Week of June 22, 2015

What’s missing?


Blowback on a Whistleblower

This article made me sad, but it’s a good read. We have covered the Jackie Robinson West (JRW) Little League team a couple times now – first during their run to the U.S. title last summer, and subsequently when that title was stripped after an investigation revealed the team had used players outside their league’s boundaries. JRW’s run had inspired many, as a team comprised entirely of black kids from Chicago proved that baseball is not dead in the inner-cities, so people were understandably upset when their title was stripped. Much of that ire was directed at Chris Janes, a coach from a rival Little League from suburban Chicago, who was the person that alerted Little League officials to JRW’s use of ineligible players. The fallout was not pretty. Janes was accused of racism and received death threats, and at the height of his stress became involved in an unrelated but bizarre, drunken incident. Janes seems like a good guy, and he says after all he’s been through, he’d be the whistleblower again. I find it sad that he had to go through all that. It’s shameful that adults would have broken the rules, which only hurt these kids (and the teams they beat along the way) to begin with. And it’s even more shameful that the whistleblower is blamed by adults who should know better. -TOB

Source: Little League, Big Trouble: Jackie Robinson West Whistleblower Chris Janes Pays the Price”, David Mendell, SB Nation (06/24/2015)

PAL: A must read. “A handful of JRW players had received public congratulations from a congresswoman, a suburban mayor and others who hailed from outside JRW’s boundaries, with each specifically noting that players lived or went to school in their locales, outside the area served by JRW.” Through the first quarter of this story, I thought it was pretty clear. The Jackie Robinson West team broke the rules by bringing in ringers to excel in competition at a 12 year-old level. Pathetic. Although nothing changes that fact, the story does a great job presenting the other factors at play. This is a strange mix of politics, race, alcohol, whistleblowers, and Little League; Dave Mendell does a great job telling this story, but what would I give to read Hunter S. Thompson take a swing at this one in his prime.

Consider this: At a time when roughly 8% of Major League Baseball players are black (down from 19% in 1986), we had an all-black Little League team from the inner city winning the most feel-good, apple pie, American sporting event – the U.S. championship of Little League World Series. Remember, JRW’s run in Williamsport coincided with Mo’ne Davis taking the public by storm in becoming the first girl to pitch a shutout in the LLWS. We had feel good stories at the feel good event of the summer.

There’s no getting around it – the Jackie Robinson West team shamelessly broke a clear rule. They brought ringers in from outside of the boundaries. That’s weak. But the youth team’s rise and downfall unleashed emotions about issues far more complex than Little League.


Don’t Give In To Pete Rose

Most hits in MLB history. Fantastic player by all accounts. A competitive, team player. World Series titles. His play merits an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is littered with racists, drug abusers, misogynists, and all around despicable people. After all, it’s a museum, not a hall of community leaders. So he bet on baseball. Who cares? Put him in with an asterisk and tell the old man to shut up already.

I care. I’m surprised by how much I care, actually. He broke a rule fundamental to the legitimacy of the sport I love the most. When players determining the outcome of the game gamble on the game, then how far away are we from wrestling? Fittingly, Rose appeared on WrestleMania between 1998-2000. More than the rule he broke, his brazen style of lying for decades really sticks in my craw. He infamously set up shop during induction weekend across the street from the Hall of Fame and sign copies of the Dowd Report (the investigation finding Rose to have bet on baseball as a manager for the Reds).

He continued to gamble. Then he cashed in on his lies and came clean in an autobiography… only he didn’t come clean! He lied in his admission. Oh, and by the way, Pete Rose voluntarily accepted his place on the permanently ineligible list. The Hall of Fame and managing are the two things in his baseball life that he’s wanted and has been told “no.” He’s not in prison (although he did do a stint for tax evasion). By multiple accounts he makes millions in appearance fees and memorabilia signings. So that’s the punishment. Rose doesn’t get what he wants just because he really wants it. -PAL

Source: “Pete Rose still belongs in the Hall of Fame”, Jayson Stark, ESPN (6/23/15)

