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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing Manager at HealthTrust. Social media junkie, strategist, and app idea guy. Hockey fan, photographer, and father to 2 awesome boys.

(Opinions expressed here are not those of my employer. Heck, they might not even be mine.)
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Predators on the Ice

It is so good to see players on the ice again!

Christy had some time this morning and swung by the open, informal practice session today. Mason, Fiddler, Gelinas, Erat, Hordichuck, Legwand, and Dumont were there today. They played light 3-on-3 most of the day, and Christy took a lot of pictures. Also some new news about the practice facility and what they are doing for the fans during open training camp session... go read about it at Christy's "Hockey Wife" blog.

Only thing she told me that she didn't put in the blog was the Hordichuck and Gelinas were hanging out talking together most of the time she was there. Makes sense to me. From what i understand they are both fitness nuts and seem to be cut from the same cloth.

Oh - and it looks like Mason does indeed have a new mask design and new pads for this season. I think it is interesting that Mason, who has been very pro-Nashville through the ownership mess, chose not to go with a mascot theme, but rather plaster "NASHVILLE" and the old Nashville Arena symbol on his mask.

Christy also shot a TON of pictures and some good video.
Video below. Pictures are here.

Oh - and if you watch closely, and about 2:06 into the video, someone actually gets checked lightly into the boards behind the net :-)



Nashville Predators Informal Practice.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fantasy Hockey is On!

Well, i have lots of other things i want to blog about but i've been way too busy...more later. Until then...

IT IS FINALLY TIME TO
DROP THE (virtual) PUCK!
I'm starting up another Fantasy Hockey league with Yahoo's free system. My wife and a bunch of friends from work (and outside work) all played and i think we had a lot of fun. Well, all of us except Kevin. Worst luck i've ever seen man...

Anyway, the settings worked well last year, running with the same settings again this year. Just a once-per-week roster set (like football) so you don't have to constantly micro-manage your team. Pretty much just draft your team (it will auto-draft a good team if you don't know who to set) and then watch for injuries and you'll do decently well.

This is a no-cash, bragging-rights-only league. Most of us are not hockey experts, just fans. I started it last year to make myself learn more about the rest of the league and it worked well. A whole lot of fun.

This is a 'private' league, but it is open to anyone that wants to join.
Just visit- http://hockey.fantasysports.yahoo.com/hockey
when prompted for the league ID, enter 15408. Password is "mason" (without quotes).

Game on!

Monday, August 27, 2007

more cool stuff

So some more of my pictures just got used in a video about BarCamp.

And this service is awesome. Check my first quick video. Took about 3 minutes 15 seconds to make this.

And while we're on the topic of videos...
Will you people with Netflix click on this link so you can be in my community on the service already!?

That is all.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Killer App

For those that are unfamiliar with the concept of a Killer App, it is pretty easy. Essentially it is any application/use of a new technology that makes that technology more desirable. This is most commonly used when describing video games and software. Earlier versions of Windows could be described as killer apps because when they came out, everyone went out and upgraded their computers so they could run the latest version. Conversely, Windows Vista has certainly not been a killer app because it did not drive hardware sales and was not seen as necessary.

I have twice before experienced the killer app. Once was when Half-Life 2 came out. I needed a video card (and thus computer) upgrade to be able to really run it the way it was intended. Before that however, i was part of a much more widespread killer app experience...

When DVD's first came out, adoption rates weren't too great. The new format certainly looked good, but sloppy digital transfers and a lack of bonus content (which no one missed because they'd never seen it before) made DVD's just seem like really expensive VHS. Why bother?

Until The Matrix.

That DVD was so loaded with cool features and used the new technology so well that people had to buy DVD players ($250+ at the time) just so they could watch a $30 DVD. I for one owned the Matrix DVD a good 3 or 4 months before i even owned a DVD player.

The move to HD/BluRay DVD's has been similar. Certainly the picture is better, but no killer app has come along to compel me (or much of the population) to shell out the extra cash for the players. But that is about to change: Hot on the heals of announcing the Pixar Shorts collection, Disney just announced that Cars comes out in Blu-Ray format on Nov 6th as well.

I am saving my pennies now.
(And dropping hints for Christmas if anyone's listening).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Aussie Rules

Got to watch a bit of the Nashville Kangaroos take on the Louisville Kings game this afternoon. Much fun.

It was pretty hot, but i managed to hide under some of Elmington Park's nice shade trees for most of the game, so it wasn't too bad. I used to watch Aussie Rules on Fox Sports World years ago. I was hooked. So much so that when FSW stopped airing games and i was desperate for a fix, i actually downloaded the demo version of EA Sports Aussie Rules game, AFL 99. I couldn't get the controls right, so i just set players to zero and watched it play itself. Repeatedly. Yes, i am a loser.

It is a really cool game though. I always describe it to people as the closest thing in the world to real Calvinball. The ball and field are both oval/oblong. You have to dribble the ball on the ground every 15 meters as you run, you can only get the ball to your teammates through an underhanded punch (like vollyball) or kicking it. You score by kicking through tall uprights at the far end of the field. The umpires throw the ball in the air like a basketball jump-ball, except they throw it about 30-40 feet in the air. It is pretty much chaos.

By now i have to admit i have forgotten many of the specific rules, and things were a little hard to follow. Probably would have been better if i could have heard the announcer they had on a PA system calling the game - but he was on the other side where there was no shade. But today was mostly about going out a supporting the teams a bit...and of course for the photo opp. Nice sunny day + violent sport + no face masks = really cool shots. At least i think so.

For those of you who have never actually seen a game, i shot video of one quick segment. Normally there is more time in between a starting toss and a goal, but thankfully it made for a good, quick demo. And it was pretty indicative of how dominant Nashville was in the game.



Next 'Roos home game is Sept 8th against the Milwaukee Bombers. According to the website, they have never beaten Milwaukee in 4 tries, so the game should at least be more interesting than this blowout. And the weather should be cooler.

For the record, the Kangaroos club also has an associated Netball team (sort of Australian version of basketball). My friend Matt and his wife played on that team for a while just for fun. We got to see them a while back at one of Nashville's Australian Festivals. Don't know if they still play or not.



