Pygmy Reviews #71 – Sports Documentaries

’85 Bears (ESPN)

One Line Description: The story of the 1985 Chicago Bears, who rode their legendary defense to the Super Bowl.

Although I was too young to live through it I obviously know more about the ’85 Bears than any other football team from the pre-1990s. There was Ditka, Payton, McMahon and one of the greatest defenses of all-time. Buddy Ryan, the defensive coordinator of the team, is likely often forgotten by anyone outside the city of Chicago. It’s understandable since Ditka is one of the 10 most well-known NFL coaches of all-time. But this team doesn’t win the Super Bowl without Ryan, and this documentary focuses on that. It definitely rubbed some Bears fans the wrong way, that so much focus was put on Ryan instead of spreading it around more, but it was a deserved focus.

There probably could have been a little more time spent on Walter Payton as well, but there is only so much that can fit in two hours. There was also almost zero mention of the offense outside of McMahon and Payton. For fans of the team, or people who lived and breathed the ’85 season, this documentary does a good job of bringing back the good feelings. For any football fan too young, or old enough to have forgotten much about this team, this is a nice educator. One thing they didn’t mention though, the fact that four future head coaches in the NFL were on this team (Mike Singletary, Jeff Fisher, Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera. The latter three were never even mentioned in the show). Has there been another team, let alone Super Bowl champs that produced that number?

No Màs (ESPN)

One Line Description: The story of two boxing fights in the 1980s between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.

The boxing episodes of 30 for 30 tend to be some of my favorites. Mostly because the history of boxing is so interesting, especially considering how huge it once was and how much it’s withered. But also because the characters are interesting and I rarely know the stories. No Mas was no exception. This story covers two boxing matches between “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in the 1980s, including the one where Duran basically gives up. The story itself was interesting, but when it’s told by people with first hand knowledge it’s just that much better. It’s funny to hear people say “Ray Leonard” because I don’t think I ever heard anyone leave the “Sugar” off before. It’s also amazing to see the kind of shape Leonard is in right now. He looks like he could be boxing still. This documentary likely felt a lot better to me than it was mostly because I knew nothing about the story and there was a certain level of suspense that came with that. As with a lot of these, the ending is given away a bit at the start but it’s the build up that makes them so good. I would think anyone with a vague interest in boxing would enjoy this one.

Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau (ESPN)

One Line Description: The story of legendary Hawaiian surfer Eddie Aikau

When reading the description for this it sounded really interesting, then it turned out to be pretty boring because looping back around to really interesting. It seems like it’s going to be about surfing and it’s history, but the reality is that it’s about an individual who brought attention to Hawaiians while winning a lot of surfing competitions. There is more to the story, but going to into detail would give it away, suffice to say there is a surprising turn late in the documentary. Overall one the more unique, but weaker 30 for 30s. Would not be on my list to rematch, and if you were going to skip some, this might fill that void. The story was interesting, but something about the way it was told just dragged a bit more than these typically do.

Requiem for Big East (ESPN)

One Line Description: The story of the Big East conference, from beginning to end.

Unlike the Eddie Aikau story, this one is marvelous. Sure it had the advantage of being something I already had background, and even rooting interest of, but it was just so well put together. It’s crazy to see the rise and fall, to death, of a major college sports conference. It’s hard to imagine anything like this happening again because modern spots makes it so hard for an upstart conference to gain enough momentum (and money) to compete with the establishment. That is what makes this story so great, how the Big East found all this untapped ways to grow into one of the best college basketball conferences in the country. This conference really did change the lives of many and impacted several schools in ways that they would have not achieved if not for things coming together as they did. Plus there are so many recognizable figures to anyone that follows basketball. It really seemed like the perfect business model to use a relatively young ESPN to get into people’s houses. There was a lot of foresight, and the founders don’t get enough credit for what they did, although this documentary tries to rectify that. Definitely one of the better 30 for 30s in my opinion.

More  Watch Talk

Michael Simon of Macworld on [the  Watch and apps](http://www.macworld.com/article/3030327/ios/its-time-to-stop-waiting-for-the-apple-watchs-killer-app.html:

But while there may be some 15,000 apps ready for the wrist, few if any are required installing. Even the apps that are essential on our iPhones or iPads are easily forgotten on our watches, forever lost in a spanning sea of circles on the tiny home screen. It could be that the Apple Watch platform is so new, so unique that it needs more time to mature, but it’s been more than a year since the first SDK landed in developer’s hands, and apps being released today aren’t all that much better than the ones that landed on launch day.