TOB: Please read Jayson Stark’s article to get my position on this subject. But it basically boils down to: How can you have a Baseball Hall of Fame without some of the greatest players who played? This goes for Bonds and Clemens, too. I understand Phil’s anger, I guess. But I feel bad for Pete Rose. I do. Yes, he’s made millions signing autographs (though that would not have changed had he been reinstated). And yes, he’s not a likeable guy (though that would not make him unique in the baseball Hall of Fame). And yes, he accepted his punishment (though he was always eligible to be reinstated). But come on, how can you not feel for a guy who lost everything he cared about because he couldn’t stop gambling? Presumably, he has a disease, a gambling addiction for which he has paid a terrible price. He’s old. I doubt he has 10 years left. It’s time to let the guy into the Hall of Fame. It’s BASEBALL. It’s a SPORT. It’s a HALL OF FAME. It should be fun, and it should not be taken this seriously. The guy never hurt anyone. He bet on baseball games (there is zero evidence or even accusations that he ever bet against his team or that he threw a game). I understand the need to punish him, so that his crimes are not committed by others. But it’s been 25 years! It’s time. Put Pete Rose in the Hall, write on his plaque that he gambled on baseball and was banned for 25 years, and end this guy’s pain.


When Two Douchebags Fight, We All Win

On Monday afternoon, Sean Combs aka P.Diddy aka Puff Daddy went to the UCLA football offices to talk to strength coach Sal Alosi. An argument ensued, and during the argument Diddy picked up a kettlebell and allegedly swung it at somebody (Diddy claims he merely picked up the kettlebell and held it up in self-defense). Diddy’s son Justin is on the UCLA football team, though he does not get much playing time. Diddy’s camp is now claiming that Alosi had picked on and bullied Justin for years, culminating in Alosi sending Justin home on Monday, and telling him not to return until the end of the summer. This prompted Diddy to go to UCLA to talk to Alosi, and ended in Diddy’s arrest.

Undoubtedly, Diddy is an entitled jackass, but I don’t doubt for one second that Sal Alosi is a jerk and a bully. He’s a strength coach, which is a job notorious for employing meatheads of the highest order. On top of that, Alosi gained national notoriety a few years ago, when as a coach for the Jets, he intentionally tripped a Dolphins player during a punt return. When I realized who this coach was, and then heard the Diddy-camp’s claims that Alosi had bullied Justin, it did not surprise me in the least.

Amidst all the coverage of this story, I found this great tidbit from former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who recruited Justin Comb to UCLA:

“I took them on their campus tour. A half-hour into it, (Diddy) asked me who I was. He said, ‘Tell me what you do, Rick.’ I said, ‘I’m the head football coach here.’ He said, ‘You’re giving us the tour?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, this is my school. This is where I went. I want to give you a feel of what it’s like to be a student.’ …”When you’re weighing the assets of what a youngster can do for your program, there’s no question (being Diddy’s son) had something to do with it for me. Justin is a great kid. His problem was his size. He’s not big enough to be a dominant player. Could he be productive? Yes. The fact his father was an influential guy played into my decision to go ahead and offer him.”

The decision to use a scholarship on Diddy for his dad’s fame is such an L.A. thing to do. And Diddy being on a tour with Rick Neuheisel, a fairly famous college coach, for a half hour and not knowing who he is, is also an incredibly L.A. thing. Everyone looks bad in this story – UCLA, Neuheisel, Diddy, Alosi, and current UCLA coach Jim Mora, Jr. Accordingly, I enjoyed it thoroughly. -TOB

Source: Rick Neuheisel: Diddy Combs’ Celebrity Led to Son’s UCLA Offer”, Mike Huguenin, NFL.com (06/24/2015)

PAL: I heard this all stems from Ma$e’s son jumping Diddy’s son on the depth chart.


Brotherly Brawls

The Buffalo News ran a long feature on Rex Ryan this week. It’s a great read. During the 49ers coaching “search” this offseason (I say “search” because they clearly had no intention of ever hiring anyone but in-house guy Jim Tomsula), I campaigned openly for them to go after Rex. Mostly because he is a very good coach. But also because he is fun. This is a perfect example, a story of the time Rex and his twin brother Rob got into a fist fight because Rex wouldn’t join Rob on a double date:

They were students at Southwestern Oklahoma State. Rob wanted to take a lady on a date and needed Rex to be his wingman. Rex wasn’t down for the mission because he’d already met Micki, the woman he would marry.