Oh, and for those keeping track at home, i uploaded this video to Vimeo. Going to start switching over. It looks like video on Flickr may be a while in coming, if ever. One nice thing about Vimeo - you can download the original source video if you want to see a higher quality version of anything. Much better than Google Video or YouTube.

Last random note on that topic: Google just closed down its Google Video store and is supposed to be getting out of the video business somewhat. Blogger just added 'upload video' to the editor where you can not just embed video stored somewhere else, but now upload videos straight to Blogger (like it has always done for photos). Google owns Blogger. Explain that one to me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pixar in HD - coming soon!

Well, you've heard me talk about it and hope for it before.
It is here at last...sorta.

Pixar is going to release a collection of its short films on Blu-Ray. Release date Nov 6th. $24.49 on Amazon.

That seals it. If Gran Turismo 5 wasn't enough (and my back catelog of PS1 and PS2 games), we are getting a PS3. Maybe not this Christmas, maybe not in a year, but sometime. Sometime soon. I really feel silly with how excited i am about this.

The regular DVD description on Amazon says this is "Volume 1" but it looks like it will be (almost) all shorts to this point. They are just smart enough to know there will be more in the future so they just called this one "Volume 1". It will have everything from The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. (which was actually done under Lucasfilm...making this the first Lucasfilm property to be released on HD format) all the way to Lifted. Only things not included will be the shorts they did for Sesame Street ("Light & Heavy" and "Surprise"). For a list of their short films (and to watch some of them) check here. Looks like commentaries and a featurette or two will be included as well.

I'm curious which version of Knick Knack will be included...the original version from way-back-when had a much more "buxom" version of the mermaid figurine than the one released on regular DVD a while back. I'm hoping they go more Pixar archivist and include both, not Disney whitewash and just include the new version.

Nothing mentioning Blu-Ray only content. Man i hope this is full 1080p. I can't imagine it not being. And i can't wait until they release the full length movies. The Blu-Ray version is just $2 more than the standard DVD.

I'm not surprised that Disney/Pixar is going Blu-Ray now that i think about it. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, funded and still owns a large stake in Pixar. Pixar essentially owns Disney now. HD-DVD is Microsoft's baby... so Disney goes Blu-Ray. Gotta love it.

In format-war related news: I'm really not sure why Paramount just decided to go from releasing in both formats to releasing HD-DVD only. Everyone i know has said Blu-Ray is the superior format, and thanks to the PS3, there are more players out there (even if half the people that have PS3's don't know they play Blu-Rays), and Blockbuster is going Blu-Ray only. I still think that eventually all players will just play both formats, but if i had to pick a 'winner' it would be Blu-Ray at this point.

Oh - in Pixar related news: The teaser site for BuyNLarge (the mega-corporation from the upcoming Pixar movie Wall-E) has been updated. Check it out. Much fun.

Sully out - New owners in?

Predators bloggers are still buzzing about the Predators lease news. Forechecker points out that the Chamber of Commerce just voted unanimously to endorse the changes being suggested by the local ownership group to the lease. It looks like a binding agreement is just around the corner as well.

In other Preds news: Steve Sullivan was apparently worse off than we thought and just had his second back surgery of the summer. He will be out at least 3 months, which means he'll miss all of camp and pre-season, as well as at least a few games of the regular season. Probably coming back around the time we play Tomas Vokoun and the Panthers... Unless by 3 months they mean the first three months of the season... I'm not clear on that yet. I agree with Forechecker. Pressure just went on Radulov, Dumont, Arnott, and Erat to produce offensively.

3+6=11 for the Predators

One of my business law professors in college used to complain about coverage of business law in the media. Business law, he would say, is far more complicated than fits in an easy to read 2-inch column in the paper. It certainly doesn't fit in sound bytes. The burden of proof and reasons for prosecution would frequently get distorted.

He summed this up (pardon the pun) by using the analogy of a mathematician telling you that 3+6+4-2=11. But the media doesn't want to take the time to explain all of that, so he just puts 3+6=11 in the article. Both 3 and 6 were part of the equation, but it is a fallacy to believe that that was all that was involved.

That little story came to mind when Chris Wage over at Metroblogging pointed out this article in the Nashville Post regarding the potential buying group Predators efforts to renegotiate the lease terms with the city.

Great article. Highly advise reading it, if you can make it through. Basically this is complicated. It is money, budgets, politicians, taxes...all that fun stuff.

To me (as a Preds fan of course) it boils down to the group asking Metro for help in making this work, with the promise of taking on more of the risk themselves. They ask Metro to pay more up front, but give up most if not all of the risk. Fixed cost for Metro, more incentive for the ownership group to make the Sommet Center and the Predators profitable.

Sounds like a good situation to me.



In other Predators related blogging news: Christy has a funny post up about her bad luck with Fantasy Hockey last year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cool stuff from Think Geek

If you haven't caught on by now, i'm a pretty big fan of Think Geek.
Some recently added goodies that i find interesting, fun, or just gimme-inducing.

Clearly ThinkGeek has been ramping up for Christmas. Lots of new stuff has been added in the past few days. My wish list is updated :-)

You're kidding, right?

I honestly thought this was a joke when i first saw it.

A company is trying to start a "Netflix for books". Um...isn't that the library? I get that for free, thanks.

They honestly are trying to charge people $19.99 a month to have 3 books out at a time. Books just aren't that expensive these days. I could buy 90% of the books i want for well under $10...so i could just buy 3 books a month for close to that.

Besides, that's what the library is for! They don't delivery to your mailbox, and i could see people who live out in the sticks needing it...but if you live in a city this is just silly. Just go to your library, fill out a card, and pick up the book.

The Nashville Library system even lets you search online, find the book you want, request it be sent to your nearest branch, and they hold it for you. Just walk up to the desk, grab the book, go home. No searching through rows of Dewey Decimal chaos. Easy. Done.

Now, i know some of you (i would be one of them) will tell me the library has movies too, so why Netflix. Easy: The library's movie selection is minimal, most of it is on VHS, and there are few copies of most movies. Now, the library is one of the reasons my wife and i only have the $8.99 Netflix plan. We occasionally still get stuff from the library (for instance, right now we are listening through the unabridged Harry Potter books), so the two work in tandem.