Nothing about the  Watch has changed for me since I last wrote about it. In fact it has probably sunken even deeper as a complete waste of money and mostly a failure. I would dissuade anyone who asked me from buying one unless they were so flush with cash that the >$349 price tag is what they spend on a their daily allotment of caviar.

As a watch and fitness tracker, the  Watch remains great. As a relay of notifications from my phone that is super easy to check, it’s still an A+. But all that wrapped into a $349 device is just silly. Seriously, the 42mm  Watch Sport costs the same as the entry level iPad Mini 4 ($399). That’s downright insane when you consider functionality.

And as Simon and many others have stated, apps on the  Watch have not gotten the least bit better since launch. The theory that watchOS 2.0 would be the savior was a massive overstatement. Outside of the information I display on the watch face and the notification relay I do almost nothing on my  Watch. The apps take forever to load, and sometimes they don’t load at all. The screen is so small it’s hard to do anything. For the most part any sort of convenience goes out the window when it takes so long to do things.

I’ll be shocked if Apple doesn’t announce a cheaper entry price for the watch whenever they release a 2.0 version. It doesn’t seem like developers are investing time and money into building  Watch apps because they aren’t going to bring extra income, just extra work. And almost everyone with an  Watch isn’t going to “upgrade” because it’s difficult to see what hardware improvements could drastly affect the clock/notifications/fitness tracking functionality that most people use their  Watch for.

It’s too early to declare the  Watch dead, or even a failure, but this next year is going to be a major indication of whether or not this thing can succeed.

Pygmy Reviews #70 – TV

The Jinx (HBO)

One Line Description: The story of suspected murderer Robert Durst

Before Making a Murderer but after Serial came the HBO documentary The Jinx about Robert Durst and the two murders, and one disappearance that occurred to people he was associated with. The “miniseries” is six episodes and an interesting watch. Durst is a creepy fellow, who does a great job of making you feel sorry for him, when in reality no one should feel too sorry for someone who is handed essentially unlimited wealth at birth. Durst gives his own first hand accounts for each and every event that occurs, and it’s clear from the get-go that the purpose of the documentary is to try and determine whether or not he committed any of these crimes. A lot of information about Durst, and the stories contained within this miniseries, since it aired in 2015, but I will still hold back potential spoilers.

It does a nice job of showing connections between Durst and all of the cases, but also presents evidence (mostly in the form of testimony from Durst himself) about why they don’t make sense. Durst is by no means presented in as much of a positive light as Stephen Avery was, and it seems much easier to go against him based on his chilling speech pattern and mannerisms. I am really hoping they make a second miniseries covering everything that happened after this one because there is a lot more story to be told. That is the only downside here. To feel fully satisfied with the outcome, there is some self reading to be done after viewing this. Otherwise, fitting with the “true crime” type stories that are all the rage, this is a good one.

Another Period – Season 1 (Comedy Central)

One Line Description: Mockumentary about two spoiled rich girls in the early 1900s.

Definitely an interesting premise, and unquestionably a lovely supporting cast (Michael Ian Black, Padget Brewster, Christina Hendricks, Brett Gelman, Jason Ritter) really got me interested. I didn’t know much about Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindholme who are both the stars and creators of the show, but they do a solid job. The show also does an amazing job of playing off the technology and societal norms of the times as well as bringing in famous contemporary characters (usually played by well-know actors) and then getting over the top mocking with them.

Truthfully the show rarely strays from the over-the-top nonsense. And that for me gets a little old after a while. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, but the in between grates on me after a while. Sometimes the jokes just drag on one beat too many. This is not a dealbreaker by any means, but it’s the kind of thing that takes a show down a peg from “great” to “good”. I am hoping that season 2 stabilizes things a bit rather than taking them up a notch in craziness, but only time will tell. The nice part about this show is that while there are story arcs across episodes, they really don’t impact the enjoyment, so it would be easy to jump in at any time. It also makes it safe to say that if you don’t enjoy it after a couple of episodes it’s not likely to get better for you. If I was handing out letter grades this one would be a solid ‘B’, mostly for it’s occasionally hilarious moments.

