MMOD technology fascinates me

Yes, I’m watching some basketball these days. Actually, right this minute. I have a very little experience with streaming video (hey-o, Creighton!) but despite that I remain interested in streaming tech. At least enough to find this article on the technology behind CBS’ March Madness On Demand offerings pretty interesting. Maybe even fascinating. But I might also be a geek.

19.32

Just another example of awesome data display hammering home a point. This is a chart worth seeing. Reminds me a lot of some of the best of Tufte’s work. Simple, but unmistakeable. Oh yeah, and did you see Bolt run the 100? As someone said, Day-um. Via kottke, of course.

Blessed with some real sports: Soccer and F1

I don’t know what is going on, but the last week or two I have been blessed with some real sports on TV.  Last night I watched the final game of the Euro 2008 soccer tournament, where Spain came through with the win.  (Thanks to this awesome goal by El Niño Torres.)  And tonight I am watching the French Grand Prix of Formula 1.  Now if I could just get WRC coverage and curling.

Wrapping up the sports season of a lifetime

Now that college basketball is over, I can mark the end of the most amazing sporting season I am likely to ever enjoy.

First the Red Sox win the World Series (again).  Then KU’s woeful college football program pulls the most amazing performance ever out of its collective bum, ends the season 12-1 with a victory in a BCS Bowl… probably the best KU football season ever.  Then the Patriots make it all the way to the Superbowl (where they lost, sure, but it was a fun season to watch).  And finally, the KU men’s basketball team goes all the way, winning the National Championship, and possibly completing the best season ever for KU’s storied basketball program.

It has been a lot of fun.  It’ll never happen again.  (Possibly because I’m trading my baseball fandom for a return to soccer…. baseball has lost me with all the scandals.)

Thoughts I had while watching Kansas win

Watching the game last night, there were a lot of non-game related things I wanted to touch on.  This might be of more interest to those of you who haven’t been following KU basketball all season.

  • God.  In all the player interviews before the game, during all the plays of the game, during all the celebration afterwards, in all the articles about the game, and even in what I saw of the post-game pressers, God was mentioned three times.  Just three times.  I find that surprisingly low.
  1. Mario Chalmers pointed to the sky a little while after his game-tying three point shot.  This is the classic, “Thank you, God” gesture used in sports all over.  Or maybe he was pointing to the Jumbotron.
  2. Ronnie Chalmers, Mario’s Dad, carried a little bit of scripture in his pocket ((Source: Luke Winn’s ESPN Tourney Blog, about halfway down the article)), and read it to himself quietly towards the end of regulation.
  3. Calipari, the head coach of Memphis, told a reporter right afterwards that he told God, during Derrick Rose’s one-of-two final free throw appearance, that if they both went in, it was meant to be, and if they didn’t, it was not meant to be.
  • Ed Hightower was the Referee for the game.  I remember him well from our seven years in Iowa City.  His main stomping grounds is the Big Ten, though he’s doing more games in the Big 12 (where we are now) lately.  Incidentally, he was also the Ref for the last time KU won the Big Dance, in 1988.
  • When they set out the ladders for the net snipping, the ladder was rather modestly emblazoned with the company’s name, Werner.  They did get a Greg Gumbel announcement as the Official Ladder of the NCAA Tournament, but really, I would have made sure the cheap seats knew who made the ladder.  And nobody fell off.
  • Related question: who makes the scissors that are used?  Those things are sharp.
  • Another related question: Do the ladder/scissor companies cheat?  Like how burgers in commercials are faked up to look better than they are in reality.  Are the steps gummed up to ensure nobody slips?  Are the scissors ground extra-sharp, to a level no homeowner would be allowed to have?
  • Bill Self, the KU coach, is reportedly going to be offered the Oklahoma State coaching job (his alma mater) for something like $3.5 million a year with a $6 million signing bonus.  That’s $10 million for showing up for a year.  Most people seem to believe he will stay at Kansas, but get a nice salary bump from his current $1.4 million annually.
  • How classy is Roy Williams (coach of Carolina, former 15-year coach of KU)?  He stuck around for this game, and even allowed a Jayhawk sticker be stuck to his black sweater.  He even wore it during a halftime CBS interview.  I think any animosity Lawrence had for him is gone now.
  • It took a little while for articles about the game to get published, but several were out within hours of the end of the game.  Which means these sportswriters must have notes, ideas, even partial articles written before the game even begins, right?  A collection of these “What if” drafts could be fascinating for a sports fan to read.
  • There’s only one Luther Vandross song I can stand ((Official CBS crappy controller with commercial, or Unofficial YouTube sure to be pulled edition)).
  • We will probably pick up some sort of Championship DVD Commemorative Video Package Season Thing when they come out.  I never did understand that.  But having watched these kids for two years, having watched every game this season, knowing their stories and watching them play last night, I think I’d like to watch it again in five, ten, fifteen years.

