Thursday, January 21, 2016

College football stadiums I've visited

Since I'm still not ready for college football season to be over, I decided to make a list of all the FBS college football stadiums I've attended games in. (Hey, if I can do it for countries, I can also do it for stadiums!)
A strikethrough means that the stadium no longer exists or is no longer in use. An asterisk (*) means that the stadium has been expanded or renovated since I've visited.

Alamodome, San Antonio TX (UTSA Roadrunners)
Amon Carter Stadium*, Fort Worth TX (TCU Horned Frogs, Armed Forces Bowl)
Apogee Stadium, Denton TX (North Texas Mean Green)
Astrodome, Houston TX (Houston Cougars, Houston Bowl)
Brighthouse Networks Stadium, Orlando FL (Central Florida Golden Knights)
Cajun Field, Lafayette LA (Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns)
Cotton Bowl, Dallas TX (Texas Longhorns/Oklahoma Sooners)
Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium*, Austin TX (Texas Longhorns)
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium*, Greenville NC (East Carolina Pirates)
Fouts Field, Denton TX (North Texas Mean Green)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta GA (Peach Bowl)
Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Highland Park TX (SMU Mustangs)
Hughes Stadium, Fort Collins CO (Colorado State Rams)
Kyle Field*, College Station TX (Texas A&M Aggies)
Liberty Bowl, Memphis TN (Liberty Bowl)
Michie Stadium, West Point NY (Army Black Knights)
NRG (Reliant) Stadium, Houston TX (Houston Cougars, Rice Owls, Texas Bowl)
Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium*, Norman OK (Oklahoma Sooners)
Rice Stadium, Houston TX (Rice Owls)
Robertson Stadium, Houston TX (Houston Cougars)
Rose Bowl, Pasadena CA (UCLA Bruins)
Superdome, New Orleans LA (Tulane Green Wave, New Orleans Bowl)
TDECU Stadium, Houston TX (Houston Cougars)
Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge LA (Louisiana State Tigers)

Although it does stretch from stadiums in Florida to New York to Los Angeles, this is really not that long of a list, all things considered. Between 128 FBS teams, neutral site stadiums and bowl stadiums, there are probably somewhere around 150 stadiums where top-level college football is played on a regular basis. I've visited 24, and three of those no longer exist or are operation. Furthermore, several of these venues have been extensively renovated since I last visited them; A&M's Kyle Field and TCU's Amon Carter Stadium are essentially different structures today than when I was last there. As much of a college football fan as I am, I need to make more roadtrips.

With that said, this list continues to grow. Last year I added LSU's Tiger Stadium and the Georgia Dome to this list. This fall I'm going to try to add Texas State's Bobcat Stadium and, hopefully, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to the list.

My iPhone's top 20

I did this five years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to take another tally of the songs I listen to most frequently on my iPhone (which has replaced my iPod Nano as my portable repository of music about four years ago).

It appears as if my musical tastes remain pretty eclectic but are dominated by 80s and 90s electronica. Twelve of these songs were in my top 20 of five years ago (2010 ranking in parentheses), which means I obviously enjoy listening to them. It also might suggest that I need to start listening to some new music...

