Week of May 25, 2015

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We’ve all been there, bud.


The Military and The NFL: Guess Who’s Buying

The Department of Defense funneled $6 million to NFL teams, some of which went towards Support The Troops initiatives. Why is there any exchange of money between these two organizations for initiatives like this? Never mind that $6 million is chump change for both the NFL and the DoD, the insincerity is in such poor taste. Charles Pierce articulates what I’m sure we all have felt as we watch the massive flag and fighter jets routine one too many times:

“Most veterans you will see on the field in an NFL stadium, or standing on top of a dugout between innings, are genuinely worthy of the country’s admiration. They’ve earned every cheer they get. They also have earned decent health care and a chance at an education and whatever counseling they need to get beyond what they’ve experienced. What they don’t deserve to be are front people through whom the rich get richer, to be walking advertisements for the services that they already have paid back in full. This is a transaction grotesquely inappropriate for their sacrifices.” – PAL

Source: Veteran Affairs: The Uneasy Marriage Military Money and The NFL”, Charles P. Pierce, Grantland (5/27/15)

TOB: Pierce is a very good writer, but he sometimes takes a while to get to his point, as is the case here. But do read this, and stick with it, because as Phil noted, Pierce has a very important point: Why, for example, did the DoD give the New York Jets $600,000 for “a segment at Jets home games in which soldiers were featured on the big screen, thanked for their service and given tickets to the game”? That is not a ton of money in the scheme of the Department of Defense, but it sure could have been better spent elsewhere. And if the NFL wasn’t such a horrible institution, maybe the Jets (and other teams) could have such a segment at their games, you know, for free? Because the NFL is evil. They will do anything to make a buck. See, also: this twitter rant by Adrian Peterson, complaining (correctly) about getting crap for not wanting to honor his contract, when NFL teams never have to honor their contracts with players and can cut them at any time.


Uncharted: David Blatt

Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt was the Greg Popovich of Israeli basketball. His record for Maccabi Tel Aviv was 225-55 over the last four years, he coached the Russian team to its first Olympic medal since the Soviet Union era, and here nobody cared, especially when the Cavs started the season 19-20. Well, nobody cared except for maybe Steve Kerr, another rookie head coach who finds himself in the NBA Finals. He tried to hire Blatt as his assistant when he took the Warriors job. While everything in Cleveland is understandably about the return of the prodigal son, LeBron James, Blatt is on an uncharted journey. No coach has make the jump from international basketball to the NBA without any NBA experience (Mike D’Antoni, who coach for the Suns, Knicks, and Lakers, played in the NBA before heading across the Atlantic). Just another reason why I’m looking forward to the Finals. – PAL

Source: Isn’t it time Cleveland Cavaliers coach Davie Blatt receives some credit for taking his team to the NBA Finals?”, Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer (5/27/15)

TOB: Two things stick out here: (1) Blatt left his wife and kids in Israel to come to the NBA. I mean, Jesus. (2) The article glosses over this, but the job Blatt did after the roster changes is phenomenal, in my opinion. Here’s what Blatt said: “Guys really bought in… You get a rim protector like Timo. You get a defender like Shump. You get J.R. Smith, who is really locked in and plays both ends of the court. Put that together with the guys we had already buying into what we wanted, that turned things around for us.” He makes that sound easy. The first time I read it I even thought, “Well, sure they did better. They got a lot more talented.” But, wait. Iman Shumpert is a heck of an athlete and a great defender when locked in. But before coming to Cleveland, he seemed unable to stay focused for an entire quarter, let alone for a deep playoff run. J.R. Smith had the exact same scouting report, plus the fact that he never cared a lick about defense. Mozgov’s numbers in Cleveland are the best of his career. Blatt took these castoffs and headcases and got them to gel in almost no time at all.This was not an easy task! Having LeBron never hurts, but this was a heck of a coaching job.


Baseball Card Nostalgia

I’m not sure how it happened, but this week I read two great stories (published the same day) that mirrored my childhood love and adult relationship with sports cards. Grantland’s Shea Serrano wrote about recently purchasing a box set of Skybox basketball cards (which were awesome in the 90’s). SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee, one of my favorite writers, wrote about discovering his childhood baseball cards recently. I highly recommend both articles.

I particularly enjoy nostalgia stories where I feel like the author and I had a shared experience. Like me, the writers were big sports card collectors as kids. I still have a binder full of them. I also had some boxes, which I lost years ago. I considered them an investment, one that surely did not pay off. But I still hold onto that binder, and every few months I flip through the pages, organized by what I considered the best/most valuable cards when I was 12. Each time, I am amazed at how big of a Nick Van Exel fan I was when he was in college. As in the Skybox article, I am excited to share them with my son when he is old enough to understand. But like the writer, I will probably react in horror when the boy gets his filthy hands all over my Michael Jordan 1990 Fleer. -TOB

Source: Skybox Basketball Trading Cards Were Incredible”, Shea Serrano, Grantland (05/26/2015); How I Fell In Love With Baseball Cards All Over Again”, Grant Brisbee, SB Nation (05/26/2015)

PAL: I was a careless, half-assed card collector, but I love Brisbee’s adult approach to picking his baseball cards now: “What I needed were cards with stories. If my daughters asked for a story about the 5,339 Eric Anthony rookies I had in a box, it would be simple. They weren’t worth as much as I thought they were going to be. Sorry. That’s the story, kid.” Curt Flood (father of free-agency) and Doc Ellis (pitched a no-hitter on acid) cards from 1970 actually have some folk-like worth beyond their monetary value. The cards are cool mementos of culture, and that makes a lot more sense than caring if a card has a bent corner on it.


