Matt’s Favorite of the Pac 12: Stanford

Andrew LuckI hate you, Stanford, but goddammit do I respect you. Yesterday I picked Stanford as my least favorite team in the conference, and today I’m picking them as my favorite*. Basically, I hate Stanford when they’re playing against my favorite team, and I pull for them against everyone else. As I discussed yesterday, the overemphasis on toughness can get annoying, but maybe that’s just because I’m jealous. You can’t help but respect them.

As far as we can tell, Stanford has achieved their recent success the right way. Elite academics. Not much drama and no significant scandals that I can recall. They were led to success on the shoulders of a smart, likable guy who apparently can’t get enough of architecture. They’ve made BCS bowl appearances each of the past three seasons and won two of them. Sure, Harbaugh was/is kind of an asshole, but it was in a goofy, entertaining way (again, unless your favorite team was playing against him). Since Harbaugh has left, David Shaw has become one of the most respectable coaches in the sport, and it looks like the program is here to stay.

Okay, really. The real reason I like Stanford? Clearly, it’s because Stanford spawned Ty Willingham**, my favorite women’s golf coach of all time. Just kidding. The real reason is that Stanford now regularly beats USC, and that’s something we can all rally around.

So today we salute you, Stanford, goofy tree and all.

 

*Am I covering my bases because the odds are that one day I’ll have a boss who’s a Stanford grad? No way. Okay, maybe.

**A sign of how far Stanford football has to go? Ty Willingham is second in career coaching victories with 55.

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“I Got Fired for Tweeting”: No, Not Really.

by Matt Waller

Earlier today while eating lunch (not from a food truck, unfortunately), I came across a tweet (“I got fired for tweeting: ask me how”), which led me to a piece on The Awl about an employee of a food truck who “got fired for tweeting.” That wording is a tad deceptive, and I was under the impression that the act of tweeting alone–not the content or context of a tweet–got the individual fired. As someone who occasionally tweets during my breaks at work, I was interested.

As it turns out, the employee got fired for using Twitter to publicly shame the employer (an advisory firm with 300 employees) of a group who placed a large order without tipping. Granted, placing a $170 lunch order and not tipping is incredibly inconsiderate and disrespectful. I understand the anger of the employees who scrambled to put together the order, at the cost of making other customers wait longer than usual, only to find out the party didn’t tip. But for the employee to take action into his own hands by using Twitter to call out the corporation who employs the individuals? That seems a little much.

The paradox of the employee’s argument is that he calls out an entire corporation for the behavior of a select few individuals whose actions may or may not be representative of the corporation as a whole, but at the same time, the employee fails to see how his behavior could be taken as representative of his company (the food truck) as a whole. If the employee is willing to publicly judge an entire company based on the action of a few individuals, then surely he can understand his boss’s fear of his/her company being judged by the actions of this one employee choosing to publicly shame a customer. The employee didn’t get fired for tweeting; he got fired for reflecting poorly on his employer in a highly visible forum.

The writer notes that he “could have not said anything,” but that he did “because of some misguided notions about ‘the courage of your convictions,’ or whatever.” (Nevermind the sophomoric tone of that statement.) The fact of the matter is that when you enter into an agreement to work for a given company, some sacrifice is involved, and professionalism is generally expected. You become a representative of the organization. Certainly the employee would not have sent the tweet in question using the food truck’s own Twitter account. There are many ways to show “courage of conviction” aside from sending petty tweets which inculpate an entire company for the behavior of a few of its employees; by an extension of that logic, the employee should have realized that his behavior, too, could be misunderstood as representative of his employer. I can sympathize with the employees of the food truck–including the writer of the article–who worked hard only to be snubbed from a well-earned tip. I cannot sympathize, however, with the fact that the guy got fired.

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Vincent’s Least Favorite of the Pac 12: Colorado

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts about the five major college football conferences, focusing on one conference per week over the next five weeks. We introduced the concept of the series in this post last Friday. Each Monday, our writers will discuss their least favorite teams in each conference, and today we begin with the Pac 12. Also, due to our extreme bias as irrational fans of Notre Dame, we decided that for our least favorite teams in the Pac 12, we had to choose a school other than USC, which would have been the unanimous choice.

As Matt mentioned, we decided to avoid writing about USC because it’d be too obvious. Hating USC as a Notre Dame fan isn’t an opinion, it’s an axiom. So this column is actually more accurately described as Least Favorite PAC-12 Team *non-USC Division, adding another asterisk to the many that surround USC football.

Picking a least favorite team is easy when you have strong hatred for one. For me, this doesn’t apply to any team in the PAC-12 *non-USC division. Therefore, I thought about this question in terms of the team which had the fewest qualities that would make me cheer for them. With that in mind, Colorado Buffaloes, come on down!