1. Ride a White Horse - Goldfrapp (Supernature, 2006, Mute/Universal Music)
2. Home - Erasure (Chorus, 1991, Sire) (#13)
3. That Smiling Face - Camouflage (Voice and Images, 1988, Atlantic)
4. Burst Generator - The Chemical Brothers (We Are The Night, 2007, Australwerks/EMI) (#4)
5. Looking at You - Sunscreem (Looking at you: Club Anthems, 1998, Centaur Entertainment)
6. Let Forever Be - The Chemical Brothers (Surrender, 1999, Australwerks) (#8)
7. Life Is Sweet - The Chemical Brothers (Exit Planet Dust, 1995, Australwerks)
8. Hysteria - Def Leppard (Hysteria, 1987, Mercury)
9. Blissed - Jesus Jones (Doubt, 1991, SBK) (#1)
10. Sometimes [Erasure/Flood Two Ring Circus Remix] - Erasure (The Two Ring Circus, 1987, Sire)
11. Rolling in the Deep - Adele (21, 2011, Columbia/XL)
12. Big Time Sensuality (The Fluke Minimix) - Bjork (Big Time Sensuality EP, 1993, Elektra) (#12)
13. Primary - The Cure (Faith, 1981, Elektra) (#2)
14. Destroy Everything You Touch - Ladytron (Witching Hour, 2005, So Sweet) (#15)
15. Thank U - Alanis Morissette (Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, 1998, Maverick/Reprise) (#7)
16. Lightning Blue Eyes - Secret Machines (Ten Silver Drops, 2006, Reprise)
17. Love U More - Sunscreem (03, 1993, Columbia) (#3)
18. Space Age Love Song - A Flock of Seagulls (A Flock of Seagulls, 1982, Jive) (#18)
19. Imagination - Xymox (Twist of Shadows, 1989, Wing) (#21)
20. Four Leaf Clover - Abra Moore (Strangest Places, 1997, Arista) (#6)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

At season's end: Alabama #1, Clemson #2, and Houston #8

The 2015 college football season came to its conclusion Monday night, as Alabama won its fourth national title in seven seasons by defeating Clemson, 45-40, in a rather exciting game.

I was actually rooting for Clemson, because they were the only remaining undefeated team left and also because Alabama already has eleventy billion national championships. However, I have to give the Crimson Tide credit: they are clearly the best team in the nation. With this win, it can be argued that Nick Saban is now the greatest coach in college football history.

Alabama and Clemson landed in the one and two spots in the final AP poll of the 2015 season, released yesterday. Clemson, Stanford, Ohio State and Oklahoma round out the top five. The Cardinal might have a legitimate argument that they, other than Oklahoma or Michigan State, should have been included in the four-team playoff, but it appears as if their two regular season losses were just too much for the Playoff Committee to overlook.

The Houston Cougars, meanwhile, end the 2015 season with a #8 ranking in the AP poll. This is Houston's third-highest finish ever, behind a #4 ranking after the 1976 season and a #5 ranking after the 1979 season. It's also UH's sixth end-of-season top-ten ranking in program history. The Coogs finished #8 in the final Coaches Poll as well.

One has to wonder what things would have been like had the Cougar managed to not stub their toe against UConn; it probably wouldn't have mattered in terms of getting the Cougars into the playoff, but as their convincing win over Florida State indicated, the team was clearly better than the #18 ranking the College Football Playoff Committee gave them going into the postseason.

Few Cougar fans could have expected this level of success when the season began; I certainly didn't! The Coogs' success led USA Today sportswriter Paul Myerberg to give the Coogs an "A+" for the season; the only other teams receiving such a grade being Alabama and Clemson. Furthermore, the Cougars are already being mentioned as a top-ten team in some way-too-early guesses about the 2016 preseason poll.
#18 Navy joins Houston as the only other American Athletic Conference team in the top 25; the only other "Group of Five" school in the top 25 is Conference USA champion #24 Western Kentucky, which had its best season since moving to FBS.

For what it's worth, only four out of top ten teams in the AP's preseason poll ended up in the postseason top ten: Ohio State, TCU, Alabama and Michigan State. Three more teams in the preseason top ten ended up in the postseason spots 11-25: Baylor, Oregon and Michigan State. Make of it what you will regarding the usefulness or accuracy of preseason polls.

Although I know I shouldn't get excited about the coming season, it's going to be an especially long offseason for me. Only 234 days until #5 Oklahoma and #8 Houston meet at NRG Stadium to kick off the 2016 season!

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Kodak announces new Super 8 camera

Everything old is new again:
Kodak is remaking the Super 8 camera. The Rochester, New York-based company is working with industrial designer Yves Behar to create an eight-millimeter film camera that combines features of the original Super 8 with some digital functionality, like a digital viewfinder. Kodak is showing off a prototype of the camera this week at CES, and plans to ship a limited edition of the camera in the fall for somewhere between $400 and $750, according to the WSJ. A less expensive model is expected in 2017.

