Taking The Plunge

As many of the people reading this blog are already aware, I’ve decided to pick up and move to Los Angeles and pursue a career as a TV script writer. As the day of the move draws closer, I alternate between exhilarated and terrified, which I personally think is a good sign.

I don’t have any particular job lined up, which makes this the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done. I’m generally a planner by nature and don’t like to be ill prepared for anything. I think I’m about as ready as can be possible under the circumstances, but the lack of a safety net is still fairly scary.

I’ve saved money, researched places to live and tried to make as many contacts as possible before moving out there. But at this point it’s really just a matter of perseverance, timing and luck. I like to think I have that first quality, but the jury is still out on the other two.

As frightening as the prospect of this move can be, I also think it is exactly what my life needs right now. I was stuck in an unfulfilling job that prevented me from having much of a social life, while most of the people around me fell victim to adulthood and marriage.

I really don’t have much keeping me where I am, and a consistent paycheck has been just about the only thing keeping me from doing this sooner. I’m young, unencumbered and want to see a part of the country I’ve never been able to experience before. So why not pick up, move and give it a shot?

Maybe I’m unique in this viewpoint, but I don’t think I am. The time immediately after college can leave people feeling trapped and unsure of how to proceed with their lives. Most are able to get a real job, make money and start leading productive lives, but that can only carry you for so long.

At some point you realize that “work” is more than just a job; it’s what you’ll be spending the rest of your life doing. If you want to keep food on the table and don’t have the luck of being a trust fund kid, you’ll be spending the better part of the rest of your life working.

As cliché as it might sound, everybody should find a job they enjoy doing every day. Plenty of people will fail trying to find that perfect job, but many more will never try. Instead they end up imprisoned in a job they didn’t really want in the first place.

When you’re a recent college graduate, seeing a comma in your bank account is enough to make you excited. But the pleasure of that wears off after a while, and a little voice in your head starts saying you should go for something more. Far too many people block out that voice.

For me, I started getting the itch to do more creative writing. I’ve always been a journalist and enjoyed it, but one of the most memorable nights of my life came in college when I stayed awake until 4 a.m. to write a script for my fraternity’s stage production.

It was one of those nights that you look at the clock and can’t believe how late it is. Two friends and I spent that time brainstorming ideas, tossing around dialogue and trying to make sure everything was perfect.

I’ll be the first to admit that the finished product was anything but perfect, but it still was exciting. I loved being in a creative atmosphere with ideas flowing back and forth, and I had never really experienced anything like it before.

I passed it off as one nice experience and didn’t really think all that much about it, but it nagged at me once I graduated and got out into the real world. There was a whisper in my head that I might be in the wrong line of work, and after about a year that whisper became a yell.

I couldn’t really ignore it anymore, and thus was my plan to move to LA was born. I’m well aware that I could move to LA and fall flat on my face. I’ve never been professionally trained or educated on script writing, and I could very easily find I have no talent for it. And if I do happen to fail, I’ll accept that, move on and try to find something else I enjoy doing.

But I encourage anyone else who feels stuck in a rut to be willing to change things up, especially if you’re young. There will be plenty of time to find a steady job with a consistent paycheck, but there is precious little time to find something you really love.


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Parks and Recreation’s Rob Lowe Problem

**Note: This is the beginning of a week-long series on some of the best comedies on network television, and the one main problem facing each of them**

In March of 2010, Parks and Recreation series regular Paul Schneider announced he was leaving the show to focus on his film career. To fill that void, the Parks and Rec creators reached out to Rob Lowe and Adam Scott to join the cast.

At the time, Lowe was supposed to appear in a few episodes before leaving again, but received much of the attention surrounding the move. He had a well-established career in television and was well-known nationwide, while Scott was only recognized as Will Ferrell’s asshole brother in Step Brothers.

The message at the time seemed to be, “Parks and Rec is getting Rob Lowe!! Oh, and there’s Adam Scott, too.” But now, their roles have reversed.

Adam Scott the actor and Ben Wyatt the character had a seamless transition into the existing cast of characters in Pawnee. Ben popped onto the screen fully formed, with a fleshed out backstory that informed his current behavior.

