Week of November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Hope you enjoyed your feast as much as LeSean did.

We’ll be back next week.

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Week of November 17, 2014

 

Guy Fieri: Mullet Club

Amateur Kickboxer Dies – How Can This Happen?

In March of this year, amateur kickboxer Dennis Munson, Jr. died after just two rounds of a fight due to repeated blows to the head. It was his first career fight. After a tragedy like that, the first question is how could this happen? There are referees. Ringside doctors. How can they all fail this young man? This article breaks down how, when, and where they failed, leading to Munson’s death. Embedded in the story is a ten minute video, where boxing experts break down the many, many times that the referee ignored obvious signs of the trouble Munson was in, and allowed him to continue to get beaten about the head. It also shows the complete failure by the ringside doctor. It is a brutal video to watch, and a brutal story to read. If you don’t have the time, Deadspin has the Cliff’s Notes version here. -TOB

Source: Death in the Ring“, by John Diedrich, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (11/16/14)

PAL Note: Brutal. Not many characters in this story come away looking good, especially the ringside doctor. Incompetence is one thing, but carelessness on nearly every level is quite another. I highly suggest reading the full story instead of summary version.


And That’s Why You Have Agents

Money and family has proven a very bad combination in sports, yet here are a couple more stories where family members of athletes act on the belief that they are entitled to some of the wealth, sometimes a whole lot of the wealth. They are not. I direct you to exhibits A and B: Ryan Howard (MLB) and Jack Johnson (NHL). I’m guessing these families aren’t getting together for Thanksgiving this year. – PAL

Source: “The family legal fight over Ryan Howard’s finances”, David Murphy, Philly.com (11/19/14); “Blind-sided: Blue Jackets’ Jack Johnson is bankrupt; who led him there is biggest shocker”, Aaron Portzline, The Columbus Dispatch (11/20/14)


San Francisco Is Smart. Hosting The Olympics Is Dumb

Larry Baer, CEO of the San Francisco Giants, is leading a committee to have San Francisco bid on the 2024 Summer Olympics. Yes, this is a long way off in the distance, and there are other cities currently showing interest, but let’s just drop this right now. This is the fourth attempt at bringing the Games to the Bay Area (2008, 2012, 2016). Everything we’ve learned about host cities in recent history tells us that hosting the Olympics is a colossal waste of money that does not deliver the economic growth promised. – PAL

Source: “San Francisco puts in chips for 2024 Olympics”, John Coté, San Francisco Chronicle (11/20/14)

TOB Note: I don’t care. BRING ME THE OLYMPICS!


The Line Between Advocacy and Amazement
For those of you who have loyally been following 1-2-3 Sports! (thank you!), you know that I’ve recently got into climbing, and Alex Honnald is the the Babe Ruth of free solo climbing (no ropes – you fall and you die). We featured his story in the May 26 digest. After 4 years of sponsorship, Clif Bar recently dropped its sponsorship of Honnald and 3 other climbers. It seems as though Clif Bar, like anyone who’s watched Honnald climb, essentially believes his life will come to an end sooner rather than later, and they don’t want to sponsor an athlete who kicks it doing what they are sponsoring him to do. The brand risks being seen as an advocate. When considered in the context of the X Games, where extreme sports are becoming exceedingly popular and life-threatening, I side with Clif Bar. This story was sent to us by 1-2-3 follower Jamie Morganstern (@jjmorganstern). Solid find, Jamie. Send us more stories, folks! – PAL

Source: “The Calculus of Climbing at the Edge”, Alex Honnald, The New York Times (11/19/14)

TOB Note: I’m going to take the other side, here. He does something dangerous, yes. But so do lots of athletes. Race car drivers (ok, they’re not athletes, but still), downhill skiers, BMX bikers, etc. Should all the companies that sponsor these athletes pull their money on the chance that the athlete will die while wearing the sponsor’s logo? Seems like a copout by Clif Bar.


