Watching Water Polo on the NBC Sports 2016 Rio Olympics App

It’s Sunday afternoon. I’ve got my iPhone connected to my flat screen television with the NBC Sports app streaming the Spain-Montenegro men’s water polo match. Happily, the pool is a healthy shade of light blue. 

As a water polo fan, I give a huge thumbs up to NBC for their streaming app. I’ve been able to watch several hours of polo on my terms. If the live feed fits my schedule, I watch it; if not, I can go back to that particular game whenever I want.

NBC doesn’t broadcast all the games, but it’s done a good job of the selecting the most interesting match ups as well as all the US games. The US women’s team hasn’t disappointed, going undefeated in the preliminary round and scoring in double figures in each match. The US men’s team sadly didn’t do so well, and won’t make it to the medal rounds in Rio. With all the other games to watch, however, it’s been nice to get to the know the power teams (Hungary, Servia, Croatia) and start rooting for some underdogs–like Japan and France.

In fact, that’s what I like about what NBC has done in Rio in 2016. With streaming, they’ve been able to show us so much more of the Olympics, even when it has little to do with America and its athletes. Network television, provided for free to the masses and funded by the advertisers, has a big disadvantage when it come to Olympic coverage: the advertisers want the biggest audience for their buck. The demands of American advertisers give us an Olympic viewing experience that borders on jingoism. They demand that the network broadcast those events that will draw the largest number of American eyeballs. Water polo is not one of those events. 

Most Americans have no idea what “ball under,” “exclusion” and “hole set” might mean. The fact that the US men’s team is not a powerhouse doesn’t help viewership. There’s no way that water polo would get on network television and certainly not during prime time. 

But with streaming, the problem is eliminated, or at least moderated. The folks at NBC make the “less popular” events available on their smartphone app and then pop some commercials into the stream. They make money from their advertisers and I get to watch the events that interest me. I simply don’t want to watch gymnastics, men’s or women’s. Same goes for track. Bleh. I haven’t watched a single prime time event, and don’t plan, too. Water polo and cycling are my sports of choice and the NBC Sports app lets me get what I want.

I do have one gripe, however, and I know I’m not the only one. Get some more commercials, NBC! When I watch ninety minutes of polo, do I really have to witness darling Simone Biles do laundry fourteen times? It’s been indelibly scorched into my brain that she stands 4’8″. When she sticks a landing during competition, all the judges’ papers go flying. When she shuts her locker, it falls over and knocks down a bunch of other lockers, too, like dominoes. When she slams the door of her front loading washing machine and walks off smiling, laundry baskets fly into the air and pictures fall off the wall. I get it. She’s powerful. Haha. Yes, it was funny the first time. It was not funny the last 72 times I’ve seen that commercial. Maybe NBC could change its pricing or something to get more advertisers into the mix.

By the way, I know that the Biles commercial has something to do with laundry detergent, but I can’t for the life of me remember the brand. I’ve heard that the most annoying situation for an advertiser: creating an ad that’s memorable for the action but forgettable when it comes to the actual product. Whoops.

But other than that minor issue, good job, NBC! Keep up the good work.

Broke My Hand Playing Water Polo (Part 1)

Two Mondays ago, I went to water polo practice at Emma Hood Pool, adjacent to Alameda High School. I play with the masters’ team. During the scrimmage someone grabbed my fingers and twisted them the wrong way. Pop! I ended up with a broken hand (see X-ray). It hurt!

I didn’t think it was broken at the time. I figured maybe some ligaments have been stretched or torn. I iced it up that night and then went to Kaiser Oakland on Tuesday when it still felt wrong. After a visit with a GP and a trip to radiology for an X-ray, I got the news through a radiology tech that I had “a little bit of a break.”

Eliza had come along with me so we headed upstairs to orthopedics. She took pictures. That’s where I first saw the X-ray. I’m no expert, but that looks like more than a little bit of a break.

The orthopedist looked over the X-rays, told the tech to put me in a brace for a week and sent me on my way.


James Pixton on Applying to Law School

James Pixton attended Brigham Young University from 1990 to 1993.
Go Cougars!

Back in 1992, I was finishing up a bachelor’s degree in political science on Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. At the time, I was taking classes part-time, living in married student housing with Jennifer and working full-time at WordPerfect Corporation. Remember WordPerfect?

Law school admission required taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). I signed up and took it the first time–I don’t remember where. I do remember, however, crushing the first three sections and then completely collapsing on the fourth section. It was a reading comprehension section, the second of the exam. That meant that one of the reading sections contained evaluation questions that didn’t count for my exam and were just being reviewed for possible inclusion in a future exam. The problem was that I had no way of knowing which of the two counted for me and which didn’t. I immediately went home that day, called the special number they’d given me and canceled my test score. Back to the drawing board.

When I took the exam the second time a couple months later, I struggled again with the reading comprehension section, but this time I was bumping up against applications deadlines so I just had to take whatever score I got. On the day my score came in the mail (back before the internet), I tore open the envelope, glanced out the score and nearly passed out: 96th percentile! That meant I was still in the running for all but the Harvards, Yales and Georgetowns. I had no problem with that.

