I’ve been absent from this space for the past month for the same reason I write sparsely in the month of March every year in Boston — high school tournament season. A large part of my responsibilities remain the Boston Globe’s coverage of high school sports and I take pride in making sure we’re represented properly online. So much so that I clocked a whopping 72 hours two weeks ago before taking this last week off on vacation following the state basketball and hockey championships.
Just grinding. Or as I like to term on Twitter, #grindmode.
Unfortunately for me, in the time I have been away from writing on this site, NFL free agency has bloomed and the San Francisco 49ers’ weird, twisted quarterback journey has been right in the thick of it.
Oh, and the New England Patriots have been busy too. (Again, two worlds colliding.)
When Randy Moss signed with the 49ers, I was asked maybe a half a dozen times what I thought about it. And I’m sure you could understand that made me wonder why I wasn’t writing about it. I was just too busy. But in retrospect, from March 12 — the day he was officially signed — to now, my feeling on the topic is more ginger than a red head. With Mario Manningham signing on, and Moss’ contract reportedly a 1-year base salary of $750,000 with the ability to reach $1.5 million with bonuses, there doesn’t seem to be too much harm. If the 49ers get the good Moss, great. He’s on the cheap. If the 49ers get the bad Moss, whatever. He’s on the cheap. And Manningham, a hero in the Super Bowl, is more than capable next to Michael Crabtree. I would imagine those two being the starters with Moss providing a deep threat for the team as a third option.
It’s this whole situation with Alex Smith that vexes me. The 49ers re-signed Smith to a 3-year deal March 21 after failing to court Peyton Manning. Manning, as I’m sure you already know, signed with the Denver Broncos who have jettisoned (pun intended) Tim Tebow to the New York Jets. Tebow will back up Mark Sanchez. (Oh, and if you’re paying close attention to backup quarterbacks, Brady Quinn is now a Kansas City Chief. True story.) All this after Smith flirted with the Miami Dolphins and even the Seattle Seahawks before the Seahawks signed quarterback Matt Flynn. Smith eventually said he went to Miami because he’d never been to its beaches before. (Yes, he was actually quoted saying that … And Deadspin has started a Lolphins tag.) I think that has us caught up.
What’s not caught up, is the 49ers’ quarterback situation in the 21st century. San Francisco is now embarking on Year 8 of the Smith dynasty and I’m sorry but there is nothing to be happy about that. I don’t care about what he did in one season and, in particular, one game. (Yes, my feelings have changed. This is allowed.) I don’t care that he had the world against him for seven seasons. I don’t care that he’s only just now getting his wings under him. He’s not a winner in my books. Not now, not ever. He’s got the accuracy of a drunk playing darts. He has the vision of a bat in a soundless vortex. He is the most uninteresting starting quarterback in 2012. Now, he has to prove himself that 2011 wasn’t a fluke and that possibly he can do better than what he showed in the NFC Championship against the eventual Super Bowl-winning New York Giants.
This after I gave him so much love for his magnificent game against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. It wasn’t so much a win as it was poetry, the movement and flow of the game. The gamesmanship. The miraculousness. The poise. The pizzazz. He displayed none of that exactly a week later in the 49ers’ loss to the Giants. It was as if he had reverted to his old self.
The Giants, taking a different tact than the Saints, didn’t give Smith the opportunity to beat them like they would give some rookie quarterback. With a strong defensive front, they were able to pressure him and force bad throw after bad throw. The final 49ers drive and their play in overtime exemplified what it means to put the game on Smith’s shoulders, a 70-30 proposition in favor of the other team. Those situations are what make me think Smith is a stopgap at best in this league until the quarterback situation can be fully resolved. Manning would have fixed that. He would have been the answer to this 8-year Rubik’s cube. If not him, one would assume that Colin Kaepernick is progressing enough to be ready to start. He has to make strides or the 49ers will regress.