We watched KU win the National Championship

We watched the game at home, live (not delayed via TiVo), as it tipped late enough that we were done with all parenting duties.  Our boys were tucked safely in their beds, dreams of Jayhawks dancing through their heads.  They both wore their new KU shirts to school, and the littlest one (he’s 22 months old) insisted on showing everyone his “J Awk,” even if that meant taking his hoodie off repeatedly.

We were hoping to watch in HD and listen to the local guys on the radio, but when we started the game, the video was behind the audio by almost five seconds.  That means the “shot was good!” before the play had even been set up on screen.  Something happened at half time though, and it was all synced up, so we got local color for the second half and the overtime.  The local announcers are so delightfully biased (and I still believe Packer and Nance were entranced by the idea of Memphis) that it makes up for their being further from the floor/booth stats.

Watching this game was awesome.  It was just the two of us, Sweetie and I, but we were up and down, nervous, groaning, I know I cursed at the screen repeatedly, Sweetie was tense, literally on the edge of her seat.  We could hardly believe it when Chalmers’ shot went in, and when it was all over we rushed outside to hear the screaming and honking and fireworks from downtown.

Then we watched it over again (thanks to TiVo) with the TV audio, just to see it once more.

Here are my thoughts on the game.  Please note, you may have to know something about basketball, college basketball, and/or KU basketball to grok much of this.  Sorry.

  • Here in Lawrence they are calling it “Mario and the Miracle,” a reference to KU’s last championship team, dubbed “Danny and the Miracles” after Danny Manning (now a KU assistant coach).  But I much prefer the simpler, more apt, “Super Mario.”  In my two paltry years in Lawrence, I’ve seen Mario Chalmers take a clutch shot like that a number of times.  And not one article before the game, not a single one from the National Media, singled him out as anything other than part of a guard foursome.
  • All season, Hell, all of his two years, Darrell Arthur has been hailed as this great, athletic, wonder boy.  All of his two years I have failed to see it.  Some games he has been good, even great.  Most games he lets balls slip through his fingers, he fouls a lot, he contributes a few points.  But this game he was excellent.  20 points and 10 rebounds, and a cool hand from start to finish.  His potential is so high that he’ll probably jump to the NBA, but this was an excellent parting performance.
  • Sherron Collins, instrumental in the game, is a player I love and hate.  I cussed him up and down the floor both in this game and the Carolina game on Saturday.  He is maddeningly bullheaded, but mad-skilled, and for every time he drives the lane against four guys and loses the ball, or passes to nobody, or dribbles it off a teammate’s foot, there are those times he strips the ball, weaves the trees for a score, or drains a  three at the crucial time.  One more year in school and he will be something to see.
  • How important was the review of that three-pointer?  If the officials didn’t have the ability to go back and examine that play, KU loses and the game gets a huge asterisk (at least, here in Lawrence).
  • Only one analyst gave KU the nod before the game.  Jay Bilas, of ESPN, has been picking KU since October.  Every time he was asked about it during the tournament, he reaffirmed his pick.  Right before the game, he said it again, though he hedged his bet a little.  Hats off to him.
  • They are calling this team the best team KU has ever produced, and they are calling KU “Basketball’s most storied program.”  That makes this the best team ever from basketball’s most storied program, in case you were wondering.

This may have been the most fun I have ever had watching sports, right up there with Argentina’s win in the World Cup Final in 1986.

Preparing for the Big Game

Tonight is the Final game of the 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  The University of Kansas, where I live (and where I am newly employed!) is playing in this game, against the University of Memphis.  Tip off is at 8:21 pm, our time.  That means the boys will be in bed, and we can watch it live, with the radio guys announcing alongside.

