Week of December 22, 2014

 

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Now that I am married, I could do that with Christmas cards, like this high school football player does with his recruiting letters. And it makes me feel like this bear:

Merry Christmas, everybody!


 

This Is How Sports Matter

One of the best concepts for a story I’ve seen, and one of the best written sports stories I’ve read. Don’t read this on your phone – there’s a very cool interactive element that deserves a bigger screen. Gary Smith hits this piece flush, which focuses on a fascinating photograph taken by Marvin E. Newman. The picture features TCU in the locker room 15 minutes before facing off with Jim Brown and Syracuse in the 1957 Cotton Bowl. Smith walks the reader through the stories of the subjects, the place, the time, and what waits in the future for all involved. Beautiful, every part of it. If someone asks me why I loved playing sports so much, I will just send them this story from now on. Joe Williams (a player on the team) summed it up best 40 years after the photograph was taken: “More than who you’re looking at now, that guy in the picture, that’s me. That’s who I really am.” – PAL

Source: “Moment of Truth”, Gary Smith & Marvin E. Newman, Longform – SI.com (12/18/14)

TOB Note: Damn, Phil stole what I was gonna quote. But don’t worry. This story is so great, there are plenty of other options to use to induce you to read it. For example:

“That’s Frankie Hyde just behind Doc Hardt’s right shoulder…Doesn’t know that he’ll hurt his shoulder a few months from now in spring training, that he’ll never suit up for a football game again.”

This reminds me of  the time the the equipment manager, an old former player and coach, came to my JV football practice. He told us to enjoy each practice and game, because he had seen seniors crying on the sidelines at the end of the season, knowing it would be the last time they’d ever play the game. This lesson stuck with me, as a broader message: you never know when something will be the last time you do something, whether it be something you cherish or something mundane. So enjoy it. This story has stories about this thought in spades, and as Phil said it demonstrates why sports matter to us.


The Next Frontier in Draft Bust Avoidance

Before the 1998 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts reportedly agonized over their choice with the #1 pick – Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. Manning is possibly the greatest passer in NFL history. Leaf is widely regarded as the biggest bust in NFL history. In 2014, it’s hard to believe, but it was a real debate over the two of them. The Colts got it right. But they almost didn’t, and teams invest millions of dollars in their top picks – and they are always looking for a way to find the Peyton Mannings and avoid the Ryan Leafs. The newest tactic being employed? Facial coding experts – teams are attempting to determine the emotional makeup of a player through facial microexpressions. But does it work? Or is it junk science? -TOB

Source: Teams Turn to a Face Reader, Looking For That Winning Smile“, Kevin Randall, New York Times (12/25/14)


A Running Race We Can All Get Behind: The Beer Mile

I have done the Beer Mile. 4 laps around a track, 1 beer before every lap. There are other rules, but that’s the gist. I wouldn’t call it a good time, but it’s something everyone should try (1-2-3 Sports! Beer Mile, anyone? Get at us, and we’ll set it up). The fact that people are close to breaking the 5-minute mark on this is insane, and I love it. A great way to get a party started, as long as you can keep the beer down. I’m calling out “Mr. 5k” to do this with us, if that’s even your nickname anymore. – PAL

Source: “Chug, Run, Repeat”, Allison McCann, fivethirtyeight (12/12/14)

TOB Note: I’m in. Tell me where. Tell me when. Reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Revenge of the Nerds – the beer chug/tricycle race. Classic.


Jim Harbaugh Is Crazier Than You Can Imagine

Harbaugh is crazy, we all know that. But this story has me utterly dumfounded:

It was 2007, his first year as Stanford’s football coach, and during what was meant to be a motivational speech, Harbaugh told his players that he wanted to play in the game alongside them. He wanted this so badly that he informed his players that he wanted their blood on him if they bled during that week’s game.

But in the game, right tackle Chris Marinelli ran off the field with the rest of his offense after a touchdown drive, his arm bloodied. He went straight to Harbaugh to show him.

Harbaugh looked at the blood and did exactly what he said he would. He took his hand and wiped it on Marinelli’s arm. The player’s blood was on the coach’s hands.

