Kurt Cobain Doc; the End of an Era?

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When Kurt Cobain took his own life in April of 1994, its one of those moments that I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out.  Looking back on it, its pretty odd to have that memory about a 27 year old musician.  Its not like it was the President being killed or something like the space shuttle explosion.  That said, there was something about Cobain that still resonates with many people from my generation.  The first time I heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, I knew it was way different than the hair bands of the 80s and music was transitioning into a new era.  That it did, not only did it a new genre of music come about, but a fashion and more so even a lifestyle which took the name of grunge.

I finally found the time to watch the amazing HBO documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck over the weekend.  It was great, confusing, sad, scary, and something in between.  I’m a big fan of biographies, and I’ve probably read eight to ten books on Nirvana or Cobain specifically over the years.  Whether it was Michael Azerrad’s awesome book about the arc of the band or even books claiming that his wife, Courtney Love killed Cobain rather than him dying of an overdose.

Therefore I went into the film thinking the majority of it would be rehashed things I’ve read in the past.  Not to mention, we are talking about someone who took his own life over 21 years ago, how much much are you going to learn from a documentary in 2015?  Boy was I wrong.  While the film was outstanding, and I would recommend anyone see it whether or not you are a fan of Cobain or not, I took away something else from watching it.  It felt like I was watching something that I would never see again.  The film’s director Brett Morgen had access to a treasure drove of old notebooks containing writings as well as drawings.  Not only that, he was handed private home movies from Cobain’s birth all the way right up to his death.  There were also loads of cassette tapes where Cobain recorded his thoughts, songs, and musings.

The way the film was put together was nothing short of amazing, but with the technology of today, I’m not sure we will ever have a chance again to look at someone in this light.  To see the images in Cobain’s notebook as he goes through potential band names and scratches one out for the next was powerful.  Today, someone would just type it into the computer.  It made me reminisce about a simpler time, not that long ago, where we sat with our own thoughts and drew, or wrote in a journal.  Today, kids are glued to their phone or buried in their laptop.  Times change of course, but for the sake of this complex young man who tragically decided to leave a wife and daughter behind, they story was one hundred times more intimate because of his writings, artwork, and audio tapes.  To tell this same story with YouTube videos and tweets just wouldn’t be nearly the same.

The Future of Television?

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I don’t watch much television these days, but with the monumental shifts in technology over the last ten years, you have to wonder what the next ten years hold.  Each time I look at my DirecTV bill it seems to be growing.  In order to watch ‘House of Cards’ I have to go to Netflix.  In order to watch Wrestlemania, I had to use the AppleTV to find the WWE Network.  Right there is three different television services required to watch the shows that I am interested in.  I also ordered the Mayweather/Pacquio fight this month.  When you take a step back and look at it, its quite a bit of money to spend on a monthly basis, especially when I average about 5-8 hours of tv per week.

One would have to imagine that in the coming years, we could be able to purchase every channel or maybe even every show a la carte?  Its an interesting premise, and there is so much money out there to be made, it could make sense.  Of the 500 channels I have on DirecTV, I probably watch five or six.  Whereas LifeTime Movies might be right up the alley for some demographics, I’ve never laid eyes on the channel, but still pay for it each month.

Even if you look at something like Sunday Ticket for the NFL, where people put down hundreds of dollars each year to watch all of the NFL games.  Wouldn’t it be nice, and maybe even make sense to be able to order that on a week to week basis?  I don’t know about you, but its not exactly easy to to carve out nine hours each Sunday for 17 weeks to watch football.  I actually may go outside, or head out of town.  That said, some weekends, I could be home for the games, and it would be great to watch.

Another thought process is to have each person who watches the TV have to ‘login’ to some extent so you could see suggested shows based on past viewing habits.  Another and far more lucrative idea would be to serve commercials based on the perceived demographic of the person viewing the television at the time.  Let’s face it, the person who is watching CNBC, Fox News and the Golf Channel is most likely a different demographic that a person watching SpongeBob and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Of course there are already targeted commercials based on the network, but you would think if television was more a la carte and with viewing history you could serve up far more targeted spots even than we have now.

The tv landscape is becoming so cluttered with devices, streaming services, watching shows on a mobile device and additional channels in your cable package that you have to wonder if we are reaching a tipping point.  People don’t want to have 12 devices to watch their shows.  Its anyone’s guess as to what the future holds in regards to television but you would have to imagine that there has to be some form of consolidation down the road.  Well at least my wallet hopes so.

The Bill Simmons Story

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I tend to do quite a bit of commuting, so I’m always looking for something to do to pass the time.  It had to have now been almost eight years ago when someone tipped me off to the idea of podcasts, and I started listening to ESPN’s Bill Simmons on his podcast, the B.S. Report.  I wasn’t quite sure if the podcast genre was a passing fad or if it would work, but now seems to be gaining a lot of steam.  Someone like Adam Carolla has an independent free podcast that supposedly turns upwards of $2M per year in profit.  You also have the podcast Serial that became a bit of a phenomenon over the last year or so.  I absolutely love the format, in which I can listen at my leisure, and have no commercials.

