Summer leftovers: Pac-12 Power Rankings

August 9, 2011 Leave a comment
Trust me I know that the whole power rankings thing is so over-played and beaten to death now by every site and blogger out there, but bear with me for a second.  Earlier in the summer I found a listing on Journalism Jobs for a new sports site looking for writing interns to cover the Pac-12.  After growing up in Pac-12 country but never writing about it I jumped at the opportunity, but as you will see it never really panned out.  What amounted to my try-out for this site was to submit preseason football power rankings which along with the submissions of all the site’s other writers would be accumulated into a single set of rankings accompanied by a sentence from whichever write-up the editor liked best.
Well, after weeks and weeks of not seeing the post published, there was an email saying that the site was undergoing changes and posting would be delayed for a couple weeks.  Whatever, I had enough non-writing work to keep me busy as summer went on and I didn’t think about it much.  Then finally the email that the site was no longer continuing for some, how do you say, legal reasons.
With the school year fast approaching I didn’t particularly care, but I figured hell, if I spent the time writing these up then why not post them for someone to read.  So here are my preseason power rankings for the entire Pac-12 conference, not broken up into divisions, just overall, uh power.  And of course if you follow Pac-12 football closely these probably won’t blow your mind or anything, but its just my early opinion.  As always looking for more opportunities to write, especially about stuff I love like this.
  1. Oregon: Until someone takes them down, either on the field or off it, the Ducks are the reigning champs and since they bring back multiple pieces to their blazing offense they deserve to be ranked as such.  Even though there are holes to fill on the depth chart, last year’s conference champ should be right back in it, battling with Stanford for the North division’s bid to the inaugural title game.
  2. Stanford: When you have the hottest NFL prospect in the country under center it is hard not to like your chances at a conference title and BCS game.  The Cardinal will ride an exceptionally talented team, not just QB Andrew Luck, and hope that the loss of Head Coach Jim Harbaugh does not affect the team’s attitude or culture.  A season of Oregon and Stanford vying for the top spot in the new North division is something for football fans to look forward to.
  3. USC: The biggest question with USC heading into the 2011 season in its level of motivation.  The program still has top quality talent and a confidence that comes with dominating the conference landscape for so long, but will Lane Kiffin be able to produce consistent results when the promised land of the postseason is off the table.  If he can convince this group to play for regular season pride, like every game is their bowl game, Barkley and co. will be a dangerous squad.
  4. ASU:  (Editorial note: I originally had the Sun Devils above USC, you know, because I’m a huge homer and it felt good to put it down in writing.  But the rash of injuries and some thinking time have shaken me enough to lower my sights a tad.)  After missing out on the postseason again in 2010, ASU fans are restless, but the 2011 Sun Devils squad should be good enough to live up to the offseason hype.  Anchored by MLB Vontaze Burfict, ASU boasts a defense that could be the best in the country and is certainly strong enough to smooth the growing pains of new starting QB Brock Osweiler and the second season of Off. Coordinator Noel Mazzone’s high-tempo spread offense.  ASU played a lot of good teams close last season, and if Osweiler brings what he showed flashes of in two late-season wins last year, the Sun Devils should improve enough to represent the South division in the first Pac-12 title game.  And if they don’t make it there, expect Head Coach Dennis Erickson’s time in the desert to be up.
  5. Utah: While many question whether the rigor of a major conference schedule will slow the previously strong Utes, I believe a culture of winning and a schedule that misses Oregon and Stanford will make Utah immediate contenders in their new conference.
  6. Arizona:  The loss of Juron Criner would be a gigantic blow to the squad that was building momentum with back-to-back bowl game trips.  Taking away Nick Foles safety blanket of an All-American WR could steepen the learning curve for an offensive line that boasts five new starters.  If he is healthy for the season, the Wildcats could contend for a conference title, if not they will be hardly as explosive. (Editorial note: He is healthy and back with the team, so focusing on that looks a little foolish now.  But hey, with the aforementioned homerism I’m still not putting the ‘Cats above the Utes.) Will we see the Wildcats that started 2010 with so much promise or the ones that ended the year with a whimper?
  7. Oregon State: I have learned not to doubt the Beavers as they always seem to make a run late in the season and never take a game lightly.  While they will fall short of contending for a title, you can always count on them to upset somebody and shake up the standings.
  8. Colorado: The Buffs enter the Pac-12 after a year in which they just missed bowl eligibility and had bipolar results such as beating Georgia, but losing to Cal 52-7.  They are certainly the weaker of the two newcomers, but not by as much as most people think.
  9. Washington:  The Huskies never reached the heights they thought Jake Locker could take them to, but returning to the postseason in 2010 was a good start.  They have one of the conference’s best backs in Chris Polk, but their success will hinge on the growth of sophomore QB Keith Price.  Price appeared in five of the Huskies games in 2010, most notably taking over for an injured Locker in a lopsided loss at Oregon.  If Price can be a danger in the air, the Huskies will continue taking steps forward, but if he can’t put up points to back up Def. Coordinator Nick Holt’s strong defense, UW is headed for a bottom half finish.
  10. Cal:  The Golden Bears need to find a reliable option under center before they can be considered contenders in a league as deep as the Pac-12 will be in 2011.  With the position still up in the air and a lack of talent in the competition, Head Coach Jeff Tedford has his work cut out for him in turning the Golden Bears into a contender.
  11. Washington State:  This is the year that the Cougars emerge from the cellar.  WSU has been better than their record indicated over the last three years, slowly putting up stronger fights against conference opponents and this year they should finally see it pay off slightly in the win column.  QB Jeff Tuel is one of the conference’s best and he has enough targets to get the Cougars on the right track.  Sure, they will finish “11th” instead of their recently customary “10th” but I firmly believe in the Cougs — well at least enough to get them out of the cellar.
  12. UCLA: This is a team that’s strength will be its defense.  A defense that lost two studs to the NFL draft.  With uncertainty on offense, the Bruins will have to hope to win some ugly, low-scoring battles, not a style often successful in the Pac.
Sorry if I missed any other glaring mistakes of things that have changed since these were written well before camp opened.  Honestly I fixed the ones that I was conscious of, but really what is the purpose of preseason rankings anyway?  Lets play some football, counting down the days.
Categories: Sports