I really hope this new service doesn't hurt a library system that is already having to be trimmed back. But i think most book worms (in major metro areas) are going to be smart enough not to use the service. Hopefully.

Update: There are apparently at least a few companies that offer this kind of service. This one has cheaper plans, which seem slightly more reasonable for books.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Predators Captaincy

For those that don't know, HockeyBuzz (Eklund's place) has a new blogger for the Predators. Paul McCann will still be blogging (thank God) but he is moving to a more general role. The new guy is, well, new. He's very young and writes like it. But he is enthusiastic and hopefully will grow in to the role soon.

His first post was about the captaincy of the Predators. Who should or shouldn't take the reigns since Captain Kimmo and Kariya (who was an alternate on occasion) left.

He puts up Sullivan (C), Arnott (A), and Weber Dumont (A) as nominations. With Weber, Suter, and Radulov as possibilities. Here was my response:

First it has to be said that i hate that Mason can't wear an 'A' at least... He hasn't played as much but he has been and is going to be the emotional core of this team.

Anyway, Sully gets the 'C' in a perfect world, but my concern there is health. A captain in a luxury suite nursing his back isn't much of a captain. If i'm Trotz, i think about giving him an 'A' again and letting him lead when he's there. If his back is proven strong enough in camp, then perhaps give him the 'C', but Trotz already said he wants leadership named before camp even starts. His back is just so iffy at this point...

If not Sully, then Arnott. Of course if he's not 'C' then 'A'. That's a given.

As for the other alternate, Weber could be good, though i'm not sure if he or Suter are there yet. They'll have enough filling Kimmo skates on the ice. I want them to concentrate on their play. Ice time is going way up for those two (was already high). They wouldn't be bad choices...just not sure.

No way Radulov gets anywhere near leadership. He'll be a scorer, but he has a lot of maturing to do. He was something of a goof-ball last season. Not that i minded, but he isn't a leader. Not to mention there is a decent amount of language barrier still there, if interviews last year were any indication. Great player. I'd pick him to lead the team in goals and probably scoring, but no way he's leadership.

I would think about players like Zanon and Fiddler personally. They aren't going to be on any all-star teams, but that isn't the point of a captain. They are veterans, respected, responsible, reliable on and off the ice... Those are the characteristics i look for in leadership. Many teams have strong leading captains who aren't on-ice producers. I think they could be similar to a Greg Johnson, etc. Suter and/or Weber could be the same, but i just don't see players that young in leadership on a team that actually got older (on average) during the off-season, not younger.

new scoreboard update

I don't know why i'm so excited about the new scoreboard for the Sommet Center, but i really am. I think once it goes up, there will be people who go to games just to check it out. It is just a few days from completion!

This isn't just going to benefit the Predators either. Every even held there (concerts, Kats games, conventions, revivals, etc) will all be able to take advantage of this and the new state-of-the-art video production system being installed in the control rooms along with it.

Here's a picture of the one in Chicago. Ours will be basically the same, but with a few extra panels on the corners.

Here's a picture of ours so far. Here's the official article, and the slide show with more pictures.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Random Updates 2

Forgot a couple of things in my previous post...

Fantasy Sports
I'm going to start up another just-for-fun Fantasy Hockey league this year. I assume my awesome Hockey Wife will participate. Probably several guys from work too. Anyone else? No cash, just for fun and bragging rights. I don't know much about the league beyond the Predators, and this is my way of making myself know what else is going on. I'll probably also run a no-cash basketball league, and end up signing up for someone elses football league. We'll see. If you're interested in hockey or basketball, comment here or drop me an email.



Movie stuff...
Cinematical, the movie version of Engaget, had news last week of The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian. That's right. A prequel of a prequel of a sequel of a remake. I loved the Mummy and Mummy Returns, but never saw The Scorpion King. Probably get around to it one of these days. I am very excited about them doing a 3rd Mummy movie with Brendan Frasier (with Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh!). Too bad they couldn't get Rachel Weisz to come back to play Evelyn O'Connell. I guess she's too dramatic to do horror/comedy now.



Online Videos
Up until now i've been using Google Video for posting all my videos of friends, etc. It was easy to use, etc. But i'm really becoming unsatisfied with the features and quality.

I was going to switch over to Vimeo, but then i heard that Flickr is going to start doing videos. that would be great of course. I could put the pictures and videos from events all together that way. Anyone else heard more about Flickr and what kind of quality/features the video service would offer? Extra charge beyond pro accounts? Or should i just start uploading everything to Vimeo?

(I was going to ask this question last night on Facebook Questions, but it was down. Doh!)



Ok... i think that's it.
If not...i'll...post again i guess.
That's how this works huh?

random updates

I feel like i've been so poor in blogging lately. Not that i'm one of those people that feels i have to blog everyday. I know the masses of you that hang on my every word can live without hearing from me for a few days. No - i'm missing blogging because i have so much i wanted to blog about but have been to busy with all of said things to actually get around to doing it.

So...let's play a little catch-up:



New Business Blog
Coming out of Barcamp, Christy and i talked a lot about what she/we're doing with Ghia. Among other things, i'm going to start blogging on the Ghia corporate blog. First entry: here!

I'm really excited about how the business is doing so far, and looking forward to pushing it further. As much as i ragged some of the presenters at Barcamp in my last post, i really did learn a lot. Christy's working on our Google Local entry and we're thinking of doing a site re-design soon. Christy has done an amazing job with the business so far, but she's been working largely by herself. I'm pumped about getting more involved and getting the rust off my web and marketing skills.

We already spent some of yesterday shooting pics for the new inventory we got in last week. Check for it on the site soon!



Blockbuster Trade
Just a couple of weeks ago i posted about how happy i was that Blockbuster had bought MovieLink. I was already very happy with the value we were getting with Blockbuster Online (we locked ourselves into a great rate many months ago) and i was looking forward to them adding the downloadble movie features.

