Friday, December 29, 2006
My friend, who I've known since first grade and who shall remain anonymous until he chooses an appropriate pseudonym, is quite the avid sports fan.For more than 10 years, we've picked against each other on every NFL game. The number of games we agree on varies from week to week, but we've found that when we agree, we're correct to a significant degree. For the 2006 season, we're at 86-63-1 on such games (.577). Published on Get Untracked, we're 33-26-1 (.559). Below are our Wisdom of Crowds picks for the week, using today's New York Post Bettor's Guide for our lines:
WASH +2.5 giants
CIN -6 pit
HOU -4 cle
mia +9 IND
KC -2.5 jax
NO +3 car
sea +3.5 TB
TEN -3 ne
sf +10.5 DEN
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Time Warner customers who subscribe to the "digital" package will receive free access to the NFL Network on channel 199 until Saturday at 8pm. This gives Time Warner subscribers the ability to watch both the Texas Bowl and the Insight Bowl (Texas Tech vs. Minnesota). The end of TWC's free access coincides with the start of the Giants-Redskins game. However, New York and Washington-area subscribers will be able to watch this game on free local television, as required by law.
Cablevision, on the other hand, is providing free access to the NFL Network only for the Texas Bowl. All Cablevision subscribers will be able to watch the game, not just digital subscribers. Channel listings are available here. Again, local fans of the Giants and Redskins will find the Saturday night game on regular TV.
A few items of note:
- The NFL Network's page describing this week's free access to its channel (the "freeview") contains at least one incorrect channel listing - for Cablevision. This could be a simple typo, or - conspiracy theory alert! - it could be the NFL Network making it more difficult to find the game in New Jersey, where Cablevision has a monopoly. Customers who can't find Rutgers on TV will blame the cable company, not the channel. We've already seen that New Jersey state politicians were planning to pressure Cablevision to include the NFL Network in its regular channel package until Cablevision agreed to show the Texas Bowl. The NFL could be sending Cablevision customers to the wrong channel so they get pissed and call their congressmen, who then stick it to Cablevision. Or it could just be a typo.
- If you clicked on the links above, you saw that Time Warner Cable is using NFL Network imagery on its website to promote the freeview but Cablevision is not. This bodes well for TWC subscribers who are willing to pay for the NFL Network. Time Warner's display of logos, fonts and other NFL-themed imagery is valuable advertising for the NFL Network, so this is likely a show of goodwill by TWC in its negotiations to permanently carry the channel. Expect the NFL Network to be available on Time Warner Cable in time for the 2007 season.
- The freeview is not available in high definition for TWC and Cablevision customers. I know this in the first case because I called Time Warner and asked, and in the second case because I am a Cablevision subscriber, so I can see that the channel they're reserving for the freeview is not an HD channel. I tried calling the NFL Network (310-840-4635) to find out whether the game is being filmed in HD, but the switchboard doesn't open until noon Eastern time. I'll find out and let you know. I believe that the NFL Network, a new cable channel looking for subscribers, would be smart enough to show its entire freeview in HD as a way to separate itself from crappy little startups like, oh, CBS, but I'm not yet sure.
Friday, December 22, 2006
For more than 10 years, we've picked against each other on every NFL game. The number of games we agree on varies from week to week, but we've found that when we agree, we're correct to a significant degree. For the 2006 season, we're at 82-61-1 on such games (.573). Published on Get Untracked, we're 29-24-1 (.547). Below are our Wisdom of Crowds picks for the week, using today's New York Post Bettor's Guide for our lines:
kc -6.5 OAK
no +3 GIANTS
wash +2 STL
CLE -3 tb
chi -4.5 DET
JETS +2.5 mia
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
For more than 10 years, we've picked against each other on every NFL game. The number of games we agree on varies from week to week, but we've found that when we agree, we're correct to a significant degree. For the 2006 season, we're at 76-57-1 on such games (.571). Published on Get Untracked, we're 23-20-1 (.535). Below are our Wisdom of Crowds picks for the week, using today's New York Post Bettor's Guide for our lines:
SEA -9.5 sf [as posted yesterday]
dal -3 ATL
phi +5.5 GIANTS
hou +11.5 NE
BUF -1 mia
TEN +3.5 jax
den - 2.5 ARIZ
kc +8.5 SD
OAK -2.5 stl
IND -3 cin
Tim Sullivan writes of recent Padres signee Greg Maddux, "If he has lost some of his fastball to the ravages of time, he has retained the fuel economy of a parked Prius. He is maximum efficiency with minimum exertion."
