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  • Google Picks American

    Posted on March 16th, 2008 Brian No comments

    I’m not really the biggest sports fan in the world. I follow my teams, and even get excited about them, but I don’t really care much for the arena of sports beyond that narrow window. Hedda, on the other hand, is a machine. She follows the teams, the stats, the players, and does it all unconsciously. It’s second-nature to her! For example, this evening, we were talking about the upcoming NCAA tournament, and was explaining why she thinks Kansas is going to win it all. “Uh, they’re Kansas!”

    That kind of deep, fundamental understanding is beyond me. I’ve given up even hoping to attain it. Instead, I have taken a more computable approach to filling out the brackets for this year. My algorithm is simple: The team with the more hits reported by Google on the day the brackets are announced (today, March 16, 2008) will win any given contest. So, in the contest between Kansas and Portland St., the former is slated to win the game 202,000,000 to 7,960,000.

    A couple of caveats: These rankings are specific to the moment I ran the scripts. Google hits change constantly, as more data is indexed, so I’m not going to change my predictions as the tournament progresses. Also, I have decided to search for a particular school exactly as it appears on the bracket. This makes it so I could fairly easily screen-scrape the brackets from the HTML version of the official CBS brackets, minimizing the amount of manual work I had to do.

    So, without further delay, my bracket!

    Brian's Bracket

    For the geeks out there, here’s the data and script I used for sorting.

  • Renaming Wrigley

    Posted on March 4th, 2008 Brian No comments

    Wrigley field might get a new name. In this era of corporate inundation, where ads are plastered on our walls, buses, subways, and yes, stadiums; and amidst the furor, and anger, and cries of “Landmark!” throughout Cubs fandom, has everyone forgotten that Wrigley Field is already named for a corporation? Sure, it happened to be the last name of the family that owned the franchise and the stadium for the better part of century, but does that really make a difference?

    I think so. When such an iconic landmark as Wrigley Field has stood the test of time, it weaves itself into the consciousness of the community, the city, and even the nation at large. It becomes more than a mere corporate sponsorship – especially when the name of the corporation is as unassuming as Wrigley. (Perhaps I might feel differently if Wrigley Field had been called “Time-Warner Park” since before my father was born. I tend to think so, but that straw man isn’t worth slaying here.)

    Unfortunately, the decision ultimately rests with the ego-maniac billionaire who owns it all. His position is that he can do as he pleases, and he’s right. Fortunately for the fans, Chicagoans have shown a penchant for disowning entities who over-zealously seek their profit at the expense of the city’s history. Take, for example, the famous Marshall Fields on State Street. When Macy’s bought the company, they exercised their right to change the names of the stores. But when they changed the name of the iconic, anchor store in the loop, citizens revolted. The city’s store, that had risen from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire, suddenly lost 35% of its business almost overnight. There are still ongoing protest groups successfully encouraging boycotting of the store. And the stupid thing is that Macy’s could have avoided all of this by simply leaving the name on only that one store! They could have even called it “Marshall Fields on State Street by Macy’s”, and people wouldn’t have cared.

    The owner of Wrigley Field – and especially the sponsor supplanting the name – might find themselves facing similar situations if they go that route. Already, advertising experts are predicting a “tricky deal” at best for the field’s naming rights. One thing is for certain: If such a deal did go through, the lucky recipients will face a backlash not just in Chicago, but around the entire nation. No fans are as widespread and protective of their team as Cubs fans.

    After all, we haven’t won a World Series in 100 years. We’ve got to have something to hang on to!

  • 756*

    Posted on September 26th, 2007 Brian No comments

    Some super-rich fashion designer bought Barry Bonds’ magic home-run ball, and then put up a poll online to determine its fate. If you hadn’t heard, the options were:

    1. Donating it to the Baseball Hall of Fame;
    2. Launching it into space; or
    3. Branding it with an asterisk, and then donating it to the baseball hall of fame.

    Well, the results are in, and it looks like the ball will be asterisked, and put on display in Cooperstown.

    And this is just the right thing to do. Whether you think Barry doth protest too loudly, or has been unfairly lynched out of spite for greatness, marking the ball will forever memorialize the controversy surrounding his achievement – something that would certainly never be placed on a nearby explanatory placard by the hall of fame.