Well, last Friday i got an email from Blockbuster titled something along the lines of "Changes to your Blockbuster Account". I was excited. I was ready to open it up and find out that they were going to give us the option to do downloadable movies instead of in-store exchanges, or better yet both. Um....no. Nothing about downloadable movies was mentioned, but they did explain that my previous plan of 7 movies (4 in store, 3 in the mail) per month for $7.99 was being discontinued (in reality they stopped offering this to new subscribers months ago) and i would have to choose another plan. The offer they made instead was 4 movies (2 in-store, 2 in the mail) for $7.99 - what a deal! Same price, 40% fewer movies!

So half out of looking for a better deal, and half out of anger/spite, we switched to Netflix this weekend. Just after i'd starting swapping recommendations and stuff with my sister and my friend Amber on Blockbuster. Oh well. Now we get to find friends that have Netflix. Anyone? Click here to set us up as friends on Netflix.



Predators and the City
There has also been a lot going on in the world of the Predators.
For more reading i advise the Forechecker. He continues his marvelous assessment of the situation.

Essentially the local ownership group is asking the Metro government for $3 million more per year (according to them this is being required by their creditors) and a guarantee of 14,000 in paid attendance (so the team doesn't lose on league revenue sharing). In exchange they are offering to donate the first $3 million in profits every year (if/when there are any) to local charities and groups, and are promising to take fuller advantage of the Sommet Center as a facility and increase the number of events (tax generating events) held there. Sounds fair enough to me. Much ado made out of very little last week, i think.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Post-Barcamp Nashville Post

Just got back from Barcamp.

Most of my random comments are with my many pictures on my Flickr stream. Check it out...then come back here.


First: I love that R2D2 showed up and presided over the whole thing. What more do you need to establish geek cred than to have 'the Dome' in attendance?

I am upset because i made another really intelligent post from my phone about this guy's presentation (thanks to Kerry Woo for the pic) and it totally got lost. And i already deleted it off my phone to clear some memory (not that i was short, just an old habit). Dang it.

To sum up, he said that the iPhone rocked because it didn't have an SDK and couldn't run 3rd party native apps (though people are hacking their way in anyway). He said this was great because that way if your phone crashes the apps are all online anyway so you don't loose anything. Apparently Mac people don't back stuff up. He then said that the iPhone was cool because it was the first phone to support web-based applications, and it does it through the Safari browser. Um... Treos, Crackberries, my wife's MDA... lots of phones have had browsers for years. With full support for Flash, Java, and AJAX i might add - all of which are lacking in the iPhone. So...not sure how that works... Then he made jokes about how bad AT&T's network is. If all the applications are web based, then doesn't a crappy network pretty much make your applications crappy too? If you don't have signal, you don't have apps. Anyway...

Most of Barcamp was pretty good, Mac Fanboy and a few others excepted. It was great to just be around all that geek-ness and soak up all the ideas and just think about random stuff for a day.

The only other comment i want to go out of my way to make about Barcamp was regarding the last presentation i saw...Penelope Trunk. Her presentation was like a lot of other ones. Not that informative, a little simplistic, and had more than a few self-contradictory statements. I was hoping everyone would just take Brittney's sound advice and not feed the trolls. But no, several people had to drill her on questions, including a pointed question about "what happened at BlogHer". Just let it go people. Move on and quit giving her your time and attention, and she will move out of your life.

But like i said, overall it was a great day. I would have gladly paid money (not too much mind you) to do something like that. Instead it was free and we got free food out of the deal. How sweet is that!

And great to finally meet all of you - well, a lot of 'you' anyway. I somehow missed a few. Now having you as friends in Facebook doesn't feel as much like a loser ploy to just stack it with people that i am just aware of, but people who are actually friends :-)

3D Networking


3D Networking

What a concept. Jackson Miller's concept of contextual social networking is awesome. Facebook and MySpace better watch out.

Welcome to Barcamp!


Welcome to Barcamp!

Good start so far. Exit-in's AC isn't made for this many people in 100 degree heat. It's packed! But very good so far.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Cameron's big day


Cameron's big day

Cameron got to go to the lake/pond in the park today. I am told he tried to swim. Ah, another first and he's not even 2 yet.

(By the way, if this post seems a little random, it is because i used it as my test post for posting straight from my phone with pictures...now i'm all setup for live-blogging BarCamp tomorrow!)

The Gimmies

If Rock Band wasn't enough to convince me i wanted a PS3 this Christmas (it is already on my wish list), this just sealed it.

Not that i am likely to get one, mind you. We are going on a cruise for our Anniversary/Christmas this year (our anniversary is in June, yes), so not exactly a lot of loose change flowing.

Taking donations to the Paul-and-Christy's PS3 fund now though :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

hockey family

First: My wife is awesome.
She just started a hockey blog on HockeyBuzz.com: http://my.hockeybuzz.com/hockeywife
By the way, i am surprised myself at just how sexy i find this.



This reminds me of something i was thinking about the other day... would i be a crazy die-hard hockey fan if i moved away from the Nashville Predators (or God forbid, they moved away from me). I am pretty sure the answer is still yes.

See, i have only really been a hockey fan for about 4 years. I grew up in Texas following mostly basketball and football. Between those two i am certainly more of a Spurs fan than Cowboys or Oilers/Titans. I prefer basketball as a game over football, despite the myriad of problems plaguing the league right now.

Right now i prefer hockey over basketball though. Given a chance to watch the Flyers and Devils play or the 76ers and Nets, i'd go hockey for sure. (Granted, if it was Flyers/Devils up against Suprs and anyone i'd watch my Spurs).

But i've been a big basketball fan for pretty much 20 of my 28 years on this planet. Hockey, only 4. So if hockey was to become less convenient, would i go out of my way to follow it the way i have basketball? I have to be honest and say that i hope so, but i'm not sure. Probably depends on if the Predators moved or i did. I can and would follow the Nashville Predators if i moved back to San Antonio, but i can't see myself living in Nashville and following the Kansas City Predators. I would certainly be more interested in hockey than i used to, but it wouldn't be the same. If on the other hand the Spurs left SA, i could still see myself following basketball, at least to a degree. I know the players, coaches, and back stories so much better.

