Week of September 30, 2016


Gone Too Soon

Jose Fernandez was a fantastic young pitcher for the Miami Marlins. I say was because, as you probably heard, he died last weekend in a boating accident off the coast of Miami. Fernandez’ story is an incredible one. As teenager, he escaped Cuba on a boat on his fourth attempt to do so. During the final trip, in the pitch black, someone fell overboard. Without knowing who it was, 15-year old Jose risked his life by jumping into the dark waters. As it turned out, the person he saved was his own mother. Eventually, Jose and his mother made it safely to the United States – and there found the freedom they sought. More than one writer has remarked on the irony here – Jose died in the same waters that provided him that freedom.

As a baseball fan, I will miss watching Jose pitch. Unlike many baseball players, Jose didn’t take anything too seriously. He understood baseball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. My favorite Jose Fernandez moment was probably this one:


I have watched that 1,000 times, and it has never gotten old. As soon as I quite literally woke to the news of his death, I thought of that play. And 0f this:


I wish anything could get me that excited. Again, as baseball fans, we will miss not seeing what Jose might have become. No less than Pedro Martinez said this week that he saw Jose as having better potential than Pedro himself. That is high praise – and it’s not the inflated praise that is often heaped on a player after an early death. Jose was for real. His ERA+ was 150, which means he was 50% better than the league average. That’s the highest ERA+ of any pitcher with at least 70 starts since WWII.

His fastball touched 100. His breaking ball moved like this:

And this:

And this:

He made hitters look positively silly. But as I sat there early Sunday morning, watching and reading everything I could about Jose – his life, his death – I was struck by the very real emotion from those who knew him. People like Eduardo Perez on ESPN that morning (please watch).

I read stories about how fun he was to play with, like this story from Jayson Stark. I read stories about what a wonderful human being he was – like this story from Dan LeBatard, himself a Cuban-American and Miami native, about how respected and loved Jose was in the Miami’s Cuban community. I watched this video, the final pitch of his all too short career, with his mother and grandmother watching and celebrating. And I watched the emotion and pain in his teammates’ eyes on Monday, when Dee Gordon led off the team’s first game since Jose’s death with a home run – his first of the season and just the sixth of his entire career.

It all made me wish I had learned about this side of Jose under less tragic circumstances. I wish we had the pleasure of seeing Jose play baseball for many more years. And I wish his friends and family, and those who looked up to him and saw in him the personification of their dreams, didn’t have to feel the pain they feel at losing Jose, at losing that hope. Damn, this one really got to me. Rest in peace, Jose Fernandez. You will be missed. -TOB

PAL:  News of Fernandez dying definitely got to me, too. On a human level, it was his joy. A kid playing a kid game game and dominating the best men on the planet.  On a baseball level, it was his truly awesome talent. What’s more, he was well on his way turning that talent into greatness. Like a brilliant artist, writer, or musician dying too soon, the world is denied the pleasure of a prodigy mastering his craft. I know that sounds overstated, but he was on his way to being that great.

But, who knows, right? Life is cruel, not only tragically cruel. Maybe he blows out his elbow again in the next game. Or he just loses that electric stuff in a of couple years. That’s why most of all, his death got to me because of this:

TOB: Damn, that had my eyes overflowin’.

Vin Scully Takedown

Vin Scully is GREAT. He started broadcasting Dodgers games in 1950. In Brooklyn. He was the broadcaster for the World Series at the age of 25. People of Los Angeles have spent their entire lives with him. As babies, as teenagers, as college dopes driving home for summer. On the way back from the hospital with their first kid, driving away from funerals of parents. Setting out on a roadtrip to the to meet their first grandchild. There has been one constant in a Dodger’s fan’s life: Vin Scully. He has been in the homes and cars of L.A. for 67 years. That’s not a career, that’s a lifetime, and not just his.

Even that – even all of that – does not excuse what I’m about to show you:

00:14 – That mime hug. What a sweet, sincere, grandpa move. Oh, Mr. Scully. Picture of grace and humility. This is too perfect. The Dodger clinch the division on a walk-off home run. Sending out Scully in style.

01:00 – Scully thanking the fans: “Believe me when I tell you I’ve needed you far more than you’ve needed me.” Again, grace and humility. Class act beyond reproach.

01:18 – “Anyway, I wanted to try to express my appreciation to all the players, God bless them, and to all you folks here in the ballpark. It’s a very, very modest thing. I sang this for my wife…” Huh, Vin Scully is going to go out singing a song. That’s pretty cool!

01:40 – “You know the song. ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’.” WHAT? Oh no, Mr. Scully.

01:53 – “I know it’s modest. I know it’s an amatuer. Do you mind listening?” He’s really going to sing Bette Midler. Don’t do it, man. Don’t sing for 50,000 fans. Not that song. Do ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ or something like that. Come on!

