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March’s Best, 2014

A little late, but as they say, better late than never.

March was a busy month for me, and for music, as the industry kicked into full gear with new music in anticipation of summer tours and festivals.

Featuring Pharrell, Foster The People, MØ, Dan Croll, Tycho, Future Islands, and ten other artists, March’s Best is an interesting playlist for what was an interesting month that will keep you guessing for the entire two hours.

You can listen to March’s Best and my previous playlists now at monthsbest.tumblr.com.

Do’s & Don’ts: An Amatuer Poolplayer’s Guide to Playing Pool in a Bar

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After six months of practice and God knows how many quarters, I like to think I’m a pretty good pool player.

Growing up, I played on one of those plastic multi-game tables in my basement but hadn’t played much since until I turned of legal drinking age and began frequenting bars.

Recently, I’ve been averaging about five table hours a week, but depending on our play (and how much we’re drinking) my roommates and I will sometimes play that long in one night.

This past Saturday was one of those nights.

During my time playing and watching others play over those five hours, it became apparent that few seem to know or follow proper billiards etiquette. But thanks to my roommate for providing this idea, that ends now with my do’s and don’ts guide to playing bar pool.

DO LEARN THE RULES

There are official American Poolplayers Association (APA) rules and then there are bar rules.

It doesn’t matter what rules you’re playing, but just like any sport, it’s important to know the rules of the game.

Bar rules typically change with the bar and who’s on the table, but here are probably the most important and frequent ones you’ll hear:

  • Call your shots. Not everyone plays by this rule (I usually don’t), but it separates the amateurs from the casual players and prevents those frustrating bullshit shots from counting. With that said, regardless of whether you’re playing by this rule, you must call the pocket when shooting at the 8 ball.
  • Keep one foot on the ground. This one is self-explanatory. If you’re attempting a shot, you have to keep at least one foot (the toe counts) on the floor.
  • Hit a ball or three rails, or it’s a scratch. When shooting, you must either hit a ball (some players add the rule that you can only hit your color first, aka no combos) or three consecutive rails, or it’s considered a scratch. The three rails rule does not apply when shooting at the 8 ball.
  • Shoot from the kitchen after a scratch. The ‘kitchen’ refers to the area on the table behind the head string. Off a scratch, the cue ball can only be hit towards the racked end of the table and may not strike a ball inside the kitchen area first.
  • Knock in the 8 ball early or into the wrong pocket and you lose. Pocketing the 8 ball early or into a pocket you did not call constitutes an automatic loss. To be safe, avoid hitting it at all until the very end.

DO PUT A QUARTER DOWN

An unwritten rule of bar pool, a quarter represents “next up” if there are already players on a table.

Do not verbally call “next,” especially if there are quarters already on the table, as this defeats the purpose of the quarter rule.

Only one quarter is needed to reserve your spot in line; stacking quarters carries no additional weight and does not give you the right to jump other awaiting players.

Also, even though you put a quarter down, it is important to keep an eye on the table so as to be ready when it’s your turn to play. Use this time to use the bathroom, get a drink, and scope out your potential competition.

DO GET YOUR DRINKS BEFOREHAND 

Some players (think they) play better when under the influence, but it is by no means a requirement - even at a bar.

However, if you are going to drink while playing, make sure to stop by the bar before the match begins. This will prevent your partner from playing alone or pausing the match to wait for you.

DO SET THE RULES

Now that you know and understand the rules of the game, it’s important to set the rules for the match before you begin play.

If you’re new on the table, go by the rules of the table holders. If you’re the table holders, make sure to establish the rules if the oncomers don’t ask.

The last thing you want to happen is to get in an argument over a rule mid-match that you could have made known earlier.

DON’T BREAK IF YOU CAN’T

Arguably the second most important shot in any match (after the winning shot to sink the 8 ball, of course), every game begins with a break.

The break can set the landscape for the entire match, so don’t set yourself up for failure with a bad break.

Simply put, if you can’t break well, don’t. Let your partner take the shot or even the other team.

DO PAY ATTENTION WHEN PLAYING

Chances are, you or your partner paid for this match and/or want to win, so the least you can do is pay attention.

