Hijacking the Show

“The fans bought a ticket. They can say what they want.”

“These stupid marks are ruining the show for the rest of us who enjoy it.”

Thus rages the fan-on-fan battle royal for ownership of WWE fandom. Much like the “Let’s go Cena! Cena sucks!” dueling chants inside the arenas, there is a fan duel going down. So, are arena crowds really hijacking shows? Are they really damaging the product for TV viewers? Is that even okay?

For weeks, I’ve felt conflicted on the subject because I sympathize with it. I get really irritated with some of the crowd reactions. But the reality has become clear as arena after arena in city after city turns in similar verdicts. The answer is a resounding ‘no’, the arena crowds are not hijacking anything.

Fans at WWE shows are being typecast. They are being accused of ruining shows. This simply isn’t the case. They bought the ticket and attended the show. They, not we, get to determine whether the LIVE show was good or not. If you don’t like the sound of the crowd reaction, you and your friends need to go buy tickets and cheer the product louder. I don’t intend to be confrontational in saying this. I’m stating it as a realist. If you want crowd reactions to change, go there and change them.

There is also the matter of discernment. The fans are not universally down on the product. They cheer some and they boo some. This flies in the face of the ‘crowds ruining the show’ argument. The crowds don’t simply deface the entire card. When they see what they like, they do cheer. Loudly, passionately. You know, like fans.

So, there is no ‘takeover’. There is no conspiracy. There are only numbers. If you like all or most of WWE’s booking, no matter how much you decry it, the arena crowds are not ruining anything. The thousands in attendance at arenas across the country just disagree with you. And there’s more of them than there are of you.

If you’re upset at crowd reactions, I get it. Frustration is understandable. Problem is, that is the minority view. Like it or not. I don’t think angry name calling will fix it. If you like a match that’s getting graffiti’d, just turn the sound down and enjoy your match.image

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WWE Legends For The Sake Of WWE Legends

hogan

The Great American Wrestle Day has come and gone. The star-studded RAW which accompanied it well encapsulated the state of pro wrestling.

The show opened with the legendary Hulk Hogan, Babe Ruth of wrestling, cutting a classic Hulkamania promo. He got the big reaction that everyone expected but his skills left a lot to be desired. In fact, I’m quite sure his former employer, Dixie Carter, nodded an ‘I could’ve told you that’. Just prior to the televised show, WWE introduced a new preshow, headlined by arguably the greatest living wrestler, Ric Flair. His performance, too, was nostalgic but lackluster.

Over the course of the show we were also treated to the Undertaker, HHH, Brock Lesnar, Batista, Booker T, JBL, Jerry Lawler, Zeb Colter and all the current stars. By all accounts, this show should have been epic. It should have been one of those ‘all-time’ great RAWs. It was good. Just good. It was somehow less than the sum of its parts.

I’m of the mind that the WWE’s reliance on part timers (no matter how famous) has come back to bite them. We’re desensitized to them. They are all overexposed. We’ve seen the act. We know their lines before they say them. It’s no longer special. More importantly, they don’t need the legends anymore. The WWE Universe no longer wants or needs a steady diet of  legends who can no longer ‘bring it’ the way they once did.

We love Taker, not because of his past, but because he’s still on top of his game. We loved Rock. He still looked like the Rock. Austin’s promos never failed to deliver. He’s still got it. Brock is welcome because he’s still ‘the Beast’ and not just pretending to be.

Here’s hoping that the WWE braintrust catches up with its fanbase and realizes that we don’t respond to a name alone. If you can still work like Goldust, Billy Gunn, Undertaker, Lesnar, and in-ring HHH, you’ll get massive support. Otherwise, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, the Shield and the Wyatts are more than capable of holding our attention. Believe that.

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Am I being worked?

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I treated CM Punk like Jonathan Martin. Defended his need to step away. Am I being worked?

I treated Daniel Bryan like an actor playing a character, not a ‘wrestler’ being mistreated. Am I being worked?

I treated HHH like an annoying corporate exec, not WWE’s on-screen Authority. Am I being worked?

I paused to consider whether RyBack had actually been released when I read his tweets. Am I being worked?

I’ve done all this and much more. The irritation and rancor in the IWC is palpable and, try as I might, I may have been worked, too. The article on the ‘New Kayfabe’ by Martin Dixon (http://4crwrestling.com/2014/01/29/new-kayfabe-the-many-levels-of-cm-punk-daniel-bryan/) provides food for thought on this matter. I don’t believe the lesson learned is to doubt everything written by WWE employees. Rather, I believe we should view it all (the TV product, personal appearances, social media statement, everything) as ‘part of the night’s entertainment’ unless explicitly told otherwise. This way, I can simply enjoy the show the way I did growing up.

 

Follow my tweets @Wrencis

 

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Grading the Patriots

Hard to believe the 2013 season is over for the New England Patriots. The team that felt like it had a date with destiny couldn’t find the magic and fell to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, 26-16. Time to look back at the season and assess the teams performance, position-by-position. Let’s go.