Then, Harbaugh took it a step further. He smeared Marinelli’s blood all over his own face like war paint.

What the god damn hell? -TOB

Source: “From War Paint to Shakespeare…“, Max Cohen, Michigan Daily (12/23/14)

PAL Note: These stories of Harbaugh’s insanity have gone to such an extreme that I’m beginning to question his sincerity. Wiping someone else’s blood on your face and quoting Bill Shakespeare come off like the actions of someone who wants a legend built around him, which is inherently lame.


What Would You Rather Do: Play QB For the Browns or Kite Surf?

For most of us, the answer is easy: If you had the ability to play QB in the NFL, you’d do it. But if you’re Rex Grossman? And it’s December, when it is cold as hell in Cleveland? And you’re in Florida? And you’ve been kite surfing? And you’ve made a lot of money? And the pay is “just” $53k? Well – Rex Grossman made his choice. And it’s hard to argue with it. Enjoy the swells, Sexy Rexy. -TOB

Source: “Rex Grossman Rebuffs Browns to Kite Surf With Family Over Christmas”by Eric Edholm, Yahoo! Sports (12/22/14)

PAL Note: Not mentioned in the story was the fact that Rex couldn’t get the deposit back on the house rental, and Kai – the windsurfing instructor – is booked for, like, 5 weeks!


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“We need to get there early if we want a seat at Christmas Mass.”

– Phil’s dad

Here’s the available seating at 8:30 A.M. for the 9 o’clock mass:

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Week of December 15, 2014

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Redemption Lost

Tommy Gaines III was a high school basketball star in Georgia in the 1980’s. He never “made it”, or even came close, because he became addicted to crack. In an SAT analogy, redemption stories are to sportswriting as pratfalls are to comedy. The supply is seemingly endless, and it’s a little cheap, but it will always get the intended reaction. I’ve read (or watched) countless stories about former star athletes who lost it all (usually due to drugs), but have fought back as they’ve aged to provide a lesson to those who are now coming up. This is not one of those stories. Tommy Gaines is now in his late-40’s and is still dealing with his addiction to crack, losing the battle, trying to resurrect, and self-destructing again. Heartbreaking. -TOB

Source: The Sad Saga of Tommy Gaines”, Jordan Ritter Conn, Grantland (12/11/14)

PAL Note: I’m blaming my reaction to this story on VH1’s Behind The Music. I’ve become a bit “numb” to stories in which drugs or alcohol incite the downfall of someone with exceptional talent. Tommy’s correct – it’s a heartbreaking story that stands out for its lack of redemption, but it also stands out as heavy-handed prose on Ritter Conn’s part.


All Is Fair In Love & Twitter: Sports Reporting In The Time of “Now”

Do you care about journalistic standards when it comes to sports writing? Honestly – I don’t mean that in a pithy way. I didn’t really think about it before reading this article about NBA scoop monster Adrian Wojnarowski, but the piece is a really interesting reference point from which to consider the role reporting has in an instant news landscape, especially when it pertains to sports (as opposed to politics, world events…you know, real news).  Wojnarowski has become the go-to NBA writer when it comes to breaking news, but his methods and track record are shady at best. Writer Kevin Draper sums it up this way: “[C]ompromising your objectivity to score scoops is not great reporting. Relentlessly attacking a key subject and reporting incorrectly on him is not great journalism. Hating a rival so much it clouds your analysis of events is not great reporting. By Wojnarowski’s own standards, he is failing.” -PAL

Source: “Basketball’s Biggest Reporter Is Waging War on ESPN – And He’ll Do Anything to Win”, Kevin Draper, New Republic (12/16/14)

TOB Note: I follow Wojarnowski on Twitter and he does break a ton of news. But after reading this, I will be following with a sharper eye.


