Free Fantasy Football League Roundup

Time for another roundup, and god knows I’m simply twitching with excitement. Ah, July, the sun is shining, I’m unemployed and the football season is a mere 57 or so days away, not that I’m counting. Even more exciting than the beginning of the professional football season is the beginning of the fantasy football season, also coincidentally a mere 57 or so days away. Of course, this number is misleading. It merely marks the first game of the season and not the true beginning of fantasy football for that occurred as soon as they allowed me to sign up to play. I first played fantasy sports about eight or nine years ago (with some intervening breaks). I can’t remember which website hosted the league, possibly Sportsline or AOL, and the various websites have changed and matured as have my own wants and needs in a fantasy sports league website. I’ve been playing on Yahoo! for the past few years in a year round cycle of statistics and roster adjustments. It’s been pretty good to my friends and I, at least those who don’t turn their noses up at the very idea of fantasy sports (a quick note to greaney if he’s reading: every season that i play fantasy sports and you don’t, i count as a victory of my sporting knowledge over your own. i will rename my team in honor of the rams, if you play just one season). However, some members of the league, including myself, are now itching for certain options that are beyond the current setup of Yahoo fantasy sports.

list

Good friend of the blog and rabid fantasy football player, X3D, recently emailed me the following list of qualities that he looks for in a fantasy football league. I’ve summarized his points about each category.

1. Interface – ease of use, clarity

2. Statistics – split stats for both players and competing owners

3. History – stats from previous seasons, split stats for owners over multiple seasons

4. Flexibility – full customization for scoring settings, draft order, trades (allowing draft pick trading, three-way trades), position eligibility

5. Post board – trash talking capabilities

6. Real-time stats

This is a pretty good list. X3D contributions will probably continue as long as my cohort and I write about fantasy football. All I will add are some intangibles that could go in a few different categories, such as website load time and aesthetics, obvious injury updates, links to fantasy analysis and a large, relatively intelligent community.

I collected a list of free fantasy football sites from a not very exhaustive search. If anyone has any further suggestions, please write a quick comment and I’ll check it out. I realize that you can’t really evaluate a site without playing in a league, but that sort of negates the idea of this whole post, so I’m going to ignore it. These evaluations are mostly based on pre-season impressions, so any pros or cons that come out during the season will be missed obviously. While I haven’t spent a lot of time with each site, anything that I missed I’m going to chalk up to faulty site design rather than my own idiocy. Also, CNNSI.com may well have free fantasy football but it doesn’t offer signups yet for next season. Their website is a piece of crap, though, so it’s not a huge loss. Now, let’s jump right to the individual reviews.

yahoo

Yahoo
I’ve been using Yahoo for awhile, so this review will probably be a bit different than the others. I like Yahoo. I read their news sometimes, largely out of habit, and their sports section is user friendly even if it lacks the breadth of ESPN. However, I’ve never been the commissioner, so testing out the league creation tool was a novel experience for me. Yahoo gets its highest marks for its interface and ease of use. The site is nice looking and all of your basic commands are simple to understand and use. The new fancy roster setting is appreciated but kind of a pain in the ass if you ever want to highlight text on your roster. I don’t know why I like doing that, some sort of impulse to doodle probably. Stat collection is only average. Baseball, notably, suffers from a lack of interesting statistical analysis. Football is a little bit simpler but it could still benefit from richer analytical tools. Of course, these tools seem to be offered on the pay side, Fantasy Football Plus, and the free side does get some trickle down every once in awhile, the voting-based keys to success and other tools seem to be a bit better than what’s offered at competing sites. I have no idea if it’s true but Yahoo seems to have more players than other leagues and the tool features are largely supported by this population, through a wisdom of crowds sort of thing. Your Yahoo ID saves your league results and offers some nice trophies and such for past victories. Unfortunately, the comparisons between other player profiles are somewhat strange and it only saves your old league’s schedules without any accompanying stats. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a way to look at cumulative records. The league rules are somewhat flexible. They come in a close fourth, and as much as I enjoy excessive rule tinkering, it tends to turn off more casual players and it sucks to have people leave a league over petty shit like rules. I can rant on either side of this issue but will save it for the future. The message board works and the smack talk is a fun feature, although it really should be a bit more public as in a sidebar that the league always sees. Finally, real time stat updates, via Stattracker, are a pay feature after the first week teaser. Having bought Stattracker, I can attest that it could be better. If I pay for something on the internet, it damn well better work right and Stattracker gets buggy at times. That said, it’s pretty cheap compared to paying for a league. I particularly like the analysis written for the Yahoo fantasy community, although there could be more of it. It’s written to be accessible to the casual user and with the Yahoo scoring system in mind. All in all, Yahoo offers a pretty good fantasy football league with a large community and good analysis that they write themselves. I like Yahoo and think it’s particularly good for the casual user, however there are better things out there.

sportsline

CBS Sportsline/NFL.com
I probably shouldn’t write about this site next, but it left me with the most vivid impression. Let me preface this review by stating that I have heard that CBS Sportsline has a very fine paid section with all sorts of amenities and customization. Unfortunately, these amenities and customization are not available on the free side and the website fails in nearly every category. I believe that Sportsline Fantasy Football is relatively popular. I’ve read people commenting on it. It’s on every list of fantasy football sites that I found. They must have one hell of a paid side because the free side is shit. The interface is mildly intimidating, no friendly team page greets you with nice little tabs as is the standard. The “options” link only goes to the option of changing your team name and personal id. The player stat page is ugly and as basic as possible. I have no idea if there is any league tracking over multiple seasons. I can’t really imagine playing multiple seasons there. There is absolutely no flexibility in rules, which is the part that I find most appalling. You’re stuck with a single rule set. I thought that this couldn’t possibly be the case, as every other website offers some degree of customization, but I confirmed the forced rule set when I looked back at Sportsline Fantasy Football enticement to upgrade. Honestly, I feel like I’m missing something about the website. I couldn’t even find a simple league message board, although there is supposed to be one even on the free side. I assume that they don’t offer real-time stats for free. Unless I’m very mistaken about things, I would consider Sportsline as essentially a pay only site. The general crappiness of the website is surprising as it powers NFL.com’s fantasy football section as well. (Oddly enough, while the Sportsline and NFL.com have identical fantasy football sections and cross-promotions on each site, the actual leagues aren’t linked. I couldn’t find the test league that I created in one when I was using the other. Very odd.) The only positive comment that I can make about Sportsline is that they seem to have some good in-house fantasy analysis, I guess.

aol

AOL
AOL’s offering (and most of the other sites) was a stark contrast from the good reputation/bad reality findings on Sportsline. I went to AOL with very low expectations. The very act of accessing an AOL website gave me fears of software installing itself on my computer and dreams of the ubiquitous cd coasters I once collected for no apparent reason. Much to my surprise, AOL offers a very nice free fantasy football experience and actually has the most original setup. Their website is simple yet useful and isn’t bogged down in the bullshit web 2.0 stuff that is beginning to take over Yahoo and ESPN. The interface is very clear and well laid out. It’s easy to find all of the league tools and player information through a simple expanding sidebar that is actually not flash- or ajax- or whatever-based. The stats page is similarly clear and useful. There isn’t any flashy analysis, but it’s easily readable and lists every player for each position on a single page. Also, you can view all of the teams rosters on one page for easy comparison, which was unique among the websites. Amazingly, the site seems to offer easily viewable league histories back through your previous seasons. I’m not sure how much they record for you, but it seems nice. Unfortunately, their FAQ says that there is no way to import league histories, but at least the topic is addressed and they might actually work on it. Interestingly, you can give out custom awards based on whatever you want. There’s also a section for league finances to allow easy tracking of who’s put money in the pool and who hasn’t. I imagine you can also use this function for pay trade systems. There’s a weekly pick ’em section, which is always fun. Communication is simple with a message board and owner notes. The site also allows for the creation of custom league polls. Apparently, live scoring is free, as well, but I have no idea what it looks like. AOL completely surprised me, and I would be more than happy to bring my league over to their site. Some might dock them points for the spartan design, but I find it highly appealing along with the many other unique, if somewhat small, touches.