Bill Simmons is an acquired taste.  He got his break at ESPN by actually writing a column that eviscerated the ESPY’s, a yearly award show put on by ESPN.  He was a sportswriter writing from the point of view of the fan itself.  Both his podcasts and columns intertwine both sports and pop culture.  Over the last eight years, he has been instrumental in helping ESPN launch their critically acclaimed documentary series 30 for 30, and a few years ago was given the green light to launch a spinoff website of sorts at Grantland.com.

While I don’t even come close to agreeing with everything that comes out of Simmons mouth, or computer keyboard, I enjoy listening and reading him.  After that many years, his style feels like you really know him, and that kind of sucks you in to a certain extent.

On Thursday of last week word broke from the New York Times that ESPN had decided to not renew Simmons’ contract when it comes up for renewal in September.  Frankly, I was pretty shocked by this, and have to admit that I have been obsessed with the story since it broke.  It is being reported that Simmons has a yearly salary with ESPN of nearly $5M.  He has been with the company for nearly 15 years, and is their most high profile personality.

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ESPN has every right to decide to not review his contract.  What I can’t figure out for the life of me is why they had to announce that in May, when they have another four months until that contract comes up.  Not only that, but Simmons wasn’t even told that they would not renew his contract, but rather found out via Twitter.  For that to take place, something pretty drastic must have gone down.

I’m writing this on May 13, and as of now, Simmons hasn’t released any sort of statement on the situation.  His name and articles still appear at Grantland.com, but there hasn’t been any new content created since Tuesday.  Without getting too deep into the details, Simmons was suspended for three weeks last Fall for derogatory remarks he made about the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  Frankly, I didn’t see the remarks as anything too inflammatory, but ESPN is a major partner with the NFL, so it seems as if they had to punish him in some way to keep that relationship with the NFL in tact.  Just last week, Simmons went on Dan Patrick’s radio show (Dan no longer works for ESPN) and said some additional things about Goodell that again weren’t all that bad, but it appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak and the head of ESPN, John Skipper had had enough.

What I find most fascinating from a business perspective is how this whole saga will he handled with the Grantland.com website?  Simmons himself went out and recruited some forty writers to make up the website.  Obviously the site was under the ESPN umbrella, but seemed at bit entrepreneurial in that he built it from scratch.  Now, after one tweet, the whole staff finds out their boss is gone, most likely immediately, and who knows really what the future hold for them as well as the website.  I’m sure Simmons will land on his feet, someone will write him a hefty check to be part of their organization, and I’m sure I will still listen to his podcasts and read his columns.  That said, the most interesting part of this sage, for me at least, will be to see how things play out for the talented writers at Grantland, who followed Bill Simmons to this new venture, and now see their boss ousted in an extremely strange manner…only time will tell.

So Much for ‘Fight of the Century’

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Last week I wrote how excited I was to watch the big fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on May 2.  Turned out it was more of a ‘love tap fest’ than a real boxing match.

I’ve watched Mayweather fight for at least ten years, and without question, he is a defensive genius.  He is probably one of the best ever at making his opponent miss, and then punishing him in return.  For that reason, I was shocked after the fight when people were calling him a ‘coward‘ and accusing him of not coming to fight.  I felt the blame should have gone the other way, towards Pacquiao, who never really came on the offensive against Floyd.  It was obvious to just about everyone watching that Mayweather won the first few rounds, and Manny would have to turn on the aggression in order to get back in to the fight, but that never happened.  When it was all said and done, it was yet another easy win for Mayweather easily protecting himself while picking away at his opponent.  The fight had basically zero drama, other than what celebrities could be seen in the stands.  When I went to bed late that night, I chalked it up to Floyd confusing yet another opponent almost into submission.

What we learned in the coming days, was just about absurd.  Pacquiao injured himself in training camp just a little over two weeks prior to the match.  That said, he neglected to report the injury, and now was having surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and would be out of the sport for 9-12 months.  These two men were due to split somewhere in the neighborhood of $400M for this fight, and millions upon millions of dollars were gambled on them in Las Vegas, only to find out that the integrity of the fight is now in question because one of the men was fighting with one arm?  Many people were outraged, including some fight fans who have now filed a class action lawsuit against Manny Pacquiao for not disclosing the injury.  Boxers are required under Nevada law to disclose any injuries going into a fight, and Pacquiao did not disclose this.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

On the other side, Floyd Mayweather has been adamant that he would be be fighting one more time in September, and then retiring.  He even made those statements after the fight on Saturday night.  With the huge amounts of money out there for him to continue fighting, I was actually surprised that he would be willing to ride off into the sunset so to speak.  Let’s just stay that those thoughts didn’t last very long.  Mayweather sent a text to ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith telling him that he would be willing to give Pacquiao a rematch in a year when he is healed from his surgeries.

First we had a one sided, boring fight, record pay-per-view numbers coming in, then a sore shoulder, then a surgery that will cause the boxer to be out close to one year, then the thought of a rematch with healthy old boxers another year older.  I fear they may have actually done a good enough job of tricking us to pay another $100 to watch these guys next year!  The worst part is that I’m sure I will in front of that television once more.