Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Manti Te'o Will Be The Steal of the 2013 NFL Draft

Every February, the NFL Scouting Combine appears and reminds us why it’s the dumbest, stupidest, most overhyped sporting event of the year.

The combine reveals to us, well, nothing. We know who is fast. We know who is the most athletic. While it has value for teams to get measurable, it shouldn’t be a driving factor for anyone’s draft pick. Every single player drafted in this year’s NFL Draft will have a wealth game film available.

notre dame manti
If you were to choose your next starting linebacker, would you look at 40+ films of game tape or base it on a 40-yard dash time? Unless you’re the Raiders, that’s a stupid question.

Yet every February, we are treated to a cause célèbre that every analyst are forced to debate, dissect and devour for hours upon hours – it’s February, the sports calendar isn’t exactly littered with big events unless you like watching Danica Patrick try to win a race.

This year, the all-encompassing, all-consuming Manti Te’o took center stage again as the combine veered from its usual position as mere annoyance to full-blown circus sideshow. His first press conference attracted more reporters than the usual Presidential press conference, and there’s no attempt at a joke there. His sexual preference didn’t just become a headline; the fact of whether or not teams would ask about his sexual preference became a headline.

Then, as if to complete the fall from grace, he ran an average-to-slow 40-yard dash.

Leading up to the Alabama game, Manti Te’o was a Heisman finalist, a likely Top 10 pick and the leader who brought Notre Dame back to its place as college football royalty.

I don’t need to rehash the fake girlfriend scandal. I would guess about a billion words, including these, have been typed and tweeted about it. From the beginning, starting with the infamous “80%” declaration from a Deadspin “source” that Te’o was in on the scam, the haters have been ready to pounce.

There is no doubt Te’o shoulders some of the blame for how this played out publicly. He lied to his father about seeing his “girlfriend.” He foolishly embellished the story for reporters, who were lapping up this 21st century revival of the Notre Dame myth with joy. He found out before the Alabama game but waited too long to reveal and, instead, let Deadspin control its early path. He lied.

In the end, I believe that Te’o was young, naïve and duped. Is it a good look? No. But it doesn’t make him any worse of a football player.

However, so much of Te’o’s story was built around this myth – forgetting that his grandmother did die during the season – and he did so playing for a University that most of America can’t stand. My father went to Notre Dame and I have a family full of Domers. I am well-aware of the “We’re Notre Dame, and you’re not” attitude. For 20 years, no one really cared. Then Te’o, his story and his team stole headlines all fall and the Notre Dame hate returned.

None of this explains why Te’o has suddenly plummeted down draft boards, at least in the eyes of analysts, in the past few months.

He is still an All-American linebacker. He still started for 4 years at Notre Dame. He still led his team to an undefeated regular season. He still led the Notre Dame revival. He still made big plays at big moments. He is still about to be a very, very good NFL player.

The Alabama game was not Te’o’s finest moment but it seems a little harsh to place the entire blame for that debacle on him. The game plan and coaching was atrocious. The overall skill level wasn’t the same. There were too many off-field issues, from Brian Kelly’s short-sighted decision to interview for the Eagles job right after to the fact that Te’o knew about the scam and it’s impossible to think that didn’t have an impact.

The slow 40 time was the inevitable crescendo to this Te’o hate as talking heads like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay can point to something and explain why he’s not the prospect we thought he was.

Here’s the deal, as someone who has watched far too much Notre Dame football over the past four years – Manti Te’o is the real deal.

He hits hard.

He plays fast.

He has good instincts.

He is always in the right place at the right time.

He leads by example.

He is an excellent linebacker and the best defensive player to come through Notre Dame since the Lou Holtz era.

He will likely scoot down NFL draft boards, like a parade of superstars before him who came into the league carrying baggage, whether real or imagined. Warren Sapp. Aaron Rodgers. Randy Moss. Dan Marino. Those are just a few of the stars who slid down far past where they should’ve been drafted.

This April, it will happen again. Some team is going to take the risk, assume the media onslaught and draft Manti Te’o.

That team will be very glad it did. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed it’s the Jets, haters be damned.

Besides, the New York Post will likely need to fill its Tebow void on the back page this fall.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

The Joy of Hate Watching the 2013 Oscars via Twitter

I had no interest in this year’s Oscars. I ended up watching just about the whole damn thing.

bad oscars host
I hadn’t seen any of the movies. I have long stopped caring about anything Seth MacFarlane does, still confused as to why so many people told me to see Ted. Fashion means little to me, unless it’s Joan Rivers making off-color jokes.