Wacky Rules in Baseball’s Youth

This is fun. In its early years, baseball was trying to figure itself out and had some weird rules. This article runs down the 10 best. My favorite: “[Umpires] were chosen from the crowd prior to first pitch — they were often prominent members of the local community — and rather than spend all that energy to squat behind the catcher, umpires were given easy chairs in the general vicinity of home plate….The old time umpires were accorded the utmost courtesy by the players. They were given easy chairs, placed near the home plate, provided with fans on hot days and their absolute comfort was uppermost in the minds of the players. The umpire always received the choicest bits of food and the largest glass of beer.” I umpired youth baseball this year. Hot damn, that sounds great. -TOB

Source: “10 Bizarre Baseball Rules You Won’t Believe Actually Existed”, Chris Landers, MLB.com (05/22/2015)

PAL: “The spitball was outlawed in 1920 — but pitchers who had been throwing it for years were grandfathered in.” When has the Grandfather Clause ever been less than an entertaining solution? No helmets in hockey? Awesome old-timers with and hair unencumbered by a dumb helmet were men amongst wimps. No ear flaps on batting helmets? Dave Winfield was awesome and had no flaps in the same league that included scary, double ear flaps Otis Nixon.


Catching Up With Craig Ehlo: The Victim of “The Shot”

For many sports fans, the mere mention of the name Craig Ehlo evokes the very same memory – “The Shot” – Michael Jordan’s series winning jumper in the 1989 NBA Playoffs. Jordan drives to his left, rises, and hangs in the air for an impossible amount of time while Craig Ehlo flies by. Jordan then leaps into the air and pumps his fist over in joy, while Ehlo collapses to the ground in agony.

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Ehlo was a decent player who will always be remembered for that image. Bleacher Report brings us this short video interview with Ehlo where he reminisces on that game, and the unfortunate turn his life took after his retirement from the NBA. -TOB

http://bleacherreport.com/video_embed?id=pjdGxidToE8nQlc8KfK-5nlyfX7enTPa

Source: Craig Ehlo: Michael Jordan’s Most Famous Victim and the Lowest Point of His Life”, BR Studios, Bleacher Report (05/27/2015)


Video of the Week

I have no idea how I missed this when it came out two years ago, but thanks to friend of the blog, Ryan Rowe, I have now seen Bob Costas rapping some Ludacris. And so have you.


PAL’s song of the week: Nation of Heat” – Joe Pug. Check out all of the 1-2-3’s weekly picks right here.


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“Why are you so sweaty?”

“I was watching Cops.”

– Dale Doback & Brennan Huff

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Week of May 18, 2015

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I spy irony.


The Phenom’s Phenomenal Comeback: Shaun Livingston

He could’ve been the next Magic Johnson or Penny Hardaway (before the injuries). As a 6’7 point guard drafted 4th out of high school (the only high school guard ever taken in the top 5 of the NBA Draft), Shaun Livingston was a special talent, and then his knee exploded in every possible way when landing after a layup. Torn MCL, ACL, PCL, meniscus, and a dislocated knee. There was legitimate concern that they would have to amputate. All the potential gone, and that makes his presence as a key role player for the Warriors all the more rewarding. Dude came off the bench and scored 18 in game 1 of the conference finals. Those aren’t garbage time stats, either. This guy who was supposed to have it all fought for years when no one was watching to make it back, and he’s done it. It’s easy to think you love something when you’re young and it comes easy; it’s cool when when a story like this happens, and it reveals someone’s work ethic and passion exceeds his potential. -PAL

Source: Shaun Livingston’s long, broken road to unlikely postseason hero”, Roger Sherman, SB Nation (5/20/15)

TOB: It’s hard to know what Livingston’s career would have been. He was part of those fun mid-aught’s Clippers teams with Elton Brand and Corey Maggette (the fact that he missed Darius Miles like ships passing in the night is a shame. Imagine the lobs!). I don’t know about the next Magic or Penny, as Phil suggests. He was closer to a tall Jason Williams – not much of a jump shot, not much of a scorer, but boy – could he pass. My guess is his ceiling is not much more than we’re seeing – it’s hard to be great in the NBA when you can’t shoot. Also, as the article notes, his injury was absolutely gruesome. One of the top 5 worst I’ve ever seen. But I wonder if Shaun would find this article a bit patronizing. The author seems to be saying, “Gee, Shaun, anything you contribute on a basketball court is great, considering.” That being said, I have always enjoyed Livingston’s game, and I am rooting for him.


Law and Order on the Allegheny

As both a sports fan and an attorney, this is an interesting case. Here’s the scenario: On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez crushed a home run deep beyond the stadium in right field, and right into a boat docked along the edge of the Allegheny River.

Shortly thereafter, a man jumped into the boat and took the ball.

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A local news station tracked the owner of the boat down and he said that he’d like the ball back. The news station then contacted the local police department to see what they had to say, and the officer they spoke with said that no crime was committed because the passerby only grabbed the ball and nothing that belonged to the boat owner, noting that when balls are hit out of the park it becomes a “free-for-all.”

In law school, I had the pleasure of studying the infamous case of the fate of Barry Bonds’ record-setting 73rd home run, Popov v. Hayashi, (memorialized in the film “Up For Grabs”). An interesting fact that I remember from that case is that MLB considers baseballs hit out of play to be abandoned property. Hence the officer’s legal analysis. However, where this differs from a normal home run or foul ball is that the ball came to rest in someone’s private property – a boat. The passerby then committed a trespass in entering the boat, and took the baseball.

