Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sports Economics

Why rent a stadium seat when you could own one?

Is there any way this makes economic sense? (For the buyers, I mean.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Proof That Precogs Exist

Via the Czabe we get this 2008 instant-analysis of the Jim Zorn hiring from Tim Tawakami.

So dead-on that it's a little terrifying. Read all the way to the end for the really scary stuff.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reflections on the Age of the Moonball

Galley Friend C.L. spotted this strange NYT story about the longest rally in the history of professional tennis: a 29-minute, 643-shot point played on the women's tour in 1984. It's a bizarre, and kind of sad, story.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Star Is Born

KSK has delivered unto us another unbelievable character--Rex Ryan, head football coach, New York Jets.

This isn't their first spin around the block with Ryan, but it's their best to date. And I think we've got the makings of another Rex Grossman here. It's pretty good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


You're likely to read a lot of stories about Jay Leno's new prime-time show bleeding to death as its viewership drops from the high-water mark of its premiere. I don't know that you can take such stories seriously.

Leno's actual rating numbers matter very little to NBC. What really matters is the show's profit margin, which NBC is not likely to share, but which could be very high, despite Leno's low numbers. Or it could be very low. Either way, we're unlikely to know until we see if NBC keeps the show around for three or more years. If so, then Leno is making a good buck; if not, then he isn't.

Think of the typical cost structure for an hour of scripted TV. A drama such as Heroes or L&O might cost anywhere from $1M to $5M an episode, which buys you 22 hours of programming. Leno's reportedly costs less than $2M per week--that's five hours of programming, which never has to repeat.

Factor in the development costs which Leno saves the network--with fewer hours to program each week, they can spend less money on pilots. It would not surprise me if even the cut ad-rate on Leno's low numbers wind up making good sense for NBC.

Remember that this was a defensive programming move by Jeff Zucker. He wanted to (1) substantially trim costs in the face of a monster recession that might well alter the entire face of network economics; and (2) keep Leno from another network, thus protecting NBC's very profitable late-night franchises. A pretty gutsy call on his part. We'll see if the numbers--dollars, not viewers--prove him right.

Update: L.A.-based Galley Friend, J.E. writes:

There's some truth to your post, but NBC is--and has to be--desperate to get its ratings up. If direct profit were all that mattered, NBC would be programming its Bravo content. But with broadcast networks, overall network ratings directly affect ad rates across the entire primetime schedule. If Leno could actually pull up the numbers, the network's other shows would be able to charge more. Now, it may be that NBC soon abandons the pretense of offering quality scripted
shows. But as long as 30 Rock is on the air, losing money hand over fist for NBCU, that's just a theory. It's not unimaginable that NBC will knock Conan off the air a year from now, then give Jay $50 million/year to go back to 11:30. Zucker would have to resign in the process, acknowledging he was wrong as a condition of his platinum parachute. Really, it's hard to think of a single good decision he's made. I have no idea why he still has his job.

Just in terms of ratings, this NBC situation reminds me of what was happening at ABC in the early 70s. Twenty years on, it was still the weak sister of primetime, unable to catch fire or even light a spark. Then in came Fred Silverman. NBC thought it had a new Fred in Ben Silverman, but he turned out to be Jimmy Swaggart.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Doctor Ivo: Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Galley Friend R.M. sends along this amazing bit:

After exchanging service breaks early in the first set, Karlovic and Stepanek combined to hold serve for 78 consecutive games on the indoor clay surface.

Final score: 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(6), 6-7(2), 16-14

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Buzz Does Not Equal Box Office

Why is Megan Fox plastered all over the world while Tyler Perry is nearly anonymous?

Perry has made seven movies since 2006. None of them had any budget to speak of. Five of them opened over $20M in the first weekend. Pound-for-pound that might make him the biggest movie star working today.

Mark Levin?

Apparently, he's a long-time fan of Stephen A. Smith because, "he was a personality, because he had an opinion, and he spoke his mind, and he entertained me greatly."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brief Political Aside

Terry McAuliffe lost to this guy?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Geek Harmonic Convergence

Valerie D'Orazio has the rundown of actors doing voicework on Marvel's new animated omnibus superhero series. Ready to have your head explode?

* Kevin Sorbo

* Tricia Helfer

* Mark Hamill

* George Takai

* LeVar Burton

* Adrian Pasdar

* James Marsters

* Michelle Trachtenberg

It's like a DagonCon on every show!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sylar Wins the U.S. Open!