Video of the Week: 


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“A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

– Carl Spackler

 

Week of November 10, 2014

former-nfl-receiver-randy-moss


Randy Moss: Everything You Actually Want In Your Athlete

“Some players are so good that rooting against them is pointless. Moss was in that category immediately.” We all love the ‘gamer’ athletes. The guys that just grind out base hits, do all the “little things” right, and aren’t afraid to get a little dirty eeking out a win for our team. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what’s better? Usain Bolt in the last 30 meters. LeBron James in the open court. Randy Moss outrunning everything – the coverage and the ball, then slowing down and jumping 5 feet over the defense to make a catch. Here’s the truth: we don’t care if our favorite athletes are nice, or kind, or hard-working, or good husbands or fathers (assuming they aren’t violent, horrible people). We don’t care at all, because the type of person they are has no impact on our lives. What captivates us is someone doing the one thing he or she was put on earth to do, and to see him or her do it so much better and easier than everyone else. And while Moss definitely was an arrogant piece of work at times, he seems like a pretty grounded superstar that’s transitioned into retirement pretty smoothly. Apparently the key is saving money and fishing a lot.  – PAL

Source: “There Will Never Be Another Randy Moss”, Andrew Sharp, Grantland (11/11/14)

TOB Note: A couple lines from this really stand out for me. “If I find out someone doesn’t like Randy Moss and Allen Iverson, it’s a pretty clear sign we could never be real friends…Randy Moss was the type of player that dads didn’t like rooting for. That made it all the more fun.” This is so true for me. I always liked guys the stuffy media would tsk tsk at, and hated the ones they gushed over. So, of course, I loved Moss (and Iverson).


Moving Forward

Last year, NBA player Ryan Anderson’s life was turned upside down when his girlfriend, Gia Allemand, a former Bachelor contestant, committed suicide after the two had a fight. Ryan was the one who found her. Unlike most suicide-related stories, this one focuses on those who remain, namely Anderson. How does one deal with the grief, guilt, and relationships? Anderson has faced all of these questions head-on, and doing so while continuing to excel on the court. I feel a bit of a personal connection to this story, in a degree of separation sort of way. Ryan Anderson is from El Dorado Hills, where my family moved when I was 16. He’s a few years younger than me, but we have more than a few mutual friends, and I’ve met him a couple times in passing. So I read this with much interest, but it’s great even without those connections – a story of someone being dealt an unfathomably terrible blow, but choosing to get up and keep moving forward.  -TOB

Source: Love, Loss, and Survival”, by Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated (11/13/14)

PAL Note: Anderson handles a nightmare situation with vulnerability, grace, and action. As Tommy mentions, I too appreciate that the story focuses as much on what happens to those close to the person as it does on the act itself.


It’s Time to Pay College Football/Basketball Players

After reading this article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it’s hard to argue that college sports is not broken, and that it has been for decades. It’s possible to both acknowledge that college sports needs fixing and still be a fan. But things do need to change. For years, I have wrestled with the understanding that football and men’s basketball players (the only consistent positive revenue sports) deserve to be paid, while also knowing that doing so will change those sports (and all the non-revenue sports that rely on those two sports for funding) forever. Well, too bad. These players risk their long-term physical health and get pushed through toward graduation (if they get that far) with a meaningless degree in b.s. majors. It’s time. A few changes are easy:

  • Education standards must be tougher, so that they actually get a meaningful education.
  • The players should be paid. If that means less scholarships for gymnastics, oh well.
  • Coaches’ salaries should be capped. It’s insane that Coach K makes nearly $10M a year while the schools claim they can’t afford to pay players.
  • Revenue-positive sports should be exempt from Title IX restrictions – it makes no sense to count football and men’s basketball, sports that earn the school money and literally pay for those other sports, as expenditures for Title IX purposes.