Yet, there I was for hours on Sunday night thoroughly entertained by something I cared so little about.

My interest in the Oscars is proportionate to what movies I’ve seen and how much I loved them. I can still vividly remember sitting around my friend’s dorm room, playing poker and drinking beer during the 2001 Oscars ceremony as we waited for Russell Crowe and Gladiator to win their deserved awards. We loved that movie. We said “Are you not entertained?!?” so often that it lost all meaning. We needed to see Crowe get that Oscar.

In 2009, I watched the Oscars for a similar reason – I adored the Wrestler and wanted to see Mickey Rourke get his much-deserved Oscar. Now I may be a tad biased as an obsessive pro wrestling fan, but Rourke’s performance was transcendent. He lost to Sean Penn. I became blindly enraged, made more humorous by the fact I never saw Milk and still haven’t. Who cares, right? The Hollywood elite jobbed my guy and I hadn’t paid much attention to the Oscars since.

This Sunday night was to be no different. I gave the opening a whirl if only to see how badly Seth MacFarlane would bomb. To my dismay, he didn’t. At least not initially as he cracked his best joke of the night – the one about Argo, classified information and Ben Affleck’s snub. His opening monologue/pseudo-Family Guy bit had good moments, namely the Flight sock puppet reenactment, but anything featuring a Captain Kirk at the Oscars can’t last for 20 minutes. With that mercifully over – the “sleeping with Sally Field” bit was groan-inducing – I prepared to move on with my life.

I turned on the Penguins/Lightning hockey game and settled in to watch some sports. Because if you read my blog, or my Twitter, or talk to me for like 6 seconds, you’ll know that’s what I usually do. It was a fairly entertaining game but as it reached a commercial break, I checked my Twitter.

Everyone was watching the Oscars. Everyone was hating the Oscars. Everyone was enjoying hating the Oscars. Very quickly, I felt like the guy who hadn’t seen 21 Jump Street yet*.

*Channing Tatum deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance in that movie. That’s not a joke. That movie made a ton of money and was a million times better than it had any right to be for a comedy. Why? Because Tatum owned it. He stole every scene. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t….go see it!

From the moment I turned the Oscars on, I became enthralled. The Twitter hate was coming fast and furious and the show deserved every moment of it.

The beauty of Twitter is that no one is immune. If you’re bombing, people let you know. If you’re not getting the job done, there’s no time to spin it. If you’re losing, you’ve lost the world.

The portion of the telecast between the Christoph Waltz’s Best Supporting Actor win and the real awards (Actor, Actress, Picture) past 11:30 p.m. Eastern was one of the most brutal things I’ve ever watched on television.

I can say, without any hesitation, that there is no way I would’ve watched any of it – much less all of it – if it weren’t for Twitter. Let’s just say my 2005 self ends up watching a lot more sports on Sunday night.

The parade of Hans Gruber henchmen that won sound editing awards? Comedy gold.

The endless singing? Tremendous overkill. I was about to make a “This has become the Tony Awards!” joke until I realized “Tony Awards” and “#tonyawards” were both trending worldwide. It’s always nice to be reminded that my jokes aren’t that funny and everyone else already said them anyway.

The In Memoriam forgot Andy Griffith, which seems insane. The musical Chicago received 2 tributes because, well, the producers of the Oscars were the producers of Chicago. Adele performed and you could barely hear her. Ted and Mark Wahlberg presented an award – and okay, that bit was so painful, I changed the channel at that point.

It was a glorious, beautiful and eye-catching train wreck and I simply could not look away. Inappropriate jokes about 9 year olds? Check, even though the Onion’s Twitter feed locked down that title for the night. Kristen Stewart showing up looking disheveled, possibly (ha, possibly) stoned and bruised? Check. Renee Zellweger being unable to read a cue card? Check.

My favorite part of the night came when Ben Affleck, throwing some Michelle Obama-level shade at MacFarlane, said, “Maybe you’ll turn it around.” Apparently he didn’t like a Gigli reference. I liked it all.

In the end, the entire exercise proved what social media pundits have been portraying for years but finally came to fruition.

We still live in a water cooler society. We still want to share in communal events. Except we don’t want to wait until Monday morning – in fact, I had one brief conversation about the Oscars today at work and neither of us really gave a shit about the show.