You should have already gone to the bathroom and got your drinks anyways, so there should be no timely distractions while playing.

And you can talk to that hot blonde across the bar later. After all, you won’t be able to brag about that awesome jump shot if you never take it.

DO RESPECT THE TABLE

Between the large crowds, food, drinks, and smoking (in places that still allow it), bars can be a tough place to play pool. But whether you’re watching or playing a match, the number one rule of billiards etiquette is respect the table.

That means keep your hands, butt, drinks, food, and ash trays off the table.

Most bars don’t allow drinks, food, or ash trays on the tables for obvious reasons, so unless you never want to play in their establishment again, don’t do it. Hold it, use a table, put it on the floor, or pass it to a friend.

DON’T STAND OVER THE POCKET

Another unwritten code of behavior, standing over the pocket someone is aiming at may not seem like a big deal, but it can be very distracting. In what is most likely already a drunk, loud, and crowded setting, the less distractions the better.

In fact, it’s best to stay completely out of a shooter’s line of vision if possible.

DO GIVE THE SHOOTER ROOM

Just as you don’t want to stand in front of the shooter, you also don’t want to take a cue stick to the face.

Give the shooter plenty of room to walk around the table, find his or her shot, and make a solid attempt - you’d want the same.

DO SHAKE HANDS AFTERWARDS

This one’s just good sportsmanship.

Win or lose, it’s good form to shake your opponents’ hands and congratulate them on a good game (even if you don’t mean it).

So the next time you go downtown and think about playing pool, remember my guide.

I’ll see you on the table.

Money Madness: The Big Business Behind The Big Dance

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By now the close relationship between sports - both collegiate and professional - and money is well-known. Behind the energy and excitement of every sport is ultimately a business, and the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS are all in the business of making money.

But the NCAA, at over 1,200 institutions, conferences, and organizations strong, is the largest business of them all (NCAA, n.d.). And March Madness - the nonprofit’s baby and so-called “best sporting event” in America - is one of the biggest money makers of them all.

In fact, as I’m about to argue, the NCAA Basketball Championship is not about basketball at all - it’s about money.

TELEVISION CONTRACTS

In 2010, Turner Broadcasting (the parent company of TBS, TNT, and truTV) and CBS entered into a 14-year, $10.8 billion exclusive television partnership with the NCAA to broadcast the March Madness tournament from 2011-2024 across the four networks (Weiss, 2013; Kantar Media, 2012).

Turner and CBS outbid ESPN for the tournament’s rights - who holds the deal for the women’s version of the championship tournament (Margolis, 2014).

"We made an aggressive bid and believe our combination of TV distribution, digital capabilities, season-long coverage and year-round marketing would have served the interests of the NCAA and college fans very well," said ESPN’s VP of Communications Josh Krulewitz (Marrot, 2010).

Bringing in $740 million per year for the NCAA, the CBS/Turner deal is the sixth largest sports league contract in history. It is also currently the largest NCAA sports media contract.

"This deal is not only of high-value," says Nitin Bhandari, writer for TheRichest.com, ”but it is a key part of what prompted the NCAA to expand its tournament to include 68 teams from the 64 that it always had” (Bhandari, 2013).

TOURNAMENT EXPANSION

But the March Madness tournament has not always been 64 teams, having expanded a total of 10 times since 1939 from eight teams to the current field of 68 format.

Play-in games were introduced in 2001 after the newly formed Mountain West Conference was given an automatic bid for its conference champion, expanding the tournament field to 65 (NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, n.d.).

The NCAA further expanded the tournament to include three additional play-in games (deemed the ‘First Four’) beginning in 2011 (Katz, 2010). 

For those four teams and the 64 others who clinch a ticket to the Big Dance, a win earns their respective conference $1.5 million (or a NCAA tournament unit) over the course of six years.

Each conference receives a unit for a team making the tournament and one for each subsequent team win.

This year, a tournament unit is projected to be worth $250,106, up 1.9% from 2013. Next year, that payout could increase another 2.1% (Smith, 2014).