Final Project: Presenting the “Week’s Worth Podcast” Pilot

May 5, 2011 1 comment

Alright it is finally here. The first attempt at a podcast that I have actually seen all the way through to completion and posting… well sort of.  This is only half of what I recorded for the first ever “A Week’s Worth” Podcast, but because of the parameters of the project and what people would want to listen to, I am only posting the first half.

This half of the podcast, approx. 30 minutes in length covers the topics of News, Sports and Music.  There is an additional Part 2 that I will try to get up, as it contains 20 minutes or so of Technology and Media news as well as this week’s Movie releases and box office leaders.  There is some great stuff in that half of the show, but I figured that it should be broken up and now I am having technical difficulties with the second half.  So for now, consider this the pilot episode to what this podcast could be.  Enjoy.

As far as planning this as a new media enterprise, I think there is a lot of room for growth with this idea as I previously stated it came from a website idea I had.  I think that I definitely learned a lot about how podcasting works as well as my own strengths an weaknesses during this project.  I learned how much preparation goes into the content of a podcast, while it may seem easy to talk about things that interest you for 20 minutes, in order to be interesting and engaging you must be prepared with your content ahead of time.  I was sure to lay out all of my topics and research on a big whiteboard in front of me while recording and still found myself stumbling over myself.

While there are tons and tons of podcasts out there, I think that this one could stand apart in the way that it attempts to keep you informed not just on one person’s opinion or interests, but rather aims to keep listeners informed on a variety of topics with opinion only injected minimally.  This is not a very “new media” idea, but I think that just as there is a demand for niche content, there is also a demand for something that rises about all of these categories and provides a general sense of the world.

Of course there will be tons of competition, as the iTunes Store is home to thousands upon thousands of podcasts and entire categories filled with shows about topics I tried to cover in my own work.  But as a kid who has now finished seven years of jesuit education, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a share of the podcasting market out there for “education of the whole person.”  My project serves to give people a quick way that they can feel connected to the world and up to date on many topics in just 20-50 minutes depending on the episode and week.  No one wants to be the uninformed person at the dinner table or cocktail party, so a quick roundup of news, culture and other talking points could be greatly enjoyed by those who do not always have time to keep up on such things.