Now that he's eaten Federer's brains, there'll be no stopping him!

(That is, unless Serena's lineswoman can use the sword of destiny to travel back in time and prevent Sylar from ever winning Legg Mason . . . )

Athletes and Grace

Evidently Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame speech was less than gracious. Some highlights:

Jordan spent more time pointlessly admonishing Van Gundy and Russell for crossing him with taunts a dozen years ago than he did singling out his three children. When he finally acknowledged his family, Jordan blurted, in part, to them, “I wouldn’t want to be you guys.” . . .

No one ever feels sorry for Isiah Thomas, but Jordan tsk-tsked him and George Gervin and Magic Johnson for the 1985 All-Star game “freeze-out.” Jordan was a rookie, and the older stars decided to isolate him. It was a long time ago, and he obliterated them all for six NBA championships and five MVP trophies. Isiah and the Ice Man looked stunned, as intimidated 50 feet from the stage as they might have been on the basketball court. . . .

Worst of all, he flew his old high school teammate, Leroy Smith, to Springfield for the induction. Remember, Smith was the upperclassman his coach, Pop Herring, kept on varsity over him as a high school sophomore. He waggled to the old coach, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

Which brings me to Serena's outburst in her semifinal. The entire incident was striking but the most striking aspect was that it was a woman doing the tirading. When most of the other women players on tour flip out, you'll see pouting or even crying. Serena's bad behavior was more like a guy's bad behavior than a gal's bad behavior. That's why it seemed so doubly shocking.

But let's say this for her: She took her medicine like a man, too. After the decision was made, she moved on. She was gracious to Clijsters and she faced the music in her post-match presser with a pretty fair amount of candor and perspective. She's certainly a much, much better sport than Jordan ever was.

(Also worth noting: Clijsters was going to win that match anyway.)

Get Your Fresh CulturePulp!

Galley Friend Mike Russell has a new CulturePulp out that's a comic-adaptation of his giant, sprawling interview with Steve Lieber. I recommend both, highly.

For those who don't know Lieber, he did the art (and lettering) for the comic Whiteout, which is in my top-10 books, all-time. (And recently turned into what looks to be a sub-par movie outing, but well worth your $11 for a copy of the original book.) Whiteout is a noir thriller set in Antarctica where a U.S. Marshall finds herself leading a murder investigation, and to say more would be telling. It's crazy, crazy good, the type of comic that even non-comics fans will love.

Lieber's art is just breathtaking. Perfectly pitched, beautiful. You'll think about it for a long time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Andrew Sullivan: Above the Law--Updated

Consider this a gift.

So Andrew Sullivan gets caught for possession on park service grounds. The penalty is a $125 fine. But because he's Andrew Sullivan, the State quickly decides to drop the charges "in the interest of justice." The interests of justice seem to be that this $125 fine would create a record which would hinder Sullivan's immigration status.

The unequal treatment prompted Judge Robert Collings to write that fantastic memorandum. But Collings only briefly touches on what looks like the most grotesque part of the episode:

Sullivan and his attorney claim that paying the $125 fine would create a record of his being charged with possession of a controlled substance. Collings notes that whether or not Sullivan ever paid the fine, "if asked by immigration authorities, [he] would have to answer truthfully that he had been charged with a crime involving controlled substances." So why would it matter whether or not Sullivan just pays the $125? Because if he doesn't pay it, it makes it easier for him to answer untruthfully.

In other words, the State decided that it was in the interest of justice to help Andrew Sullivan lie to another agency of the State.

Look, if Sullivan's able to beat a minor charge, good for him. (Though can you imagine what he would say if the defendant was a guy named "Bush"?) There's no reason he shouldn't defend himself as zealously as possible. As always, the problem is the shame and dishonor he brings on a larger institution, in this case, the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Update: Galley Reader Z is less sublime about the implications for Sullivan. He asks:

(1) Given that there is strong evidence that Sullivan violated federal law, doesn't the rule of law require that he be prosecuted? That is (as he proudly quoted only a few days ago), "if you genuinely believe in the rule of law, you can't invoke political expediency as a guide to whether possible crimes should be investigated and prosecuted." Right?

(2) Given that the U.S. Department of Justice has provided Sullivan with a substantial benefit, shouldn't he recuse himself from any and all commentary on the Department of Justice? Or do those sorts of rules apply only to journalists with allegedly pro-Palin conflicts of interest?

Nominee: Most Awkward Conversation Ever

From Galley Friend A.W.: (The link, not the story!)