College sports are broken. But they are fixable. This shouldn’t be that hard. -TOB

Source: College Athletes of the World Unite”, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jacobin Magazine (11/12/14)

PAL Note: Holy sh*t – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar worked as a groundskeeper at UCLA during spring break. I cannot get over this. I wish I could make the argument that college athletes in revenue-positive sports shouldn’t be paid, and that gymnastics is as valuable as football – that money can’t be the the only metric of value when we’re talking about college athletics – but we are so, so far beyond that point.


Video of the Week

You may have seen highlights of this game before. It is hard to argue that it is not the greatest finish to a high school football game of all-time. A tremendous effort to come from behind on the back of three recovered onside kicks in the last few minutes. Elation, followed by devastation, and some of the greatest lines from any announcer, ever. This version is new – a look back at this crazy game, including interviews with the players, and those announcers, who lived it.


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“God bless you all. And as for you bastards in charge, don’t dream it’s over. Years will come, years will go, and politicians will do fuck all to make the world a better place. But all over the world, young men and young women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into song. Nothing important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there’ll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung and they will be the wonder of the world. ”

-The Count

Week of November 3, 2014

Who Will Play Robin Ficker In The Biopic?

Robin Ficker is a heckler. A heckler at a game has to be pretty damn clever for me to appreciate him or her. It’s never been my thing, so why the hell is a feature about this nuisance making our top picks this week? Robin Ficker’s life story reads like the slightly lesser version of Forrest Gump. Some highlights from this long but worthwhile read:

  • Ficker would hang out at Muhammad Ali’s training facility and joined Ali on his morning runs.
  • He played a somewhat significant role in Watergate.
  • He is a primary reason why local blackouts no longer exist for sporting events that sell out.
  • He’s a lawyer who played a major role in combating gender discrimination while representing Deborah Drudge (the mother of Matt Drudge).
  • He’s run for public office for the past four decades, with only 1 victory.
  • Charles Barkley flew him to Phoenix for the 1993 NBA Finals in order to taunt Jordan.

I still don’t know what to make of this guy, and that’s what made this story spin around in my head the last couple days. I’m not sure I’d like him, but – man – would I love to go on a run with him and hear some stories. – PAL

Source: “What The Most Infamous NBA Heckler Learned From His Friend Muhammad Ali”, Dave McKenna, Deadspin (11/4/14)

TOB: Last night, Phil and I got to sit courtside at a Cal basketball exhibition game against CSU San Marcos. I’ve never sat courtside before. It was awesome. It’s also sort of frightening. I didn’t talk trash at first, but toward the end (mostly because I was annoyed with CSUSM’s coach, who would scream in the Cal player’s ears and was generally an ass to his players, too) I started to lightly heckle. For example: “Shoot the J! SHOOT IT!” But it’s definitely intimidating sitting that close. So when I read this story I was sort of amazed. Ficker pissed people off so much that he was spit on by both a player and a coach. Isiah Thomas threw a shoe at him! The story about Barkley hiring him to heckle Jordan in the Finals reminds me of the heckler in Happy Gilmore. “You will not hit this putt, JACKASS.”


Rest In Peace, Oscar Taveras

A little bit lost amidst the hoopla of the World Series, was the tragic death of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. Taveras died, along with his girlfriend, in an automobile accident in his home country of the Dominican Republic. Taveras was a top prospect – ranked the #3 prospect coming into the 2014 season – and he oozed talent. Giants fans knew him well. He was called up on May 31st and in his second career at bat, absolutely destroyed a Yusmeiro Petit pitch deep into the right field bleachers. In Game 2 of the NLCS, he homered against the Giants again. He had a sweet swing – it was a big, looping swing. He had his struggles this season, as rookies often do, but he kept flashing that potential – a potential that was not realized. You wonder – what if the Cardinals win that NLCS over the Giants – Taveras would still be alive. It’s a sad thought, but the Cardinals didn’t win and Oscar is gone. Grant Brisbee is one of my favorite writers – he’s funny, smart, and a huge Giants fan. He wrote about Oscar Taveras’ death and it really hit home with me – why the death of someone I never met had me so stunned:

“That hope is gone. You’ll never find the right amount of empathy for someone you didn’t know personally, so there’s no sense beating yourself up over it. But you’re an expert in the kind of hope that Taveras offered to his fans, to his friends, to his family and to himself. It’s gone now, and all you can do is mumble something like “Rest in peace,” even if you have no idea what that really means.”