Rob: “I was a solo rider and had a babe on the line. But she had a friend. I said, ‘You know, come on. Be a team player.’ ”

Rex: “I said, ‘Dude, I’m staying at home today.’ ”

Rob: “So after a few hundred beers I said, ‘You need to help out.’ He didn’t, so I was pissed and got in a wrestling match with him. I think he was a lot more sober than I was.”

Rex: “I was bigger and was just going to throw his ass down. But he reversed me and got on top. So we went at it. We ended up outside, and here he comes.”

Rob: “I ran after him, and he had a right hand waiting for me. I never saw it coming. Still haven’t seen it.”

Rex: “I got him good, and it was over. I felt terrible. I couldn’t believe I hit my brother like that.”

Rex was furious and, as keeper of the car key, drove off to clear his head. Tatters of a bloody shirt hung off him.

“I get pulled over by a cop. He sees me and doesn’t know what he’s got,” Rex said with a gleaming-white smile. “I said, ‘I just got in a fight with my brother. You can take me back there, and he’ll explain it.’

“They take me to jail and then called my brother. He said, ‘Nah, leave him in there.’ ”

Rob’s ankle was broken during the wrestling portion of the match, and his nose broken during the boxing portion. When they arrived in New Orleans for Super Bowl week, Rob’s ankle was in a cast. “We both had black eyes,” Rob said. Buddy wasn’t amused.

Is it too late to hire Rex? Damn. -TOB

Source: The Wild Early Years and the Football Family That Shaped Bills Coach Rex Ryan”, Tim Graham, Buffalo News (06/22/2015)


Video of the Week

Might be my favorite video we’ve ever featured. -TOB


PAL Song of the week: Roger Miller – “Oo-De-Lally” . Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re super good).


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“Just remember. It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

– G. Costanza

 

 

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Week of June 15, 2015

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Riley Curry: The Real MVP


Drink the Tears of the “Best Fans In Baseball”

Baseball was beginning to hit the summer doldrums. The biggest story heading into this week was the fact that the Royals might get EIGHT starters in the All-Star game due to KC fans stuffing the ballot (which is ludicrous – e.g., Omar Infante is awful and has no business being at the All-Star game, even if he buys a ticket). And then on Tuesday a mostly-forgotten story got new life: Last summer, someone anonymously posted trade chatter from the Houston Astros’ internal computer system to the internet. There was no information on who posted it or why and the story died pretty quickly, but it was amusing to get a little inside information on how teams valued their players, and what teams talk about when they discuss trades (You can read it all here).

That story was revived this week when news broke that the FBI investigated the leak and traced the hack to St. Louis Cardinals front office employees. The Cardinal Way, apparently, involves hacking and cheating, which is amusing coming from such a sanctimonious team/fanbase. The story got even funnier as details began to emerge: The Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow, was previously an executive with the Cardinals. While there, he created an internal database for scouting, etc., that he called Redbird. When he was hired away by the Astros, he took some employees with him and re-built/ported the system over, calling it Mission Control. Clever. But he didn’t change his password! Some Cardinals employees “hacked” the Astros’ system by simply logging in with the same password Luhnow had used in St. Louis. They’re now in deep doodoo, looking at potential prison time, and Luhnow looks like an idiot (though he sure does seem to know how to build a baseball team. Also, on Thursday, Luhnow denied he could be so stupid and fail to change his password, but the story is much funnier as originally reported). It is unclear if the “hackers” were high or low level Cardinals employees, but either way – someone is going down. As noted, my favorite part of this story is that it involves the Cardinals. The teams that Does Things the Right Way. The Best Fans in Baseball. Etc. It is excellent schadenfreude and I cannot recommend reading about it enough. -TOB

Source: Cardinals Investigated for Hacking Into Astros’ Database”, Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times (06/16/2015)

PAL: Now that I’ve updated my passwords, I feel comfortable talking junk about this horse crap. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for a hack in professional sports. No – really – I don’t believe it, as in, this has happened dozens of times already but the perps weren’t so stupid as to leave a trail back to their house. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The Cardinals can sit on a tac as far as I’m concerned, but come on, Luhnow! Never underestimate the destructive potential of a person who can’t remember his passwords and therefore uses the same one for years. Do you think Mike Matheny will write a letter to parents about the merits of password protection?


