You ask, when will Verizon FiOS have CSN+ available in HD?

A quick (cause this guy’s got a day job that doesn’t involve DC sports or cable television) lunchtime post…

A year ago, I was blogging about how FiOS customers in some parts of the Greater Washington DC area were not able to view Caps and Wizards games that were diverted to the CSN overflow channel (CSN+) on nights when both teams were playing at the same time. The issue eventually got resolved in February of this year and all was right in the world again.

AND THEN prior to the start of this basketball and hockey season, CSN announced that they would be broadcasting all Caps and Wizards games in HD. This meant that even on nights when both teams play simultaneously, the game that gets pushed to the overflow channel would still be in HD.

On November 5 of this year, both teams played and CSN produced games by the Caps and the Wizards in HD simultaneously for the first time ever.

BUT… (This next part gives me flashbacks to a year ago)

…not all providers are carrying the CSN+ HD feed yet.

Dan Steinberg wrote on the D.C. Sport Bog back in September, when he was reporting on CSN producing all the games in HD, “This is no guarantee that your own provider will pick up the CSN+ HD feed, but I’d imagine the major local carriers will see sufficient demand to make this happen.”

And much like a year ago, when people were clamoring for Verizon FiOS to add CSN+, there are some people now wondering when FiOS will have the CSN+ HD feed available.

The really, really good news is that FiOS customers are getting all the Caps and Wizards games, unlike with the situation a year ago when some FiOS customers could not watch the CSN+ games at all. But there are some people who’d like to see all those games in HD.

It looks like I got somewhere between 75 and 100 hits to the blog yesterday from people either looking for CSN+ or the CSN+ HD feed, as both the Wizards and Caps were playing, with the Caps on the overflow channel this time. And someone posted this comment.

I’ve sent a tweet to Joe Ambeault with Verizon, who was helpful last year in communicating about the CSN+ issue. I’ll also reach out to some other contacts and will post an update here at the bottom of this blog post when I hear something new.

In the meantime, if you’re trying to locate a CSN channel, they have a page on their site where you can look up the location of any of the CSN Washington channels on your cable network. And it’s worth noting that FiOS customers may not be the only ones unable to get CSN+ in HD yet. See this post on the Caps message boards where a few people are saying they’re not able to get the CSN+ HD feed through some other providers.

UPDATE – 11/22/10
A Verizon media relations representative told me today in an email that they “expect to add the HD channel in the early part of next year.”

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How often is an NHL 40 goal scorer left off the next season’s All-Star ballot?

Alexander Semin during warmups of Game 2 of th...

Image via Wikipedia

You can’t really say that Alexander Semin’s recent scoring surge for the Washington Capitals came too late for him to make this season’s NHL All-Star ballot.

You could, but even if the league drafted the ballot at the end of October, one month into the 2010-11 season, Semin had 6 goals and 5 assists through 11 games at that point—a pretty nice start.

More importantly, Semin was a 40 goal scorer last season, good enough for 7th best in the league. He also racked up 44 assists, finished 13th in the NHL in points and was +36 to tie for 5th best in +/-, while playing on what has become one of the most high profile teams in the league.

And last season was no fluke. Over the last four seasons, Semin has averaged 34.5 goals and 35 assists. Due to injuries, he’s done that while playing only 68.75 games on average during those four years.

So, as I was seeking to put the omission of Semin into further perspective, I found myself thinking, when was the last time a 40 goal scorer one season did not make the All-Star ballot the next?

Looking at last season, there were seven players in the league who scored 40 goals: Sidney Crosby (51 goals), Steven Stamkos (51), Alex Ovechkin (50), Patrick Marleau (44), Martin Gaborik (42), Ilya Kovalchuk (41), and Semin (40). All but Semin are on this season’s All-Star ballot.

As Peerless points out, “Of the top 15 goals scorers among forwards from last season, two are not on the ballot. One is Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows, who missed the first ten games of the season with a shoulder injury and is 1-1-5, plus-3 in five games so far.” Semin is the other.

There was no All-Star Game during the 2009-10 season due to the Olympics.

Looking at 2008-09’s All-Star ballot, there had been 10 players who scored 40 goals the season before. They were Ovechkin (65 goals), Kovalchuk (52), Jarome Iginla (50), Evgeni Malkin (47), Henrik Zetterberg (43), Brad Boyes (43), Gaborik (42), Dany Heatley (41), Vincent Lacavalier (40) and Daniel Alfredsson (40). Every single one of those 40 goal scorers from 2007-08 made the All-Star ballot for the 2008-09 game.