Part of new media and success in enterprising new projects is making it work across different platforms and for those with different levels of interest.  Obviously there are many things that cannot be communicated in a podcast form, so I want to make this a multi-platform experience, by using the post itself as a linkroll for stories mentioned in the podcast, additional information on stories and further reading for those interested.  People who only want a base-level of information for the week can download the podcast and listen to the week’s biggest stories while around the house or working out at the gym.  Those more interested, however, can delve into the links, videos and photos posted as an accompaniment.

One flaw I started to recognize with my original idea was posting only once a week.  While it might ruin my fantastic name and logo design I have in mind, I think that for the sake of timeliness and recording length it would be better to do two podcasts per week.  I think that an early-week News, Sports and Music podcast like the pilot above could work well and then be followed by a thursday released part 2 so that no matter the other topics it can end with the weekend’s movie releases.  I think that splitting it up like this is a natural way to keep it from stretching into the 40 min – 1 hour range which can get unbearable for a podcast.  This setup would allow for shorter posting and more engaging content.

In the end, that engaging content and the execution of its delivery would be the make or break qualities of this as a media project.  The conflict of general interest against niche, hyper-local media is something I have thought about a lot recently and I truly believe that there is a place for someone to go against the current trend.  I think that being well-informed and well-versed is something that people care about as it gives a sense of knowledge and importance.  There is a market out there for people who do not have time to sift through all of the hyper-focused blogs and news sites, but still want to be informed on their content.  This podcast, with tweaks to the format and execution, could provide all of that information plus more in a form of content that people could download and take with them wherever they go.  That is a service that, while parts of it seem very slow for the new media landscape, could provide a happy medium for those with the desire for all the knowledge out there in the age of content (!) but not the time to find it and filter it themselves.

It’s been a great year and I hope you guys enjoy this.  Feedback always welcome.

John

Simmons stans’ wishes ‘grant’ed

May 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I of course use the term “Stan” (hip-hop term for obsessive fans, derived from here; similar to fanboy) loosely because I myself am a huge worshiper follower of all things Bill Simmons.

With that being said, Sports Guy fans who were excited by the recent confirmation and updates on a Simmons-created side project that will sit independent of ESPN.com, should be even more pumped to see that the project has been given a name and preview posts have gone up.

The site will be called “Grantland” which is a tribute to famed sportswriter Grantland Rice.  Rice’s writing is said to have “helped elevate sports into American culture during the early 20thCentury.”  He wrote is very elaborate and beautiful, often raising sports to a mythological or historical context.  Probably his most famous lines are “For when the One Great Scorer comes/To write against your name,/He marks – not that you won or lost -/But how you played the Game,” from the poem “Alumnus Football.”  This quote sits across the site’s current “coming soon!” page.

The site is said to be a combination of sports and popular culture, which Simmons has always been known for, even when the pop culture side of it got a little heavier than would have seemed to fit on ESPN.com.  They have nabbed plenty of big names aside from Simmons to do the writing and editing, you can see the list so far in an ESPN release here.  In the last 48 hours ESPN.com posted links to the first two preview posts, neither of them by Simmons, so that readers could get the feeling of what the site will feature.  The preview included one sports post about the wild season for the New York Knicks (Read it here) and one culture post about this summer’s movie lineup (Read it here) – neither of them by Simmons of course.

It seems funny that Simmons long awaited project takes the name of such a historic and celebrated sportswriter, when so many modern writers cannot stand his style and think that he is not a true sportswriter – ehhem TJ Simers.  It is fitting though in my opinion, since the site will reportedly feature longer pieces not so specifically about sports, but about the greater meaning of the games and fandom and the entire culture that fans love – certainly the grandiose  kind of topics Rice would have appreciated.

With that being said, I am certainly excited for this site to debut and I think it is the kind of content I will enjoy and the kind of project that is encouraging, bringing good long-form writing to the web.  Also from the brief previews, the design scheme, colors and fonts all look very clean and crisp, btu I’ve got to be one of the only people who care about that.

The site is set to launch in June so get excited.

All for now, look out for the podcast in the next couple days.

John

SBNation nabs Engadget-ers

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Probably one of the most interesting new media business stories I saw in the last few weeks was the announcement that the original editors of the popular tech site Engadget will be leaving it behind and moving on to a new project in the network of SB Nation.

