Week of August 26, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.26.44 PM

Practicing with the team in Australia, Cal’s new running back Shmarshawn Shmlynch.

Pulling Back the Free Agency Curtain

For a professional athlete with options, a lot goes into a free agency decision. Much of that process is foreign to us as fans – many assume it mostly boils down to money. I’m sure it largely does, but I don’t begrudge an athlete maximizing his income. More power to ‘em. But there’s certainly more to it than money, and new Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones provides a small peak behind the curtain of his first free agency – which teams he considered, and how he chose Detroit and why.

I took special interest in this story, as Marv played at Cal, and was a great player who also seemed like a great guy. Yes, that’s him burning Richard Sherman:

California wide receiver Marvin Jones center, in action against Stanford during an NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Here, Marv also provides a small glance into how he got to his free agency, including something even most Cal fans don’t know: On Marv’s first day of camp his freshman year, he found out he was going to be a dad. As if that wasn’t enough for an 18-year old kid, Marv discusses the difficulties of playing college football and attending school full-time while missing out on being a father, while his son was 6 hours away. This article confirmed for me that Marvin Jones is a great guy, and raised my respect for what he did at Cal, and since, ten-fold. -TOB

Source: My Road to Detroit”, Marvin Jones, The Players Tribune (08/18/2016)

PAL: I appreciated how serious he took his responsibilities as a father (twice in college), how that prepared him to be a professional, and it all makes a lot of sense when you read how much Jones looks up to his dad. And, for chrissake, it’s not all about money. It just can’t be. It was cool how much weight Jones put on finding a neighborhood that felt right, and it’s cool that one of the key factors for him was whether or not the kids in the neighborhood were all out playing with each other. Best of luck to Jones in Detroit!

Cal Bears Down Under

Later tonight, Cal and Hawaii open the 2016 College Football season, a week ahead of everyone else…in Australia. I was pretty annoyed when this game was announced – it robbed us of a home game against FCS South Dakota State, which is generally a good excuse to drink some beers and then go sit in the sun as your team puts a pounding on a JV squad. But now that it’s upon us, I’m excited. For one, it’ll get ESPN’s full attention. For two, Cal is expected to net $1 million from this game, more than they (SUPPOSEDLY) net from a home game.  And that’s saying something because shipping an entire football team and dozens of support staff, and their thousands of pounds of gear and equipment, is really god damn expensive.


The logistics for such an endeavor are much more fraught than you might think. To make things easier, Cal chartered a Boeing 777 from Virgin Air, and even had to ship their own goal posts, because Australia apparently does not have college regulation goal posts. This is a fun look into the logistics behind a football game, especially one with as many considerations as this one.

Source: Cal’s Over-the-Top Preparation for Football Game Down Under”, Connor Letourneau, SF Chronicle (08/23/2016)

LAX-iest Bros of All the LAX Bros Attend University of Albany

Chaunce. Couger. Blaze. These are not what the cool kids are calling weed these days; rather, these are some of the names on the University of Albany Lacrosse team. Barstool Sports caught this one flush by simply posting the roster of the team, their bios, and adding just a touch of commentary. For a solid laugh, please go check out the entire roster. Here are some of my favorites, followed by the Barstool commentary:


Feel like I’m really missing out by not having a dude named Cougar in my immediate friend group. I’m friends with guys named “Scott” and “Mike” and it’s just all super white and super boring. If we brought Cougar into the mix, I’m sure that would spice things up a bit.


Looks like if Spicoli and some frat star at Georgia or some shit like that had a love child. “Intending to major in business” is sneaky hilarious. Just a great euphemism to say that he doesn’t go to class ever, just chills in his room, smokes weed until lax practice, rinse, repeat.


In comes younger brother Sean who has a bit of a cleaner look to him but you can tell that there’s some bad boy just itching to come out. He’s only a freshman so we’ll check back in a few years to check in on his progress by senior year.

