TAILS: Madden Challenged

Ed’s Note: Written by Drew Norton

Aw yeah, it’s that time of year again. Are you ready for some VIRTUAL FOOTBALL?!

Madden 2011 was released last Tuesday and, just like every year, game designers who don’t work for EA are crying buckets into their pillows.

For those of you who don’t know, the Madden Football series is a series of videogames released every year since 1988. I’m not joking. This game is older than I am. It’s a powerhouse in the gaming industry and a benchmark for every other sports game on the market (except Mario Kart.)

Really, where would we be without John Madden Football? Playing Tecmo Bowl? Come on, who played Tecmo Bowl (even though people are still playing it after over twenty years and it was just re-released with 3-D characters)? Outrageous! A lot has changed since 1988, however. Game systems are no longer measured in bits. There isn’t a Bush in the White House. Janet Jackson is now the talented one by default. Is it justifiable to release a new game every year in the Internet age? Is the new Madden game worth it?

To answer this question, I need to get some biases out of the way. This is going to come up at some point, so I just want to give you guys all of the information: I hate EA. EA the biggest publisher of video games in the industry and I hate them. I hate them with a fiery passion. Electronic Arts is the devil. They are the Sith lords of the video game world. They make The Combine look like Alf. They rove around the gaming landscape, sucking up developers and then sucking them dry until they just plain suck. There is no joy in them, no heart. They’re like a giant black obsidian monolith that blocks the light and kills a beautiful rainforest full of adorable monkeys with gum-drop smiles. There are many, many reasons to hate them, but in the context of Madden the reason they are awful is that they bought the license to every NFL team ever. This makes it impossible for any other game developers to make a football game with real players without EA suing them until they die a horrible, legislative death. So I might be a little biased against them.

On the other hand, I don’t really hate the Madden games in particular. It’s boring to me, but that’s about it. Still, I wonder why they feel the need to release a game every year. All they do is add tiny updates to a game which has gone essentially unchanged since 1997.

This year they’ve apparently made it easier for noobs to pick it up and play. There’s dual stick play and 3-on-3 online. They’ve updated the rosters and stats, like they do every year. This is all very nice and I’m sure Madden heads are pissing themselves, (with anger. How dare they make it accessible?!) but why couldn’t this be released as DLC?

Downloadable content is the fastest growing market in the industry. Rockband has made over a billion dollars in revenue on DLC alone since it’s release. A billion. With a ‘B’. That’s ridiculous and those numbers are from around this time last year. If they released updated player stats throughout the year as updates and then released rosters, new modes and tweaks as DLC, they’d cut down on shipping costs, the cost of the disks and the cost of paying some asshole to be on the cover and then be cursed into obscurity. It just doesn’t make any sense to release a yearly full-priced deal.

All I ask is that they think about it. Of course they won’t because they’d rather rake in their motherload once a year than have a stead trickle of income throughout. They whip fan boys into such a frenzy that they’re willing to buy the same game every year until they die. It’s sad, really. Now who’s ready for the next Call of Duty game?!

Help Me Design the New UOSportsDude.com Blog Header!

Like many of you know, I’m joining the Bloguin Network soon. Part of the process is creating the new site, and especially the new blog header.

This is the first draft of the design and I want your opinions on it. Think of it as your opportunity to be a critic. Be as harsh as you’d like.

My first impressions: I’m not sold on the “Where sports and college humor collide” tag line. I think it’s a bit cheesy and isn’t exactly where my blog is right now. I think it takes away from my credibility a bit. Should I go no tag line or do you have an idea for a better one?

I’d also like the logo to have a more prominent role in the header, and I think the logo has been changed a bit, which takes a little bit of the color out of it.

That’s all I’ve got for now and again, I would love any thoughts/opinions/critiques you have as well.

Thanks! And here it is:

TAILS: An Introduction

Ed’s Note: Last week I received this email from a UO student who wanted to write for the blog. He wrote: “I think topics less about physical prowess and more about things that rarely get people laid are really my area of expertise. You guys cover athletes, I cover mathletes. It’s just an idea I had and I would love to here what you think.” Unconventional, but I love it. I’ll let Drew Norton introduce himself.

Everyone loves sports. Fact. The first thing humans did after they learned to stand was learn how to kick stuff into other stuff. Then they grunted sounds that probably sounded like “ball” and “goal” and “in your face, bitch” and sports were born. They’re the spirit of competition, a celebration of physicality and a celebration of everything that’s good in society. These posts will not be about that.

