December 28, 2006

Link-O-Rama

I'd like to say that I have something special planned for you today, given that this is the final blog entry of 2006, but unfortunately all I have is the usual end-of-the-week collection of random, relatively useless links that come along with no real redeeming value. Enjoy!

  • As odd as this sounds, I have mixed feelings about the latest pictures of Jessica Biel in a bikini. On one hand, she's clearly extraordinarily attractive and the fact that she's playing paddleball on a beach in the shots somehow makes it approximately 14,256 times better. On the other hand, her working out has gotten to the point that she's bordering on too muscular/manly. Of course, she could lift weights 24 hours a day for the next 10 years and still look just slightly better in a bikini than Tara Reid.
  • I'll probably never be accused of being too muscular or too manly, but after losing 90 pounds this year I can only assume I'll be on the male version of this list once it's released. Or this one.
  • Music tends to take a backseat to about 50 different topics in this space, but here are five random albums from 2006 that I really enjoyed:

    - James Morrison, Undiscovered
    - John Legend, Once Again
    - John Mayer, Continuum
    - Corinne Bailey Rae, Corinne Bailey Rae
    - Amos Lee, Supply and Demand

    There are a lot more, of course, but those are the five albums I find myself listening to over and over again. After far too much internal debate I'm going to give Morrison's Undiscovered my album of the year, which is interesting (to me, at least) given that I was turned onto his music after reading one of Mayer's blog entries.

  • Speaking of Mayer's blog, he recently used it to tell the story of how he came to be a Dundie winner.
  • On a marginally-related note, the world lost one hell of an entertainer this week in James Brown. Not only did Brown produce a catalogue of music that remains fantastic decades after the fact, he was one of the most inexplicably amusing guests in the history of Howard Stern's radio show. Yes, even better than Brad "On My Back" Radke.
  • NBC's new late-night show, Poker After Dark, premieres on January 1. I'm already more than busy enough between baseball and football writing, shooting video reports, and doing various other work for NBCSports.com and RotoWorld, but my goal for 2007 is to somehow become involved in the poker coverage. In fact, if NBC told me I had to choose between football and poker as the second sport I'll be covering in 2007, along with baseball, I'd go with poker and not even think twice about it.

    Whether or not I ever get a chance to meet the lovely Shana Hiatt or even the not-so-lovely Mike Matusow, I'm genuinely excited about a late-night poker show airing six days each week, all year long. And yes, I realize I sound like a complete shill for NBC saying that, but it's true. I am able to keep my infatuation with poker relatively quiet because there's not much money in writing about it and I'm not all that good playing it, but I'd be glad to bore you with bad-beat stories if given the chance.

  • I'm waiting to make an official announcement until after the calendar flips to 2007, but (extremely not-safe-for-work) evidence like this goes a long way towards convincing me that Keeley Hazell is the right choice to become the third Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com. The door remains open for a late charge from Jenna Fischer or past title holders Jessica Alba and Elisha Cuthbert, but Hazell is definitely the leader in the clubhouse at this point.
  • Every once in a while I learn something so extraordinary that I can't fathom how the information has avoided being common knowledge. Soon-to-be NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson's wife is named ... wait for it ... LaTorsha. That's right, LaDainian and LaTorsha Tomlinson. Seriously, what are the odds? Given the staggering amount of useless information television announcers bombard viewers with, how does this not get mentioned at least a half-dozen times during every Chargers game?

    Oh, and here's the kicker: According to LaTorsha, "The girlfriend before me was LaKeisha."

  • I'm not sure if this says more about me or about the state of women's sports in general, but I've literally never heard of the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
  • On the other hand, I have heard of Serena Williams. I did not, however, realize she was capable of looking like this.
  • Even after watching a series marathon this week I still have no idea who the star, Rob Dyrdek, is and the show does a better job of being about nothing than Seinfeld, yet for some reason I find MTV's Rob & Big absolutely fascinating. I've only seen a half-dozen episodes or so, but I'm convinced that Christopher "Big Black" Boykin is among the greatest handful of characters in the long and storied history of reality television.
  • I'm generally of the opinion that Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune does a good job, especially compared to Minnesota's other sports columnists, but I had to laugh when I got to the end of his column about Tarvaris Jackson's first start. After going out of his way to paint Jackson's outing as disastrous--when in reality he had little chance to succeed and made just one major mistake--Reusse concluded by saying he "played the worst game a Vikings quarterback ever has played."

