Week of September 22, 2014

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Defending the Indefensible?

Considering Phil and I love sports so much that we spend hours each week creating this sports blog, that we don’t even get paid for, this is a difficult read. It’s hard to argue with most of the points because the amount of public money spent on stadiums is at once staggering and sad. NFL stadiums are used for football around ten times per year. And yet we build them these stadiums, and lease them to the NFL owners at ludicrously low prices. The owners are practically printing their own money at this point. Between player health, public funding, and the general buffoonery of Roger Goodell, it is difficult to defend the decision to watch the NFL. And yet. I still watch. So I won’t try to defend it. It is indefensible. This is an excerpt from Steve Almond’s book, referenced here back on September 1, 2014. -TOB

Source: Why Being a Football Fan is Indefensible”, by Steve Almond, excerpted from his book “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto”, published 08/26/2014

Note: Professional sports teams should build their own stadiums. Franchise valuations are jumping over the the $1 billion mark. I will never vote to support a tax increase for a publicly funded stadium. Here’s the other thing, there aren’t that many cities in the U.S. that can support a professional franchise. Guess how many cities have a population over 600,000? 30. Most of them already have teams, which is why L.A. not having a football team is such a great negotiating chip for current owners. In other words, they need us as much as we want them. So – yeah – they can pay their way. – PAL


How Many Points Did You Score for Stevie Johnson’s Fantasy Workplace Team Today?

In lighter news, this is great. Likely annoyed at fans tweeting him to complain about his fantasy football performance so far this season, Stevie Johnson joked that he had drafted many of “us” for his workplace fantasy team. He asked us not to let him down. The ensuing back and forth with fans is really amusing. -TOB

Source: Stevie Johnson Drafted a Really Great Fantasy You Team”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (09/25/2014)

Note: God, I effing love this so much. Highlights: changing a diaper is worth 10 points in the Fantasy Work League. – PAL


Yeah Jeets!

Derek Jeter played the last home game of his career last night. I watched the first inning. At Yankee Stadium in the Top of the 1st, the crowd chants each player’s name until they acknowledge it. They did every player, and they got to Jeter. As soon as they begin chanting his name, the Orioles Nick Markakis hit a home run. It was hilarious and awkward. Of course, Jeter ended the game with a tie-breaking, walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th. Rather fitting. Good timing, zero power. There has been a lot written about Derek Jeter over the years, and over the last week. I think Jeter is a good player, a Hall of Famer, but I also think that if he hadn’t played for New York, he’d be Craig Biggio. He’s not the greatest Yankee or the greatest shortstop of all-time. And he’s always been a terrible defender, despite what announcers/talking heads might have you believe. But his being overrated by the media doesn’t mean he was not great, either. In the first article, Jonah Keri takes a look at Jeter’s career and attempts to find his place historically. It’s a good read. And if you’re curious about what Jeter, the opaque Brand that he is, is really like, New York Magazine profiles him. Interestingly, he’s so image conscious that he comes off a bit poorly here, if you ask me. -TOB

Sources: Goodbye, Mr. November: Taking Stock of Derek Jeter’s Divisive Legacy, by Jonah Keri, Grantland (09/24/2014); Derek Jeter Opens the Door, by Chris Smith, New York Magazine (09/21/2014)

Note: Who has ever made the argument Derek Jeter is the greatest Yankee? Who has ever called him the greatest shortstop of all-time? Nobody, which is why Keith Olbermann’s rant was so stupid (seriously, who enjoys watching this guy get off on his own pontifications?) He was a very good player on a dynasty that won it all 4 out 5 years in (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000).  Tack on another championship in 2009, and that’s a career worth celebrating. As for the “if he hadn’t played in New York” angle – well, he did play in New York, and we all know that is different. It just is. Of course the Yankees are going to make a big deal about this, and of course it will get overblown; it’s 2014 – the age of hyperbole. He had his shortcoming as a player, and I hated him growing up to be sure, but he gets a thumbs up on this day. To be honest, all I ever wanted was to never hear Tim McCarver announce another baseball game, so it’s all been gravy to me since then. -PAL