I contacted my dad, who has worked in criminal law for over 35 years, and he agreed with my analysis. Based on common law principles, whether the baseball belonged to the boat owner when the ball landed in his property is unclear, but the man certainly committed a trespass. BOOK ‘EM, DANO. -TOB

Source: Pirates’ Home Run Lands in Boat, Passerby Grabs Ball; Boat Owner Wants Ball Back”, Ashlie Hardway, WTAE.com (05/20/2015)

PAL: Wait, when did Tommy become a lawyer? Laws aside, you never board a man’s boat without permission.


No Experience Required

There is a coveted and limited job out there that pays over $500K and requires no prior experience. On May 18, The Florida Marlins fired Mike Redmond and moved its GM Dan Jennings into the manager role. Although Jennings has several years experience as a baseball executive, the last time he actually coached a team it was of the high school variety. This isn’t exactly an outlier. Currently, there are 10 managers in MLB with no prior managing experience. Most of them are former players – sure – but at no point did they learn how to do the job they currently hold. You can see this happening in the NBA as well. Steve Kerr, Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd, and Steve Fischer never led a team as a coach prior to their current gigs. What gives? Part of it might be a result of better analytics. Another part of it might be organizations loading up in the experience department by way of the assistant coaches. That being said, it’s noteworthy that at the pinnacle of a profession, more and more people are entrusted to succeed at something they’ve never done while being paid a heap of cash in the process. – PAL

Source: Grizzled Manager Part of a Bygone EraTyler Kepner, The New York Times (5/18/15)

TOB: To me, the most interesting point in this article was the role of the minor league manager in modern baseball. As Mets manager Terry Collins notes, minor league managers today have very little autonomy:

“In the minor leagues, you really don’t manage anymore. The minor leagues are set up like: ‘You’re starting, he’s coming in for the fifth, he’s throwing X amount of pitches, let’s make sure these guys play today, let’s give so-and-so a day off.’ Nobody pinch-hits. It’s, ‘Hey, look, here’s your lineup, go get ’em.’ ”

 Given that, it makes sense that an aspiring major league manager would not want to waste his time managing in the minors. You are really nothing more than a babysitter in a baseball uniform.


The Musical Vulgarity of Sports: Action Bronson

You know who Action Bronson is if you’re a fan of Hip Hop. While incredibly vulgar, he’s also hard to dislike. Here’s an overweight former line chef who’s one of the most talented rappers going today…and has a food show series called “F*&k, That’s Delicious”. He’s also a mega sports fan, so here’s every sport reference from his songs. He’s not afraid of obscure sports references (Jeff Hornacek, Randy Velarde), which makes these even more enjoyable, albeit incredible crude. You’ve been warned, now enjoy. – PAL

Source: The Young Randy Velarde, and 289 Other Sports References by Action Bronson”, Roger Sherman, SB Nation (5/18/15)

TOB: This is pretty great. But I got a beef with Bronson:

I’m the doobie scholar / Old foreign white shooters, Tom Gugliotta — from “Auntie Maria’s Crib” by Nitty Scott

Though Tom Gugliotta sounds foreign, the dude is American! Where’s your fact checker, bro?


Bumgarner > Kershaw

Yesterday, the Giants swept the Dodgers at home for the second time this year. It was particularly sweet. They shut the Dodgers out for the entire series (only the second time the Dodgers have shutout for an entire series of at least three games since moving to Los Angeles – the previous was also by the Giants, waaaaay back in 2012). The sweep also cut the Dodgers’ division lead to just 1.5 games.

The final game was a matchup of aces – Bumgarner vs. Kershaw. It was only May 21, but it was the third time the two have faced off this season. The Giants have won all three games, with Kershaw, the reigning NL Cy Young and MVP, taking two losses and a no decision. The best part of yesterday’s game, though, may have been Bumgarner taking Kershaw deep in the third to open the scoring. It was the first time Kershaw had ever given up a home run to an opposing pitcher. For the series, Bumgarner outscored the entire Dodgers team over three games! With all that said, MLB Statcast is one of our favorites here at 1-2-3 Sports!, and Statcast analyzed Bumgarner’s homer off Kershaw (the distance of the homer at 415 feet with an exit velocity of 105 mph!). I enjoyed it. -TOB

Source: MadBum HRs Off Kershaw; Statcast Tells You Why“, Mike Petriello, MLB.com (05/21/2015)


Video of the Week:

https://vid.me/e/pcVw


PAL’s song of the week: My Baby Just Cares For Me” – Nina Simone (and here’s a playlist of all PAL’s Songs of the Week)


“What is art? Are we art? Is art art?”

-Lisa Turtle

Week of May 11, 2015

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I am only a doctor of law, but I can tell you: That is not good.


Big Data Reaps Big Rewards

Like many Americans, you probably tuned into the 2012 Olympic Games in London. One of the events that garnered a lot of attention was Team Pursuit Cycling in the “Velodrome”. The U.S. women’s team surprised many people when it came out of nowhere to capture the Silver medal. In the months leading up to the Olympics, the women’s team was putting up times during competition and training that would have left them well off the medal podium. In a short amount of time, the team shaved upwards of 5 seconds (which is an eternity in this event) off their mark. How did they do it? According to a documentary premiering on May 16 at the Seattle International Film Festival, the team owes its thanks, in some part, to Datameer, a big data analytics tool. The team began using fitness/sleep trackers, medical devices, and DNA testing to collect mountains of data on how their bodies were responding to training, and different factors in their lives (e.g., diet and sleep). The team then turned to Datameer to help analyze that data and try to identify patterns and inefficiencies in the way the athletes trained or prepared for training. Full disclosure: my wife works for Datameer and, prior to the 2012 Olympics, got to travel to the team’s training facility to help produce this video:

She had a great time at the Velodrome and I can’t wait to see this documentary, demonstrating how “data, not doping” can improve athletic performance. -TOB

Source: How the U.S. Women’s Cycling Team Transformed Itself With Technology”, Tom Taylor, Sports Illustrated (05/14/2015)


Show Her the Money!

