The Sunday: Here Come The New Kids

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The weekend before the Super Bowl is usually pretty sparse on good sports storylines despite the NHL All-Star Game and the Winter X Games.  This weekend provided us some highlights including a big upset in the MMA world and the rise of a new star.

 

New Star Rising

Chloe Kim

14 year old Chloe Kim won the Women’s SuperPipe at X Games Aspen. Yes, 14 years old which makes her the youngest in X Games history to win a gold medal. What makes it even more impressive is that she had to rebound from a crash on an earlier run where she smacked her face against the ice and snow, chipping a tooth. That left her with one final run which she nailed with flying colors.

 

The Upset

The UFC pulled off another massive arena show, this time in Stockholm, Sweden. However the native son, and headliner, Alexander Gustafsson got knocked out by Anthony Johnson leaving most of the 30,000 in attendance in shock.

While it was a massive win for Johnson who will now face UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, it was a disaster for Gustafsson. Visibly emotional, one can only imagine the disappointment he felt in front of 30,000 fans, most from his homeland.

As for Johnson, who once competed at 170 lbs, a massive opportunity has opened up for him, Once booted from the UFC for repeatedly not making weight, he now sits on the cusp of MMA glory.

 

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DirecTV, Not For Sports Fans Anymore

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

DirecTV use to claim in it’s advertising that ‘if you’re a sports fan, you gotta get DirecTV’. That may have been the case two years ago but it isn’t now. DirecTV in fact may be the worse place for sports fans.

For a lot of people, it doesn’t get better than DirecTV if you’re a sports fan. They have NFL Sunday Ticket and that alone is worth it. NFL Sunday Ticket mind you is $330 for the ‘Max’ package.  For some, this is worth every penny. For others, that’s a pretty good chunk of change.

Watch ESPN

While DirecTV has NFL Sunday Ticket it doesn’t carry the Pac-12 Network nor does a DirecTV subscription give you access to ESPN3, FoxSportsGo or the Pac-12 Network online. In other words, if you are not sitting in front of the TV connected to your DirecTV receiver you are S.O.L. when it comes to viewing sports.

But wait, they have an app right?

Yes they do and you cannot stream any sports channels outside of your house. In fact you cannot stream any ESPN channel at all. Basically, if you’re a sports fan, the app is a glorified remote control and a pretty dumb one at that. God forbid you go into the next room and try to watch a Mountain West game on your tablet!

DirecTV app

What this comes down to, as usual, is money. DirecTV makes enough to not have to worry about digital stuff or something as ‘niche’ as the Pac-12 Network. They also make enough to not have to worry about giving their customers what they really want, the ability to truly watch what you want wherever you want. Probably all the more reason that they do not run the campaign anymore claiming’ if you’re a sports fan, you gotta get DirecTV.

 

B1G Body Blow

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

It was bad weekend for the Big Ten Conference (B1G). The conference went 8-5 but they lost convincingly in 3 of the biggest games they played and two others came down to the final drive of the game against opponents that should have been beat by a far bigger margin. All in all, things could have go worse for the conference but not by much.

B1G

The 3 high profile games the conference was a part of were Michigan St at Oregon, Michigan at Notre Dame and Virginia Tech at Ohio State. Credit to the conference for scheduling these games in the first place as opposed to the SEC who had 3 teams on their schedule on Saturday from the Southland Conference.

The issue here isn’t that the B1G lost the high profile games but that they ended up losing going away. Michigan State was up on Oregon 27-18 but then Oregon ran off 28 unanswered points. Ohio State was exposed badly by Va Tech and Michigan didn’t score a point against Notre Dame in a 31-0 debacle.

Meanwhile other teams in the B1G like Nebraska and Iowa needed game winning drives with time running out to stay unbeaten. Wisconsin was only up 9-3 at the half against Western Illinois before pulling away in the second half and Purdue was manhandled by Central Michigan.