Take a Step Back To Appreciate The Warriors

The most fascinating element of the NBA Finals was rooted in the tremendous stylistic differences represented by the two teams. While the Cavaliers were forced to a LeBron offense after Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving went down earlier in the playoffs, it was a sight to behold watching the best player on the planet put in a position where he must do it himself…and not disappoint.

I’ll get to the Warriors, but before I do I got to take a moment to talk about Tommy’s crush, LeBron James. James is so much better than everyone else that I found myself disappointed whenever he seemed deferential, even when I know that no one has ever logged the minutes he’s logged over the past 5 years (5 straight Finals appearances + 2012 Olympics). Even when he’s historically great, I think there’s more there. Maybe that’s what happens when we label someone as having infinite potential…how do you know when he’s met it?

So we had the best player against the best team. The Warriors were better on both sides of the ball (the top defense and offense in the league) than everyone in the league, and a singular talent was at the center of it all. As Tom Ziller puts it, “Other players have some of those skills. Kyle Korver has the trigger and the aim, Kyrie Irving can dribble as deftly, Chris Paul has the vision and J.J. Redick can sprint around screens for 40 minutes without clawing for air. But no one puts all together like Steph.” In a time when tanking is the way of future success in the NBA, the Warriors won with a roster of mid-to-late first round picks and veterans who experienced enough to put a special team’s interests in front of their own. Much like LeBron, the Warriors were so great this season that I wondered if the team demonstrated their best…while they coasted (in the last 2 games) to a championship.

Rather than focusing on the the events of the finals, Ziller dissects the team, how it was put together, and why it’s unique. – PAL

Source: Do not try to mimic the Warriors”, Tom Ziller, SB Nation (6/17/15)

TOB: Apparently acknowledging that LeBron is the best basketball player in the league means you have a crush. #hater

PAL: HOT TAKE ALERT: LeBron James is the best basketball player in the NBA! I wouldn’t have considered that, but now that you mention it…LeBron just doesn’t get enough damn credit.

TOB: Ooooh, Phil has a cruuuuuuush.


In Defense of Bandwagon Fans

In the wake of the Warriors’ win, 1-2-3 Sports! favorite Grant Brisbee defends bandwagon fans, and I could not agree more. There’s nothing wrong with a little civic pride/solidarity. I am not a Warriors fan, but I have enjoyed their playoff runs the last few years. The team is entirely too likeable, and there’s nothing like experiencing a title run for a team from your city, so I’ve been on the bandwagon for a couple years now. But that does bring me to an interesting dynamic at play over the last two months: The Warriors are almost certainly moving back to San Francisco in 2017, after 40 years in Oakland. East Bay Warriors fans are understandably upset about that fact, and more interestingly I sense a seething rage from East Bay Warriors fans against SF Warriors fans, especially the SF bandwagon fans. The feeling seems to be, “This is (still) OUR team. GTFO.” -TOB

Source: There’s Nothing Wrong With Being a Bandwagon Fan”, Grant Brisbee, SB Nation (06/17/2015)

PAL: I have lived in San Francisco for 11 years now. I have worked in Oakland for just under 3 months. I love living in San Francisco, but this city is an embarrassment of riches in nearly every way, and Oakland isn’t. While – yes – the Warriors have a history in San Francisco, I think it’s great that the Warriors won this as an Oakland-based team, and I wish they’d stay over there. While the team is revered throughout the Bay Area, its address is in Oakland, and that means something.


The Agony of Constant Defeat When There is Never Victory

Sports can be cruel. Last Fall, Cal football got off to a hot start and seemed well on their way to a rout of eventual Pac-12 South champ Arizona, on the road, leading 45-30 with under 4 minutes to play. Arizona scored three touchdowns, capped off by a Hail Mary as time expired, to win 49-45. Heartbreak. I went to bed and wondered why the hell I watch sports, why I care so much, and why the hell would I subject my children to it. A few weeks later the Giants won another World Series and I was why. But it’s an interesting question that many sports fans have pondered. After watching his Cavaliers lose in the NBA Finals, Cleveland sports fan Geoffrey Redick wrote about the cruelty of raising his kids to be Cleveland sports fans, and whether he is being a bad parent by doing so. -TOB

Source: “Raising Your Kids to be Cleveland Sports Fans is an Act of Cruelty”, Geoffrey Redick, Deadspin (06/17/2015)


Videos of the Week

-This poor old guy had a tough time getting his poncho on.

