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Malik (9/19/11)

Normally, when the NFL season is in full swing, I tend to do a little post on the Seahawks the day after they play. However, with the season how it is, I really don't expect much to say. The Seahawks are looking really good for trying to get Andrew Luck with the number one pick in the draft. Of course, with how much Pete Carroll dislikes Stanford, I'm almost afraid of Seattle getting the top pick and blowing it on anyone else since Luck is Stanford's QB.

In reality, the Seahawks are better in some ways than I expected. I mean that only to say that T-Jack is a better QB option than I thought. The team is crap, and the receivers cannot get open, but at least T-Jack does a good enough job when standing behind an O-line that would have seen Hasselbeck being hauled off on a stretcher if he remained. Still, no rushing offense, a bad offensive line, and receivers who cannot get open will all be just as important as a QB who can hit a target. Without these elements, no team can thrive.

At least the defense looks better than they did (with an entirely different line-up) last year. Still, like I said, without an offensive plan of attack, a team cannot win. A better than average defense will only lead to a lower score on a blowout loss to anyone the NFL puts in front of Seattle.

Anyway, my main thought today is more with the UW game. I could play a what-if game and say that UW should have won. Then again, I know that momentum and emotion play a huge role in a game, and one shift can lead to complacency, determination, or complete shell-shock. I honestly think shell-shock was the option UW went with. However, I can understand that effect when they lost by 17 and were screwed over by the refs for about 17 points worth of mis-calls.

At the end of the second quarter, UW punted. When the Nebraska returner botched a fair catch by missing the ball and seeing it bounce off his leg, UW did the smart thing and capitalized. They grabbed the lose, but now open, ball and ran it in for a touch down. This was the second time Nebraska blew a punt reception in the first half. What wasn't a smart thing was how the refs decided to call a penalty against UW for interfering with the returner. When UW never had a player touch the returner, and he had all chances possible to receive the ball, nothing it wrong with the UW play. This mis-cue from the officiating team led to 7 points lost by UW and 3 gained by Nebraska with a half ending field goal as the clock expired. I see that as a simple case of 10 points changed in the game.

The same general thing happened later in the game on the very next UW punt. It didn't directly lead to points, but it, in a way, did. When their punter received the ball, Nebraska had made no fair catch signal. This left Desmond Trufant (who has to be one of the most amazing players to watch on any college defense) primed to take out the Husker returner. The instant he had the ball in hand, Trufant was primed to make an amazing tackle. Ball caught? Check. No fair catch? Check. Trufant leveling the returned with a legal tackle? Massive check. However, once again a penalty came out for interfering with the returner. Then another penalty on the UW side line when one of the coaches couldn't contain his complete feeling of anger over two botched punts (botched by the ref) in a row. Next thing you know, Nebraska is about 20 or so yards further downfield than they should have been. A short time later, another 7 were on the board after Nebraska scored a touch down.

Another case came later on a kick-off when a UW player caught the ball, on a UW kick. I don't know college kick-off rules as well as I know NFL rules, but in the NFL if the ball goes 10 yards, then it's open for an on-side kick...even if it's less on sides and more way down the field. UW was again flagged for interfering with another special teams reception. I don't know college rules too well, so maybe the ball can only be recovered if it hits the turf first...I don't know. I do know that Nebraska had a chance to receive and they just didn't have a player where the ball was. The Huskers, not the Huskies, blew that play.

As for the punts...I know what excuse can be used. In previous years, a punt returner had a halo of safety. No one could get within (I may be slightly off on this number) 1 yard of a punt returner until the ball has been caught. However, if this is what UW was called for, then the officiating team needs to stop living in the past, literally. That rule is dead now and has been removed from the NCAA. There is no halo, and a failed punt reception is entirely open to being taken advantage of by the punting long as no one interferes with the punt returners chance to receive the ball. After that chance is lost, then the returner is entirely to blame for the punt team capitalizing.

Now, if these plays were handled better, would UW had won? It cannot be said. Momentum and emotion...two things that change any what-if scenario in football into an entirely hypothetical realm. In reality, UW could have become complacent. They could have cracked under the pressure. One thing I can say, however, is that UW looked like they did crack under the shock of being the victim of so many blown calls. Maybe the UW kick return flop that left Nebraska with the ball on UW's 1 yard line in the second half would not had happened. Maybe a lot of things would have happened. However, the one thing that matters is that UW shouldn't have fallen to the pressure of these bad calls, but these calls also don't belong in football.

These refs have some major questions to answer. Especially, since the rules don't seem to be applied as they are written, I think a lot of us college football fans need one answer above all else; what are the rules?


Malik (9/20/11)

First Netflix alienated their customers, during an incredibly bad looking economy, by raising prices. While the timing was horrible, I can see their problem. I didn't like seeing a price increase for houses like mine that want both the streaming and the Blu-ray (or DVD) option. It's a big hit when everyone is asking for more money, and no one is offering to hire or give more money to employees. While $7.99 more a month doesn't sound like much (and don't get me started with the idiotic rationalizations, like how it's only two lattes a month), it gets pretty bad when Comcast rates keep going up, gas prices are climbing, utilities are increasing, groceries are going up in price, produce is especially going up (due to a double hit of the economy and a horrible summer), and...well, the list goes on for quite a while. In simple, adding another $7.99 to my pain of being nickeled and dimed is not an easy thing to swallow.