To put all of this in layman’s terms: the more teams in the field, the greater the chance of a conference having multiple teams in the tournament. And the more games a team plays throughout the tournament, the more money their respective conference receives from the NCAA. More teams equals more chances to win, which equals more chances for revenue for a conference.

CONFERENCE DISTRIBUTION

Distributed from media contracts (see first section), the NCAA’s basketball fund is expected to allocate an estimated $194 million to tournament teams this year.

But what might not seem like a lot of money, especially when broken down at a per-school level (last year’s Final Four run by Wichita State will only bring in about $80,000 per year for the program), adds up quickly when a conference has multiple schools making deep runs in the tournament (Smith, 2014).

Some conferences equally split the revenue among all conference schools while some provide a disproportionate share to the teams that were actually responsible for the “unit creation” (Rishe, 2011).

According to revenue distribution information released by the NCAA, the top five grossing conferences from 2007-2012 were the Big East ($28.7M), Big 12 ($20.6M), Big 10 ($20.3M), ACC ($18.1M), and SEC ($15.2M) - combining for 55 percent of total basketball fund allocations over that time frame to 31 total Division I Conferences (NCAA, 2012).

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"For power conferences that are cranking out 15 units a year, it doesn’t have the impact like it does for other leagues that can get some real, needed funding that can allow them to do some other things, to support their basketball programs," said Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager (Auerbach, 2014).

Those same top five conferences averaged 14 tournament units per year from 2007-2012.

The Colonial Athletic Association, on the other hand, averaged just three, earning $4.4 million - just 2 percent of total distribution (NCAA, 2012).

ADVERTISING REVENUE

But while conferences like the Colonial Athletic Association are making millions from their participation in March Madness, the NCAA is making billions.

In 2012, a 30-second ad spot in the Final Four commanded as much as $700,000, while the average unit cost for the national championship game was more than double that at $1.45 million.

Last year alone, CBS and Turner Broadcasting generated $1.152 billion in tournament ad sales revenue for the NCAA, making March Madness the most lucrative postseason advertising juggernaut for the first time.

For comparison, that’s more than the NFL Playoffs (including the Super Bowl) ($976.3 million) and the NBA and MLB postseasons combined ($891 million). And this year’s tournament is expected to bring in even more (Crupi, 2013).

LAS VEGAS & GAMBLING

The NCAA isn’t the only one profiting off March Madness though.

As The Atlantic's Allen Barra put it, “the American way of life - or, more accurately, the American way of fandom - is at least as much about gambling as it is about sports.”

Where there is sports, there is gambling, and where there is gambling, you’ve probably found yourself in Las Vegas.

Estimates of money legally wagered on the tournament range from $90 million to $100 million, but some same that number could be as high as $227 million (Benning, 2014).

Illegal wagers, like your friendly apartment or office pool, are even more difficult to estimate, but an FBI source put 2012 numbers in the upwards of $2.5 million.

Worldwide, Pregame.com's RJ Bell estimates $12 billion was bet on last year 's tournament.

And while the NCAA doesn’t get a cut of what Vegas and other state-licensed sports books bring in, the maddening numbers only add to the big business of the Big Dance.

Fantasy Baseball 2014 Opening Day Lineup | Team: Grande Papi

Fantasy Baseball 2014 Opening Day Lineup | Team: Grande Papi

Three & Out: Predicting The 2014 MLB Season

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Unless you live under a rock, chances are you saw fewer people (than usual) in class, an influx of baseball apparel being worn, and/or felt a general excitement in the air yesterday.

Yesterday, of course, was Major League Baseball’s 2014 season (domestic) Opening Day.

But with the beginning of every new sporting season comes the inevitable let-down of premature predictions.

According to Pregame.com's RJ Bell, World Series odds favor the Dodgers (6/1), Cardinals (8/1), Tigers (9/1), Nationals (10/1), and Red Sox (13/1). The Houston Astros are listed last - a distant 500/1 - to win the Commissioner’s Trophy this October.

CBS baseball writer, Matt Snyder reminds us, however, that: “odds aren’t actually predictions and instead an attempt by the house to maximize profits” (Snyder, 2014). Basically, take Vegas’ numbers with a grain of salt (or cocktail if you’re actually in Vegas).