Scott also showed instant chemistry with lead Amy Poehler, and acted as a much-needed straight man in a den of weirdos. Pairing Ben with just about any other character has been a comedy gold mine. Meanwhile, Chris Traeger (Lowe’s character) just seemed to drift along aimlessly.

The writers briefly paired him with Ann (Rashida Jones), but that side plot accomplished little more than putting two very attractive people on screen at the same time. After their breakup, Chris has been even more of an issue. He gets shoehorned into B plots with other characters just to give him something to do.

The issue here is that the character originally was supposed to only appear in a few episodes. He was supposed to give Ben an excuse to come into Pawnee before moving on his way. But the star power of Lowe forced the writers into keeping him around, when they clearly had no idea where to go with the character.

Ben is a failed young mayor who never lived down one huge budgetary mistake, so he became a budget auditor to compensate. Chris is a guy in good shape who says “literally” a lot. That’s his whole character.

It doesn’t help that Parks and Recreation has been firing on all cylinders for more than a season now. That just draws more attention to how weakly drawn the Chris character is by comparison. Any time spent giving him a plotline just feels like wasted time that could be better spent on any of the other characters [see: his budding relationship with Jerry’s daughter].

The more time goes on, the harder it will be for the writers to give Chris something of significance. They established Ben’s background quickly when they first introduced the character, but if they do the same thing a year later for Chris it will feel forced.

In my mind, the writers are left with two choices: Leave Chris as he is and just don’t give him a ton of screen time, or give an entire A plot to him that reveals significant pieces of his background. Even better, make those pieces of background be embarrassing, which would be why he hasn’t revealed them sooner.

I have to think the latter path is the one the Parks and Rec writers will take, but it contains some risk. Focusing an entire episode on a weak character has the potential of ruining that episode and making the character even worse. The feeling of wasted time could stretch to the length of an entire episode.

But it’s at least worth a shot, because as of now Chris just does not seem to have any reason to be on the show. That by no means ruins a show that has been evolving into one of the best comedies on television, but it does stand out as Parks and Recreation’s greatest weakness.

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Fantasy Football Shopping List: Wide Receivers

It’s easy to spot the best receivers in the league every year, either because of their own ability or that of their quarterbacks. There’s virtually no debate about which receivers should come off the board in the first four rounds.

But past that, things get much more interesting. With so many players to choose from, wide receiver becomes by far the best position to get good value late in a draft.

At any other position, in late rounds you can’t hope to get anything other than a season-long benchwarmer who can sub in during a bye week. But with receivers, you can easily find guys far into the draft capable of becoming consistent producers if you know where to look.

Bargain Bin

1) Steve Breaston (Round 12)

Breaston has showed flashes of brilliance in his four-year career, even amassing a 1,000-yard season in 2008. He has never really gotten a chance to show his full ability, but that may change now that he has joined the Kansas City Chiefs.

Breaston managed to gain 718 yards and have an average of 15.3 yards per catch last year with the Cardinals, despite being saddled with a revolving door of terrible quarterbacks. He now joins a Chiefs offense that has weapons everywhere and will be coached by Todd Haley, the offensive coordinator and receivers coach in Arizona during Breaston’s best years.

Breaston should step into the starting lineup immediately, and with Dwayne Bowe on the other side of the field he will never receive much attention. Instead he’ll likely end up locked in one-on-one coverage with the weakest part of his opponents’ secondary with safeties unable to provide deep help because they’re too worried about Jamaal Charles.

That could be a recipe for a breakout year for Breaston, and eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark again is not out of the question. That kind of potential in the 12th round is a steal. Breaston also could see work as a punt and kick returner, so keep that in mind if you play in a league that rewards points for such yardage.

2) Mike Sims-Walker (Round 10)

This is the latest you may ever be able to draft a No. 1 receiver in a capable passing offense. Owners are avoiding him because of his frustrating production the last two years, and with good reason. With the Jaguars, he was occasionally dominant but would disappear for weeks on end.