espn

ESPN
Clearly, ESPN.com offers the best real sports analysis of any major website. On top of that, ESPN is a very fine network and offers the best sports show on television (if not the best show), PTI. For that alone, I can understand why their fantasy football league is relatively popular. However, before going to their site, I had heard some negative things about fantasy football on ESPN.com. I loathe their website design, so full of flash elements and sliding buttons and bullshit everywhere, so I was prepared to believe the rumors. However, the fantasy football offering actually seems pretty solid. Much like the website, there’s too much web 2.0ish stuff but the content is good and actually the fantasy football site design is a bit more restrained than the general site. I would go so far as to the say that the league and team pages are the nicest looking of the bunch. The interface is easy to use and clear enough. Many of the features listed in the AOL review are also included on ESPN.com. I mostly dock the site because it feels a bit too close to Yahoo. I’m not saying one copied the other or anything, but I wanted something a bit different from what I was used to in a new website. Most of my problems with ESPN.com are faults of the general website and not of the fantasy football area. I just don’t like all of the Insider teasers and video everywhere. I know that ESPN.com has some nice analysis but I don’t want to watch a video of something that I could read in a small fraction of the time. Also, the website tends to do bad things to my browser, crashing and whatnot. The fantasy football area offers some form of league history, again not viewable and likely not importable. Player stats are nice and I appreciate the easy pop-up analysis for each player, but it’s all a bit much ultimately and I would prefer to just read analysis on a separate page. League flexibility is good, rules are customizable and such, but it doesn’t differentiate itself from other sites in this respect. One positive and unique note is the inclusion of league chat in addition to a message board. This function alone does a lot to win me over. When you play in a league where you either don’t know everyone, I can imagine use of hashing out trades and just generally talking shit on the league chat. The other websites should really rip this off. I can’t think of a good reason not to have integrated league chat. Live scoring is advertised as free. All in all, despite some misgivings and an uncertain league history area, I would be happy to move my league over to ESPN.com.

fox sports

FoxSports
Unlike ESPN.com, I’m not a fan of FoxSports.com’s big brother cable station. Sure, it’s fun to watch the occasional MMA bout or whatever, but their schedule seems built around the Best Damn network of shows and I actively dislike all of the hosts of that show, past and present. In addition, FoxSports.com is linked with MSN.com, which is as unholy of a media union as I can imagine. Unlike AOL, FoxSports.com Fantasy Football did not rise above the challenges of their parent company. While the fantasy football offering is nowhere near as bad as Sportsline, it does nothing to stand out from the pack and, in a comparative fantasy football review post, there’s no such thing as good enough. FoxSports is basically Yahoo or ESPN without any of the unique features offered on those sites. The interface is clear and well-designed enough. The player stats page tends to lag a second when you load it but doesn’t commit any grievous sins. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to look at the scoreboard or standings prior to the beginning of the season. The rules have an average level of flexibility. The message board is a message board. Oddly enough, there’s a “stories” board in addition to the message board that lets you post images but is otherwise identical to the message board except it actually restricts message length more. I’m mystified as to why they don’t combine these features. FoxSports does offer small league sizes than some of the other websites allowed, but that made me feel sad more than it shocked me with its utility. I couldn’t find the league history section if there is one. They do seem to offer live scoring. (It’s fairly petty of Yahoo to still charge for this service when most other sites don’t) The site design isn’t too heavy with flash, although where they do use it, it’s mostly just for aesthetics and is not appreciated. FoxSports seems to offer in-house fantasy analysis, but at this point, it’s safe to say that’s fairly standard among the websites. Ultimately, I wouldn’t recommend FoxSports.com Fantasy Football. I wouldn’t kick it if I saw it lying in the street, as I would with Sportsline, but I also wouldn’t support moving my league to it. It’s simply a bland offering and isn’t up to the competition.

fleaflicker

FleaFlicker
FleaFlicker is the only small website offering and is the most likely destination for my league. There are probably other good small websites out there. Particularly if you’re willing to pay, I hear very good things about some of the small, unaffiliated with a major media service websites. It might just be my Firefox setup but FleaFlicker seems entirely devoid of advertising or other revenue-generating means, leaving me a little nervous about its stability as a long term fantasy football platform. Those fears aside, the fantasy football experience has won me over, mostly. FleaFlicker imparts a satisfying sense of control through the website design and features. The interface is useful without being overbearing and simple without being spartan. The player stats section offers some fun graphs on each player’s profile, however I would like to see actual stats on the player index rather than just fantasy points and ratings. Of course, the stats are accessible on each player’s page. The website seems to offer the best league history analysis and I heard a rumor of importing histories, that would make at least one member of my league an instant devotee if we can figure it out. The site seems to be run by a small group of people, and the responsiveness of the site management is very good. Questions in the forums are quickly answered and the community is still small enough to be helpful to the confused. I would appreciate a full-fledged message board for the general site forum, but maybe, it’s too expensive or something. The scoring is the most flexible of the bunch and offers some fairly interesting default rule sets to choose from. You can set up bonuses for nearly any stat situation. This flexibility is probably what won me over, even though my stat rule ideas are generally shot down quickly. I dream of a day when my commisionership is absolute and all manner of excessive scoring rule is allowed. The post board is fine, but after seeing ESPN’s chat board, it seems a bit inadequate. Real-time stats are available. Part of me misses locally produced fantasy analysis but I know that I should branch out and stop suckling at the teat of Yahoo’s Big Board. Unlike the other websites, FleaFlicker gives you a sense that the developers will actually take suggestions and try to implement new features. My enjoyment of FleaFlicker probably has something to do with a natural preference for the small-time and independent. So, I’m probably overlooking some cons because FleaFlicker is the little fantasy football website that could, but if I can import my league’s history and see a cumulative breakdown of my matchups with each of my hated rivals, then I don’t really care.

trophy

I’m not going to rank the websites or give them hard and fast scores. Without seeing how each site operates during the season, it really wouldn’t be fair. My preseason impression is that FleaFlicker will probably be my recommendation, Yahoo, ESPN and AOL are on the same level (with a slight knock on Yahoo for feeling a bit stale after a few years), FoxSports is next and Sportsline is dead last. Good luck to everyone on the coming fantasy football season. I encourage comments, particularly if you know how these sites function during the regular season or use a different site altogether.

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Published in: on July 12, 2007 at 7:25 pm  Comments (2)  

I thought you were made of sterner stuff….

Or “I would have waited an eternity for this….” My ability to remember dialogue from the animated movie continues to alarm me.

