No tech today. No business. No politics. It's Columbus Day so we'll pretend it's your day off.
Instead it's something completely different. American football. Specifically its analysis, and the best guy working in that field. Tony Dungy (right).
In his first year Dungy has taken over NBC's Sunday Night football show with his quiet authority, with his knowledge and with his humanity. The network found a perfect sidekick for him in the recently-retired Rodney Harrison, but this is Dungy's show and we're all the better for it.
Football needed a new face when John Madden quit, and while it's a surprise to find it in a studio show host you take what you can get. Everyone on the set defers to Dungy, and it's easy to see why. Everything he says is letter-perfect for the moment. He knows the people, he knows the game as very few do (which he's proven) but there's something about his air of calm, reflective authority I find fascinating.
My daughter and I watched last night's U.S.-T&T tilt and for me the big news is we found a center at last.
Football players come in three varieties -- forwards, midfielders and defenders. The first two are sometimes called strikers, the second sometimes wingers. The strikers are the important ones. They put the ball in the onion bag most often.
Think of this as Volume 12, Number 13 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
Let's return to the original beat of this newsletter and talk about Twitter.
Twitter is a bridge between the Web that was and the mobile Web that will be. It is simply SMS message which is visible on the Web and can be broadcast as a channel. My Twitter feed is a channel. Your Twitter feed is a channel.
What makes it a big deal is mobility. People Tweet from what we used to call their phones. But with more and more people carrying iPhones and other devices with keyboard-like functionality, it means you can broadcast your thoughts from literally anywhere. This thrills some people, and it scares other people. It also makes fools of lots and lots of people.
When I say Twitter is a bridge from the Web that was, I also mean that it's a product of Google sensibility -- build it first and monetize it later. SMS is the cheapest form of cellular messaging, and was a vital form of communication for years before Twitter arrived. But it is not cost-free.
So there are lots of possible revenue streams for Twitter. Twitter, in fact, provides an enormous revenue stream for the nation's cellular duopoly. It is to their credit that they haven't tried to scarf up more, that they have let well enough alone. That's an important industry turning point. They have made more money with regular SMS revenues to Twitter than they would have by instantly defining it a premium service.
The Google-like scaling success of Twitter has a lot of people who should be worrying about other things worrying about finding Twitter a business model. The ExecTweets idea has already been panned, but my kids came up with one today without even knowing they were doing it.
What is the most heavily subsidized business in America today?
What other business routinely blackmails cities, counties and states into building billion-dollar palaces for its use, then giving these over to billionaires, complete with all the revenue, and no accountability?
What other business can control its own press coverage to the extent sports does?
"Any rebroadcast, reproduction or other use of this game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited."
Imagine if Rod Blagoyevich could have enforced something like that!
Yet the biggest subsidy for the sports industry does not come from government, but from journalism.
Every newspaper sports page is a commercial for the teams it covers. Reporters don't actually pay to cover games, the way TV and cable outlets pay to broadcast games, but they are more important than either. Because, as Mark Cuban admitted at his blog this week, they bring in the casual fan.
With local print journalism about to go extinct the industry is losing its connection to the casual fan, who brings with him (or her) an acceptance of all the other subsidies. Without the acceptance of the casual fan, how can cities be blackmailed into building sports palaces and giving them to team owners, or how can university alumni be blackmailed into putting millions of dollars into coaches' pockets in hopes that alma mater will get a mention on ESPN?
Newspapers provide more than coverage to sports. They provide cover. By giving sports prominence alongside government, crime, and Dilbert, they create the illusion that the results of such contests are serious news, and that a championship is "making history." Take away the illusion and it's just a TV show.
Cuban's own proposals on this front are, frankly, pretty lame. Subsidize beat writers through some central authority? And how do these reports then reach the casual fan?
It's not the writing that's the problem. It's the distribution, the wide distribution newspapers provided for over a century. Some of that is held by TV, but local TV news has been losing share as fast as the newspaper industry, and it has been cutting its sports coverage as outlets like ESPN take a greater hold on the imagination.
If newspapers had made better use of the Web we might not have this problem, at least not to as great a degree. We would have it, still, because there are still people who don't go online for whatever reason. But publishers ignored every piece of advice from everyone with A Clue for too long, and now lack the capital to command their online markets even if they had the skills.
The answer, for both sports and newspapers, is the same. Or was. (The cost of doing this goes up every year even while the chances of success decline.) It's a single word.