For those of you that don’t know, SB (sports blog) Nation is a community of hundreds of sports sites that are staffed with writers and editors while also providing tools for readers to produce their own content.  I know so much about them, because I happened to write my final report on them last semester, which you can read here if interested.

The initial question would seem to be why would a guy who is entrenched in the tech gadget field, chose a sports blog network as the platform for his new endeavor.  It appears that the decision comes as a combination of excitement about the platform, ideological similarities about journalism on the web and finally a degree of sickness with the control of AOL corporation which had bought Engadget.

The leader of the project, Joshua Topolsky wrote a post on his blog about the decision and his excitement about the project.  Here is his initial answer to why the move to SB Nation:

“The easy answer is that the people at SB Nation share my vision of what publishing looks like in the year 2011. They think that the technology used to create and distribute news on the web (and mobile) is as important as the people who are responsible for the content itself. … They’re building for the web as it is now. … In short, I was blown away when I saw what kind of technology they’re using to get news on their front page and engage audiences, and even more blown away when I started talking to them about what could come next.”

On the shared feelings about good journalism in this era of internet content:

“But beyond the technology (and possibly more important than the technology), there’s another factor here that’s driving my decision. It’s that SB Nation believes in real, independent journalism and the potential for new media to serve as an answer and antidote to big publishing houses and SEO spam — a point we couldn’t be more aligned on. This is a group of people that not only think independent media works, but are reaping the rewards of new publishing done right.”

Read the full post by Topolsky here.

The story was covered in the NY Times with an excellent piece by David Carr that analyzed the move and looked at all the factors going into this project and what it could mean.  I highly suggest reading Carr’s piece which can be found here.

I am extremely enthused about this project and what it could present for the future of quality content online.  I obviously am a fan of what SB Nation does and it is cool to see that they are gaining some traction and momentum in the industry for the excellent content and presentation that they offer their readers.  Reading Topolsky’s comments provide me a comfort that there are still people out there fighting for new and creative ways to bring good content to readers through the web without cheapening its integrity.

Tweet Me Your Resume… Your Twesume Perhaps

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

For once the title of my post is actually pretty much what the post really is about; who would have thought that worked, especially with a weird title like that.

But it is true, I came across an interesting story a couple days ago that I wanted to share in a quick post to break up some of the long-form posts I’ve had recently.  As we all know, summer internships are one of the best ways to get your foot in the door of the increasingly stingy job market.  With all the listings that are out there this time of year, sports gear company Under Armour has differentiated themselves with a unique application process that utilizes new media in a few ways.

In the spirit of twitter, applicants for the two marketing internship positions “can apply by submitting a 140-character cover letter and resume via Under Armour’s Facebook page through May 12.”

Oh yeah the finalists will be interviewed over Skype as well to add more forms of technology.

The description sounds pretty amazing from a Digital Journal article about the internship.

“The two interns will work with the digital marketing team assisting in various aspects of the business with an emphasis on social media engagement. Called “Ultimate Intern” for a reason, throughout their five-week internship, these students will learn first-hand how Under Armour has become a leader in sports innovation. They will work with some of Under Armour’s world-class athletes, get an up close look into technology that drives the brand’s innovation and will spend time with Founder and CEO Kevin Plank to discuss leadership, entrepreneurship and his vision for the future. Additionally, these students will serve as a bridge to the inside world of Under Armour through the world of social media with daily Facebook posts, Tweets and blog posts reporting on their experiences.”

Focused on social media and brand marketing, it sounds like a pretty sweet internship.  Cool to see a big company really making the intern role something fresh and exciting.

Read the full article here.

And no I’m not bitter at all that I don’t have a cool internship.

Have a good afternoon everyone,

John

If You Build it, They Will Come – The Long Tail

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t think you could have given me a reason not to post that clip once I though of this title.  One of my favorite movies ever and a place I will never forget visiting.  But that isn’t why were here.

This post is about the concept of the Long Tail and why I think it is a viable idea and one that is an integral part of our current content landscape.  The most common example of book or record sales hits even closer for me after being at home and hearing my Dad (a total book nut) talk sadly about the recent going out of business sale at our local Borders bookstore.  The store where we always have gone for books could not keep up with the demand that the long tail represents and was finally forced to shut down.