Jocks, please refrain from shoving Drew into a locker.

I, Drew Norton, know next to nothing about sports. I know how to score points in most of them. I know the penalties. If someone yells about three in a key, I can yell along with them without glancing around awkwardly for an answer to what that means. When it comes to commentary, though, I’m hopeless; utterly, completely, Glenn-Beckianly hopeless. Was it a good choice for Chip Kelly to get rid of Masoli? I’m going to go with yes because of the robbery and pot charges. That’s about all I’ve got.

At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering (and rightly so, sir) why I’m a contributor to a blog about the University of Oregon Ducks — “OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Sorry, force of habit. Why indeed? Well, when Keith scoured the vast and empty wastelands that are the Internets, he found me like Kal-El in a cornfield (That‘s a Superman joke. It‘s his Kriptonian…never mind). When he showed me this blog, I felt that, even with the integrity it obviously had, it needed something else. Some spice. Some pizzazz. Some glitter glue. That spicy, pizzazzy, glitter glue is the glue of context. It is irresponsible if not impossible to have this much testosterone in any part of the Internet, much less the blogosphere, without incorporating a small man who could be crushed by the sheer weight of the biceps sported by his sportier compadres. That small man is me. I’m here to bring the other side of the coin (get it now?) and give a nerd’s perspective on what’s happening at the U and in Eugene at large.

I know what you’re saying. “I still don’t get it.” Shhhhhhhhhh my little darlings. All will be revealed in time, like a Shyamalan movie that isn’t The Happening or that Airbender debacle. It’s pronounced Ang! Say the letter ‘A’ and ‘ng’! They say it in the show M.! Sorry again. I may or may not have blog-tourettes. Really what I’m trying to do here is introduce myself, my style and what kind of content you’re likely to see in the coming months. I hope you will enjoy it more than I will enjoy writing it.

Big News: UOSportsDude.com Teams Up With the Bloguin Network!

Exciting news! UOSportsDude.com has just accepted an offer to join the Bloguin network.

Who is Bloguin and what does this mean?

Plus, who doesn't love penguins?

Who doesn't love penguins?!?

Bloguin is a sports blog network similar to SB Nation. Although newer, Bloguin publishes 125 blogs and does over a million unique visitors in traffic each month. Bloguin shares ad sales with Glam Media, the top-ranked women’s media network, but they are honing in on another target: men.

Glam is launching BrashSports, a new content channel that encompasses a network of more than 25 sports-related properties, including SportsFanLive and Bloguin. With the incorporation of these new sports properties, Glam says — that at 30 million unique visitor per month — that they are the third most popular men’s site in the U.S., behind only Yahoo Sports! and ESPN.

By joining Bloguin, there are many cool new opportunities for our blog. A few highlights:

  • A new design. I’ll be able to customize the look (making the expanded content easier to find), add widgets (polls, news feeds, rankings), and a renovated header.
  • A forum. This one I’m really excited about. Much like Rivals and Scout, forums are a great place for you to interact with other readers and debate all things Ducks — plus game threads (game threads!).
  • More traffic. Being in a network offers more street cred with Google (and hopefully Duck Sports Now), and the 125 blogs all spread the love.
  • Ad revenue! I won’t get rich, but can you say “beer money”?!

The new Bloguin version of UOSportsDude.com — same domain, same logo, same great content — will be up and running in about a week.

As always, I’m interested in your input. Do you have ideas for widgets, forum topics, content, or anything else? I wanna hear them!

Also, I’m always looking for great new contributors. Do you have a passion for writing, podcasting or video, and the Ducks? Shoot me an email: kbecker(at)uregon(dot)com.

I’ve only heard great things about Bloguin and I couldn’t be any more excited to join the network.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to all the new writers who’ve debuted this week (and more who will debut shortly): great stuff from everybody.

The future is bright for UOSportsDude.com. And the timing couldn’t be better — just in time for Oregon football!

Go Ducks!!!

Jake Locker: the Next Jevan Snead (just cut) or Tim Tebow (rich)?

There are few things that peeve Oregon fans more than Jake Locker hype.

Tim Tebow became the first sophomore ever to win the Heisman trophy, led the Gators to a national championship, finished his career with 10 times as many touchdowns as interceptions, and he was still considered a massive reach for the Broncos in the first round.

Snead never lived up to his Heisman hype. We're still waiting for Locker to live up to his.