Making a Murderer (Netflix)

One Line Description: The story of suspected murder Stephen Avery’s trial.

Netflix released this around the holidays (kind of a weird choice) and it came became of the talk of the town (and of course social media). ThIs is the story of Stephen Avery, starting with this prosecution for sexual assault in the 1980s and focusing mostly on his trial for murder in 2005. Overall the documentary is put together extremely well. The fact that it foregoes narration in exchange mostly for exposition from interviews and news clips (with the occasional on-screen text block to fill in certain gaps) makes it feel that much better. Like any documentary it can only contain so much information before it becomes unwieldy, but with 10 hours to fill it did seem like at the times the show went to extremes to tell just one side of the story.

There was immense amounts of backlash following the release of the documentary, including petitions to free Avery. While it’s easy to present a case he is innocent based just on this television series, it doesn’t mean that he is. There was a lot of information not presented, and parts of the trial that are completely omitted. That is one of the ways that The Jinx was a better experience, in that it tried to show both the sides of innocence and guilt. I think that it’s also likely that this documentary opened a lot of people’s eyes to how messed up the criminal justice system can be, and how court appointed lawyers can really hamstring defendants. This was a riveting 10 hours of viewing, but it loses a bit to me because of the widespread assumptions that Avery was innocent based just on this documentary. Also hard to call something “enjoyable” when the subject matter includes a real-life murder and a trial for a man who clearly got a raw deal along the way. Educational and enlightening probably makes more sense.

Fuller House – Season 1 (Netflix)

One Line Description: The story of the Tanners picks up 20-something years after the series Full House ended

Full House was definitely one of my favorite shows as a kid. I’ve watched it as an adult and it’s cheesy as can be, and clearly the kind of show that belongs on ABC Family nowadays. The idea of Fuller House seemed outrageous and stupid, but there was no doubt I was going to watch at least some of it. By now anyone that cares knows the premise (DJ has three boys, her husband dies and her sister Stephanie and best friend Kimmy move in to help her take care of the kids) of the show, which just happens to mirror the plot of the original show almost to a ‘T’. The first episode acts as a reunion that on it’s own is worth watching for anyone that was a fan of the show as a kid. From there the show sort of goes on it’s own path.

There are lots of references to the original series, right down to clips used to tell the current story. The main difference is that this show focuses much more on the grown-ups than the kids, which is probably what most people coming back from the original show want, but that probably makes it a harder sell to kids. Overall the show is actually really well done, and doesn’t sully the reputation of the original series. It’s cheesy, but at times it tries to be. There are lots of great references to old episodes and stories, and plenty of not-so-subtle shots at the Olsen twins who refused to participate (for now). I was incredibly surprised as to how much I enjoyed the show. It’s very hard to do something like this, but getting all of the same cast together definitely helped. I don’t know how long this show will last, but the first season more than exceeded expectations.

The Future of Standalone ESPN

Jefferson Graham of USA Today on standalone ESPN:

Don’t look for ESPN to launch a stand-alone streaming service soon.

Speaking at the ReCode Code/Media conference here Wednesday night, ESPN president John Skipper reiterated several times that he wasn’t ready to go down that road yet.

“We will look at direct to consumer…and decide to be more aggressive when we think it will help us grow our business,” Skipper said.

To use a baseball phrase, if you are scoring at home, this seems like a dumb approach. It reminds me of the music industry in the late ’90s and the newspaper industry in the mid ’00s, the ‘ole “we will adjust later” plan. Sports have a huge advantage over TV and movies because they lose so much value to consumers if not watched live. ESPN has which has five traditional television channels to fill with content though. And for those bad at math 5 x 24 = 120 hours per day of content to fill. A rough guess is that about 10-20% of this is actual live sports. That leaves a significant amount of content that is not important to most people. This doesn’t even factor in how much of this content is straight repeated (a lot of studio shows on ESPN later re-air on ESPN2), or in the case of ESPN News, just repeated over and over again for hours.

ESPN only broadcasts one NFL game per week. While they show a lot of baseball, fans with MLB.TV can directly watch any out of market game they want on the service. The NBA has started granted online access to NBA games as well. It’s only a matter of time before this starts becoming more common place.

