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As a consumer of media and news about the media, it’s disconcerting when a voice like former NBC executive Warren Littlefield still carries significant weight. Deadline reported in a fluff piece Friday how Littlefield is rounding up his former colleagues at The Sarnoff Creation to discuss the network’s “worst rating performance ever”.

Yes, the network has been abysmal the last six years. I’m not denying shows like “The Playboy Club” or “The Event” were god-awful or didn’t have enough time to find their groove. But the mindset of Littlefield’s era has become horribly antiquated in the last decade.

To review, Littlefield left NBC in the 2000-01 season. The fact the network was struggling on nights that weren’t Wednesday or Thursday notwithstanding, (some of) the television landscape facets of the time include:

  1. Cable, whose programming output was a fraction of what it is today. Neither AMC nor TNT was producing drama, USA was presenting mostly sci-fi and game shows, and FX’s signature show was “Son of the Beach”. Even HBO was not scheduling the amount of original programming it does now, to say nothing of Starz or Showtime.
  2. Neither Hulu nor Netflix existed. For that matter, network websites only housed information.
  3. DVR was in its infancy, and was more novel than practical.
  4. DVDs hadn’t proliferated. Read the rest of this entry »

From the outside it may appear that everyone in Ohio is a Buckeyes fan.  Ohio State probably gets more publicity than all the other institutions in Ohio combined, and for a long time it was the only Ohio school in a BCS conference, so it’s easy to see why some may believe this.

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been an Ohio Bobcats diehard since the day I stepped on campus in September 2008.  Coincidentally, my hatred for Ohio State, which had laid dormant during my grade school years, has awoken while on the campus of another university.  This is partially due to the fact that on game day I see more scarlet and grey jerseys in campus bars than green and white ones in the stands of Peden Stadium.  This article in Ohio University’s student newspaper pretty much sums up my opinion on the Ohio State issue.

It’s hard to be a fan of a non-BCS school (unless that school is a perennial power like Boise State, TCU or Utah).  The mainstream media only reports on our team if something really amazing or really terrible happens, and you won’t see Lee Corso putting on a Bobcat head anytime soon.  The only times our games are shown are early in the season when we pick up our paycheck to play one of the BCS schools or during the conference season on a Tuesday night on ESPN U.

I decided to document my experiences this past Saturday as my beloved Bobcats opened Mid-American Conference play against the Toledo Rockets in an attempt to describe what it’s like to root for a school big enough to play at the same level as the big boys, but small enough to remain off the mainstream radar.

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Penn State travels to Tuscaloosa to battle Alabama in the nightcap of an excellent second Saturday of college football.  Penn State enters the game ranked 18th in the AP poll and 14th in the Coaches after a 44-14 win over Youngstown State.  Defending National Champions Alabama sit atop both polls after their 48-3 thrashing of San Jose State.

This game is yet another National Championship rematch, the 1979 Sugar Bowl, when #2 Alabama stopped #1 Penn State on the goal line to give Bear Bryant his fifth National Championship.

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None of us have forgotten the last time these teams clashed in the 2003 National Championship game. You would think after seven years these players wouldn’t look to that game as a source of inspiration, but the ‘U’ is out for vengeance. None of the 2010 Hurricanes were even out of high school yet, being somewhere between 10-14 years old when the Buckeyes took down the favored Miami team in a double-overtime 31-24 upset that prevented the ‘U’ from back-to-back titles. Even still, the Miami Hurricanes of today haven’t forgotten about the loss.

still hurts after all these years

Defensive end Olivier Vernon told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “It’s revenge time. Nobody’s forgotten about that. I feel like I was playing in that game.”

For the Buckeyes what happened in 2003 simply happened in 2003. Even Jim Tressel claimed to be puzzled by the idea that this game holds a sense of revenge for Miami. As for the superstar quarterback of the Buckeyes, the game wasn’t even important enough at the time for him to watch.

Terrelle Pryor, originally from Jeannette, Pa., said, “I’d be lying if I said I watched that game”.

