Monday, May 30, 2011

The Jim Tressel Saga: How Much Credit Do We Take?

Liar Liar, Vest on Fire
It's been just a little over 12 hours since I found out that Jim Tressel was resigning from his head coaching position at Ohio State.  And let me tell you, there are very few college football programs whose misfortune is something I enjoy witnessing. Ohio State is right at the top of that short list, because, well, I just can't stand seeing them win anymore.  For anyone who's ever been a college football fan, or a fan of any sport for that matter, disliking a rival team is almost as important to being a fan as rooting for your own team.  Without an opponent, there's no point in competition. And a rival opponent? There is no sweeter victory.  So a few months ago, when news about this Ohio State scandal began to slowly emerge, I assure you I enjoyed every minute of it.

But I was just as shocked as everyone else this morning when news broke that Tressel was stepping down.  I thought this could happen down the road, if the NCAA got more involved and more violations became public. But I never thought it'd happen three months before the start of the season, which basically leaves no time for Ohio State to find a suitable replacement.  I know we'll hear the rumors of Urban Meyer, and possibly Bob Stoops from now until the end of the season, but until then we'll have to continue watching Ohio State pick up the pieces of this total train wreck of a situation.

The other day, while watching an ESPN special on college football scandals, one analyst commented that the number of college football infractions isn't any worse than it was decades ago.  It just seems that way because the NCAA is better at finding them, and the media is better at reporting on it.  Which got me thinking, if Tressel and his players had committed these infractions 10 to 15 years ago, how would this have turned out? The players may have still been caught, Tressel's emails may have still been found, but the media coverage may not have been as significant.  Social media can turn the most trivial scandal into the next Watergate. With every new development in this story, Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere, and every major sports website became flooded with comments.  There were plenty of supporters, but as with any other situation, the haters are always the loudest.  I'm sure the Ohio State administration heard it all. There are very few coaches in college football who are bigger than the programs they run. Jim Tressel is no exception.  Tressel and Ohio State's big wigs knew they had too much to lose by attempting to fight back or try to act like this would just go away.  It's one thing to deal with the NCAA and a few newspaper articles, but when you've got 24 hour coverage from ESPN and a million college football fans tweeting in your direction, it's pretty hard to ignore.

Friday, May 27, 2011

On Heavy Rotation: Arctic Monkeys "Suck It and See"

It's only fitting that my first music post on this site be about an Arctic Monkeys' album, because after all, the blog is named after a Monkeys song title.  "Suck It and See", the band's fourth album has been considered by many as the chance for the Arctic Monkey's to win back all the fans they may have lost with their previous effort, "Humbug."  Honestly, I had my doubts about the band and "Humbug" after the first few listens. The album eventually proved to be a grower, not a shower, which came as a surprise.  As far as first impressions go, "Whatever People Say I Am,..." was probably the best first impression I've ever had of a band after one listen.  It instantly became my all-time favorite album, and still remains in my top 3 to this day.  When they released "Favourite Worst Nightmare," it seemed Arctic Monkeys were on a mission to knock you onto the seat of your pants with hard hitting, loud,  race paced rock songs that would damage car speakers for years to come.

But "Humbug" changed everything.  They slowed things down for the first time, which confused and frustrated most fans.  But those who stuck around for multiple listens, like me, began to appreciate the new Alex Turner and Co.  They had changed, there was no denying that. But they hadn't taken a step back or gotten worse.  They had matured.  Maybe I was lucky. I became a fan of this band right before college, which will change, mature, and mold just about any person, and I guess my music tastes broadened and grew to reflect the tastes of the new Arctic Monkeys.  They learned to play their instruments, learned the art of subtlety and little nuances, Alex Turner became quite a good singer, and Matt Helders had become one of the best damn drummers in the world.