02:01 – Look at all those young bucks down on the field for the Dodgers. They absolutely want to pay their respects. They understand how big of a deal Scully is. They also know there’s about 1,000 beers and champagne just waiting for them. They’re itching to RAGE CAGE. Just waiting for gramps to say his piece.

02:06 – Pre-recorded instrumentation kicks in. So…Scully is going to sing along with Bette Midler, or is this a karaoke situation?

02:20 – Whaaaa? So he wasn’t kidding when he asked the fans if they minded listening…to a recording of Scully singing this song as a much younger man. Seriously, this recording is no doubt from the 80s at the very latest. Also, I cannot believe what is transpiring.

02:24 – Hey, here are fans giving the ol Sign of the Horns while listening to a pre-recorded tape of Vin Scully singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’:


02:45 – Just a warm embrace between manager and player, while a pre-recorded tape of Vin Scully singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ by Bette Midler plays after they clinched the division. No big deal. WHAT IS GOING ON?!?


02:57 – Scully is tearing up with his arm around his wife, and I feel like an absolute asshole. 67 years of work. The man can do whatever he wants.

03:25 – This guy, giving a misty-eyed salute to Vin Scully while a pre-recorded Vin Scully sings ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ in Dodger Stadium…after the team just won the division. Is this dude attempting to hold his left hand over his heart? God, the Dodgers really are the worst.


05:09 – This song is still going on! A stadium is going to listen to a pre-recorded Vin Scully sing the entire song. Players getting restless. It’s time to rage, dammit. I ask again, WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON?

05:41 – The song is wrapping up. Everyone applauds on a perfect, sunny afternoon in Los Angeles. Of course they are applauding Scully, but 10% of every fan is applauding that the collective awkwardness is over.

05:57 – Scully wave and wipes a tear. I am an asshole.

05:59 – The song is not over, but the champagne party has erupted on the field. This image is taking place while a pre-recorded Vin Scully singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ by Bette Midler fades out in a stadium of 50,000 fans.


Wow. Just…wow. – PAL

TOB: Vin Scully is great, and by all accounts is a great person, as this story by ESPN’s Jayson Stark shows. And he’s an old, old man who gets to do whatever the hell he wants…but this was just sooooo awkward. My favorite part was the players on the field, who just wanted to party, man, waiting out this 5-minute song and then going bonkers before the track ends. I love that Vin isn’t really singing along.

Fan Sinks Pressure Put At Ryder Cup

It was a practice round – sure, but ‘daaaaaaaaamn, Daniel.’ So a heckler at the Ryder Cup got called out by the Euro team. Henrik Stenson calls the fan’s b.s., and bets the fan $100 to take the put if it’s so easy. Fan walks onto the green like a doofus and sinks a 10-12 foot putt in front of a packed crowd. Dude does his best Tiger celebration, then nails the interview afterwards with the kind of charm only found in the Midwest. “I closed my eyes, swallowed my puke, hit the putt and it happened to go in.” Nice work, random dude. Made $100 off of Henrik Stenson at the Ryder Cup. Pretty good bar story if you ask me. – PAL

Source: American Fan At Ryder Cup Heckles Europeans, Gets Called Out To Putt For $100, Sinks It”, Samer Kalaf, Deadspin (09/28/2016)

TOB: This is hilarious and great, but I’d like to point out that the guy is from North Carolina, which is NOT the Midwest. You Midwesterners with your hella big egos wrapped in false modesty.

PAL: Wrong. He’s from Mayville, North Dakota. What’s that about egos now?

TOB: Ok, ok. I heard it wrong. I should have known he was from the Midwest because of his AWFUL fashion sense. Did you see that abominable Twins hat?

Sportswriters Are Weird

Very little amuses me more than “inside baseball” stories – and sportswriters writing about sportswriters is among the best. In this story, sportswriter Joe Lemire writes about sportswriters’ insane love for Marriott property hotels, and the accompanying obsession with Marriott reward points. I laughed a half-dozen times, at least.

Source: Sportswriters Love Marriotts More Than You Love Anything”, Joe Lemire, Vocativ (09/23/2016)

PAL: Solid pull with this story, TOB. Never heard of Vocativ. Here’s my favorite quote from an unnamed baseball writer, which may as well be a radio spot penned by Don Draper:

“For me, the Marriott thing was about points, sure, but also familiarity after a while…When you’re on the beat you have no control over your life. News can break at any moment, you cover a game with no clock, you go to work not knowing what time you’ll be be done, you don’t know if the morning flight to Denver will leave on time. But dammit, I know where I’m sleeping tonight. I’m sleeping at a Marriott.’”