Big shoutout to Meagan Hutcheon, a proud University of Albany alumna, who brought this gem to my attention. – PAL

Source: I Wouldn’t Bring Your Girl Near The UAlbany Lacrosse Team If I Were You”, Jordie, Barstool Sports (4/2/16)

TOB: Look, you can’t hate a kid for having a dumb name (you hate their parents instead). But you can hate a kid for having those stupid haircuts. In unrelated news, did you see I made the newspaper this week? I’m famous:


The College Football Training Center Arms Race Has Got To Stop

I mean, get a look at this shit.

Phil Knight could have cured cancer with the money he spent on this thing. Google says he spent only $19.2 million. I say “only” because there’s no way that cost just $19.2 million! I still say he could have cured cancer. This has to stop, seriously. Spend just $10 million and pay the friggin players or something. Ugh. This is too ridiculous. I’ve got to stop. -TOB

Source: Eugene, Hell on Earth (08/25/2016)

PAL: HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I don’t know if I’m taking a virtual tour of Jay Z’s 40/40 Club*or watching the Oregon virtual tour of their training facility. Also, while Mariota was the Heisman winner in 2014 (the only Duck to ever win the award)…too soon to be naming the entire training facility after him?

Here are some of my highlights (please, please, please watch the video in TOB’s writeup, otherwise this commentary will make no sense):

  • The music. Sounds like something that comes as a package deal with video editing software. You spent a gazillion dollars on the training facility, Philly Knight – go one more step and clear a song from a top-rate artist.
  • The boxing ring with the ‘O’ sparkly lights. Because nothing drives home the grit and toughness of boxing like a flashy ring for non-boxers:

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.43.30 PM

  • The night club massage chairs (I think they are massage chairs)…looks more like a champagne room. Just saying.
  • This is a lot of bluster for a team that’s never won a National Championship in its 100+ year history

*Hova, get some music for your club’s virtual tour…you’re friggin’ Jay Z!

Deadspin Does God’s Work

One of my favorite things about Deadspin is how it manages to do the dirty work of being a discerning sports/sports media consumer. This is a perfect example. I don’t follow too many sportswriters on Twitter, because they ALL. TWEET. THE SAME. THING. You get four tweets in 30 seconds letting you know that the Giants have sent Mac Williamson to the minors. As Deadspin notes here, football training camp twitter is even worse. Tons of writers all tweeting that so-and-so completed a pass to such-and-such. But Deadspin did us all a favor and compiled a list of all the tweets about (mostly) backup quarterbacks throwing horrendous passes throughout camp, and it is funny:



There are more. This made me chuckle, and that’s all I’m really looking for from Twitter. Thanks, Deadspin. -TOB

Source: All NFL Training Camp Tweets Are Bad Except For These”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (08/24/2016)

PAL: God, how I hate pre-season football.

Video of the Week


PAL Song of the Week: Alabama Shakes – “Over My Head”

Check out this track, and all of our weekly picks below:

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Shit. I know shit’s bad right now, with all that starving bullshit, and the dust storms, and we are running out of french fries and burrito coverings. But I got a solution…

-President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho


Week of August 19, 2016


He’s fast.

My Favorite Story from The Olympics

Wayde van Niekerk broke one of the oldest records in Track & Field on Sunday night (TOB writes of one of the other longstanding records this week, too). Michael Johnson’s 400m time of 43.18 stood for 17 years until van Niekerk took it down – from lane 8, no less – with a 43.03. And if that’s not remarkable enough, van Niekerk’s coach is a 74 year-old great grandma. You can’t make this stuff up.


Anna Sophia Botha couldn’t convince security on at the track in Rio to let her in (she eventually was allowed in after South African officials vouched for her), but she’s had a long history of convincing her athletes. She’s been the head Track & Field Coach at the University of Free State in South Africa since 1990. Her coaching technique: “benevolent disciplinarian”. You know, a lot of love, but 5 minutes early is considered late in her book. And time – every day – is needed with her athletes. Not only to train, but to read their body language. van Niekerk isn’t her only world class runner. Akani Simbine finished 5th in the 100m. And don’t mistake this Olympics as her swan song. “I still love coaching and I still love my athletes, so I can’t see a reason why I would go and sit down and play with my fingers. That’s not in my nature.”

