tuck Rule” for an example – inaccurate officiating that surely allowed a team to continue through the playoffs and, ultimately, “win” a Super Bowl).

2) Subdivisions suck. The Panthers – though they put up an impressive game against Arizona – they never should have been in the playoffs to begin with. A team with a losing, regular-season record should NEVER, EVER, EVER be in the playoffs. Currently, far superior teams in some divisions get shut out of the playoffs because of the current system requiring a subdivision winner. An example is that the Panthers (NFC South, 7-8-1 record) made it to the playoffs, while the Eagles (NFC East, 10-6 record) were shut out. In fact, seven non-playoff NFL teams had more regular season wins than the Panthers.

3) Home Field Advantage and Bye Weeks. If you’re a superior football team, why do you get to skip a game AND potentially play all of your playoff games at home? If you’re so awesome, shouldn’t you have to prove, just like any other team, that you belong in the playoffs? Maybe even have all playoffs games at “neutral” sites, and we’ll see who the better teams are.

4) Back to officiating… Playoff officiating crews have proven to be especially awful. No one seems to be able to explain why officiating crews stick together during the regular season and, in the playoffs, hodge-podge crews are thrown together. The regular-season crews learn to trust and understand each other. This year, we’ve seen good calls in the playoffs get overruled because another official saw the play go down a different way. In that case, officials determine the outcome of games when it’s close – not the teams. p.s. What happened to the centralized, New York crew that confirms calls?

5) The games aren’t exciting when you realize how slow-paced they are. You know, I actually get a lot of stuff done when I have the football games on at home. I half pay attention to what’s going on. I don’t subscribe to the NFL Network, I don’t buy football swag. I get crap done and think about how much of a time suck giving full attention to the games would be. It takes, what, 3 or 4 hours to play a game that, on the game clock, officially takes 1 hour 15 minutes? Check it out next time… anytime anything happens, the NFL goes to a commercial – a touchdown, a field goal, a kickoff return, a punt return. They have A LOT of advertisers, make a CRAP-TON of money from them, AND the NFL home office is actually considered to be a NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION…………….

6) NFL IS A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION. I didn’t know about this until grumpy (like me today) sports guy on NPR, Frank Deford, mentioned that the NFL home office falls under the category of non-profit org (listen or read at NPR here). The commissioner, Roger Goodell, made over $44 million last year. I guess it’s “not profit” if the organization is funneling its money to the boss… then it’s just “salary,” right?

Speaking of, I once volunteered to help set up for a Super Bowl, and this is the sort of thing Frank Deford was complaining about. I didn’t think about it then… I was more thinking how it was an awesome thing to be able to put on my college applications (I was in high school then), and how it would be a cool opportunity to see the field being prepared for the game millions of people across the world would watch. Now that Deford taught me a thing or two, the NFL doesn’t need any volunteers at all. They could easily pay every single person that helps out… but they don’t do it because they don’t have to – they “AREN’T IN BUSINESS TO MAKE A PROFIT.” Pfhhhhh.

7) Conflicting Rules #1. For kickoff, the clock doesn’t start until the returner catches the ball and runs it beyond the endzone. Punt the ball, and the clock starts ticking at the start of the play. I don’t get why there’s a difference.

8) Conflicting Rules #2. Kicking the ball out of bounds on kickoff results in a penalty, with the ball then normally being placed at the 40 yard line. Kicking the ball out of bounds for a punt, I guess it’s considered strategic – or a big mistake, and there’s no penalty.

9) Coach’s Challenges. Coaches are limited in the number of challenges they can make during the game (2 per half?). Considering the problem with officiating this season, coach’s should be able to challenge 3 times per half, since they have 3 time outs per half. You’re never gonna be able to convince me that shouldn’t be the case.

10) Overtime rules are stupid. Okay, check this out… two teams duke it out all game long. They’re pretty evenly matched, and the game ends in a tie. Luckily, one team ends up winning the overtime coin toss and chooses to receive a ball. They score a touchdown, like they did throughout the game (and so did the other team), but because they scored THIS touchdown, they win. That’s freakin’ goofy. The game was evenly matched, one team received the ball and scored a touchdown, and that’s it. It just seems weird.