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If this were earlier in the decade, a nation would’ve turned its eyes on this match-up. A regular season clash between Florida State and Oklahoma? If Saturday Night Football existed then, this game would’ve been a no-brainer. Possibly the most important match-up of the season!

But it isn’t 2001 or 2002. In 2010, a Florida State-Oklahoma match-up gets to be a national TV game, but it’s scheduled opposite the more hyped Ohio State-Miami game, and the prime time slot belongs to Penn State-Alabama.

Like its afternoon counterpart, these two teams also met in a championship game. The 2001 Orange Bowl, where Oklahoma beat an FSU team that leapfrogged Miami in the BCS standings 13-2, was their last meeting. Unlike the Fiesta Bowl re-creation though, this is no grudge match. It’s pitting two teams battling back to respectability.

Miami, 2001.

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Madden has been the power house of sports gaming for decades, but this series is one with a very dark past. The game series debuted as John Madden Football in 1988 for Apple computers if you can believe it. Madden made the jump to the SEGA Genesis and began it’s rise to power in the gaming world from then on. John Madden was the face of the game every year up until 1999 when the company finally realized an old ugly white dude who was simply continuing to get older and uglier just wasn’t who they wanted to promote an ever evolving simulation of the American gridiron. Coach Madden felt betrayed. The franchise that his name built had turned their back on him, and this was something that John could not just let go. Ever since the hall of fame coach has been dethroned he has vowed vengeance upon anyone who dares to take his place. Behind closed doors Coach Madden is a very dark and powerful sorcerer, and he has hexed the featured player from 1999 up until now. He will not stop his unrelenting quest for vengeance because this is a wound that John has never been able to close.

you messed with the wrong guy

Lets explore the curse a little deeper. In 1999 when the new Madden 2000 was being set to be released Electronic Arts decided to ease out of the old coach by putting a faded blue picture of Barry Sanders behind a picture of Madden himself. When John got wind of the betrayal he used his dark magic to end Barry Sanders playing days for good. Sanders, under a commanding curse from Madden, unexpectedly retired from the game for good. With this the battle between EA and John Madden began. Coach Madden in a blind rage cursed Sanders well before the games release giving EA time to replace the graphic and eliminate Madden all together. They replaced the image with Dorsey Levens who played for the Green Bay Packers. In years prior the Packers had just played in back-to-back super bowls and been a dominant force in the NFC, but with the newly cursed running back they couldn’t even make it to the playoffs. Since Madden was just getting his grip on his magical forces Levens actually had a decent season, but he was dealing with a bad knee all year that eventually turned into his demise. He was cut from Green Bay at the end of 2001.

poor guy didn't know the war he was starting

This was only the beginning. Eddie George from the Tennessee Titans decided to step up and be honored as the 2001 Madden cover. Madden used a curse that went undetected by EA for nearly the entire season. Eddie went on to have his best statistical year of his career. EA seemed to have won the battle until disaster struck in the Titans divisional playoff game with the Baltimore Ravens. Eddie George bobbled a pass that turned into an interception, and subsequently cost the Titans the game and their season. The 2001 curse lingered and Eddie George turned out his worst rushing average as he was hampered by injuries for all of the following season.

Madden 2002 brought on the next contender in Daunte Culpepper. A man who was regarded as one of the elite quarter backs of the time, but you take on John Madden and he will destroy you. Daunte struggled for the Vikings as they were only 4-7 before Madden decided to put him out of his misery with a season ending knee injury. The Minnesota Vikings went on to a misreble 5-11 record after going to the NFC championship game just one year prior.

For 2003 one of the all time greats figured he was up to the task. Marshall Faulk came into the season with four back-to-back-to-back-to-back +1,300 yard rushing seasons. EA figured they had an unstoppable force with Faulk, but once again they underestimated the power of vengeance. Faulk was plagued with an ankle injury all year and failed to even reach the 1,000 yard mark.