Keep kicking ass, granny. – PAL

Source: This Great-Grandmother Coaches an Olympic Champion. Now Let Her By.”, Karen Crouse, The New York Times (08/15/2016)


Where Have You Gone, Frederick Carl Lewis?

When I was a kid, I loved track and field, and my two favorite events were the 100 meter dash and the long jump. It was a great time to be a fan of the long jump. I was 9 during the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, when Mike Powell broke Bob Beamon’s 23-year old World Record and jumped an unthinkable 29 feet, 4 ¼ inches – 2 inches beyond Beamon’s hallowed mark. In that meet, he was dueling with Carl Lewis who (in hindsight, inexplicably) was one of my five favorite athletes. Powell just beat Lewis. I remember seeing extended highlights of the World Championships on ESPN, and I was riveted.

Together they had two of the three longest jumps in history. To this day, only four jumps in history have been over 29 feet. Lewis had two other 29 foot jumps that day that were disallowed as wind-aided. It was the first time either man jumped over 29 feet in their career. And Lewis did it three times. On the same day. It was also the first time Lewis had lost a long jump final in over a decade, having won 65 in a row. Really, check out the Wikipedia sub-article on the competition, even reading it is fascinating.

Heading into the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the scuttle was, “Who is going to jump 30 feet first?” I was sure Lewis was going to do it in Barcelona. I think I recorded the event on VHS, because I wanted to keep that history forever. And then…neither guy even came close. Lewis jumped 28 feet, 5 ¼ inches on his first jump in the finals, and that held up for gold. Powell got the silver at 28 feet, 4 inches. Neither ever again came close to 30 feet in their career. And no one else has, either, 25 years later. The winning jump at the Olympics this year was just a hair under 27 feet, 6 inches, and NBC barely bothered to air it. So…what the hell happened to the long jump?

In every other sport, records fall every single year – like Katie Ledecky shaving 2 friggin seconds off her 800-meter swim world record. But Beamon’s record stood for 23 years, and his jump even occurred at altitude. Powell’s record did not occur at altitude and has stood for 25 years. It may stand forever. Why? Powell and Lewis’ day in 1991 may have reached the bounds of human ability (it still boggles my mind that they both did this on the same day). Alternatively, it may be something more practical: jumping 29 feet is impossibly difficult, requiring years of specialized training. And what’s the payoff? No one wants to work hard enough to jump 29 or 30 feet, when 27 ½ feet will get you the Gold Medal.

Whatever the reason for its decline, I hope the long jump makes a comeback. It’s damn awesome to watch. -TOB

Source: What Happened to the Long Jump?”, Timothy Burke, Deadspin (08/15/2016)

PAL: 29 friggin’ feet. That’s so absurd. TOB, let’s go to a track. Do you think you could break 12 feet?

It seems counterintuitive at first blush to consider a record set in 1991 to be untouchable, but the notion of diminishing incentive is really interesting. I feel like this is a perfect subject matter for Malcolm Gladwell’s new podcast, “Revisionist History” (I highly recommend it).

TOB: I really doubt it. At my peak physical condition, MAYBE. But not now (I also recommend Revisionist History).

Catching Emotion

I’m a sucker for stories about iconic sports images. Ali towering over Liston. Mantle tossing his helmet. Tommy Smith and John Carlos saluting Black Power. Dwight Clark in the end zone. The fact that you can see most – if not all – of these photos as you read this proves the ‘iconic’ descriptor is earned. They capture the emotion of the moment – that’s why they live on. The emotion separates these frames from the hundreds of other photographs taken at the same events. Oftentimes the story behind the photo is as interesting as the photo itself. Why did the photographer set up where he did? Why did she snap the photo when she did? Why did they wait longer, or linger as everyone emptied the stadium? The photographer made dozens of choices – connected and seemingly disconnected to the event they are covering –  leading them to the moment when their viewfinder and the human condition intersect. Well, here is a story about one of those moments that took place at the 1984 Olympics, and here’s the photo:

cryingWhile you may not be familiar with the image, take one look at it and you’ll see that photograph capture what it feels like to watch a dream literally pass you by. I highly encourage you to click through to the full story, because there is so much that goes into this one frame. To say anymore would spoil a fantastic read. – PAL

Source: The Story Behind The Perfect Photo Of Olympic Pain”, Dave Davis, Deadspin (08/15/2016)

TOB: I’ve known the story for years of Decker and Zola Budd for years, but not the backstory. I recall a long piece on NBC about it before the 1992 Olympics, as Decker was making one last attempt at Olympic Gold. The backstory is fascinating, and I highly recommend reading it.