How the NFL Pissed Off a Lot of TV Execs

As you may have seen, someone hacked Sony and released e-mails (and plenty more), which the internet has found quite amusing (note: I wrote this before the controversy arose surrounding the non-release of “The Interview”. Now people don’t find this so funny. I still find it rather amusing). This story, about how the NFL’s deal to air some Thursday Night games this year on CBS really pissed off Sony executives in charge of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, is only tangentially related to sports, but is still quite interesting. -TOB

Source: How CBS and the NFL Teamed Up to Screw Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, Timothy Burke, Deadspin (12/12/14)

PAL Note: I, too, have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the Sony hack emails over the past couple of weeks. While that makes me a bad person, I’m infatuated by what a person’s email style says about them. A lot of high-level execs really don’t care about spelling or grammar, and there’s no “I hope this finds you well” opening crap that I’ve leaned on for 10 years. This one is funny because we’ve all been a part of a similar email chain – partial information from the onset leading to mass confusion coming to a head and someone being offended. And if Jamie Morganstern has taught me anything, you don’t f with someone’s Jeopardy! routine. Love this story.


Show That Watt Who’s Boss

Most kids send their heroes a letter asking for an autograph; this duder took a different approach. The only thing better than the kid sending his autographed jersey to J.J. Watt is the letter that came with it. Boss move, pipsqueak. Boss move. – PAL

Source: “Little Badass Sends Autographed Jersey To J.J. Watt”, Tom Ley, Deadspin (12/16/14)

TOB Note: I think three different people sent this to me. I must be the only person in America who didn’t find it that cool. This 7-year old sounds like a real prick.


Jordan (Still) Rules.

You may have heard that Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list over the weekend. Laker fans the world over rejoiced, as they see it as another feather in Kobe’s cap, and another data point in the only-in-their-heads argument about whether Kobe is better than Jordan. No non-Laker fan who saw them both play thinks this argument is close, and fivethirtyeight.com does a great job of viciously, yet succinctly, laying waste to any claim that Kobe is superior. Long live His Airness. -TOB

Source: Once and For All: Michael Jordan Was Way Better Than Kobe Bryant”, Neil Payne, fivethirtyeight.com (12/12/14)

PAL Note: Here’s my idea/challenge to our readers. Have a friend or family member who’s a Lakers fan read this article, then record the video of his or her reaction/rebuttal. We’ll all get a kick out of it, and for the first 3 people to post the video with a link to 1-2-3 blog I will arrange for a 6-pack of good beer to be in your possession no later than January 15, 2015.


The Gordon Bombay of U.S. Soccer

Chris Wondolowski was a late bloomer. After college, Wondo worked his way up from the lowest rungs of professional soccer all the way to playing for the U.S. this year’s World Cup. It’s a pretty remarkable if it ended there, uneventfully. And then he nearly put the U.S. through to just its third World Cup Quarterfinal ever. In the 92nd minute of the U.S.’ Round of 16 match against Belgium, he found himself free in front of the net, and the ball came to his feet. This is what Wondo had spent his life preparing for – the whole reason he was on the team was because of his knack for finishing goals like this. But then…Wondo missed. A quarter of an inch in the other direction, and he’s a national hero. But he missed. The U.S. went on to lose in extra time, and people were angry. This is a great look at how a down to Earth athlete deals with failure, and the public blowback that results because of that failure. -TOB

Source: After the Miss“, by Jordan Ritter Conn, Grantland (12/17/14)


Video of the Week


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“You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an asshole.”

-The Dude

Week of December 8, 2014

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Happy Birthday to my brother, Pat! Here we are living the 1-2-3 dream, way back in 2010 at Golden Gate Fields’ Dollar Day. He’s 31 today, and still rocking those Sanuks (I think).


I Survived a Soccer Riot and I’m Luckier Than I Even Realized

In 2010, I went to Argentina with my brother, Pat, and my friend Rowe. We were determined to go to a soccer game, and at the last minute figured it’d be safer to shell out the extra cash to join a tourist group, with tickets in the tourist section, than to fend for ourselves. Part of me thought it was kinda weak, to not just go it alone. I’d been to lots of intense games before. And as the game went on, the atmosphere was intense but I didn’t feel scared – except when the tour guide took us to the ATM to get cash to pay him – the look on his face let me know that even he didn’t want to be seen with that much cash.