Persistence, Personified

13 years, 4,095 games. Guilder Rodriguez played in the minors for 13 years before being called up to the Rangers. He was drafted when I was a freshman in college (2001). It’s a hard and beautiful thing when a guy keeps a dream alive for 13 years before it’s realized. You have a MLB stat line now, Mr. Rodriguez. The stories for this didn’t do it for me, so instead take 5 minutes and check out this guy’s stats on Baseball-Reference. Think about all the things that have happened to you over the last 13 years while keeping in mind he was just plugging along down there. -PAL

Source: Guilder Rodriguez Minor League Stats, Major League Stats


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“I don’t give a frog’s fat ass who went through what. We need money! Hey, Russ, wanna look through Aunt Edna’s purse?”

– Clark W. Griswold

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Week of September 15, 2014

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Hey, Everybody. We Matter!

Yes, more about the mess in the NFL. My opinions on this have been conflicting and inconsistent. I have at times lamented the fact that the NFL punishing players for off-field incidents is nothing more than PR, and so it seems hollow and fake. But in this article, Will Leitch makes a really great point:

The pressure on everyone involved, from the league to the sponsors to the team to the players … it has all come from you. From us. Sure, it’s cynical and hypocritical of all these entities to pretend they care about “the right thing” and justice, when all they really care about public relations. But that doesn’t mean that the right thing wasn’t done, that justice wasn’t actually served. That’s because of you. That’s because so many people spoke up and, more important, they could all hear us. They couldn’t ignore us if they tried…. Sometimes you look at Twitter, and social media, and comments sections, and it makes you despair for humanity. But sometimes it makes a difference. Sometimes it is a force for good. Sometimes, it really is progress.”

That is spot on. Unlike Phil, I don’t feel the need to boycott the NFL. Being vocal about how these incidents, and the NFL’s maddeningly inconsistent punishments, however, does help. And if the punishments cause players to stop doing things like beating their wives and girlfriends (or even just reduces the number), well, that’s also good. -TOB

Note:  Boycott, tweet, post, etc – whatever card you want to play is fine by me, but play a card.  We – the common people – need to be better on calling b.s. when b.s. is what we’re fed. – PAL

Source: The NFL: Where Our Opinion Matters”, Will Leitch, Sports on Earth (09/17/2014)


Yes, Even More About the NFL

Dave McKenna is a great sports writer with real integrity. In this piece, he goes in-depth on how the most prominent NFL sportswriters have become nothing more than mouthpieces for the NFL and Roger Goodell. But this cozy relationship hung these prominent writers out to dry when the second Ray Rice tape was released. They had all suggested or said that the NFL had seen the second video, and that the video backed up the light punishment. Those writers now look like idiots, and initially they were quite unhappy. But, they couldn’t bit the hand that feeds too long, and before the week was up, many of them were backing off their criticism of the NFL, and once again spouting the party line. Sad. I highly recommend this one. -TOB

Source: “Will the Elite NFL Media Still be Stooges After the Ray Rice Scandal“, Dave McKenna, Deadspin (09/16/2014)

Note: This story was a pick of mine this week, too. Upon more reflection, it seems obvious that we shouldn’t have our primary source of sports news be a company that has a professional relationship with a league upon which it reports. -PAL


Power Play

I don’t expect you to care about the Columbus Bluejackets. Hell, I don’t expect you to even know what professional league the Columbus Blue Jackets play in (the NHL). But here’s a story for any fan who’s gone through the dreaded contract negotiations headache (Giants fans, be prepared – your next one will be Pablo Sandoval, and we all know he’s looking to get paid). Depending on your view, the NHL team in Ohio (not a misprint) pulled either a pretty gutsy or dumb move  – they went public with the offers rising star Ryan Johansen has rejected. How could this move end well for the team? Maybe they just wanted to call b.s. on this kid. I can get behind that. Of course he can call b.s. on the team, and I can get behind that, too. -PAL

Source: Blue Jackets Not F*&^ing Around With Ryan Johansen Contract Negotiations”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (09/17/2014)