Quarterbacks: Tom Brady’s worst statistical season since the year he took over for Drew Bledsoe was, with apologies to the record-setting 2007 campaign, the best performance of his career. For years, the core of the Patriot passing attack was Gronk, Welker, Hernandez. Well, all three were gone in 2013, replaced with an injury-prone slot guy, a replacement-level slot guy, and three rookie wide receivers. And we know the track-record of Tom helping to develop rookie wide receivers. The fact that this offense was functional with some of the greenest talent anywhere in the league is a miracle. The 2013 Patriots finished with the third most points in the NFL. Go ahead. Take a moment to digest that. Tom Brady deserves a medal and to be enshrined in Canton immediately.

Grade: A+

Running Backs: Stevan Ridley won a few fantasy leagues for people last year. But a case of fumble-itis reduced the Patriots best pure runner to a bit role. Then, Shane Vereen proved that he is brittle, much like WR Danny Amendola. LeGarrette Blount was the primary beneficiary of the extra workload and over-performed. Blount, for all of the fun he generated, is not a starting caliber back for a good team. His stretch run took the backs up a full letter grade. However, if Blount wants significantly more than the veterans’ minimum to re-sign, he’ll be allowed to leave – and with good reason.

Grade: B

Wide Receivers: Julian Edelman just earned himself a nice payday. Unfortunately for Jules fans in the northeast, that payday won’t be as a Patriot. Edelman is a replacement-level receiver and a premium punt returner. He’ll get millions. And he’ll be overpaid. Danny Amendola got injured early and was little more than a walker after that. The rest of the receiving corps showed promise and potential but was on and off the trainers table. And green as grass.

Grade: D+

Tight Ends: Hooman, Develin, Mulligan. That’s your tight end group this year. A blocking ‘move’ TE, a blocking FB, and an in-line blocking TE. After being treated to two of the five top players at the position the last couple years, this year’s group was … lacking. Effort was certainly there. Talent was not.

Grade: C-

Offensive Line: The O-Line was the strength of the offense, outside of Brady. They were heroes, despite losing many games to injury, including a trip to IR for Sebastian Vollmer. The sloppy, lackluster performance they turned in against the Broncos in the AFC title game hurts the final grade.

Grade: B+

Defensive Line: Is it really fair to grade them when the anchor player missed most of the season with injury? Vince Wilfork is irreplaceable in this defense, and yet, the team plugged the hole by the end of the season. And they did so without Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead who were also unable to play even half of the year. The impressive work of youngsters Chandler Jones, Sealver Siliga, and Chris Jones, along with veteran end, Rob Ninkovich, saved the grade.

Grade: B

Linebackers: This injury thing is becoming a drag. The loss of Jerod Mayo is yet another Pro-Bowl player lost to injury for most of the season. However, there was good depth at the position and the combination of Hightower, Spikes, and rookie Jaime Collins produced.

Grade: B+

Secondary: All-world CB Aqib Talib got nicked up after a stellar first half of the season and wasn’t quite the same. Similar story could be told about S Dev McCourty. The pass defense went from a Rutgers-powered strength to a bit of a liability by the time the AFC title game rolled around.

Grade: B+

Special Teams: K Stephen Gostkowski, rookie P Ryan Allen, specialist Matthew Slater and this special teams unit performed beautifully this season. They were a real bright spot for a memorable Patriot team.

Grade A-

All told, the 2013 Patriots (including the best coaching performance to date by The Boss of NFL head coaches, Bill Belichick) earned a solid A- for a mentally-tough, hard-nosed effort that was easy for its fans to love.

As an analyst, I see the flaws in this team. As a fan and a member of PatriotsNation, I see one of the teams I will most remember and be proud of. This team overcame and overcame and overcame. It replaced all-star after all-star. It fought past the loss of old friends and the betrayal of a criminal in its midst. It fought and it won more than its fair share. This team was special. And worthy.

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Opening Day 2013 for New England

Head Coach Bill Belichick set out to “re-do” the receiver corps but I’m quite sure he didn’t have this in mind. The Patriots seemed happy enough to let all three primary WR’s on the team from Week 1 2012 walk after seeing them all to their best Larry Centers impersonations. What was impossible to foresee was that they would have to get by without Super-TE Rob Gronkowski for up to half the season, AND they would also have to jettison his fellow Super-TE, Aaron Hernandez. Where does this leave the offense?

Let’s start with the receiver position. I will cushion the blow of the following analysis by thanking Wes Welker for being a tough guy who always showed up to play on Sundays. No human being caught more passes in the NFL during Welker’s time in Foxboro. Impressive. However, about 60 NFL wideouts did more on a per catch basis last year than Wes. He simply didn’t scare any defense, anywhere in the NFL. And Brandon Lloyd was scarcely better per catch. New England employed the worst starting pair of receivers in the league in touchdowns, explosive plays, and yards per catch. And this even though Wes was about the best there was in YAC last season. Slot man Julian Edelman was also allowed all the time he needed to explore other endeavors before he finally took what NE was offering.