The summary result of all these deep thoughts: It takes time to be a real fan of any sport. I am a crazy Predators fan, but it will take me years more of following the league to know players on other teams, know who hates who, who came through in the clutch and who is overrated.

So i will close with once again asking the rest of the fans in the NHL to be patient with the newer markets. We'll get there.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gambling is not the NBA's problem

While listening to NPR on my way home from work today, i heard yet another story about NBA ref Tim Donaghy. He pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce. He bet on games that he refereed and all that...most of you know the story (if you don't, you can read here, here, and here.)

Here's the quote from the NPR story that really stuck out to me though:

The picks, the government said, included information about games that Donaghy officiated - information that was not public. Donaghy had "unique access," including what crews would be officiating games, the interaction of different officials and players, and the physical condition of certain players.
From the ESPN video here:
[Donaghy] said that he would know the referee schedule in advance, something that is confidential, the general public was not privy to. Knowing the refs, knowing their dynamics with the players involved, Tim Donaghy would tell his two co-conspirators who he thought would be the winner of that game.
He wasn't just telling them which games he reffing. He was telling them who was reffing where, and what the bad-blood history between refs and players was - and who would win based on those factors.

More than betting on games he actually worked, he is mostly being charged with is giving bookies and others inside information. Insider trading on NBA games if you will. The most important part of this though wasn't mentioned in the AP article - that is, what the specific information was. He told them not only who was hurt and who wasn't (which was relatively public knowledge most of the time anyway) but also what crews would be officiating games and the interaction of different officials and players.

That is huge.

Donaghy's information was valuable not because he was a crooked ref, but because the NBA has a systemic problem with referees and players. Personalities are far too involved, and impact the outcome of games, even when gambling isn't involved. Vegas and Donaghy knew it, and made good money by knowing who would be covering which games. Don't you think David Stern knows it too?

It got so bad in one case last year that Joey Crawford challenged Tim Duncan to a fight and was later suspended as a ref, probably (hopefully) never to return to the league. But it isn't just limited to him. It is so systemic that a gambling ring setup with an insider to take advantage of it on a large scale.

Everyone is so caught up in one ref (who knows, maybe more) that could have thrown games that he called. Is that big - yes. But what is much more important is what every solid NBA fan as known for years - there are few if any impartial refs left in the business. They may not be being swayed by money, but they are swayed by personalities, conflicts, and ego.

If the league doesn't get this under control fast, one gambling ref will be the least of their problems.

Ownership Loyalty

Predators owner-to-be William "Boots" Del Biaggio may have just given himself a rough start with Nashville fans, some of who are already worried that he just wants to take the team to Kansas City.

The San Jose Mercury News interviewed Del Biaggio for an article on the Sharks ownership changes this off-season. He gave them some interesting quotes (taken totally out of context i'm sure):

[The Sharks] lost money, in spite of the new NHL labor agreement. It makes you wonder if this was why Del Biaggio evacuated. Not at all, Del Biaggio said. Reached by phone this week, he sounded like a kid with a new toy....
"I've just been really looking to become a larger owner of a team in the last few years," Del Biaggio said. "It's a turnaround situation in Nashville. And I'm going to have a much larger say in the hockey operations there. I'm excited."
When asked if he was unhappy in San Jose:
"I have no issues here in San Jose. I loved being an owner of the Sharks. It's a first-class operation, and Greg Jamison is a first-class executive. I just have a desire to be a majority owner of an NHL team one day. But I'm still living here. I'm not moving. We have season tickets behind the Sharks bench. Our son plays for the Junior Sharks squirt team. When Nashville comes in to play the Sharks this season, I'm sure he'll be wearing his Sharks jersey."
So, this brings up an interesting question: How effective can you be as an owner if you're still a season ticket-holding fan of a rival of your own franchise?

I don't mean to blow this out of proportion. It was an interview given to the San Jose paper. But still...telling Nashville fans that you aren't moving from San Jose, will continue to attend Sharks games from behind the bench, and your kid will be wearing Sharks jerseys?

Not exactly a great start to the new relationship of a group of fans that are admittedly a little fragile and shaken from this off-season to begin with.

Monday, August 13, 2007

on owners, franchises, and moving

Interesting article on ESPN.com this morning.

Basically the people that bought the Seattle Supersonics recently are talking about moving the team to Oklahoma City. The two things that make this particularly interesting to me are two statements the owners make:

  1. "But we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come [to Oklahoma City]...We know it's a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it's great for the community and if we could break even, we'd be thrilled."
  2. "[The city of Seattle have] got 60 days to make some decisions they haven't been willing to make in the past year, and if they make them in a way that satisfies Clay, then the team will stay there."
Statement #1
I find this one really interesting. It is based on the premise that they want to move the team to OKC knowing that it will not be profitable, knowing that it will 'fail' by many standards, but it is worth it for the city. This sounds a lot like the talk we've been hearing from the local Nashville group that wants to buy the Predators. The leader of the group has even come out and said he is not and was not a hockey fan, but wanted to buy the team because he knew how important they were to Nashville. I find it interesting how this concept is being used. Especially compared to the more normal franchise ownership talk - which brings us to #2.

Statement #2
Statement #2 contradicts statement #1, and gets to the real issue going on here. This is pretty clearly a traditional case of ownership threatening to move the team if they don't get a sweet new arena built for them. Statement #1, in this case, is just a smoke screen to give them an excuse of where they could move. To pressure the city to build a new arena, they have to have a plausible threat of moving. On its face, no one really takes the threat of moving to OKC seriously. It would be financial suicide. So they have come up with some reason for moving to OKC. "The good of the city" sounds good. Now...why wouldn't they keep the team in Seattle for the good of that city?

That is one thing i have appreciated through all this ownership hype. The Predators already have about the best arena deal a team can have. The arena is still relatively new, is just getting an upgraded scoreboard, etc. So the debate has actually, for once, been for the merits of the city, fans, and team at true face value. It isn't about getting a new arena built, it is about profitability, fan support, and the value of a franchise to a city.

And i like the way things are turning out so far :-)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

nhl 06-7-8

A quick post combining two of my favorite pastimes. Hockey and video games.