Kris Humphries Was Once a Better Swimmer Than Michael Phelps (Wait, What?)

Kris Humphries is a pretty good NBA player. I mean, he’s ok. He’s had his moments. He might be better known for a short-lived marriage to Kim Kardashian. But this is pretty incredible: when he was a little kid, he was a fantastic swimmer. In fact, he was better than Michael Phelps:

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 10.49.35 PMLook at that! As far as I can tell, that’s saying that Humphries set two national records for his age group, and beat both Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Incredible. A lot goes into turning 10-year old success into Olympic stardom, including an unfathomable amount of hard work, but it sure seems like Humphries had the tools to be a great swimmer. Of course, Humphries has made nearly $60 million in his NBA career. I doubt Phelps has made that much in swimming and sponsorships. Even if he did, I guarantee Phelps worked a lot longer and harder to get where he is than Humphries did. And I’m guessing Humphries is happy with his choice. -TOB

Source: Kris Humphries Beat Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte at Swimming as a Kid, and Here’s Proof”, KL Chouinard, NBA.com (08/15/2016)

PAL: What do you call another Minnesota kid done good story? I call it Friday.

Video of the Week: 

Unfortunately, there’s no embed available for this week’s video, but it’s more than worth checking out here.

This is a special one remembering a childhood neighbor, Kyle Satrom, the Minnesota Twins magical 1991 World Series Championship, and a true love of baseball. -PAL

PAL Song of the Week: Sharon Van Etten – “One Day”

Listen Van Etten and all of the weekly picks here, friendo

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“If you get the nachos stuck together, that’s one nacho.”


Week of August 12, 2016

Can’t stop. Won’t stop. John Rose Oval style.

Simone Biles: The Greatest Gymnast of All-Time

Look, I am well aware of recency bias, especially in sports. But GOD DAMN. This week, Simone Biles won the Olympic Gold Medal in the all-around competition by 2.1 points over the Silver Medalist (and Ryan Rowe’s  Heartthrob), Aly Raisman. 2.1! That’s a larger margin than the gold medalist beat the silver medalist in every Olympics from 1980 to 2012…combined. Truly historic. And this is not a fluke. Simone has been destroying her competition for the last three years, including winning the last three World Championships.

And for a little historical comparison, here is the winning vault at the 1968 Olympics next to the winning vault at the 2012 Olympics:

So, gymnastics is only getting better, and Simone just somehow took a gigantic leap ahead of everyone else.

Ahead of her curb stomping of the rest of the world, the New Yorker profiled Simone, and it’s worth reading. Biles has had an amazing young life – before she was The Greatest Gymnast of All-Time, Simone was born to a drug and alcohol addicted mother, and was placed in foster care with her sister. Her grandparents later adopted her, and Simone considers them her parents. But there are a lot of insights into what it takes to be a world-class gymnast, as well. For example, Simone has a boyfriend, and her coach told him, “I think you’re sweet, but if you screw with her mind I will kill you.” Simone says that getting ready for competition involves “repeatedly convincing yourself you aren’t going to die.” Luckily, she is persuasive, because she goes out there and does things that are frankly unfathomable:

“I kind of blow my own mind…I wish I could crawl out of my skin and see it happen from a different perspective.” She says that during her tumbling runs, “the only thing she sees is the colors of the ceiling and the floor, whizzing past in revolving blurs.” Simone Biles is awesome. -TOB

Source: A Full Revolution”, Reeves Wiedeman, New Yorker (05/30/2016); Companion Video: The Mind-Blowing Athleticism of Simone Biles”, Reeves Wiedeman, New Yorker (05/27/2016)

PAL: Great profile on a great athlete. Really well written, too. Biles is pushing the sport to new frontiers, no doubt, but I’m excited that I finally understand the new gymnastics scoring system: “The new system, laid out in the Code of Points, is an open-ended one, in which gymnasts are given two marks: one for execution, worth up to ten points, and another for difficulty, which is theoretically infinite.”