Marriott point earners sound a lot like people obsessed with frequent flier miles. Here’s a hilarious Judge John Hodgman podcast on the subject: http://www.maximumfun.org/tags/frequent-flyer

PAL Song of the Week: Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Hey Tonight”

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“Now, now, now. This is getting dangerously close to compromise before I’ve even had a chance to tell one of you that you’re wrong.”

-Judge John Hodgman

Week of September 23, 2016

Name that athlete.

Name that athlete.

TOB: Only #4 gave me a moment’s pause, but I am certain I got it.

Your stirrups tell me everything I need to know, bro

I will never forget the night before my first Little League game. My older brother Matt showed me how to properly wear baseball stirrups. Make sure the sanitary socks are a crisp white. Low side of the stirrup in front (do NOT be the kid who has his stirrups on backwards at Opening Day). Fold the stirrup over the bottom of the pant to create a clean, secure interlocking system that won’t fall down after sliding or diving. It was every bit the right of passage central to any YA novel. Learning how to put on stirrups might be the first time I was told that how you dress communicates to those around you.

What was that? No, baseball didn’t play a role in my youth at all.

So, let’s nerd out on stirrups for a moment. Of course this is about personal style and preference, but some preferences are terrible, stylistically speaking. Here’s the spectrum:

Great: Understated. Underrated. Timeless. 

Good: Don’t know how I feel about one team, one dream, one stirrup length mandate, but Stanford does it well. Note #44: He’s got that ultra low, 4-inch stirrup. Looks good. 

Bad: It was ugly in 1987, and it’s ugly now. Also, maybe next week we need to write about New Balance becoming a very popular baseball cleat. What? Since when did the brand that has the dad market cornered become a popular amongst ballplayers?

Terrible: Just no. 

The 4-inch stirrup has always been my preference. The hipster trend of going fully back to the 70s and 80s is like ironically wearing Jordache jeans today. Pump the brakes.

Laugh all you want, but stirrups vs. solid socks, low-top cleats vs. high-top cleats (but always super glossy and blackout Scott Erickson style); super curved hat or a more subtle curve – these are the decisions that I spent way too much time weighing every spring when I was a kid. And here’s a way too in-depth story about the stirrup resurgence in baseball. – PAL

Source: Baseball’s Stirrups: Always in Season, if Not in Fashion”, Seth Berkman, The New York Times (9/17/16)

TOB: I think you have your great and your good flipped, buddy. I like to see more sock. For example, the Chris Archer look (as noted in the article) is my idea of a masterpiece. Behold:


Look at that! So much sock. Stripes! Multiple colors! And the stirrup! That’s just fantastic. Also, are you saying you tucked your pants into your stirrup? I’ve never seen or heard of that, but the article mentions Sean Gilmartin of the Mets, and by golly, it sure seems like you’re talking about the same thing Gilmartin does. Wild. Anyways, I also loved stirrups as a kid, though I think if I was a major leaguer now I’d go with high socks generally and switch it up with high stirrups a couple times a week. We can both agree that the long pants over the cleats look is a plague on the game, and moreso: the kids in little league who wore the fake stirrup socks deserved to fall into a port-a-pottie.

PAL: Regarding tucking of the stirrup, you do it like this:

This is the type of retirement gift I can get behind

Farewell tours for athletes are dumb. Why the hell do opposing teams feel compelled to give players like Mariano Rivera, Derek “Jeets” Jeter, or David Ortiz gifts? Hey, thanks for kicking are asses for 15 years, here’s a surfboard. What in the absolute hell is this? I mean, is Tim Lincecum going to show up at Paul Goldschmidt’s farewell tour to publicly, hand over an amended will and leave everything to Goldschmidt, the rightful owner of Tim Lincecum and all that it entails?

With that said, the Orioles gave David Ortiz a retirement gift I can appreciate:

Why a broken phone box, you might ask. Here’s why:

Well done, Orioles. Also, the phone still worked! Can whatever company that makes those phones get into the iPhone case business already? – PAL

Source: What Do You Get For The Baseball Player Who Has Everything? A Busted Up Phone Box”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (9/21/16)

TOB: I agree, they’re the absolute worst. The Giants gave him something. He played here TWICE. These are so stupid. But…I know he’s not a former player, I do love what the Giants are planning for Vin Scully, when he calls his final game in a couple of weeks. The game will be at AT&T Park and the Giants are planning on switching over their TV feed to Vin for one inning. Nice tribute. We’ll have more to say about Vin next week, so I’ll leave it at that.

The Best There Ever Was?