Underdogs are always fun to root for, and when you’re arbitrarily picking teams in conferences to hitch your wagon to, teams at the bottom are always appealing. That said, it’s one thing to buy a fixer-upper from the junkyard and another to pick up disparate parts from the scrap metal pile. If you’re an advanced statistics kind of person, Colorado ranked 124th in 2012 F/+ rankings, putting on display the country’s sixth-worst offense and second-worst defense.  If you’re not, watch this GIF of CU QB Jordan Webb running a first down QB sneak in a 38-3 lost to Washington. If I had a shred of emotional investment in Colorado football and watched that play live, anger tears and a broken TV would have been inevitable.

Hope springs eternal with San Jose St. savior Mike MacIntyre coming onboard as the HC next year, but to me, the odds on reaping the joys of Colorado fandom just seem far too long. Colorado, for being the team that would be most likely to lead me to a mental breakdown, I award you the title of Least Favorite in the PAC-12 *non-USC division

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Matt’s Least Favorite of the Pac 12: Stanford

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts about the five major college football conferences, focusing on one conference per week over the next five weeks. We introduced the concept of the series in this post last Friday. Each Monday, our writers will discuss their least favorite teams in each conference, and today we begin with the Pac 12. Also, due to our extreme bias as irrational fans of Notre Dame, we decided that for our least favorite teams in the Pac 12, we had to choose a school other than USC, which would have been the unanimous choice.

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Aside from USC, I don’t really harbor strong feelings–good or bad–for any Pac 12 program. I’ve only been to the west coast one time in my life, and it was an overall pleasant experience. I don’t know anyone who went to a Pac 12 school, and I’ve never been to any games on a Pac 12 campus. That being said, this pick is based solely on the fact that a certain Pac 12 school has become a huge pain in my favorite team’s ass. Plus, the tree. No one likes the tree.

From 2002 through the 2008 season, Notre Dame beat Stanford seven straight times. Then, in 2009 Stanford broke the streak by beating ND on the way to an 8-5 season, its first winning season in several years. We know the rest of the story: from 2010 on, Stanford has been really, really good and has become (arguably) the toughest, most hard-nosed team outside of the SEC. What was once a guaranteed win has become one of the toughest games on the ND schedule year in and year out.

Has head coach David Shaw taken the “tough” identity a little too far? Maybe, if this tweet from Paul Myerberg is accurate. Will too much toughness be the end of Stanford’s excellent recent run (yeah, I’m reaching…)?

Only recruiting the “toughest guy on the team” has some interesting implications:

  • Shaw can never recruit two guys who played together in high school — only one can be the toughest!

  • Stanford is going to have the toughest punters and kickers in football history… but will they be able to kick?

As a Notre Dame fan, I can only hope that musclebound, inaccurate kickers lead Stanford’s descent back to the ranks of the cellar dwellers.

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Weekend Miscellany: Vincent’s Picks

What a week. Give these a read and then meet me at your local bar. I’m the guy with bags under his eyes and smelling of bourbon and despair.

  • Patricia Lockwood’s poem Rape Joke was the most affecting thing I read all week. Its casualness only lends to its grotesqueness.
  • Orange is the New Black is the latest Netflix original series, and despite a lack of initial interest in the premise, it’s done a pretty job of sinking it’s claws in to me. Clips like this keep me coming back.  Go watch it.
  • Jay Caspian Kang wrote a piece on the New York Times about everyone’s favorite cute animal/funny video/child pornography internet community and its (unproductive) role during the Boston Marathon bombings.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

VK

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Beginning Next Week: The Commutes College Football Extravaganza

College Football

Courtesy of Flickr user starmanseries

Believe it or not, we have only five full weeks left until the first college football weekend of 2013. Before long, we’ll all be able to feel normal about drinking at 9:00 AM on Saturdays again. To help pass the five weeks until that glorious day, The Commutes will publish a five-week series of posts about college football, with each week focusing on a particular major conference (Pac 12, Big 12, ACC, SEC, Big 10). As most of our writers are fans of an independent program, we figured it’d be fun to offer our outsiders’ views on each conference.

Each Monday through Thursday will feature our writers’ takes on a different topic related to the conference:

  • Monday — Least favorite team/school in the conference. Everyone has that team they hate in a particular conference, whether for a good reason or not. Didn’t get in to school there? Got arrested there? Hating on schools is fun, especially when you’ve got a case of the Mondays.

  • Tuesday — Favorite team/school in the conference. Even if you’re a fan of an independent team, you usually have a crush on some other teams and like a little something on the side.