    History should never be whitewashed.

  • Bizarro World: No Stadium for the D.C. United

    Posted on July 21st, 2007 Brian No comments

    We must be living in Bizarro World, where Stupid Ideas rule the day, simply to spite Good Ideas for being too good. The Post is reporting that talks between the city and the D.C. United have fallen apart over the finances. It seems the city has balked at footing the bill for some $200 million in infrastructure to support the stadium, despite the team’s offer to pay for the entire cost of the stadium itself.

    Really? Don’t we live in the same city that just last year – against a fairly large chunk of public opinion, including myself – agreed to build at its own cost the entire stadium and all supporting infrastructure for a brand new, fairly lousy baseball team? I think so, but perhaps a review of the facts is in order.

    United Nationals
    Here Since 1996 2005
    Championships 4 0
    Approx. Home Games per Year 19 128
    Average Attendance 18,215 26,582
    Stadium’s Cost to City $200 million $611 million (and growing)
    Stadium’s Cost to Team $150 million $0 (nada, zilch, nothing)

    Now, I don’t dispute that baseball gets more fans per game, and plays a lot more games, than soccer. But the DC United, in addition to consistently being one of the best teams in Major League Soccer, have worked extremely hard to become a valued and loved member of the DC Sports community. They want a new stadium, and have been negotiating in good faith a very reasonable compromise that benefits all parties. The United’s behavior demonstrates their loyalty to the District, and are working hard to stay here!

    DC Stadium Filled with MoneyContrast their behavior with that of Major League Baseball and the Nationals: They came on the scene demanding every concession, offering nothing but there mere presence in return, and making no compromises. The city was forced to build a boondoggle stadium at immense cost, and it was either their way or the highway. The baseball owners were quite happy to take their team someplace else if we failed to kowtow to their tantrums, and in the end they got their way, just like a spoiled, screaming child.

    We’ve shoveled an enormous pile of money at a team that hardly gives a damn about their home, so why are our leaders afraid of spending less than one-third of that on a team that has already demonstrated themselves worthy? Come on, Mr. Fenty, I know that you’re not happy with the baseball stadium. Sure, it was a raw deal, and we all knew it. But that’s no reason to ruin a good thing that we already have. We need to make a new stadium happen – but this time for a team that deserves it.

  • 39,000 People Can’t Be Wrong: Metrobus Sucks

    Posted on July 4th, 2007 Brian No comments

    Hedda and I went to the Cubs game today, where they were soundly spanked by the Nationals. I’m unhappy with the loss, but not devastated – the Cubs won the previous two, and there’s another game tomorrow we’ll be attending. The last couple of days, however, have really soured my attitude towards DC’s wayward transit son: Metrobus.

    Shortly after the final out, RFK Stadium belched forth almost 40,000 people onto the streets of Northeast Washington, flooding the streets in a river of people flowing towards their automobiles and public transportation like so many currents and eddies. The flow crushed the Metrorail system, causing huge backups and lines to advance down the escalators and crowd onto the waiting trains. Hedda and I, as we are not fond of being crushed, have been waiting for the D6 bus, which snakes through Northeast DC and downtown before eventually ending up at the corner of 13th and K, eventually heading through Dupont and Georgetown. To be blunt, it’s one of the easiest, most convenient ways to get from RFK back home for anybody living in the southern-ish yuppy-ville Northwest neighborhoods.

    That is, if it ever shows up. Monday night, we waited for half an hour, before discovering the bus we were on was actually the bus after the bus we thought, and waiting for another half an hour before departing. The earlier bus just never showed up. Tuesday night we got lucky and happened to walk up right as the bus arrived. Again tonight, though, we waited for the bus with a hundred other people for almost half an hour.

    Why doesn’t Metro have buses lined up waiting outside the stadium when the game ends? Why doesn’t Metro have special express shuttle buses ferrying fans to popular destinations, like Union Station, Dupont, and Georgetown? Why the hell do the buses to and from RFK run on regular four-o’clock-on-an-average-afternoon schedules on a Fourth-of-July baseball game against a popular team that they know is going to attract almost 40,000 people?!

    It’s not like there’s no demand. Whenever the bus is there, people swarm onto it, filling it to capacity. Inevitably, riders are turned away. People want to ride the D6!