On the court, the NBA is in the midst of its most entertaining stretch of the season – the playoffs, and there things are good. Off the court, however, a storm is brewing. In October, the NBA signed a new TV rights deal with ESPN and TNT – $2.7 billion dollars per year (starting in 2016), nearly triple the size of the previous deal, signed in 2007. That should mean sunshine and roses for all involved – after all, the players are guaranteed around 49% of basketball related income (BRI). More money from the TV deal means more money to be divided up by the players. However, the Players’ Union was smoked by the League in the last two rounds of labor negotiations (e.g. prior to the 2011 deal, the players were guaranteed 57% of BRI, and gave back that 8% to save the season) and they are looking to get some of that back, among other concessions. Last summer, the Union selected Michele Roberts, an extremely successful attorney with little sports experience, to be its new executive director. Roberts is the first female head of any major American sport’s players’ union. As she told the players in her pitch to select her: “I bet you can tell I’m a woman. My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.” No wonder she was a near-unanimous selection.

Immediately, Roberts came out swinging – setting the stage for an absolute labor war with Adam Silver, the NBA’s new commissioner, and the owners. Roberts has begun with a PR battle. “The (league has) done a great job promoting the notion that the owners make all the investments and take all of the risks and barely make a dollar … One of the things that I have on my list, that I will absolutely not go to my grave until I correct, is responding to that narrative.” She has a point: The value of NBA franchises has soared recently. Just six years ago, the New Jersey Nets were purchased for $365 million. They are presently valued at $1.5 billion, and would likely sell for over $2 billion on the open market. Pretty good ROI.

But Roberts’ job is not an easy one and her biggest problem may arise from within her own ranks. Although she has enlisted the help of stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony, NBA players have little incentive to pass up the kind of money that a work stoppage requires. “The problem is that basketball players have an average career of four years and an average salary of $5 million per year,” says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. “Given that and given that these guys love to play basketball, they don’t really have the basis to stay unified for a substantial period of time. They’re saying, ‘You want me to risk half a season so my salary could go from $5.1 million to $5.2 million?’ That’s going to be Michele Roberts’s main challenge.”

I have been on the union’s side in sports labor fights since the first one I can remember – the 1994 baseball strike. As Roberts points out, “It’s mind-boggling to me that people think that the players make too much. There would be no money if not for the players. Let’s call it what it is. There. Would. Be. No. Money. If not for the players. They create the game.” Good luck, Michele. You’re going to need it -TOB

Source: Outside Shooter”, Max Chafkin, The Atlantic (May 2015)

PAL: Roberts is right, but Zimbalist is more right. While owners have nothing to do with what I like most about the sport – a LeBron chase-down block, a Steph Curry 3 from 29 feet, Paul Pierce going to the well one last time – the stars aren’t the players most impacted by rev share. It’s not about the difference between $20M and $25M; it’s about the difference between $3M and $4M. Are aging, financially set stars whose main concern is their legacy on the court really going to give up a season for the seventh man in the rotation?


NBA Draft Reform

Tanking for draft position has been around for a long time. Way back in 1985, the NBA instituted the Draft Lottery to discourage teams from tanking for the opportunity to draft Patrick Ewing. The lottery has been in place, with some variations, ever since. In recent years, there have ever-growing calls for reform, to remove the incentive to tank. The fact is, tanking remains the best way for a bad team to get better, and as long as that is true, bad teams will have incentive to be even worse than they are. One proposed solution is known as “the wheel” sets draft order based on a rotating schedule, known years in advance. I hate this idea – because while tanking is disheartening as a fan, it at least offers hope. If your team is bad and you don’t have the hope of a high draft pick, following your team is the not fun.

Enter the “You’re the Worst” Plan, as proposed in this article. In short, before a season, teams would select, in reverse order of their finish from the previous season, the team they think will have the worst record the following season. In the draft the following summer, you would then have that team’s draft position (teams could not pick themselves). For example, the Timberwolves had the worst record in the NBA this season. They’d pick first. If they think the Sixers will have the worst record next year, they’d take the Sixers. If the Sixers had the third worst record next season, then the Timberwolves would draft third.

There would still be some incentive to tank, because it would give you an earlier pick to select the worst team, but the reward is far less immediate and far less concrete. After all, a team could end up being a lot better than you hoped. Plus, the possibility of bad blood between teams would be fantastic, and the selection process would make for amazing television. I’m in! -TOB

Source: The NBA Draft Is Broken: Here’s How to Fix It”, Seth Stevenson, Slate (05/13/2015)

PAL:  A list of #1 draft picks since 1999 (I’ve italicized the ones I think have proven to be franchise players):

  • 1999: Elton Brand
  • 2000: Kenyon Martin
  • 2001: Kwame Brown
  • 2002: Yao Ming
  • 2003: LeBron James
  • 2004: Dwight Howard
  • 2005: Andrew Bogut
  • 2006: Andrea Bargnani
  • 2007: Greg Oden
  • 2008: Derrick Rose
  • 2009: Blake Griffin
  • 2010: John Wall
  • 2011: Kyrie Irving
  • 2012: Anthony Davis
  • 2013: Anthony Bennett
  • 2014: Andrew Wiggins (TBD)