  • Wednesday — All-Time Conference Skill Position Team (1 QB, 1 RB, 1 TE, and 2 WRs). The purpose of this isn’t to pick the best group of skill position players in the history of the conference, but to pick favorites or just throw together an interesting group of players. Jamal Lewis, Matt Jones, and Aaron Hernandez on the same team? It’d be like Urban Meyer’s all-time dream team of crime. Anything is possible.

  • Thursday — Free-for-all. These posts can be about anything and everything relating to the conference.

We’ll be starting next Monday with the Pac 12, the conference-we-want-to-get-out-of-the-way-because-no-one-actually-gives-a-shit-about-it.

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Weekend Miscellany: Matt’s Picks

The Weekend Miscellany is back this week. Since it’s been four months or so since the last time we did this, I’m going heavy on the content. These picks–including 100 Wikipedia articles and The Millions’ comprehensive guide to the best books coming out in the second half of 2013, among others–should keep you busy all weekend.

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Nate Silver, Bill Simmons, Skip Bayless: WE ARE LEGION

by Vincent Kwan

Nate Silver is taking his talents to Bristol. Internet contrarianess will debate over the significance of Silver’s move, but I think it’s relatively safe to say that Silver and his new home are an interesting fit. As much an exercise for myself to try to wrap my head around things as it is a primer for you, the reader, some summations/observations/speculations on Silver’s new gig over at the World Wide Leader:

1. What will ESPNate look like?

Silver and his staff will be operating under the domain http://www.fivethirtyeight.com which is now a permanent property of ESPN (unlike the three year “partnership” Silver had with the New York Times). I imagine FiveThirtyEight struck the same autonomy bargain that was offered to Bill Simmons’s Grantland: largely unimpeded creative freedom with an implicit understanding to not bite the hand that feeds them. Much like Simmons, Silver will be given the funding to assemble a dream team to staff a revitalized FiveThirtyEight that will produce content along the same areas as it did before, though, as you might guess, with a greater emphasis on sports (EDIT: “Simmons-like” was certainly a selling point to Silver. His ESPN team duties will involve becoming a regular correspondent on human Livestrong bracelet Keith Olbermann’s upcoming ESPN2 show, “interfacing” with traditional ESPN properties, and becoming a feature on ABC’s mainstream political and Oscar (!?!) coverage. It’s anyone’s guess if Silver will enjoy his “interfacing” or think of it as a chore, but all in all, it doesn’t sound like a terrible compromise for the independence he’ll be granted with FiveThirtyEight and the Brinks truck that’s pulling up into his New York apartment as we speak.

2. What does this mean for the New York Times and “Traditional” News Media?

This is the meta question journalists have been asking themselves. NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan’s post on her former colleague’s defection described Silver as “disruptive,” never really “[fitting] into the Times Culture,” and even stating that “a number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work.” When you make statements like “punditry is fundamentally useless” while working for one of the world’s foremost employer of pundits, water cooler discussions can tend to get a bit awkward.

I think Sullivan’s comments about Nate’s “fit” is key, but not necessarily about his fit in a traditional newsroom. By itself, a distaste for talking heads is a peculiar reason to join ESPN. First Take’s “Embrace Debate” mantra seems to be antithesis of everything SIlver stands for and as unsavory as sharing debate with, say, Thomas Friedman might be,  having to professionally consider Skip Bayless as an equal debate partner is just cause for self-induced head trauma. The “fit” question really is one about content. The simplest explanation for all of this is that Nate just loves sports and wants to write about it more than he did/was able to over at The Times. You can be as jaded and cynical as you want over that assessment but if you were to ask me what the primary driver behind The DecisioNate was, I would guess it’s just that he wants to write about the shit he wants to write about and ESPN provided him with the best opportunity to do that. Additionally, unlike at The Times, Silver will be the unquestioned God-King of electoral coverage at ESPN (assuming Jalen Rose keeps his nuanced opinions about the methodological soundness of aggregating polling data to himself). I don’t think Silver leaving NYT really amounts to an all-out assault on traditional news media or anything like that, ESPN is too “kettle black” for that argument to work. The move, at least in my baseless, unfounded opinion, seems to be driven by more basic, personal reasons. Silver wanted to write more about his first love, sports, and wanted to produce electoral analysis without  the threat of in-house sniping from his colleagues. And, oh yeah, the assload of money he’ll be getting from ESPN. To me, these factors seem to suggest the DecisioNate is just one guy looking out for number one rather than any indictment of the current state of traditional news media.

3. So ESPN is a full house nowadays, huh?

With Nate Silver and his TBD staff coming into town, ESPN could make a strong argument for amassing the most culturally influential collection of blogging talent in American news media. Simmons/Grantland’s ability to pull in ace sportswriters like Bill Barnwell, Chris Brown, and Kirk Goldsberry was expected, but it was its ability to lure an amazing team of culture writers (Chuck Klosterman, Jay Caspian Kang, Wesley Morris, Mark Lisanti, Colson Whitehead, even the HIPSTER RUNOFF Dude) that I found shocking. If Simmons had that pull and resources, I can only imagine what sort of murderers’ row Nate Silver will be able to compile for the new FiveThirtyEight.