Tom Brady’s sweet, drunken dance moves.


Audio of the Week

Angry Adult Softball Related Voicemail.

This is pretty fantastic. I highly recommend you listen, but note that the language is NSFW. I will defend this guy for a second: If Phil and I had a softball/baseball team and Phil tried to move me from the infield to the outfield, he’d hear way worse from me.


 

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“I don’t like jump shooting teams. I don’t think you can win the championship beating good teams shooting jumpers.”

-Charles Barkley on the Warriors, 5 months ago

Week of June 8, 2015

You just suck so hard, Skip.


David Lee, Draymond Green & Harrison Barnes for Kevin Love?

This was an actual thing. So was Klay Thompson for Love. With an injured Love for the Finals, it’s even harder to imagine, but these were hot button topics on local sports radio last summer. In this article,  Zach Lowe looks beyond Love’s injury and the “what-ifs” that dot every barstool sports debate. Trends in the NBA are evolving at an unprecedented rate, and Kevin Love – widely considered a top-1o player less than a year ago – now seems like an afterthought. The new hot button question is whether or not the Cavs are better without Love on the floor. “By not playing, [Kevin] Love has become the league’s most confusing and polarizing player.” And let’s not forget the real prize – Andrew Wiggins – now in Minnesota. Considering what LeBron is doing with a depleted roster, would keeping Wiggins on a team in the weak Eastern Conference have prevented the Cavs from getting to where they are now? As Lowe puts it, “ LeBron is winning with this Love-less crew of misfits, and there exists a reality in which the Cavaliers could have kept Wiggins, gained cap flexibility, and snagged Thaddeus Young to serve as Love Lite by simply cutting Minnesota out of the three-way deal that ended up sending Love to Cleveland.” Potential trades are always fun to talk about in the future tense, but Lowe’s article looks back on a non-trade and its impact on the Finals. – PAL

Source: What’s Next for Kevin Love”, Zach Lowe, Grantland (6/9/15)

TOB: There exists no reality in which the Warriors regret their decision. I have long been anti-Kevin Love, despite his numbers. I don’t really care what you do on the offensive end if you are a complete sieve on defense. The best point in that article was about Warriors officials having nightmares about Curry and Love defending the pick and roll. Terrifying. Vaguely related, after Game 2 of the Finals, I posited that the Cavs might be better off without Love and Kyrie, because neither of them plays a lick of defense, and the guys that stepped up in their place were busting their asses on that end. But after Game 4…I’m not so sure. LeBron is the best player since Jordan, but not even Jordan could have won a title with zero offensive help. LeBron needs someone to help shoulder the load, and that help is not coming. After Kyrie went down in Game 1, Phil asked me if LeBron was able to take this Cavs team to the title, would it be the greatest Finals performance of all-time? Instinctively, I said no. I mentioned Jordan’s 1993 Finals (41 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists per game) vs the Suns. I assumed LeBron had no chance to touch those numbers, and no chance to win the title. But he kind of is, and he definitely does. Does he have two more amazing performances in him? Probably. Will it be enough? I don’t know. Should be a great finish.


