Archive for November, 2007

A Good Column, Spoiled

November 27, 2007

In my other blogging “job,” I write about college football, specifically Auburn University and the rest of the Southeastern Conference. In that capacity, I got an email today linking to John Feinstein’s WaPo column regarding Alabama coach Nick “I am not going to be the Alabama coach” Saban and his recent bizarre commentary:

it is impossible not to begin today with one of the worst people in all of sports — and this takes in a lot of territory — Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

Saban is the highest paid coach ($4 million a year) in college football, having taken the Alabama job last winter after categorically denying he was leaving the Miami Dolphins.

Okay, coaches do that. They shouldn’t do that but they do. Saban was failing miserably in Miami, he had already proven he could win big in the Southeastern Conference and he was clearly someone who was meant to coach at the college level where tyrants are applauded as long as they win.

Alabama finished the season 6-6, losing its last four games after coming within a play of upsetting LSU (Saban’s old team) when the Crimson Tide was 6-2. At that point, even after the LSU loss, Saban was being treated the way he likes to be treated: as the savior.

Then came losses to Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe. That’s not a typo, Alabama, coached by the savior, lost to Louisiana-Monroe at home, in the stadium named for Bear Bryant.

A few days after the ULM loss Saban, who can’t stand the media, spoke to the media. In talking about the losses to Mississippi State and ULM he brought up 9-11. And Pearl Harbor.

That’s right, in talking about two lost football games he brought up 9-11 and Pearl Harbor. In Saban-world, those were “catastrophes.” So too were the back-to-back losses in football games. Saban went on to say that catastrophes could be turning points in history and this “catastrophe,” would be, he hoped, a turning point in the history of Alabama football.

Okay, let’s just say this: NO ONE should be allowed to mention catastrophes in which thousands of people died when talking about football — or any sport. Not ever. And certainly not someone who is working at what is supposed to be an institution of higher learning. What kind of message is he sending to his players? If he makes a comment like this in public, what in the world is he saying to his players behind closed doors?

So far, so good. Heck, I agree with everything Feinstein’s said up to this point. Saban is a vastly overrated and overpaid jackass, and his “historical” comparison of Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001 to losing a couple of football game was as beyond the pale as… well, this:

A couple of months ago the right wing media become apoplectic when a liberal organization took out an ad criticizing the leader of the American forces in Iraq. How, they screamed, can you be critical of the man who represents the men and women who are putting themselves in danger every day in Iraq?

Where are those people right now? Why aren’t they screaming about a football coach comparing lost football games to thousands of lost LIVES? Where is the perspective?

Speaking for myself, I didn’t even consider blogging about Saban’s dumb remarks in the political sphere, because they weren’t worthy of that level of analysis. Saban is a monomaniacal football coach who can’t see beyond the horizon of his own tiny empire. He and his dumbassery are not worth the time to criticize in the arena of ideas (although I did take the opportunity to note others smacking him around in the arena of sports).

If I had gone out of my way to inject politics into a sports story, to forward my own agenda on a story that actually had nothing to do with military or political reality, why, I’d be just like…

… John Feinstein. And Nick Saban, for that matter.

Feinstein’s linking of the outrageous MoveOn ad attacking General Petraeus (and other vapid political commentary in the same column) to Saban’s idiocy is not one iota less asinine than Saban’s analogy, and in his big-media arrogance, Feinstein is just as oblivious to that fact as Saban was to the utterly inappropriate nature of the “Pearl Harbor” comments.

You want to opine on politics, John, do it in the editorial section. Nobody reads your sports columns because they want to know what you think about Iraq. You work for the Washington Post; we already know what you think about Iraq.

The Last Man

November 13, 2007

Don’t miss this sad and lovely NY Times piece by Richard Rubin on Frank Buckles, the last living American veteran of World War I.

HD-DVD Swings For The Fences

November 2, 2007

The two-year-old format war between Blu-Ray (Sony) and HD-DVD (Toshiba, Microsoft, and many other partners) got very interesting today. In a “secret” sale (which was widely known about online), Wal-Mart put Toshiba’s HD-A2 HD-DVD player up for $98.87 plus tax at 8AM on Friday.

That’s a big deal.

When standard DVD players first came out a decade ago, their prices weighed in at around $1,000 each, as did the original compact disc players a decade or so before that. At those prices, only hard-core enthusiasts and dedicated first adopters would even think about buying in. It took a few years for mass production and growing acceptance among customers to drive prices down to normal-human levels–call it the $100 barrier–but once they did, the CD and DVD both quickly became the de facto standard for audio and video, resulting in billions of dollars in sales for both hardware and software.

The high-definition video disc world has been held up not only by price–true to form, the first players were all at or right around four figures–but also by a self-destructive format war. Sony, having failed time and again to corner format markets with flops like Betamax and MiniDisc (please, no emails on how either was a great product–they may have been, but they still failed), is trying mightily to own the next generation of video with their Blu-Ray, and thought they’d get there by including a Blu-Ray player in every Playstation 3. The problem is, the PS3 is so expensive, it hasn’t become the ubiquitous device Sony had hoped for. Blu-Ray is by all accounts a great technology, with more capacity than HD-DVD, and Sony’s stand-alone Blu-Ray players have been getting pretty good reviews– but they’re still around $500 each.

The HD-DVD side has been concentrating on price, and they’re taking a huge swing for the fences with today’s sale. It’s a gigantic risk financially. Either Toshiba or Wal-Mart or both are absorbing a very substantial loss by selling these units for $98 (I’d guess just Toshiba, Wal-Mart is too smart to take a hit this big). The HD-DVD drive inside the HD-A2 all by itself is worth more than $98, even without all the associated technology and packaging.

So why are they doing it? To capture the market. I heard people saying it in line this morning: “Hey, for $100, if Blu-Ray winds up winning, so what? This one’s almost disposable.” That argument certainly worked on me; after years of dissing both formats (or more specifically the format war itself), I was up early and at my local ‘Mart my own self.

They sold about 25 of them before running out; Wal-Mart’s sticker price on the player is $198, and many were obviously bound for eBay. That’s not so many in the big picture, but there are lots and lots and lots of Wal-Marts out there. Twenty-five times lots and lots means HD-DVD gets a nice big stake in the ground this fall, and Sony’s going to have to do something to answer, or they’ll be stuck with Son Of Beta.

Big risks. Small prices. Awesome picture. Ain’t capitalism great?

UPDATE: Per Gizmodo, BestBuy is matching Wal-Mart’s $99 price for the Toshiba HD-A2. Now it’s on.