And so just like seemingly every ESPN writer, I did my “research” and predicted the division, league, and World Series champs.

You can also follow my daily spread picks of games on my newly added 'Bets' page.

Here’s to a great baseball season! (I hope).

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EAST CHAMP: Boston Red Sox

CENTRAL CHAMP: Detroit Tigers

WEST CHAMP: Los Angeles Angels

WILD CARDS: New York YankeesOakland Athletics

CHAMPION: Red Sox

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EAST CHAMP: Washington Nationals

CENTRAL CHAMP: St. Louis Cardinals

WEST CHAMP: Los Angeles Dodgers

WILD CARDS: Philadelphia PhilliesSan Diego Padres

CHAMPION: Cardinals

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MATCHUP: Red Sox vs. Cardinals

CHAMPION: Red Sox

Who do you have winning it all in October?

Music: The Soundtrack to My Life

Even though I never perceived music as anything more than audible sound that I liked to sing along with until my freshman year of college when I decided to pursue a career in the industry, music has always played an important role in my life.

Growing up, I remember my sister and I would sit on the floor and listen to the likes of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Don McLean’s “American Pie,” and The Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup” on 45s from my parents’ collection. Car trips included The Beatles, Alan Jackson, and Enya on tape depending on who was driving. And it was dad’s rule that we couldn’t listen to Christmas music until we left Thanksgiving at my Grammy’s.

Those are some of the fondest memories from my childhood.

My very first CD was the soundtrack of Tony’s Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. Looking back, I thought I was such a bad ass listening to Alien Ant Farm’s “Wish.” 

A few years later, my uncle got me Creed’s second and third albums, Human Clay and Weathered, for my birthday and the Christian band quickly became (and remains) my favorite band. (Judge me).

As I got older and CDs became the mainstream means of listening to music, I began building my own collection of albums, including Nickelback (listen to Silver Side Up and then tell me they suck), P.O.D., and others. I would even borrow my sister’s Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync albums on occasion. (Don’t get my wrong, I like Justin TImberlake, but the Backsteet Boys have always made better music).

Fast forward to today and my iTunes library includes nearly 15,000 songs and my album collection is up to more than 50 CDs. I also stream 10-20 albums a month on Spotify. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you I always have earbuds in or am blasting music.

Music has become more than audible sound to me - it’s become an emotional outlet, a source of entertainment, a way of life, and my career (fingers crossed as I begin applying for industry jobs this month).

Music means different things to different people, but there is one common denominator - the music.

What’s on the soundtrack of your life?

XXL Freshmen 2014 Predictions, According to You

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To those unfamiliar to the year’s most important debate, the XXL Freshmen class, let me explain.

XXL is a hip-hop lifestyle magazine and website that features news, music, videos, and everything hip-hop.

Physically published only six times a year, the magazine is most known for its ‘XXL Freshmen’ issue each spring which names the Top 10 Freshmen talent in hip-hop.

Usually reserved for up-and-coming rappers, both male and female, who have created a large buzz without being signed to a major label or releasing a debut album, the list has showcased now big name artists such as Lupe Fiasco (2008), Kid Cudi and Asher Roth (2009), J. Cole and Wiz Khalifa (2010), Kendrick Lamar and Mac Miller (2011), Macklemore (2012), and last year’s Action Bronson (XXL, n.d.).

In total, 61 artists have been name XXL Freshmen. Chief Keef was uniquely named the “11th Freshman” in 2013 but did not appear on the issue cover due to his then-incarceration for violating parole (XXL, n.d.Fleischer, 2013).

Since 2012, in what has become known as the “10th Spot,” the public votes on the last Freshman to make the cut while the XXL staff selects the other nine (DV, 2012).

This year’s ballot featured 70 artists (including the unknown nine selected by the staff) with voting done via Facebook “Like” and tweet buttons - creating an unavoidable social conversation.

That conversation is only amplified each year by the numerous articles and posts from other publications and individuals of their own lists, predictions, and snubs.

This was supposed to be one of those posts.

