Major League Soccer Needs Drama

In spite of Major League Soccer‘s impressive long-term growth strategy, it suffers from sterility. It’s not at all interesting on a human level.

There’s no arguing that Commissioner Don Garber’s plan of steady growth over the long haul seems to be working. Popular international players continue to join the league and the number of teams is expanding in a surprisingly stable way.

But sports are more than just stats and standings. It needs passion to thrive and entice people in. It needs personalities. It needs characters. The serial nature of ups and downs over the course of a sports season isn’t much unlike the drama provided by a movie franchise or a television series. It’s the original reality show, and MLS needs to embrace that.

Look at the NFL, the NBA, and the English Premier League. Some players always do the right thing, and others are just troubled at their core. Coaches are interesting and quirky, and team owners often grab headlines in strange ways. Obviously the coaches and players in the MLS have interesting lives too, I don’t think you need to manufacture that. Bring it to light. And not just the feel-good stuff. We need the bad with the good, the honest human condition. There have to be teams and players that we love to hate.

Sometimes I’ll hear current analyst and former player Alexi Lalas make a bold and controversial statement, and my first reaction is that he seems like a total drama queen. Then it occurs to me that he has the right idea. He knows that drudging this stuff up will only make the sport more intriguing.

It could simply be a chicken-or-egg problem. If there isn’t enough legitimate interest in the first place, maybe people won’t be interested in the behind-the-scenes stories. But it’s clear there has become more than just a little interest in American soccer, and I think if somebody digs up just a little dirt, it would go a long way.

(Originally posted here for day 4 of the YourTurnChallenge)

Weather Bias

When I refer to “weather bias in the media” it isn’t about global warming, or climate change, or any politically charged debate. It’s about the indefatigable onslaught of adjectives used by TV meteorologists to characterize “warm and clear” as good, and “cold and cloudy” as bad. Big time important stuff.

It wouldn’t have occurred to me except that I’ve always preferred inclement weather. I like it chilly, cloudy, and rainy. I would take a little snow over a nasty blue summer sky any time. So call me neurotic, but when a meteorologist says, “The clouds will clear, it will warm up, and the rest of the day will be NICE,” it rents a lot of otherwise-empty space in my head.

Why the bias?

Maybe it’s because farming is so dependent on the right weather. It’s related to survival; evolutionary and deeply ingrained in our psyche. Can’t argue with that.

Or maybe it’s because driving to work in the rain is hard, and getting out of the car requires an awkwardly-deployed contraption to stay dry. But doesn’t all this concentration help keep us rooted in the present moment? And doesn’t doing the harder thing make us better people? Aren’t these good things? I think so.

It could be that there IS some kind of political motivation behind it that I simply haven’t uncovered yet. Some kind of financial gain for TV stations, or a political party, or (gasp) the Illuminati. Maybe a conspiracy created by the Florida Dept. of Tourism, or Speedo International.

Or perhaps I’m just a rebel. A weather rebel in squeaky galoshes and a bright red toboggan cap.

(Originally posted here for day 3 of the YourTurnChallenge)

Quick Comparison: Fitbit Charge and Jawbone UP24

I was looking for a new caffeine-tracking app to replace one that had recently stopped working with the latest version of iOS and stumbled onto an app called UP Coffee. Aside from doing an admirable job of tracking caffeine intake, I learned that it also syncs with the Jawbone UP app and wearable fitness devices. I wasn’t in the market for a fitness device and had never heard of Jawbone UP products before then, but the idea that simply tracking my steps might help with my sedentary lifestyle seemed intriguing enough to buy a Jawbone UP24.

The UP24 app has a useful timeline that makes it easy to track food intake, steps, exercise activity, and sleep. The sleep reporting is especially good, with delineation between light and sound sleep. But there is no web interface, and no alphanumeric display on the device itself, so reading and managing things can sometimes be cumbersome. Even so, before I knew it, I was doing “diet and exercise” because it was fun and easy, not because I had to.

After reading some positive Fitbit Charge reviews, I decided to try one of those and donate the UP24 to my wife instead. I like the Fitbit better in every aspect except sleep tracking. Hopefully they’ll improve sleep reporting to work more like the Jawbone in future versions. The Fitbit Charge’s LED display means that the status of activity is available at any time right on your wrist. It also functions as a watch, shows incoming calls from the iPhone, and makes tracking exercise much easier.

Discovering the web site was fortunate. The site does a much better job of tracking food than either device’s software, and it syncs equally well with both Jawbone and Fitbit. The free service includes the ability to store and recall meals as collections of food items, and the app has superior UPC detection. The Jawbone app’s UPC reader routinely stumbles with questionable lighting and focus, where MyFitnessPal’s app locks on quickly every time. The MyFitnessPal accompanying app does some things better than the web site, and vice versa, but between the two it all feels flexible and very well thought out. And the food database seems rather complete compared to Jawbone’s. I started using MyFitnessPal before switching from the UP24 to the Fitbit Charge, so I have yet to evaluate Fitbit’s food database.

I’d probably be happy with either device, but the Fitbit Charge is a clear winner to me at this point.

(Originally posted here for day 2 of the YourTurnChallenge)