It is certainly possible that the trend could repeat itself in St. Louis. But he is now paired with rising star Sam Bradford at quarterback and new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who led some of the most prolific passing offenses in recent memory.

McDaniels may have flamed out as a head coach, but his results as a coordinator cannot be ignored. If he is able to bring half of that success in the passing game to St. Louis, Sims-Walker could have a huge year.

It’s also important to note that the season-ending knee injury to fellow receiver Mark Clayton apparently has not fully healed after almost a full calendar year, which means Sims-Walker should have very little competition for catches in the Rams’ weak receiver corps.

3) Chad Ochocinco (Round 8 )

The only reason Ochocinco is third on this list is because I anticipate his draft position to rise in the coming weeks. Most fantasy football providers have been slow to update their rankings with the slew of recent signings, which means Ochocinco is ranked as if he were still with the Bengals.

That causes owners to forget about him and has resulted in him falling into the middle rounds. If you have a draft soon, it’s likely he’ll still be sitting there in the seventh round. That would make him the biggest steal on this list.

But if your draft is closer to the start of the season, Ochocinco likely will have risen into the fourth or fifth round. That’s still pretty solid value, considering that Ochocinco clearly has re-invented himself in New England.

He has vowed not to have as much interaction with the media and to avoid Twitter once the season starts, and has called New England “Heaven.” In short, he has a renewed passion for the game, which should lead to improvement in his play. He could easily be an every-week starter, and getting that outside of the first few rounds is fantastic.

Buyer Beware

1) Brandon Lloyd (Round 4)

There is drama happening in Denver, and training camp just started. Lloyd himself has commented on the “Tebow Thing,” the desire of some members of the Broncos’ management to start Tim Tebow just because he’s Tim Tebow.

I don’t think this quarterback controversy will go away, especially if Kyle Orton starts the season and loses a few games. I think that will cause the Denver offense to be disjointed and unreliable, especially the passing game.

Lloyd did have a great year last season, amassing almost 1,500 yards and catching 11 touchdowns. But those numbers nearly matched the ones he put up in his seven previous seasons combined. He’s now 30 years old, is playing for another new coach (one who likes to focus on the run) and with a questionable quarterback situation.

Each of those individually would be cause for concern. All of them together mean you should avoid Brandon Lloyd completely.

2) Greg Jennings (Round 4)

We will always be in Jennings’ debt for being indirectly responsible for one of the greatest sports-related YouTube videos of all time, but on the field he has been infuriating for fantasy owners. He has never been able to consistently produce, but people only seem to pay attention to the few huge games he has every year.

Last season he had a four-game stretch in which he averaged 25 yards per game. In 2009, he was held to 56 yards or less in six different games. He was held to 40 yards or less in four games in 2008. He has never been able to consistently produce from the beginning of a season to the end, yet people still overdraft him.

That is because of his potential to go off for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He is certainly capable of doing that on any given week, but he does it so rarely that he is not worthy of a No. 2 receiver spot on your roster.

You’ll spend every week waffling on whether to start him or not, and then decide to do it because he may put up 30 points. But instead he’ll score two points, you’ll lose that week and want to pull your hair out.

Making matters worse is the fact that the Packers’ receiving corps is slowly starting to look like the Saints’. They have four legitimate receiving threats, including Jordy Nelson and James Jones, both of whom are on the rise.

Ask anyone who has owned Marques Colston over the last few years; a group of several talented receivers means none of them put up dominant fantasy numbers. Expect the same to happen to Jennings. There will be a few weeks out of the season that you’ll really wish you had him, but for the other 14 you’ll be glad you don’t.

3) Brandon Marshall (Round 4)

Apparently the fourth round is just cursed when it comes to receivers, because all three of these guys tend to be drafted right around each other. Marshall could end up stuck in the worst position of the three if Chad Henne remains the Dolphins’ starting quarterback.

Henne is the kind of guy who could make a career out of being a serviceable backup, but he cannot be relied upon to lead a high-powered passing attack. It doesn’t help that Henne has shown frustration at fans asking for his benching. It’s a bit concerning that a quarterback would allow heckling to get to him so quickly.