Still, the game ended rather uneventfully. We were walking down this grand staircase to exit the stadium. I remarked, “It wasn’t THAT crazy.” My foot hit the ground floor and suddenly the massive crowd in front of us that had already exited the stadium came rushing back in. A huge piece of asphalt went whizzing by my head. More rocks came flying in as we scampered back up the stairs to relative safety. I saw a cop get hit with a huge rock, blood rushing from his head. Cops in riot gear appeared out of nowhere and fought back the crowd. They closed the large garage-like doors and we waited for a while. I asked the tour guide if this happens every game, and he said usually. I asked if this was a particularly bad riot, and he said no. Oh.

And apparently he was right, as this article illustrates. Eleven people were murdered at Argentinean soccer games in 2010, the year I was there. And really, it’s so much more than that. So the next time you feel like complaining that some opposing fans were rude to you, just be glad you’re not an Argentinean soccer fan – where the teams are controlled by the mob. -TOB

Source: The Beautiful Game”, Patrick Symmes, Outside Magazine (10/09/12)

PAL Note: Fascinating read, definitely worth the time. The connection between money, politics, and soccer down there is shocking. Here are some of my favorite quotes and factoids:

  • “In 2009, Argentina surpassed Brazil as the world’s top producer of soccer talent, farming out 1,700 players to professional leagues abroad.”
  • “Argentina’s fan clubs, meanwhile, have become ‘not quite as violent as the Bloods and the Crips, but similar,’ says Andy Markovits, a University of Michigan political scientist specializing in soccer culture.”
  • “South American teams are private clubs, owned by their members. That leaves fan clubs, with their big voting blocs, able to make or break club officials and thereby control coaches and athletes. The barras routinely skim off players’ salaries.”
  • “A riot. Some rocks. Gas guns. It’s just background noise.”

Marshawn Lynch: ‘Beast Mode’ Isn’t Even The Half Of It

We like our athletes to be one thing, and only one thing at a time. Tiger Woods: GOAT; Tiger Woods: the scandal. Manny Ramirez: ‘Manny being Manny’; Manny Ramirez: distraction. LeBron James: Judas; LeBron James: Prodigal Son. Aren’t these examples both of their labels? Seeing as Tommy is the biggest Cal fan/apologist I’ve met, I thought it would be interesting to present my take on a Marshawn Lynch story. I like that the story is about the multiplicity of him, both as a player and as a person. He’s described as the greatest teammate by several players, and yet he’s held out for more money. He’s both charitable with his time and has had run-ins with the law. I hope that, while reading this, you’re thinking, “none of these aspects are mutually exclusive,” because that’s the entire point of the article, and I like that variance is the focal point of an athlete profile. – PAL

Source: “A Marshawn Kind of Way”, Robert Klemko, MMQB (12/9/14)

TOB Note: His college coach, Jeff Tedford, loved him like a son. His coach with the Bills, Dick Jauron, loves him. Pete Carroll loves him. I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and I hope that the Seahawks do release him, so that I can go back to expressing my unabashed love for Marshawn in public. I want his Cal-colored Beast Mode shirt so bad, but not until he leaves Seattle. Also, I loved this quote from his Seahawks teammate K.J. Wright: “He does things outside of the media that no one ever sees, and most guys do it to get on TV. But he does it from the heart. It’s real.” Ahem.


NERD ALERT, NERD ALERT: A Sport Technology Story (but, you know, a cool one)

Of course Wired brings us this story. I like the “Kiss Cam” at a ballgame, I like seeing players’ stats on the scoreboard, and the yellow first down line on TV helps out, too. Other than that, I tend to think I don’t need much razzle-dazzle connected to sporting events. Well, I just might be a liar, because these optical illusions playing out during the pregame at NBA courts and NHL rinks are pretty damn cool. Here’s a short article about how they do it and why teams are shelling out seven figures for the technology. At the very least, it’s worth clicking through to see some of these pre-game routines for the New Jersey Devils & Calgary Flames (I know the Cleveland Cavaliers have a pretty cool one, too). – PAL

Source: The Visual Trickery That Turns Hockey Rinks Into Lakes of Fire”, Tim Moynihan, Wired (12/11/14)

TOB Note: I first saw this a couple years back, I think a video from a Cavs game. So cool. Watch the videos in the story – the table hockey video in the Flames video is fantastic.