Dear Prudence,

I consider myself a moral person. I'm lucky to be married to someone caring and attractive, whom I love and who loves me back. We just had our first child. My wife has a sister who's been married for several years, has kids, and seems happy. She's also extremely sexy. My wife is beautiful to me, but she doesn't have the confidence to pull off "sexy" like her sister. A while back, my sister-in-law came over and we shared a bottle of vodka—my wife was pregnant so couldn't drink. Ever since, I catch glances from my sister-in-law that get my mind racing. She's paraded her body in front of me in bikinis all summer long. I'm not a cheating person, but I've also never been tempted before. I've tried to talk about it with my wife since we share everything. Now she feels I don't want her. She also doesn't think her sister would ever "want" me (not sure how to take that one). Hanging out with my sister-in-law and her husband is one of my favorite aspects of being a part of my wife's family. I don't want to disrupt anything, but I don't know how to carry this around with me. Would it be wrong to confront my sister-in-law about this and try to clear the air?


Emphasis added, without comment.

Sabermetrics and Tennis

This might be a dumb question, but has anyone ever done the math on whether or not a tennis player would be better off hitting nothing but first serves, rather than hitting a lesser second serve?

Just as an example, let's take a player who hits 68% of his first serves in and wins 85% of those points. (My guess is that this is somewhere near the average.) Let's also (charitably) suppose that he hits 100% of his second serves in, winning 50% of those points. Over the course of 100 points, that player will win 73.8 of the 100 points on his serve.

If he hits nothing but first serves, sure, he'll have a lot of double faults (10.24 of them), but he'll wind up winning 76.3 points, giving him a 2.5 point advantage.

Has some Bill James of tennis already gamed this all out?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Robert Carlyle drinks responsibly. For once.

Galley friend S.B. sends this link to a new Johnnie Walker commercial featuring Robert Carlyle. Except it's not really a commercial; more like an infomercial. The kind you can watch over and over.

There are a ton of questions, such as how many takes did it require? Was there a teleprompter below the camera that allowed Carlyle to look down and read? Was this really one take?

All that matters is that it works. And as I told S.B., you really can't go wrong with Robert Carlyle. Except, of course, if you bump into him at a pub and make him spill his drink.

Beatles for Sale

With all the Beatlemania going on at the moment--the videogame, the new release of all the Beatles albums both in mono and stereo--it can now be said with utter certainty that John and Paul were greater together than they were apart. How certain am I?

Galley friend A.F. once again points me to another post-Beatles link on YouTube. This would be Paul McCartney and (the first iteration of) Wings singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Yes, that would be Linda on the swing. Oh...dear...God.

But which is worse? That or John and Yoko singing "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog"? And really, sit and reflect on Yoko's "vocals." Go ahead try to defend that one. What can you say? "Oh, that Yoko Ono, no one can make dog sounds the way she does."

What Was Going on in Oudin's Box?

Melanie Oudin (why do we assume that she's a sweetheart and not a mean girl?) lost last night, ending America's first outbreak of Oudinimania. I hope it works out for her. What American tennis has always needed is an Austin-Henin hybrid.

(By-the-by, I've always suspected that despite their flaws, we're going to really miss the Williams sisters when they're gone.)

But last night's coverage of the Oudin match was a perfect example of the insularity and clubbiness of the tennis media. A whole lot was made over Oudin's box, what with her twin, her bf, her coach, her little sis, her mom, all those Charm City-style "Believe" t-shirts and . . . what was missing? Oh, right, her dad! Turns out, there's a story there. Whoa.

All of this, however, is a wind up to note how unbelievably insipid Pam Shriver has become as a TV presence. Nearly every exchange she's involved in becomes about her--last night was at least the third time this Open that she informed viewers that she once bumped into Alec Baldwin on Sunset Blvd. But she went from annoying to slightly evil with the way she bullied Oudin into giving an on-court loser's interview immediately after the match last night--with a hot mic broadcasting the uncomfortable off-camera exchange. Maybe Shriver didn't know the mic was live. But she should be enough of a pro to understand that just like "all guns are loaded," "all microphones are on."

I'm not totally sold on Oudin being America's sweetheart, but she didn't deserve that.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

More on Marvel and Disney

Yeah, post-merger we're bringing in some consultant, mm-hmm. They're going to help us . . . uh . . . "right-size," okay?

Courtesy of Galley Friend A.K.

Star Wars, cont.

I'm late to the big Star Wars counter-insurgency debate, but for whatever it's worth, I'm in near total agreement with Matt Yglesias, particularly his last graph.