A traditional graph of the Long Tail

Of course it’s not like my Dad is some old fart stuck in his technology.  His Kindle has more than certainly provided him with an instant supply of books that his old faithful Borders store never would have had in stock.  Sure he loves to stay up on the best sellers, but when you read as much as he does you delve far deeper into the sea of what is out there and inevitably become a consumer of the long tail.

I do not mean to post entirely about my Dad, but I am just using this as an example of why I buy into the idea of the long tail and its place in modern internet culture.  The internet has enabled the long tail to thrive and grow.  As the internet and search technology continues to spread and become cheaper and more accessible to more people, the long tail will grow even more to accommodate them.

In the past, you might have thought of a favorite comic book from your past, checked the one local specialty-comics shop and then given up on your search for that piece of your childhood when they didn’t carry it.  Now, as a part of the long tail, you can search online for a specialty store that stocks that comic book and I bet you are willing to pay a good amount for it since you are so glad they have it.  You could come up with tons of similar examples that prove there is money in the long tail.  I would have no idea where to find a specific retro basketball jersey I wanted of my favorite childhood player, but a google search into the long tail could certainly match me up with someone else who shares a passion for such things.

The rarity of most items in the long tail make it so that sellers do not have to sell as many to make a profit or stay afloat, whereas a major bookstore needs to sell lots of bestsellers in the saturated market to keep themselves running in the more popular head area of the graph.

Not exactly the same usage of the Long Tail, but I thought it was a funny representation.

Certainly it is a different strategy of making money than those in the mainstream market use, but I do not see how it is any less serviceable if executed correctly.  The long tail shows how we are using the internet, especially its unlimited shelf life and wide-cast net, to enhance our lives and reach things, people and places that we weren’t able to reach before when only the most popular items could be stocked for a limited time.

While hearing that the Borders had closed certainly made me sad, it was more out of nostalgia than anything.  I know that I can access any book I wish to purchase in seconds online when a physical store might have let me down.  This is the beauty of the long tail, using our new age of technology to empower us with more choices.  Funny enough over the same break, my dad went on the computer and ordered two books be shipped to my house in LA before I even asked what he was doing in the other room. Funny how that works so well.

Thanks for reading and remember, even if it is only Iowa, it sure is close to Heaven.

John

It’s the Final Countdown… or the Final Project

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

That title is solely a reason for me to link to my favorite song ever; which I may or may not have played in the middle school band. But that is all beside the point.

Ok I admit that I have been terrible at posting on here and keeping up, but that does not mean that I haven’t been working on some excellent ideas.  Since I know I have already messed up the timing aspect of these two posts, I am going to combine both of my final project proposal posts for the sake of honesty and efficiency.

My meeting with Professor McDonnell just before spring break got me really excited because she suggested the idea of me recording a podcast as my final project.  Before that meeting I had struggled to think of what kind of New Media content I could come up with for my final project that would be original and doable.  I have struggled a lot with what kind of content I could write a consistently entertaining and interesting blog about (a thought for another post all together) and was pretty stumped, but a podcast gave me a lot more freedom to try use my voice and try something a little bit new.

I have recorded one podcast before but it went unreleased.  You could say I am essentially a novice at this.  I think that aspect is what made me excited about this project when it was purposed.  Unfortunately my writing fell off the map after Spring break, so I am just now telling you all about my ideas for/about podcasting.  The one podcast I recorded was with my good friend Jackson (who very rarely has his own blog here) last summer just before coming back to school.  With the start of college football a couple weeks away, we thought that it would be fun to cap off a summer of frequent blogging with a podcast preview of the Pac-10 conference football season.

The method we used to record the two-person podcast was very crude.  With Jackson being in Seattle and myself in Phoenix, we had to get real creative.  I looked into lots of techniques that more established podcasts used for hosting guests and such, but none of it seemed easy and cheap enough for us.  In the end, our method was a Skype call over the computer speakers and a running Garage Band recording through the general computer mic.  With the mic picking up the Skype audio not directly but coming out of the speakers and back into the computer, we had to turn it way up to balance the volume with my voice that was recording right there in the room.