All involved have been happy with the results of 5/16. Let’s be honest – I’ll take a 31% chance at LeBron, Anthony Davis, or even Blake Griffin. In that same 16 years, six teams have won NBA Championships: Spurs (Duncan), Lakers (Kobe), Pistons, Heat (Wade + Shaq/LeBron), Dallas (Dirk), and Celtics. The Pistons, Celtics, and the Heat (Shaq and LeBron pairing with Wade) did it with free agents as cornerstones of the team. It’s cheaper to draft greatness, but ultimate success is still a crap shoot. I get why the Sixers are tanking (now in its third year?), but there’s a shelf life and a limited amount of patience, and I think the team has less than one year to start showing some flashes of improvement. All of this is to say that, of all the proposed changes to the lottery, I think I like the true lottery option the best. Every team that doesn’t make the playoffs gets the same odds of winning the first pick in the next draft.


Jered Weaver: Total Killjoy

Jered Weaver sucks. I know because I have him in a fantasy keeper league. He’s got enough of a name that I don’t want to outright drop him, but he has zero trade value. After getting rocked in just about every start this season, I benched him for his start against the then-hot Houston Astros last weekend. Of course, he threw a complete game shutout and had the most K’s he’s had in you a game all season. Dillhole. So how does this guy celebrate?

By getting legitimately angry at his teammates who were just having a little fun. Look at that stare at the 1:03 mark! And how he ends the interview like a petulant child! Man, what a fun teammate he must be. Stupid Jered Weaver. -TOB

Source: Weaver on Shutout, Gets Doused”, MLB.com (05/08/2015)

PAL: Sounds like someone’s got his panties in a bunch over fantasy sports. I couldn’t disagree with you more on this, TOB. First of all, let’s just chill out on the Gatorade showers. Also about just a pinch of “act like you’ve been there” for a shutout…in May on a team that’s currently .500. I guarantee you Pujols and other veterans sided with Weaver. What’s more, I honestly think Weaver handles the situation really well. He rolls with the hack move Gatorade dousing, but throwing what I assume is a bag of sunflower seeds at him on top of that is: (A) not funny or entertaining, (B) overkill after the dousing, and (C) an aggressive, dick 12 year-old move. Weaver takes a moment to gather himself (the camera zoom doesn’t help here), gives a polite, canned answer to get out of the interview, and ducks down into the clubhouse where he can light into some idiot for acting like a moron.


Has King James Left the Building?

For around a decade, LeBron James has been the best basketball player on the planet. He led the Miami Heat to four straight NBA Finals, winning two, before returning to Cleveland last summer. When he returned, though, something seemed off. Was it the hair plugs? Well, yes, those looked odd. But LeBron didn’t seem as explosive. He was more content to take jump shots than to get to the rim. He seemed less aggressive, less focused. People openly questioned if he was finally on the decline. Now, with the regular season behind us, we can evaluate – did LeBron’s game change? As it turns out, it did. Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry uses statistical analysis (noticing a trend?) to show that LeBron did shoot more jumpers this year and did attack the rim less. Is he in decline? Or was it a one-year blip? And where does his game go from here? -TOB

Source: The King’s Burden: Saving the Cavs Has Changed LeBron James”, Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland (05/13/2015)

PAL: “One of the most interesting things about superstars is watching them change their games in the face of decreasing athleticism. It’s the most human thing about them.” As Goldsberry captures in this piece, it’s fascinating to watch a supreme athlete be so open to evolving his game. Fascinating – yes – but it will never be better than watching a guy at his peak. Also, carve out 8 minutes and watch the video of LeBron working on post moves with Hakeem. Hakeem still has it in his fifties. That’s one graceful big dude.


Video of the Week

In honor of Corey Kluber’s ridiculous 8-inning, 18-strikeout, 0-walk, 1-hitter this week, check out the above video of young Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game against the Astros in 1998. Filthy. Nasty. And that ‘Stros lineup was legit!


“I bet you can tell I’m a woman. My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

-Michele Roberts

Week of May 4, 2015

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1 year of 1-2-3 Sport! No sweat, says Draymond and Steph.


Happy First Birthday to 1-2-3 Sports!

The idea was hatched at a bar, as many good ones are. Our original goal was to make it six months. And to be honest, that seemed like a stretch. Before we found our groove, Thursdays were very late nights for us – reading, writing, editing. A few weeks after we started, my baby boy was born, making things even worse. But we powered through and here we are. We missed only one week – New Year’s Day – and in my mind that’s a hell of an accomplishment. We have had a lot of fun – there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into this weekly digest, but we have taken something we both really enjoy and tried to share that with our family and friends. The feedback we receive, whether online or in person, is rewarding – it’s nice to know that people enjoy our efforts and the product.