But instead of compiling my own list of artists I think deserve to make the cover as I have in year’s past, I decided to take a different approach. Taking advantage of the social conversation generated by this year’s voting system, I turned to recently-learned tool SocialMention.

A real-time search and analysis platform, SocialMention aggregates user generated content from more than 100 social media properties into a single stream of information (About, n.d.). That information is then broken down into four calculations: Strength, Sentiment, Passion, and Reach.

In order to formulate my list, I first needed to select a calculation as a means of measurement.

Described by SocialMention as “the likelihood that your brand is being discussed in social media, using phrase mentions within the past 24 hours divided by total possible mentions,” Strength was the perfect tool to capture which artists were generating the most social discussion, and theoretically, votes (FAQ, n.d.).

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[Click image to enlarge.]

Plugging in all 70 candidates names into the platform, I was able to collect and graph the Strength percentage of each artist (see chart above). The artists in red represent the top 10 highest Strength scores and the predicted XXL Freshmen Class of 2014.

Note: Because of how SocialMention collects data, Strength was not recorded for five artists (Problem, Que, Snow Tha Product, Tracy T, and Tree) due to common and generic terms in their stage names.

The lowest strength score measured at 2% (Raz Simone & Young Gleesh), with the highest measuring 31% (Shy Glizzy). The mean was 12.5%.

And so, without further ado, the predicted XXL Freshmen class of 2014 (in alphabetical order), according to you.

The dark number in the gray box represents each artist’s Strength.

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BIRTH NAME: Markel Scott

PROJECTS: Nehruvia (2012), Nehruvia: StrictlyFlowz (2013)

LABEL: Unsigned

CONNECT: @BishopNehru

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BIRTH NAME: Nathaniel DeLa Rosa

PROJECTS: Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z. (2012)

LABEL: Unsigned

CONNECT: @BodegaBAMZ

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BIRTH NAME: Casey Jones

PROJECTS: Customized Greatly, Vol. 1 (2007), Customized Greatly, Vol. 2 (2009), Bum Ass Shit (w/ Ricky Hil) (2010), Sleeping In Class (2010), Sleeping in Class: Deluxe Edition (2011), Customized Greatly Vol. 3 (2012), Life Changes (2013), Fresh Veggies (w/ Rockie Fresh) (2013)

LABELS: Peas N’ Carrots International, Roc Nation, Epic Records

CONNECT: @CaseyVeggies

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BIRTH NAME: Chancelor Bennett

PROJECTS: 10 Day (2012), Acid Rap (2013)

LABEL: Unsigned

CONNECT: @chancetherapper

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BIRTH NAME: Isaiah Rashad McClain

PROJECTS: Cilvia Demo (2014)

LABEL: Top Dawg Entertainment

CONNECT: @isaiahrashad

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BIRTH NAME: Isaiah Rashad McClain

PROJECTS: April 27th, 1990 (A Star Is Born) (2010), Show Money (w/ Tha Joker) (2013), In Due Time (2013), K.I.S.S., Pt. 2 (2014)

LABEL: Interscope

CONNECT: @KCamp427

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BIRTH NAME: Dequantes Lamar

PROJECTS: I Go In On Every Song (2012), Still Goin In (2012), Still Goin In (Reloaded) (2013), I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In (2013)

LABELS: Think It’s A Game Entertainment, Def Jam

CONNECT: @RichHomieQuan

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BIRTH NAME: Horst Christian Simco

PROJECTS: The Golen Alien (2012); The Texas Tornado (2009), Never Ending Saturday (2009), Party McHardy (2010), Rookie of The Future (2010), The Freestyle Scientist (2010), Hilton Swag, Vol. 1 (2010), Sour & Gun Powder (2011), Purple Haze & Hand Grenades (w/ Lean Team) (2011), Rap Game Bon Jovi (2012), Summer of Surf (2012), Birth of an Icon (2012), Hologram Panda (w/ Dame Grease) (2012), Jumpin Out The Gym (w/ DollaBillGates) (2013)

LABEL: Mad Decent

CONNECT: @JODYHiGHROLLER

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BIRTH NAME: Dominic Wynn Woods

PROJECTS: Gas Pedal EP (2013); Gang Forever (w/ HBK Gang) (2013)

LABELSBlack Money Music Group, EMPIRE Recordings, Republic

CONNECT: @SageTheGemini

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BIRTH NAME: Marquis King

PROJECTS: Streets Hottest Youngin (2011), Law (2012), Fly Money (w/ Jose Guapo) (2012), Fxck Rap (2012), Young Jefe (2014)

LABEL: Unsigned

CONNECT: @ShyGlizzy

Your move, XXL.

