FIFA World Cup Fantasy League Rules

Some time ago I blogged about the intention of setting up a World Cup Fantasy League, to help myself and friends keep up with the World Cup and perhaps replicate the excitement of the NCAA Tournament or Fantasy Baseball in having a “horse in the race”, aside from the United States, of course.

Here are the proposed rules for the Fantasy League, and for readers in cyberspace, feel free to adopt them to create leagues of your own! And if you’d like to join this league, we can accept more players (since we’re no longer doing a snake draft).

Instead of a snake draft–in which players draft in order, and then in reverse order, etc.–we’re going to do something a bit different so everyone has an equal chance of choosing Brazil or Argentina (the World Cup might be a little too top-heavy for a snake draft). Each player will first choose the 16 teams that they believe will advance out of the Group Stage, 2 from each group.They will get points for the number of wins, ties, and points scored by those teams during the Group Stage.

After each Group (from A through H) finishes playing a round robin tournament, two teams will advance to the Second Round (The Round of 16). One will be the top-seeded team from that group (e.g. 1A) and one will be the second-seeded team from that group (e.g. 2A). Beginning with the Second Round, the teams will play in a single-elimination bracket until they reach the finals. After the seeding of the Second Round is determined (by who makes it out of the Groups), our fantasy players will submit a completed bracket of which teams they think will advance through the tournament. One catch though: you can only get points for the 16 teams you chose to get out of the Group Stage. So if you didn’t think Team USA would advance out of Group C, you can’t get points for any victories they get after that (maybe you can choose them to win, but you wouldn’t get points for that).

Scoring System:

Each Win – 1 pt
Each Draw – 0.5 pt
Each Goal Scored – 0.25 pt

Advancing to Second Round – 3 pt
Advancing to Quarterfinals – 5 pt
Advancing to Semifinals – 9 pt
Advancing to Final – 17 pt
Winning Tournament – 30 pt

I’m flexible about changing the scoring system/points. What do people think about the rules?

Important Dates:

Players should submit their 16 Teams (2 from each group) by 11:59pm June 6th, 2010 (Eastern Time).

Players should submit their brackets for the Second Round and beyond by 9am, June 26, 2010. Kickoff for the first Second Round match is at 10am on June 26th, so it’s important not to be late!

Joining the League:

If you’d like to join this league, we can accept more players since we’re no longer doing a snake draft (though we’re limited by my time/energy, so I’ll set a cap of 8 additional players).

The current players are Alex, Thomas, Trevor, Lauren, Crocker, Ryne, Josh, and David. Please comment below if you’d like to join!

What Did I Learn From the New Nike Ad for Tiger?

Nike recently made an ad where a sad Tiger Woods stares depressingly into the camera as his dead father asks him questions about his behavior.

This ad has not been positively received, but I think the ad’s incompetent execution hides an interesting  advertising message.

Clearly, the ad sucks. Tiger looks not so much tragic and introspective as pathetic and sulky, like a child. The Earl Woods monologue also doesn’t quite fit. Clearly it’s taken from some other context (since, after all, he’s dead), and it sounds like he’s talking about a missed putt rather than a moral failing. His speech starts,  “Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion” but this makes no sense in the context of a discussion of someone’s adultery. Rather than asking the questions directly, he says “I want to find out …” which focuses the statement on Earl Woods own internal mental state rather than putting the emphasis on his relationship with Tiger.  It sounds like a coach reviewing game tape by himself rather than a teacher trying to spur growth in his student.  I don’t understand why Nike screwed up something so important this badly.

Aside from its execution, however I think many people find this ad inappropriate on a number of levels: most importantly,  maybe the story of Tiger’s remorse shouldn’t be branded by the Nike swoosh. Brand advertisement creates a larger-than-life reality that we know isn’t true, so it seems completely awful to fit Tiger’s ostensibly true journey of remorse into a format that epitomizes unreliability. Apologizing in a Nike commercial feels just as fictional as if Tiger chose to apologize by selling the rights to a movie about his life, so we can all watch Denzel Washington (as Tiger Woods) promise to be a better man as he stands at the grave of his father (played by James Earl Jones in flashback).

Rather than putting his apology into advertisement, it feels like Tiger’s feelings ought to be authentically expressed in interviews and reported on by objective media. How could Tiger’s Nike advertisement narrative  have the same truth value as the truthiness of an interview with Barbara Walters or Oprah? We know we should be a little skeptical of the celebrity revelations we read in People Magazine, but how could this branded advertisement possibly be the same thing? It’s just so creepy and exploitative when Nike tries to use Tiger’s late father as a vehicle for selling its products. Why can’t Tiger just tell all about his father’s questions to Us Weekly?

I hope that the examples of media outlets I’m giving are starting to explain the point of this post: apart from the Nike copy, there is no “real” Tiger (for the viewing public’s purposes). It’s all just a commercial construct, the interviews and televised apologies just as artificial as the fist pump that has punctuated a thousand Nike spots and sold a billion golf balls. The public statements that we’ve seen and the interviews that we trust are all just an aspect of the larger project of selling the corporate athlete. The fact that branded advertising is taking the next step and actually trying to stitch the “real” story via a YouTube video branded by Nike is a fascinating next step — maybe they don’t need the celebrity media at all. Maybe they can just give up the pretext of heightened advertisement versus normal reality and instead take total control of the superstar-creating process. Right now, this seems conceptually creepy and inappropriate, but, if done with more skill, it may soon be commonplace.

Recipe: The Best Braised Short Ribs, with Coffee and Chili.

Coffee and Chili Braised Short Ribs

Braised short ribs are probably my favorite thing to make for people I love (if I’ve made this for you, you know I care). Short ribs are beef, and they are literally the “short” ribs located at the end of the rib cage, the ones closest to the tail end of the cow. A braise is simply  a way of slowly cooking something, usually a tougher cut of meat, at a lower-than-normal temperature.

It’s a dish that’s fancy enough to impress dinner guests, and yet surprisingly easy to prepare, given a simple willingness to invest the time. They’re popular at nice restaurants these days as a cheap cut of meat that can be turned into a delicious, tender product (much like skirt steak or lamb shank). Personally I think there’s something deeply romantic about a long, slow braise. It brings to mind the days of yore when our great-great-grandparents would stew a peasant’s portion of meat for Sunday supper, throwing in whatever vegetables could be harvested from the garden. In that manner, it’s a perfect Stone Soup recipe! The braising liquid becomes enriched by the beef, the vegetables, the herbs, the wine, and other ingredients you add to become a perfect sauce for the short ribs later. And the ribs themselves are so tender, fork tender, that they melt in your mouth. Luxurious, spicy, smoky, tender beef… is there anything more sexy than that?

Braised short ribs can be customized however you want, and this particular recipe was cobbled together from so many versions that I won’t bother hunting them down again and linking them all, except to nod in Mark Bittman’s general direction. Here are the ingredients:

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