We ended up recording over two hours of raw material and then it was up to me to do the editing on it.  This is where we hit a snag.  Turned out Jackson and I weren’t particularly articulate under the pressure of recording – there were a ton of “ums” and “ahs” to go along with lots of awkward silence as we tried to blend together two sets of commentary from thousands of miles away.  I got about half way through the editing out of all our slip ups, but the rate of time to clip and reconnect the audio was just too much for the return and with school starting it never got posted.

I have never been a huge podcast listener, aside from the occasional Sports Guy ones if I have time for them.  So I am starting pretty fresh here in the field of what works and what doesn’t in podcasting, and that excites me.  Luckily I have a little trial and error background, but not too much that I’m not coming into this with an open mind.

Ok I guess that was kind of the first half of the post talking about my general idea and background with the content form of podcasting, now I want to get into more of the specific idea I have for what this podcast will consist of.

After deciding on the idea of a podcast my mind immediately went to “What the hell am I going to talk about?”  Of course I want to talk about sports, it is my greatest passion, but there are thousands of generic sports podcasts out there already and additionally saying that I am only interested in or knowledgeable about sports would be selling myself short.  So I wrestled with some ideas from an LMU sports podcast to completely abandoning sports and going in a direction of movies, fashion or humor.  In the end, my podcast will end up being somewhat a mashup of all those things and more – and hopefully in a good way.

My podcast, the “Week’s Worth Podcast,” came as an idea adapted from a blog idea that I considered for my group project last semester as well as even for this project.  While all the common thought currently is that you have to be hyper local and hyper topical to exploit a niche, I realized that I can’t do that at all (something else I want to expand on in another post).  Whether it is a good blogging strategy or not, I just have interest in and knowledge of too many things to focus on only one small sector.  To solve this problem I came up with the week’s worth idea where a site would provide 7-10 stories per day on one specific topic and then the next day it would change topics – in essence you would have gotten your week’s worth of knowledge on that topic.  Topics would always be the same by day of the week so that you would know what you were getting and which days provided which topic.  While some form of this site still interests me in the future, I realize that in a world where news and content is produced at a break neck pace with no particular news hole, it would take major tweaks to work in writing.

I did realize, though, that since podcasts are expected to come out less frequently and are more for commentary and entertainment, this more sparse idea could be adapted to the podcast format.  This I decided that my podcast, shorter and snappier than that last one, would be cut into sections where the week’s biggest stories in specific areas were discussed.  I am still finalizing all of the topics, but you can be sure that the biggest stories and games to look out for in the sports world will be in there, the week’s biggest movies to look forward to for sure, the hottest new songs of the week, and the biggest news shaking up the world.  All delivered with the hilarity that makes no one except my friends and family laugh.

And of course there will be very liberal use of sound effects, almost entirely from the Gus Johnson

I would pay anything to have Gus (right, for those of you Gus challenged) do commentary on my everyday life. Photo Courtesy of Dave Hogg | Flickr Creative Commons

 

Soundboard.  The only way I can think of making my podcast better is throwing clips of everyone’s favorite excitable announcer in at every chance i get, including the awesome exciting intro.

I currently have put together the intro which will be a combination of music and sound effects – think of all those bad radio show opening sequences with a splash of my personality.  Hopefully that will get people pumped up to listen to me tell them what is important in the world that week.

I want to keep it fairly short, in the 15-30 minute range, because from my experience the longer the podcast the harder it is to keep listeners interested.  Five minutes or so on each topic should be almost enough at least for the first couple podcasts where I am working by myself.  In the future, I think a recording partner could be great for banter and diversity of opinion on the week’s topics.

I think that this is definitely an idea that I would like to continue into the summer depending on the response to this first episode.  While my own life will leak into it I’m sure, I would like to keep it focused on the issues and the content with myself just being a backdrop that provides color and depth to the issues.

That is all that I can think of right now and I am mostly excited to record this in the next day or two and edit it and unleash it on the internet.  hopefully the response will be positive because the content will be focused slightly, but be entertaining and informative.  If you have any ideas of late topics or categories you would like to see thrown in or other ideas, feel free to let me know.  Again I’m sorry I haven’t told you guys about this earlier and discussed it more, but I hope I have brought everyone up to speed and that it is an endeavor some people will care about or enjoy.

Thanks and prepare yourself,

John

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