    Jackson's final numbers were indeed ugly, but there's just no way that's possible. He went into Lambeau Field in horrible weather, played a team with a relatively good pass defense while having perhaps the league's worst receivers at his disposal, had defensive linemen in his face all night, and still committed exactly one turnover. I understand that newspapers and their columnists feel the need to write controversial things, but I typically think of Reusse as beyond that kind of silly hyperbole.

  • Speaking of the Star Tribune, it was announced this week that it's been sold to "a private equity firm" called Avista Capital Partners. The thing that stood out to me about the sale is that the Star Tribune was purchased for $1.3 billion eight years ago, yet was sold for $530 million this week. I've made my thoughts on the newspaper industry clear here many times in the past, so suffice it to say that it doesn't surprise me one bit that a major newspaper is worth a fraction of what it was less than a decade ago.

    My initial reaction to the news was to gloat a bit, which I tend to do when the subject of print media's decline comes up around here, but the truth is that I find the situation far more intriguing than gloatworthy. I know quite a few people involved with the Star Tribune, both on the writing and editorial levels, and my impression has always been that it was among the few truly successful newspapers in the country financially.

    If that's true--and I'm just going by what I've been told by people who seemingly should know such things--then it says some awfully damning things about the industry as a whole that the sale price has plummeted so far in eight years. I have no idea what direction the new leadership will take, but I'm not confident that they'll be able to reverse what is now a pretty steady decline in readership, profits, and influence, both at the Star Tribune and in the newspaper business overall.

    In fact, unless and until the people running newspapers cease clinging to their out-dated, misguided beliefs about the industry, I think the decline will continue to pick up speed. I've said that before plenty of times, in any numbers of different ways, but one of the Star Tribune's articles on the sale quoted the president of a merger-and-acquisition firm named Robert Broadwater, who summarized my position better than I typically do:

    News stories are available for free online, so why would anyone pay for a newspaper subscription, Broadwater said. The Internet has also fragmented the newspaper audience, setting the industry on the course taken by television 50 years ago when the nightly variety show was slowly replaced by a plethora of channels and programs appealing to individual tastes, Broadwater said.

    "You no longer have this monolithic claim of all of the news that's fit to print comes in one package to your doorstep," Broadwater said.

    I read the Star Tribune each day online, scanning the front page for interesting items before diving into the sports section, but I haven't read a physical, paper copy of the newspaper regularly for years. To me, the Star Tribune isn't the news delivered to my doorstep in a plastic bag, it's just one of countless websites with stuff that's worth reading. That's an important distinction on a number of crucial levels, and one most people in the newspaper business need to discover before it's too late.

  • All this time I figured I was being smart buddying up to the Star Tribune's LaVelle E. Neal III by naming him the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, but perhaps it was the other way around. After all, if things get really ugly there under new management, I'm pretty sure I can get LEN3 an interview with the decision-makers over at NBCSports.com. Luckily for Jim Souhan, he can always go back to doing his Shecky act while telling a half-empty comedy club to enjoy the veal and tip their waitress.
  • My RotoWorld column earlier this week included a mention of how much I enjoyed Dwight Smith's quote about whether or not he's happy to see the Vikings' disappointing season come to an end, but many of you probably don't read that regularly and it's worth repeating anyway:
    I'm never glad for a season to end. That means no more checks, and I can't be violent without getting in trouble.

    For those of you wondering, Smith was arrested for allegedly having sex in a public stairwell earlier this season, has been benched several times for disciplinary reasons, and has a history of problems with guns. That admittedly sounds bad, but I believe he qualifies for sainthood in coach Brad Childress' "Culture of Accountability." (Thank you! Enjoy the veal and tip your waitress.)

  • Last but not least, I can't possibly let the year end without saying thank you to everyone who has supported this blog over the past 12 months. I can honestly say that 2006 was the best year of my life, and this blog and the people who read it are huge reasons why. I have little idea what 2007 holds in store for me, although I already know of some very exciting possibilities, but at the very least I know that if 2007 is anything like 2006 I'll be one happy blogger come next December.

    Thank you for giving me a life in writing. It's all I ever wanted and it's all I'll ever need. See ya in 2007.


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