It hurt the conference because, although it is early, the odds of a B1G team making it to the 4 team playoff at the end of the year now seems highly unlikely. That could hurt recruiting, perception and financial standing in college football.

The B1G has a lot of work to do if it wants to compete with the ACC, PAC 12 and SEC. It may start with beating the teams they are suppose to beat like Northern Illinois and Central Michigan. Until they do, they will be on the outside looking in of the college football playoff.

College Football Is Losing Its Fans

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

With the 2014 College Football season knocking at the door one sad fact is creeping around the chicken coop, students are not going to the games. Yes, even at Alabama.

Sweep Right

ESPN’s Darren Rovell wrote an excellent piece earlier this year about the decline of the student body at football games. We are not talking about the non power conferences either. He points to places like Michigan, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and Oklahoma that have seen a drop off in student attendance.

The concern isn’t just that students are not showing up but that the students are the next generation season ticket holder. It means future declining revenue and sparsely populated stadiums which is a double whammy of bad news for some schools.

The University of Iowa was going to give away free tuition to randomly selected students who purchased season tickets. Some legal hurdles put an end to that idea but it shows the lengths that schools are willing to go to to put butts in the seats.

It makes sense that college football programs have checked out to places like Kansas City to visit Blue Hell (a.k.a. Sporting KC) and other MLS clubs. MLS clubs like Sporting KC, Portland and Seattle sell-out just about every match and a great fan experience to boot. Granted everyone but Seattle is filling a facility around 20,000 people which is far less than places like Alabama, Michigan, and Oklahoma but they are still doing something right to continually bring it sell-out crowds.

College Football has a lot of hurdles facing it from lawsuits to concussions. Support from the students they represent didn’t seem like it would be an issue but somehow those are always the ones that sneak up on you.

He Can’t Dance But He Could Probably Code

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Peyton Manning can do a lot of things. Dancing to ‘Rocky Top’ apparently isn’t one of them. Truth be told, no one looks very good dancing to the default Tennessee fight song. However, if you think about it, Manning would probably be a really good programmer.

A good developer is a good problem solver. Like, a really good problem solver. In a nutshell, they have to take a problem, break it down into pieces, figure out the dependencies and then create a solution.

Sounds a lot like an NFL QB.

Manning does something similar. He looks at a defense, breaks it down into individual match ups, finds the best one for success and then executes the play. Except he does that in 40 seconds during the game.

As you can see there are similarities in the two roles. At the core is the ability to problem solve and being quick at doing that comes with experience and practice.

While developers have the luxury or Google and StackOverflow.com at their fingertips to find solutions, Manning only has game film to study the week of and nothing but what he sees during the game.

While no one really knows when Manning will finish his playing career or if he would ever venture into the world of code, it is an option.

Oh Captain, My Captain

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Even if you are not a New York Yankees fan or even a baseball fan you know who Derek Jeter is. You also probably know that he is retiring at the end of the season after 20 years in Major League Baseball all with the Yankees. You may not like him you but you should respect him and what he’s done.

Derek Jeter

The New York Yankees are the gold standard by which other professional franchises are compared. Only the Montreal Canadiens and Dallas Cowboys come close in North American sports. Derek Jeter is exemplifies that gold standard.

He does hold some amazing records such as most post season appearances and being the all time hits leader for the Yankees. He will no doubt be a hall of famer on the first ballot. He has also been the Yankees ‘Captain’ since 2003. He is one of 14 players who have been ‘Captain’ of the New York Yankees which is saying something since the Yankees have been around since 1901. Only two other MLB teams even have captains. With the sport the way it is in this day and age, players generally do not stick around long enough to be considered for the role.

Jeter at All Star Game

While Jeter’s stats and length of service have been admirable it’s the way he carries himself that really deserves appreciation. He shows up everyday and works hard. He is consistent and is someone the Yankees and baseball have come to rely upon for over 20 years.

It will be a sad day when Jeter tips his cap for the final time. He is the gold standard for how baseball should be played. He should be celebrated and appreciated. He is afterall, The Captain.

