Sunday, September 29, 2019

Basic Cable Reading Time

About two weeks ago, I received a generic, junk mail subscription offer for ESPN the Magazine. I tend to receive this sort of thing fairly often; I still subscribe to about a half-dozen magazines, but these nondescript envelopes usually offer a deal on something I don't read (People Weekly) or I don't have time for anymore (National Geographic). I was about to put the offer in the trash when I decided to skim the new issue of ESPN Mag. I stumbled upon a letter from the editor, where she declared unanticipated that this would be the last print issue. Gobsmacked by the odd timing, I took a picture of the letter and the junk mail side by side and posted it on Instagram.

I've written about my admittedly archaic reading habits periodically (pun intended). The contraction of the print industry is hardly anything new; newspapers and magazines alike have been gradually shrinking in every way since at least the mid-2000s. The ad revenue has been siphoned off by the internet, and paywalls have only been somewhat effective in keeping the old standbys alive. Yet the demise of ESPN Mag still kind of stings.

I like Sports Illustrated, and I respect its history, yet I've never been compelled to subscribe to SI. If a recent issue is sitting in a waiting room, I will definitely skim through it. At the same time, there was a period in the mid-2000s where I adored ESPN Mag. I'll even argue that for a five-year stretch or so, the overall quality of journalism was superior fo SI. That ESPN Mag was published every other week made it feel even more special. Once time in jest, I referred to ESPN Mag as my sports bible. My college girlfriend did not find that amusing. 

For a time, a good percentage of ESPN Mag's content was generated by the network personalities themselves. Everyone from Dan Patrick to Stuart Scott to Stephen A. Smith had a column or regular feature. The vibe was young and freewheeling, yet exhaustively detailed. When ad revenue began to taper off in the early 2010s --and Scott's health went into dramatic decline-- those departments were phased out, and the Mag became a champion of sabermetrics. The top-notch sports-writing was still there, but you had to sift through articles about Mike Trout's WAR and LeBron James' FTA first. It became a more "woke" magazine too; exposes of discrimination and misogyny were balanced out by the sex-positive, annual Body Issue. 26 issues a year was reduced to 24 (they would sit out the month of January) then the Mag quietly became a monthly in Fall 2018.

ESPN can still lay claim to being the worldwide leader in sports, but they've lost grip on their once massive foothold. There are rival sports channels on cable, plus streaming platforms. In the print world, Sports Illustrated was challenged but never vanquished; unless you count The Sporting News or those myriad annual fantasy sports previews, SI has now stumbled into a monopoly. The Mag is its most notable casualty so far. The game was won, but the series was lost.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

32 Teams, 32 Haiku: My 2019 NFL Preview

If you recall from last year, my 2018 preview nailed it. Don't underestimate the brevity of my pigskin forecast. Regardless, its a new season and a clean slate, and I'm breaking it down 17 soma at a time.

1. Bears (11-5). A slight regression/expected; young, dangerous/D will still stifle.
2. Packers (9-7). More Rodgers drama?/Darnell Savage can't be kind/on so-so defense.
3. Vikings (7-9). Underachievers/abound; stud receivers are/stymied by Cousins.
4. Lions (6-10). "Patty Ball," year two/secondary improvements/and same old Stafford.
1. Cowboys (11-5). Dak, Zeke, Gallup, and/Coop hit their stride; playoff wins/are still elusive. 
2. Eagles* (10-6). A full year of Wentz/is crucial; just enough depth/on O to contend.
3. Redskins (6-10). It won't be Keenum/for long; solid D is not/enough in DC.
4. Giants (5-11). Eli mentors Jones/Big Blue now looks very green/a struggle to score.
1. Saints (12-4). New faces: "Who Dat?"/one more great year from Brees might/be enough to reign.
2. Falcons (8-8). These birds are stable/don't fix what isn't broken/Ryan's pass game thrives.
3. Panthers (8-8). Pass-rush improvement/needed; the offense is too/dependant on Cam.
4. Buccaneers (3-13). Not boring to watch/patience for Jameis wears thin/young, raw team struggles.
1. Rams (12-4). A tough sked, spread out/"go Gurley go, Gurley go"/no doubt on rush game.
2. Seahawks* (10-6). No Clowney around/this front seven is unreal/Jarran? Badly missed.
3. 49ers (7-9). Jimmy G's fine but/MacKinnon can't stay healthy/improved on paper.
4. Cardinals (4-12). Once a baseball stud/Kyler must learn that pro snaps/aren't easy fly outs.

1. Browns (10-6). Relevance? What's that?/Even if these Dawgs fall short/they'll be fun to watch.
2. Ravens* (9-7). A defense in flux/no rush to admit Lamar/Jackson is for real.
3. Steelers (8-8). A strong running game/offsets Big Ben's age; could be/a playoff sleeper.
4. Bengals (5-11). Dalton, red bullseye/no one to protect him as/rebuilding looms near.
1. Patriots (13-3). TB12, ageless/the dominance continues/in cupcake division.
2. Bills (7-9). A discrepancy/a wobbly O, stifling D/low-scoring mayhem!
3. Jets (6-10). Le'veon was an/upgrade, but I'm not convinced/Darnold is legit.
4. Dolphins (4-12). After fire sale/Fins' QB controversy/only thing to watch.
1. Texans (10-6). Best of a weak bunch/healthy receivers will make/Deshaun look supreme.
2. Colts (8-8). These Luckless fellows/loaded offense carried by/...Jacoby Brissett?
3. Jaguars (7-9). Will Foles pony up?/A healthy O-line would help/nix '18 hiccup.
4. Titans (6-10). Make or break, Marcus!/New coach, more physical play/and modest results.
1. Chiefs (13-3). A bolstered defense/Pat, beat Brady and we'll talk/but you came close twice.
2. Chargers* (10-6). Philip Rivers is/underappreciated/can't say it enough.
3. Broncos (7-9). Delaware Joe is/an upgrade ...kinda; the D/will force turnovers.
4. Raiders (5-11). AB's helmet woes/distract; I doubt Oakland will/miss this dumb drama.

NFL MVP: Drew Brees, Saints
Offensive ROY: David Montgomery, Bears
Defensive ROY: Josh Allen, Jaguars
First Head Coach Fired: Jay Gruden, Redskins
Super Bowl LIV: Saints 24, Patriots 17