Darren Rovell Sucks, So This is Great

God, this is great. ESPN “sports business” analyst Darren Rovell is a huge tool. It’s really the perfect word to describe him. Some guy took Rovell tweets, word for word, and used them as pick-up lines on Tinder, to varying degrees of success. Hilarious. -TOB

Source: Hitting on Tinder Girls Using Only Word-For-Word Rovell Tweets”, WorldWideWob (12/07/14)

PAL Note: This guy is a comedic visionary. I have nothing more to say.


Hockey Player Has No Idea Who Nelson Mandela Was, Keeps Talking

This is kinda mean to laugh at, but I’m sorry, I can’t help it. A Toronto Maple Leaf player attended an event on the one year anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela. Unfortunately for him, he was asked about Mandela. I say unfortunate because he had NO IDEA who Mandela is. This, however, does not stop him. Here’s a taste:

“Well obviously growing up, he’s one of the most known athletes in the world. A lot of impact in any kind of sport that he did, and even playing hockey, everyone knows him, right? From being the type of person that he was off the ice and on the ice. It’s unfortunate that he passed a year ago, but, he changed a lot while he was with us, and he’s a tremendous guy.”

So good. -TOB

Source: Jonathan Bernier Humiliatingly Has No Idea Who Nelson Mandela Is“, Kevin Draper, Deadspin (12/09/14)


Dude, Where’s My…

This article is short, but hilarious. A reader sent Deadspin a newspaper clipping from 1941. It’s hilarious:

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“Broooooo!” “Duuuuuuude!” -TOB

Source: Fans Were Just as Drunk and Stupid in 1941 As They Are Today”, by Tom Ley, Deadspin (12/08/14)

PAL Note: What a fantastic mistake that is all but impossible today. I’m positive these dudes had the time of their lives, and the story only highlights how little the actual game means to the fan experience.


Video of the Week


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“My density has popped me to you.”

-George McFly

Week of December 1, 2014

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Why Not to Do Drugs: Ryan Leaf


The Best Summary of Roger Goodell & The Ray Rice Debacle

We’ve posted a lot of stories about the NFL this year, and there are a lot of details to keep straight. Bill Simmons’ podcasts can be hit or miss, but his conversation with investigative reporter Don Van Natta, Jr. lays out the timeline and is pretty revealing. Van Natta has been working on this story for over six months. – PAL

Source: B.S. Report: Don Van Natta, Jr., Bill Simmons, Grantland (10/2/14)

TOB Note: I was in the middle of listening to this podcast and texted Phil, “Listen to the B.S. Report with Don Van Natta, Jr.? Must do so.” And Phil’s reply was, “Just finished. Excellent. Going into 1-2-3 this week for sure.” So you know it’s good. As Phil said, this is a nice roundup of the entire mess. Do listen.


Race and Sports: Kenny Smith’s Open Letter to Charles Barkley

Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. Obviously, there are a lot of passionate opinions spewing at this moment. Basketball analyst Kenny Smith wrote an open letter to his friend and co-worker, Charles Barkley. Barkley called the looters in Ferguson “scumbags”; Smith tries to enlighten Barkley that all possible reactions to these rulings have logic to them. The article has been shared almost 1 million times with widespread applause. I’ve included this letter in our digest this week not because it’s excellent, but because it’s unexceptional, and that’s not good enough, especially now. It’s a frustrating read to me, because the intent is pure and noble – he’s writing a letter to a friend about the exact topic we’re all discussing at the dinner table, the water cooler at work, on our Facebook pages, or at the bar – but if Smith took the time to pen an open letter on such an important issue, then he should’ve made it count. Clearly articulate a point. Don’t meander. Don’t assuage the recipient with unrelated compliments, and don’t use ellipses when trying to help a friend understand a different perspective on such a crucial issue. – PAL

Source: “Kenny Smith’s open letter to Charles Barkley about Ferguson”Kenny Smith, For The Win (12/3/14)


Helmetless Football?