As we have seen with HBO Now, it’s not bringing in an earth shattering amount of subscribers, but it has laid the proper groundwork for the future, and let’s customers know that HBO is thinking forward. ESPN makes tons of money off the cable companies, and that is the main reason they like the current model. But don’t undersell how much the cable companies love ESPN. They know that without live sports they would be seeing many more customers move on from traditional cable. The truth is that they both badly need eachother to survive, the difference being that ESPN can potentially survive on their own, while the exit of subscribers to a standalone service would be a huge blow to cable companies.

ESPN already has the infrastructure in place to handle a standalone service, they pushed their (now replaced by the main app) WatchESPN app like crazy for the last couple of years. At some point they will give the cable companies some sort of ultimatum, but they are sure making it seem like that is still a ways off. If they aren’t smart enough to make that move sooner rather than later though, they could be in trouble.

Pygmy Reviews #69 – Movies

Playing It Cool (2014)

One Line Description: A guy who doesn’t believe in love falls for a woman who doesn’t want him.

I stumbled across this movie while my wife was out of town on business. I saw the cast (Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Topher Grace and Aubrey Plaza) and decided I should check it out. Seeing Martin Starr, Phillip Baker Hall and Patrick Warburton in the cast sold me. It goes downhill pretty fast though. There is a regular recurrence of people describing stories/dreams/etc. where Evans inserts himself and Michelle Monaghan as the characters. These scenes tend to be super lame, but the whole movie is for the most part. Martin Starr and Aubrey Plaza are their talented selves, but it’s pretty weak. This guy who is so down on “love” gets completely obsessed with a girl, in complete cliched fashion. The idea seems to be that this is “real” and how we all think it works is not. It is like it’s poking fun at every other rom-com ever, but then copies it. By the time this one was over, it was clear why I had never heard of it.

Road Hard (2015)

One Line Description: A broke stand-up comic returns to the road after years away.

Adam Carolla’s brand of humor is one of those that I enjoy in moderation. My friend listens to his podcast daily, and I just can’t do that. But he is funny and I liked his last movie The Hammer. This one is not as good, but has it’s moments. The thing about Carolla movies is that he doesn’t have a-list people alongside of him, and sometimes the cast is composed of unknowns. That isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it makes the movie feel cheap. A highlight for me as a Bill Simmons Fanboy is the parody of his (and Carolla’s) real-life agent James “Baby Doll” Dixon. The movie has some funny moments, but most of them are from Carolla doing stand-up, or telling stand-up style jokes elsewhere. The story is somewhat interesting, but doesn’t get very deep. And the ending feels kind of just “there”. There are really not any supporting characters to get excited about either. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not particularly good either. I can’t imagine that anyone who isn’t a Carolla fan would actually enjoy it.

Spring Breakers (2012)

One Line Description: Four college girls stumble into a life of crime while trying to get to Spring Break.

I realize that I am not the target demographic for this movie, but man was it weird. It seemed to start focusing on four girls quest to raise money to get to Florida for spring break but takes a weird turn once they get there. The movie is dark and very creepy at times. Nothing accentuates this more than the fact that I didn’t even recognize James Franco until I hit up IMDb. It was definitely a chance for Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez to try and do something off type but this movie didn’t even feel fun most of the time. It feels like someone tried to mash together American Pie and [some movie where regular people become criminals] except that it doesn’t work. It’s like making a peanut butter and tuna fish sandwich. Maybe I am just to old to “get it”, but I like a lot of movies aimed at a similar demographic to this one. But this felt like a big disappointment.

Pixels (2015)

One Line Description: Aliens attack earth in the form of 1980s video games.

Officially the worst (and best by default) movie where Kevin James plays the President of the United States. At some point you have to stop and give this guy credit for continuing to be offered movies like this. King of Queens is a hilarious show, even after many repeats, but at no point is James even the least bit believable as the President. Clearly this movie was not designed to be serious, but this seemed like an unnecessary leap. The expectations for this movie were low, but the fact that such a cool idea failed to clear even the low bar it had is somewhat disappointing. Peter Dinklage is completely wasted, and I would really love to know why he made this. Maybe the pay day was so good or it sounded better on paper. Meanwhile Adam Sandler plays this role he loves where he is just a regular average guy who ends up being way cooler and smarter than the previous 40+ years of his life would indicate. The movie itself was just poorly executed. The idea was cool, and the video games brought to life looked awesome, but the way they defeated each video game character was pretty anti-climatic. Then Michelle Monaghan just starts doing flips and cartwheels on the Donkey Kong platforms, and it’s like “what?”. Kids still seem to love Kevin James and Adam Sandler, and so this movie was probably pretty enjoyable for those under 13. But I thought I would at least enjoy it on a “that was fun” sort of way. Didn’t happen. There are movies that can just be fun. I actually though That’s My Boy was fun, but this movie didn’t feel fun.