That makes so much more sense than the old 10-point system!

A gymnastics podcast nut put in this way: “The code was a fantasy—a perfect, unattainable ideal. Then Simone was born, and the code became a reality.”

Historically Historic Perspective

Michael Phelps broke a record that’s stood since well before the birth of Christ. For real. Until tonight, the most individual Olympic “wins” was 12. Why do I say “wins” instead of “gold medals” – because medals weren’t given out until the beginning of the modern olympics in 1896.

The record Phelps broke was held by Leonidas of Rhodes. He dominated the Olympics…in 160, 156, and 152 BCE. Michael Phelps is awesome. – PAL

Source: Michael Phelps Tied (Broke) A 2,168-Year-Old Olympic Record”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (08/10/2016)

TOB: I’ve come full circle on Phelps. I rooted for him in 2004. He was overexposed in 2008 and so I was secretly hoping he’d lose one of those eight events. In 2012 I thought he was washed up and felt a little bad. And now he’s (maybe?) better than ever, with a good shot to pick up his fifth and sixth gold medals of these Olympics. At 31! Amazing! (What’s not amazing is naming your kid Boomer, I mean…c’mon) But I think the most amazing stat about Phelps is that he has appeared in 26 Olympic finals…and he’s won 22 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronze. Of his two non-medal finals, one occurred when he was 15. Incredible. Even though I think that swimming medals are inflated by the insane variations they create, with every conceivable distance for four different strokes and every permutation of relay and medley and medley relay you can possibly think of, Phelps still has to go down as the greatest Olympian of all-time.


In the 2012 Olympics, American Jordyn Wieber was ranked 4th in the All-Around qualifying but did not qualify for the All-Around final. 21 gymnasts who had lower qualifying scores did qualify for the finals, though. Why? Because for some insane reason only the top 2 qualifiers from each country qualify for the finals. Sometimes sports have rules so dumb I can’t even comprehend why they exist, but at least, I figure, they will get fixed. Not so in this case, because the same friggin thing happened this Olympics. This time the victim was American Gabby Douglas, the defending Gold Medalist in the all-around. Douglas’ qualifying score was the third highest, and she did not qualify for the finals. 22 gymnasts with worse qualifying scores did qualify for the finals, though.

This is so utterly stupid. I get that they don’t want one country to sweep the medals, but that is entirely antithetical to the spirit of the competition. Change the friggin rule. I’ll check back in with gymnastics in 4 years. Let’s hope they right this wrong. -TOB

Source: A Bizarre Rule Will Keep Reigning U.S. Olympic All-Around Gold Medalist From Defending Her Title”, Cork Gaines, Business Insider (08/08/2016)

PAL: This reminds me of The Avery Rule, and by that I mean this is so obviously an absurd rule that they could have simply changed two days ago and no one really would’ve put up that much of a stink. It’s absolutely horrible to think that competitors – from any country – prepare for a moment that comes at best once every four years, who then don’t crumble under the unbelievable pressure but rather perform at a level that earned them a spot in the finals, and who are then undone by some b.s. youth sports rule that’s prioritizes representation over excellence. Did they hand out orange slices on the podium, too?

History’s Forgotten, and Hilarious, Olympic Events

Over the years, the Olympic Committee has added and removed Olympic events as it has seen fit. For example, baseball and softball were discontinued a few years back (they’ll be returning in 2020). But some of the events that we’ve lost are far more obscure, and sound hilarious. For example, Plunge For Distance, held only in the 1904 Olympics. What was plunge for distance? “A diver leaps from an 18-inch platform and has 60 seconds to travel as far across the pool as possible without moving his arms or legs.”