Rest in peace, Oscar. Whatever that means. -TOB

Source: The Lost Hope of Oscar Taveras”, by Grant Brisbee, SB Nation (10/27/14)

PAL Note: Brisbee crystallizes something I’ve definitely felt but never identified, which is the sign of excellent writing. “It’s why this is different from the traffic accident you’ll surely pass one day, why it’s different from the news about the young friend of a friend of a friend, why it’s removed from the awfulness you have to step over every day to keep moving. Those are abstract situations. Your brain has to keep them abstract or you’ll collapse. You knew exactly how Taveras was going to make millions of strangers happy, though. You knew exactly how he was going to make himself and his family happy. You could see it. It was familiar. You had the path all plotted out in your head. He deserved that chance. Your brain can’t keep that loss abstract.”


A Statistical Push: Bowl Championship Series vs. College Football Playoff
The college football national champion will be determined by a tournament format for the first time this year, and it might not make a difference. From 1998 – 2013, the national champion contestants (2) were determined by a hybrid of algorithms and polls (a Coaches’ Poll and an Associated Press poll). This year, the tournament teams will be selected by a committee that includes Condoleezza Rice (Stanford), Archie Manning (Ole Miss), and athletic directors from USC and Wisconsin. While contingency plans are in place should the teams associated with committee members be a factor in the playoff selection, the numbers and research suggest how little a difference the playoff approach might make in determining teams that deserve to play for the title. Right or wrong, a tournament format allows for more drama and excitement than a single-game approach, which is the entire purpose of sports. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on “getting it right” in the sports landscape in recent years (instant replay, player safety, fines/suspensions/investigations), and – if I’m being honest – I don’t know if “getting it right” plays a major role in why we love them in the first place. – PAL

Source: “The BCS Wasn’t Any Worse Than A College Football Playoff Will Be”, by Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight (10/28/14)

TOB Note: The selection process shouldn’t be too hard. The top 4 teams seem pretty obvious in most years. Nonetheless, I remain skeptical, because the members of the committee are a complete joke. The list reeks of ridiculous politics and PR. The members include Condoleeza Rice (now a Stanford professor) and a retired Air Force Lt. General. What, exactly, are their qualifications? Andrew Luck’s dad is on there (he’s the Athletic Director of West Virginia). So is Tyrone Willingham, former coach at Stanford. Gee, are we seeing a theme? If you’re keeping score  that is 3 out of 13 members with direct ties to Stanford. The Gods have righted this wrong, though, as Stanford is in serious jeopardy of not being bowl eligible this year and is certainly not in the discussion for the playoffs. Hallelujah! Forever and ever, amen!


There Can Only Be One Winner

Considering we wrote over 3,000 words last week, all of them basking in the glory of the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series, we should probably say a bit about the Kansas City Royals. This article, written by lifelong Royals fan and Grantland writer Rany Jazayerli, is excellent. Unlike Giants fans, Rany and his fellow Royals fans experienced pain and heartbreak. But does a great job illuminating why we love sports – despite the fact that sports almost always bring pain – because of the feelings of hope and community and shared experiences that are otherwise becoming tougher and tougher to experience as we as a culture otherwise continue to isolate. -TOB

Source: Pain Demands to be Felt“, by Rany Jazayerli, Grantland (10/31/14)

PAL Note: It’s awful but true – “Sports are pain, but pain is something only the living can feel.” With that said, I have to put it to our readers who are Giants fans: Is this how you felt after the Giants lost the 2002 World Series in painful fashion? Did you see the silver lining of community and relevance like Jazayerli, or did you just want to throw up for two months?


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“You’re not trying hard enough. Try harder.”

– Random dude at the gym