Low Power Mode

Apple added something in iOS 9 called Low Power Mode that is designed to turn off a group of features all at once in an attempt to save battery life. When the low battery notifications pop up on iPhone now, they present an option to enable Low Power Mode. Per Apple, this is what that does:

Low Power Mode reduces or turns off these features:

  • Email fetch
  • Hey Siri
  • Background app refresh
  • Automatic downloads
  • Wi-Fi associations
  • Some visual effects

This is pretty smart, and yet another example of Apple thinking of small, incremental ideas that can be super helpful. Graham Spencer wrote on MacStories about how he used this on vacation to ensure his phone didn’t die while being out and about all day.

What is interesting about this set of features affected by Low Power Mode is that most of them also would save on data usage as well. This is when a lightbulb went off in my head about the perfect use for this feature.

I use my iPad Mini tethered to my iPhone quite a bit. When you do this your iPad treats itself like it is connected to any other Wi-Fi network. In other words, a lot of apps have settings that say “only do this on Wi-Fi” and those things are done with tethering, even though technically you are on a cellular connection. It seems odd that Apple designed it this way, since tethering is obviously identified differently by the operating system (there is a different icon in the top status bar when tethered). The issue here is that more data is consumed that I would like because my iPad goes all “fat guy at a buffet” and consumes as much data as possible.

After reading about Low Power Mode, it immediately becomes clear to me that this would at least minimally cut down on extraneous data use. That is until you more closely look at the Apple support page for this feature and see “iPhone only”.

I would love an explanation as to why this is. I suppose it’s some sort of hardware specific to the iPhone, but that seems like a stretch. All this mode appears to do is disable a bunch of features all at once. And why wouldn’t conserving the last precious bits of battery life on an iPad be just as important? All-in-all this one doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Pygmy Reviews #68 – iOS Apps

Elevate (Free)

One Line Description: Brain stimulating games that rotate on a daily basis.

This was Apple’s App of the Year in 2014, which is actually the reason I downloaded it. It’s pegged a brain training game, and while I don’t know if it actually does anything for you long term I find the exercises make me think enough to make it feel like I am accomplishing something. Some of the games are challenging right from the get go, and as you complete them and improve your score the difficulty increases. There are a pretty wide range of games, although you will see them repeat after a short period of time.

The app is very nicely designed and is very aesthetically pleasing. It can remind you to do sessions daily, which is the only thing that gets me to remember to do it with any regularity. The daily sessions are three games In length and most of them take just a few minutes depending on if you fail them completely and have to start over at all. I haven’t paid for the “pro” version so I am not exactly sure if it’s worth it or not, but I have enjoyed it, and my guess is that a lot of people I know would enjoy this kind of brain exercise.

App in the Air (Free)

One Line Description: Flight tracker with ability to share alerts.

I discovered App in the Air via The Sweet Setup and have had the opportunity to use it for both my own trip, and for tracking my wife’s trip. This application seems like it is designed for both scenarios, but could stand to use an option to specify which scenario should be used. One of the nice parts of this application is the push notifications. These include gate changes, which is great if you are the person traveling, but mostly useless if you are just monitoring someone’s flight. There are also push notifications for when the flight has taken off and landed, which are useless for the person on the plane. The app is pretty, and mostly intuitive to navigate around. There is a “timeline” that shows how much time is left for check-in, boarding and take-off which is a nice touch. It also shows airport information including current waits for check-in and security, although it’s unclear whether this information is only based on that provided by other users of the app, or if it’s live data.