We will continue to do our best to bring you our favorite sports writing, with our own take – hopefully in an entertaining fashion. Please do continue to give us feedback as it is always appreciated. And if you really enjoy a particular week’s post, you can always share it with your friends and family, too. -TOB

Tommy likes sports. Phil likes sports. Here are our favorite stories of the week. That summary is at the top of every post we share, and that remains the goal: Hunt down the best sports-related stories, explain why we think they are worth your time, and link to the story. Simple. Tommy’s doing the heavy lifting with regards to eloquence and gratitude here. I’m going to ask you for something. On this, our first anniversary, I ask you to write an email to a few friends who like sports, add https://123sportsnews.wordpress.com into the email with the subject line “A Sports Blog Worth Your Time,” and write one sentence on why you like it. We appreciate you, and we need more of you! -PAL


Bill Simmons Is A Free Agent

ESPN will not renew Bill Simmons’ contract in September, 2015. The biggest name in sports blogs was a bartender when he started a website called BostonSportsGuy.com in 1997. At first, his column was only available on AOL. He started with ESPN in 2001, helped create the 30 for 30 documentary franchise, hosts the most popular sports podcast, and generally speaking has built a nice little empire for himself, all stemming from a sports blog. I don’t love his writing, but it will be interesting to see what he does next. Grantland will continue without Simmons at the helm-PAL

Source: Bill Simmons and ESPN Are Parting Ways, Richard Sandomir, The New York Times (5/8/15)

TOB Note: I saw this news on Twitter this morning while sitting on the toilet, which seems appropriate, given Simmons’ habit of encouraging readers to print his long columns at work and read them in the bathroom. Simmons has not been the entertaining Simmons he used to be for quite some time – probably since he moved from Boston to L.A. and began splitting his time with ESPN and the Jimmy Kimmel Show as a writer. He got to Hollywood, he started hobnobbing with celebrities, and he lost his fastball as a writer. It wasn’t all downhill, though. As Phil mentioned, Simmons helped create the 30 for 30 series, which isn’t perfect but has put out some damn good movies, and he created Grantland, which is also hit-and-miss. I am curious about what happens to Grantland. Despite Skipper’s statement that this won’t affect Grantland – how can it not? He is Grantland. He handpicked his staff. Wherever he goes, he has a stable of writers who may or may not want to follow. As Jerry Maguire once said, “Who’s coming with me?”


Baseball’s Renaissance Man

Michael Burke was a soldier and a spy. He ran the circus, worked in Hollywood, and had a butler deliver his juice to him while he served as a CBS executive. He was President and part-owner of the Yankees, drinking buddies with Ernest Hemingway, and he drove a Delorean. I don’t know what else I could tell you that would better convince you to read his story. – PAL

Source: Yankee, Executive, Soldier, Spy”, Robert Weintraub, Grantland (5/6/15)


There Was No Joy in Manila, Mighty Manny Had Struck Out

If you enjoyed the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, you are probably a boxing fan – Mayweather put on an absolute clinic and made one of the most exciting boxers of his generation, Manny Pacquiao, an absolute bore. That is the sign of a great boxer, and Floyd (for all his personal failings), has been doing that for his entire career. If you thought the fight was boring, you probably watch one or two fights a year, when you hear that a buddy is ordering the fight. If the fight left you dejected, though, then you are a huge Manny fan (or Floyd hater) and have an idea what the fight was like in Manny’s home country of the Philippines. Grantland’s Rafe Bartholomew was in the Philippines, watching the fight at a medium-sized public gathering with the people. His description of the scene as the fight unfolded is great:

“The Mandaluyong crowd, however, seemed unperturbed by Mayweather’s defensive clinic. Perhaps this was because many average Filipinos, with help from the partisan local media, haven’t been privy to the thorny, complicated history of why this fight took five years to be made. For them, the story is simple: It didn’t happen because Mayweather was afraid of Pacquiao. In Manila, the dominant fight-week narrative wasn’t Mayweather’s history of violence against women, but how Pacquiao would finally get a chance to shut up loudmouth “Money” Mayweather. So even though Mayweather was flummoxing Pacquiao early, the fans around me remained mostly untroubled because Mayweather wasn’t landing many telling blows of his own. Every time Mayweather jumped away from a Pacquiao blow or hugged him to squelch his combinations, the crowd hooted and laughed. They saw what they already believed: an opponent who feared the power behind their countryman’s fists.” -TOB

Source: Mayweather-Pacquiao: A Sad Morning in Manila”, Rafe Bartholomew, Grantland (05/04/2015)

PAL: I’m out on boxing. Has anyone talked about this fight after lunchtime on Monday? I like the idea of it, but I’m an amatuer watcher. The clinic that Mayweather put on Manny did nothing for me. I don’t know enough, and I don’t care enough. I do love the hype though. Leading up to the fight, I was getting excited. I like the slo-mo documentaries and the training montages, but from what I saw nothing happened in the fight. Because the fight stunk, my interest in the ancillary stories like this one fall a bit empty. So this is how the rest of you feel when you watch a baseball game, eh?


Del Boca Vista: Barry Bonds & Life After Baseball (and BALCO)

By most accounts Barry Bonds is a dick who was the best at his profession, which is why a story showing him experiencing humility is a good read. Bonds – a man whose connection to PEDs and doping are recorded ad nauseam – has donated over $100K to a women’s cycling team. The fact that a man famous for his skills in a sport forever linked to doping is backing a cycling team – the only other sport that rivals baseball in doping infamy – is interesting on the surface. What’s more interesting about this story is the unique situation Bonds found himself in following his retirement. What does someone who is the very best at his/her thing do when they can no longer do his/her thing? Barry Bonds was not only the most gifted hitter most of us have ever seen, but he was/is also a genius when it comes to hitting technique and the chess match between pitcher and hitter. In other words, he knew more about his craft than just about anyone breathing. So take that expert and put him on a bike – something he knows nothing about – at a time when he’s in court, hated by most everyone outside of the 415 area code, and going through his second divorce. A hyper-competitive, talented athlete exploring a sport and skill he knows nothing about at a time when he’s on an island. Instead of making adjustments at the most microscopic level, he’s learning the fundamentals. Here’s a fresh perspective on a master in the beginner class.  Thanks for sending this along, Jamie Morganstern. -PAL