I see where Sullivan was going with the metaphor. My favorite MLB box score of all time is from Maddux's 76-pitch complete game in 1997. But it's clear Sullivan is a sportswriter not an engineer. (I'm not an engineer either, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Select last night.)
If a Prius is parked with the engine running, the car is as inefficient as it can be. Efficiency is the ratio between useful output and energy consumption. If the car's parked but the engine is running, it consumes gasoline (or battery power) but isn't doing anything productive. Maximum efficiency for a Prius occurs when the gasoline engine is making 76 horsepower at 5000 RPM or the battery-powered engine is making 67 horsepower at 1200 RPM. That's why your father always told you to shut the car off when you're waiting for someone - running a parked car is a waste of gas.
If we're going to compare Maddux to an automobile, let's do it right and explain why Greg Maddux is very much like a Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.
It takes 40 years to make a classic.
1966 is the year Chevy introduced the legendary "427" big block V8 engine, now prized by collectors worldwide. It's also the year the legendary Gregory Alan Maddux was born, now considered an inner-circle hall of famer. The Prius has only been around since 1997 - it has a long way to go to reach "classic" status.
There's a whiff of controversy in the air.
That 427 engine actually came in two flavors: a 390-hp version (the "RPO L36") and a 425-hp version (the "RPO L72"). The L72 reportedly put out even more power than what Chevy quoted - 450 horsepower - but they deflated the specifications on paper to stay under safety regulators' radar. Greg Maddux has won 333 games by changing speeds and moving the ball around the strike zone like he has it on a string. Mark Buehrle is not the only one to accuse him of doctoring the ball.
Chicks dig it.
The side exhaust pipes, the split rear window in the fastback, gills on the front-quarter panels. Automobile magazine named the Sting Ray one of the world's 25 most beautiful cars. The Prius will only help you pick up ladies at a Sierra Club convention. As for Maddux...
By the way, Tom, they'll stop worshipping the guy in March of 2005 and he won't sniff the Hall of Fame in 2007. Gotta love the billboard. Surrrrrrrre it's the shoes.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Hunt long campaigned to let teams other than Dallas and Detroit play at home on Thanksgiving Day. To honor his effort, the NFL scheduled a third game on the holiday this year -- in Kansas City. Hunt missed it, though, because he was in the hospital and couldn't get the game on TV.
KC-Denver was the first game broadcast on the NFL Network. It's a sad irony that the man who coined the term "Super Bowl" couldn't see - from his deathbed - a game scheduled to honor him.
The Wisdom of Crowds chimes in on tonight's game: SEA -9.5 sf
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
If published reports are true, the Red Sox and Scott Boras, agent for Daisuke "Skyline" Matsuzaka, are only $3 million in yearly salary apart. Boston wants to pay $8 million a year, while Boras countered with $11 million a year.
It seems that neither side has a problem with a six-year contract. I was under the impression that contract length was the sticking point. Boston would want a long deal (5+ years) to spread out the cost of Skyline's posting fee. Boras would counter with a short deal (3 or 4 years) so the Japanese ace could go back on the market at the tail end of his prime.
If six years isn't the issue for Boras, then I'll be shocked if the parties can't come to an agreement. Boras's asking price plus the pro-rated posting fee of $8.52 million per year ($51.11 million / 6 years) yields an average annual value of $19.52 million. In a world where Gil Meche is worth $11 million a year for five years, Skyline's easily worth $19.52 million over six.
Get ready for tomorrow's press conference announcing the signing.
