Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lazy Sunday Enabler Spotlight: Hey Sports Fans

Hey there procrastinators, welcome to another edition of the Lazy Sunday Enabler Spotlight!  This time, we'll be shamelessly stealing the intros of the videos that we will be talking about today...what fun!

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me can tell you that I'm a sports fan.  In fact, that is some hardcore underselling: I'm a shockingly large sports fan.  The spirit of competition is something that I have always been born with, and sports as a young child was the perfect outlet.  Despite not being entered into many organized youth sports, I made my way by playing pickup games with the kids at school, in the neighborhood, wherever I could find similarly minded people.

However, I wasn't exactly blessed with a world of athletic talent: even as a kid, I wasn't anything special in that arena (I was quite bitterly disappointed when I was voted "Most Intelligent" by my fellow members of my 3rd grade class instead of "Most Athletic").  So, in order to compete with the more athletic kids, I used the skills that led to my "Most Intelligent" designation: if I had to catch up to a faster kid who was running away from me, I would use an angle to beat him/her to the spot and catch them.  If I had to avoid an run away from a faster kid, I would very my running speeds to keep my adversary on their toes, on their heels and flat-footed as I ran past them whilst they were in an uncomfortable position.  I would subtly hint at running one way, then cut hard to the other way.  For a couple of years, getting into high school, I could get away with this.

Tricks like those only last so long though, and my lack of athleticism caught up to me rather quickly.  However, my love of sports persisted, but more so through the mental aspect of the game.  Strategies, positions, routes, plays; all of these different decisions throughout the entire game leading to the drama of a great finish fascinated me further then the simple athletic ability did.

Recently, due to a few factors, my favorite sport has become basketball.  Seeing as how basketball, on the face of it, depends so much on individual athleticism, this might come off as a strange love of an unathletic, skinny kid with no game.  However, basketball is a sport which is, at its heart, built around percentages: more specifically, getting the best percentage chance to score on every given possession on offense while the defense tries to put you in positions where the percent chance of a made basket drops or the chance of a turnover increases.  All of this occurs within a series of mini-plays that take the period of time that the shot clock encompasses.  Throughout these mini-plays, there are many aspects in action: which is the best player to get the shot?  From where should said player get the shot?  Do you want to give the ball to that player immediately and therefore, decrease your chances of getting a turnover while also decreasing your chance to get an easier shot, or do you want to go for more of the high-risk, high-reward style of quick passes to find the right shot?

Don't believe me?  Check this out then:

 That would be one of my favorite videos (for obvious reasons) from a little channel called BBallBreakdown.  This channel features Coach Nick as the host breaking down, in his opinion, why a certain team won a game; how certain full offensive schemes work; training techniques for improving the skills of players; and interviews with players and coaches about the finer details of their crafts.

This is a very simple idea, and not an altogether original one even.  Why, then, is this channel the one I'm talking up?  Well, like it does in basketball, it all comes in the execution: Coach Nick is a fantastic analyst of the game in ways that TV color commentators could only dream of.  This is due to four things: relatively slick production values (always nice), he can speak from a place of experience as a coach (at what level, I'm not too sure, but the concepts remain the same), he has a gift for expressing complicated ideas in ways that the average viewer can understand, and-most importantly, I believe-he doesn't treat his audience like it's made up of laymen; he speaks to them as potential future coaches, which helps to separate him from a crowd of would-be Kenny Smiths.  This last point is especially helpful to my enjoyment of the breakdowns, as I appreciate being treated as someone who can be trusted to understand what he is talking about over game footage, or figure it out quickly enough to continue following.  It's like an English teacher realizing that you're at a stronger reading level, so the teacher gives you The Lord of the Flies while the rest of the class gets Hop on Pop; it feels good to be trusted to be smart enough to understand something beyond the basic mechanics.  Consequently, I always feel smarter after watching one of his videos, and the more I feel like I learn about basketball, the more I enjoy it.  The clever gentleman has created a cycle of positive reinforcement for sports nerds.  So.  Freaking.  Brilliant.

If you'd like more proof, here is Coach Nick's two part series in which he breaks down his favorite offensive system, the Triangle:

There is a lot more goodness on his YouTube channel as well as on his website.  The website not only has extended versions of the videos on his channel, but the companion articles are just as juiced with basketball goodness.  If you're interested in basketball, or just want to learn more about it, I highly encourage you to check both out.

Are you in?  I know that I am.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Lazy Sunday Enabler Spotlight: Time For Pre-dinner Snack!

Hello fellow awesome folks!  I hope that you're feeling as awesomely as I am!

This will likely come as no surprise to anyone, but I love me some YouTube.  Truly.  One might even say that it's...


No I'm not.

Anyway, over the last eight or nine years or so, I've spent what could possibly be an unhealthy amount of time on the site that made web videos truly mainstream, bringing the medium out from the teenage boy-niche into the lives of everyone who had access to the series of tubes.  Of course, most of those used this portal of creativity and communication to watch short videos of kittens doing mundane (though, admittedly adorable) things.