And that’s the beauty of it. Nothing about the Oscars were truly memorable. Nothing about the movies this year will likely stand the test of time, to reach the pantheon of its recent predecessors like Gladiator, Up or Sideways. More than likely, this year’s movies will fall in line with Crash or Million Dollar Baby – films that were good, not great, overly awarded and quickly forgotten.

One of my favorite movies to watch is Sweet November, the definition to me of a good bad movie that is so terribly terrible that it becomes an enjoyable pleasure to watch.

The 2013 Oscars ceremony was the Sweet November of award shows.

Damn, I wish I had thought to tweet that Sunday night. Well, better late than never.
 
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The SharePoint 2013 Features People Care About

(I wrote this for NothingButSharePoint.com and I really liked it, so I'm posting it here too)

It’s award season, and it’s SharePoint 2013 capturing everyone’s attention on the Red Carpet.

Anyone who works with SharePoint has likely been consumed with talk about SharePoint 2013, especially since SharePoint Conference 2012 in Las Vegas. The buzz built slowly over 2012 and has reached a boiling point in recent weeks as the new version moves closer to a general release. There was little doubt SharePoint 2013 would draw interest, but it has to be surprising to see the level of interest.

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This fact was confirmed in the results of the SharePoint Content Survey, which was conducted at SPC 12. Of more than 100 SharePoint and IT professionals surveyed, from both the public and private sector, roughly 60 percent said they were planning a SharePoint 2013 upgrade within the next year. The results made the SharePoint and IT media take notice – CMS Wire led off an article with that fact and got the social SharePoint community talking.

There has been a lot of discussion around SharePoint 2013 in general – but what are the specific features creating buzz? In the survey,  respondents could choose between 8 new, much-discussed features and choose which would they be most likely to deploy in SharePoint 2013 – they were allowed to pick more than one:
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Clearly, mobile device support was the clear leader as most anticipated feature and it comes as no surprise. Our entire world is becoming mobile, as anyone who uses a smartphone or tablet can attest – especially those of you reading this right now on a smartphone or tablet. The pace of business is constantly speeding up and, with SharePoint established as the standard for knowledge sharing and collaboration, it needs to keep pace.

The next two on the list – New MySites and New Community Sites – play into the growth of SharePoint across the enterprise. With content growing at 75% per year and adoption usually organization-wide, these sites serve as way to better serve different departments and businesses cases.

Throughout the history of organizations undertaking SharePoint upgrade projects, moving and reorganizing sites has been a common theme and one that will continue through SharePoint 2013.
On the flip side, it was interesting to see less than 40% of respondents say they would be most likely to deploy microblogging or activity feeds – the much-talked about new social features in SharePoint 2013.

There are a couple possible reasons for this. The first could be the wording of the question – even if social isn’t the main reason for upgrading to SharePoint; it could certainly be an added benefit after the move.

The other possibility is that organizations will eventually roll out social features, but not immediately after making the move to SharePoint 2013. We have seen organizations of all sizes show a reluctance to immediately jump on board with social media – from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram – until it is established. There will always be early adopters, but will many take a wait and see approach?

The main survey takeaways are ones you probably could have guessed before reading – people are excited about upgrading with mobile device support driving the most interest. What you probably didn’t realize is that 60% of SharePoint professionals want SharePoint 2013 now – or at least very quickly.

To view the full survey results, please click here: http://www.metalogix.com/Promotions/2013-SharePoint-Content-Survey.aspx

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Conversation Between Two People About That Jack Swagger Video

“Did you see that Jack Swagger video?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You saw it though, right?”

zeb colter and jack swagger
“I did, I did. What an awful…I’m going to bite my tongue.”

“Why? The WWE doesn’t care about us wrestling fans anymore. They’re just messing us with now.”

“The whole thing made me nauseous. I’m serious. Like halfway through, I felt like I was going to throw up all the stupid years I wasted watching wrestling. It’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever seen.”

“What was your favorite part?”

“I’d have to say when they compared themselves to Glee and CSI, except just a little bit different. You know what’s a big difference? They don’t have the characters of Glee telling you THEY’RE JUST PLAYING CHARACTERS!!”

“It amuses me when you yell.”

“I don’t know how else to vent my frustration. I thought about punching a wall but that’s stupid, so I kicked my beanbag chair.”

“You still have a beanbag chair? My God, do you still think Bret Hart is champion?”