Note: I know nothing about this kid, but if he’s a very good, young star, then I have no problem with him seeking as much money as he can get. Owners are greedy billionaires who make money hand over fist. If Johansen, a restricted free agent, can get better money elsewhere and force the Blue Jackets to let him take that deal, or to give it to him themselves, more power to him. -TOB


1 Swing >/< $10 Million?

Anthony Kim was on the verge of being the next young rival to Tiger Woods. Don’t forget – he was a badass on the 2008 Ryder Cup team. He also liked to party and spend his money (and wear oversized belt buckles). Where has he gone? Injuries have a lot to do with it, but so too might a hefty insurance policy that would be void if he came back. -PAL

Source: “Anthony Kim, MIA Since 2012, Wrestles With Whether To Tee It Up Again or Reap an Eight-Figure Disability Settlement“, Alan Shipnuck, Golf.com (09/17/2014)


Close, But No Cigar

A guy placed a $5 bet on the NFL games last week. No big deal, except he did a 15-team parlay. Through Sunday, he was 14-0 and poised to turn $5 into $100,000. Then a kid from Stanford had to screw it all up. – PAL

Source: Bettor loses $100k payday”, David Purdum, ESPN (09/17/2014)

Note: As always, Eff Stanfurd. -TOB


VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Bryan Cranston, aka the Dad from Malcolm in the Middle aka Walter White aka Heisenberg absolutely kills this long commercial for the MLB Playoffs. It’s six minutes, but super funny.


Like what you’ve read? Let us know by following this blog (on the right side, up near the top), or: Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

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“…cause’ there will always be poverty and pain and war and justice in this world, but there will, thank the Lord, always be… the Beatles.”

-The Count, Pirate Radio

Week of September 8, 2014

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Snot Guilty.


Ray Rice and Domestic Violence

As you can imagine, we read a lot about Ray Rice this week, and the NFL’s horrible handling of this mess from the beginning. A lot. Deadspin, particularly, was all over the NFL – pointing out the hypocrisy, lies, laziness, and general awfulness of how this was handled. There is so much to hate about everything that has happened with this, from the act of violence itself, to the mishandling by the NFL, to idiotic comments that people have made this week (especially those blaming the victim), but the fact that it took this long to release him is what burns me the most. When the video broke and the Ravens released Rice, my initial thought was, “If this is your reaction to seeing the video, then why wasn’t he released months ago? What did you THINK the video would show?” I understand that the visual of the video is jarring, but so was the first video – of Rice dragging an unconscious woman from an elevator like a sack of potatoes. It was disgusting. And Rice told them exactly what was on the video. What did the Ravens do? They stood by Rice and talked about how he’s a great guy who made a mistake. What did the NFL do? As we covered back in July, they brought in the victim and asked her questions with her batterer sitting right next to her, and then essentially said that the event was mutual combat and gave him a FAR lighter suspension than a dude who smoked marijuana. The NFL is despicable. I have disliked Roger Goodell from the very beginning of his tenure as commissioner. He uses the PR-garbage phrase, “Protect the Shield” like it is something noble. Instead of doing the right thing, he is concerned with how things appear. He has handled this mess like an incompetent asshole. Here’s hoping this gets him fired, as Keith Olbermann calls for here. -TOB

Note: Here’s my initial thoughts from our post on July 28: “As for Goodell, he couldn’t have handled this any worse. What about the Baltimore Ravens (the team for which Rice plays)? They could simply make him inactive and impose a larger punishment. They didn’t. Also, you can shove your apology up your ass when you knock out a woman. Don’t tell me, ‘That’s not who I am,’ Ray Rice. It is who you are, because you did it. And here’s what I have to say today: if you take issue with domestic violence, if you have a problem with how the NFL handles domestic violence, if how the perpetrator’s company handled this doesn’t sit well with you, then you can do something very simple: don’t watch the games. I don’t mean this as an insult; I mean it as a call to action. I love sports, and I enjoy watching NFL games, but neither mean enough to me to make this decision a hard one, and – guess what – the NFL doesn’t matter that much to you either. It matters if you post about it on social media. It matters that you talk about it at the water cooler. One more step will make an even bigger difference – take a few weeks off and let the NFL know how BS this whole thing is. If for no other reason, let us remind ourselves that we have a backbone. It’s simple: something is wrong, so don’t support it. Also, let’s hold those who made horse s*&T statements accountable by at least keeping them in check. -PAL