The combination of rainy weather and a day off made it virtually impossible that I would not see the Transformers movie on the 4th. Despite the unusual effort it took to get there, I was firmly settled into my seat at 6:30 as the film began to roll. I’ve got kind of a lot to cover here, I’ll do my best to keep it all organized. Forgive me if I get a little offtrack.

The most pertinent questions are the basic ones. Did I like the movie? The answer is an overwhelming yes. The answer, however, to the question ‘did I not like the movie?’ is also yes. It took me a few days before I had sorted my thoughts about the picture and in the end I find myself conflicted. There was a lot to like about the movie and a lot not to like. The root of this is in the movie’s director, Michael Bay. I, like many others more knowledgable than myself, was against the decision to give him a large hand in shaping the property. In interviews he comes off as not liking the original property or the ideas behind it. Beyond simply not being a hardcore fan of Transformers, he seemed to look down upon them as silly and stupid. This disheartened me because projects that involve fully realized mythos from another medium live and die on the ability of the creative team to understand what about the characters resonates with their fans. Sam Raimi seemed to have a good handle on how to fully integrate Peter Parker with Spider-Man and it shows in the movies. Michael Bay, the man who directed the video for the one hit wonder from the DiVinyls ‘I Touch Myself,’ finds Transformers to be beneath him.

The perplexing part about this is that his strengths as a filmmaker match up with the Transformers perfectly. Take an over the top Bay carchase and throw in the idea that the cars can transform into giant killer robots at any moment. Sounds pretty exhilerating. I’m hard pressed to come up with many other directors who look as good a match on paper. I’m also eternally grateful that Bay got it instead of one the terrible directors constantly pumping out movies based on videogames. They copy Bay anyway, but with none of his distinctive flair.

And his style is on full display in the movie, make no doubt about it. The action is everything you could have imagined. The opening scene, the attack on the air base, is perfectly done. The attack underscores a single idea, albeit one that was fundamental to the cartoon, that these machines are completely unstoppable. As the movie got going I found things that I didn’t care for quite as much, but the action onscreen stays fully unimpeachable throughout. If nothing else, Bay knows how to shoot a dynamic action sequence and his sense of movement combines well with the robots, who are constantly shifting between forms as they battle each other. Heady stuff, and something my inner six year old yearns for desperately. If you’re someone with no nostalgia for the cartoon who just wants to see an action pic, this is the movie for you. It delivers on the promise of gigantic alien war machines beating the living hell out of each other.

Where it gets bogged down is when the movie starts following people. Totally unnecessary. This was probably a concession to the film’s status as a summer blockbuster, that there had to be a narrative arc that the Transformers fit into, not the other way around. The cartoon spent almost no time developing human characters choosing instead to focus on the machinations and relationships of the robots. It’s understandable that this would happen, as a movie just about Transformers doesn’t receive $150 million budget. I would love a movie that was just two hours of Spider-Man beating ass, but that would never make real money outside of the geek community. So fine, let them throw some people into the film. To their credit they found really likable leads, who do a good job with the limited material given them. Shia LeBeouf is excellent playing the flustered but tongue in cheek lead that Nic Cage pioneered in The Rock. His bag of tricks is more limited than Cage’s, but it’s unbelievable what he does with make believe robots and the wooden acting of Megan Fox. (More on her in a minute.) It’s all the ancillary characters that kill the momentum. No one cares how the nerdy codebreakers at the NSA crack the Decepticon code and Rachel Taylor’s character, while pretty, is completely extraneous. Her only purpose is to introduce us to Anthony Anderson, whose character does even less. What the hell was John Turturro doing? Jon Voight? As if! I won’t even bother going into the plot points they were involved in because they were confused, poorly told and generally useless. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese chip in gamely, but their roles are so limited that it seems like they’re just part of the scenery for the big action setpieces.

Everyone has a crappy backstory, a cursory nod towards the “motivation” of these characters. While I like to pretend that they’re more than two dimensional line readers too, a movie like this doesn’t need that crap. Who cares why they do anything?!?! There are a dozen Transformers waiting to smash up the place! Josh Duhamel has never seen his kid, Megan Fox has a criminal record, blah blah blah. Frankly, the only character that needed any sort of build up is Shia and his is the only one that gets more than lip service. (In short, he wants to sleep with Megan Fox. Understandable and something that most people can relate to.) I wasn’t doing this intentionally, but I’ve been referring to the actors by their name, not their characters name. I think that says a lot about how forgettable the people were. But this isn’t Gosford Park, it’s Transformers. For all my bitching, it’s a minor, minor annoyance. Especially when you have the best special effects money can buy.

I’m referring, of course, not to the robots, but to Megan Fox. Oh man. I have no clue what kind of lab she must have been cooked up in, but please, make some more. Simply unreal. Her role in the movie mostly consists of staring upwards at robots and looking yummy. In my previous post on the movie I mentioned that Transformers was an amalgam of things I thought was cool when I was six and I think of Megan Fox in much the same way, except I’m 25 now. As I so often do, I’ve decided to enumerated on this with a numbered list. To whit:

1. She has a tattoo of a line from Shakespeare’s King Lear. Clearly I would be less excited about this if she was, you know, normal looking, but as is, it’s a definite plus. [Image of the tat from cityrag.com]

2. “I like the way getting a tattoo feels. If I’m depressed, it’s nice to get one and deal with the pain.” [justjared.com]

3. “I’ve done drugs. I didn’t enjoy anything other than marijuana.” [celebstoner.com]

4.

Seriously, add 1 through 4 up. Could she be any yummier?

She’s engaged to Brian Austin Green, which is severely uncool. Aside from releasing what’s generally considered the worst rap album of all time (with help from the Pharcyde no less) he seems like a douche, as the kids say. However, in this article it claims that the two started dating when he was 31 and she was 18. Well played, sir. Respect.

That’s probably more ranting about Ms. Fox than was absolutely necessary, so I’ll try to get back onto track. The real star of the show is the effects and the filmmakers do a wonderful job putting them on screen. The highest praise I can give is to say that I didn’t once, throughout the entire movie, think of the Transformers as effects. They were characters as much as any of the actors, with detailed animations and carrying real weight that most CGI characters don’t have. They look stunning. Some of the voices were a little off and I think they had Jazz breakdancing at one point, but these are tiny complaints. I didn’t mind the design changes to the robot forms because the cartoon designs would have looked, well, cartoony. I love the little details, like the gears moving in their feet as they walk. I had read in reviews before I saw the film that the effects were the next level in movie CGI technology. At first I didn’t understand, but as I thought about it, I think that’s accurate. The reason I didn’t immediately agree is simply due to the fact that they were integrated as seemlessly into the movie as they were.

I had more trouble with the Autobots than with the Decepticons. The Autobots are supposed to stand for something and they end up a little flat. None of them have much personality at all besides Bumblebee, who’s doing a Harpo Marx bit the vast majority of the time, and Optimus Prime, who they basically nailed. Ratchet has one good line then basically disappears. Ironhide barely gets any screen time. Jazz does, but there’s the aforementioned breakdancing and the “hood” accent, provided by Darius McCrary. Or, as most probably know him better, Eddie Winslow from Family Matters. What’s he been up to? It’s too bad, because I think the character had a lot of similar elements as the cartoon version. The cartoon Jazz surely knows how to breakdance, he knows not to is all. Bumblebee is well done, unsurprising considering that he had the most screen time to flesh out his character. Optimus Prime they figured out. He was the lynchpin in the cartoon and he remains so here. He’s the same tough leader, good soldier and protector that was twenty years ago. The aged voice of Peter Cullen, who voiced Optimus in the cartoon, lends an air of sadness to the role. Thankfully, they don’t screw Prime up.