I first bought NHL 06 for my PC as i really started getting in to hockey. I think i played it at someone elses' house or something and decided to play it more. For the record: i advise this for anyone who wants to get in to hockey - playing the video game version is a great way to learn the basics of the game (penalties, etc) - though you will never advance beyond the very basics of course.

That was the real rub. NHL 06 was fun to play, but EA obviously put out a very half-hearted effort compared to NBA or Madden. But hey, i'm in sales and marketing. It's money. I get it.

When it was time for NHL 07 to come out, i was pumped. They were promising this new 'skill stick' change and amazing new graphics. I saw the trailers and was very impressed. So i went out and bought a copy soon after it was released. I was horribly disappointed. Not only did i not have the skill stick on the PC version, but i also didn't have the improved graphics. Essentially the PC version was simply a port of the PS2 and Xbox versions - not the "next gen" PS3 and Xbox 360 versions that all the trailers had been for. The only difference i could tell between NHL 06 and NHL 07 was that the goalies sometimes played butterfly style now instead of always stacking their pads. Yeah, that was worth $40.

Now i see trailers for NHL 08.

First, amazing graphics. To be expected, but worth noting. These looks awesome. The crowd still looks horrible, but the players look and move better than ever. Second, they really tweaked the custom/create mode. You could create customer players before, but you had one default head to choose from, with very very limited customization. Very poor by most game standards today (especially on PC - i should be able to import skins dang it!). The new NHL 08 looks like it will be much better in that department. It also adds the ability to create your own team, including selecting from a preset choice of logos (PC import option please?) and a full color pallet to chose from. This video highlights these changes...and then showcases video of the team pictured on the right. Any copies of this game they may have sold, just disappeared. Why. On Earth. Would anyone make a team look like that? It would hurt your eyes to play a whole game like that.

Anyway...

Most importantly, they are also touting improved collision/hitting physics and adaptive AI. These address the two biggest weaknesses in the game. The collision physics used to be determined entirly by two factors: balance and speed. So a player who's balance and agility stats were high, was hard to knock down. One who's stats were low, was blown over by a passing butterfly. Worse - small, fast players (like Steve Sullivan for the Predators) routinely lead the team in hits, and can deck anyone on the ice simply because they move so fast. It is all about speed. The new version is supposed to take mass/weight/momentum into account. Yay.

They have also supposedly fixed or at least improved the AI. The AI used to be horrible. I can run the same play over and over again and score about 7 out of 10 times. I regularly run up stats and get 4 or 5 players hat tricks per game when i play NHL 07 on easy. On hard it just makes the opposing goalie block a higher percentage of your shots, your goalie sucks more, but the defenders never learn a thing (on either side). The new version is supposed to pickup on repeated plays or positions and adjust to be ready for that cross-ice pass from the corner that used to be so easy. We can only hope.

The one thing i was horribly disappointed in is that the uniforms will apparently all be last years unis. Unless they are going to completely recreate the models, they are all still wearing the old-style baggy sweaters, not the new fancy tighter-fitting RBK jerseys. What, bringing them out in the Olympics last year and the all-star break this year wasn't enough time? Even if they try to change the skins to match the new patters, the fit is all wrong. That is actually a pretty big selling point to me, and they are totally missing the boat.

But here's the thing i'm really waiting to find out: is the PC version crippled again? They are making PS2, P23, Xbox 360, and PC versions of this game. Now, a top-of-the-line PC has more processing power to put to this game than any console, but i understand most modern gaming PC's lie in the Xbox 360 range of power. Either way - the PC should get the
best features available. I know this probably won't happen, because EA Sports PC games are always just sloppy ports of the console versions. What is more frustrating on top of that, is that all game review sites that bother to even review the NHL games, always just review the console version! Not even a note of 'this game is the same on PC' or 'the PC versions is actually a Gameboy Color port'. Nothing.

Why? Why must i endure this pain? I would go over to the other PC NHL franchise... but... wait... there isn't one. Curse you EA! Curse you!!!!!!

(sorry for the long post - i needed to get that one out)

Friday, August 10, 2007

predator profitability

This article in the Winnipeg Free Press is asking the question that i think a lot of people around the sports (and business) world have been asking themselves: Why would anyone buy hockey teams that have been losing serious amounts of money. The Predators reportedly lost $15mil last year, and a total of $70mil over the past 10 years. The previous owner of the Lightning reportedly lost "more than $70mil" over the 7 years he owned the team. The teams first owner reportedly lost $20mil in one year (1998-1999).

So why would anyone, especially less-than-billionaire groups of owners, buy these teams? It's a fair question.

I can't speak to the case of the Lightning, but for the Predators the answer is that the NHL franchise was not the only thing changing hands. There was also Powers Management.

Powers Management is the separate company that manages and runs the Sommet Center. Every concert, revival, rally, and gathering that happens there. Every major artist tour that uses the state-of-the-art practice facility. Everything that goes on in that building - Powers Management gets to keep the profits. Better yet, thanks to the agreement with the city, Powers Management is guaranteed not to lose money. The city of Nashville has to subsidize any losses. Though Metro sees none of the direct profits, it does see benefits in tax revenue and other peripheral economic impact. There have been a few years where Metro has had to pay, but i believe on the whole, Powers has been running a positive balance sheet.

So while the Predators can honestly be losing money year after year, the overall business of running the team and being the anchor tenant of the Sommet Center is still quite profitable i am sure.

Note: Normally i would have this post chock full of links to references backing up my statements. There are articles too numerous to mention that talk about the teams losing money - but amazingly few places online that reference the deal that Powers Mgmt has with the city, and fewer still that give any details about Powers Mgmt itself. In fact, there was a lawsuit by the Tennessean last year against Powers Mgmt for them to open their books as a public entity. The courts agreed that though Powers Mgmt was a private company, they operated a city-built and owned arena and therefore functioned in a public capacity.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

random musings

Movies
I'm happy to hear that Blockbuster just bought out Movielink. Christy and i subscribe to Blockbuster online (i dig the cheaper rates we got, plus the games we can rent in-store, not just movies). This will hopefully just add to the goodness. I wonder if we'll have to choose between an mail+store package or a mail+online package, or if they will just crush Netflix with a wonderful mail+store+online package. I can hope. No news so far.