There was also another guy on that 2008-09 All-Star ballot worth noting: Alexander Semin. He was coming off a 2007-08 year when he’d scored 26 goals and recorded 16 assists in 63 games, with a +/- of minus 18.

Injuries kept Semin from playing more games that year, but if you project those numbers out over 73 games (the amount he played last season), you get 30 goals (that would have landed him at 28th in the league) and 19 assists (which would have put him at 223rd in the league). Those numbers would have seen him finish 107th in total points.

Semin followed that up by coming out of the gates fast in the 2008-09 season, scoring 8 goals and tallying 8 assists in just 9 games during October, right before the All-Star ballot was released in November.

It’s hard to believe that a 2007-08 season of good but not incredible numbers, plus an October 2008 red hot streak, were enough to propel Semin onto the ’08-’09 ballot yet, this year, averaging a still-impressive point per game in October and coming off a 2009-10 season in which he posted 40 goals and 44 assists, he’s somehow fallen short in the eyes of the ballot creators.

There are other factors that could be considered—such as who else was All-Star worthy versus the number of ballot slots available—but the omission of any 40 goal scorer from the ballot, regardless of competition, leaves me dumbstruck, without even wading into any of these other parts of the debate.

Ten people, give or take a few, score 40 goals a year these days in the NHL. And we’re not talking about the final All-Star roster, when it gets even tougher to include all the worthy players. This is just about the ballot, which has 1oo players on it this season, 53 of them forwards. Semin wasn’t deserving of one of those 53 slots after being one of the top seven goal producers in the league last season, not to mention his other stats?

Going back one more year to the 2007-08 All Star ballot, there had been 10 players who scored 40 goals the year before: Lecavalier (52 goals), Heatley (50), Teemu Selanne (48), Ovechkin (46), Martin St. Louis (43), Marian Hossa (43), Thomas Vanek (43), Kovalchuk (42), Simon Gagne (41) and Jason Blake (40). All ten of those 40 goal scorers were on the ballot, except for Selanne who was not playing in the NHL at the time.

The 2006-07 game is the only other All-Star Game that’s been played post lockout and I’ve been unsuccessful in finding the ballot for that. 2005-06 was an Olympic year and so no All-Star Game was played. So unless it happened to someone with that 2006-07 All-Star Game, Semin is the only post lockout player (other than Selanne who was not yet signed to an NHL team) to be left off the ballot the year after scoring 40 goals.

That’s as far back as I can take this right now, due in part to it not being easy to find some of these ballots. But if anyone can point me to even older ballots, I’d love to know how far back you have to go to find the last time a 40 goal scorer was snubbed the next season in the ballot creation stage of the All-Star selection process.

And even without digging any further back, it certainly seems there is ample evidence to show hockey fans are right to question why only one Alex from Washington is on this season’s All-Star ballot. Comment or blog away if you disagree but, in my opinion, Semin was robbed.

The good news, for anyone else scratching their head about the league’s decision to omit Semin, is that you can write him in. Just scroll down to the bottom of the ballot and you’ll find the space for it there.

When will the ICC open?

InterCountyConnector (ICC) - MD 200

Image via Wikipedia

I wrote a freelance piece on the InterCounty Connector (ICC) for the North Potomac-Darnestown edition of Patch. Having grown up in Maryland, I’ve been hearing about this road, also known as Maryland Route 200, for as long as I can remember—it’s been debated for decades.

Sometime in the coming weeks or months, possibly as early as late December of this year, the first segment of the road is due to open. Check out that link above to the article for more details.

The Washington Post and “writing in the Internet age”

The Washington Post

Image by krossbow via Flickr

Check out page D2 of today’s Washington Post and Dave Sheinin’s story “Putting a number on a theory” for a nice example of how media in print form can reference/recognize a blogger not on their staff. The article even has a sub-head of “Blogger argues that assertion regarding Dunn, Zimmerman is a bit off”.

The article also shows how an outlet can incorporate content from one of their own blogs into their print editions (this clearly isn’t the first time the Post has done this, just look at the top of page D2 for an article adapted from this post on the DC Sports Bog, one of the Post blogs that they regularly transfer to print).

The “Putting a number on a theory” print piece is adapted from a blog post by Sheinin on the Post’s Nationals Journal blog. It addresses a previous post Sheinin made on Nationals Journal and a follow-up blog post by a non-Post blogger, David Lint, on his independent blog, For the Love of the Nationals.

Lint, in an open letter style blog post, questioned Shinen on his assertation that the “drop [in Ryan Zimmerman’s fielding percentage in 2010] is at least partly explained by the presence this season of Adan Dunn, a below-average defender, as the everyday first baseman…” The story that runs today is Shinen’s recognition of, and response to, that post.