Several filmmakers, producers, and directors supplied quotes in support of the Super 8 Revival, as Kodak is terming it, including Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams. "While any technology that allows for visual storytelling must be embraced, nothing beats film," said Abrams. "The fact that Kodak is building a brand new Super 8 camera is a dream come true."
As a Super 8 buff, I'm happy to see Kodak doing this; as a practical matter, however, I don't know if I'll be buying one anytime soon. I haven't shot or edited any film in over a decade, this new camera will (at least initially) be out of my price range, and some of the filmstock that made Super 8 so enjoyable to work with no longer exists.

That being said, it's nice to see old media formats receive a new lease on life:
Kodak is trying, and so should we. Maybe film will make a comeback. During the most recent holiday season, the top sellers on Amazon were instant film and a record player. Maybe what's old is new. Maybe the new stuff already feels old. Maybe this isn't about making the next best pseudo-portable tech accessory for hipsters but a call for quality, for learning, for the time it takes to learn quality. Maybe it's a last gasp for permanence and tactility, as all of our media becomes ephemeral.
I do believe that, aside from nostalgic considerations, formats such as vinyl LPs and Super 8 film provide unique quirks and characteristics that are absent from today's digital media world. I'm glad to see Kodak encouraging Super 8s's continued use.

(I have resolved, by the way, that 2016 will be the year I finally finish splicing and editing my grandfather's old Super 8 films and transferring to DVD for the entire family to enjoy...)

Radio sports talk hosts are not "journalists"

I don't listen to sports talk radio. I've just never been interested. A lot of other people do, however, such that the Houston market is able to support several sports talk stations. Little surprise, then, that an altercation involving a University of Houston football transfer is receiving so much attention:
Houston Cougars football coach Tom Herman went on John Lopez and Nick Wright’s SportsRadio 610 sports show yesterday. To call the exchange contentious would be an understatement. (The full 22-minute interview can be heard here. h/t sportsmedialm for the link). The genesis of the discussion goes back to a John Lopez story about new Cougar Kyle Allen that was posted on December 13.
To provide some context: quarterback Kyle Allen recently left Texas A&M. Early this week he announced that he had decided to transfer to Houston. Lopez's original story claimed that Allen had met with Herman in person here in Houston to discuss the transfer, which would have been an NCAA recruiting violation had it occurred at the time Lopez claimed.

It would not be surprising for Lopez to suggest that UH had committed a recruiting violation, as he has never been a friend of the University of Houston. Those who listen to him claim that he consistently belittles UH on this radio show. I can't verify that, but I do know that, when he was a columnist at the Chronicle, he took his shots at the program on a regular basis. For example, this article from almost a decade ago, wherein he exaggerated Houston's attendance issues and employed tired (and racist) "UH is in a bad neighborhood" arguments in order to shill for a new stadium for the Houston Dynamo.

In this particular instance, Lopez tried to break some news that put UH and Herman in an unfavorable light, and failed miserably. John Royal explains:
In many ways, this train wreck is all inside media, and it's certainly not something that needed to have happened. It could have been prevented by a call from Lopez to Herman on December 13. It could have been prevented by corrections to the post after that. It could have been prevented if Herman and Lopez could have agreed on what “meeting” and “interest” meant. It could have all been prevented if Nick Wright didn’t go gonzo on twitter Tuesday demanding apologies for Lopez from (Fox 26's) Mark Berman and (the Chronicle's) Joseph Duarte. (Full disclosure: Sean Pendergast, a regular Houston Press contributor who co-hosts his own afternoon SportsRadio 610 show, was not involved in Wednesday morning's interview with Herman nor did he participate in any way with Lopez's story or this one.)

It could have all been prevented if Lopez and/or Wright had ever actually bothered to make their presence known at the University of Houston. They never attended a practice this season. They never came to a game. They never came to a press conference. They had Herman on just once during the season, and never bothered to talk to him at any other time.