Regardless, the Dolphins will remain a run-first offense. That will hurt Marshall’s opportunities, which will take another hit from receiving all of the defense’s attention in passing situations. He did manage to barely breaking 1,000 yards last year, but he had to gain 300 of those yards in the last three weeks to do it.

He also only caught three touchdowns all last year, which is unforgivable for a potential No. 2 receiver. He needs to either put up consistent yardage numbers or touchdowns, and Marshall did neither last season. With only minimal improvements to the offense in the offseason, I see no reason to think Marshall’s prospects will improve.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention that he was stabbed in the hands by his wife in April.  While it shouldn’t have any long-term effects on his playing ability, I can’t imagine his thoughts have been focused on football much in the past few months.

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Fantasy Football Shopping List: Running Backs

Running back is arguably the most important position in a fantasy football draft. They tend to fly off the board in the first few rounds, often in a long line of consecutive picks. But if your picks come at the tail end of that string of running back picks, it may be wiser to go a different direction.

Generally, once that stretch of consecutive picks ends, there are a few solid choices that end up falling because all of the other teams start going in other directions. If you choose based on value rather than position, there are still options available later in the draft.

It’s also important to note that you need depth at the running back position. Your starters will likely be hurt at some point, so having a reliable producer to plug into the starting lineup is a necessity. So without further ado, here’s this year’s list of best and worst “bang for your buck” running backs, with their draft position noted in parentheses.

Bargain Bin

1) Shonn Greene (Round 3)

This is a classic case of buyer’s remorse causing a player to become a steal. Greene was a hot pick last season and often was drafted at the end of the first round. He responded by not living up to expectations.

Greene finished the year with just 766 yards and two touchdowns, and broke the 100-yard mark only once all season. That has caused fantasy owners to overreact and avoid him like the plague.

But Greene should have a much more productive season this year. The aging LaDainian Tomlinson is expected to see a much lighter workload this season, and the Jets remain a run-dominant team. Greene should not be your No. 1 running back, but he is more than serviceable as a No. 2 starter.

And with an ability to select him late in the third round, that is a steal. You can focus on taking a top-tier quarterback or receiver with your second pick instead of reaching for whatever is left after the slew of running back picks.

2) Daniel Thomas (Round 7)

The Dolphins’ running back is the most intriguing rookie in this year’s fantasy draft. With Ronnie Brown already gone and Ricky Williams on his way out of Miami, Thomas will immediately step into a run-heavy team as the go-to guy.

Reggie Bush also will be part of the Miami backfield, but he likely will be used more as an all-purpose back than a pure runner. He should not take much of the load away from Thomas, and could help if the Dolphins continue to use their Wildcat formation.

The 6-foot, 230-pound Thomas is capable of becoming the workhorse of an NFL backfield. He rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns on 298 carries last season with Kansas State. Running backs historically also have the easiest transition from college to the NFL, so there shouldn’t be any concerns about Thomas being a rookie.

Still available in the seventh round, when your entire starting lineup should already be solidified, Thomas has the potential to be one of the biggest steals of the draft at any position. He offers no risk, since he won’t need to carry your team, but he could easily becoming a reliable starter if he performs well.

3) BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Round 8 )

In addition to having one of its strangest names, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is coming off one of the most surprising years in the NFL. He had a 1,000-yard season and scored 13 touchdowns while only starting 11 games.

He enters 2011 firmly implanted as the starting running back of the Patriots, whose offense as a whole should only get better with the addition of Chad Ochocinco. New England will remain a predominantly passing offense, which is likely the only reason Green-Ellis isn’t drafted higher.

But playing for that same offense last season, Green-Ellis had a total of 241 touches, which is on par with the rest of the league. Keep in mind that the Patriots should be in position to win most of their games, which will mean they will need to run the clock out late in games.

That means they will need to run the ball, which should result in Green-Ellis getting plenty of easy points in garbage time. They won’t be pretty, but that doesn’t matter in fantasy football.

Yes, Danny Woodhead is in the same backfield, but like the situation in Miami he should be used more as a flex than a pure runner. His presence should not adversely affect Green-Ellis, who you can count on to be a solid No. 3.