Cespedes for the Rest of Us

On the morning of July 31st, the Oakland A’s were sitting pretty. They had the best record in baseball (66-41) and had just traded for two top of the rotation starters (Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammell). They seemed poised for a deep playoff run. But that day, trade deadline day, Billy Beane decided that he was tired of losing in the playoffs and pushed all his chips to the middle of the table. He dealt fan favorite and back-to-back Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes (still on a cheap deal through the end of 2015) for Red Sox ace Jon Lester on a 2-month rental. The rest of the AL West was terrified. The Angels were 2 games back, and the Mariners were 10.5 back. But since then, the A’s have sunk like an anchor. Their previous league best offense has been putrid. The A’s are now 81-65 (15-24 since the trade) and trail the Angels by 9.5 games. They are only a half game away from missing the playoffs altogether. Many A’s fans are lamenting the Cespedes trade. But 123 favorite Jonah Keri explains why the losing Cespedes is not the cause of the swoon. -TOB

Source: “A Clockwork Oakland: What the Heck Happened to the Once Great A’s?”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (09/10/14)


Hunter on 9/11 (from 9/12/2001)

Hunter S. Thompson on the ramifications of 9/11, written the day after the attacks. Read it, because it’s important that you do so. 13 years later, and his accuracy is sobering. – PAL

Source: “Fear and Loathing in America“, Hunter S. Thompson, ESPN’s Page 2 (09/12/2001)


Apparently, the NFL Has Some Good People in It, Too 

Devon Still plays for the Bengals. Entering his third year in the league, injuries have hampered his NFL career. His daughter is battling stage 4 pediatric cancer. Instead of cutting him, the Bengals first put him on the practice squad, then moved him up to the 53-man roster. Why does this matter? Health insurance, for one. Not only that, the team is donating all the proceeds from Devon Still jersey sales. There are a bunch of stories about this, but moreover it’s good to know there’s someone in the NFL (with the Bengals) that did the right thing in the week of the Ray Rice debacle. – PAL

Source: “Still Ready to give Bengals his all”, Corley Harvey, ESPN (9/11/14)


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“It’s living history, Ellen. But if you’d rather see your cousins. Personally I’d rather see a pile of mud than Eddie.”

– Clark Griswold

 

Week of September 1, 2014

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Checkmate of the Month

Right now, the world’s best Chess players have converged in St. Louis, of all places, for a tournament. And the best of the bunch is a 23 year old Norwegian – Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is the reigning world chess champion. Unlike most top Chess players, Carlsen doesn’t train with computers and has a more organic style. This gives him an advantage over the other players, because they are all trained the same way and expect a player to respond in a certain way. Carlsen doesn’t do that. And… ok, look. When we started this blog, I never thought I’d be writing about chess, either. But I’m telling you – this is a good read! It actually made me think, “It would be pretty cool if a chess champion took the world by storm like Bobby Fisher did.” Man, the 1970’s were weird. -TOB

Source: The Most Compelling Athlete In America Right Now Is Here To Play Chess“, by Dave McKenna, Deadspin (09/02/14)


Should I Stop Watching Football?

While reading this story, I couldn’t stop nodding my head in agreement, and shaking my head in shame. Over the last few years, we’ve learned a lot more about what the game of football does to the men who play, and it is not good. I used to love football. I still kind of do. I mean, I watch, but I feel guilty about it, and as I watch, I am constantly grimacing at the crushing hits. I’m not alone. Author Steve Almond just wrote a book entitled, “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” Almond was a decades long football fan who this offseason decided his conscience couldn’t allow him to keep watching football. This is an interview with Mr. Almond, exploring the reasons why he “quit” football, and why he wrote the book. If you like football, and consider yourself a moral person, it is a good read. If you are interested in the subject, I’ve listed a couple related articles I enjoyed this week. -TOB

Source: Interference: One Man Questions Everything Football Has to Offer”, by Patrick Sauer, Biographile (09/03/14); Companion pieces: “People vs. The NFL“, by Matt Ufford, SB Nation (09/04/14); “The League That Never Sleeps“, by Bill Simmons, Grantland (09/04/14)


Does Defense Still Win Championships?