One of my favorite parts of the piece is when Sheinin writes, “…one of the great things about baseball writing in the Internet age is that there are plenty of folks out there who will hold you accountable…”

Building on what Sheinin said there, one of the things I love about the web and blogging is that if a writer doesn’t have time to take a story further, there’s someone else who might do that or who might come up with an idea on how to spin the story off in a different direction. And it can be great for the reader, who then has even more content to consume on a particular subject. When I think about the amount of sports content available for consumption now versus when I was a kid, it blows my mind sometimes.

Keeping your Caps tickets out of the hands of the opposing team’s fans

More than one person commented on Twitter during yesterday’s Caps game about the number of Flyers fans that were at the game, including some who said that some Philly fans were in seats normally occupied by Caps season ticket holders. My brother, who was at the game, said to me later by text, “It was the most noise I have heard in Verizon for a goal by the visitors in a long while.” But he said it was, “still easily over 90 percent Caps fans.”

To a certain extent, an opposing team’s fans coming into a sporting venue is unavoidable. Chances are great there that will always be at least a few fans of the visiting team at any game—not just at Caps games but with most teams in any sport (It should be noted that the number of rival fans at Verizon Center in recent years is much, much lower than it once was. Most every game is almost entirely filled with Caps fans. Not even 10% of the crowd being opposing fans for a single game is now enough to get people chatting. Where in the old days those types of numbers would have meant progress, now it alarms some people).

It’s also understandable that season ticket holders for any team might sell their seats occasionally for various reasons. I’ve heard of several Caps fans who are doing this with a few more games this season than they did previously, as a way to help cover costs after ticket prices went up. In the 400 level section at Verizon Center where my father has season tickets, and where my brother was sitting when he sent this tweet yesterday, the price to season ticket holders went up just over 30% in the off season—that adds up when you’re buying tickets to 41 regular season home games.

So, part of the reason it may have felt on Sunday like there were more rival fans at Verizon Center than there have been in a while is that it was the first home game against the Flyers, Penguins or Rangers (the three teams whose fans have historically been most likely to come to Washington in large numbers for a game) since this season started and ticket prices went up.

But regardless, as fans try to recoup some of their costs or simply unload tickets to games they are unable to attend, there are ways to do it that lessen the chances the tickets will end up in the hands of the opponent’s fans. It requires working outside of the more modern ticket resale methods that have emerged in recent years and might require slightly more legwork, but your fellow Caps fans will likely appreciate your efforts.

One of the things to avoid as a seller of tickets if you want as many red clad Caps fans as possible in Verizon Center is called TicketExchange, which is accessible from the Caps’ website and run by Ticketmaster. Through this service, Caps season ticket holders can resell their tickets. It’s been promoted through radio ads as a way for Caps fans to buy tickets directly from season ticket holders.

But here’s the problem with TicketExchange: while this may be a more secure way for a buyer to avoid purchasing counterfeit tickets, there’s nothing to keep a Flyers fan or a Penguins fans or Rangers fans from going onto the Caps site and using this service to buy tickets to see their team play in Washington. Selling through sites like StubHub also brings about this risk. I’d imagine the first place the opposing team’s fans look, once any game is sold out, is on sites like these. Craigslist falls into this category too, though you do get to interact directly with the buyer in that case, so you could hit them with a ten question pop quiz on Caps hockey before you agree to sell to them.

The only near surefire way to put your seats in the hands of a Caps fans is to sell directly to friends and contacts who you know are Caps fans. This doesn’t guarantee the tickets will be used by a Caps fan, but it beats putting them out there on very public sites for anyone in the world to purchase.

Another option my father uses, to sell his tickets to some of the games he can’t make it to, is a message board through my mother’s work. Those tickets could find their way into the hands of an opposing team’s fans, but the chances of this are a lot less likely when you sell through these lesser known, locked down and more local channels used only by people who live in the area. This is a big part of the reason my father uses this option—he doesn’t want to be the guy who allowed fans of another team into Verizon Center.

Twitter can be another good way to sell your tickets. You can find a large community of Caps fans using the tag #Caps on Twitter and you can also look through someone’s tweets to get an idea of who they root for before you sell to them. Facebook can be used in a similar way. And more than ever, there are a lot of people in the DC area who want to check out a Caps game—even a neutral fan is more fun than a fan of the opposition or an empty seat. So ask around your office, school, or the neighborhood and keep your seats filled with Caps fans. Or talk to other season ticket holders in your section and see if they’re interested in purchasing your seats or swapping tickets with you for another game.

Another nice upside to selling directly to someone through options like this is that you can pocket 100% of the selling price, while TicketExchange and StubHub both take a 10% cut when you sell through them.