Except that I wouldn't go applying labels there at the end.


The new National Affairs has launched and it looks like a serious, interesting book--worth a subscription.

U.S. Open Notes

Thoughts from the first week:

* Dent-Navarro may have been the best match I saw. Both guys coming in behind nearly every serve. Dent serving in the 140s for much of the match. (His average was 121 mph. The stats are pretty gaudy. And the fifth set tie-breaker, 11-9, was great drama.

* Clijsters-Venus was the first time I can remember seeing two high-level players trade 6-0 sets. Really weird.

* Zvonareva's meltdown against Pannetta was the strangest choke-job I've seen in a while. Zvonareva lost 6 match point, but played each of them very well. (She might have been the tiniest bit tentative, but not by much. She just got outplayed on them. But the strain of having blown 6 of them caused her to have a total freak out. She took a bathroom break and was crying. She came back out and started talking to herself. She smashed her racquet. She tore bandages off of her knees. At one point she sat on the ground hitting herself. I was a little worried she'd take her shoes off, Bomber-style.

* That Melanie Oudin is something, isn't she? Her game reminds me a lot of Hewitt's. Short, fast, good counter-puncher. Very mentally tough. If she adds a stinging serve, that'll help her a lot down the road. Hard not to love her. Although--and I may be wrong--something about her vaguely puts one in mind of Tracy Flick.

* Am I now ready to reverse myself about Federer? Pretty close. He looks like he did two years ago--totally dominant, firing on all cylinders. Nadal still isn't himself, but if Federer keeps rolling like this, I'll take it all back.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Brief Political Aside

All resignations are unconvincing and dishonest, but is this the most ridiculously dishonest resignation ever?

"I have been inundated with calls -- from across the political spectrum -- urging me to 'stay and fight.'"

It's the "across the political spectrum" qualifier that gets the gold. What's so wonderful about it is that it's entirely unnecessary. He doesn't believe it; you don't believe it; he knows that you don't believe it. And the statement would have been perfectly serviceable without it.

Exit question: How long before the Mossad/Likudniks/etc. are blamed for his persecution? That's an explanation people "from across the political spectrum" could get behind!

Friday, September 04, 2009

the blog around the corner

Galley Friends K.B. and K.E. have set up the blog around the corner. Come for the charming ambiance, stay for the pumpkin muffin recipes!

But Information Wants To Be Free!

Except in Russia. And China. And the U.S. . . .

A lot of techno experts insist that movie studios, record companies, book publishers, etc. should stop fighting piracy because the internet makes the spread of information unstoppable. Yet when people really want to stop the spread of information (even in as small-scale a case as the Erin Andrews video), it seems pretty easy to lock it down and disappear it.

Obama: The Affirmative Action President?

That Steve Sailer is a dangerous racist!

The question of whether Obama is for or against affirmative action is moot. He is not for affirmative action - he is affirmative action. When he gets up in the morning and works out to Jay Z's music, he is already telling you that he is for affirmative action.

Oh, wait . . .

E.A. Sports--It's in the Conspiracies!

In advance of her coming appearance with Oprah, Galley Crush Czabe has been airing two Erin Andrews conspiracy theories, which are variations on his original conspiracy theory:

(1) That the hotel peep-cam was actually done by Andrews on purpose in order to raise her profile in advance of contract renegotiations with the Four Letter. The operating principal here being that in modern America, any fame that does not kill you only makes you stronger.

(2) That the hotel peep-cam was actually done by Andrews as a gift for a boyfriend/significant other. The operating principle here being that sex tapes are like velociraptors--once you create them, they inevitably escape into the wild.

If the first theory were true, it would be sort of tragic. Andrews is America's sports girlfriend and we would hate to learn that deep down she's like Paris Hilton.

But if the second theory were true, wouldn't it make us love her more? It would mean that America's sports girlfriend is actually the dream girlfriend in real life. Who wouldn't stand up and salute that?

P.S.: I have not seen the aforementioned video and wouldn't watch it even if you sent a link to it to the email address just over there on the right-hand side. Yes, that one, right there.

The NoonanatorTM

"Mr. Obama's young aides are hardworking, humorous and bright as pennies, but I wish they had an arthritic ache or two, I wish they told old war stories because they'd been in old wars, I wish they knew what it looks like when an administration goes too far and strains the ties between itself and the bulk of the people."

Translation: "Why didn't they call me!"

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tuesday, September 01, 2009