“What the hell is wrong with having a beanbag chair?”

“Let’s see, you’re 28 years old for starters, so you should have a couch or a recliner. Also, I don’t think anyone has beanbag chairs anymore.”

“I do.”

“I know, dipshit.”

“And if I want to kick my beanbag chair I will, that’s my right as an American.”

“Holy crap! That should be Swagger’s next promo. Or maybe the moustache guy can go on and on about his right to have a beanbag chair.”

“It’s better than challenging Glenn Beck to appear on Raw. Before that stupid video and I only read they invited Beck to Raw, I thought it was a cute angle. I mean, Glenn Beck is like 4 years past expiration date, which makes him an ideal WWE celebrity.”

“Exactly!”

“I don’t know where these 14 million people that listen to Glenn Beck are, because I haven’t met one of them. Ever.”

“Do you live near people?”

“I do.”

“That’s the problem. They don’t exist in the general population.”

“Well now you’re just being mean.”

“Come on, Glenn Beck! Get angry again, that was fun.”

“I’m not mad about Glenn Beck. I still can’t get over the fact they broke character in a stupid, meaningless, insulting, soul-sucking video. There is one part that brings me joy.”

“And that is…?”

“They disabled comments on the video. I wish YouTube would not let companies disable comments. If you put up total crap, you should have to endure the wrath.”

“How do you think this turns out?”

“Not good. I would love to be in those meetings to understand their rationale. They have the Rock, the freakin’ Rock, as WWE Champion again. John Cena and CM Punk are going at it Monday night. They have 3 legit superstars fighting over the belt. Brock Lesnar is back and still awesome. Everything was going so great and then…this.”

“At this point, I think being a WWE fan is like an extended test of willpower. They see how long you can hang on, and then eventually you let go and give up. Like I’m about to.”

“You taking another break? Not even going to give it to WrestleMania?”

“I don’t know. The Royal Rumble was tough. What about you? You seem more angry than I do?”

“Man, I’m a mark. You know that. It’d be better for my health if I just burned $60 instead of ordering WrestleMania. But you know me better than that.”

“Can I come over for the show? Then we’d only be burning $30.”

“Deal.”

“Being a mark is hard.”

“Tell me about it. I’m going to go retweet CM Punk.”

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

3 Easy Ways To End The Meaningless College Basketball Season

In American sports, the regular season doesn’t matter.

With the exception of college football, games in the regular season don’t hold much meaning.  LSU and Alabama proved in 2011 that even college football is not immune to the simple fact of the American sports culture – championship games mean more than regular season games.

college basketball
Even professional soccer, which is defined in Europe by having no domestic league playoffs, has fallen under the spell of playoffs in this country. We like sudden death. We like do or die games. We like knowing everything is on the line. Rarely, in any American team sport, does the team with the best record in the regular season end up being declared champion.

Nowhere is this fact more relevant than in college basketball. And no sport is battling more with a so-called “meaningless” regular season. No matter that LeBron’s Heat or Sidney Crosby’s Penguins will play a regular season just as “meaningless” to their title hopes, it is the loud, vocal minority within the sports media driving the message that college basketball has a meaningless regular season.

To a point, they are right. The flashpoint came in mid-December when #1 Indiana went down to Butler in a dramatic, back and forth overtime thriller on broadcast giant CBS on a Saturday afternoon. The game was out-rated by a truly meaningless game – the New Mexico Bowl between Arizona and Nevada in front of a friends & family crowd. To some, it proved the indisputable fact that football rules in this country.

To others, it was proof that college basketball had fallen off the map in terms of relevance. In a way, it’s a compliment – no sport has a better playoff than college basketball. March Madness, much like football, rules in this country. What other sporting event even makes a splash in that month? But its presence overwhelms college basketball from November through February.

Does college basketball’s regular season matter? No. Does that matter? Judging by the check CBS & Turner cut to the NCAA every year for a few weeks of television, probably not.

There are more college basketball games on television than anyone could have imagined just a few years. On a recent weekday night, with my sports package, I could watch live college basketball on 10 different channels. 10!! NBC Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, CBS Sports Network, the Big Ten Network, the local CW station (ACC ), Comcast SportsNet (A-10), the Comcast Network (SEC) and MASN. If college basketball doesn’t matter, there are a lot of television networks that didn’t get the memo.