None of that, of course, happened. What instead happened is that 610 doubled down, going so far as to basically state it doesn’t matter what the actual facts were since the Cougars and Allen did have a mutual interest—the argument essentially being that facts are unimportant if the essence is kind of sort of correct.
Ahh, yes... "essentially correct." We'll get back to this wonderful phrase in a moment.
Of course, facts do matter. As Duarte and Berman reported, following up with their sources, there was no meeting in Houston that day. Kyle Allen debunked the report, stating he was in Arizona. Even Lopez seems to backtrack during the interview with Herman, implying that there was instead a phone conversation, which is not what he initially reported. And still Wright claims there’s nothing wrong with the story because it doesn’t matter if you’re hit by a red car or an orange car — yes, this exchange actually happened, and yes it’s just as mind-numblingly stupid as it sounds because, as any lawyer will tell you, the color the damn car that hits you absolutely matters.
Which brings me back to my point: radio jocks are not, generally speaking, journalists. They exist to talk about sports, engage callers, drive ratings and sell radio advertising space. They can certainly report and discuss news stories, conduct interviews and offer insight, but they are not investigative reporters and should not pretend to be as such. That's not a knock on radio hosts; it's just not part of their job description. Just because you have a microphone in front of you and are considered a member of the "local media" doesn't make you Bob Woodward.

Hence, Lopez's pathetic attempt at breaking a story that wasn't true, and his (and his douchey little sidekick's) attempt to claim that the story was "essentially correct" after Herman called him out on it. Ask any journalism professor, any managing editor, any longtime reporter what the phrase "essentially correct" means, and they'll tell you that if you use it to defend something you've reported, you'll probably get fired.

Royal correctly argues that Coach Herman didn't come off as well as he could have in this encounter, either. He was clearly angry, he probably allowed the conversation to go on too long, and there's a valid argument that he probably shouldn't have "fed the trolls" by engaging Lopez and Wright in the first place. But Herman is a man who clearly values accuracy and ethics, and he felt that he had to set the record straight.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for a hack like Lopez.

Peach Bowl: #18 Houston 38, #9 Florida State 24

The Cougars capped off their magical 2015 season with a convincing win over the Florida State Seminoles in the Georgia Dome last Thursday.

In spite of the fact that the Cougars were seven-point underdogs in this game, this was not a fluke win. This was total domination. Greg Ward, Jr completed 25 of 41 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Chance Allen caught two touchdown passes, including a dazzling halfback throw from Demarcus Ayers (who ended his UH career with 9 receptions of his own for 82 yards). Ryan Jackson rushed for 54 yards and a TD, and backup quarterback Kyle Postma, coming in for a injured Greg Ward late in the game, sealed the win with a 29-yard rush of his own to set up Houston's final score. FSU's defense simply had no answer for a Cougar defense that racked up 448 total yards of offense and 27 first downs.

The Seminole offense was just as inept against the Cougar defense. They turned the ball over five (!) times. Florida State's biggest offensive threat, running back Dalvin Cook, was limited to 33 yards on 18 carries, and the Seminole rushing attack could only muster 16 yards for the entire game. FSU QB Sean Maguire did the best he could, toughing out a foot injury early in the game to complete 22 of 444 passes for 392 yards and two touchdowns, but he was savaged by UH's line all afternoon long and suffered multiple sacks.

The end result was Houston's biggest bowl victory since their thrilling win over Nebraska in the 1980 Cotton Bowl. It capped off an amazing season for the Cougars, and set the table for what could be an even more amazing 2016 season under coach Tom Herman.

I attended the game in Atlanta, along with my mom, dad and many family friends. My dad is a Florida State alum, and enjoyed watching FSU's marching band (of which he was a member) perform at halftime. But in the end, he was just as happy as the rest of us - there had to have been somewhere between 12 and 15 thousand UH fans in attendance - to see the Cougars notch this win. I am a Houston Cougar because of him, and given his age, he's probably not going to see too many more seasons like this one, so I'm glad he was able to enjoy it and I'm happy I got to watch it with him.

It will be interesting to see where the Cougars end the season ranked, and I'll probably have more to say about the 2015 football season in a future post. Otherwise: short of an appearance in the College Football Playoff itself, this is the best possible outcome a Cougar fan could expect for 2016. I am overjoyed.

(Oh, and did I mention that I won $360 at a Biloxi casino on the way back from Atlanta? Happy New Year to me!)

Go Coogs!