I like this story because it reminds me of the story Phil shared here a while back about the only kid to ever strike Joe Mauer out during high school. Ayrton Senna is known as one of the greatest F-1 drivers of all-time. A well-regarded documentary about his life was made, Senna, which you can watch on Netflix. Senna died on the track in 1994. Before he was winning F-1 championships, though, he was a teenage go-kart racer. He was very good – but he was not the best. The best was a British guy named Terry Fullerton. A few years older than Senna, Fullerton beat everybody. He never lost to Senna. This fact drove young Senna so mad that he once walked by and shoved Fullerton into a pool. Senna would move on, and just before he died said that Fullerton was the best driver he ever raced against:

So why have most race fans never heard of Terry Fullerton? Because Fullerton, now 63, never advanced beyond go-karts. He chose this path because when Terry was 11-years old, his older brother died in a motorbike race. Fullerton did not want to put his parents through that again, having to bury their remaining child. So he continued to race go-karts. He even now coaches go-karts, and barely scratches out a living. When asked if he regrets it, he says he sometimes does – but when he saw the Senna documentary, and heard Senna say that Fullerton was the best driver he ever faced, he realized he made the right decision. After all, Senna is dead, and Fullerton is enjoying his life. -TOB

Source: Meet the Man Ayrton Senna Could Never Beat”, Alex Lloyd, Jalopnik (09/19/2016)

Video of the Week: 

Bonus Video of the Week:

Song of the Week: Cahalen Morrison – “Ode To Autumn”. Do yourself a favor and check out all of Cahalen’s music. A brilliant talent who spent more than a couple nights on couch at the old spot in San Francisco. He and Eli West albums should be known far and wide.

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“I’m going to put it right on the line. There’s been a lot of complaints already. Fooling around on the course, bad language, smoking grass, poor caddying. If you guys want to get fired. If you want to be replaced by golf carts, just keep it up.”

-Lou Loomis

Week of September 16, 2016

Rules for Bills tailgates…or words to live by?

Perhaps the Greatest Radio Call in History

In theory, I get why we arrest fans who run onto athletic fields during an event. I also get why they don’t show it on TV, to discourage people from doing it to get on TV. It interrupts the game, it could pose a danger to the athletes (and the fans). I get it. But…the anarchist in me thinks it’s hilarious. I love everything about it. The crowd cheers as they see what’s going on, the TV cameras pan/cut away. The fan tries to make it as long as possible before getting crushed by out of shape security guards who have been huffing and puffing for 60 yards undoubtedly thinking, “I don’t get paid for this shit!” The fan then gets dragged away, in handcuffs, as the crowd cheers their conquering hero.

Most announcers do not have a sense of humor about this and get all huffy about the idiot on the field interrupting the game. Lucky for us, Kevin Harlan is NOT most announcers (I’ll never forget tuning into a March Madness online streamed game about ten years ago and hearing a hot mic catch Harlan ripping Bobby Knight for being overrated). Thus, during Monday Night Football this week, idiot on the field met Kevin Harlan and magic was made. 16-year old Santa Clara 49er fan William ran onto the field, and Harlan, announcing the game on the radio, called it like a huge play in the game.

I have watched this a dozen times. It never stops being funny. “Some goofball in a hat and a red shirt. NOW HE TAKES OFF THE SHIRT…” Please watch, and enjoy. And then read the hilarious interview Deadspin conducted with the kid (he had written his phone number across his chest). Because he was 16, he got off with little more than a slap on the wrist. Damnit. I missed my window. -TOB

Source: The Idiot on the Field at MNF Wrote His Number on His Chest, So We Called Him”, Lindsay Adler, Deadspin (09/13/2016)


  1. The fan tries to make it as long as possible before getting crushed by out of shape security guards who have been huffing and puffing for 60 yards undoubtedly thinking, “I don’t get paid for this shit!”  I don’t know, man. I think a good portion of the security guards dream of that moment to out a good lick a fan out in front of a stadium crowd.
  2. William’s use of ‘hella’ is pure interview magic. Sidebar: At what age does the word ‘hella’ need to be removed from a Californian’s vocabulary? Or is asking that question only proof I’m not from these parts? I mean, at 16, William can say it every other word and it’s idiotically endearing. But is TOB going to be dropping it at soccer games in 3 years? Has TOB let one slip in the workplace? Does Rowe use it while hot on the trail for some 20 year-old engineer genius? What about AP at PlayStation…I bet they use it all the time there.

TOB: As a Californian who used “hella” liberally, I’m not sure when I stopped. Maybe when I got married? Maybe when I became a lawyer? I’m really not sure. I accidentally said it about a week ago and I felt completely ridiculous – like the old alumnus at the college frat party trying to hit on the sorority girls. It was not ok. I am getting so old.

Old Man, Big Chain, Historic Season

David Ortiz played parts of his first 6 seasons with the Twins. He got hurt and failed to live up to expectations. This year, we were told, this is the year Ortiz figures it out. The Twins ended up RELEASING him. He goes to Boston and becomes an icon, likely on the Mt. Rushmore of Boston sports figures. With this likely his last year, is David Ortiz having the best farewell season of all time? If nothing else, Jayson Stark’s rankings makes for great bar discussion. Here’s his list:

  1. Ortiz
  2. Ted Williams
  3. Sandy Koufax
  4. Barry Bonds
  5. Shoeless Joe Jackson

Of those names, only Ortiz and Williams retirements were a result of it simply being time. Koufax arm was a throbbing mess by age 30. No MLB team wanted to touch Bonds after a very solid year at age 42 due to the ongoing PED story. And Shoeless Joe…well, we know why he couldn’t play anymore.