There’s no way to ensure that every game at Verizon Center is filled with nothing but Caps fans. But with a little extra effort, you can help cut down on the dirty looks you might get from your fellow Caps season ticket holders who didn’t enjoy sitting next to that guy in the Flyers jersey the day you couldn’t make it to the game.

And if you do it for no one else, do it for people like The Horn Guy, who was one of those who commented on Twitter Sunday about there being Flyers fans in season ticket holder seats. He leads the Verizon Center crowd with “Let’s Go Caps” blasts on his horn from the 400 level and is one of the many people that makes the Caps’ home arena such a great place to experience a game—working harder to keep tickets in the hands of Washington fans is the least everyone can do for him and all our fellow Caps fans.

CSN has Caps & Wizards in HD tonight simultaneously for first time ever

Tonight will be the first time during the 2010-11 regular season that the Washington Capitals and Wizards play at the same time. And as CSN Washington notes on their blog, the regional sports network will broadcast both teams’ games simultaneously in HD.

As many Caps and Wizards fans know well, this was not possible in the past. Whenever the two teams play at the same time, one of them is shown on CSN and the other on CSN+, which was not available in HD until recently (see “CSN to produce all Wizards and Caps games in HD” – DC Sports Bog).

To find out where you CSN+HD channel is located, Comcast SportsNet has a page on their site where you can look up the location of any of the CSN Washington channels on your cable network.

As noted in that September post on the Sports Bog, while all the games are being produced in HD by CSN Washington, “This is no guarantee that your own provider will pick up the CSN+ HD feed…”  So if you’re not seeing the CSN+HD feed as an option, you’ll need to check with your provider.

Revenue Generators for Metro

Whenever  I read that Metro is facing a budget shortfall and that the proposed solutions are a fare increase or a reduction in services, it frustrates me. There are at least two things it seems WMATA could look to as bigger revenue sources.

The first is real estate. WMATA owns a lot of something great—land that is on top of and close to Metro stations. Plenty of this land sits vacant or is taken up by parking lots and garages. Sink that parking and you suddenly have room for retail, offices and residential buildings right at a Metro stop. It seems like a smart growth no-brainer.

I’d even love to see the next big outdoor concert venue (no one likes driving to Nissan Pavilion, even when it’s called Jiffy Lube Live) or stadium (paging DC United…paging DC United) built at someplace like Shady Grove.

“WMATA owns the land and often partners with nearby land owners for TOD projects or leases the land to developers for projects,” said Sarah Krouse of the Washington Business Journal in a Twitter response to me back in May when I asked her who owns the land Metro stations sit on. “The newish head of joint devel. is v.interested in incr. $ from Metro-owned land & in selling off unused slivers along the lines,” she told me in another tweet.

Good! I hope we see more of it. And leasing seems to make the most sense to me, as it will generate revenue over a longer period of time than if the land is just sold (I have zero real estate experience, but this is my guess).

Advertising would appear to be a second big area of opportunity. There are ads inside all trains, on the outside of a small number of them and there have been some ads inside Metro tunnels. And there are ads inside Metro stations, mostly in the form of light boards on the platform.

But, when you consider all the prime space within the Metro system that could hold advertising and the large number of people who ride Metro everyday, it feels like WMATA has only scratched the surface.

There could be more trains wrapped in ads, more ads in the tunnels, audio ads, video ads, and ads could be placed inside of and hung from the outside of Metro parking garages. We’re in a tough economy but advertising is still being purchased—maybe not at the rate it was several years ago, but it’s still being done. And Metro has hundreds of thousands of people riding it every day.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t have more Metro stations basically wrapped in advertising. Check out this post on the DC Sports Bog, “CSN takes over Gallery Place Metro Station“, for a great example of how this can work. Comcast SportsNet advertising is all over that station in the form of “140 signs, banners and graphics.” With Verizon Center right upstairs, and Caps and Wizards season underway, this makes a lot of sense.

This type of advertising could be done in many more stations than it’s currently being done in right now. And why stop at just letting the ads dominate the station. This next part might sound like a joke but it’s not. Why not sell the naming rights for Metro stations. Other than being absurdly long, how is the Comcast SportsNet Gallery Place-Chinatown Station much different than having a Fed Ex Field, Verizon Center or the Comcast Center in College Park.

Some people might be offended by the suggestion to have ads all over our Metro system or the names of corporations slapped on the stations. But I’d happily get on and off trains at the Capital One Dupont Circle Station or ride on the Coca-Cola Red Line if it meant I didn’t spend any more than I already do to park at and ride on Metro ($15.15 a day currently and I imagine that’s only going up if we don’t get more innovative).