Some of the more unique features are the ability to add alerts for someone else via push notifications (so your spouse doesn’t even need the app) and it has a built-in (configurable) checklist that you can re-use to make travel prep more efficient. The app is free, but it’s very limited (no push notifications are the biggest thing). The extra features are based on a “subscription” plan. It’s just $0.99 for 12 months with alerts. There is a $4.99 plan for 5 flights which includes some extra features, though I don’t know what they do. All that rolled together, this is a nice app, but it’s not life changing. There are probably apps out there that do this just as well if not better, and possibly for free. I would probably try out some of those before I paid money for this, but since I have 9 months or so left on my subscription I will stick with it for now.

1Blocker (Free)

One Line Description: Block advertisements, trackers and more in Safari and many in-app web browsers

Ad blockers are a new app category released as part of iOS 9. Ben Brooks has done multiple extensive overviews of several different options. 1Blocker was one of his recommendations the first time around, and it meshed with what I was looking for. The moral argument around ad blocking has been beat to death at this point. I don’t mind the advertisements, but I find the trackers and cookies to be intrusive. In fact I have the actual “ads” unblocked in 1Blocker, but most everything else turned on. How much of a speed/data savings does it make? It’s hard to say, I haven’t done any sort of hard test, and to be honest that isn’t my primary concern. I just would prefer to not have data being scraped at my expense just for using a website. If sites want to counter ad blockers with their own blocking, that is their prerogative.

Back to 1Blocker. It’s easy to use with high level switches for entire categories, and then lower level toggles for each individual entity. It can block specific URLs and cookies and also can whitelist URLs. It also has custom packages that can be created, so the possibilities are expansive. One concern is that this app hasn’t been updated since shortly after it’s initial release. The blacklisted sites and whatnot surely change regularly and three and a half months with no update seems like a long time. The developer has engaged people on Twitter in ways that makes it seem like updates are coming, but you never know. In the meantime this app is getting the job done for me.

HBO Now Numbers Thoughts

Peter Kafka at re/code on HBO Now subscribers so far:

The Internet demanded it for years, and last year HBO finally gave it to them. But so far, only 800,000 people have subscribed to HBO Now, the pay TV channel’s Web-based service.

Emphasis mine.

The sentiment (not just at re/code) is that this is not very impressive. I am not educated enough to know what this number means, so maybe it is unimpressive. It seems like a pretty good number for 6 months though. This service only makes sense for people who do not have HBO already as part of their cable package (otherwise HBO GO is included and negates any point of HBO Now completely).

There are likely people out there who would have signed up for the service but are trapped in a cable TV contract already. HBO Now is $15 a month, so it would only provide a slight savings over including HBO in your monthly cable package if you have one, and you lose the convenience of it just being there on your TV without having to change inputs or watch on your tablet.

I suspect that most of the 800K people (or “households”) who signed up are those that didn’t have HBO at all before. These people were probably freeloading off their friend’s/family’s HBO GO account or just waiting around for a service like this. It is also worth remembering that for the most part the service wasn’t in full swing in time for Game of Thrones (HBO’s flagship series these days), Veep or Silicon Valley, all of which are prime kinds of viewing for the demographic of people who will want HBO Now.

It’s unclear how much it cost HBO to setup this service, but it couldn’t have been all that much since HBO Go was already providing essentially the same service. Maybe the infrastructure had to be upgraded, but overall HBO Now has to be almost pure profit on a per user basis, and that margin should only increase as the next burst of users sign up.

These numbers will be far more interesting six months from now when all of HBO’s big shows have had a full season to run on the service, and more people have been able to get our of their cable contracts.

The Death of “Deep” Reporting

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead on the future of reporting:

The readers, of course, may not care. Swanson, the former managing editor at CBS Sports.com, says, emphatically, “no consumers give a [poop] who breaks stories. Everyone has them within minutes. We thought there was value, but there’s none. This isn’t opinion. This is empirical.”

This sounds like an odd thing to say. Reporters who are embedded in a sport, and connected with front offices and players and agents don’t matter?

“The public is too unsophisticated to understand the difference between the dateline on a story or whether it is aggregated,” Elling said.

The sum of this piece is about how major media sites are moving towards “aggregation” instead of actually reporting. Essentially the prevailing theory is that it has become more important to be first than to be right or detailed. But even that is overrated to a certain extent. Most consumers don’t care who breaks the story first, just that they know about it. Things like Twitter make it really easy to find out when something happens, and often times the people who find news this way don’t have the faintest idea of who was the first person to report it.