 

 

At Least Keep Your Dignity

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

With the 2014 World Cup wrapping up a lot of people will look back and remember different things. Whether the goals by Robin Van Persie and Tim Cahill or the run by Costa Rica or the biting incident. Everyone will remember something. Most people though may just remember how Brazil and their fans couldn’t lose with dignity.

There apparently is crying in soccer, at least for the fans of Brazil’s national team. Images were plastered around the globe as Brazil gave up five goals in under twenty minutes to the German national team in the World Cup semifinals. People young and old were shown as if a member of their family died when in reality their team just gave up.

The kicker to this is the players afterwards crying. David Luiz gave a tearful interview apologizing to the fans. Apologies are one thing, not stepping up and going down swinging is another.

The fact is Brazil was beatable and was living on borrowed time. Germany exposed that fact. Yes Brazil was without their captain and best defender Thiago Silva and their superstar Neymar but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that no one from the team stepped up when they went down. No one fought back. No one challenged the Germans. Either they were in shock at what was happening or no one had the gaul to step up and be a leader. It was, in a word, shameful.

Teams get behind early all the time in all sports but all is not lost. Take Liverpool’s comeback in the Champions League final in 2005. Down 3-0 at halftime Steven Gerrard put the team on his back and helped lead them to a win via a shootout.

Another example is the 2006 AFC Championship game where the Indianapolis Colts were down 21-6 at the half to their kryptonite, the New England Patriots. Peyton Manning refuses to lose and leads the Colts to not only a 38-34 win but also a Super Bowl victory two weeks later.

The point is that big players step up in big games, even when they’re down. No one from Brazil did that and most of these players play for big clubs around the world. In the end it may not of mattered as Germany poured on two more goals but at least those players could have walked off the pitch with their head held high knowing that they battled to the end. Brazil’s players can take no such solace.

On another note, if you’re a fan of Brazil, don’t cry be upset! Be upset at the eleven players on the pitch who gave up. And for the adults who were shown on TV crying with over an hour left to play, cowboy up. It’s one thing of a child to be crying but you adults no better. Have some dignity.

Advice on how you should be after a huge loss:

Andy Roddick after losing in the 2007 Australian Open

Jim Mora Press Conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Watch Fri. July 11 – Sun. July 13

All times are PST

-Note, if you live in Seattle Sunday is your day. A’s vs Mariners in the afternoon then the Timbers vs the Sounders that night.

Friday July 11th

Detroit Tigers @ KC Royals – 5pm MLB.TV: Battle for supremecy in the AL Central.

Oakland A’s @ Seattle Mariners – 7pm MLB.TV: Jeff Samardzija vs King Felix. Should be a low scoring pitchers duel.

Ottawa RedBlacks @ Edmonton Eskimos – 7pm ESPNNEWS: Football on Friday night! Canadian Style. Ottawa needs a win but the Eskimos look like the best team up north right now.

DC United @ San Jose Earthquakes – 8pm NBCSN: DC United’s players might be asleep before by halftime and if they aren’t careful the ever dangerous Quakes could walk away with three points.

Saturday July 12th

Calgary Stampeders @ Toronto Argonauts – 3:30pm ESPN3: Toronto looked like world beaters last weekend against the defending champs. Can they take out arguably the best team in the CFL?

Detroit Tigers @ KC Royals – 4pm MLB.TV: Very good pitching matchup with Rick Porcello vs James Shields.

Real Salt Lake @ LA Galaxy – 7:30 MLS LIVE: RSL always seems to have the Galaxy’s number. However the Galaxy still have Landon Donovan and now they add in Omar Gonzalez.

Sunday July 13th

World Cup Final: Germany vs Argentina – Noon ABC: It’s the World Cup Final featuring Lionel Messi. You’re welcome Brazil.

NY Yankees @ Baltimore Orioles – 5pm ESPN: Final game before all star break. If Yankees want to catch the first place Birds they need this game.