11) I don’t buy into egocentrism/ethnocentrism. Until I stop hearing commentators saying “world champions” (yeah, I’m talking especially to you, Joe Buck) and stop seeing banners in stadiums saying the same, it’s just over-the-top and going to frustrate me. I touched on that a bit earlier, and there is nothing “world” about it. You want to see “world champions?” Watch the WORLD Cup. American football has been growing in popularity for the past few years, but it’s got a long, long way to go to be the world’s most popular sport. In the meantime, stop bringing “world” into it, or maybe show everyone how strongly you feel and call last year’s winning team the “champions of the universe.” I’d like to see how that goes.

For now, I’ve had enough. I really have. I’m turning the TV off at this point. I might come back but, for now, the NFL has a long way to go, in order to make it a legit (more than just a money-printing) operation. In the meantime, I’ll be busy living my life. See ya!

 

 

UPDATE TIME, YAY!

12) Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, has no spine and/or real power on his own. There was the whole Ray Rice fiasco, and the Commish said “Okay, you punched your wife. You can’t play in the NFL ever again.” Some time passed, and an arbitrator said “You can’t do that, Roger,” and Ray Rice was reinstated. He hasn’t played yet, but he’s allowed to. Meanwhile, in the NBA, Adam Silver told not a player, but a billionaire owner, “You’re banned for life, and you have to sell your team,” and the team was sold.

THEN, on the day I wrote the original post, it turned out the Patriots had used deflated footballs, thus breaking game rules for what we assume to be THE ENTIRE GAME. Goodell, who is allegedly a good friend of Patriots owner, Robert Kraft (and a picture of the two hanging out at an event at Kraft’s mansion is on Goodell’s Twitter page), then says “Oh, well, we’ll do an investigation and let you know what we find after the Super Bowl.”

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Okay, so some people argue “Well, judging by the score, the Colts would have gotten clobbered anyway.” Oh, so you can tell me with a straight face that the Patriots are so terrible at cheating that they’ve broken the rules a total of two times ever (Deflategate and Spygate) and got caught 100% of the time? That organization has a history of controversy, including questionable officiating, giving the team a free pass through the playoffs (see “Tuck Rule” mentioned in point #1 above). It’s much older, but also see “Snowplow Game” if you don’t know anything about it.

So there you have it… the NFL sucks, and that’s why you should stop buying overpriced nick-nacks and put that money towards retirement or a legit charity – not the NFL charity.

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It’s a wonder I didn’t do better in school. I didn’t do bad, but I could have just done…better. The thing is, I like to read a lot. Looking through the search engine results, forever logged somewhere deep in this computer, would probably not reveal a whole lot specifically about the person sitting in front of it every day. The information contained would just be a dizzying array of terms and phrases that have no definable link, except for maybe “this person likes to look s*(@ up!”

Being so familiar with the ways this technology is used, I also understand a little bit about how it works. Plus, it helps having studied things like copyrights, open and public records, and data aggregation in college. I strongly believe in the right to privacy and the right to control potentially unique, identifying information related to privacy.

To see what’s out there – and in moments of boredom – I have done Internet searches for my name, phone number, and e-mail address. For you to do the same might yield some interesting results. And, in case you haven’t heard, managing this kind of information is big business these days. Services like “Reputation Defender” exist for the purpose of 1) removing your personal information from data aggregate websites and 2) burying pages containing your information deeper in the search engine results.

There is too much asked of us too often, and too much info is needlessly spread about. What happens to your information when a cashier swipes your ID, rather than manually inputting your birth date? Why has our society allowed for so many applications unrelated to income to require a social security number? Why must we disclose ethnicity on college applications, rather than admitting students, who are sight unseen, based on academics?

Look, to consider and be concerned about such topics doesn’t mean you live in a lead box and wear a tin-foil hat. There is some weird, unnecessary crap that goes on out there, and here are two of my personal examples that spring to mind: Back in 2003 or so, I received a letter from my university one day, urging 1,000+ of us students to sign up for a credit freeze/watch because an adviser had lost a PDA (remember those?) that contained our social security numbers. That sorta seemed to defeat the purpose of us having “university IDs.” Another weird happening was when I picked up my car from an auto shop way back when and realized that, sometime between dropping the vehicle off and picking it back up, a paycheck stub previously in the car was no longer there.

