Week of June 2, 2014


If This Happened in 2014, Skip Bayless’ Head Would Actually Explode (See Above).

Deadspin has been running informative and not insanely long previews of each of the 32 teams competing in the World Cup, which begins next week. Within this preview of Spain’s chances to repeat as World Cup Champions, there is an absolutely insane story that no modern sports fan will believe: in the 1950’s, Barcelona and Real Madrid were both attempting to sign a highly sought after Argentinian soccer player, Alfredo Di Stefano. Some controversy existed over which South American club team owned Di Stefano’s rights. Barcelona arranged a transfer with one of those clubs (Argentiniean club River Plate), but they also needed consent from Colombian club Millonarios – Millonarios refused, and in turn agreed to transfer him to Real Madrid. After much squabbling, a “compromise” was reached – Di Stefano would play the next four years alternating each year between Barcelona and Real Madrid. What the hell?  I can’t even imagine this situation happening today. I have read suggestions that LeBron should sign one year contracts with the team he thinks he can help win the most, and that would be highly entertaining and crazy, but still not as crazy  as this. -TOB

PAL Note: Well, at least Fascism gave us this gem of a story. Di Stefano was probably the only guy in all for Spain universally tolerated.  

Story Link: “How Spain Can Ride Tiki-Take to International Immortality”, Greg Howard, Deadspin (06/03/14); More detailed reading of the story on Wikipedia

Portrait of the Wrestler as an Old Man

Fueled by the violent death of his sister, Dan Gable became the greatest wrestler (non-WWE division) of all-time, including an incredible run to win the Olympic Gold medal in 1972. Without missing a beat, he later became the most successful wrestling coach of all-time, at the University of Iowa. He retired almost 20 years ago, but wrestling still consumes him. Now, at the age of 65, he has struggled to find purpose in life – but may have found it in keeping wrestling alive. Published last fall before the International Olympic Committee reversed a decision to remove wrestling from the Olympics, a profile of a still fierce competitor, dealing with aging, buried pain, and the family and sport, intertwined as they are, that he loves. -TOB

PAL Note: Wrestlers are obsessive nuts, but to lump Dan Gable in with…anyone would be a mistake. I both envy and pity him. Greatness comes at a cost, not the least of which is the inability to live a well-adjusted life. This quote pretty much nailed Dan Gable for me: “Gable’s life is governed by justification and guilt, as if he’s forever paying off some unseen debt.” This is a fascinating read, sports lover or not.

Story Link: “The Losses of Dan Gable”, Wright Thompson, ESPN the Magazine (08/21/13)

It’s a decent bet the fix is in for the World Cup.

I’m guilty of it. I’ll moan, “this game’s fixed” at the bar, usually about an NBA game, but I don’t really believe it. Here’s a story pretty clearly laying out a widespread fixing scheme in professional soccer (including documented attempts to fix 2010 World Cup matches in South Africa). It’s happening in the most popular sport in the world, it doesn’t seem that hard to do, and it seems really hard to detect when it’s happening in such a global game. – PAL

TOB: Unlike the news the scandal this week about Qatar having bribed its way to hosting the 2022 World Cup, which I do not care about, this iis terrifying to me as a sports fan. Reading this article reminds you how easy it is to fix a sporting event. The money being given to the refs isn’t even that high. This is every major sports’ worst nightmare. In hindsight, it’s rather amazing the NBA escaped the Donaghy scandal as unscathed as it did. Yikes.

Story Link: “Fixed Soccer Matches Cast Shadow Over World Cup”, By Declan Hill and Jeré Longman, New York Times (06/01/14)

Baseball players love to say “Respect the game,” and make up rules like 12 year-olds in a tree house.

I subscribe to baseball’s most basic unwritten rules. For instance Barry Bonds should have been drilled about 300 times the way he stood at home plate after hitting a home run (sorry Giants fans, but deep down you agree with me). However, I don’t think all of the rules outlined in this fun read pass the porn test (I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it). Here’s my proposed rule: any position player with a career average under .250, and any pitcher with a career ERA over 4.00 can’t make or comment on unwritten rules. In that case, a couple dudes’ quotes in this article need to be redacted (I’m looking at you, Jonny Gomes).

TOB: I know there are a lot of stupid baseball players, but somehow Kurkjian found a lot of them. The quote that most sticks out, from Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy: “In hockey, guys don’t take their skates off and slash an opponent’s throat with the blade. In football, you never see a guy take off his helmet and just bludgeon an opponent. We’ve been playing baseball since the 1800s. We just have more unwritten rules.” Someone might want to tell Brandon McCarthy that those are WRITTEN rules. A hockey player would get into a lot of trouble, both within his sport and with the law, if he took off his skate and slashed an opponent’s throat with the blade. Further counterpoint can be found here, from former major league pitcher Dirk Hayhurst.

Story Link: “The Unwritten Canon, Revealed”, Tim Kurkjian, ESPN.com (05/31/14)

$10 million now or maybe $60 million later? Baseball teams are getting smarter about contracts.

MLB teams getting into the insurance business. They are offering extensions to younger and younger players. Pay more than they have to now to save (potentially) a lot on the back end of the contract and avoid arbitration. The prospects get a lot of money now, but not as much as they could potentially earn. Most young studs (agents hate this trend) don’t bite; however a few have taken the money. Houston’s Jon Singleton is the latest to take the money and run. -PAL

TOB: The most fascinating thing about this story is all the backlash Singleton has gotten from other major leaguers, who are afraid of the impact on the rest of the player salaries. Although I’ve never been a part of a union, I understand their general utility. In this case, though, I want to smack these guys. Jon Singleton just guaranteed himself $10 million by the time he is 26 (the deal could be worth up to $35 million with team options). If he’s a star, this is a very team friendly deal, but the history of baseball is littered with “Can’t Miss” prospects who missed. Singleton has just set himself up for life, and now he can go out and play baseball. When the deal is over, he’ll be 29 and able to sign one megadeal. If he’s bad, he just made the best decision of his life. Seems like a win-win to me.

PAL: This story is a nice companion piece to a story we featured a couple weeks ago. Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh laid out how teams make decisions about promoting hot prospects.

Story Link:The Astros Just Changed the Game for Big Prospects in Small Markets“, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (06/02/14)

Video of the Week

It’s from the last World Cup, but this commercial is still the greatest, and should get you pumped for next week.

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“So I say that I gotta be free, so I say that I gotta be me.” -Revenge of the Nerds


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