Netflix shouldn't have explained the price increase better. They did a good enough job. The truth is sad, but Starz helped to force their hand. They license a huge chunk of the streaming library from Starz, and Starz is demanding more money than the library is actually worth. Also, with the US Postal Service in shambles, due to the economy and less business each year, the DVD/Blu-ray mailing price cannot keep steady or be discounted. Both of these sad realities make for a big extra hit on the old Netflix account.

If Netflix was smart, it would end there. Customers are pissed off and a good 600,000 have fled since June, and the Netflix stock price has plummeted about 50% since July. The best damage control would have been quick additional information, or to remain silent. Americans tend to have short attention spans. We do forget, even if we typically don't forgive...making it funny when we remain angry for something we don't recall happening. It's silly sounding, but it's true.

Instead of letting this die, Netflix waited two months and then started up again with more things to frustrate and anger. Now we will see Netflix do only streaming, and a spin-off Qwickster (which sounds like the lamest XBox Live account name I've seen in a long time) will do the mailing of movies. This means two different queues to sort through, two different sites to update with billing and shipping information, and two different sets of review scores for Netflix/Qwickster to recommend other titles to you (which is actually a nice feature once you've reviewed about 100 or more movies/TV shows). Two lists of data that are now separate and not to ever interact with each other again once this transition is finalized. Doesn't that sound easy and intuitive? No.

The only way to make this worse is if they find a way to further infuriate someone. How could they? It would take a stroke of pure genius to find more people to mess with...or they could just go for the shareholders again until they vote the entire board of directors out of the joint. Maybe by offering game rentals, which may work for Gamefly with their dedicated service, but it will only create a more expensive item for Qwickster to purchase in bulk. An item with a shorter shelf life than a movie. An item that will either create a price structure beyond what shareholders are comfortable with, or one which will drive down profits or even generate a loss (once again angering the shareholders).

When Blockbuster went under, I thought it would be great to let a company handle the mass video rental market. A company that was successful due to knowing the right course of action and the right way to communicate changes in service. Instead, we see Netflix is trying their hardest to just crash and burn. Most unfortunately for the once mighty looking company, there is enough competition out there now to make this type of move entirely damning to their own business model. Want streaming? Get Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or any of a few dozen services that are bringing this technology to the masses. Want movies on a physical disk format? Redbox is impossible to not find nearby in any major metropolitan area, and also not too hard to find in many smaller regions. If you have a grocery store in your area, there is probably a Redbox somewhere near by.

It will be interesting to see if Netflix can save their business model from their own business model. For now, I can say I'm waiting for the next iteration of their Starz contract to see how badly their streaming library is damaged. That will determine how much of the old Netflix empire remains on my TV.


Malik (9/23/11)

On a whim, I decided to return to console gaming last night. I'm not opposed to console gaming...I just haven't been motivated lately. That all changed when I saw the PSN newsletter on the new releases for this week. In particular, when I saw Burnout Crash and its amazing $10 price tag.

So, after fighting my PS3 for a bit, I finally purchased the game. Well, I had a fight since I didn't buy anything on my PS3 since 2010, and my credit card had long since expired and been replaced. It took far too long to figure out what the problem was (expired card) when I couldn't purchase some funds for my wallet to buy Burnout Crash. At least I can say that if my credit card information had been compromised during the PSN fiasco this spring...well, it won't do much good for anyone who stole an expired card.

Anyway, Burnout Crash is something I've been wanting for a long time; a chance for Criterion Games to return to the awesomeness that was Crash mode in the earlier Burnout titles. I spent more time on Burnout 2 and 3 with Crash mode than I did with the race modes. I spent more time on Crash mode than I spent on some lengthy RPGs.

While Burnout Crash is not the Crash mode of old, it is a damned fun game. Instead of being ran in a system like Burnout games used to utilize the mode, it's been given a GTA feel. I don't mean GTA3 or later...I mean it feels like GTA, GTA2, and GTA:London. It's top down and simplistic in execution. This change from dynamic to simple, despite how it may sound, is definitely not for the worse. While I'd love a follow-up game that was more like the Crash mode of old, this is a nice spin-off in its own right.

You still unlock new cars, like you would in normal Burnout games (although there are far fewer cars with fewer stats), and progress through new roads (or actually it's usually intersections) and modes within the roads. Each roadway will grant you three different modes with five different ways to win in each mode on each road. In the end, there are a good 15 or so roads (the exact number escapes me right now), for a total of at least 225 goals to complete. Of course, these goals will always include three score based ones (cause damage equal to $10mil, $25mil, and $50mil). The others two are typically are a bit more fun and creative with specific goals of destruction or goals for perfecting one's skills.

The game is basically the same general idea of Crash mode from the classic Burnout games, but with a bit more of a...I don't know how to say it, but I'd say a "pinball" feel. You have things bouncing around, a top down perspective, and a lot of action and stimuli with a basic idea of not letting your ball get away (in this case, try to prevent all traffic from escaping the intersection).

To put it simply, if you are a fan of the Crash mode in the old Burnout games and you have a PS3, you could do far worse than to try out this game. It's not like the game has a huge level of depth to it, but it's sure good for a quick level of attention deficit based gaming.


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