Of course, what i'm really waiting for is an online HD movie service so i don't have to shell out cash for a BluRay or HD DVD player that may or may not be worth anything in a few years. Just skip it all and download the straight to my PC, which is what i use for all my media anyway. I'd just rip any DVD i own to my network share anyway.



Dental Talk
I got my teeth cleaned earlier this week (actually, i clean them on a daily basis, but i got them professionally cleaned at a dentist office this week). Why is it that dental hygienists (the ones that actually clean your teeth) are insanely talkative. I had a more complex conversation and was asked more questions and given more advice during my cleaning than i have in the last 5 haircuts combined.

I'm not much for chit-chat, but i don't mind a little banter during my service calls...but at the dentist? Have they ever noticed it is a little difficult to hold on a conversation when you keep sticking things in my mouth...namely...their hands? Conversely, have they noticed it is harder to clean my teeth while i'm talking?

I would have been in and out of there waaaay faster if she'd just let me watch the cool TV they have positioned above my head through the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, my dentist is really good, and the hygienist was very good at what mattered. Clean teeth, no pain, good stuff. But man, she was chatty.



Famous Pictures
I'm still waiting for the AP to call. My pictures have now been used in tourist guides for Nashville, two for a calendar for East Nashville, posts on AOL's sports page, and now a few have been personally requested by Andrea Conte (millionaire) and her husband...who happens to be the Governor of Tennessee.

The funny thing is that the pictures that have been chosen are, of course, not my favorites. I'd love someone to use something like this picture, or this one, or the one shown here to the right. For that matter, any shots in either of these two sets: Artsy and My Favs. But alas, these haven't been what they are looking for.

I don't flatter myself to be the photographer that Chris Wage is...or dozens of other people for that matter. But i'm glad that some appreciation is being shown. I need to get used to carrying my camera around with me more. When i first got it, i carried it everywhere with me "just in case". I need to get back in that habit.


Biking in Nashville
A short message to the people who've been complaining about biking issues in East Nashville.
  1. If you want me to respect you and yield to bikers as equals on the road when i'm in my car - then obey the freaking rules of the road! You can't just pull past me at an intersection while i'm at a red light, glance both ways, and run the red light because it's clear. If you're on the road, obey the rules. If you're not going to, then get on the sidewalk and use the zebra crossing.
  2. As for the concerns about people parking in the bike lanes along Eastland: if you want the police to ticket people for parking in the bike lane, you'll probably have better luck if you can first convince the police to not park there themselves. The picture at the right was taken at the East Nashville "Night out against Crime". Nice.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

the Forsberg effect

Way back when the Predators traded for Peter Forsberg, i made the argument that the trade made sense, if for no other reason, than from a financial point of view. Regardless of how much his contract cost, Forsberg paid for himself in extra jersey (sweaters for all you old-school hockey fans) and ticket sales.

I was made fun of.
I was ridiculed.
I was right.

Check out this press release from NHL.com today.
The important parts: The Predators experienced 425% year-over-year growth in merchandise sales (a growth rate second only to Buffalo's gaudy 746%). And Peter Forsberg's jersey was the 6th most popular sold, behind only Sidney Crosby and collection of Buffalo Sabres.

Two snide remarks to make here:

  1. I think the Predators had an unfair advantage in these numbers. Everyone had to buy their Forsberg jerseys from NHL.com because there are only like 4 places in Nashville that carry Predators jerseys. The support is there...when are the Predators going to get a licensing deal with Academy or Wal-Mart in the area? Where is "the official retailer for the Nashville Predators"?
  2. I don't think it is fair for Buffalo to mandate a Sabres jersey as part of their standard school attire, which is clearly what happened last year.
So yes, i am back to harping on the marketing group for the Preds. I really hope that the new ownership group has better marketing sense and better local business connections. Maybe Leipold didn't notice that you couldn't find a Predators t-shirt at Target because he didn't live here. Hopefully these guys can fix that.

Predators rumor updates

If this article is to be believed, then nothing you are about to read is to be believed - but hey, i don't mind. That article has given me about 350+ unique visitors in the last week and is yet another place where one of my photos was used in a publication. Still waiting for the AP to call me.

Anyway....

Here's the latest update from Eklund on rumors around the remaining Unrestricted Free Agents. Interestingly, Jeremy Roenick hasn't signed with anyone, but is suddenly off the list all together, much less off the list for the Predators.

1. Peter Forsberg (Nashville, Ottawa, Vancouver, Colorado, Philadelphia)
8. Mike Johnson (Nashville,Phoenix, NYI, NJ)
20. Janne Niinimaa (Columbus, Detroit, Nashville )
21. Jan Bulis (Columbus, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Washington)
Also interesting is that last time (just a few weeks ago) Mike Johnson was listed as the 32nd best free agent left, well after Jan Bulis (at 21st last time). Jan Bulis didn't move, but suddenly Mike Johnson is the 8th best free agent left. Been working out in the off-season?

The new guy on the list for Nashville, Janne Niinimaa, isn't very exciting looking. Only played in 41 games last year and ended up with a -13 plus/minus rating. Not what you're looking for in a defenseman, especially since we have Kevin Klein, etc. all coming up strong from the minors. So, i'm gonna call foul on this prediction from Ek. I hope it is totally hooey anyway.

In related news: great article about new Predators Jed Ortmeyer and how he fits the Predators is in today's New York Sun (Ortmeyer came from the Islanders last year).

welcome matt

My good friend Matt has joined the world of bloggers.
Pay him a visit.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

bloggers unite

Given all the discussions lately about bloggers vs. traditional media, etc...i thought this was rather funny...today's User Friendly comic strip:

Monday, August 06, 2007

too much time on your hands: part 3

I have to admire this. I guess. At least i'm interested.
Combining two of my personal favorite past times:

That's right folks...
...a fully functional Guitar Hero controller...
...made out of Legos.

Friday, August 03, 2007

new old phone

Well, that didn't take long. Already got a "new" phone. Exactly the same model actually. About to try to copy the data over (using the new battery...the phone still boots up believe it or not).