I always thought the most frustrating thing for members of any band is living up to expectations with each new album.  There are fans and critics were ridicule a band for simply recreating the same sound over and over on each new release.  But on the other hand, that same band could be lambasted for trying something new, for evolving, for daring to release something nobody's ever heard anything like before.  I'll never forget a moment during my junior year of high school.  Green Day had just released "American Idiot." Critics praised the album, and fans all across the world were renewing their love of Green Day.  But not everyone was happy.  They were playing a show in Hershey, and everyone was talking about it.  I overheard a conversation between to classmates. "Hey man, are you going to the Green Day show tonight?" "No, not really my thing anymore. I didn't like American Idiot. It's not Green Day"  I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The album was great, and he was disowning the band simply because they had chosen to write a political rock opera rather than write another dozen songs about smoking weed and masturbating? I was baffled.  Still to this day, I don't understand why fans do this.

The Arctic Monkeys are a great example of a band who chose to grow up and take their music with them.  Lyrically, instrumentally, and all around quality, the band has matured. And the results are amazing.  The traces of previous albums are all here, mixed in with new ingredients.  Whereas "Whatever People Say I Am..." was a perfect album to work out and run to, "Suck It and See" may be better suited for sitting on your porch on a perfect sunny day, as I'm doing right now. Fans may often be the biggest critics of a band, even more so than actual critics, record label execs, or the band themselves.  Most critics have said this album is more of a return to their previous work, which in my opinion is only half the truth.  These songs are pop-ier, more accessible like their first two albums, and less heavy, depressing sounding than "Humbug".  In that respect, yes, fans will be flocking back in droves. But don't ever expect this band to release another "Whatever People Say I Am" or have a single as popular as "Dancefloor."  But don't expect them to quit making great music either.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Relax. For Us, It's Just A Game

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Los Angeles police arrested a suspect early Sunday in connection with the brutal beating of a San Francisco Giants fan at Dodgers Stadium in March, a police spokesman said. Bryan Stow, 42, was beaten into a coma on March 31 in the stadium parking lot after the opening game of the Dodgers' season. Lt. Rick Stable confirmed the arrest at an east Hollywood apartment, but he would not release the suspect's name.  --CNN

I think I speak for all baseball fans (and sports fans in general) when I say it's a huge relief to hear this story.  I like to consider myself a passionate sports fan.  I follow my favorite teams on a more than regular basis, greatly look forward attending games, and lose my voice cheering my team on.  But I have never once seriously considered harming a fan of an opposing team (Ohio State fans included).  We may never truly know what events led up to the brutal beating of Brian Stow after the Dodger's season opener, but what we do know is that he was mercilessly beaten by Dodgers fans, and as far as we can tell, the only reason being was that Stow was a Giants fan.

As a kid, I only looked at pro sports as games played by really, really athletic grown-ups. But over the past few years, I've come to realize that it really isn't just a game anymore.   Sports in America is a multi-billion dollar industry.  People center their entire lives and careers around a single sport. Men lose their jobs when losing becomes a issue. Players lose their lives and their health when violence on the field becomes too much.  And in the case of Brian Stow, men can end up in a coma because a few fans took their allegiance to the team way too far.  Studies have shown that people are happier with their lives when their favorite teams are wining.  I can't deny that. In fact, I totally agree with it and have experienced it first hand.  The fall of 2008 was one of the most memorable for me in part because the Phillies won the World Series and Penn State had a nearly perfect regular season (thanks a lot Iowa).

Speaking of Philly and Penn State, our fans don't exactly have reputations for being perfect angels.  Stories of beer grenades, hurling batteries, vomiting and streaking have tarnished the reputation of our incredibly loyal (sometimes too much so) fans.  I find it interesting though the paradox this situation presents.  Fans who are often labeled as nasty and relentless tend to be some of the most faithful, devoted, passionate fans. So on one hand, they're vilified for their ruthlessness, but on the other they're glorified for their loyalty.  I'm not condoning the disgusting actions of certain fans, but I have to notice that certain fan traits that increase dedication, can increase acting out against opposing fans.  It's being able to draw the line between supporting your team and taking out an opposing fan that shows the sign of a great fan.  I hate to see situations like the one in LA with Brian Stow, and I hope this taught every drunken, amped up fanatic across the country to have some restraint next time they come face to face with a guy wearing a different colored replica jersey.

What's Wrong With The Phillies?

What's wrong with the Philadelphia Phillies?

Honestly, I can't believe I just typed that sentence. By simply looking at the standings, you'd think I was crazy.  But really, what's wrong with the Phillies?