    And it’s not like it caught them by surprise. Baseball games are scheduled well in advance – we’re talking years ahead of time here – and Major League Baseball knows which games are going to be big, since they were able to charge us extra for the “premium” game today.

    If transit is going to be taken seriously, and it should be – must be – as the price of gasoline creeps ever higher, then Metro needs to get their act together. Start with the easy things. Baby steps are all I’m asking for. This should be a no-brainer. Make it happen.

  • Super Bowl XLI

    Posted on February 4th, 2007 Brian No comments

    I’m a Cowboys fan, and typically care very little for any Super Bowl featuring any team other than America’s. However, in the case of Super Bowl XLI, I find myself rooting for what would otherwise be my home-town team. Da Bears.

    (XLI is forty-one, for those of you who are Roman-numeral-impaired. They aren’t just some fancy-sounding letters, despite my desire to stick them between the make and model of a car and the word coupe.)

    Hedda is of course rooting for them, too. She has always been a much bigger fan than me. She will be wearing her original 1985 Super Bowl XX t-shirt today, with great fervor. Me? I’m wearing an orange and navy sweater – the closest I come to owning anything with Chicago’s colors.

    So anyway, go Bears! You deserve it after twenty-one years. As for the Colts: Count On Losing The Superbowl.

  • Cubbies Prospects

    Posted on March 14th, 2006 Brian No comments

    Awwww crap. Last week, Kerry Wood has knee surgery, and today we find out Prior is having shoulder problems. Even if they manage to hold onto Dusty, there isn’t going to be a pitching staff until halfway through the season. Hopefully they can hold onto five hundred until then and may pull some magic out of the hat after the break.

    Must avoid pessimism.

  • Fix The Libraries and RFK Stadium

    Posted on January 18th, 2006 Brian No comments

    So here’s a great idea! Why not take the $535 million in public funds slated for the new baseball stadium, and instead of throwing it down the tubes, spend it on something useful. I’m sure we could come up with something that needs overhauling in DC…say the library system?

    The best part is that fixing the disgrace that is our public libraries will only cost $450 million, and with $85 million left over, we’d have enough to fund a more thorough renovation of RFK Stadium, making it a suitable home for the Nationals.

    Except that the representatives for Major League Baseball are acting like stubborn children, who won’t even consider a plan that doesn’t break the bank for the city. They have continually threatened to take their ball and go home, apparantly thinking that they have our city over a barrel. Our leaders need to realize, as was so eloquently stated in a City Paper spot last week, that in reality they can’t just go home. The District is too lucrative a place for baseball precisely because we have pined so long for its return. So let’s stop cowering in fear of the owners, fix up the stadium, and finally overhaul our libraries, too.

    After all, I’m a Cubs fan.

  • Cowboys Get Beat Bad

    Posted on December 18th, 2005 Brian No comments

    So Hedda and I got back a little bit ago from the Cowboys game. There really wasn’t any sweet revenge, as I had so fervently hoped. Instead, the Cowboys suffered a good old fashioned ass-whupping from the Redskins, and were sent back to Texas with their derrieres in their carry-on luggage. The final score was 35 to 7.

    I’m sure it’s because I wasn’t able to get my boots in time.

    In related news, following tonight’s game, the Cowboys announced they will be departing the National Football League in favor of playing in Pop Warner.

  • Tickets to the Cowboys Game

    Posted on December 16th, 2005 Brian No comments

    Last night, Hedda surprised me with an early Christmas gift. She got us tickets to this Sunday’s match-up between my beloved Cowboys and their nemisis the Redskins. Isn’t she the greatest wife ever?

    Let me tell you: It’s not easy being a Cowboys fan here in DC. Simply wearing regalia with the logo on it is enough to elicit physical violence from some of the rapid Redskins fans, and it is all but required to swear fealty to Joe Gibbs in order to obtain a driver’s license.

    Regardless, I’ll be there cheering for some sweet revenge for the earlier heartbreaking loss in week two.

    I wonder if I can get my mom to overnight my Cowboy boots from home…

    And many thanks to our friend and season ticket holder Bill, who was willing to sell Hedda his pair for one of the biggest games of the season.