Again, the NFL has taken up a lot of 1-2-3 real estate over the past 5 months. At first blush, I wonder if it’s too much, but there are too many stories with a broader, cultural importance connected to the NFL  for us to ignore (domestic abuse, child abuse, and the safety of the workforce to name a few). The NFL is far and away the most popular sport in America, it’s governed by a moron (see our first story in today’s post), and concussions might very well be the Trojan horse that brings down a behemoth. Diagnosing concussions is important, but it doesn’t change the result – both the short term or the potentially fatal long term results. This story addresses one seemingly unimportant college football program’s attempt at a common sense approach to limiting an unacceptable result. – PAL

Source: Helmetless Football? It’s the New Practice at New Hampshire“, by Jenny Vrentas, The MMQB (12/04/14)

TOB Note: In the next 10-20 years, major changes will need to occur in football to ensure player safety, both in the short and long terms. The UNH idea is fine and interesting. But I wonder if the longterm fix will go a bit further – one of the problems players have longterm stems not from concussions but from sub-concussive hits – small hits to the head that add up over time to something far more severe. It makes sense then, theoretically, to ban the use of helmets during practice entirely in order to reduce the constant pounding on the brain (if you ban helmets during games, I think it changes the sport to such a degree that you might as well not be playing, which may also end up being the solution. Maybe the use of helmets during practice would be allowed a few times a year before the season begins, to allow players some familiarity). This could truly allow players to begin to instinctively tackle without the use of their heads and will greatly reduce the concussions and sub-concussions that lead to longterm problems.


Jameis Winston is a Terrible Human Being

Jameis Winston may have raped someone. Definitely shoplifted. Acted like an immature a-hole. The list goes on. So if you needed more evidence that he is terrible, here it is:  In a written statement submitted as part of his disciplinary hearing related to the alleged rape in December 2012, Winston said:

Rape is a vicious crime. The only thing as vicious as rape is falsely accusing someone of rape.”

Wow. If there is any justice in this world, Winston will suffer a career-ending injury. Of course, even if he does, he has a huge insurance policy he’d collect on. Swell. But at least he’d be gone. -TOB

Source: Jameis Winston’s Statement to Florida State Hearing, by Jameis Winston (published by USA Today) (12/04/14); More outrage on Deadspin.


Are the 76ers the Worst NBA Team of All-Time?

Maybe? Probably not? The 76ers are terrible, though. This, of course, is by design. Tanking to build through the draft is nothing new in the NBA, but as Gelles points out in this article, the Sixers and their new ownership group of Wall Street billionaires have taken this strategy to an extreme. They are the youngest team in the history of the league. They began the season with 17 straight losses (one shy of the NBA record), before beating the Timberwolves on Wednesday. They are on pace for under five wins, which would be the lowest total by a large margin. Looking over their roster ended with me scratching my head and shrugging. A few familiar names, but not one player that would scare you as an opponent. Their top draft pick from 2013 (Nerlens Noel) sat out last season and is finally playing – he’s showing some promise but his production is very underwhelming. Their top draft pick from 2014 (Joel Embiid) has not yet played due to injury, and is not expected to play for the entire year. The scary thing for Sixers fans should be that, even if they win the draft lottery, there does not appear to be a superstar in next year’s draft. Yikes. -TOB (h/t Michael Kapp for the story)

Source: 76ers Keep Losing, and It’s All Part of the Plan“, by David Gelles, New York Times (12/04/14)

PAL Note: I get the logic, and I understand the possible outcomes (it works, or it doesn’t work), but I don’t see the risk in this approach if the ultimate goal is to put together an NBA team that can contend for a championship. What’s the worst case scenario? It’s not having the most losses; rather, it’s finishing .500, not contending, and not having a high draft pick. There is no other sport where one great player impacts a team’s success more than basketball, and the best way to get that one great player is through the draft. The process is painful, and it might not work out, but what’s a better alternative under the current rules of the NBA?


Video of the Week

Just keep watching.


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“No one’s excited about the premise that football is extra dangerous now. It’s almost as if they’ve just siloed these two ideas off and let them both just shoot to the sky…There is no limit to the amount that we can talk about how bad football is, and there’s also no limit to how much we can watch it.”

– Chuck Klosterman