Source: Barry Bonds Is Shifting Gears”, Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN the Magazine (5/6/15)

TOB: I didn’t love this story – there is far too much discussion about Bonds’ connections to steroids and cycling’s doping problem – but one thing I really like about it is that it shows Bonds has more depth than the baseball media portrayed during his career. It reminds me of the article we featured last week ahead of the Mayweather/Pacquaio fight – how the sports media paints with a broad brush on who is “good” and “bad”. Bonds was “bad” because he wasn’t polite to the writers who covered him, and that is how most sports fans knew him. But as with everyone, there are shades of gray. Bonds has done a lot of great things that don’t get a lot of attention, like offering to pay for Bryan Stow’s children’s college education, and now supporting this women’s cycling team. I’ve always liked Bonds and thought he got a bad rap – it’s nice to see him get some positive attention, even if it’s 20 years late.


Manny Being Too Manly?

Pedro Martinez released an autobiography this week. He’s been making the media rounds, telling some stories; this one, about the 2004 Red Sox, is especially great. They called themselves “The Idiots” – and, really, it was hard to argue. But the team also was a lot of fun. Pedro writes that before playoff games the players would take a shot, suggested by a different player each game. When it was Manny’s turn, he suggested a shot of “Mama Juana” – gin, honey, wine, and medicine root. But Manny added his own twist – Viagra. Ellis Burks, who was on the team but not active, decided to give it a shot. As Pedro tells it:

“I say, ‘You know, this Mama Juana, if you drink it, you might get turned on.’ He said, ‘Oh, I’ll try it. I’ll try it. I’m not playing anyway.’ So he took it, it seemed like it worked. So everybody was coming up to him for a little shot.”

Watch Pedro tell it himself here.- TOB

Source: Manny Ramirez Gave Ellis Burks a Boner”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (05/06/2015)

PAL: Two things: (1) Pedro Martinez, a head-hunter loathed by many (and one of the best 10 pitchers in the history of the game), is going to age very gracefully and become MLB’s cool uncle who’s full of wisdom. His stock will only go up in retirement, and he’ll become baseball’s better version of Charles Barkley. (2) Baseball players are a bunch of grown-ass men acting like fifteen year-olds, and sometime that’s really funny. This is one of those times.


Video of the Week:


PAL’s song of the week: Hey Now Baby” – Professor Longhair. The version on Alligator has the crackly recording, and the vocals are perfect.

Also, with permission from Ryan Rowe Productions, here is the “Walk Up Songs” playlist you’ve been waiting for. What song would want playing when you walk up to home plate to hit a home run?


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“I got laid off when they closed that asbestos factory, and wouldn’t you know it, the army cuts my disability pension because they said that the plate in my head wasn’t big enough.”

– Cousin Eddie

 

 

Week of April 27, 2015

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Camden Yards Attendance: 0

In response to the riots in Baltimore this week, MLB made unfortunate history: On Wednesday, the Orioles and White Sox played the first ever major league game without a paying crowd. The game at Camden Yards was closed to the public so police and National Guard resources could be stationed elsewhere in the city. The decision was made in response to the riots that overtook Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. While the “ghost town” atmosphere created bizarre results – infielders openly heard talking to each other, the crack of the bat echoing around the stadium, and announcers calling the game as if it was The Masters – it was a stark reminder that sports do not only exist on highlight reels and big screen televisions. Ironically, a game played before an empty stadium served as a reminder that sports and the communities for which they play are inseparable. – PAL

Source: Even with Camden Yards closed to the public, fans found way to support O’s”, Eduardo Encina and Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun (4/29/15)

TOB: At 1-2-3 we write about sports, and we generally avoid divisive political/social issues. But the situation in Baltimore, I cannot abide. However, there are writers who can say this more eloquently than I can, and so I leave you with this story from the Atlantic, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, wherein he writes:

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.


So, Lonestar, Now You See That Evil Will Always Triumph, Because Good Is Dumb

On Saturday, the fight boxing fans have been waiting for will finally take place: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao. Unfortunately, it’s about 4 years too late, as both fighters are no longer in the prime of their careers. Nonetheless, the years-long buildup and anticipation are expected to make this the highest-grossing pay-per-view fight in boxing history.

Floyd Mayweather is not a good person. He has done some terrible things. Boxing fans have largely overlooked that fact because Mayweather is the greatest fighter of his generation, and a very good entertainer. But the press is building this fight up as Good vs. Evil (Mayweather, a showman and a salesman, is not exactly discouraging that story, as he knows it will increase PPV sales and therefore his paycheck). But as with all such real-life storylines, it’s not that simple. Manny Pacquiao is no saint. Diana Moskovitz details some of their failings. As she sums it up:

What’s worse, beating up women or trying to make it harder for millions of them to get birth control? Do you mind less the absent politician or the abusive father? Which is easier to tolerate, a man who leveraged his fame and fortune for favors across the Philippines or a man who leveraged his fame and fortune for favors across the United States? Athletes are human; they exist on the same ethical continuum as the rest of us, stretching from saints to sinners with a long, murky middle where most reside. It should be enough to sell this fight that Mayweather and Pacquiao are the two best boxers of their generation. But don’t let the appeal to morality confuse you: that’s all they’re good for.