Locker, on the other hand, only has two more career wins than Tebow had losses, yet the St. Louis Rams were champing at the bit to draft him first overall and hand him $50 million guaranteed. All because scouts think his abilities translate better to the NFL. Or something like that.

Why do I bring this up?

Earlier this afternoon, former Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead was cut from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A reader brought up Snead as a comparison to Locker — and it makes sense.

Snead was a media darling entering the 2009 season. Nearly every publication in the country — including ESPN and Sports Illustrated — projected him as a Heisman favorite.

He was a top recruit and Texas Longhorns transfer. He had a rare combination of speed, arm strength and accuracy. And his team seemed to have enough supporting pieces to enable him a special season. But just a year earlier, Snead posted a 56% completion rate, 13 INTs and 20 sacks. Not exactly Heisman-hype worthy numbers.

In what shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, Snead crumbled up the pressure and never lived up to the expectations. Then Snead decided to cut his losses, enter the NFL draft, and hope teams would think more about his pre-2009 hype than his on-field production. He didn’t get drafted.

Does this sound like a possible scenario for our rival to the north?

Locker hasn’t proven he can do anything — except induce the salivary glands of NFL scouts with his athleticism. But then again, scouts salivated over JaMarcus Russell, Tony Mandarich and even our very own Akili Smith.

All I’m saying is, while Locker would need an impressively bad season of epic proportions to not get drafted, no one deserves to be a guaranteed No. 1 pick without proving productive on the field.

Locker should have entered the draft last April (his stock will never be higher), Snead probably should have stayed another year to revamp his draft stock– and in a weird twist of fate, Snead’s decision allowed Ole Miss to make room for Jeremiah Masoli.

Washington fans are hoping that Snead’s misfortune isn’t a sign of things to come. I couldn’t be hoping the opposite any harder.

Question for Readers: What Content Do You Want?

I started this blog 10 months ago for my own personal amusement. In the beginning I had less regular visitors than Jeremiah Masoli has laptops, and thus, didn’t have to give a damn about what you were interested in reading. I could post whatever I wanted – like this extremely useless entry, a collection of my favorite YouTube videos so I could continue procrastinating for my Psychology 202 final – and not have to worry that you wouldn’t come back, because, well, no one was here.

Fortunately those days are gone, and I have a stable of semi-regular readers who actually (kinda sorta maybe?) care about the things I write. The site has transformed from my random meaningless musings to what I hope becomes a leading source of Oregon Ducks news, opinion and analysis.

To do this, I want to make sure I provide the content you’ll read and hey, maybe even enjoy.

As you’ve probably seen me blabbing all over Twitter and Facebook recently, I’m in the process of adding several new writers to the site – with one officially added to the mix this morning.

With that said, I’d love to ALL hear your feedback in the sort of content (or anything else) you’d like to see on UOSportsDude.com.

  • Duck football is obviously the biggest topic and there are an infinite amount of things to cover. Game previews/reviews, player analysis, recruiting, etc. Maybe even a gambling column. Open to all suggestions.
  • As for variety of sports, are you interested in only football, basketball and baseball or do you want coverage of the non-money sports as well?
  • Billing myself the “UO” Sports Dude, I’ve put a heavy emphasis on covering the Oregon Ducks. Are you interested in the NFL, fantasy, the Blazers, South Eugene High, whatever… or just Ducks?
  • I haven’t strayed away from writing yet, but I’m interested in starting a podcast and adding other types of multi-media to the site. Maybe something like Dan Rubenstein’s The Postgame Tailgate?

I’m open to ALL suggestions so please leave as many of your thoughts as possible in the comments. If you’re interested in contributing in the blog’s expansion please read this and email me at kbecker@uoregon.edu. I really appreciate all you guys helping me get the blog to where it is today – I couldn’t do it without you.

Thank you and GOOO DUCKS!!!!!!

(Also, please share this on facebook and RT, thanks!)

Jon Stewart is anti-bullshit: What the mainstream media can learn from a ‘political satirist’

Note: Things interest me. I like to write about them. Sometime they aren’t Oregon Ducks-related. Throughout the summer I’ll sprinkle in a few non-sports posts on topics I find prose-worthy. Hope you enjoy them.