I know, they're only one game out of first place. First place IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE.  Only Cleveland has a better record, and they're an AL team.  The Phillies have led the NL East all year, and will most likely continue to do so.  So why does it feel like this team is struggling so badly?  The offense has been pathetic.  Look at the run support from the past week since the game on May 14th against the Braves: 3 runs, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 2.   That's 14 runs in 8 games!  After the first two weeks of the season, the Phils statistically had the best offense in baseball.  Since then, it's been one of the worst.   They've scored only 176 runs through 45 games, which is better than only 7 other teams.  Every other NL East team has scored more runs including the lowly Nationals.  However, the Phils rank 18th in batting average which leads me to think they're leaving too many guys on base.  And they aren't driving runs in with home runs (ranked 20th) they way they did in '08 and '09.  Only Polanco is hitting over .300, while Rollins and Victorino join him as the only guys hitting over .250. They're also dead last in doubles, which can be an excellent way to knock in runs and put guys in instant scoring position.

In 2008, their World Series year, this team prided itself on great offense. Howard, Utley, Werth and Rollins were some of the biggest threats in the league at the plate.  They didn't have Oswalt, Halladay or Lee yet.  Hamels was our only true ace that year.  

Really, everyone should have seen this offensive struggle coming.  They barely put any runs on the board towards the end of last season, especially in the NLCS against the Giants.  They lost Werth in the offseason, and Utley started the season on the DL.  Guys like Rollins, Victorino, and Ruiz have had injury issues throughout this young season.  And the guy who was supposed to take over Werth's vacancy, Dom Brown, has been struggling with injury issues as well, Just getting his first ABs this weekend.  Utley has finally rejoined the team, and is expected to make his first start tomorrow against Cincy. The team has obviously begun to age.  Our average starter is now in their early to mid 30's, which tends to be the beginning of the end for most ball players.  Lets just hope they can get it together for another season or two.

The saving grace for this team has obviously been the pitching.  This isn't a surprise to anyone considering the massive amount of pub they got in the off season after the Lee signing.  They currently have the second best ERA in the league, behind only Oakland.  They lead the league in complete games and in shutouts, and are second in strikeouts.  Unreal, phenomenal pitching stats. Apparently, this has been enough to offset our abysmal offense, but may not be enough come playoff time.  We can't expect to win every post-season game by a score of 2-1.  So lets hope the return of Utley and Dom Brown, and the benching of Pete Orr and Wilson Valdez will be enough to spark this offense. Just a tad. That's all I'm asking.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Office Will Be Fine

I feel as if I'm one of the few fans who's actually looking forward to the next season of The Office.  Everyone seems to be really down on losing Steve Carell.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Michael Scott as much as Dwight did, as well as every other devoted fan.  But this show has always been about an excellent ensemble cast and their never-ending supply of quirky character traits (or flaws or whatever).  The writers purposely sent Michael off to Colorado before the season finale so that the show could find its footing before the summer layoff, therefore keeping viewers interested.  I honestly think the mystery boss selection was a better season finale cliffhanger than a sappy "farewell Michael" episode that would ultimately just leave viewers upset and unexcited for another season.

Let me be clear about this.  The Office does not need Michael Scott as much as it's fans think it does.  The perceived success of the show in a post-Carell world will require the stubborn Michael fanatics to ease their belief that this show will no longer be any good. Obviously, Michael was the star of this ensemble, but the show has made a point over the years to develop every character, giving them their own story lines and allowing them to become grow and adapt.  After spending the first 6 seasons of the show in a minor character role as a one dimensional tough guy warehouse supervisor, Daryll has grown into a full fledged, rounded, sensitive contributing character.  Pam has begun to show she can create jokes, rather than simply react to them, proven by her Jim-like prank on Creed in the finale. And after changing his personality in nearly every season, Ryan has become a character that I can actually enjoy watching. His hipster vibe, nonsensical statements ( I want someone who can lead me when I'm in the mood to be lead) and sarcastic remarks (Oh no, Stanley, you're going to live forever) have finally made him hilarious.

