Don Draper always advises his clients with an aphorism: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” That's decent advice for addressing a short-term problem about the perception of a brand or company, but it doesn’t do anything to actually solve a business’s core problem. This year, the Los Angeles Lakers have completed their evolution into one of professional sports’ most prolific organizational failures. They have changed the conversation so many times in the past year that they have failed to actually confront any of the problems that have lingered with the team since their last championship in 2010.
Being in a massive market with a built-in fan base does present a unique set of challenges and opportunities. The Lakers are different from small-market teams, whose business models can’t take on the same risks that the Lakers can assume annually and unload several years later. Superstar players are attracted to life in L.A., maintaining the casual fan’s attention with 'buzz-worthy' names and the addition of free agents coming off overachieving seasons. The excessive media attention on the Lakers and Kobe Bryant sometimes makes us wonder why they get special treatment, as if they are any different from the 29 other teams that will come up short every year.
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
I don't know if something as unabashedly macro as the Super Bowl could ever be considered a microcosm for anything, but here's what I'd say: It seems almost stupidly fitting, after a season in which the NFL's commissioner displayed an uncharacteristic surplus of political ineptitude, that the league could not manage to keep its own power on. And it seems just as fitting that one of the more entertaining NFL seasons in recent memory climaxed near the goal line, with a quarterback who represents the possibilities of the future ultimately in charge of the game's result. The NFL is great, and the NFL is dysfunctional. It lives in the light, and it lives in the dark. — Michael Weinreb
Manti Te’o’s fraudulent online emotional affair is eerily similar to Chris Webber’s timeout in the 1993 NCAA championship game. Webber’s temporary lapse in judgment ultimately defined his career despite a 15-year NBA run. Similarly, the defining moment of Te’o’s collegiate life may cast an even longer, weirder shadow over his pro career. Never mind that both were college students at the time of the respective incidents — both made timely mistakes with cultural significance that overwhelmed the rest of their public identity.
Manti Te’o is no longer ‘a good locker room guy and emotional leader.’ He is that dude who got Catfished.
Hey, remember the shortened NBA regular season? Now that the playoffs have started, it feels like the regular season only existed to serve as a talking point for diagnosing Derrick Rose’s torn ACL.
The 66-game season was actually a blessing for die-hard and casual NBA fans. There was rarely a night off to forget that the NBA existed, even if it meant a bleak matchup between the Pistons and Bobcats. From night to night, we found out that we didn’t actually care about watching quality basketball, just as long as it felt like the NBA TV B-list player analyst of the night was crashing on your couch when it all ended. We officially learned that practice means even less to fans than it does to a lazy NBA player. We only cared that the NBA is there for us every night, like a friend that we can turn to in order to distract ourselves from darkness and loneliness. Sure, legacies are defined in the playoffs, but the regular season is still a necessary routine that we take for granted when it’s over.
Now that it’s over, we can look back on what we expected out of the NBA season versus what actually happened. For some reason, we thought that the lockout would change the course of the season, but there were few surprises. For instance only two new teams made the playoffs (Blazers and Hornets were replaced by the Clippers and Jazz), but really only one did if you consider Chris Paul to be a superhuman who puts mediocre teams on his back. Here are some more widely accepted-as-reasonable NBA preseason predictions and how they actually panned out.
The NBA lockout is over, and it really just felt like an extended offseason with added resentment. It sort of reminded me of The Decision, except the lockout was way less interesting. The two are similar because fans interpreted them as abstract ideas of debatable business ethics and personal morality. As a spectator, it felt like The Decision ‘mattered’ more, however there was obviously way more at stake with the current labor negotiations. Both were disorienting fan experiences because even our most informed opinions are based on rumors, strategically released information, and the empty rhetoric of people who seemed alarmingly entitled.
Unfortunately, the NBA lockout never produced a seminal moment that was ceremonially officiated by Jim Gray or even resulted in a bitter owner sending out an angry e-mail in Comic Sans. Instead, we will just remember tired, old men in expensive sweaters holding a guerrilla press conference at 3 a.m. on an early Saturday morning. At least it is over, but in a way, the NBA never disappeared, because we kept up to date with players as they managed to stay in the headlines, stay in shape, or stay actively present during the negotiations.
Here are some lasting images from the NBA lockout.
The return leg of the Western Conference semifinal playoff series between the New York Red Bulls and Los Angeles Galaxy is easily the most interesting game that will be played in the history of the league (11 pm EST, ESPN2). I know you might be tired of hearing that case being made for every single game that David Beckham has been involved in, but this time it might actually be true. The match-up involves the league’s richest teams, the most famous players, and the biggest television markets. The story lines behind the game make it just about the most compelling MLS game that a casual fan could finally decide to watch.
Major League Soccer is never must-see-tv for general American soccer fans. It’s not really about the perception of a ‘low quality of play’ as compared to top tier leagues, or the lack of familiarity with the majority of the players. Americans just watch individual soccer matches because they want to feel like they are watching something with ‘high stakes’, knowing that they aren’t going to miss an important moment.
The beginning of the NFL season is an exciting time for mediocre franchises because they can envision success without actually having to achieve it. They can dream of a first-round playoff appearance like it is "their Super Bowl" without having to think about the questions they will have to answer when their team is eliminated.
These are the buzzworthy NFL franchises. Buzzworthy franchises are branded as "unknown" "surprises" that we didn’t expect to do so well.
We celebrate buzzworthy teams for what they can be, solely based on a few random regular-season games. As one of the world’s leading experts on forecasting the authenticity of buzz behind emerging bands, I am familiar with the best ways to analyze and enjoy the buzz behind "what’s next." Kings of Leon, Coldplay, and the Strokes used to be buzzbands, and the quality and context of their product was easier to enjoy before they achieved status as ubiquitous brands that people think they are supposed to like. We want to jump on board the spirit of buzz before a band or a team builds a successful franchise model that they recycle until it becomes irrelevant.
These are the buzzworthiest NFL franchises thru three weeks of action (before they actually become what they are).
There is too much attention and praise showered on the modern elite quarterback. The Tom Bradys, Peyton Mannings and Aaron Rodgers of the league are celebrated as genius demigods, just because they can make split-second decisions and deliver precise passes while being chased by gigantic men who spent an entire week figuring out ways to injure them. Blah fucking blah. The more compelling narrative is that of the modern failure. Because when things go wrong for an NFL quarterback, they go spectacularly wrong. And there will be no shortage of that this season. On-field arguments. Botched handoffs. Locker room backstabbing. Seeing that unfold is way more fun than watching Brady sling the ball around for a bit, droneishly drop clichés at the press conference, then go home to the hottest woman on the planet.
This year, we're going to make it even more interesting, using an old trick: adding a draft, a scoring system, and gambling.