Maybe Ortiz is getting some help, if you know what I mean, but I was chatting with my brother-in-law the other night (Red Sox lifer), and we agreed on a new rule: no drug tests for anyone competing at the age of 40. Free pass. Ortiz’s season is pretty absurd, not to mention crucial for a team in the thick of a three-team division race. I mean, this dude will get MVP votes at age 40! Here are some of his more absurd numbers this year:

  • Ortiz shares the lead for most extra-base hits for all of MLB
  • The big guy is on pace for 50 (!) doubles and 37 home runs
  • (My favorite) “If Big Papi keeps mashing at his current rate and finishes with those 37 homers and 50 doubles, he would be the 12th player in history to reach both of those plateaus in a season. He’s 40. All of the other 11 did it before they even turned 30.”

Do check out the article. Stark’s breakdown of Bonds, Williams, Koufax, and Shoeless Joe are great. What a great decision to by the Twins to let him go. – PAL

Source: Is David Ortiz having the greatest farewell season of all time?”, Jayson Stark, ESPN (9/14/16)

TOB: I dunno, Readers. I think Phil can step up the bitter. Bring it, Phil. Give me a REALLY good Twins rant. After the second half the Giants have had, I need the catharsis.

PAL: All I’m saying is this: When he’s a Twin he hurts his wrist, he hurts his knee, he hurts his wrist again…then he finally hits well (20 HR, 75 RBI in 125 games in 2002), and they can’t even trade him. Then he goes to Boston, becomes healthy and immediately hits 30 bombs. Gee, I wonder what happened in Boston with Manny Ramirez? The only thing that allows me to sleep at night is knowing the Twins unloaded A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano.

The Big, Badass Paralympics Pit Crew

I haven’t given much attention to the Paralympics. Most of us know they follow the Olympics in the same host city, but by the time we get into September many are prepping for a baseball playoff run or turning our attention to football. But the following story is a really interesting vantage point on a wonderful event with a history spanning 68 years: the repair shop.

“When athletes arrive at the Paralympic Village here, they care most about three things: internet access, food and the location of the repair shop…”

The sheer scale and breadth of capabilities, technology, and old fashioned problem-solving that goes into getting the athletes their equipment dialed-in before they compete is inspiring. The spectrum of technology seems to expand decades: While athletes from, say, the United States and Germany are using cutting edge solutions, athletes from third world countries are competing with prosthetics that are flat out obsolete.

“The unpredictability of the job demands an array of skills from the technicians, beyond an expertise in prosthetics, welding or wheelchairs. Specialists who hail from 29 countries and speak 26 languages, they must be calm enough to handle the pressure of a workplace that handles at least 100 repairs every day. They must also be creative and intuitive enough to solve problems they have never seen before.”

What an awesome achievement of service, ingenuity, and support. – PAL

Source: Paralympics’ Repair Shop Addresses Athletes’ Equipment Needs”, Ben Shpigel, The New York Times (9/15/16)

A Turning Point in Athletes Standing Up For Social Justice?

A few weeks back, Carmelo Anthony called on athletes to demand change and speak out in support of social justice. After the last few generations of athletes have cared more about protecting sponsorship money than using their social podium for good, I was skeptical any change would actually occur. Happily, I appear to have been wrong. In recent weeks, Colin Kaepernick has dominated the headlines by sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem in protest of the treatment of people of color in this country. Many NFL players, and athletes in other sports, have joined him. In addition, University of Wisconsin basketball player Bronson Koenig, the first ever Native American to play in the NCAA title game, announced plans to drive 11 hours to Bismarck, North Dakota and join the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest (Koenig will also host a free youth basketball camp while there). Thousands have protested the construction of the pipeline, which will cut through numerous Standing Rock Sioux sacred sites and burial grounds. The protests have been successful, at least temporarily – as construction has been put on hold to reconsider the plans.

It’s a great time to be alive, if you ask me. Things are not perfect, by any means. But the tide seems to be turning – people are beginning to care and to demand change and to do something about it. And that is the first step. Kudos to Carmelo, Kaepernick, Bronson Koenig and so many others for using their platform for good. And to small-minded people like Trent Dilfer, who only care about about the effect a protest like Kaepernick’s has on his football teamget some god damn perspective.