Much the same can be said about the raging yang to Prime’s sober yin; Megatron. He doesn’t appear until 2/3 of the way through, but he really makes an entrance. While I would have liked more time for him, he’s done right too. He’s menacing, merciless and mighty. Just like the good old days. He also gets off a couple of classic arrogant Megatron lines, the one asking Shia if he was motivated by fear or courage being the best. The other Decepticons are a motley bunch, with only Frenzy and Starscream sharing much resemblence to their cartoon forebears. Starscream is sadly mostly mute, but he does have one of the best action scenes, when he attacks the other fighter jets. Awesome to watch. I don’t have much to say about Frenzy and saw him more as a device to move the plot forward. Barricade and Blackout make the most of their time onscreen, while the others mostly have limited roles. Overall, a decent lineup.

It was a little odd that the Autobots were so overpowered by the Decepticons. The bad guys have always been the better fighters, but no one on the Autobots can get anything done beside Prime and Bumblebee. There’s a certain rhythm to these proceedings that the movie ignores to an extent. The Decepticons ruthlessly execute a fiendish plan, beating up Autobots in the process. Then with victory in their grasp they are foiled, fly away and Megatron declares ‘I shall be avenged!’ The Autobots survive thanks to pluck, teamwork and a couple of big hitters. (The best sports analogy I can come up with is the 2001 World Series where the Death Star Yankees lost in 7 to the Diamondbacks.) Here the Autobots get beat on and show some pluck, but are outnumbered and outgunned. They slow down the Decepticons, but only Prime demonstrates much skill by himself. That Josh Duhamel and his band of buddies could do anything at all to slow down the Decepticon advance is totally silly. But again, the movie does as much right as it does wrong. The Megatron/Prime battle rules, as does Prime taking down Bonecrusher. The visceral thrills in these scenes sweep away most of my admittedly fanboyish nitpicking.

All of this prevaricating is indicative of my feelings towards the film. I compare the time I spent waiting for it to the saga of Oddyseus, who spent ten years fighting in the Trojan War and ten years getting back home, all to see his wife. When he got back, after twenty years, his wife wasn’t the same beautiful girl that he married. But it was still her. Sure, she wasn’t as soft and yes, maybe her face had weathered and worn like an old baseball mitt. But after twenty years, just seeing her was a victory. She was the same person Oddyseus loved and that was enough. I can’t go back to the cartoon that I watched so intently as a child. Just seeing it again, on the big screen, with all the bells and whistles befitting a summer smash in 2007, is enough for me.

Transformers Links:

Real life Optimus Prime battles real life Megatron

Old vs. New Character Designs

Megan Fox Links:

Megan-Fox.net

Megansafox.com

Published in: on July 11, 2007 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

the pieces are moving

God, I can’t wait. The excitement is percolating within me. It colors all experiences, good and bad, with the knowledge that soon, ever so soon, it will be time. I refer, of course, to the upcoming fantasy football season.

 

 

I have happily joined two leagues this week and am keeping my ear open about the possibility of a third. I have one draft scheduled for Monday, August 27th, a tantalizingly close 49 days from now. This is followed a week later by the second draft on September 3rd. 49 days = 7 weeks. Yes! Just the thought of drafting causes question to spring, unbidden, from the depths of my mind. How will I have my RB’s ranked? Is Devin Hester worth a late round flyer? Will Colston be TE eligible again? I find old complaints, like the massive 8 player benches of one league, returning to me with all the comfort of an old friend. Hi guys, I missed you. Did you miss me?

 

It feels good getting back in the saddle. Yahoo Sports is tempting me with articles entitled ‘Are You Ready for some Fantasy Football?‘ and ‘Kickers to the Curb‘. I’ll be okay. Luckily there is much work to do.

 

I’m going to start with the backbone of any fantasy squad, running backs. On Friday I received an email from X3D, the commissioner of one of the leagues I participate in with the following rankings:

1. LT
2. LJ
3. Steven Jackson
4. Frank Gore
5. Addai

Just missed the cut: Alexander, Parker, Johnson
Sleeper picks: Maroney, Benson, and A. Peterson (the rookie, not the Bears backup).
Busts: C. Williams, R. Brown, and W. McGahee

This is a good starting point, but our opinions diverge in certain areas. I began with a look at ESPN.com’s running back list. I look at RB’s from four different metrics, none of which are particularly scientific, but which I’ve found to be quite helpful. They are, in order of importance:

1. Likelihood of getting injured. Nothing is worse than your franchise guy going down for six weeks in the middle of the season, like Shaun Alexander did last year. Even though I rode him in 2005 to a second place finish, many times after a huge season RB’s regress to the mean. I personally had Alexander ranked third last year after LT and LJ. You can’t afford to have your big gun on the bench. I realize that football is a violent game and some injuries are unforeseeable, but older guys and workhouse backs have a real short shelf life.

2. Trends. Is a player getting better? With running backs it’s usually very apparent whether or not a guy has first round fantasy potential. Where the trends matter is your second string and bench depth. With older guys like Warrick Dunn you have to decide, did they have a down year or are they just getting old? With younger guys, will they get the carries? I take past production into account, but only to a point.

3. Situation. Bad teams are poison for RB stats, as their teams usually end up throwing at the end of games. Does the guy have a half decent line in front of him? As Edgerrin showed us last year, even a great back can’t do it himself. Does the team score a lot of points? Because TD’s are so important, you’re often better off taking a lesser back talentwise on a high octane offense than a great guy stuck on a poor team. Unless the RB in question is responsible for damn near all of the team’s offense, Earl Campbell style.

4. For the top guys, that’s all you really need. But more important than deciding who you’ll take if you get the third pick is where in the draft will you find quality depth to both protect against major injury or as a trading piece to use during the season? Make no mistake about it, quality backs are always in demand. Who are the sleepers you are going to target? Who are you staying away from? These are decisions that need to be made before the draft. Once the draft starts all it takes is a moment of distraction and you end up with Fred Taylor on your team. Work out your order and stick to it.

All of this is common sense and surely no surprise to the wizened fantasy football veteran, but it bears repeating. I’m certain I could increase the efficiency of my draft with some complex statistical analysis, but mostly I just want to get out of the draft with a solid roster. Every season there are guys who come out of nowhere and have big seasons; you can’t predict them. The point of my draft is to create a solid foundation that I can build with, whether through trade or free agent pickups.

As I think of it, I should include a fifth, running back only rule for looking at potential picks:

5. Never draft any Broncos RB, under any circumstances, for any reason. That sums it up. They went out and got two guys named Bell last year just to make things a little more confusing. Upon drafting a Denver back the team should send you an email with the subject ‘Welcome to Hell.’

Now, looking at X3D’s rankings, we have some tools to evaluate them with. Clearly, LT has to be the number one guy this year. Despite what I said above LT looks to have another good season, even with some regression to the mean. He still had real breakaway speed last year, one thing Alexander never had a ton of to begin with and the thing that separates the veterans from the over the hill guys. He’s on a good team, he gets tons of touches, and he reminds me of Barry Sanders in that he’s so elusive that he rarely takes huge hits.