Portland Timbers @ Seattle Sounders – 7pm ESPN2: Want that World Cup big game feel? Watch this game and you will never doubt again that soccer hasn’t arrived in America.

Another Loss, Another Win

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The USA is out of the 2014 World Cup. While their run was a success it seems that the American media still doesn’t get it. While they celebrate the efforts of the team, and in particular goalkeeper Tim Howard, they still ask the question, ‘will soccer ever be big in America?’

Very quickly on Team USA. Back to back appearances in the road of 16 is something to be proud of. While the argument can be made that the US should have gone deeper into the tournament it is clear that the team continues to get better each and every World Cup. Yes, Howard was amazing against Belgium but do not overlook the work done by Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckermann and Fabian Johnson. Add in youngsters like Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin contributing like they did and things are looking up for the Gold Cup and the next round of World Cup qualifying not to mention 2018.

Yet from CBS to ESPN, media anchors and producers continue to bang the drum and remind people that soccer isn’t the NFL, but it’s big in the rest of the world. They also ask the question, ‘what will it take for soccer to be big in America?’ It already is folks.

How? Lets take some metrics. While we didn’t painstakingly go back and count how many live shots there were from Brazil or how many mentions of the World Cup or Team USA there were across all the media outlets, the fact is that there was a lot. Most of those mentions were positive too.

Then there are the ratings. Some 23 million Americans watched the USA v Belgium match on TV and online Tuesday afternoon. That doesn’t count group events like bars, offices, and the thousands that showed up at viewing parties like the one at Soldier Field. 

Yet outlets and pundits continue to doubt. Keith Olbermann the other night on his show complained that American’s should use American terminology and not a traditional soccer vocabulary. He went as far as claiming that while Ian Darke is great, soccer will not be accepted in this country because there is not an American announcer. Guess Olbermann missed the 2006 World Cup when American fans rebelled against American announcer Dave O’Brien for his inexperience and poor performance.

Olbermann

Olbermann will get his wish though in the next World Cup when the broadcast rights switch over to Fox which will use Gus Johnson as their main announcer.

It is clear that soccer is making it in America. The viewership shows that. The media that is doubting it shows that. Is it the NFL? Of course not but nothing is. Not MLB, NBA or the NHL. Some telling signs to look for in the future include attendance and ratings of MLS games over the next few seasons. In part two we’ll dive into why the media and the non soccer community in general continue to ask these questions.

There’s a Subscription For That

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Every game of the NBA Finals will be televised on ABC which is available without a cable or satellite subscription. Five of the seven games of the Stanley Cup Final will be broadcast on NBC which is also available without a cable or satellite subscription. Does it matter anymore if a game is televised on broadcast or cable/satellite? Yes and not for the reasons you think.

The Finals

Even with the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Final available on over-the-air television channels, you still need either an internet provider subscription or a cable/satellite subscription in order to watch online. Yes. Even though the games are available over-the-air for FREE, you have to pay somebody to watch on your laptop or tablet.

This is not new. NBC does this during the Olympics and while the number of people who don’t pay for either a cable/satellite or internet subscription is small it is still a point of concern.

Why should you have to have a subscription if the game is on FREE TV? That’s almost like saying, ‘well you have to have a monitor in order to watch the game so you have to type in the serial number on the TV before you can watch.’

Just because you have a cable/satellite and/or an internet subscription doesn’t even guarantee you the ability to watch a game online. It all depends on the provider and the network. So if DirecTV doesn’t have an online agreement with ESPN then good luck watching something on the much promoted Watch ESPN app.

If you go back a decade ago when streaming live sports was just getting up and running, you could watch just about anything without so much as a log-in. ESPN Gameplan was free if you were watching online but almost $100 to watch on television.

Last season though, it got to the point that if a college football game is being shown on any of ESPN networks you cannot watch it online at all.

What about the fans? What about the promise of watching anything you want, anywhere you want on any device? You almost can. Just make sure you have a cable or satellite subscription.