At the risk of heresy charges, Danny Amendola is better than Wes Welker right now. Amendola is younger, taller, and faster. And he’s just as competitive and tough coming out of the slot. The Patriots want to transition in terms of what they ask receivers to do and I’m not sure Wes fit with that. If Amendola’s healthy, that transition will be seamless. Aaron Dobson, once he learns the offense, will be better than Lloyd. Same with Boyce vs. Edelman. Bottom line: If Bill had wanted Wes, Wes would be on the team. If Bill wanted Lloyd, Lloyd would be on the team. If Bill wanted to guarantee Julian would sign, he wouldn’t have let him go shopping his wares. Bill likes the new options better. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that he knows stuff that we don’t.

The problem for New England is at TE. A healthy Jake Ballard can do most of what Gronk has been asked to do, so Ballard can be a band-aid for a few weeks. The loss of Aaron leaves a monster hole in the playbook and takes a matchup nightmare off the field. The Patriot offense simply can’t function the way it did before. There are a couple of plausible options to solve this problem.

1. Keep the base 12 (1RB, 2TE) offense in place by giving Ballard or Daniel Fells or Michael Hoomanawanui Gronk’s old job permanently and give Aaron’s old job to Gronk. This allows you to field a B-version of the old offense.

2. Replace the base 12 offense with base 11. The Broncos are going 3 WR, right?

3. Replace the base 12  offense with base 21. No, I’m not suggesting returning to the ’3 yards and a cloud of dust’ FB/HB pairing. I’m suggesting an innovated 2-back offense featuring Ridley lined up deep and Vereen roving like Aaron used to. Vereen can line up in I, off-set I, flexed away from the line, in the slot, even at X. I think this is the best option of the 3.

In the end, I believe Bill and Josh McDaniels will innovate the offense with a significant dose of 21 personnel with Ridley and Vereen sharing the backfield with some 12 and 11 stuff mixed in. In other words, Aaron’s mistakes blew up a great offense, but that doesn’t mean the team can’t find new ways to put up big numbers.

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Apple Production Strategy

Dell has long been credited as the best way to order a computer. It’s highly customizable, highly flexible. Then, along comes Apple and does things the exact opposite way. They claim that it’s not as valuable to be flexible, that it’s more valuable to know exactly what users really want.

With that in mind, could it be that Apple decides to produce by looking at how much it costs them to produce the marginal device and they then make their configuration decisions based on that? For example, most of their mobile devices come with 16 GB storage capacity. They’ll make those in the greatest volume. As they get closer to the limit of their capacity for production, however, they will start building 32 GB devices. Because nearing the limit of yield the marginal unit costs more to build, might they build a more expensive device? As they get to the very end of their production capacity, they go ahead and produce the last few as 64 GB devices, which are, of course, priced even higher. The idea would be that the devices that are least expensive for them to produce (at the beginning of a production run) will be made 16 GB. As they become more expensive to produce (nearing the margin of production) they will make a slightly more expensive device, the 32 GB model. Same with the 64′s, as they approach the absolute limit of production, produce the highest priced devices.

If this is the way they do it (and it’s at least plausible, isn’t it?), why don’t more device-makers produce this way?

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Porter Analysis of the New England Patriots

In examining Competitive Advantage and Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter, I started to think about analyzing sports teams. That gave rise to thinking about how the New England Patriots operate. In Porter’s world, there are three kinds of generic strategy: cost leadership, differentiation, and focus. Which does Bill Belichick employ?

would assert that the Patriots are a differentiator. Imagining these generic strategies from the perspective of sports, one could think of cost leadership being a very general and widely-used strategy. The cost leadership generic strategy essentially entails doing what most other competitive rivals do but trying to do it a little better than they do. Differentiation, on the other hand, sees a different game, so to speak. Concisely, cost is about doing things differently; differentiation is about doing different things.

So many teams in the NFL are just trying to do things a little better than rivals and I think that even a lot of the better teams in the league operate that way. I look at teams like Green Bay, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the New York Giants. They all draft the similar kinds of players based on similar kinds of metrics and, hopefully they work out better than rivals. And oftentimes they do. They, perhaps, scout or coach better than rivals do but they’re still looking for the same kinds of players – the most talented guy at the most needed positions. 

In contrast, the New England Patriots may pass on a more talented player to gain an extra draft choice, for example. The patriots may pass on a more talented player because that player doesn’t appear to enjoy and love football. The patriots may pass on player because he is not, in their estimation, up to their standards in terms of football intelligence. There are many reasons why New England may not want a player that another team would, even if they fit the Patriots’ system. It is those reasons that differentiate New England from its rivals. It may not work if your franchise is missing a genius head coach and a fundamentally perfect quarterback but it certainly has worked for New England.

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