The second spot, however, I disagree with the esteemed X3D. I like Larry Johnson, but I can’t in good conscience rank him above Steven Jackson of the Rams. Last year Jackson covered 2,334 yards of total offense with 16 TD’s and, at 23 going into his fourth year in the league, looks to just be coming into his prime. He has a good offense with him, is a huge part of the passing game (90 receptions!) and doesn’t have the question marks LJ has. Johnson totalled 2,199 yards and 19 TD’s, but ran the ball an ungodly 416 times during the season. I generally prefer high touch guys with a higher percentage of catches because catching passes seems to wear down backs less than continually pounding the ball. Again, if I was better at statistics I could try to prove that. LJ is also the only remotely threatening weapon on the Chiefs and has an aging offensive line that is getting worse rapidly. He’s 27, but has less wear than most franchise guys at that age because of the time he spent behind Priest Holmes. While I’d be happy with LJ at pick three, if I’m at two I take Jackson.

I’ve got no problem with Gore following the big three. Despite the near constant worry about his injury status on gameday he played all 16 and produced. The 49ers will be looking to put him in situations for success, so I wouldn’t worry about his opportunities to score. Addai also looks like he’s trending upwards. He’s all alone on the depth chart and, while not as talented as Edge, has a good chance to put up Edge like numbers. The Colts really broke Addai in slowly last year, so it will be interesting to see how he responds. A safer choice would be Willie Parker, who has a longer track record on an offense that is consistently among the most run oriented in the league. I never would have guessed it, but Parker had 1,716 total yards and 16 TD’s last season. He looks to equal or surpass that this year. Addai, however, could have a monster season.

So, in the end, my top five is fairly similar to X3D’s:

1. LT

2. S. Jackson

3. LJ

4. F. Gore

5. Addai / W. Parker

As for the next tier of guys, it’s mostly the usual suspects. Rudi Johnson is a solid selection late in the first round, Westbrook is worth it if you can handle the weekly will he play or not drama. I also like Maurice Jones-Drew, he had a great year on a team that runs a lot and Fred Taylor continues to get older. Though I must hand it to him, if you told me he would still be playing in 2007 a few years back I would have had a good chuckle. By 2007 I was sure Fragile Fred would be half cyborg technology. A robotic hamstring at least. Jones-Drew will only get better. Maroney is a player I disagree with X3D about, in that I don’t think he can be labelled a sleeper at this point. Corey Dillon is gone, opening up a lot of red zone chances and Maroney is in a good system that he should be able to thrive in. He didn’t show quite as much as Jones-Drew or Addai last year, which is why I have him bumped down a little. Ronnie Brown has all the talent in the word, even if his production doesn’t quite match up to his reputation. Still he had very solid numbers before getting hurt last year and will no doubt be gone before the first round is up this year. Kevin Jones may be on the PUP list this year, making him basically undraftable before the last couple of rounds. It’s too bad, because Martz had him looking like a fantasy monster out of the backfield. I personally will be looking to avoid Shaun Alexander if at all possible. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had a better year than last, but the questions surrounding him are too worrying to ignore. He turns 30 before the season starts and he has a ton of carries under his belt.

Sleepers: C. Benson, D. McAllister, M. Barber III

Benson gets a chance to be a feature back behind a good offensive line. I’m not sure how he’ll fare against the unprecedented 11-0 defensive front teams will unveil against the Bears, daring Grossman to complete a pass to one of as many as four unguarded receivers. Deuce quietly had a real solid year and wasn’t drafted until the 4th round in my league. He’s in a prolific offense, he gets the red zone carries, and is not counted on to provide 25 rushes a game. He’s 28 with some mileage, but I think the reduced workload will keep him fresh as the season rolls on. Barber should supplant Jones as the starter, being a far better player than Julius Jones. And even if he doesn’t he should retain the title of Ultimate Vulture that he won last year. If he keeps getting red zone carries, he’s worth a roll of the dice.

Value Picks: M. Lynch, W. McGahee, E. James

Lynch looks like the real deal and he comes into a much more stable situation than Adrian Petterson in Minnesota. McGahee, as much as it pains me to say this, might be a good pick for a number two back. No, he can’t get into the end zone and that is unlikely to change. The Ravens, however, are going to ride him into the ground. He’s better than Jamal Lewis was a year ago and Lewis had a solidly productive if unspectacular season for them. James’ value lies in just how far his stock has fallen. Despite his struggles last year he remains a vital cog in one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, at least on paper. If you can get Edge is a situation where he doesn’t have to start he could end up being a steal. If he doesn’t pan out, he’s a big enough name that you’ll likely be able to move him for something useful.

Be Wary Of: T. Jones, J. Jones, R. Bush, J. Norwood

Thomas Jones is a player I wouldn’t mind having, but he’s 28 and he has capable backups behind him. Julius is not long for the starters job. Reggie Bush is, right now, a slightly above average WR and a poor RB. Can he get it together? How quickly? Deuce is also looking to be the goal line back, taking away easy scores. Norwood has talent, but the ageless Warrick Dunn keeps chugging along eating carries and if Vick stays out of prison he takes carries away too. If Dunn goes down, I think Norwood turns into a top 10-top 15 guy.

Avoid: C. Portis, B. Jacobs, C. Williams, T. Henry

Injuries, Inexperienced, Overhyped, On Broncos.

I had written a much longer post, spending 4 hours in the process, but then managed to delete the last three hours of work. I hastily reconstructed what I had done in 45 minutes and here we are. I apologize for the general terribleness of this post, but as I mentioned, I’m really, really stupid. I was planning a monologue about how I was rededicating myself to blogging, but at this point I really don’t care.

Published in: on July 9, 2007 at 4:56 pm  Comments (2)  

War Never Changes

fallout 3 poster

The third game in the Fallout series is once again in development and thus I will renew my computer gaming career. Since around the eighth grade, I haven’t played many computer games. Of course, I don’t count diversions like minesweeper and bookworm adventures, love them though I might. I may briefly dabble in illicit new editions of old favorites, like Civilization 4 or something, but probably haven’t bought a computer game since a Playstation arrived in my home I’m not averse to computer gaming. My memories of playing Marathon on my dad’s Quadra 800 are still close to my heart. It’s just that through the years my computers haven’t kept up with the demands of technology, and it’s a bit hard to get excited about a system when you can’t play the newest, shiniest games for it. So, generally speaking, PC gaming news doesn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat. There are exceptions to this rule, however. Fallout 1 and 2 are two of the few games that I bought and played around the time that they came out.

Now, the first two Fallout games are pretty fucking great. If you have played either game and don’t like them, I would probably disagree with you on a variety of things, video games and otherwise.

fallout 2

Although it inexplicably has since fallen out of favor, the post-apocalyptic era once had a firm place in American entertainment. I know the generic reasons (end of the Cold War arms race, etc.) for this change, but I’m surprised that we don’t hang on to more post-apocalyptism in our culture that doesn’t revolve around zombies or natural disasters. Perhaps, these fears already have too explicit of an outlet in the mainstream media these days for a strong demand for fictional works on the issue. I don’t mean to imply that post-apocalyptism is dead. I just miss the more humorous expressions of it of the eighties and early nineties. Maybe, bio-terrorism is a bit too realistic these days. Back to Fallout, new and old.