I am terribly nervous.  Our game on Saturday was awesome, and frightening, and shows exactly what our team can do, both good and bad.  We need the good to show up tonight, not the bad.

I am doing what I can to help them.  I am wearing a new t-shirt today, but I’ll put the other one on before the game.  That’s the one I’ve worn for each game this Tournament.  The boys both have new t-shirts they are wearing (I think I have yet to see a single person today who is not wearing some sort of KU merchandise).  We have our flag out front (the house came with a flag socket).  I have a new hat (one that fits, yay).

It’s all I can do, except wish them luck.

KU plays the game of its life to get to the NCAA Final

Best headline so far this morning is from the local guys, “KU cools heels.”  Followed closely by the subhead, “Kansas beats tar out of UNC.”  I’m sure sportswriters who cover Carolina all the time have used these before, but this was my first exposure to it.

In case you missed it, read this recap of the game by Stewart Mandel of SI.  And this article by Pat Forde of ESPN is an excellent summary of the good and the bad of the game.

We could hardly believe it.  Those first fifteen minutes were pure agony.  Kansas ended that run up 40-12, and Tiffany and I were horrified.  All season we have had a way of blowing huge leads like that, of getting incredibly sloppy and nearly losing games.  Of showing how terribly immature we can be.  So a lead like that terrified us.  And rightly so.

But unlike all those years at Iowa, when Steve Alford would take a bad situation, coach his guys, and make it worse, Bill Self is actually a good coach.  He reset the game after UNC’s stunning comeback, and had the guys playing well again.

I admit that I have not seen Memphis play all year, but from what I read and hear, they can beat us.  And maybe they even should beat us.  Just like Carolina.

On the “We Hate Roy Williams” front, even after being beaten by his former team, he reportedly spent a while on the River Walk in San Antonio last night, posing for pictures with Kansas fans and even spending a little time at a Kansas-fested restaurant, chatting with any and all.  If nothing else, that shows the idiocy of this supposed bitterness.

See you Monday night (or Tuesday morning, more like).

In the Final Four: thoughts on the Tournament so far

So, Kansas made it into the Final Four.  Barely. ((We won 59-57 versus a talented Davidson team that deserved more than a 10-seed, if I do say so myself.  Here’s a good summary of the game.)) It has been an entertaining tournament so far, though there have been few bright spots.  In fact, Kansas is responsible for snuffing one of those bright spots out, the Davidson team was a Cinderella for the ages in the making.

But now that all the #1 seeds have made it to the Final Four (for the first time, ever) we should have a lot of competitive basketball to watch next weekend.

Here are a few of my thoughts so far.

  • I’m wearing my Kansas shirt for every game.  It’s not that I’m superstitious, but just in case.  Plus, Russell Robinson, one of our seniors, asked the fans, “we need you to wear your lucky socks, wear your lucky shirt … whatever you do to help us win the games, you’ve got to continue to do that the rest of the season.”  So I am.
  • I’m doing a lot of laundry, as a result.
  • I’m thinking about buying a flagpole and a flag, too.  Bandwagon!
  • My sports year continues to be charmed.  The Red Sox win the World Series.  KU’s football program goes 10-1, then wins the Orange Bowl.  The Patriots make it to the Superbowl.  And now KU makes it to the Final Four.  I should clearly enjoy it now, as this will never happen again.
  • I see Steve Alford got a contract extension (to the 2015-2016 season) at New Mexico.  And they are welcome to him.  “Until the walls and rafters ring! Go Hawks!” ((That’s from the Iowa fight song.))
  • We (KU, that is) played pretty badly in the last game vs. Davidson.  The pundits said the team was “tight.”  I say they were bad.  Except for the big Russian.  Go Shaka Kaun! ((Yes, that’s a joke, his name is Sasha Kaun, but the announcers tested calling him Chaka Khan for a while.  It flopped.))
  • I’m afraid North Carolina is going to crush us.  We can beat them, but we have to have a perfect game.  At least it should make good Tv.  News articles have been calling it Roy Williams’ nightmare. ((Because he coached KU for fifteen years before jumping to UNC, his alma mater.))
  • This article at ESPN.com on possible scenarios for the Tournament is a fun read now that it is almost over.  It helps if you’ve been watching, of course.

Your thoughts?  Are you even watching basketball, or are you all “Iron Chef is the best, man!”  ;)