I ending up applying to a bunch of schools: Emory University, University of Washington, University of Georgia, William and Mary, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Arizona, Duke, George Washington and Boston College. Ten schools.

My application to Duke crossed in the mail with their rejection letter. A “no” from the University of Washington followed closely. Then I got acceptance letters from Arizona, then Georgia, then Emory, then Illinois, then William and Mary. How about that! I was going to law school somewhere!

James Pixton attended Boston College Law School from 1993 to 1996.
Go Eagles!

I was wait-listed at Iowa, Boston College and GW. Eventually, I got acceptance letters from those three schools as well. Jen and I made plans to move first to Arizona then to Georgia and then to Illinois. When I finally got the call from Boston College Law School saying they had a place for me, that was the one we were waiting for.

In late August 1993, Jen and I packed up a U-Haul, strapped Jen’s Honda Prelude to a tow dolly and headed out of the cul de sac where Jen’s parents lived. As I drove around the corner I glanced in the side view mirror to see the Prelude rolling up over the curb and onto the sidewalk. The last thing I heard was Jen’s dad hollering, “Wide turns! Wide turns!” Sounded like a good idea.

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Alameda Bankruptcy Attorney James Pixton Reflects on 9/11

It was eleven years ago today that terrorists hijacked several airplanes on the East Coast. They were completely fueled up and headed to the West Coast (one was actually destined for my home turf in the San Francisco Bay Area). The hijackers flew two airplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center causing their collapse and the deaths of several thousand people including first responders–police, paramedics and firemen.
Another plane was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon after apparently failing to find the White House. A fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania killing all on board. This plane had been hijacked later than the others and several of the passengers learned by cell phone calls to and from friends and loved ones that the other planes had been deliberately crashed. Determined to go down fighting, the passenger apparently charged the terrorists and tried to retake the plane. The plan didn’t work but the passengers perhaps spared many lives on the ground at the intended target.

I didn’t know anyone who died on 9/11. In fact, I don’t think I even know anyone who knew anyone who died on 9/11. I was purely a horrified spectator on that day eleven years ago. I know that at least five Mormons died in the attacks, either as plane passengers or on the ground. My Catholic friends at Boston College were harder hit. Twenty-two alumni of BC were killed.
I recall reading an article a year later about a young man who always carried a red bandana. He was in the South Tower when the airplane hit. Several witnesses saw him wearing the red bandana over his mouth and nose to protect against the smoke and debris as he rescued and led a number of injured people out of the building. He had gone back in again with the first responders when the South Tower collapsed. His body was found in the rubble six months later with those of a group of firemen. His name was Welles Crowther, he was twenty-four, he played lacrosse, he was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown and he was a graduate of Boston College.

I remember details of that day but I remember foremost a feeling of anguish and something that I could only describe at the time as a desperate willing that the clock could somehow be turned back so somebody could have prevented all of this death and carnage. I recognize now that that feeling was helplessness and I have felt it at several times since September 11, 2011, the most prominent being when our youngest son Porter was diagnosed with cancer at age 3 months, when I was diagnosed with cancer three months later and when my wife Jennifer was diagnosed with cancer four years later. While I felt helplessness, none of us died. On 9/11, many husbands, wives, parents, children and love ones felt helplessness that was followed by hopelessness.

One of the most surreal recollections I have is that of watching on television as doctors, nurses and EMTs rushed to NYC hospitals to be on hand for the expected deluge of wounded. The deluge never came. The cameras showed images of medical professionals standing there with nothing to do because there were no victims to treat. I remember that look in their eyes. It was helplessness.

The morning of 9/11, I got up, played around with the kids, got ready and headed into the office. I arrived around 9:30. When I went to check my email, my Yahoo homepage (remember when you had a Yahoo homepage?) showed a story of about one of the towers of the World Trade Center collapsing. That’s impossible, I thought. A WTC tower isn’t just going to collapse.

When I clicked the link, however, I quickly read that a plane had flown into the tower which caught fire and eventually collapsed. I stepped out into the hall and walked down to the office of another attorney. “Paul, did you hear that one of World Trade Center towers collapsed after a plane flew into it?” “No,” Paul replied, “a plane flew into it but it didn’t collapse.” I realized that he hadn’t checked the news in the last little while. How quickly things changed that day. Shortly after that, we learned that the second tower had collapsed.

I struggled numbly through client appointments and legal work for a few more hours that day before wandering home. I remember hugging each of my kids and my wife Jennifer. My heart ached for the kids whose dads were no longer there to hug them.

I try to make meaning of 9/11, but I suppose I’ll have to leave it to minds greater than mine. I will, however, never forget the helplessness. Along with the feelings of helplessness, I think that I acquired a greater sense of humility and gratitude. Like the families of those who perished on 9/11, my life could change in a tragic instant. Perhaps that’s where the meaning is for me.

Photo 1 courtesy of kafziel
Photo 2 courtesy of wallyg