Thoughts of a Nate Silver-penned 30 for 30 documentary are currently swirling around in my head, causing faint dizziness and definite arousal. ESPN essentially has all the pieces in place to create a sort of blogging think tank: jam some of the smartest and most influential people in a variety of disciplines together, and watch as their collaboration becomes the genesis for some of the best and most unique work that’s been seen in the blogosphere. Sadly, I don’t know if ESPN or its contributors have any desire to do that. ESPN is a such a tough entity to get a feel for because it is simultaneously smarter than it has to be while still finding time to drag conversation far below the lowest common denominator. The company is really nihilistic on the idea of sports journalism: it makes no judgments regarding quality and simply offers a wide base of writing to appeal to any and all sports fans. People who are really invested in abstract moral concepts like grittiness and Tim Tebow can read their Rick Reilly articles alongside the stat heads and culture junkies who tune in for articles by Chris Brown or Wesley Morris. In amassing the Monstars of the blog world, ESPN has not only purchased additional production, but also, protection. ESPN’s traditional media has been rightfully criticized for being vapid and sensationalistic, a result of stupidly believing that sports need a 24-hr news cycle. In comparison to the irreverent, agile Gawker-esque sites that routinely criticize it (e.g. Deadspin, Fire Joe Morgan RIP, Every Day Should Be Saturday), the flagship looks clunky and outdated and on the verge of descending into a vicious cycle of unconscious self-parody. But, by purchasing some of the blogospheres hottest names, they not only up their legitimacy cred by producing better content, but they put on payroll the very writers that might criticize them were they writing for another outlet.

You shouldn’t be able to purchase taste and credibility. These qualities that are usually brought out in arguments as things that serve as a counter to wealth. ESPN is making a strong case against that sentiment. As sports fans, we’re basically being offered a Xerxes moment: kiss the ring and enjoy twenty articles on Bayesian decision making in the 2014 NFL Draft. The ring is already so far down my throat that I’ve almost forgotten the guilt of bowing down to it.

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Back in the Game

by Matt Waller

Cal's

Image courtesy of Flickr user RandsomESHG

After taking a long break from writing on this site, I read a book that made me want to write again. The book, A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley, is about a drifter, booze-loving sports fan who spends a lot of time drinking and thinking about writing, but not much time actually writing. Like Exley’s narrator, I’ve been spending a lot of time drinking and thinking about writing, but not much time—well, none at all—actually writing.

The book’s overall merits are certainly debatable (see Walter Kirn’s analysis of Exley and the book, “Sad Sack Superman,” for a good critique with which I mostly agree), but that’s not the point of this piece. What struck me were Exley’s sharp insights into the life of bar denizens and the state of mind that bar life’s accompanying excess and idleness can engender. The attitude that I noticed and couldn’t help recognizing in myself is the detachment and the smug satisfaction that comes with doing a lot of thinking without doing much… doing.

Reminiscing on his early life, Exley’s narrator remembers being in a bar called Louis’ where “the vibrant, incessant hum of its conversations seem[ed] to whisper of plays, paintings, and novels just short of being realized,” before continuing, “I wonder now if I ever gave thought to how these things were to be accomplished drinking beer in Louis’.”

Obviously, the bars I’ve been frequenting aren’t the bars of Greenwich Village in the 1950s, and there hasn’t been much talk of writing the next great novel or slapping a masterpiece down on canvas. But still, the air was often humming with whispers of business ideas, writing ideas, travel ideas. It didn’t hit me until reading Exley, though, that those ideas wouldn’t be accomplished drinking beer in dive bars. I’ll still be spending my fair share of time in these places, and I do think that experience has its merits, but I think  that after an extended break, it’s time to spend a little more time, to use another of Exley’s phrases, “locked up in a room getting on with the business of life.” Cheers to the return of the Commutes and to getting on with the business of life.

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The Commutes Goes on Break

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Immediately after Sarah Bennett submitted her first post, the posts started drying up. Let’s not assume too much, but I think it’s fair to say that Sarah’s involvement was a classic femme fatale, wreaking havoc on the good thing we had going.

But in all honesty, the Commutes staff has had a little too much on their plate for the past week. IRL, we’re all contributors to the workforce and this week was another instance of the almighty dollar winning out again.

Consider this our sincerest apologies. We’ll have new content streaming through again as soon as next week. Dominate your Friday and enjoy the weekend

– The Commutes Team