The intellectual property behind the series is a familiar 1950’s take on the end of the world. Nuclear bombs have fallen throughout the world, the few survivors fight for power with religious, racial or selfish motivations, and you a lone survivor are trying to make things a bit better for yourself and your village. The game is replete with fading atomic age propaganda, decaying technology and irradiated mutants. The protagonist wanders from ruined town to fortified fallout shelter, completing tasks garnered from local crime lords and corrupt mayors, gaining experience and items as he goes. The combat is turn-based and the humor is dark. It’s pretty much awesome.

fallout line art

While I know that the new game is almost certainly going to be a significant departure from the first two games, I hope that new developer, Bethesda, is true to their promise to stay true to the core Fallout experience. I know that the new game utilizes some sort of pauseable active battle system instead of a true turn-based system. As much as I intend to resist this trend at every available opportunity, I accept that game companies have some reason for believing that turn based games don’t sell. That discussion can be left for another day. Bethesda does seem to be getting the stylistic elements right. Familiar Fallout elements, like rotgut, a bluesy opening theme and Ron Perlman’s narration appear in the recently released trailer. So, that’s encouraging. I admit that Bethesda has made some good games that I would definitely play if an xbox 360 magically appeared in my apartment. I, like many Fallout fans, just hope that they do more than make a Fallout version of Oblivion.

Fallout 3 is still a long way from completion; the release is 4th quarter of next year. So, my recent replaying of Fallout 2 is probably a bit premature. Then again, I take these games slowly and there’s never a bad time for wandering through an irradiated wasteland. Anyway, if you’ve never played a Fallout game, you might want to consider checking them out some time in the next 18 or so months.

vault 15

Here are your links.
No Mutants Allowed – The oldest Fallout fansite.
Fallout 3 Official Site – Bethesda’s Fallout 3 site. (actually goes to Fallout 3 teaser, then site)
The Vault – A Fallout wiki.

Published in: on July 2, 2007 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rest in Peace, Rod Beck

I went to the computer yesterday to find out the score of the Cubs game, but was instead confronted with the headline “Ex-Cub reliever Rod Beck dead at 38“. This is a sad day. While he only made 102 appearances out of the bullpen for the Cubs, he left a lasting impression on me. He was the kind of guy that I, and the vast majority of the Wrigley faithful, wanted to root for. A 240 pound closer with a handlebar moustache and an 86 mph “heater”. The Shooter, as Beck was known, wasn’t an athlete. He was a ballplayer. He seemed very much like the kind of guy who played baseball simply because he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else. What I’ll remember most about him, however, was his part in the Cubs’ magical playoff run in 1998.

I didn’t expect much from the Cubs in 98. The highlight of sitting through a brutally cold opening day was the tribute the team made to a recently deceased Harry Carey and I had little inkling that the team would in the playoffs at the end of the year. But then, on May 6th, a rookie named Kerry Wood struck out 20 Astros while allowing only two baserunners. Then in June Sammy Sosa started to heat up and completed his transformation from frustrated wannabe slugger to one of The Men Who Saved Baseball. While hindsight casts a pall on the whole thing, I’ll just say that to a high school kid in love with the Cubs, having Sosa was like manna from above. Beyond the big two there were a number of characters all of whom delighted me for different reasons. Mickey Morandini, who came out of obscurity to have his best season in the bigs. (Click here for a horrifying image of Mick. Imagine running to second with that mug staring you down.) Henry Rodriguez, whose home runs would prompt a shower of Oh Henry bars to rain onto the grass at Wrigley. Glenallen Hill, a man so strong he broke a bat on a checked swing and so terrified of spiders that he once fell through a glass coffee table in his house sleepwalking while having a nightmare about them. Mark Grace, the only player I still possess a Starting Lineup figure of. But Rod Beck stood out on the field and in the clubhouse. It was as if someone had called central casting and said ‘Get me a fat closer!’

The contrast between Wood and Beck was compelling. Kerry was a big, strong kid from Texas who, even at the age of 21, looked like a major leaguer. Someone who didn’t follow baseball would be forgiven upon laughing when told that Rod Beck was a professional athlete. Wood had an arm that scouts dream about; he threw 100 mph heat and sliders so nasty they overpowered hitters. Beck’s pitches had two speeds, slow and slower. Yet Beck’s career ERA is lower (3.30 vs. 3.68) than Wood’s. He saved 51 games during the 1998 season. He was all scowls and that dangling arm, every routine save threatening to turn into an adventure. The pressure never seemed to effect him. He looked the same with a three run lead and nobody on as he did during a bases loaded tie game. He was well suited to be a closer because of this. This was best illustrated during the last week of the season in two very different games.

The first was against the Brewers when Beck came into a game with a two run lead and left the losing pitcher. This game is more well known for being the game when Brant Brown almost killed poor Ron Santo by dropping a fly with two outs in the ninth. (The call Santo made will haunt anyone who has heard it. Noooooo! He dropped the ball! Nooooooo!) The Cubs remained tied for the wild card when they should have been up a game with three left to play. It wasn’t entirely Beck’s fault, but no one would have been surprised if he came out a little gunshy next time. Five days later he was out on the mound, getting a pop fly from Joe Carter for the winning out in a one game playoff against the Giants. The Cubs were in the playoffs for the first time in 9 years and I remember Beck running around like a madman, looking impossibly happy. One of the few genuinely good memories from a lifetime of Cubs fandom. Beck was rewarded with five points in the MVP voting, making him forever the 18th most valuable player in the majors in 1998.

Photo via chicagosports.com, taken after the last out of the one game playoff

After the Cubs Beck went downhill quickly, dropping out of the majors for two years, until he became a story again in 2003 as the closer for the AAA Iowa Cubs. He had a microscopic ERA and he lived in an RV near the park, a lifestyle that was well documented at the time. All he wanted was another chance to pitch in the majors and to enjoy the life of a minor leaguer in the meantime. When the Cubs finally released him I was glad that he was going to get a chance with a team. The Padres signed him and he immediately started saving games, getting 20 in all, despite having just 36 appearances on the year. I dutifully checked the box scores, looking for ‘S – Beck’ every morning. It made me happy that he got one last go around, something that a lot of players never get the chance to have.

And now he’s gone. Usually, when a pitcher dies a sordid autopsy report follows, but with Rod Beck it makes no difference to me. He played the game with, if not class, a blue collar pride and a winning attitude. He was a joy to watch pitch and I wish his family the best. He was respected around baseball, despite his pudgy appearance. (“I’ve never heard of anyone going on the disabled list with pulled fat” was his take on the matter.) Last December Ryan Dempster picked Rod as his favorite closer of all time in an article for mlb.com. While I never got to see him take an at bat (he went 4 for 19 in 13 seasons, with one RBI) he was a spectacle on the mound who played the game with his heart on his sleeve for everyone in the stands to see. That’s why Cubs fans loved him; because he cared. After game three of the NLDS, minutes after the Braves completed their sweep of the Cubs, a forlorn Rod stood in front of his locker answering questions with a frog in his throat and a tear in his eye. The game had gotten out of hand on his watch and he clearly felt terrible for letting his teammates down. Never mind that the Cubs were doomed from the second the series started and that they shouldn’t have been in the playoffs in the first place. That they wouldn’t have been there without Rod. Of all the certainly valid criticism you could level his way, one thing that no one said was that he didn’t care. It was moments like that when Rod Beck ceased to be a goofy looking reliever and became a person instead. He will be missed.