I also highly recommend former Grantland writer Wesley Morris’ great piece in the New York Times Magazine on the Kaepernick protests. -TOB

Source: Why Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig is Joining the Dakota Pipeline Protest”, Jeff Eisenberg, Yahoo! Sports (09/12/2016)

PAL: Well put, TOB. A bit more context on the importance of Koenig joining the protest. He is the most prominent Native American basketball player in the country and averaged 13 ppg for a Sweet 16 Wisconsin team (he also played in 40 games for the 2014-15 team that lost in the National Championship). He is a sports hero to the Native American community on the level of a LeBron James. I bring this up not to say his athletic accomplishments make his joining the protest more important than anyone else, but to underscore the fact that he is a leader within the community.

Whatever side you find yourself on with regards to the construction of the pipeline, I hope we can all appreciate young men and women putting action behind their beliefs. TOB’s right; it’s really cool to see more athletes taking a stand lately.

Video of the Week:

Bonus Video of the Week

Marshawn is a national treasure. Bear Grylis is barely tolerable.

PAL Song of the Week: Johnny Cash – “Sea of Heartbreak”

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“I’m not talking about dance lessons. I’m talking about putting a brick through the other guy’s windshield. I’m talking about taking it out and chopping it up.”

-Royal Tenenbaum


Week of September 9, 2016

I feel you.

I feel you.

After the Gold Rush: Charlie Weis

Now that we’re a week or two into the college football season (depending if you’re counting the Cal-Hawaii game in Australia), you can expect two stories:

  1. Boosters at a big time program calling for the head of the head coach (Les Miles seems like the likeliest candidate after LSU lost to Julia Pflepsen’s Badgers)
  2. The next program renovator extraordinaire is identified. The hot stock destined to take the best available job (University of Houston’s Tom Herman’s stock is at an all-time high after a 13-1 2015 season, followed by a beat down of Oklahoma in the 2016 opener.)

These two stories intersect, but the more interesting story just might be what happens after a one-time savior is pushed out. Remember Charlie Weis?

Offensive Coordinator for the Patriots when they won 3 out of 4 Super Bowls. The chunky giant took the reins of his Alma Mater Notre Dame. He would restore the Golden Domers back to a powerhouse, and do so with the perfect crew cut to boot. It was perfect. Until the wins stopped piling up.

Tommy Tomlinson’s “where is he now” profile of Weis is by no means a “good guy, bad luck” story. Far from it, and it captures just what the hell happens to these guys after the the door hit them where the good lord split them. Some of the more interesting moments:

  • Sitting at home, Weis made $2.5 million from Kansas and $2.1 million from Notre Dame last year, which made him in effect the eighth-highest-paid coach in college football.
  • Weis and Jon Bon Jovi are friends, and text each other Bon Jovi lyrics. Read that again, folks.
  • According to Weis, as Notre Dame wouldn’t comment on the following: Charlie Jr. was on track to enroll at Notre Dame. Weis says Jenkins himself had promised that he would be accepted, as long as his grades and test scores qualified, which they did. But after Weis was fired, Notre Dame sent a letter deferring Charlie Jr.’s acceptance. Not long after that, Weis says, he got a call from someone in Notre Dame’s development office making him an offer: If he’d donate some of the money Notre Dame owed him back to the school — “seven figures,” Weis says — Charlie Jr. could get in.

All in all, this was a pretty interesting look behind the curtain after the failure settles. – PAL

Source: The Lexicon of Charlie Weis”, Tommy Tomlinson, ESPN (08/24/2016)

TOB: A few things to note. The wins never really piled up for Weis. When Weis was hired, he promised that Notre Dame would win because they “would have a decided schematic advantage”. Translation: I’m smart and everyone else is dumb. He got an insane extension in the middle of his first season, even though his team was just 5-2, based on a close loss at home to #1 USC. That extension was for TEN years and FORTY MILLION DOLLARS. Weis was once quoted as saying ND would never lose to Michigan State under his watch. He went 2-3. When he moved on to Kansas, he went 1-18 in the Big-12. That’s not a typo. 1-18.

One last thing: the anecdote was about him texting Bon Jovi is only the second most fascinating Bon Jovi mention in this blog’s history. You’re welcome.

Nothing More to Say: Giants Slump

The Giants are struggling at a bad time, folks. Their atrocious second half has the team with the best record at the All-Star break now 5 friggin’ games back of the Dodgers in the west. Can’t hit. Bullpen can’t do anything but give up hits. Downright tough to watch right now, so it’s understandable the beat writers are having a tough time with it, too.

