Yesterday was National Pixelvision Day. We didn't make #pixelvision a Trending Topic -- we topped out at 0.03% of all Twitter traffic, which is about a tenth of what #UKnowUBrokeWhen got over the course of the evening. That's still pretty impressive, but what really matters is that there were people from all over Hoops Nation doing something at the exact same time, working in teams, sharing an experience with each other. That something, that moment, happened to involve watching crappy 360p streams of mid-major college basketball games (and Tom Petty videos) for seven hours. But everybody involved had a goofy fun time, and it's arguably the most awesome thing we've ever done on this site.
There's nothing inherently special about The Mid-Majority. Any self-importance or transparent internal dramatics come from my insistence that what I create has a certain level of elevated quality. I want to be proud of the things I make, and I try to protect them as much as I can. To most (Group A in the survey), this is a product under constant judgment; it's either doing its job or it's not, and the determination of what that job is resides in the beholder's eye, not mine. Those people get to decide empirically when I've "hopped on the dolphin," or whatever the kids say now. For others (Group B), this is a light midwinter diversion, quickly forgotten when the snow thaws.
But to some, the C-group, this thing I put together five-and-a-half years ago is something that's gotten under the skin. This may have slightly altered the way you look at Our Game, and perhaps it's even inspired you to get out of the computer chair and build something ambitious too. It's become an influence. This site is simply a composite of its own influences, and the magic fades a little if I draw you the map. The direct antecedent of The Mid-Majority is Anne Ursu's Batgirl blog; Anne created her own backstories for the players, inserted herself in the narrative, and posted Lego reenactments of key plays. Anne didn't provide the kind of "fan's take" on sports like so many blogs aim to provide; she ripped out the tubes and wires between the games and the public and replaced them as she saw fit. (And she was kind enough to lend me the keys to the machine once, a long time ago.) There has never been a sports website as subversive as Batgirl. Ever. From Ze Frank, I took the idea of community organizing in the name of total zaniness. I got the surreal, existential tangents from monologuist and personal literary hero Joe Frank, and the absurd poetics from former Silver Joo David Berman.
I guess this is all just a long way of telling you that I'm going to the Olympics. I need Group C's help to keep this site up. Now, this is not some shock twist that I've been planning for months. Last November, I put up a $4,000 check that I had earmarked as matching funds to cover our Season 6 travel budget, and you came through. But the other day, a gentleman (who wishes to remain anonymous) came forward and donated a large percentage of the difference. He wanted me to go to Vancouver. Remember when I said that if you keep going and don't stop, wonderful things will happen? It's true.
This isn't a vacation. As I said Tuesday, my goal is to write about what I see. Most writers will focus ont the results of the Games themselves, or offer snarky commentary based on confirmation bias about how the Olympics don't mean as much as they used to. I'm going to Vancouver because it's Ground Zero for the Sports Bubble.
Nearly 10 years ago, I was in Sydney, Australia. I saw up close how the Olympics positively impacted everyone involved -- the city, its citizens and and its culture, the TV rightsholders, the sponsors, and those of us who made the trip. Vancouver 2010 will be a massive sporting event at which nothing will go right. Everyone will lose money, a dream dome that will collapse because the value of the product is artificially inflated. This model will repeat itself all through the decade, as pro leagues and big events (including the NCAA Tournament) will be propped up with TV revenue, which will depend on advertisers that increasingly won't or can't subsidize the costs -- that's what's happening here. That, in turn, will result in stricter policing of exclusive-sponsor rights (to the point of insanity) and the increased use of the actual competitors as nothing more than energy that powers a giant Matrix-style battery. To examine this dynamic in the first person will require "outsider" journalism, the kind you've seen here for nearly six years.
I know that there's a Heavy Hitters club out there, and if you want to help with this project, you know where to go. Keep in mind that I don't expect anyone to. The most important thing here is to keep The Mid-Majority going content-wise, and that's where Group C comes in. Since TMM has become a part of you, it's time for you to become a part of it.
While I'm gone (I'll be back, and I'll still make it to 100 games), we have a special guest -- one that old-timers will recognize from our infamous blogging Class of 2004 -- who will be posting thoughtful essays. And we will also be posting first-person entries from you. Tell the people of Hoops Nation why your favorite college basketball program is special. Write about its history, and its place in the community. Illuminate to the folks who've never been there what it's like where you go (or went) to school. Walk us through, put yourself in the narrative, and take 1,500-2,000 words or so. There are only two rules: make it good, and don't write about how important TMM is (or kiss my ass). This is not about TMM, this is you. This is your National Pixelvision moment all over again.
Use The Form™. I will edit these (lightly -- for grammar, spelling and content). By submitting an entry, you are yielding first publication rights on the web, but you're keeping seconds as well as all print rights. We will publish all of these entries, somehow. You have a deadline of Friday, February 12.
We will cover the day-to-day duties as well; I am proud to announce that we'll be introducing a new Robot. Over the weekend, before I leave for the West Coast, I'm going to program a computer with 1,000 eyes, which will pore through all the previous night's results from our Basketball State database, shake out the important stuff, and post it automatically in order to keep Group A happy. Or not. If you have a problem, you can take it up with the Robot.
This is all so that I don't have to do things like this anymore.
Game! Of! The! Night!
Portland at Gonzaga (West Coast) McCarthy Athletic Center - Spokane, WA 11:00 EST
Portland, as expected, has recovered quite well from its national-poll culture shock. As far as conventional wisdom goes, though, the damage was done in December, with a stretch of five losses in seven games. But this is 2010, and this is the WCC. The Pilots are 5-2 in parentheses, and the only two drops were to frontrunners Saint Mary's and Gonzaga by a combined total of eight points. They've won the others by an average of 20.9 points, though, so it's safe to say they belong squarely in the WCC's upper tier. They'll take their road shot at the Zags tonight, bringing in their signature 3-point shooting (41.9 percent in league games) and the best field goal defense in the conference (39.4 percent in those seven contests).
There are still some folks who think we still use The Acronym for Gonzaga (17-4, 6-1 WCC). It's been three years, come on! The Fightin' Fews have earned their advantages fair and square, all the apparel and TV stuff, and they've taken their role in shining a spotlight on the rest of the WCC seriously. (There's some kind of causal relationship between the recent ESPN exposure for league games and its emergence as a perennial multi-bid threat, I just can't figure out what it is though). But it's a vulnerable team, as evidenced by last weekend's overtime shock loss at San Francisco. The key in that game was the Dons' 3-point shooting -- 11-of-24 from distance. And whuddyaknow, the Pilots are pretty good at that too! Should be fun, kidz!