However, kitten and cat videos have never been the YouTube genre for me.  That being said, there have been a great many different videos and especially channels that I've found to be supremely entertaining.  And I've decided that I would like to use this blog to highlight a few of them.  Maybe, you might find something that you didn't know about before!  So, without further adieu...

Today's channel: Regular Ordinary Swedish Mealtime

The concept of the cooking show has been almost as old as the concept of the television itself.  The first truly famous entry into the genre being "The French Chef" starring Julia Child, which debuted in 1963.  Over the past 50-or-so years, we have seen numerous different incarnations of the cooking show, including an entire network devoted to them, with very few alterations made to Child's original formula.

This changed, though, as online content started to vary beyond flash animation; one of the benefits to the internet, YouTube included, is that it allows for some true freedom of expression, which leads to innovation into how to present older genres in new ways.  The cooking show is, of course, not excepted, and has had a few separate incarnations on YouTube specifically; my absolute favorite of which is "Regular Ordinary Swedish Mealtime" (ROSMT for short).

ROSMT is based on a very simple premise: making relatively normal food using epic, badass methods and coupling that with lots of over-the-top screaming and exaggeration.  This is due, almost entirely, to the fact that the original episodes were done as a parody of Epic Meal Time (who, of course, are just as exaggerated), and the creators of ROSMT got such a good reaction to those videos that they just decided to continue on...much to my delight!

ROSMT is my favorite cooking show on YouTube for two reasons: one; the creators get how exaggeration humor is supposed to work, and two; they are fantastic with comedic timing.  To the latter's point, the majority of any given episode of ROSMT is done with furious pace: they introduce the dish that Niklas (the main character/cook) is preparing, go through the ingredients, describe the preparation process, have some scene with pre-dinner mayonnaise (it's good for you!), a scene with the terrifyingly evil Mr. Fox, eat the meal and sign off in about three to five minutes per episode.  That is a lot of material to cover in just a couple of minutes, and the ROSMT crew do this by have a very quick pace to their episodes.  That being said, while most of the episode is very snappy in order to keep the laughs going, there's invariably one scene in every episode that has a much slower pace to it.  This scene serves to not only allow the viewer to catch a breath, but it also changes the natural rhythm of the episode, which keeps the viewer on his/her toes, which allows for better comedy (after all, a big portion of comedy is being surprised).  The pace of the show is perfect for what the show entails in both concept and especially execution.

As to the channel understanding the nature of exaggeration comedy, this is best made clear, I think, by comparing it to what the show was initially a response to: Epic Meal Time (EMT).  While I would never, in any way, classify EMT as a bad series, I would say that ROSMT is definitely the superior show.  Both perform exaggerated versions of cooking shows, but ROSMT understands that what makes exaggeration humor work is that the task being completed in such a ridiculous way needs to be absurdly mundane by comparison.  In EMT, the cooks are all acting like ridiculous frat boys, and in doing so, they make incredibly huge, possibly death-inducing dishes with burgers inside lasagna inside a BBQ pig (the last episode, in fact).  However, this fits exactly within their characters, as these are exactly the kind of dishes that dumbass dickhead frat boys would cook in real life (maybe not quite to the extreme that they go to, but very similar in spirit).  What they do fits in with what their characters would do naturally, so that contrast that draws the laughter out in this case isn't quite as strong.  Whereas, in ROSMT's case, everything that they make is a normal meal, so the head chef screaming incoherently while destroying his property and ingredients in the manner of a viking is far more unexpected and ridiculous, which leads to more and bigger laughs.  There's an episode where he cuts pork with a friggin' longsword.  That's amazing no matter who you are.

So there you have it: one of my favorite YouTube channels in the world: ROSMT.  Here's a sample episode (just in time for Christmas):

If you liked what you saw, please continue to watch more; creative entertainers should be rewarded!

Take care, and remember: always have a pre-dinner mayonnaise; it's good for you.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Importance of a Diverse Portfolio

As any investment adviser will tell you, it is best if one has a diverse portfolio in multiple markets in order to maximize earning potential, while decreasing risk of losing everything in case one market goes badly.  After all, you never want to "put all of your eggs in one basket."  This principle follows in many other aspects of life (including life itself).

I have been practicing this principle, before I had ever even knew what it was, or what a principle was for that matter.  How?  Why, through my sports fandom of course!  Due to my competitive nature, I have always been a fan of all sports...but I don't think that I would have understood how helpful that that would be depending on what was happening in the different sports at the same time.  Sports are a constant source of new stories and drama, and, as someone who loves both of those things, it stands to follow that I enjoy all of them, despite the struggles that come up from time to time.  That being said, the struggles are easier to deal with when you have another team that you care about doing well.  Let's take a look at that, shall we?