Editor's note: Click here for a quick recap of the controversy between the NFL Network and the cable companies.
The NFL has offered New York-area cable companies seven days of free access to the NFL Network during the last week of the year. This isn't an unusual move by Roger Goodell and company. Networks like HBO ocassionally provide free access in an effort to gain viewers. It's a moneymaking play for networks, because customers who watch the premium content during the free period are more likely to pay for it when the trial run is over.
Make no mistake, the NFL is not acting altruistically here. By making this offer to Cablevision and Time Warner Cable, the NFL Network gets the New York viewers it's been missing, and it gets to associate itself with the word "free" in the public eye. More importantly, the free access period happens to include December 28, the date of the Texas Bowl between Rutgers and Kansas State. The Royal We noted that the NFL Network owns the right to broadcast this game, so by allowing viewers in New York and New Jersey to watch for free, the NFL avoids an intervention from Garden State politicians, who might have otherwised forced the NFL to lower its per-subscriber asking price in order to get Rutgers on the air.
Cablevision realizes all of the above, and has already announced that it has accepted the NFL's generous offer to show the Rutgers bowl game. Left unsaid? Cablevision will not be showing any other NFL Network programming during the free week. It seems like a neat slap in the face to the NFL, which wouldn't generate NY/NJ ratings for its signature content (NFL games). However, it's mostly an empty gesture because the Giants-Redskins game that Saturday night (scheduled for the NFL Network) will be broadcast on over-the-air television in those teams' local market for all to see, as required by law. In other words, New York viewers get the Giants game anyway, probably on channel 11 or channel 9.
Both the NFL and the cable companies continue to screw over their customers. Neither side deserves our support. And as a public service, here's an end run around them both. It's called Sopcast. Download the free software at Sopcast.org, then click over to a blog called Streaming NFL Games, where they'll tell you the code to enter into your Sopcast window to pick up the live feed of the NFL Network, with no commercials!
Enjoy, from your friends at Get Untracked.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Over at the website for The Book, they estimate that if Albert Pujols were a free agent in today's market, he'd be worth $300 million over 8 years. In related news, if Alex Rodriguez hit free agency today, the Dodgers would still have signed Juan Pierre.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Friday, December 8, 2006
For more than 10 years, we've picked against each other on every NFL game. The number of games we agree on varies from week to week, but we've found that when we agree, we're correct to a significant degree. For the 2006 season, we're at 68-54-1 on such games (.557). Published on Get Untracked, we're 15-17-1 (.469). Below are our Wisdom of Crowds picks for the week, using today's New York Post Bettor's Guide for our lines:
PIT -7 cle [as posted yesterday]
giants +3 CAR
atl -3 TB
min +1.5 DET
JAX +1.5 ind
WASH +1.5 phi
oak +11 CIN
MIA +3.5 ne
gb +4.5 SF
den +7.5 SD
chi -6 STL
College bowl season and all its crazy sponsorships got me thinking about the interaction between sports and the larger business world. Major league baseball stadiums now resemble their minor league counterparts with all that advertising, and as Peter King wrote a couple weeks back: "The NFL on TV is one giant commercial interrupted by football."
Companies wouldn't be willing to pay so much for advertising to sports fans - $2.5 million for a Super Bowl XLI ad, for example - unless they expected a positive return on that investment. Because we as sports fans are contributing so nicely to corporations' bottom lines, why shouldn't we also reap some of the rewards? Readers of Get Untracked are emotionally invested in the sports world. Here's a way to become financially invested as well: The Get Untracked Sports Fan Index.
Below are the ten publicly traded companies that will constitute the initial Index. I will invest a virtual $1,000 in each and provide periodic updates, using the Powershares Dynamic Leisure and Entertainment exchange-traded fund (PEJ) as a benchmark. (In reality, I own no shares in any company in the GUSFI.)
Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. (BUD, $48)
Sports fans drink beer. Lots of beer. And nobody sells more of it in the U.S. than Budweiser. They've just installed August A. Busch IV as CEO. Some see it as typical corporate nepotism. Instead I see that the guy is only 42, and that he oversaw the original Bud frogs, Whassup, and "I love you, man" ad campaigns. He is better situated to understand today's beer buyer than the 64-year-old he's replacing. Bud is practically a value stock (18.2 price-to earnings ratio) compared to the rest of the beverage industry (19.71 P/E) and the food and beverage sector as a whole (18.98).
Sodexho Alliance (SDX, $60)
This French company is actually the number one service provider at college stadiums and arenas in the U.S. So when you're buying an eight-dollar bottle of water at the Rose Bowl, chances are Sodexho's Sports and Entertainment division gets most of the profit. They've just increased their dividend by 27%, a strong sign of growth going forward.
Pepsico, Inc. (PEP, $63)
The "-co" at the end of Pepsi's name should remind you that Pepsi is more than the signature colas and Mountain Dew. Their other major brands include Frito-Lay chips and sports drink leader Gatorade. Pepsi received antitrust clearance yesterday to purchase the Naked Juice Company, which will dovetail nicely with Pepsi's Tropicana division.
Time Warner, Inc. (TWX, $21)
The next two picks should be considered sports fans' "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" selections. Time Warner owns cable monopolies across the country, and recently purchased (with Comcast Corp.) the assets of bankrupt cable operator Adelphia Communications. Beyond the cable and ISP businesses, Time Warner owns AOL, HBO, New Line Cinema and TBS, among other holdings. We're six years past the AOL-Time Warner merger, enough time for this company to become a sleeper despite its status as a massive media conglomerate.
Walt Disney Company (DIS, $34)
There's nobody better at exposing the men behind the curtain at The Worldwide Leader than the Royal We, but even Master Leitch would admit that his "To Watch Tonight" segment features ESPN links more often than not. Sure, the cellphone service idea was a flop, but it proves they're thinking outside the box. Disney was out in front with putting shows like "Desperate Housewives" up on the internet, and its purchase of Pixar demonstrates a commitment to maintaining its technological advantage.
Best Buy Co., Inc. (BBY, 53)
Expect consumers' adoption of HDTV to accelerate in 2007, as the cost of 40-inch flat panels fall below $1,000. The next few years should also see a transition from standard DVD's to their high-definition counterparts. Best Buy, the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer, stands poised to benefit from both trends. Best Buy will also open its first store in China this month, where it will uniquely provide the kind of one-stop shop for home appliances and digital products like cellphones and mp3 players, which in China are usually not sold by the same store.
Dover Saddlery Inc. (DOVR, $9)
What, the Barbaro craze hasn't convinced you there's a huge market for equine products? By failing to get this post up last night, I missed out on today's nine percent run-up in the stock. Still, Americans have never had more leisure time or more money to put into high-end hobbies like riding horses. Founded by members of the U.S. Equestrian team, Dover is the largest direct marketer of such products.
International Game Technology (IGT, $45)
National news in the gaming industry has focused on the Bush administration's ill-conceived ban on internet gambling. State legislatures, however, keep authorizing Indian groups to build casinos, either on their own land or as part of horse racing tracks. The casinos will stock their slot rooms with machines from this designer and manufacturer of gaming machines. Established casinos continue to replace old spinning reel slot machines with network-connected video models, a market in which IGT is a worldwide leader.
K-Swiss Inc. (KSWS, $32)
Nike and Adidas, of course, are the most well-known athletic footwear brands. Each recently completed acquisitions, with Nike purchasing Converse and Adidas buying Reebok. K-Swiss remains independent and solidly profitable. About to launch a new clothing line throughout Europe, they could be about to break out of the shadows.