A professor once tipped us students off to the fact that, in Ohio, we could visit county auditor websites to see who owns which house, how much the person paid for the property, and how much is paid annually in property taxes. Aggregate sites like Zillow and Redfin essentially provide the same data. And now you can also see what your favorite actor’s backyard looks like via Google Maps. Knowledge drives business and, as we all know, knowledge = power.

Knowledge, or the appearance of possessing it, has also allowed some sketchy cottage industries to creep in the mix. Putting nearly any phone number in a search engine will bring up pages headlining “Free Reverse Lookup” and “Find out who is calling you? (sic)” My number brings up 6,750 results and numerous hits provide only enough information to show where in the country my phone is supposedly located (based on the prefix) and who my FORMER carrier was. Not much of a reverse lookup, eh?

What this analysis really boils down to is that we could all do a better job of managing our personal information. Some people don’t show any interest in doing so, but you can’t tell me there aren’t places in your life that are off-limits. What gets me are these people who say “I’m no criminal… I wouldn’t care if the police were watching me because I have nothing to hide.” Yeah right! Surveillance for no reason is probably a result of profiling. Otherwise, how would the surveyors pick and choose who to watch and who they think would be most likely to commit a crime? Realistically, everyone I’ve ever known who thought they’ve been profiled were mad as hell about it. We all have moments, as mundane as they may be, where we do something when we think no one is watching… moments where we would be embarrassed to find out someone WAS watching. It’s NOT OKAY!

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Music Evolved

12/29/2011

So much has changed in the music business in the past decade alone. That’s not really news to anyone, but it’s so much more than just the distribution model being turned on its head, for which I am extremely grateful. I remember being 13 and being so frustrated by $18 CDs at Camelot Music. (Does anyone happen to remember when Camelot was one of five music retailers charged with price-fixing?)

By the time Camelot had become FYE, I had sworn off buying new CDs completely, only picking up used ones from the independent record shop across the street. And when they didn’t have what I wanted, I swapped CDs with friends and also broadened my music tastes by scanning the dial on the radio, discovering blues, jazz, and even classical. On a small scale, I adapted to make things work for my situation and, on a much larger scale, adapting is the very thing that the music industry hasn’t been able to do so well. Or so it seems.*

Realistically, since the pressing of the first compact disc, technology was in the works that would someday displace those retailers wanting to charge an extra five bucks for liner notes and a jewel case. Looking back, it seems that no one really believed CDs were dead at the dawn of the 21st century, except for Apple….and Napster.

If you fast-forward almost a decade later, in case you aren’t aware, things have also dramatically changed for the musician. A lot of major studios have shut their doors for good because cheaper technology has allowed musicians to record at home, rather than having to optimize $100,000 sound consoles that always look so cool in trade publications. These days, a very basic, but effective, recording setup can be had for a couple thousand dollars.

So now, the musician-entrepreneur can record at home, pay a nominal fee to an aggregator, who then passes submitted music along to sites like Amazon and iTunes, and you then hope, through self-marketing and sheer talent, that someone takes notice.

Of course, the market is certainly more flooded than ever, since digital distribution is now so simple and inexpensive, when compared to the $1000+ bands previously had to pay for the initial, professional pressing of every album they self-release. And speaking of albums, even that whole concept is in danger. As we consumers have greater freedom to pick individual songs to purchase, a whole lot of junk gets weeded out that otherwise would have ended up as “filler” on a album. On the other hand, art increasingly becomes just a commodity when it gets picked apart to be recategorized to fit someone’s “workout mix” on an iPod, as an example. On the other, other hand, the proliferation of radio in our lives is hardly debatable, and no one has ever seemed to mind that radio has always been single-driven, often pulling only the strongest songs from an album. So it all just comes full circle.

No doubt, this whole world is changing, as the focus of business becomes all things digital. It’s an interesting time and, despite all the problems/challenges this complex world faces, it’s also more exciting than ever to see what advances in sciences and the arts the world will come up with. Stay tuned, and let’s enjoy the ride together…