Buyer Beware

1) Arian Foster (No. 1 overall)

This pick may be a tad controversial, but again it’s all about value. Foster has had only one good year. While it was admittedly a monster season, it’s still just one sample.

The fantasy football landscape is littered with guys who catapulted to the top of the draft because of one good year and then never repeated their success (Matt Forte anyone?). It’s a much safer investment to go with Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson, guys who have proved productive for years on end.

This is only a question of selecting Foster first overall. That pick has to be a 100 percent guarantee, and I just don’t think Foster can be that after only one successful season. The Texans focused much more on the run last year after the loss of Andre Johnson, and will not have the same game plan with Johnson back in the lineup.

The Texans likely will have a much more balanced attack, which could be beneficial for Foster’s productivity. It could open up defenses and give him bigger holes. Or it could take away from his touches and yards, and Johnson’s dominance in the red zone could cut into Foster’s touchdowns.

There’s just no way of knowing, which you should never be able to say about a No. 1 overall pick. If you get the No. 4 pick and Foster is still sitting there, grab him. But if you get the top pick, I recommend the proven dominance of Peterson or Johnson.

2) DeAngelo Williams (Round 4)

Why DeAngelo Williams remains a relatively high pick, I have no idea. Yes, he’s only two years removed from a 1,000-yard season and is only 28 years old, but he’s coming off a year cut short by injury and is playing for a dismal offense.

Nobody on the Panthers’ offense can be trusted this year, since it’s impossible to know how much improvement it will see. Jimmy Clausen looked plain awful last year, and if he remains the starter teams will stack the box and focus on Williams and teammate Jonathan Stewart.

If Carolina chooses to go with rookie Cam Newton under center, that could present even more challenges. Breaking in a rookie quarterback in a bad offense was exactly what the Panthers did last season, and things did not look good.

Williams also will have to deal with the previously-mentioned Stewart getting short-yardage and goal line carries as well as the emergence of the young Mike Goodson. Goodson flashed brilliance replacing Williams last year, rushing for back-to-back 100-yard games while also catching 40 passes.

A crowded backfield, a young quarterback and a struggling offense in general do not make a recipe for a successful running back. He certainly is not worth picking in the fourth round, with guys like Dez Bryant, Wes Welker and Ryan Mathews still on the board.

3) Peyton Hillis (Round 3)

Hillis’ value skyrocketed last year when he came out of nowhere and took the league by storm for the Browns. Everybody remembers that part, but seems to forget that he visibly faded down the stretch. He averaged just 55 yards in the last five games of the year and did not score any touchdowns in that span.

Hillis’ obvious wear as the season progressed caused the Browns to sign a new backfield mate in Brandon Jackson. Jackson joins Hillis and Montario Hardesty in a pretty talented backfield, which should prevent Hillis from getting the number of carries he did last year.

Hillis still will be used in goal line work, so he should still rack up a sizable number of touchdowns. But he won’t put up comparable yardage numbers, which means he’ll be very inconsistent.

His overall production will depend on touchdowns too much, so when Cleveland plays a solid defense Hillis cannot be relied upon for strong numbers. And Cleveland will face the Ravens and Steelers a total of four times in the final five weeks of the season, which is when you’ll need production the most. Plus, he’s on the Madden cover this year. Just saying.

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Fantasy Football Shopping List: Quarterbacks

With the NFL lockout mercifully over, it’s time to turn our attention to fantasy football. With a shortened offseason and a still-continuing whirlwind of roster activity, this promises to be one of the most interesting fantasy football seasons in recent memory.

While many outlets choose to focus on analyzing the first few rounds of the fantasy football draft, I like to go with more of a “bang for your buck” approach. It’s important to realize where certain players will still be available so you can plan ahead.

So beginning today I will be breaking down a fantasy football grocery list of sorts for each position. Included will be players you can find in the bargain bin, and others you should be wary of. This is not a statement on the overall quality of the player himself, but rather his production relative to where you can draft him.