Under Armour, Inc. (UARM, $51)
Synthetic microfiber performance products were not on the sports radar five years ago; now Under Armour is a $300 million business. But they don't just sell tight-fitting muscle shirts. You've seen their "click-clack" ads for football cleats, but now they're expanding into hunting apparel and the ski market. By looking for opportunities that the big boys at Nike ignored, Under Armour will continue to grow in leaps and bounds.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
The NFL Network claims it has 41 million subscribers. For the Thanksgiving night game to have drawn more eyes than some exhibition golf event, a mere seven percent of subscribers needed to watch the game. Aside from the chalk covering in the first two weeks, this tells us two things:
1) Most who currently subscribe to the NFL Network do so unwittingly because they don't care about the games. The cable companies argue that it makes little financial sense to put this channel on the "basic cable" tier because ratings prove that over 93% of cable customers who have access to the NFL Network aren't interested in this programming. However, the NFL Network responds that most cable channels are provided in just this fashion. You don't want Lifetime or Oxygen channels, but you pay for them anyway.
2) The cities likely to give the NFL Network its highest possible viewership still can't access the channel without subscribing to a satellite service. Cities served by Time Warner include Buffalo, Cleveland, Dallas, Cincinnati, L.A., New York, Houston, Charlotte and Green Bay. Then there's a company called Bright House Cable, which monopolizes Tampa, Orlando and Indianapolis. Charter Cable won't let you watch the NFL Network in St. Louis or Madison.
Both sides have spent millions campaigning for your vote, and I'm not pleased with either of them. If cable companies weren't granted monopoly powers, I could subcribe to Verizon's FIOS service and get the NFL Network. If the NFL didn't allow DirecTV a monopoly over NFL Sunday Ticket (subscribing to Sunday Ticket gets you the NFL Network), I could buy that package and watch all the games I wished. Both parties in this debate are anti-consumer. How about some free market cable franchise reform?
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
As a public service, below are email addresses for the person in charge of each bowl game, to the extent available. Some interesting notes:
- The Armed Forces Bowl and Las Vegas Bowls are actually run by ESPN employees.
- Can we take a collection to buy the Hawaii Bowl a domain name? Hotmail is so 1990's.
- The Peach Bowl is run by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
- The same guy who runs the Motor City Bowl in Detroit the day after Christmas is directing the International Bowl in Toronto on January 6.
Tickets may still be available!
AT&T COTTON BOWL CLASSIC
Rick Baker, President
Derrick Fox, President/CEO
ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL
Paul J. Hoolahan, Executive Director
AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL
Steve Ehrhart, Executive Director
BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
John Junker, President & CEO
BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL
Tom Starr, Executive Director
BRUT SUN BOWL
Bernie Olivas, Executive Director
Gary Stokan, President
Gary Cavalli, Executive Director
FEDEX ORANGE BOWL
Keith R. Tribble, Chief Executive Officer
GAYLORD HOTELS MUSIC CITY BOWL
Scott Ramsey, Executive Director
John Junker, Executive Director
Ken Hoffman, Executive Director
MPC COMPUTERS BOWL
Gary Beck, Executive Director
MOTOR CITY BOWL
Ken Hoffman, Executive Director
James P. McVay, President/CEO
PACIFIC LIFE HOLIDAY BOWL
Bruce Binkowski, Executive Director
PETRO SUN INDEPENDENCE BOWL
Missy Setters, Executive Director
PIONEER PURE VISION LAS VEGAS BOWL
Tina Kunzer-Murphy, Executive Director
R&L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL
Billy Ferrante, Executive Director
Mitch Dorger, CEO
SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL
Bruce Binkowski, Executive Director
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL
Jim Donovan, Executive Director
TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL
John Junker, President
TOYOTA GATOR BOWL
Richard Catlett, President
Friday, December 1, 2006
For more than 10 years, we've picked against each other on every NFL game. The number of games we agree on varies from week to week, but we've found that when we agree, we're correct to a significant degree. For the 2006 season, we're at 64-49-1 on such games (.566). Published on Get Untracked, we're 11-12-1 (.478). Below are our Wisdom of Crowds picks for the week, using today's New York Post Bettor's Guide for our lines:
CIN -3 bal [as posted yesterday]
GIANTS +3.5 dal
STL -6.5 ariz
jax +1 MIA
sf +7 NO
det +13.5 NE
sd -6 BUF
DEN -4 sea
car -3 PHI