Longtime Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly shared the lineup in his post the other day, then followed up with this:

“That’s it, really. Not much more to say. But the SEO wizards tell us that Google likes articles that are more than 41 words. So here’s a little more[…]”

Dog days, indeed, Bags. Let’s look on the bright side: Giants still have a .5 game lead in the Wild Card. There’s still time, right? Right! I mean, they have the starting pitching for a post-season run, a couple bats can get hot here in the stretch run (I’m looking at you, Belt), and maybe the bullpen…actually the bullpen is just terrible. But, hey, we can never forget what Hova has taught us:

We’re getting to the best sports time of the year – baseball playoff runs – and it would be more fun if the Giants stuck around for it. – PAL

Source: Giants Beat Writer Files World’s Best, Laziest Column Amid Team’s Massive Slump”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (09/07/2016)

TOB: Ugh. This is an even year, damnit. What the god damn hell.

Your Weekly Reminder the NFL Sucks

I can’t help myself and I still watch this evil league and this dangerous sport. I commend you if you are able to tune out. Alas. I watched the NFL’s season opening game on Thursday night. If you stuck around for the end, it was a heck of a game that ended on a missed game winning field goal by Carolina’s (and my fantasy team’s) kicker, Graham Gano. But here’s what I want to point out. On the final drive, Carolina was around midfield with under a minute left. Cam Newton was flushed from the pocket, facing heavy pressure. He was being tackled and threw the ball away, and just after he did so his head got destroyed by the crown of the helmet of a Broncos defender:

What was the result of this dangerous and intentional play? Thanks for asking. The result was a replay of the down. Why? Because while the Bronco defender was flagged for roughing the passer, Newton was also flagged for intentional grounding because the pass did not make it to the line of scrimmage and HOLY HELL that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. One penalty is much worse and should take precedent. But in the NFL’s wisdom, they offset and it’s like the down never happened. Meanwhile, Cam Newton stayed in the game, likely concussed, and apparently couldn’t remember the end of the game. Great job, NFL. -TOB

Source: Cam Newton’s Brain Scrambled; Is Left in Game“, Timothy Burke, Deadspin (09/08/2016)

Your Weekly Reminder that the NCAA Sucks

Not to be outdone, the NCAA suspended approximately FORTY Charleston Southern players, including the entire offensive line, from this weekend’s game against FSU. FORTY? Yup. The players’ crime? You see, players are given a stipend to buy text books and the players who had leftover money used it to buy supplies from the campus bookstore…notebooks, pens, etc. Those awful kids, trying to put the “student” in “student-athlete”. Ugh. What an insanely dumb decision. They might as well forfeit the game, but of course they’re likely getting a big payday for making the trip. They being the school, of course, not the players. Ha! Like the players should be paid for making millions for others. What a foolish idea. -TOB

Source: Dozens of Charleston Players Apparently Suspended Over Bizarre Bookstore Violation“, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (09/09/2016)

PAL: You got it wrong, TOB. These mastermind students were about to pull off the perfect crime. Almost got away with it, too. You see, they were utilizing the remaining amount on their stipend to buy extra stuff from the Charleston Southern bookstore (I’m told it’s the Ferrari of college bookstores), to then turn around and sell online at a markup, obviously due to their celebrity (I mean, who doesn’t want a trapper keeper owned by an offensive lineman at Charleston Southern?). And who knows what these Charleston Southern jocks would’ve done with the money. If I know one thing, it’s that a Charleston Southern football player can do whatever he wants and get away with it. I’m just thankful the NCAA was able to nip this gross misconduct in the bud before someone got hurt. The players at big time college football programs like Charleston Southern are out of control.

Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Van Morrison – Madame George (The Complete Bang Sessions version)

Also, TOB and Mrs. TOB just welcomed their second little dude to the family. It’s about to get real in the O’Brien house. Congrats! That’s the good stuff.

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“I hired a 90-lb girl to work in the stock room at Smart Tech for you, okay? I should’ve hired a 300-lb guy to lift the 60-inch flat screen, but instead I hired a hot girl who can’t lift an iPod to bring you out of your funk.”

– Cal

Week of September 2, 2016


Football is back. Everyone’s a bit rusty.

Kaepernick’s Last Stand

If you’ve been living under a rock this week, you might have missed that someone noticed Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been standing for the national anthem before the 49ers’ preseason games this year. When asked about it, Kaepernick said:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Needless to say, the #HotTakes were out in full force. From the people calling for him to leave ‘Murrca if he don’t like it, to former player/current analyst Rodney Harrison stating, unbelievably, that Kaepernick can’t make such a protest because he doesn’t know what it’s like to be black or a person of color in America. Kaepernick, by the way, is half black. When informed, Harrison said, even more unbelievably, that he “never even knew (Kaepernick) was mixed.” My head nearly exploded with all the layers of stupidity in the things Harrison said.

This protest may end up tanking Kaepernick’s already flailing career. And the true honor I find in his stance is that he knows this fact and doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if it affects his standing with the team, his career, or his bank account. It’s a principled stand, and I saw a lot of 49ers fans online not understanding that and only caring how this affects their football team, which was really sad.