Rod Beck, 286 career saves 8/3/68 – 6/23/07

Did you know? Closer Rod Beck [SJ Giants]

Resilient closer used guts, guile [SF Gate]

When Rod Beck ruled the world [Deadspin]

Published in: on June 25, 2007 at 2:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Such Heroic Nonsense…

Well, it’s been a minute since my last post and I was having a hell of a time deciding what to write about. While I have dozens of ideas for posts about basketball, I can’t imagine anyone being quite as enthusiastic about them as I am. So I moved one rung down on the list of things I spend too much time thinking about, which led me to the soon to be released Transformers movie. [Transformers Official Site]

I must say, I’m excited. I’ve been known to say that all of man’s inventions in video technology, from Edison and Dickson’s kinetoscope to the cutting edge in high def CGI, have all been in service of this moment. That the Transformers movie will undoubtedly be the pinnacle of the form, a shining beacon that will level all competitors. These statements are, naturally, hyperbole. It is not an exaggeration, however, for me to say that I’ve literally been waiting twenty years for this movie. Since the moment the animated original ended basically.

I think it’s safe to say that a lot of guys in their mid to late 20’s are aware of the Transformers, if only on a subconscious level. They might not know or remember much about it, but they know what Optimus Prime looks like. For me, it was a little more intense than that. The very idea of Transformers resonates deeply within me. It’s like the creators went down a checklist of things that I thought were awesome when I was six. Giant war machine robots? Cool. Fast cars, jets, and a Walther P-38? Cool. The real innovation was in combining them. Put all together it was a show I found captivating.

I’ve grown up since then and while I still have a giant plastic bin of Transformers in a closet at my parents’ house I’ve stopped caring about the details of the show. What kind of jet Starscream is, who could smash who, even the plot in episodes of the cartoon. And still I feel my inner six year old asking, nay demanding, that I go see the Transformers movie. So the question I want to answer in this post is, why?

Clearly, the first and most obvious part of the answer is that warring factions of giant transforming robots is awesome. I’ve grown up, but not that much. Frankly, I’m not sure I want to be the sort of person who think giants robots aren’t cool. I’m slightly worried about Michael Bay overseeing the whole thing, but then again, I’m not too worried. The man directed Bad Boys and The Rock. Sadly, he also directed Armageddon and Bad Boys 2. But the robots look tight, the transformations are appropriately animated and Bay’s never been one to spend too much time on human interaction. Even without the license attached it’s got everything I’m looking for in a summer blockbuster.

To digress briefly, there’s a second reason that has nothing to do with the license. Megan Fox. Like I said earlier, I’ve grown and there are a precious few things that have become more important to me than giant robots. She’s gorgeous and is rapidly becoming my celebrity girl obsession du jour. She’s got everything I’m looking for in a summer blockbuster.

She looks like the sort of girl that would be a bad influence on me. How could you possibly get anything done with her around?

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. What is so great about the Transformers that twenty years after their moment in the sun I’m still geeking about this movie?

I thought about it and it comes down to the characters. And maybe not even the characters themselves, but the archetypes that they represent, that a little me absorbed years ago. I went back and watched a couple of episodes earlier this week and I was surprised by how well they hold up. Much better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the like. This is because the two most important characters in the show, Optimus Prime and Megatron, are two of the more complex characters you’ll ever find in cartoon fare. The qualities they embody are intrinsic to their factions. Without Megatron, the Decepticons are destructive annoyance. He makes them evil. He’s smart, ruthless and the best warrior among their ranks. Optimus is much the same, which makes the juxtaposition between them so compelling. His compassion is what makes him a leader. While the soldiers on both sides underestimate the other, Prime and Megatron never underestimate each other. They have a grudging respect, knowing full well that, in the immortal words of Optimus “one shall stand, one shall fall”. There’s no in between for them, just a strange sense of honor when dealing with each other. You get the sense that they would lose their sense of purpose without their foil.

While I very much doubt that the movie will be able to bring this all to the screen, I hope it retains enough to keep them both from being one dimensional CGI robot versions of Jar Jar Binks. One aspect I’m sure will translate better to the screen is the relationship between the leaders and their soldiers. Prime is equal parts leader, brother, mentor and fighter. He’s always in control and has the unquestioned respect of every Autobot who’s ever served with him. Well, maybe not the Dinobots, but Prime always let them have a little more leeway, using them as a weapon to be deployed. Megatron, sadly, will have to do without the help of his loyal second in command Soundwave in the movie. I’m sure Starscream will be up to his usual tricks and Megatron will give Starscream his usual beatdown.

Another important factor is, quite honestly, nostalgia. The original animated movie was a watershed moment in my young life. I didn’t cry when Optimus Prime died but man, sniff, it was kind of hard to deal with. I’m sure there are thousands of other people out there who feel the same way as me. The Decepticon attack on Autobot City was everything I could have imagined, but left me feeling upset. The Autobots didn’t win; they survived and did that thanks to the sacrifice of their best and brightest. The tone was, in retrospect, exceptionally dark for a movie aimed at children. It was a war and the lesson was that war has consequences.

Certain parts have aged more noticeably, like the bizarre sequences set to the cheesiest 80’s musical styles you can imagine. No, I’m not referring to Stan Bush’s ‘The Touch,’ which is simply an intoxicating song that inexplicably STILL gets me fired up. But the parts with Daniel are interminable, as the parts focusing on humans always were. Galvatron sounds like Leonard Nimoy doing a cartoon voice, which is disorienting. (But not as disorienting as earlier this morning when I found out that James Avery, better known as Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was also the voice of Shredder in the TMNT cartoon. Worlds are colliding! It’s the sort of thing you would think I would know by now, having spent hundreds of hours of my life with both Shredder and Uncle Phil.)

Nonetheless, a little nostalgia combined with massive advertorial hype and a smoking hot female lead all adds up to I gotta see that movie. It’s two weeks away and all I hope is that it’s watchable. I desperately want it to be great, but even more desperately I want it to not be terrible. I suppose that’s all you can ask of a summer blockbuster these days.

Published in: on June 20, 2007 at 5:18 pm  Comments (1)  

Been slangin’ tapes since 1983

I’m going out of town this weekend, headed back to the Midwest. A simpler place without the hustle smell and bustle overcrowding I’ve come to expect from Brooklyn. My plans, however, have prevented me from spending too much time working up exciting ideas for Easy Mode. So I decided to take the easy way out. The last refuge of a lazy man, a video post. Happily, youtube mostly obliged by providing me some good stuff to embed. I decided to focus on stuff coming out of San Francisco, because that’s where my head has been musically this week.

Too $hort – I’m A Playa (1993) Great interview in last month’s issue of Wax Poetics. This isn’t the best Too $hort video ever, but I’ve had the song stuck in my head for a few days now.

San Quinn – Don’t Funk Wit Me (????) I’ve got no clue whatsoever as to where this track and the accompanying video originated. It appears as a bonus on the DVD that came with San Quinn and Messy Marv’s ‘Explosive Mode 2’ project. A thorough search of the internet reveals nothing of it’s provenance. If someone knows, for the love of all that’s holy, let me know. Great video, even though it’s clearly a VHS of some local tv in San Fran. It appears in the same form on the DVD, I wonder if there’s a cleaner copy out there somewhere.