Texas Longhorn Football: ugh, that was a brutal season.  So many young players looking lost (especially early on in the season), so many losses in so many different ways: some by absolutely being dominated and some by missing the extra point.  Some by special teams miscues, some by terrible officiating and some by turnovers.  If it's possible to lose a football game via a certain method, you can safely assume that the Texas Longhorns of 2015 did so.  All of that being said, they also beat a playoff team in Oklahoma, another top-15 team (at the time) in Baylor, and would have beaten Sugar Bowl-bound Oklahoma State if not for the obscene officiating that was mentioned above.  On top of that, the team played an unprecedented amount of freshmen and sophomores; during the final game against Baylor, there were plays where eight of the eleven players on the field on defense were freshmen, and that doesn't include their best freshman in Malik Jefferson, who was out injured for the entire game.  On offense, the two freshmen linemen were solid-to-good for the majority of the year, they found some strong players in the receiving corps, and they found a couple of potential stars in the backfield in sophomore D'Onta Foreman and freshman Chris Warren.  The QB question remains, and there will be a new system implemented for next year, but all-in-all, the future looks bright, despite the extremely difficult growing pains.  Hope springs eternal for next year.

Dallas Cowboys: as bad as the season for the Longhorn football team was to sit through, this season for the Cowboys has been far worse.  Unlike the youthful Longhorns, the Cowboys were expected to contend for the NFC East and, ultimately, the Super Bowl.  Instead, the season has been a barrage of injuries to the best players, putrid offense, defense that just can't quite make the winning play, and distracting/stupid comments from the veterans on the squad.  This has just been a bad year, and the sooner it ends, the happier I'll be.  If there's one good thing to draw from this season, it's that the team should return angry with a strong infusion of talent that comes with having high draft picks.  In the NFL, that's sometimes all you need to make a big jump in the standings the following year (just look at Carolina for proof of that).  If Tony Romo can stay healthy next year, along with Dez Bryant and some other players on the defensive side like Orlando Scandrick, who knows?

San Antonio Spurs: by far the best team of all of my rooting interests thus far.  The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge hasn't made the Spurs the offensive juggernaut that was expected thus far, but they're still more than solid on that end, as the team is currently fourth in the NBA in offensive rating (points per 100 possessions), despite taking very few three-point shots, which is nigh unheard-of in today's Association.  On the defensive end, the Spurs have been historically good, as they are currently giving up around 92 points per 100 possessions, which is the fewest in the NBA in the shot clock era.  Allow that to sink in for a moment: the Spurs, thus far, have played the best defense in the NBA since a time limit to possessions was implemented for the 1953-54 season.  That's incredible when you look at the numbers; when you watch them play, it makes more sense.  The starting lineup has two elite wing defenders in Kawhi Leonard (who may as well be a land-dwelling kraken with how far his extremities extend to snatch opposing passes) and Danny Green; a still-elite rim protector in Tim Duncan (by some measures, the best in the NBA at nearly 40 years old); and a surprisingly capable big man in the aforementioned Aldridge, and you have the makings of a formidable defensive unit.  Couple the fantastic defense with an improving offense led by Leonard, Aldridge, a rejuvenated Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and a solid stable of bench players in Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, David West and the young Jonathan Simmons and Kyle Anderson, and you have the makings of one of the top two teams in the NBA.  As a pure basketball fan, all I can do is hope for no injuries and have a Western Conference Finals between these Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, who've been even more impressive offensively than the Spurs have defensively.  Basketball and sports fans everywhere deserve to have these two teams healthy and playing each other in a seven-game series.

Texas Longhorn Men's Basketball: this team is a work in progress.  Under new head coach Shaka Smart, and playing in the murderer's row that is the Big XII in basketball, it was always going to be a bit of a retooling year.  That being said, coach Smart's team have been quick learners, and the team has made tremendous strides not even ten games into the season.  The Longhorns just beat the #3 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in a game that absolutely no one expected to win.  Great rebounding on the defensive end coupled with a couple of awesome offensive performances by Javan Felix and Eric Davis, Jr. led to a great win.  The team will definitely still have its ups and downs (they still foul too much, and free throws are a problem), but the team is exciting, and they should be on their way to contending in the very tough Big XII sooner rather than later.  The future looks bright, and an NCAA tourney bid most definitely can't be discounted this year either.

Texas Rangers: last season ended painfully, losing to the Blue Jays in the first round of the playoffs, but the future-again-looks bright.  The team has a solid foundation in its rotation, with Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Cole Hamels, and some solid youngsters in Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez.  Add to that mix one Yu Darvish, who will come back at about mid-May, and that's one heck of a rotation on paper that has proven post-season success.  The lineup still appears to be solid, with Delino DeShields proving to be a solid leadoff man, Prince Fielder returning to past performance, Adrian Beltre still being a solid run producer, Rougned Odor being an absolute spark plug, and some strong prospects like Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and the returning Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings, the team has pieces.  Will they put them together is anyone's guess, as baseball can be very difficult to predict, but they have a chance to make a deep run next year.

As these brief analyses highlight, my teams have been a mixed bag of successes and failures in the last couple of months.  This brings me back to my original point: it is wonderful to have a diverse portfolio, even in one's sports fandom.  Despite the Longhorns breaking my heart or the Cowboys putting on woeful displays of football, I still have my Spurs games to look forward to; I have the growth of the Longhorn basketball team to see; I have the spring training and the MLB season to look forward to with the Rangers.  It's more likely than not that at least one team will be relatively successful, which leads to better chances of sports satisfaction, with better stories to tell and more drama to be had.

As a sports fan, I'm so glad that my eggs aren't all in one basket.