Like I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I recently read Michael Lewis’s The Big Short.  Not only is it an excellent book, it exposed almost more evil than I wanted to know as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 20-year old entering adulthood. Wall Street’s perpetual greed for sucking every last dollar out of  American citizens  to raise short term revenues sickens me. Admittedly, I don’t know much about the financial sector, but I’m learning quite a bit about the people who run it. How we manged to come to a $12 trillion deficit, how a Mexican strawberry picker from Bakersfield who makes $14,000 a year can receive a $750,000 home loan, how we ended up giving hundreds of billions of tax-payers’ dollars back to the people who created this mess, and then trust them to fix it. And it makes me fear for the future.

Last night I happened to come across a clip of famed political satirist and downright smart dude, Jon Stewart, interview Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s ‘Mad Money’, from back in 2009. I used the term “interview” lightly. It was more like a public scolding. As if Stewart caught Cramer with his hand in the cookie jar, put him on time-out, and then castigated him with a 20-minute lecture about why he should never steal from said cookie jar again.

Jon Stewart, a man who says he’s best suited for making fart jokes, does more than almost anyone else on television to divulge the hypocrisy of politicians, political commentators, and shills for Wall Street. In a 25 minute uncut extended interview, Stewart exposes Cramer’s commentary for what it is: a marriage of hype between the financial news networks and Wall Street.

(Side note: I remember an interview that I saw with Jon a while ago when he was asked if his show was liberal. His answer was “We’re anti-bullshit. I forget is that aconservative or a liberal trait?”)

Sure Stewart may be a funny man, but humor is funniest when it’s laced with truth. And this interview sadly has more truth than I wish knew existed. Cramer’s stated purpose of engaging a ‘new generation’ of investors tells a sad story about America’s youth, and the extent to which they need to be ‘entertained’ instead of ‘fully informed’. Cramer trusts Wall Street CEO’s at face value without ever questioning them (of course you should buy our stock!), playing right into corporate hands, letting them dig themselves into a deeper and deeper, vicious-cycle-esque hole.

Jon Stewart brilliantly exposes the hype, and encourages the reporting of factual, researched news on the ‘ways of Wall Street’.

In the first part, Cramer tries to backtrack his previous statements, which inevitably leads to the accidental placing of the noose around his own neck:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Jim Cramer Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

In part two, Jon goes to the tape, exposing Cramer’s on-air hypocrisy (watch his body language, as he starts to shrink down into an almost fetal-like position):

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Jim Cramer Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

And in part three: Jon takes Cramer to task, holding his feet to the fire,  offering him a bucket of water, which Cramer continually declines:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Jim Cramer Extended Interview Pt. 3
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Thank you, Jon, for shedding light on one of the real problems in America: the secret manipulation between corporations and the mainstream media.

This was really excellent, and hopefully revolutionary interview.  Having worked in PR, I’ve been amazed at how incredibly reluctant the media is to question any information provided by the Corporate PR machine. The attitude is, “if it’s sexy and sells who cares if it’s true.” It’d be nice if what started as a joke will make a real difference in our expectations from reporters.

Way too early five best bets to win Super Bowl XLV

Stuff You Probably Don’t Care About:

When I started this site last August, I had no intention of making money. And to this day, I still haven’t made a single penny.

(Well, unless you count the 10% proceeds I get from the buy-throughs on people clicking the ads, which has added up to a whopping $2.74, which I don’t get paid until I total $50. So go buy some stuff!)

So the fact that I’ve finally gotten a sponsor, at least for one article, is pretty darn cool. Do them and favor and make it worth their while!

Stuff You Might Care About :

The man.

Even though we’re right smack dab in the middle of NBA Free Agency and the World Cup, the NFL has proven that it’s King of American professional sports. It’s never a bad time to talk some football.

We’re just over two months away from opening kickoff, which means it’s time for me to make my way-too-early-but-I’ll-still-pretend-I-know-better-than-you Super Bowl predictions.

Here are my top five teams based on the NFL Odds:

  1. New Orleans Saints – How can you not go with the reigning champs? They bring back nearly every important piece, most importantly Drew Brees and Darren Sharper, which at 8/1 make them a solid bet to repeat. Only question is, can Sean Payton make it through the season without going through vicodin withdrawals? Meanwhile, Ron Washington says that’s no big deal.
  2. Minnesota Vikings – 11/1 odds with Brett Favre make the Vikes look like a steal. 11/1 with Tavaris Jackson make them look atrocious. Of course, since I have them at number two, I’m betting that like always, Favre will be back. But since the Southern Miss Golden Eagles didn’t make the College World Series, who knows what Favre will do. I’m pretty sure he just loves to fuck with us.
  3. New York Jets – This team will either buy into the bad boy mentality like the 1990’s Miami Hurricanes, or it will buy into the bad boy mentality like the 2000’s Miami Hurricanes. The Jets added a ton of big names this offseason — Antonio Cromartie, Santionio Holmes, LT — but with the NFL so character-focused these days, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see New York self-combust. Rex Ryan is the perfect coach for this team, and if he can harness his players’ egos for good, and Mark Sanchez builds on his playoff successes, the Jets could go a long way.
  4. New England Patriots – Basically, I buy into the thinking that Tom Brady’s knee injury has a two year recovery period; which means he’ll bounce back this year. Moss is still as good as ever, and Welker will come back in time for the playoffs. Maybe it’s just that I have a man crush on Brady, but as long as he’s on the Pats, they’re going to be in the Super Bowl hunt.
  5. San Francisco 49ers – Do I think my 9ers realistically have a shot at the Super Bowl? Not with Alex Smith at quarterback. But this team has been stockpiling talent for years and finally has some stability on the coaching staff. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if San Francisco pulled an Arizona Cardinals-type run. Except, you know, without a quarterback. At 40/1, it’s worth the risk.

Learning Something New Everyday, Volume 1: Outliers

If you follow me on twitter, you know that I am an avid reader — or at least have been since March. And surprisingly, I’ve learned several things from the books that I’ve read — some of them were even interesting and useful.

Gladwell is probably definitely in my top 700 favorite bi-racial Canadian writers.

My two favorite authors are Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis, both fantastic storytellers. I learned how corrupt Wall Street has become in Lewis’ The Big Short, a fantastically and grossly eye-opening read, and then because I’m interning at a tech PR agency this summer, went on to read a book of his from 2001 called The New New Thing about how the culture of the Silicon Valley came to be through the eyes of billionaire NetScape founder Jim Clark.

Did you know that in the late 1990’s, a square foot of real estate on Sand Hill Road behind Stanford in Palo Alto became more expensive than a square foot in downtown Manhattan? See, that’s one of those interesting facts I was talking about, albeit I’m not sure how useful.

But what really caught my eye, at least in a sports sense, was the first chapter of Gladwell’s book Outliers.

The point of the book is this (quoted from ESPN): Pick a person, place or thing that’s out of the ordinary. Tell the “conventional” story of why it is so. Then tell the story again, adding on layer upon layer that buries the original explanation below an avalanche of additional “reasons why.” For example: Bill Gates, successful because he’s a genius? Yes, but also because he had access to a powerful mainframe computer at a time (1968) when few others did. This enabled him to build his programming skills for thousands of hours before the personal computer, upon which his initial success with MS-DOS was built, became widely available. So Gates isn’t just a genius and a good businessman. He was also lucky, took advantage of unusually available resources, and then proceeded to work like mad.

Fascinating, right?

Here’s the sports angle. The first chapter in “Outliers” is about how some Canadian hockey players born in the first months of the year enjoy advantages that those born later in the year don’t have. Gladwell also writes that birth month correlates closely with success in other sports.

Here’s Gladwell’s quick summary of the chapter:

It’s a beautiful example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In Canada, the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey programs is Jan. 1. Canada also takes hockey really seriously, so coaches start streaming the best hockey players into elite programs, where they practice more and play more games and get better coaching, as early as 8 or 9. But who tends to be the “best” player at age 8 or 8? The oldest, of course — the kids born nearest the cut-off date, who can be as much as almost a year older than kids born at the other end of the cut-off date.

When you are 8 years old, 10 or 11 extra months of maturity means a lot. So those kids get special attention. That’s why there are more players in the NHL born in January and February and March than any other months. You see the same pattern, to an even more extreme degree, in soccer in Europe and baseball here in the U.S. It’s one of those bizarre, little-remarked-upon facts of professional sports. They’re biased against kids with the wrong birthday.

Crazy. I haven’t yet gone through the Oregon football roster to search for this trend, but I’m sure it’s there. In football, a sport dominated by size and strength even more so than hockey or soccer, surely a 10 month gap at age eight would make a huge difference. If I have the time, maybe I’ll go through tomorrow and find out for sure.

The study of how people get to be successful, or why society works the way it does fascinates me. So much so that I’m considering switching my major from public relations to sociology or social philosophy. Heck, I’ve already got plenty of PR experience, I don’t need to learn the same introductory things over again. Might as well enjoy what I study in college.

Enough rambling. I just found this captivating and thought I would share. It’s amazing what you can learn when you read.