I don’t think it needs to be explained that a 13-3 club is not going to be getting a high enough draft pick to select the quarterback of the future. Things don’t work that way. So free agency and trades are all that’s left to figure out this QB quandary. With Smith on board for three more years, the 49ers must assume that they’re either stuck in the desert or still figuring out how to find the promised land of signal callers. So are followers of this franchise to assume that Smith is the fallback plan … again? The SF brass can’t keep using this excuse. It’s only worked well once in seven tries. I’m not optimistic it’ll work well again.
In the course of my staycation, I’ve mulled these thoughts and more, figuring I’d jot them down when I had the chance. Lucky for me, I’ve had plenty of free time. I’ve actually gotten a chance to enjoy myself quite a bit in Boston over the last week. I went to the New England’s Revolution’s home opener against the Portland Timbers (that’s Major League Soccer for the uninitiated), walked Harvard Square (for the umpteenth time), watched “The Hunger Games,” and have experienced some new cafes and restaurants. Boston has been blessed with some great weather this week, allowing me to shed the winter coats and rock some new T-shirts. I couldn’t have asked for more. Best part? I haven’t woken up before 11 a.m. yet.
Tomorrow, the work week starts with my last day off before going back to the Globe on Tuesday. Everyone’s mind is on baseball with opening day looming April 5. My mind will be on that as well as a number of other projects. But one thing I think I’ll continue to focus on this spring and into the fall is social media, particularly for our high school sports coverage. I launched a Google+ page for Boston.com High School Sports and I intend to work on some more offerings for the socially apt as well.
In the meantime, I’ve been exploring Pinterest, the iPhone app Socialcam, and have fallen in love with Instagram all over again.
My attention to Pinterest is the same one I take with every social media site. What good is it for me journalistically? So far, outside of gathering pictures from the Boston Globe where their copyright can be shredded, I believe the journalistic aspect of the website is lacking. That’s not a bad thing for Pinterest. But it is a bad thing for journalists who want badly to join another social network that is rising in popularity. Simply posting a photo with an interesting caption and link back to your website does not suffice for Pinterest users. The vast majority don’t want to click on the links to see where the content originated. Instead, they want to “re-pin” the item to one of their “boards” so it can be seen as part of their collection. Without the clickthrough, it’s hard to ascertain why a journalism organization — outside of branding purposes — wants to utilize this system.
Here’s a thought: What if, in Pinterest’s grand scheme of schemes, you could disable repins? What if brands could force users to go to their website if they want to see where pins originated? That would fix a lot, dontcha think?
And then there’s Socialcam, an app I downloaded randomly for my iPhone that is surprisingly awesome. Basically, you take videos of yourself or whatever and share it with friends via Facebook, YouTube or friends in the app’s network. It has a strong journalistic root, in my opinion, because it allows for a user to submit instantaneously recorded content. It’s available in Android as well. I’ve had fun with it mainly to test and mess around with while I’m out and about at assignments. But I imagine I will use it a lot more going forward for interviews. (Side note: Why doesn’t Brightcove do these things? I mean, they are the juggernaut of newspaper video portals. Why does YouTube get to have all the fun and Brightcove continue to be cumbersome for sharing and social spaces? Why, why, why???)
And of course I’ve fallen prey to the awesomeness that is Instagram. That’s one iPhone app I don’t think I can do without now. I used it extensively for the Super Bowl and then I was messing around with it again this week. Best part about this app is that it loads phenomenally fast. Better than the Facebook app, better than Twitter app and 10 times better than the Google+ iPhone app. (Why does Google even have this app? It’s horrible. You can’t do anything you want to do with it and nowhere near as seamless as the web experience. It’s just awful.) The filters are simple and cool enough to enhance most photos without so much as even whispering “edit” and everybody seems to love the intuitiveness of it all. There’s nothing to argue with about this app. And now, it’s becoming available on Android too for wider use.
I think that sums up what I’ve wanted to say in the last week. It only took me 1600 words to do so, but it’s a good 1600 because it’s off my chest. Now I’m going to finish my vacation in style with some brunch before taking a run and settling into the couch for Sunday night TV.
Goodbye winter, hello spring.