Turns out we were actually a couple of months over our contract time limit so we could get a discount on a new phone. So this one's going to end up costing me $50. But it is worth it to not have to carry around the Nokia 6800 that was my backup.

It is also worth noting that the woman who helped us was actually really helpful. I threw all kinds of geeky terms and questions at her and she didn't flinch. She even knew about new phones that were coming soon and weren't out yet. I really wish i was seriously thinking about replacing a phone and spending real money on it. She would have actually helped. Too bad this time i just wanted to replace my currently wonderfully small, light, thin, fast, durable, well featured T519.

All is well with the world.

labs and phones don't mix

My 18 month old lab puppy Cameron just got a hold of my cellphone. I was playing with him in the backyard, apparently dropped it and didn't notice. My wife went out just a few minutes later to feed him and found this:



We were very lucky that the lithium-ion battery was well built and didn't explode, despite being dented by no fewer than about 20 teeth marks on both sides.

This was a really awesome phone. I'm very sad to loose it. Thankfully i still have my old phone and the SIM card appears to have been undamaged. I wonder if the chess game i bought for $6 for this phone can be downloaded to my old phone, or whatever phone i might eventually get next? Or did i just lose it?

For the record: though my sister has a bad reputation and regularly burns through phones, this is the first phone out of...at least 6 or 7...that i have owned that i have ever had damaged or lost. I'm usually really good about these things.

Man this sucks.

high tech repair tool

This is freakin awesome.

stargate hockey

I was watching some of the bonus content from our new Stargate SG-1 Season 10 DVD set.

During the episode "The Quest: Part 1", there was some rather funny commentary, especially for me as such a die hard Predators fan, and Stargate fan.

The first voice you hear is the writer, Joseph Mallozzi. The second voice you hear is Director Andy Makita.

(I just hope MGM doesn't make me take this down. It's not like this is going to cost them any sales...)

Apparently Andy Makita doesn't play with the (official?) Stargate team that both Michael Shanks and Richard Dean Anderson have played for.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

senator whitehouse

I was listening to NPR this morning and caught the name of a senator that i'd never heard before. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

What was really funny about this is that the story was about Sen Whitehouse pushing through legislation to restrict the communication between the White House and the Justice Department.

But rather quickly the piece kept flirting with turning into an Abbott and Costello sketch. "Senator Whitehouse was frustrated at the White Houses' lack of cooperation" and so forth.

Now we just need:

Chief Justice Peter Congress
President Richard Senate
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Representative David Justice
These jokes would write themselves.

predators sale analysis

Great article by Daniel Tolensky just got posted on Hockey Buzz.

Very honest assessment of 'Boots' Del Biaggio's role in the purchase (which it turns out may be as much as 40%, making him the largest owner).

If you are a Predators fan, or just someone interested in business in Nashville, it is worth the read.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Predators-Locals letter of intent signed

Not just a letter of intent - it is a Binding Agreement. They have layed down $10mil in cash money. This is it (barring something really weird).

The letter of intent has been signed. Business man "Boots" Del Biaggio has stepped forward as a major part of the ownership group, but it is majority owned part by a local group of 7 investors. Major local investors include David Freeman, CEO of 36 Venture Capital LLC, and Herb Fritch, CEO of HealthSpring Inc.

The anticipated closing date for the transaction is no later than September 30, 2007.

Again - "Boots" is only a minority owner. Apparently most of the budget/team decisions will be made by a group of the 5 big share-holders. I assume more details to come on that. Supposedly there are no circumstances (under the current agreement) that would see "Boots" become a majority owner.

Sale price: $193mil.
Less than Ballsillie was going for, but more than "Boots" was offering by himself.
Apparently "less than 25%" of the deal is debt, which is supposed to be good for a sports team sale these days...

I am getting to listen to the press conference live (thanks to the firewall at work going on the fritz again). Everyone is very clearly talking about the team staying in Nashville in the mid/long-term. No word on any changes in the lease with the city yet, or very specific details on how the

Craig Leipold also just said that he is planning on turning around and buying season tickets (since he assumes he's losing his owner's suite [much laughter in the room]), and is thrilled that the team is staying in Nashville.



Article is up on NashvillePredators.com, includes full audio of the press conference.



New lead-owner is David Freeman. He is acting as the spokesman for the ownership group, etc. I would assume he is the largest shareholder. He's not much of a spokesperson. They are interviewing him on the radio right now...he's not a very good speaker. At least right now.



Confirmed: Del Biaggio will have to divest himself of his share of the Sharks. No word on what happens with his agreement with the arena in Kansas City to eventually operate a club there.

predators sale to locals is pending

This was reported several places yesterday (PredJoe really broke the story), but i want to get in on the fun too.

Paul McCann just posted that a press conference is about to be announced...looks like it's here!
(Sounds like a press conference at 2:30pm...that's the buzz anyway)

The Predators will be being sold to the local group (who will obviously do everything to keep the team in town) with the addition of some mysterious outside investor. Maybe "Boots". Maybe Todd Wagner. Very interesting.


In other Predators news, i like the topic of this article in today's Tennessean.

When the Preds signed Gelinas, that got us to the salary cap floor. But there is at least one more trade to make - since we have 24 players on contract that should be at the NHL level, it means we will likely see a trade of some kind. Since we have to stay above the floor, we can't give up any salary, which means we can't just trade a player for draft picks.

We have to lose a player, but not lose salary. So...trade two-for-one. Trade two players and get one (better) replacement. Could be great. I'm not going to begin to speculate who that would be (yet).

Of course, another option exists if any of those 24 players are on a two-way contract. Even if they have to clear waivers, Poile has to try to hold on to the talent he has. Especially since there is no way everyone stays healthy this year (especially with Sullivan's back), we'll need those extra players to be key.

This is also a good time to point out that as much as i love Darcy Hordichuck, he doesn't make sense on the ice. I'd get rid of him easy in place for someone else. He is still here purely for the fans...or to step in if/when Tootoo gets suspended again.

The article also points out that training camp should be very interesting this year given the pressure for roster spots. We saw a few fights last year, i wouldn't be surprised to see a few of the same this year. Those scrimmages started to look like games when the 4th-liners and prospects were on the ice. This is gonna be fun.