Notes + Scribbles 6
Notes + Scribbles is a recurring feature here at ryanferguson.co.uk. It is where I share assorted thoughts, flotsam, observations and tidbits in a stream of consciousness format, grouped under logical – if eclectic – subheadings. Think of it as a periodic dose of ‘things that would have been tweets’ before Elon happened. Think of it as a messy throwback to 2000s-style blogging. Think of it as a cathartic emptying of my battered notebook. Onwards, dear reader. Onwards.
- For all the talk of Twitter dying – and I have done a fair bit of that myself – it remains the go-to place for breaking sports news and real-time commentary. Baseball Twitter remains particularly strong, as evidenced by the current hot stove rumour mill, and it will continue to dominate so long as the game’s most prominent news-breakers and taste-makers – Ken Rosenthal, Jeff Passan, Jared Carrabis, et al – treat it as their primary fulcrum of communication.
- NFL chat also continues to increase on X, somewhat surprisingly. According to Linda Yaccarino, X CEO, NFL content received over one billion impressions last Sunday, while NFL video views are up 41% on last season. Interesting, if a little disconcerting, given how Elon continues to polarise opinion.
- Elsewhere at the confluence of sports and media, Sports Illustrated caught heat this week for purported use of AI-generated content attributed to AI-generated writers with AI-generated bios and AI-generated profile photos. Anyone who has been paying attention knew this was coming, but the brazenness is still stunning. Sports Illustrated was once a paragon of American journalism, its pages frequented by some of the greatest writers in their respective fields. For decades, a Sports Illustrated byline carried such gravitas. So to see a once-proud institution resort to this – using computers to churn out incoherent spiel – is saddening.
- Of course, the Sports Illustrated AI debacle comes a few months after the New York Times shuttered its sports department – another sad day. If, back in the 1960s, you told, say, Robert Creamer and Red Smith that, one day, the New York Times would have no sports desk and Sports Illustrated would rely on robot-written copy, they would have thought you insane. Yet here we are. And it is only going to get worse.
Middle class musings
- Sometimes, I worry that AI will take over, steal our jobs and render the human race obsolete. Then I stand at the Sainsbury’s self-checkout for 10 minutes waiting for a member of staff to authorise my purchase of paracetamol. Maybe we will survive after all.
- A random, irrational thought: I’m sick and tired of Tupperware. It randomly appears out of nowhere, all mismatched tubs and ill-fitting lids. And where do we store it all? You could build a bridge to the moon with all the abandoned Tupperware cluttering our planet. Surely we can invent a better way of carrying soup to work. Oh, and it always leaks in your bag, anyway, so what is the point?
- We learned this week that Paul Mullin lambastes Micky Mellon in his autobiography. The stunning fact Paul Mullin has an autobiography was my main takeaway, but it is also worth noting that Rovers won promotion with Mullin on the bench. I liked the guy at Tranmere. He worked hard and showed glimmers of potential. But at the time, nobody clamoured for Paul Mullin to replace James Norwood or Connor Jennings. To suggest otherwise is to indulge in revisionist history.
- Tranmere earned a solid point away to Mansfield in midweek. The final score was 2-2, but Rovers actually deserved to win. It was a very good performance against a strong side who were surprised by our approach. To that end, Nigel Adkins once again designed an ideal counter-attacking gameplan that worked a treat. Under his command, this Tranmere team works exceptionally hard and poses a real threat on the break. Rovers also have competition for places, and Adkins has set a high standard that must be met for inclusion in his plans.
- Rovers are now unbeaten in four league games. Slowly but surely, they are turning a corner.
New England Patriots
- As someone who grew up during the New England Patriots’ dynasty, I never thought I would see them in such a terrible state. Once upon a time, the Patriots were indomitable under the Svengali aegis of Bill Belichick. They made nine Super Bowls in 18 seasons, and won six of them. Now, those heights seem so far away, as New England languishes in the basement at 2-9. We are probably witnessing the final throes of Belichick’s reign, and that is a momentous occasion for any football fan of my generation. Many never thought it would happen.