Two-Minute Drill: Cam Newton to Throw to Himself?

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NFL free agency is in full swing and a lot of names have new teams.

Unfortunately for the Carolina Panthers, that list includes four players on their offense - wide receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr., and Domenik Hixon. 

Longtime Panther and surprise release, Smith inked a three-year $11.5 million, $3.5 million guaranteed deal with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday (Jones & Corbett, 2014).

Smith’s teammate of four years, Brandon LaFell, agreed to a similar three-year, $11 million deal with the New England Patriots on Saturday (Kyed, 2014).

Ginn Jr. signed a three-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals worth $9.75 million and Hixon signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears (Green, 2014; Campbell, 2014).

With all four wide receivers out in Carolina, this begs the question, who will Cam Newton throw to in 2014?

After what many considered a disappointing 2012 campaign, Newton and the Panthers got back on track in 2013, finishing first in the NFC South with a 12-4 record. Newton’s numbers continued to improve from his first two seasons, throwing for more than 4,000 yards with a 21:17 touchdown to interception ratio and a 60.0 completion percentage (Cam Newton, n.d.).

Smith, LaFell, Ginn Jr., and Hixon combined for nearly 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns - 59 and 63 percent of Newton’s production last season, respectively (Edholm, 2014).

Meanwhile, the remaining receivers on the Carolina roster - Kealoha Pilares, Tavarres King, Marvin McNutt, R.J. Webb, Brenton Bersin, and Toney Clemons - have an average of just two years NFL experience and a combined career 83 yards receiving. Pilares, a fourth-year player, is the only one of the group to have caught a pass from Newton - back in 2012 (Kealoha Pilares, n.d.;Tavarres King, n.d.;Marvin McNutt, n.d.R.J. Webb, n.d.;Brenton Bersin, n.d.Toney Clemons, n.d.).

The Panthers need obvious help at wide out, but the team doesn’t seem interested in making any moves, having missed signing free agents Andre Roberts (now with Washington), Golden Tate (DET), Eric Decker (NYJ), Emmanuel Sanders (DEN), James Jones (OAK) and Mario Manningham (NYG).

However, for as many missed opportunities and losses the Panthers have had in free agency thus far, there are still plenty of good hands left on the market in Davone Bess, Santonio Holmes, Miles Austin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sidney Rice, Nate Burleson, Devin Hester, and others (Free Agency, n.d.).

Carolina also returns veteran tight end Greg Olsen (816 yards receiving, 6 touchdowns in 2013), and running backs DeAngelo Williams (333 yards, 1 touchdown) and Mike Tolbert (184 yards, 2 touchdowns) in 2014 (Greg Olsen, n.d.DeAngelo Williams, n.d.;Mike Tolbert, n.d.).

In addition, halfback Jonathan Stewart (44 yards) will return after missing 10 games last season due to injury (Jonathan Stewart, n.d.). 

And let’s not forget the draft. Will the Panthers draft Sammy Watkins? Mike Evans? Marquise Lee?

For Cam Newton’s sake, let’s hope they answer that question and more sooner than later - otherwise he may just be catching his own passes in 2014.

Editorial: 2,446,808 Reasons (And Counting) Why Neil Young & PonoMusic Will Fail

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Neil Young is a Canadian singer/songwriter, musician, two-time Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and now the founder of “high-resolution music store and player,” PonoMusic.

Hawaiian for “righteous,” Pono’s mission “is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite music” while preserving “the feeling, spirit, and emotion that the artists put in their original studio recordings” (PonoMusic, 2014).