Rappin 4-tay – Player’s Club (1994) More champagne Mr. 4-tay?

E-40 f. Celly Cel, Mac Mall and Spice 1 – Dusted and Disgusted (1995) This is one of my favorite tracks off of In A Major Way. The track features Tupac, but he was incarcerated during the video shoot, resulting in Celly Cel’s appearance and the ‘Free 2pac’ shirts.

Ant Banks – Parlayin’ (1994) Rated F.A.S. for Funky Ass Shit. Oh, for the days when rappers played Sega Genesis.

Richie Rich – Let’s Ride (1996) Richie Rich was signed to Def Jam when he put this out, meaning it’s a little more mainstream and a little less Bay Area, which is too bad but, sadly, unavoidable.

415 – Lifestyles of a Gangsta (1991) Sorry about the incredibly low volume on this one, I couldn’t find a better one. It’s a dope video, however.

Spice 1 – Welcome to the Ghetto (1992) There are other Spice 1 video’s on youtube. They are posted by Jive, however, which uncoolly restricts them from being embedded.

Dre Dog – The Ave. (1993) Dre Dog, of the group I.M.P., now goes by Andre Nickatina.

RBL Posse – Bammer Weed (1992) Finally, a serious classic. We don’t smoke that shit in the SFC!

Published in: on June 13, 2007 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

I See You

private

Google recently introduced two new online products, Google Street View and Google Image Search with Facial Recognition. And I couldn’t be more excited.

I was going to write a post about stalking my friends with these new Google tools, but a more interesting issue has arisen. Just imagine me writing something creepy about watching a friend’s family home and using google faces to identify people in their neighborhood based on the names written on their mailboxes. I’m not really doing this. Google hasn’t photographed the right cities, yet. On to the issue. Google Street View has sparked a debate of sorts with some mainstream media outlets and a minority of internet commenters decrying the new service as an invasion of privacy.

Here’s the NY Times story. In short, some lady got upset because Street View had a shot of her apartment building in which her cat was dimly visible through a large window looking into her living room. The cat was lying on some sort of cat stand. I’m not sure of the names of cat-related paraphernalia, but it’s one of those shag carpet-lined, multi-platform things that look like an altar to catdom. The view into the apartment isn’t so great. There are some dim shapes, but pretty much you just see a cat sunning itself on its cat altar.

cat altar

I don’t know how much of the story has been emphasized by a little creative reporting. Whether we’re dealing with an alarmist, neo-luddite or just a shit disturbing journalist, this story and its tone has been echoed in a variety of publications at this point. The vast majority of these articles fail to mention that Street View isn’t just a fun toy to find blurry photographs of shadowy cats but an insanely useful tool that has far more positives than negatives.

Right now, people are only using Street View to find funny pictures and spend their workday recreating their commute in stop motion. Once the Street View car has photographed a greater portion of the country, the tool will come into its own with a variety of useful applications.

Street View is not those satellite picture overlays on Google and other maps. The satellite images are fun, but unless I’m looking for missile silos or checking how my roof was 10 years ago, it’s not terribly useful. Street View can actually solve problems. You could find nearby stores and restaurants simply by browsing around, a nice alternative or addition to sometimes spotty online yellow pages, quickly research buildings and neighborhoods while looking for a new apartment or house, or find pictures of poorly marked roads to help with navigation.

all seeing eye

I’m not suggesting that one can tell everything from the exterior of a building, but the ability to see where I’m going strikes me as a positive. I just can’t get excited about worries over big brother invasions of privacy when the thing is so damn useful and fun. I like my privacy quite a bit, but that’s why I keep my blinds down and wear elaborate makeup and facial prosthetics when I go out in public.

Anyway, if you want to see some of the fun stuff people have found thus far or check on who’s breaking into your house, here is a website listing their top ten Google Street View websites. LINK And if you fear Google’s new world order or simply don’t want your picture taken while procuring the finest in erotic literature, then here’s the camera van at which to throw your rocks. LINK

ladybugs

Published in: on June 12, 2007 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

links links links

I spend too much time on the internet. Reap the bounty of my wretched wanderings!

Plunk Biggio – The statistical analysis on this blog is astounding. Each post must take hours. And that it is in the service of tracking and breaking down Craig Biggio’s march towards the all time HBP record just makes it sweeter.

The legend of Bo lives on. Has there ever been an athlete quite like Bo?

It’s a testament to my poor decision making that I would include a link like this. But if you’ve spent any amount of time at all in a store dedicated specifically to videogames you’re sure to hear some dingy stuff. PreOrderPushers is like Overheard in New York, except in EB’s and whatnot.

A look at the top athlete/rappers. I would have replaced the Andre Rison/Ghostface joint with the Ricky Watters/Method Man track as the obligatory NFL Jams track. (If Shaq Diesel is the Paid In Full of professional athlete rapper albums, then NFL Jams has to be In Control, Vol. 1) And why not include the odious K.O.B.E. by Kobe Bryant featuring Tyra Banks on the hook? Also, any post that mentions Roy Jones Jr. as a musician should be legally obligated to include a reference to Y’all Must Have Forgot.

If you ever come into work mad hungover, just watch this for about fifteen minutes. I assure you things will seem different.

I’m a simple man and, as such, it really doesn’t take much to keep me amused. The fun never stops over at www.hotchickswithdouchebags.com, the premise of which is self explanatory. Although, my friend over at Makeup Loves Me posed a salient question when she asked ‘Why would I want to look at pictures of douchebags?’ I guess I don’t have a good response for that.

A collection of No Limit album covers. I miss seeing Pen and Pixel art from the late 90’s all over record stores. And, proving that time heals all wounds, I kind of miss No Limit. Come back Silkk the Shocker, all is forgiven!

John Hollinger of ESPN.com ranks the ’96 Bulls as the top Finals team in the past 30 years. While I’m a little surprised at the ranking, Hollinger is a serious stathead and the Bulls had one of the most statistically dominent seasons ever that year. And they won 87 games that season. That probably had something to do with it too. What I was more surprised by was seeing four of the six Bulls title teams (’96, ’91, ’97, ’92) in the top ten.

Following a comment on my fantasy football post, I found fanprophet.com, which is currently featuring in depth fantasy profiles of AFC teams. Real good work, I hope he keeps it up.

Live in New York and want a new bag? Beers for Bags is your answer!

I hope everyone has an awesome weekend. I’ll be back next week with more fun and excitement.

Published in: on June 8, 2007 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

No More Exile on Main Street?

sad

Friend of Easy Mode and all-around good guy, TJ Greaney, has announced his departure from the Southeast Missourian. My partner in crime and I were already set on edge after the absence of last week’s EoMS, and his last column confirmed our fears. I have read every single column in his 16 month run. I bookmarked his page within the first five columns written. I have responded to a column at one in the morning in an angry email at one in the morning, accusing him of all sorts of things that later were proven untrue. His columns have touched me and made me laugh. August 2nd’s Praise for the humble porch may be my personal favorite. Happily, Greaney is not walking away from journalism but merely taking a new job at the Columbia Tribune. I can only hope that the powers that be at the Tribune recognize his passion, intellect and courage and assign him a new weekly column forthwith. Luckily, the competition doesn’t appear too stiff.

Good luck, TJ.

Published in: on June 7, 2007 at 4:54 pm  Comments (1)