Serena Williams Keeps on Truckin

I don’t know a lot about tennis, but who doesn’t love Serena Williams? I will leave you with this, because this is some great writing:

“During her run at Roland Garros, she wasn’t light or uncertain. She was exhausted and clinical, struggling through a flu that left her, in her semifinal match against Timea Bacsinszky, hunched over and panting on her racket. When she saw an opening, she annihilated the ball, and when she didn’t see one, when a drop shot looked a little too far away or an angle a little too acute, she let the point go. It was, in other words, a win enabled by supreme experience, a master class in high-stakes resource management by a player who’s won 20 of her 24 Grand Slam tournament finals and who’s lost only once since November. And when she took the microphone after the final, she didn’t stammer or blink. She addressed the crowd in confident French, a worldly, sophisticated woman who spends much of each year in Paris.” -TOB

Source: “Like It’s 1999: On Serena Williams’s Dominance and the Passage of Time“, Brian Phillips, Grantland (06/08/2015)

PAL: “It’s so rare, in tennis, to watch a player really grow up. I don’t mean ‘mellow out’ or ‘stop partying’ or whatever grow up usually means in sports; I mean develop a fully adult self, distinct from the kind of prolonged high-stress adolescence that most stars, for obvious reasons, inhabit throughout their twenties.” The Williams sisters, who started as teenagers, took a sport and completely changed its face and attitude. Hell yeah. You know an athlete is transcendent when you take his or her greatness for granted. Serena won her first Grand Slam at 17. She’s now 33 and has 20 Grand Slams to her name. Can you name 5 other athletes who were at the top of there game for 16 years? Can you even name 2?


All Hail American Pharaoh

Last weekend a horse won the fabled Triple Crown for the first time in my life. It had been 37 years since Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont in 1978 (Affirmed’s win was the 3rd in 6 years, but before 1973 there had been none since 1948). American Pharaoh ended the drought in dominating fashion. I’ve enjoyed horse racing since I was a teenager. The first horse to capture my attention was Cigar, who tied Citation’s record of 16 consecutive victories in 1995. As soon as I knew what the Triple Crown was, I had wanted to see it accomplished. But no horse came close from 1989 until 1997, when Silver Charm won the first two legs. That began a string of near-misses – 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2014 all saw horses win the first two legs. I had begun to believe it would never happen. Normally, if a horse has a shot at winning the Triple Crown, I do not miss it if I can help it. But on Saturday I was at a family party and didn’t get a chance to watch. My uncle had recorded the race, so late in the evening, the entire family gathered around the TV and watched. A couple of us had gotten wind of the result, but it didn’t make American Pharaoh’s win any less dramatic. Though the race had been over for hours, the entire party was transfixed – cheering American Pharaoh on. He led wire to wire, and when he opened up that huge lead on the homestretch, everyone went crazy. After the race, I heard multiple people remark that they had thought they’d never see a Triple Crown. I don’t know what it is about horse racing that has the ability to capture the nation’s attention for just a few minutes a year, but when it does it is quite the experience, as Charles P. Pierce experienced first-hand. -TOB

Source: King for a Day: American Pharaoh and the First Triple Crown in Generations”, Charles P. Pierce, Grantland (06/08/2015)

PAL: I just don’t care. This is counterintuitive. It’s a beautiful thing to see an animal do what it’s bred to do. Watching a dog on point while hunting pheasants jolts you, reminds you that it serves a purpose beyond playing fetch at the park. Seeing – er, watching on Discovery Channel –  a cheetah stalk and chase down a gazelle is beautiful. And yet, I don’t care about the Triple Crown. Perhaps it’s because seemingly every year a horse wins the first two races, which is then followed by talk radio and Sports Networks filling a sport season gap (pre-NBA Finals, early in the baseball season, NFL offseason, pre-Stanley Cup, no college sports of consequence). They tell me why the Triple Crown matters, which is followed by it never happening. Horse racing and boxing were once the biggest sports in America, so I’m told. That was 8 gazillion years ago. I just don’t care, and neither does anyone else besides writer Charles P. Pierce – an old fart with an old fart name. Oh, and Tommy. Tommy and old farts with old fart names who wear fedoras care about horse racing.

TOB Rebuttal: 

Total Attendance of the Triple Crown Races, 2015: 392,193 (and that’s with a first ever no-infield admission to the Belmont, with a cap of 90,000 attendance)

Total Viewers of the Triple Crown Races: Approx. 33,000,000 including over 14,000,000 for the Belmont.

There sure are a lot of old farts out there.