Without getting too technical, CD-quality music today uses a 44.1 kHz/16-bit sampling rate. PonoMusic, on the other hand, promises resolutions up to 192kHz/24-bit. And according to the likes of celebrity endorsers such as Beck, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Jack White, Dave Grohl, Elton John, Mumford & Sons, and countless others featured in the recently launched Kickstarter campaign video (see below), it sounds incredible.

But I’m not buying it - and here are four reasons why.

1) GREED. Launched on the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter Tuesday, March 11, PonoMusic hoped to raise $800,000 in order to fund the project. Less than 10 hours after its launch, the campaign had surpassed its goal - 34 days ahead of the April 15 deadline. At the time of this posting, the campaign has raised nearly $2.5 million (thus the title of this post) and has the potential to be Kickstarter’s number one most-funded project ever.

Yet despite the more than 7,500 donors, not everyone has embraced the campaign. Many, like this man, have raised the question why someone with a net worth estimated at $65 million needs a Kickstarter - a platform used by up-and-coming entrepreneurs, artists, and designers who don’t have the necessary capital to grow their ideas (Celebrity Networth, n.d.).

According to guidelines listed on their website, every Kickstarter project must fit into one of the following categories: Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater (Guidelines, n.d.). There are currently no guidelines regarding creator net worth.

But speaking of money, the company has been rather coy about its revenue model (beside from PonoPlayer sales) - which brings me to my second reason.

2) TRANSPARENCY. When asked at Austin annual music, film, and interactive conference SXSW, Young and Pono CEO John Hamm dodged a question regarding the company’s cut of future sales. 

Apple takes a 30% cut of sales on the iTunes Store (Wakabayashi, 2014).

3) COMPETITION. PonoMusic’s value proposition is high-resolution music, bought on a digital music store and delivered through a portable player.

But what makes Young, Hamm and Pono think they can disrupt the online music store sector?

Even with the increase use of streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, Rhapsody, and now Beats Music, iTunes “still dominates the digital music market with a 63 percent share” - though their growth is slowing (McGowan, 2013).

The market is crowded, and the barrier of entry is high.

But iTunes’ market share isn’t the only declining trend for Apple, who saw iPod sales 52% lower in 2013 than the previous year (Hollister, 2014). The iPod now makes up just 2% of Apple’s overall income, while the iPhone - which come with iTunes built-in - has seen growth by 7% year-on-year (Woollaston, 2014).

To quote a headline written by The Verge's Sean Hollister, “the age of the iPod is over.”

Young and Hamm might want to reconsider PonoPlayer’s $399 price tag - if not the player all together (PonoMusic, 2014).

And so my fourth, and final reason.

3) PRACTICALITY. When it comes down to it, PonoMusic simply doesn’t make sense.

Why pay more money for another MP3 player and access to music that sounds marginally (still yet to be proved) better than the current devices and services I already own and use?

But Young isn’t worried about failure, having said that even if PonoMusic were put down by a large tech company accomplishing the same thing, music lovers would still win in the end by hearing audio as it was intended (Flanagan, 2014).

While maybe true, until October (when PonoPlayers will first be delivered to donors) and reviews come out, I’ll do like Neil Young, keep my money in my wallet and believe it when I hear it.

To find out more about PonoMusic or donate to the venture, visit the campaign on Kickstarter.

Product Review: Motorola S11-HD Wireless Stereo Headphones

I’ll start this product review with a little background.

After losing my iPhone earbuds at the gym, being left unsatisfied after buying cheap replica earbuds on eBay, and not wanting to work out with my Beats headphones on, my parents decided to gift me with Bluetooth headphones of my choice for my birthday.

My mom recently bought Jaybird Freedom Sprint wireless earbuds (see here) and was satisfied with them, but I wanted something different. To be specific, I wasn’t fond of the cord connecting the earbuds and didn’t want a long cord hanging behind my neck or dangling in front of me - a likely annoyance and hassle when squatting or dead lifting.

So after some research into various brands of earbuds and headphones, I decided on the Motorola S11-HD model. A month of use nearly every day later, I thought I’d share my thoughts on various characteristics and features of the product - price, comfort, sound, design, battery life, and ease of use.

The following ratings are based on your typical five-star scale and are completely subjective.