She’s right: this is entertainment (though I disagree with her other contention that who you root for says something about you). I will be rooting for Mayweather, because I think Mayweather is the better fighter and have thought so for years…and I like being right. Either way, I’ll be watching the fight. You’re welcome to come by, but don’t start crowing about Mayweather being a bad person. Pacquiao ain’t much better. -TOB

Source: Don’t Believe the Hype: Mayweather-Pacquiao is Not Good vs. Evil”, Diana Moskovitz, Deadspin (04/09/2015)

PAL: “But sports is never just about the act itself. It’s about the the storylines, the unknown, the unexpected, the sides we choose, and what those choices say about us. We do define ourselves by the team or the athlete we back. And in this case, we have no comfortable choices.” Moskovitz brings up a fresh and insightful argument, but I would only add this caveat: We are allowed – and take advantage of this allowance –  to selectively “define ourselves by the team or athlete we back.” We define ourselves with partialities when it comes to sports, because we have no negative relationship with beloved athletes or teams. It’s easy for me to sing the praises of Kirby Puckett because he gave me great personal moments. As horrible as it sounds, I have no personal connection to him allegedly threatening his wife with a knife or being charged with fifth degree sexual assault. But I can tell you that I jumped up from a video game rocking chair when he hit that home run in the ‘91 Series. Charlie Leibrandt leaves a circle change-up out over the plate. Chili Davis is in the on-deck circle, and my mom – a lady who would rather vacuum than watch a baseball game – is laughing, cheering, and crying at the same time. Joe Buck’s announcing the game and shouts, “We’ll see you tomorrow night!” I can hear Buck shout that line out as if he is on my radio as I write this. Puckett bookmarks some of the happiest moments of my life, and that’s unchanging. Like it or not – there are more than a few people out there who feel the same way about Mayweather and Pacquiao.


OH, HELL YEAH: A STORY ON HUMAN CANNONBALLS

Yeah, I went full capslock. That’s how excited I am to share this story. It doesn’t disappoint. How are the cannons made? No one knows. How far down the barrel is the human projectile? No one knows. How many people have died doing this? Not exactly sure. Why don’t we know the answers to any of these questions? Because the human cannonball is like a magic trick* in that no one who practices the art divulges any information on how it is done and it’s not like there’s a circus version of Baseball Reference out there to keep records such as fatalities for a stunt that’s been going on for hundreds of years. Also, good luck if your dream is to become a human cannonball. It’s a family affair, in large part to protect the aforementioned trade secrets. One overachiever from – where else? – Minnesota has found her way into a club that some estimate is less than 10 active members. Gemma “The Jet” Kirby gives writer Robbie Gonzalez a partial peek into the guarded world of the Human Cannonball. – PAL

Source: A Glimpse Inside The Secretive World Of Human Cannonballs”, Robbie Gonzalez, io9 (4/30/15)

TOB: Wow. This is fascinating on many levels. I recall the first time I saw a person shot out of a cannon. The details are incredibly vivid to me. I was at Disneyland, probably about 6 years old. We were headed toward Tom Sawyer’s Island (yes, I know the name has changed). A crowd was gathered and my parents told me that someone was about to be shot out of a cannon. What in the world!  We were quite close to the cannon – I remember him tucking inside. He was dressed a bit like Evel Knievel. There was incredible anticipation in the crowd. Then an explosion! And holy hell if the guy didn’t fly halfway to Tomorrowland! Looking back, he probably flew only to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. But it was far! Far enough that I couldn’t see him land. My dad assured me he was ok. But in reading this article, and about how dangerous this job is, how could he have been so sure? Maybe the guy broke his neck? Thanks for letting me see a guy break his neck, Mom and Dad. Also: Drug dealers use cannons to shoot drugs across the border from Mexico??? This story has it all. Finally, am I imagining this story at Disneyland? Was it a dream? Mom and Dad, you are invited to chime in on this topic.


Math Is Good; ARod Was Better

This is really funny. Someone got a copy of Scott Boras’ actual projections for Alex Rodriguez when he was negotiating with the Rangers back in 2000. For Boras’ “projection system” he simply took Rodriguez’ previous 5 years and averaged them out until A-Rod was 40. Stupidly simplistic, right? Well, amazingly, Boras was pretty accurate, up through A-Rod’s age-34 season, which would have been the end of his original, 10-year, $252 million dollar contract. A-Rod was that good for that long. This is funny, the way the writer presents it is funny, and the way it makes me think that this is what Boras did to convince Sabean to give Zito that huge contract is not funny. -TOB

Source: Pebble Hunting”, Sam Miller, Baseball Prospectus (04/27/2015)

PAL: Great find, TOB (eat it, Rowe). In other words, Boras was negotiating a contract for an unprecedented player. Wasn’t that the larger point? Wasn’t his goal to convince teams to throw out all financial comps when it came to ARod’s contract, because there was no comparable player like him? Boras’ projections were simultaneously laughable, accurate in chunks, and a $uccess ($252MM).


Updates:

  • Last week we posted a great story about how a series of photographs from the Boston Marathon helped changed the course of female athletics. My sister, Angela Fehringer (mother of 4), burned up the 2015 race with a staggering time of 03:23:07. So impressive.

Video of the Week:

CANNONBALL! The aforementioned Gemma “The Jet” Kirby in action, GoPro-style.


PAL’s song of the week: I Ain’t Blue,” Bonnie Raitt. Yep, still have a crush on her. Also, SF’s Nicki Bluhm sounds a lot like Raitt, and that’s not at all a bad thing.

Follow the 1-2-3 Sports! Weekly Pick’s playlist


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“Illusions, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money.”

– GOB