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

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