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PRICE: ☆, 4/5

Priced at just under $100 (my parents bought them online through Best Buy for $98), the Motorola S11-HD wireless stereo headphones are one of the more expensive Bluetooth headphones options on the market. But considering the brand name, its features, and performance - you’re definitely getting what you pay for.

COMFORT: ☆, 4/5

The headphones sit at the base of the head and for headphones are extremely lightweight. The outerband is flexible to fit any size head while an additional innerband snaps in place to provide a more snug fit. In addition to the bands, the earbuds themselves are adjustable with stem rotation (the more expensive S11-Flex HD model provides vertical movement in addition to stem rotation). The headphones also come standard with four different size ear cushions to fit any size inner ear.

After a few days I swapped out the ear cushions that came on the headphones with a slightly smaller pair that allowed for a better, deeper fit in my ear. However, I found my ears, specifically my antitragus (look it up), to be sore after wearing the headphones for an extended period of time - even hours after taking the headphones off. Though uncomfortable, the feeling is no different than that I’ve experienced with any other extended earbud wear.

Overall, the headphones are comfortable to wear, but do require the occasional adjusting when working out - which will be further discussed in the ‘Design’ section below.

SOUND: ★, 5/5

"High Performance Sound." It’s promised on the box and Motorola doesn’t disappoint.

With HD quality sound, noise-canceling technology, three different EQ settings, and a 50-foot range, these headphones are music to my ears. Whether you’re at the gym, on the bus, or walking outside, the Motorola S11-HD will allow you to hear what you want to hear while providing you with all the fist-pumping bass your ears desire.

The headphones also forward phone calls, though I have not messed around with that feature.

DESIGN: ☆, 3/5

This is my biggest issue with these headphones.

Unlike normal headphones that sit on top of your head, these go around the back. While not a unique headphone design, the practicality of such a design for a device marketed to be worn when exercising is questionable. With much of my weight lifting being done on my back or with my head against a bench, I saw this as potential problem prior to purchase. Would the band get in the way? Would the band break (I saw a number of reviews of older models detailing events where the back band snapped in half)?

After a month of use, I’m happy to report my headphones are still intact, but my fears have also been brought to light. When benching, shoulder pressing, or using machines with high neck support, the back band does come in contact with benches. However, with caution and a little adjustment to push the band below the base of my head, I’ve been able to lift as normal.

Motorola clearly missed this when performing their market research and product testing, but I give them credit for the sleek and comfortable design they have produced.

BATTERY LIFE: ★, 5/5

The Motorola S11-HD wireless stereo headphones are advertised as having “quick-charge technology” that can provide an hour of full charge in just five minutes. It’s a bold claim, but it’s true.

Upon receiving my headphones in the mail I immediately plugged them in to full charge - of which I did not time. However, the first full charge lasted me five days and more than five hours of use. That’s impressive. And yet I was even more impressed by the accuracy of Motorola’s claim, as my headphones went from shutdown-low battery to fully charged in an hour’s time. My phone doesn’t even charge that fast.

The headphones will alert you when you have low battery and if you have your charger and access to an outlet at your gym, they’ll charge enough while you change clothes or use the bathroom to last your entire workout.

EASE OF USE: ★, 5/5

At first the controls on the headphones can seem a bit confusing, but to anyone who has used iPhone earbuds, the controls will come naturally. The left earbud side features an orange button on the bottom that acts as pause, play, skip, and repeat as well as answer and hang up calls while the right earbud side features volume controls and an orange button on top that turns the device on and off when held.

A voice tone will greet you when the device is turned on and another tone will notify you when turned off as well as when at max volume.

To anyone who has owned a Motorola phone, you’ll also be pleased to see the device charge jack is covered by a twistable rubber tab. A red light will appear below the jack when the headphones are charging and will turn green when fully charged.

OVERALL: ☆, 4/5

To someone who has always used wired-earbuds at the gym or when running, going cordless was one of the best decisions I’ve made in awhile. It’s not only made my exercise experience easier, but also more enjoyable.

If you frequent the gym or hate running with an arm band, I highly recommend looking into Bluetooth earbuds or headphones - starting with the Motorola S11-HD.