This is one of the gaps between “journalism” in 2016 and journalism from a historical standpoint. Things are aggregated so many places these days, and more importantly information travels, and is distributed so quickly, that no matter who reports something, everyone (who cares) will see it within minutes. And that makes it even more obvious why the person that wrote the story is irrelevant to most people. Track record doesn’t even matter anymore. Specific journalists or news outlets can’t distinguish themselves because things get retweeted so many times no one cares who the first person was. Therefore it’s not like the average person says “I need to follow person [x] at ESPN because they always have the news first” because “first” these days means minutes or seconds, not hours or days.

There is even more to this story though. It’s not just about who is first, it’s about the content itself. The days of writing 20,000 word investigative pieces is a niche business now. This is a tl;dr world. CNN.com even puts a couple of summarizing bullet points on most of their articles now, and a lot of them are like 1,000 words. When people consume news, they want the bare minimum. They want a few key bullet points, and a headline that tells them what they need to know. There are still people out there who want long form writing, but only in the instances where they are reading for pleasure, rather than information.

Is this a bad thing? It might be. Misinformation get’s passed around much faster and to a wider audience than it once did. People jump to conclusions based on a headline and don’t get a lot of the details. But part of that is because the information isn’t presented in a way that most people want to consume it. There were undoubtedly people 65 years ago who wrote for newspapers and said that presenting news on television would never work. Their epic stories couldn’t be conveyed without the vast space of newspapers or magazines. And yet it did.

Someone is going to figure out how to do deep reporting in this social media generation. Just like news on TV and the web, someone will figure it out eventually, and the old guard will say it can’t work. There will be a rough transition period (one which we might be in right now), but ultimately things will work out. But surely the conveyance of news and reporting is going to look different, and there is no stopping it.

Mat Latos to White Sox

The White Sox signed Mat Latos to a one-year deal for $3 million dollars yesterday. Latos is 28 and has been in the majors for parts of 7 seasons. He was with three different clubs last season and it appears some of that is due to personality issues as much as skill.

There seem to be a lot of people giving pause to this signing, but almost no one-year deal is bad. And a one-year deal for a starting pitcher that only costs $3 million is pretty much “no lose” territory.

Latos has had two not great seasons in a row, and has only started 37 games over that time, so there are some durability issues. His stats from last season are fairly consistent with his career numbers, although his batting average on balls in play (BABIP), a stat I routinely bring up, was considerably above his career mark, indicating he was probably a bit unlikely last season. Moving around from team-to-team probably didn’t help that. His FIP was 3.72 (FIP is basically ERA adjusted for poor fielding), which would have ranked him in the mid-30s if he had enough innings to quality. 3.72 is about the same FIP as Felix Hernandez and Jordan Zimmerman had last year. It is better than Samardzija or Danks had last season, and about what Carlos Rodon had.

Back to the contract. $3 million in MLB salary terms is pretty small. It probably amounts to like the 10th highest salary on the team. The White Sox paid Jeff Keppinger $3.5 million in 2013, Ronald Belsario $3 million, Matt Lindstrom $4 million and Scott Downs $3.75 million in 2014 and Emilio Bonofacio $3 million in 2015. Yeah all of those guys sucked, but that shows the caliber of player you normally get for $3 million. The other key is that none of those guys is a 28-year old starting pitcher.

This doesn’t even factor in that Latos likely has a major chip on his shoulder after not getting a better deal and is out to prove he is worth more. Or the fact that Don Cooper has a track record of getting more from guys than expected. And Latos only has to be at most the #4 starter behind Sale-Quintana-Rodon. He, John Danks, Eric Johnson and Jacob Turner appear to be the guys in play for the 4th and 5th starter spots. Latos had about the same fWAR as John Danks did last season. Most Sox fans will not see this as a positive, but Danks threw 9 more starts and got paid five times as much as Latos will this season.

Frankly it seems odd that so many people are pooping on this signing. It’s extremely low risk to sign a 4th/5th starter for one year. If Johnson and/or Turner are amazing eating $3 million isn’t the end of the world. If Latos somehow gets back to his 2013 form the Sox rotation will be the best in baseball. If the most likely occurs and Latos ends up about as good as he was last season, he’s still a sufficient #4 starter on this team.