I have taken part in two drafts already this year, and I will include in parentheses the round (or pick if it’s in the first round) in which each player was selected in a 10-team league. Today we start with quarterbacks.

Bargain Bin

1) Matt Ryan (Round 6)

Ryan has been solid in each of his three NFL seasons, and is coming off his best performance thus far. He is not a particularly sexy pick, since he very rarely will put up monster numbers like Drew Brees or Preyton Manning. But Ryan is the model of consistency.

Last year, he had touchdown passes in 15 consecutive games and threw multiple interceptions only twice. He plays behind a stellar offensive line, which only allowed 23 sacks all season, third fewest in the NFL.

All of the pieces around Ryan also remain intact, including favorite targets Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons do tend to focus on the run, which is the main reason why Ryan tends to fall in the draft. But he still finished last season with 261 total points, an average of 16 per game.

2) Josh Freeman (Round 6)

Freeman is a popular pick to make a major leap this season, and with good reason. The Buccaneers are stacked with young talent throughout the offense, and Freeman has progressed significantly faster than most people anticipated.

He has a cannon arm and at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds is a chore to bring down. He showed remarkable improvement in pocket awareness and quick decision making last season, finishing with only six interceptions on the year.

His final season stats were somewhat inflated by a five-touchdown performance against the Seahawks in Week 16, but like Matt Ryan he was consistent. He did not have any games with more than 300 passing yards last season, but expect that trend to end at some point this year. This could be the last time Josh Freeman is available outside of the first few rounds.

3) Kevin Kolb (Round 12)

Kolb has the potential to be one of the biggest steals of the fantasy football draft. He is a guaranteed starter on a team with Larry Fitzgerald and Todd Heap, already giving him two solid receiving options right off the bat.

Kolb had up-and-down production during his tenure in Philadelphia, looking brilliant one week and mediocre the next. He has a tendency to get rattled and rush throws under pressure, which could be a significant problem behind a bad offensive line in Arizona.

But if his line gives him time to throw, Kolb has shown an ability to pick defenses apart. The Cardinals undoubtedly gave up too much to get him, but that doesn’t matter in the fantasy world.

As late as you can draft him, Kolb gives you zero risk. If he doesn’t pan out, you can just drop him for somebody else. But if he is able to produce, he can be a solid backup or good trade bait to a team whose top QB gets hurt.

Buyer Beware

Michael Vick (No. 7 overall)

The Eagles have been the biggest movers of the shortened NFL free agency period, and an already dangerous team has gotten even better. Vick still will have weapons DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin at his disposal, as well as a two-heading running attack of LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown.

So Philadelphia’s offense still will be outstanding. Placing Vick in this category is not an indictment of his play or an indication that he will have a bad season. It’s just a question of value.

Vick is off the board in the first round of nearly every league, taking a spot that could have been used on an elite running back or receiver. Meanwhile, guys like Drew Brees and Philip Rivers will still be available in the third round.

It is a much better strategy to use your first pick on a running back or receiver, because there is a massive drop in production at those two positions. But at quarterback, the loss you’ll take falling from Vick to Brees will be minuscule. Think of it this way: Would you rather drop from Vick to Brees, or Ray Rice to Matt Forte?

Plus, keep in mind that Vick’s ridiculous numbers came during a year in which teams were unsure of what he still was capable of doing. He took the league by surprise, but now teams have a full year of tape to study.

He likely will put up big numbers because of the talent surrounding him, but he won’t be as godly as he was last season. His style of play also makes him very vulnerable to injury, and the Eagles’ offseason moves have them public enemy No. 1. Vick will get everyone’s best shot, and he has only shown one year of solid production. That is far too much of a risk to use on your No. 1 pick.

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Bruce Feldman and the Evil Empire

ESPN has been the king of the sports media industry for years now. Other networks have their own sports programs that have at least attempted to challenge ESPN’s throne, but for the most part they have failed.

There’s a reason why ESPN has been so dominant. It provides the most comprehensive coverage of the nationwide sports world, allowing viewers and readers to go to one place and find everything they want to know.