Follow the Bouncing Ball…

This is a fascinating story about NBA basketballs – starting with the tannery where the leather is made and ending with what happens to them after they get to NBA arenas, including some great stuff on how certain players like basketballs to be, and how the basketball has evolved over the last 40 years. In the old days, players liked a well-used basketball, sometimes using the same ball for all 41 home games. Today, they don’t have much choice, as the NBA won’t use a basketball for more than 3 or 4 games, for aesthetic purposes. Which is lame, really.  I have used an NBA game ball before, and you’d be shocked at how hard and slick it is. I am one of those players who is very sensitive to a basketball. If it’s too slippery, it doesn’t come off my fingers right and I will shoot poorly. Others don’t care about how it feels, and when they hear people like me complain about it, they think we’re making excuses. Maybe so. But I can tell you that I can pick up a basketball and know immediately if I’m going to shoot poorly with that ball. This article about how some NBA players are similarly sensitive, vindicates me. -TOB

Source: A Game Ball’s Road to the NBA Finals”, Baxter Holmes, ESPN (06/07/2015)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 9.55.57 PM

Update from last week: Steve Kerr is still the best.


PAL’s song of the week: Nina Simone – “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free“. Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re super good).


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“I figure, I have two press conferences on the day of the game. I’m asked a lot of strategic questions; so, my options were tell the truth, […] and telling the truth is the equivalent of knocking on [Cavaliers coach] David Blatt’s door and saying ‘hey, this is what we’re going to do.’ I could evade the question, which would start this Twitter phenomenon: ‘Who’s gonna start for the Warriors?’ Or I could lie. So I lied. Sorry. I don’t think they hand you a trophy based on morality, they give it to you if you win. So, sorry about that.”

– Steve Kerr

Week of June 1, 2015

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie bats during the first inning of the “True Blue” benefit celebrity softball game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

No comment.


Steve Kerr: Good Dude

Steve Kerr is a five-time NBA champion as a player, and his Golden State Warriors are presently up 1-0 in the NBA Finals in his first year as an NBA coach. He is quite possibly my favorite person in sports – earnest, honest, unflappable, a great father, and above all else he seems kind, which is a rarity in his world. But there was a time when Steve Kerr was just a scared, lonely, 18-year old kid, just weeks into college, when he received news that his father, a university president in Beirut, had been assassinated by a terrorist organization. Kerr’s family was scattered throughout the world at that point. He could have packed it in and left college. I don’t think too many people would have faulted him. Instead, he marched on. As his college teammate Bruce Fraser says, “It feels strange to say this, but…I think the death of his father helped Steve as a basketball player, because he realized it was just basketball.” I am sure that if given the choice, Kerr would take his dad over his basketball career, but it does give some insight into how he has become such a truly decent person, when so many people in sports are not. Kerr understands – this is a game, it is not life, and he is lucky to have created such a great life by playing a game. -TOB

Source: The Assassination of Steve Kerr’s Father and the Unlikely Story of a Champion”, Chris Korman, USA Today (06/03/2015)

PAL: I wish this focused less on Kerr’s biography following his dad’s death and more about how he struggled and/or dealt with the tragedy. That wish isn’t likely to come true. By all accounts, Kerr doesn’t talk about it much, and his friends follow his lead. I understand. I’ve heard Kerr on a couple podcasts and on his weekly interviews with Tom Tolbert, and this guy comes off like the real deal. Sincere, funny, and – judging by this story – a hard-ass competitor. There’s not a lot of bluster to him, and I like that. I was just talking to TOB, and we agreed – we’d like to be more like Kerr than, say, a Tom Thibodeau if we were coaches (we’re talking about coaching a Little League team to greatness next year). Kerr seems like a good dude who’s succeeded following a horrible tragedy, and though that storyline might seem cliché on the surface, his version of it is unique in sports. With that said, I don’t understand how he remained at school instead of going to Beirut for the services after his dad’s death.