The end of the season left any true fan of The Office with reasons to keep coming back:  The new manager, sexual tension between Andy and Erin, Angela's odd relationship with the (state) senator, and Creed's plot to destroy the branch (just kidding).  Yes, Michael Scott is arguably one of the greatest characters in sitcom history, but his fame (or infamy?) would have never found it's place without being part of a great show.  Since the announcement of Carell's departure, I've said that next season will most likely be it's last. I don't really want it to end, but I fear that rating may take a hit, causing the NBC Suits to panic and pull the plug.  However, the cast and writers seemed excited to face the challenge of losing Carell, and are probably really excited for next season, as am I. My only hope is that the show can live up to my expectations, and change the minds of the non-believers. If not, I'd be okay with the show coming to an end.  There's nothing worse than watching a show limping from episode to episode, hoping to make it another week. And even if next season is the last, I'll still continue to call The Office my favorite show of all time.

The Only Two Songs I Really Need On My Running iPod

If I needed an extra boost for my run, I could delete every other song off of my iPod except these two.  Seriously.  These songs are like audio Red Bull.

Happy listening.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Did Ford Become So Funny?

I just spent the last 25 minutes or so watching the YouTube videos with Doug, Ford's new spokespuppet for the 2012 Focus.  I saw a commercial on TV the other day, and thought Ford might be making a mistake with this radical idea that might ultimately flop.  But after watching a few more videos on YouTube (that were far better than the commercial I saw), I couldn't get enough. I want more Doug videos.  In no way would I suggest he have his own TV show (like the disaster of a program the Geico cavemen had), but I can honestly say Ford has changed my perception on the Focus.  In the past, the Focus would not have even been on my radar when buying a car.  Now, I can potentially see it coming over the horizon. Not quite in my driveway, but getting closer.  These videos are far more than just a puppet and a guy bantering back and forth with some well timed jokes and bits about car features that are new to this year's model.  It's the beginning of a campaign to mold the image of a car that people were beginning to forget about.

Until the this economic recession hit, it seemed like Ford was losing it's focus (no pun intended).  Their cars weren't innovative anymore, they weren't bringing anything to the table that foreign carmakers weren't already doing better, and they had that annoying turn signal noise around 2007 (seriously, what was that?)  Then Detroit car companies started getting their act together. They stopped coasting along on the notion that Americans would always buy American, and they started trying again.  It began with making cars that American's would truly want to buy, but then it had to end with creating an image for their vehicles that Americans would embrace.  Chrysler is hitting out the park with their gritty Detroit, Eminem, "Made in Detroit" ads.  Now Ford is making an effort to appeal to young Americans with a social media campaign starring a hilarious puppet with surprisingly adult, yet smart humor.  If a company as old as Ford can embrace social media so boldly and successfully, it will only continue to throw wood on the social media fire.  Last year, Old Spice revolutionized the social media spokesperson with the week long video onslaught with the Old Spice Guy answering their follower's questions.  My co-workers sat in awe, amazed at what Old Spice was doing, and doing it so damn well.  Not every company needs to have a remarkable, memorable social media campaign, but if the future of advertising is social media, we can be sure to see a lot more social spokespeople (and spokespuppets).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

View From The Afternoon

I have a confession to make... I borrowed the title for my new blog.  However, I borrowed it from a song off of one of my favorite albums of all time.  "The View From The Afternoon" the first track off of the Arctic Monkeys' debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (which happens to be my favorite album of all time).  The song is about the intense anticipation you feel about the night you hope to have, the night you could only dream of having, and the night you will always remember (or completely forget).  But I won't limit this site to a collection of posts about anticipation and hope.  After all, a good post analysis is always needed every now and then.

As a media studies major, the media is always something that grabs my attention and deservedly so.  The media can be one of the most fascinating, quickly evolving, influential beasts on the planet.  It needs analysis. It should embrace harsh criticism. And it most certainly merit's praise when it produces something spectacular.  And when I say media, anything is fair game: entertainment, news, sports, social media, etc.

But at the end of the day, when the last out is recorded, and when the keg has finally been kicked, this is a personal site. It is a blog after all.  It should be a online representation of the way I view the world, not just a regurgitation of popular news stories.  I just hope to keep it interesting.