But as the ESPN brand has gained more power, it also has shown heavy-handedness and an unwillingness to open itself to criticism. It has been quick to suspend its on-air talent for tarnishing the “ESPN image.”

Some of those suspensions have seemed silly or unjustified in the past, and some of them created minor stirs among fans. But nothing compares to the firestorm surrounding the “suspension that wasn’t a suspension” of Bruce Feldman.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here it is briefly. As reported by SportsbyBrooks, ESPN suspended Feldman for his part in Mike Leach’s book Swing Your Sword.

Leach was fired from Texas Tech after a conflict with Adam James, the son of ESPN analyst Craig James. Leach filed a defamation lawsuit against James and the network, and in his book did not have kind things to say about any of the people involved.

Feldman received permission from his employer to take part in the book, but that was before Leach’s firing and the upheaval that followed. And when the book came out and the ESPN brass saw the words in print, they decided to put Feldman’s work on hold.

Feldman is arguably ESPN’s best college football writer and is one of the most respected men in the business. So much so that when the story first surfaced, writers for rival organizations jumped to Feldman’s defense.

Writers from Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports and other outlets took to Twitter and began a #FreeBruce campaign in support of Feldman. The movement erupted, resulting in both the #FreeBruce hashtag and Bruce Feldman’s name becoming trending topics within an hour.

The story made ESPN look terrible for supposedly suspending a talented writer for doing a job that he already had asked permission to do. One popular tweet went so far as to call it “ESPN’s Waterloo,” and an unnamed ESPN employee said he would rather be fired so Bruce could get his job back.

The network refused comment on the situation for a full 18 hours before releasing a statement that essentially said Feldman had never been suspended and the whole thing was just one big Internet rumor. The statement claimed the network just needed to evaluate Feldman’s participation in the book before approving him for additional work.

The problem here is that ESPN tried to turn the whole issue into an argument of semantics. They pretty clearly asked Feldman to stop what he was doing and to discontinue using his official ESPN twitter account.

But the statement and ESPN’s subsequent coverage of the issue didn’t fully address the Feldman situation in and of itself. Instead it attacked the original report by SportsbyBrooks, calling it a “sports gossip blog” and saying it was reporting rumor as fact.

Instead of owning up to a mistake and setting it right, ESPN tried to pretend a mistake was never made and turned the entire thing into a “he said, she said.” That’s exactly what happened, as the argument of semantics made it impossible for anyone to confirm wrongdoing.

And now, more than a week after this whole thing started, nothing has been resolved. ESPN claimed it never suspended Feldman, and yet in the same statement said they were allowing him to “resume” his duties. Why would he be resuming anything if he was never asked to stop?

They tried to compare the Feldman situation to timeouts in a football game, saying that when a timeout is called the game is not suspended, it just stops briefly. But that’s exactly what suspension means: “An interruption or temporary revocation.” It doesn’t matter how long that interruption lasts, it still is a suspension.

And if there never was a suspension, why has Feldman still not tweeted since everything went down? He now has gone eight days without a single tweet, when he generally wrote multiple posts every day before that. He had not gone more than one day without writing something all year.

And yet ESPN just gave one vague statement on the issue and then acted like it never happened. The implied statement in all of this is that ESPN has grown so large that it can do as it likes with its employees.

It is the new evil empire, dispensing the people that make it run without remorse. The network wants to maintain this infallible image that is impossible to achieve, and swiftly punishes anyone who speaks ill of it. And in this case, it swiftly punished a guy just because he could be connected to someone who spoke ill of the network.

But worst of all is the fact that none of it really matters. ESPN is this self-fulfilling monster feeding on its employees because it knows hundreds of people will gladly try to jump into the same spot. And at this point, the monster is unstoppable.

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What’s Really Wrong With the Emmy Awards

The nominations for the 2011 Emmy Awards were officially announced today, and as usual most casual conversation instantly turned to the snubs. While I could go through all the reasons why people like Nick Offerman or Sean Bean deserve nominations, those likely will be done to death by the end of the week.

And really, the snubs themselves aren’t the problem. They are just the symptoms of a larger disease that plagues the entire Emmy process.