Glory Days: The One Dude Who Struck Out Joe Mauer In High School

I grew up playing against Joe Mauer in Minnesota. Before he was “Baby Jesus” (as he’s sometimes referred to in Minnesota), he was right there with the rest of us in the Catholic School league games, the youth summer camps at Hill-Murray, and the 6:00 PM games at Concordia (no fence). He was “one of us”, or at least it felt like it for about 5 minutes when he was about 10, and then it became clear his talent was from a stratosphere the rest of us could never even see with a telescope. He struck out one time in high school. Once. Here’s a story about the regular dude who did it. – PAL

Source: 15 years later, Paul Feiner’s high school strikeout of Mauer still resonates”, Tyler Mason, Fox Sports North (6/1/15)

TOB: So much to like about this story. How does Joe Mauer strike out only once his entire high school career? How does the guy who strikes him out look like…that? How is it that the guy who struck him out now runs a sports website and has a media credential for Twins games, and Phil and I don’t have squat? Wait, that’s the one part I don’t like.


No Back Talk, Please

This is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. This week, the New York Times re-ran an article introducing then-Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth to its readers after he dominated the New York Yankees, 100 years after its first publication, on June 3, 1915. The article is short, but I highly recommend that you read it. It reads as almost a parody of old-timey sportswriting. Examples: “As the sky promised to weep and Old Boy Fahrenheit was flirting with the freezing point…a crowd of about 500 were exposed to the pneumonia germs… a teeth-chattering, shivery afternoon was had by all.” And, “…but Umpire Dineen calculated that the run counted. No back talk, please.” And, “Ruth was then at bat. The big pitcher’s architectural make-up is of such a nature that it doesn’t lend itself to speed. He rather rolls along.” It goes on, and you will laugh. -TOB

Source: Left-Hander Ruth Puzzles YankeesNew York Times (06/03/1915)

PAL: Sportswriting is worse today than it was in 1915. To wit: “Between his (Ruth) pitching and batting yesterday the Yankees were as comfortable as a lamplighter in a gunpowder factory.” Call me crazy, but it reads like the writer actually had a good time with this game recap. Reporting? Sure. Entertainment? Absolutely. It’s always best when we don’t have to take sports seriously.


So Fresh, So Clean

I’ve been romanced. I didn’t see it coming. Hell, I don’t even love basketball. Still don’t, but I’m smitten with Steph Curry’s shot. So are you. Recently, Ryen Russillo said that he’s never expected a shot to go in from any other player ever as much as he does when Curry pulls the trigger. I agree. The article dissects the emotions of love into equally impressive analytics that back it up. When a shot’s this pretty, I forgive hyperbole like the following:

“It’s hard to imagine someone so relatively slight having such a huge impact on the game. But that’s what Curry is doing — in the same way a great artist changes the way we see the world, he’s changing the way we see basketball. Suddenly, our ideas of risky shot selection, of off-balance attempts, of what is and isn’t “long distance” have changed. About 20 years ago, in the time of Jordan, sharpshooters like Dell Curry (Steph’s dad) and Steve Kerr (Steph’s coach) were niche contributors, mostly relegated to role-player status…Oh, how things have changed.” -PAL

Source: Outsider Artist: Understanding the Beauty of Steph Curry’s Jumper”, Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland (06/04/2015)

TOB: Steph Curry won the NBA MVP this year. That is pretty amazing. He’s the best “little guy” since Allen Iverson, and that is saying something. Steph can do a lot of things on the court, but for him it comes down to his shooting. He is just so much better at it than everyone else, it is hard get a frame of reference. But this article gives one stat that I think might do it – the average NBA player shoots 24% when his shot is contested and 44% when he is wide open. Steph Curry shoots 44% when his shot is contested! I’ll go a step further than Russillo – it is to the point that I am a little shocked when Curry does miss. That is remarkable. And to top it all off, he’s a great dad.


MORE CURRY!

On the eve of the NBA Finals, the New York Times revisited a really funny rap video featuring college-aged Steph Curry and his fellow students rapping about Davidson College’s dining commons, to the tune of Asher Roth’s “I Love College.” Come for the horrible rapping by Steph and his buds, stay for the the mid-aughts college throwback. -TOB

Source: Stephen Curry Gave Davidson Good Publicity, and a Bad Rap“, Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times (06/03/2015)

PAL: This is terrible. We were all terrible in college, and yet somehow still endearing.


Video of the Week

Fifteen years after his peak, Stone Cold Steve Austin is still culturally significant.


Tweet of the Week

Yes, that is Steph Curry, on a pony, set to Ginuwine. 


PAL’s song of the week: The Band’s cover of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City“. Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re super good).


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– Derek Doback