What in the actual hell? What a bizarre event. It must be reinstated! In 1922, an author criticised the event as “not an athletic event at all”, but a competition favoring “mere mountains of fat who fall in the water more or less successfully and depend upon inertia to get their points for them.” Yes, precisely why I want to see it. Other long-forgotten Olympic Events: Tug of War (YES), Dueling pistols (YES!), Horse High Jump (HELL YES!) – TOB

Source: The Olympics’ Sad History of Defunct Medal Events”, Adam Kilgore, The Washington Post (08/05/2016)

PAL: First:

  • No: plunging, baseball, golf, synchronized diving, soccer
  • Yes: Tug of War, Wrestling (always!), HHJ (Horse High Jump to you amateurs).  

At its best, the Olympics inspires national pride in all the best ways. It’s also very good that the Olympics exposes us to random-ass sports. We need to keep space for these fringe sports, which is why we really don’t need baseball, golf, or soccer in the Olympics. These sports have their stage, so I vote we leave some room on the Olympic stage for the oddball sports.

Video of the Week:

PAL Song of the Week: Fela Kuti – “Zombie”

Check “Zombie” and all of our weekly picks below:

“Their daughter told my son that he looked like Tom Petty and in a negative way.”

– Catherine

Week of August 5, 2016

Stay cool out there this weekend, folks.

No Diving, Phelps!


“I’m dreaming of that possibility…It’s a one-in-a-million type of event, but we’re prepared.” These are the words of Anderson Fertes, a man who will be paid to do nothing while having a front row seat to the Olympic swimming events. He’s a lifeguard. Yep, they have lifeguards on hand at the Olympic swimming pool. You know, in the event Michael Phelps doesn’t wait 30 minutes until after eating before swimming.

It’s the makings of a New Yorker comic. While there are legitimate reasons for lifeguards being on site (heart attack, cramps), the notion of a lifeguard, complete with the red shorts and a flotation device slung over the shoulder Baywatch style, presiding over the best swimmers in the world is delightful. Can we just call Wendy Peffercorn and do the damn thing right, please and thank you. – PAL


Source: Lifeguards at the Olympic Pool? Yes, It’s Necessary“,  John Branch, The New York Times (08/04/2016)

TOB: YES. The Olympics need an 80s villain lifeguard – complete with zinka (not zika), an overactive whistle, short shorts, and the kind of sense of humor that enjoys barking at other people. Gosh, I feel like I know just the person…


Yes! Phil! Why, you could be an internet sensation.

With Just a…Soucant…

Legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser rates every Summer and Winter Olympic logo. It’s kind of…mesmerizing. It’s like a pretentious wine or beer review, except it makes total sense. For example:


He’s right, the typography IS peculiar and unpleasant! Or this one:


“Perhaps more appropriate for a manufacturer of paper towels.” God damn, that is some serious graphic design burn. But he saves his best for Tokyo 2020:


“…the issue has raised some fascinating questions about the nature of plagiarism in the graphic arts.” WOWOWOWOWOW. To paraphrase Piston Honda, you just got a TKO, Tokyo! -TOB

Source: On a Scale of 1-100, Milton Glaser Rates Every Single Olympic Logo Design in History”, Emily Gosling, Eye on Design (08/01/2016)

PAL: My favorites are as follows

Squaw (1960)


Innsbruck (1964)


Athens (2000)


Munich (1972)


TOB: For me, the gold standard is L.A. 1984. 1984-Los-Angeles-Summer-Olympics-logo-650x443

That’s how you get back on the horse, Day Day

Draymond Green made some news last weekend, if you didn’t hear. Let’s just say he took a page out of the Anthony Weiner playbook. One might think, after a big mistake like that, a public personality like Draymond Green might take a break from social media. Nope! And I’m glad he didn’t, because he gifted the public his review for some of the USA Basketball team players hair. As the kids say, he kept it 100:

hair 3 hair_201.0

Now THIS is what social media is for, Draymond. Good work. – PAL

Source: Draymond Green roasted all his Team USA teammates’ hair, and then his own”, Tim Cato, SB Nation (08/04/2016)

TOB: I’m still on Team Draymond. There are things he could do to make me leave Team Draymond, certainly, but they are up there at the Baylor/Penn State/Greg Hardy/O.J. levels.

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Father John Misty – “Well, You Can Do It Without Me” (and just let it roll to check out all of the weekly picks)

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“I play real sports. Not trying to be the best at exercising.”

-Kenny Powers