- The whole Brady-Belichick debate – in terms of who contributed more to the Patriots’ success – is nonsensical in my eyes. They were – and are – inextricably linked. They made each other better, rather like Noel and Liam Gallagher, and their unlikely alliance defined a football epoch. Sure, they divided opinion, but we will look back in years to come and consider ourselves lucky to have witnessed their prime.
- Another impressive win for the Cowboys last night, as Dallas outlasted Seattle, 41-35. There is plenty of chatter about Philadelphia and San Francisco dominating the NFC, but Dak Prescott is playing some of the best football of his career right now, and AT&T Stadium is a fortress. Therefore, write off the Cowboys at your own peril.
- With the Cowboys doing well, I have been thinking a lot recently about the Dallas teams of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray. That team was fun to watch, man. They deserved to go further than the Divisional Round of the playoffs, their best effort in 2014. I fell in love with the Cowboys watching that team, and it holds a special place in my heart.
New York Yankees
- Landing Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto, Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Mike Trout this winter would rekindle the Yankees’ Evil Empire mystique. I mean, honestly – when was the last time they acquired a true generation-defining superstar? Gerrit Cole? Perhaps. Giancarlo Stanton? Meh. We are probably looking at A-Rod, realistically. That was 20 years ago. Unleash the death star, Brian.
- I kinda like the Yankees’ under-the-radar pickup of Oscar González, claimed off waivers from Cleveland today. Sure, González projects as outfield depth, effectively replacing Franchy Cordero and Jake Bauers, but the kid has caught my eye on a few occasions with the Guardians. He is only 25 and has decent raw power. The Yankees could do a lot worse with the last spot on their roster.
St Louis Cardinals
- I was bullish on the Cardinals’ lamented approach to pitching recruitment, and they added another good arm this week in Sonny Gray. St Louis now has a rotation of Gray, Miles Mikolas, Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn and Steven Matz. Old, yes. But also durable and consistent. I like how John Mozeliak builds his teams.
- I really like the Marlins’ hiring of Gabe Kapler as an assistant GM. Yes, Kapler is a baseball nomad whose unconventional views rub some people the wrong way, but he is an innovator, and he will bring a cutting-edge perspective to Miami. Kapler also once gave me some time as a young writer, providing some quotes for a piece I wrote as an inconsequential 20-year-old blogger. Those are the little things that often go unnoticed, but they mean a lot to people like me. I’m rooting for Gabe to do well with the Marlins. Maybe they will enjoy the full fruits of his enormous potential.
MLB Winter Meetings
- The MLB Winter Meetings begin on Monday, and the entire industry seems to be in a frustrating holding pattern until then. Rumours abound, but actual deals have been few and far between. Overall, it seems Ohtani is holding up the market, and understandably so. After all, one team is going to give him more than $500 million, so he almost has to be the first domino to fall, from a budgetary perspective. There does appear to be some movement in the Ohtani sweepstakes, though, and his long-awaited decision could kickstart the hot stove.
- I think we take for granted just how good Jude Bellingham is, and how amazing his introduction to Real Madrid has been. Bellingham has scored 15 goals in 16 games for Real, settling in flawlessly. Madrid even gave him the number five shirt so famously blessed by Zinedine Zidane, and that has not fazed the kid. He looks right at home. Quite simply, Bellingham might be the most promising English footballer I have ever seen emerge. It is so exciting to watch him play. I just hope injuries do not derail a wonderful journey, because Bellingham could win it all before his career is done.
- Finally, I enjoyed a thrilling game of kamikaze football between Galatasaray and Manchester United in the Champions League this week. It finished 3-3, but could have been double that scoreline. Both sides threw caution to the wind and attacked with gusto. Some terrible defending and goalkeeping contributed to the carnage, but Galatasaray are a real dark horse in that competition. They have flair, courage and match-winning quality. Manager Okan Buruk has done a tremendous job rebuilding Cimbom, who have transformed from slow, plodding, lacklustre pushovers to sharp, energetic, brave dreamers. Look out for them come springtime. There is a magic about that club in European competition, and Buruk might reawaken it.