There still lies the perception problem, which has truth to it. On Saturday night, Louisville and Notre Dame played a 5 overtime instant classic. When the NCAA Tournament starts, it will likely have had no impact on anything. Should it? Could it?

Yes, it can. And yes, we can make the college basketball season more meaningful. It won’t suddenly quiet all the haters, but it will make the sport better. Let’s make the regular season more meaningful for the top teams, the bubble teams and the teams that, well, aren’t very good.

1. Home Court Advantage in the NCAA Tournament

When I called out the Heat and Penguins above, their regular season in essence has one meaning – get home-court/ice advantage. Seeding matters far less than getting a possible Game 7 at home, or starting a series with two home games. In the NFL, home field advantage is a significant driving factor for teams – even with the Patriots locking up the AFC East in Week 12 seemingly every year, they are still motivated to play home games.

The NCAA Tournament has no such reward. In fact, its goal of providing the top teams with more games closer to home has produced comical results. UConn has won 3 national titles since 1999. It has played zero NCAA tournament games within its state’s border since 1990. Duke and North Carolina play in-state almost every year. It’s not fair – as any top team west of the Mississippi can surely attest.

Compounding this problem is the fact most first and second-round games (ahem, second and third round games) are played in staid, half-empty NBA arenas with no atmosphere. College basketball, as with college football, is defined by atmosphere. It’s Cameroon Indoor Stadium and the chanting. It’s Assembly Hall in Bloomington reaching a fever pitch. It’s student sections. It’s the Izzone and the Show. It’s court rushing. It’s chaos.

Let’s move the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament on campus. The top 4 seeds in each region get to host 4 teams. Imagine the added intrigue of Louisville/Notre Dame when home-court in the NCAA Tournament could be on the line? Imagine the conference tournaments with that added weight?

The regionals can remain at neutral sites. The first weekend should be brought on campus. Think upsets are fun at neutral sites? Think, if you could, to last year and Lehigh knocking out Duke in Cameroon Indoor Stadium instead of a half-empty Greensboro Coliseum. Think about a packed Allen Fieldhouse or Rupp Arena cheering on their favorite team in games that truly matter. Think about how loud a student section could be when everything is on the line.

A top team should not be beholden to the NCAA Tournament committee’s selection of sites 3 years prior to gain a home court advantage for being one of the best 16 teams in America. They earned it. Give it to them.

2. Cut The Field Back to 64

What really needs to be said here? We don’t need 68 teams in the tournament. Read any “Bubble Watch” column and the refrain is similar – “Boy, we got some bad teams on the bubble.” It’s too many.

The straw man argument from coaches – who, shockingly, don’t want to get fired – is that the number of Division 1 teams has expanded so that means the tournament should too. I guess I miss the part when 100 new teams were added to the ACC. Yes, the NCAA’s top division has increased in numbers recently. But do we need more tournament slots because Utah Valley State and NJIT made the leap up?

Of course not. The “First Four” charade in Dayton every year is sad and farcical. Yet, it’s hardly makes the top 10 of horrible things the NCAA has done in the past 3 years. So…go NCAA?

3. Limit Conference Tournaments to 8 Teams

DePaul is a horrible basketball program. They are the worst Big East team each and every year. I believe they have won 6 conference games in 6 years. They are a disgrace.

Yet, every March, they show up in Madison Square Garden with a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament merely by existing.

The straw man argument from coaches – who, shockingly, don’t want to get fired – is that every kid deserves to play in a conference tournament. Dick Vitale loves to shout about the indignity of kids that don’t get to play in these tournaments.

I’m sorry, are we giving out participant ribbons now for the top level of collegiate basketball in this country? In what world do 100% of teams get into the playoffs to decide a champion? Especially when an NCAA Tournament berth is on the line?

To be fair, if we really wanted to make the college basketball regular season mean something, we’d get rid of these stupid tournaments altogether but that horse has left the barn long, long ago.

We can still make it better. Top 8 from any conference makes it in. Period, end of story. No conference has more than 16 teams and, let’s be frank, if you can’t finish in the top half of your conference, you don’t deserve to be considered for a championship.

As I write this, Illinois – the team that knocked off Indiana is possibly the finish of the year – is on the NCAA bubble and 9th in the Big Ten standings. Wouldn’t that be a nice, juicy story for the media to bite into, as Illinois fights just to make its conference tournament?

The status quo for college basketball isn’t bad. But it isn’t great. It’s adequate.

College basketball is a great sport. It deserves more than adequate.

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