Offenses in college football have exploded. It seems like every offense is running a spread variation, and most are running no-huddle hurry-ups to put maximum pressure on the defense, prevent them from substituting, and eventually wear them down. And it sure seems to work. So, does the old adage still hold? Do defenses still win championships? Well, Mark Dantonio, head coach of the defending Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State Spartans, sure thinks so. There’s a bit of “chalk talk” here, but mostly it’s an interesting look at a coach who has learned to adapt to a changing game. -TOB

Source: A Defense to Match: Appreciating the Stingy Spartans in the Offensive Age“, by Chris B. Brown, Grantland (09/02/14)


Ichiro Es Muy Gracioso. Y El Mejor.

Ichiro is just the best. His career is winding down, and amusing stories keep leaking out. This is the latest – Ichiro did his best to pick up some Spanish and use it to talk trash to his opponents. Of course, the Latino players love him for it. -TOB

Source: “Ichiro Suzuki Uncensored, en Español“, by Brad LeftonWall Street Journal (08/29/14)

Note: This makes so much sense – foreign players (regardless of country) feeling a bond – and yet it’s a notion I’ve never considered. My favorite quote from the article: “I feel a bond with them…We’re all foreigners in a strange land…And besides, we don’t really have curse words in Japanese, so I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can’t.” -PAL


He’s Just ‘Bout That Action, Boss

Marshawn Lynch was a freshman at Cal just as I was graduating. In his first career game, he did this. Against Stanford that season, he did this. A couple years later, after almost single handedly dragging an underachieving Cal team to an overtime victory against Washington, he celebrated by stealing the injury cart and mobbing all over the field. He said after the game that he wanted to ghostride it, but he was afraid he’d hurt someone. He invented the nickname “Beast Mode” – which has been stolen and completely overused by everyone else. His house in Oakland was once shot up in a drive-by – and the perpetrators later came by to pay their respects and apologize because they got the wrong house and wanted Marshawn to know they meant no harm. That is boss. Needless to say, I was a huge fan when he entered the NFL. I was annoyed when the Niners passed on him, but they did take Patrick Willis one spot before the Bills took Marshawn, so that worked out. And he had a pretty good rookie season…but then things kinda fizzled. He had a few run-ins with the law and his career seemed to be sputtering. Now, of course, he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL. But, he’s a different kind of dude, and this is an interesting look at how Marshawn has tried to balance his many sides.

Source: “Dr. Marshawn and Mr. Lynch“, by Kevin Fixler, SB Nation (09/04/14)


Local Flavor: St. Paul, Minnesota

Here’s how my mornings would go back in Minnesota when I was a kid: Wake up and shuffle down stairs, find a box of cereal that had more than half a bowl’s worth of the goods, pull the sports page out of the Pioneer Press, and see if “Shooter” had an article that day. Charley Walters is a sports gossip (way ahead of his time, I suppose). As a kid, I took it as the real inside scoop, especially when one of his paragraphs started with – I shit you not – “a little birdie told me”. He plays favorites (I’m sure he has a Joe Mauer tramp stamp) and doesn’t care. Now, I love his articles for their comedic qualities, intended or otherwise. I mean, this guy is reporting on washed up basketball players from local D3 schools signing to play in some German league. I love it. I’m asking Tommy to feature a story from his hometown paper next week, and we would love suggestions from you, our 12 readers. Tweet us your favorite hometown sports stories/writers @123sportsnews. Tommy will buy a beer for everyone who’s story gets featured in our next issue. – PAL

Source: “Charley Walters: Adrian Peterson has good years ahead, Foreman says”, by Charley Walters, The Pioneer Press (8/30/14)


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“It was one of those nights. You know the kind. Like day, but darker.”

– Eric Matthews