The Primetime Emmys have always involved far too much politicking. There are some actors and shows the voters absolutely will never recognize regardless of quality, and there are others they will nominate every year. The voters seem to treat nominations like a statement on series as a whole, when they are supposed to be focusing strictly on the past season.

The result is something similar to what happens with All-Star Games in professional sports. Since the fans – who are the most biased people you could possibly ask to decide such honors – get to vote, they just pick their favorite players.

That’s how Derek Jeter gets elected to the MLB All-Star Game despite a subpar year, or Yao Ming gets elected to the NBA All-Star Game despite suffering a season-ending injury that also essentially ended his career.

It’s also how Glee and Hugh Laurie end up on the ballot again when their respective shows have seen significant dips in quality recently. The Emmy voters are just biased when making selections as random fans are for All-Star games.

It doesn’t help that the pool of Emmy voters looks something like a retirement home. That rewards TV shows that skew older, which normally is the exact opposite demographic for which shows aim. The most prized group for advertisers is males 18-35, not males 50+.

If the inherent bias of the voting body isn’t enough, the Emmy process is also hamstrung by the required selection of one highlight episode. Each actor is required to submit one example of their best work that season, which is an absurd way of doing things.

Even in the midst of a mediocre season, a show still can be capable of knocking one episode out of the park. So such a show can easily steal the spot of a competitor that consistently provided high quality all season.

That’s like actors being forced to choose one five-minute clip from a film to put forward for consideration as Best Actor at the Oscars and ignoring the other 90 minutes of the film. It’s ridiculous.

The process is especially damaging for drama actors. I’ll use the example of Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones. The best part of her Season 1 performance was her portrayal of her character’s transformation from fearful and abused sister to powerful and confident warrior queen.

But how can any of that be shown to the Emmy voters if all they ever see is one episode? They may appreciate the performance of that one hour, but have no idea how well Clarke showed a full range of emotions and characteristics across a season.

The greatest indictment of the Emmy system actually comes courtesy of the Television Critics Association, which provides its own awards. That body of writers consists of vastly different ages and tastes, but contains people paid to maintain their objectivity.

The result is a much more diverse and interesting group of nominees. Shows like Community and Terriers receive the recognition they so richly deserve but will never receive from the Emmy voters just because they lack star power or hit status.

But unlike the critics association, it seems that Emmy voters cannot be troubled to keep up with a variety of shows or make themselves aware of full seasons. So why are they being trusted to decide who they should honor? They have no grasp on the industry on which they are voting.

The snubs and ridiculous inclusions will continue every year because they are a byproduct of the system itself. Until the voting body is diversified or its subjectivity combated, nothing will change. And unfortunately that will never happen.

This Year’s Emmy Ridiculousness:

Glee Nominated for Best Comedy Series

I get that the series is much beloved, and I’ll admit that the first season had some solid moments deserving of credit. But the show has devolved into a mess that even critics no longer fully support. The show employs talented singers and choreographers, but the plotlines and dialogue are absolutely horrendous. It should be considered a musical or variety show rather than a comedy.

Modern Family Receives Four of the Six Supporting Actor Nominations

Modern Family is consistently the funniest and most well-written sitcom on network television. I have no problem with any of the awards it wins, because it deserves them all. But it should not receive nominations for every actor involved in it.

I’m fine with two actors and two actresses getting nods, but frankly it’s unfair to essentially shut out every other show just to stuff the box with Modern Family nominations. At this point it seems like the voters would just feel bad singling out one or two actors to not receive nominations, so they just include everybody. While they leave out people who know they would never win, but would be deeply honored just to be nominated.

Harry’s Law Receives Two Nominations

Here is by far the best example of the Emmys skewing old. Kathy Bates received a nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series for Harry’s Law, which can only hope to one day be called mediocre television. Bates took a place that could have been given to Katey Sagal for Sons of Anarchy or Emmy Rossum for Shameless. The only reason for Bates’ nomination is that she’s Kathy Bates. Harry’s Law now has been honored with the same number of nominations as The Wire. Just think about that for a second.

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