It is almost certain that, in the next few years, Broadway will mount a re-staging of the Broadway musical Camelot, probably with an all-black cast.
This will happen regardless of the election results. If Obama wins, it's an echo of the Kennedy era. If he loses it's in keeping with the play's actual plot, which is that Camelot is destroyed.
How do I know? This is how Broadway rolls. They reprise musicals 50 years after their opening. Kiss Me Kate re-opened in 1999, The Pajama Game in 2005. Camelot, which first opened in 1960, is due.
That's sort of forgotten these days because, in its first run, Julie Andrews took it over. It was all about the singing. She was a marvelous singer. But at that time, she wasn't a great actress. She wasn't ready to play the villain.
That's what Guenevere is, the villain. And that's what she will be when the play is re-staged.
Why an all-black cast? Because, frankly, there are more really talented black folks ready to grab these parts right now than white ones. (Brian Stokes Mitchell doesn't count. He's played both Coalhouse Walker, a black man in Ragtime, as well as The Man of La Mancha and the lead in that Kiss Me Kate I mentioned earlier. If you want to re-do Flower Drum Song I'm sure he'd be great.)
Rather than concern ourselves with the details of the re-staging (what might be added, or dropped, what might the costumes look like, or the staging) it's far more fun to play that great Hollywood Game -- I wanted, I'd take, I got.
As in I wanted Laurence Olivier, I'd take Dick Van Dyke, I got Dom DeLuise. Only to make this game even more sporting, let's play it this way. Who plays the role on Broadway, who gets it in the Hollywood motion picture, and who goes about touring it in the sticks?
Over the weekend my daughter and I decided to visit a local bar and watch the footy. Italy was playing Spain somewhere in Austria, and we thought it would be fun to spend time together before she travels to Italy for a summer semester later this week.
The place was mobbed. We couldn't get a view of the TV. Had to come home.
This is no longer unusual in America. It's seldom remarked upon, but it may be the most important sports story of the decade here. Ordinary Americans are dropping their obsessions with baseball, NASCAR and basketball to cheer on a bunch of guys in shorts doing what their kids do on Saturday mornings.
Now some of these people are immigrants. Some of these people are kids who grew up on soccer. But I'm beginning to believe, increasingly, that some of it is political.
The game was over by the time Landon Donovan was scratched, ostensibly with a groin injury, but in fact so as not to detract from teammate David Beckham getting his 100th (and last) cap for England. Becks later set up the first English goal, then showered and wore a nice suit during the second half.
He wears a suit well. More on that later.
Without Donovan, we had nothing to offer in attack. We had Euro-scrubs, guys like Eddie Johnson and Carlos Bocanegra who couldn't play for Fulham, guys from minor leagues in Belgium, Holland and Germany. Our back line of Cherundolo (too old), Bocanegra (too slow) and Onyewu (too ponderous) could do nothing with the English attack, and Coach Bob Bradley did nothing about it.
It's no longer enough for me to come up on a big occasion and watch our coach act like he's scared of the upcoming Barbados encounter. We've practically got an automatic, every quadrennial bid to the Big Dance now, and it's past time we got to the next level.
The next level, in this case, is beating teams like England, and Spain, and Argentina, in their own buildings, in front of their own fans, with fancy, fast, entertaining, high-energy stuff.
I didn't intend on getting into this, but I had the Congressional hearing on, with Roger Clemens, and there's an important point which needs to be made. (Picture from 108 Red Stitches.)
Does politics really trump everything? Does the truth of something mean nothing? Or is everything just a function of which political party you belong to?
Let's be clear. Roger Clemens is a Republican, a staunch one, a charter member of the "jockocracy" who got rich off sports and thus identifies with the rich.
That fact should mean nothing regarding whether Roger Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs. The Congressional committee should be testing the evidence, and acting in an impartial manner as much as possible.
I don't know the truth, but I have suspicions. I know what Clemens looked like a decade ago. I know what he looks like now. His head is two sizes larger. That is one side-effect of steroid use. And his record over the last 10 years, his success in continuing to pitch well into his 40s, also has to be seen suspiciously. Especially in light of the specific allegations contained in the Mitchell Report, and the further evidence offered by former trainer Brian McNamee.
Every case of conspiracy is, as prosecutors say, a piece of shit. That is you depend on members of the conspiracy, criminals, to testify against others. You expect drug dealers to rat on their customers, customers on their dealers, and you don't judge guilt or innocence based on party affiliations.