Michael Vick was a cocky young rising star who had been called Superman for his speed and electrifying quality on the field. John Madden ended his high flying expectations for 2004 when he cursed Vick just one day after the release of the Vick covered Madden. Michael only saw the field for the last five games after a fractured fibula in pre-season, and the Falcons suffered greatly going 5-11.

Electronic Arts figured they could beat the system by replacing the Madden cover player with a defensive guy in 2005. Ray Lewis didn’t believe in any stupid curse. For the first time in his career he didn’t record a single interception after picking off 7 just one year before. He also sat out the last game of the season with an injury as the Ravens missed the playoffs. They had made the playoffs three of the past four years.

The ignorance of the players continues to keep the tradition going. In 2006 Donovan McNabb took on the task by saying, “…might be a trend, but I don’t believe in the curse at all”. If only he weren’t so naive. In the very first game McNabb suffered a sports hernia. He attempted to will himself through the season all just to prove the curse wrong, but Madden clenched his grip and reinjured McNabb against Dallas ending Donovan’s season. Philadelphia placed last in the NFC East after making the playoffs five straight years prior.

In 2007 Shaun Alexander graced the cover after a great season that led the Seahawks to their very first super bowl appearance. Also in an attempt to reconcile EA put out a special addition with Madden on the cover just like old times. After John realized no one was buying the game with his face on it he snapped back into his vendetta on EA. So in week three Alexander broke his foot and missed the next six games. Same old story. John Madden will always prevail.

damnit, if you weren't so unmarketable this war could be over

2008 brought on a new challenge for Coach Madden and his curse when Vince Young took on the cover. Young hurt his quadriceps in week 5 and missed his first game due to injury in the history of his playing career (high school/ college/ pro).

EA got real clever for 2009’s game. They decided to put Brett Favre on the cover after he retired. Good luck injuring a player when he no longer plays the game. Do not test the might of Madden. He used his dark magic on Favre to bring him out of retirement so he can lead the league in interceptions with the Jets while playing with a torn biceps. In a crude joke Madden also cursed Favre with a retirement loop. Every year Brett will retire only to come out of retirement until he is either dead or unwanted.

Favre doesn't even know the loop he is doomed to

EA was stubborn. They refused to wave the white flag in surrender. They tried something new that opened up a possible weakness for John Madden. They put two players on the cover at once. Madden scrambled to handle with the two players at once, but only got to Troy Polamalu in time. He sprained his MCL missing three games only to come back and be re-injured. He hurt his posterior cruciate ligament in November and missed even more games. For all intensive purposes Larry Fitzgerald got out of the season untampered with. John realized he had been tricked and finally gave some ground back to EA, but in a last ditch effort Coach Madden cursed Larry with a rib injury causing him to miss the pro bowl.

The war between Electronic arts and John Madden will more than likely never end. EA has finally caught Madden with a weakness, and intends to continue to fight back. They seem to have gotten over confident as they fell back into their old cycle this year by putting only Drew Brees on the cover, but my guess is they’ve got some sort of trick up their sleeves. Best of luck Drew, and watch your back because the power of John Madden has no bounds.

the war continues in 2011


Usually the only time I see my hometown in the news is when the latest most dangerous or most miserable cities list is released, so I was surprised to see this gem while browsing Deadspin.

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I’m in a minority here, but I think Ozzie Guillen is one of the best things going in baseball right now. True, he has a crazy streak and an on-field presence that can get irritating. But his outspokenness is admirable and his social consciousness goes far beyond the limits of most baseball players, who year after year endorse God n Guns and little else.

credit: Chicago Sun-Times

Baseball guys can be a little, um, unique in public statements (Zack “Crazy Train” Greinke, anybody?). But only Ozzie seems to keep everyone’s collective one eye on him. Publicly giving out his email. Demanding his son be removed from the big league organization. Proclaiming his love for Bed Bath and Beyond and saying Comcast sucks. And now, suddenly, Ozzie’s becoming a leading voice in immigration. What the hell. Read the rest of this entry »

If you’ve been following OK Confucius through its early stages, you know much of our output has concentrated on sports and art. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before we were writing about an intersection of the two…

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