Thankfully, some intelligent people also wrote about this issue. First and foremost, The Undefeated’s Domonique Foxworth who takes down the arguments of those who are angry at Kaepernick, and notes that Kaepernick’s protest is American as can be.

As Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky also points out, another popular take was that Kaepernick is disrespecting our veterans who fought to protect our freedoms. It was very heartening, then, to see so many veterans showing support for Kaepernick, with many of them pointing out that they risked their lives to protect our rights, and those rights include our First Amendment rights.

Even Kaepernick’s:

Other veterans asked that people not try to speak for them.

And still other veterans simply agreed with Kaepernick’s stand:

As for me, I’m not sure Colin Kaepernick really moves the needle enough to effectuate any real societal change (though at least two NFL players joined in his protest Thursday night). The good news is that, after speaking to a former green beret and NFL hopeful this week, Colin agreed to kneel during the anthem instead of sitting – to still show respect for his country, but to still call attention to his cause. He also stood and clapped for “God Bless America”, and most importantly…he announced after the game that he’s donating his first $1 million in paychecks this season to a number of community organizations. As his teammate Eric Reid said, “He’s taking advantage of the platform that he’s given to bring awareness to a worthy cause. What’s more American than that?” Amen. We are finally seeing professional athletes use their public pedestals for good instead of worrying about their sponsors or their paychecks. For that I applaud Colin. -TOB

Source: Kaepernick’s Protest is as American as that Flag”, Domonique Foxworth, The Undefeated (08/29/2016); Colin Kaepernick’s Fight is Not With the Military”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (08/31/2016)

PAL: Liberty – the defense of and struggle for – that’s the part of America that is truly great. That’s what’s worth honoring. Liberty has always been the heartbeat. 

When a person – any person – doesn’t believe his/her flag stands for liberty, then they don’t have to stand for the flag. America is an idea. The flag represents that idea, and can never, ever represent anything less. That a minority of folks – and have no doubt they are a minority – still don’t understand what the Star Spangled Banner represents is the real cause for concern here.

Liberty (noun):

  • the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely
  • the power to choose or do what you want to
  • a political right

While we’re at it – there are a million other far more patriotically egregious if you’re looking to vent about people disrespecting the ol’ red, white, and blue. For starters, here’s a list of sports teams you paid to “Salute the Troops”, courtesy of the Department of Defense:

  • Atlanta Falcons $879,000
  • New England Patriots $700,000
  • Buffalo Bills $650,000
  • Minnesota Wild $570,000
  • Baltimore Ravens $534,500
  • New Orleans Saints $472,875
  • San Diego Chargers $453,500
  • Seattle Seahawks $453,500
  • Atlanta Braves $450,000
  • Indianapolis Colts $420,000

What, you thought the teams did all that out of patriotism?

Sometimes Sports Are Really Great

I had a rough week, as my son had a health scare last weekend. He looks to be fine…but as a dad I can really relate to this story. Leah Paske is the mother of a child with autism. Her son, Bo, is in middle school. Middle school sucks for almost everyone, but it is especially difficult for anyone who other kids see as “different”. This week, the Florida State football team visited Bo’s school, and someone sent Leah this picture of Seminole wide receiver Travis Rudolph eating lunch with Bo at an otherwise empty table:


As you can imagine, the picture made Leah very happy:

“I do remember middle school being scary, and hard. Now that I have a child starting middle school, I have feelings of anxiety for him, and they can be overwhelming if I let them. Sometimes I’m grateful for his autism. That may sound like a terrible thing to say, but in some ways I think, I hope, it shields him. He doesn’t seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone. It’s one of my daily questions for him. Was there a time today you felt sad? Who did you eat lunch with today? Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody.


A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption “Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son” I replied “who is that?” He said “FSU football player”, then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my sons school today. I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes. Travis Rudolph thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life!”

Good job, Travis. -TOB

Source: Here Is a Nice Story, I Hope You Will Enjoy It Because Most Everything Else Is Awful”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (08/30/2016)

Be More Like Craig Sager

You’ve likely been brought up to speed that veteran NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager (yes, the one who wears the wacky suits) has been in a hellacious cancer battle since 2014. This week he underwent a rare third bone marrow transplant. Add to that countless rounds of chemo, and, well, it the odds are not in his favor. In his words, “I like to bet on horses, I like to bet on dogs. I’ve bet on a lot of things with a lot higher odds than this.”

But, damn, this guy continues to battle, round after round. He’s trying everything, and he’s sums up why in a way that’s downright inspiring. “Man, life is too beautiful, too wonderful, there’s just too many things.”

There’s another reason why I shared this story. Barry Petchesky has become one of my favorite sports writers since we started this blog. Two of our three stories this week – one TOB highlighted above and this one – are his work. He writes with a direct honesty. Never sentimental, but not afraid to write about emotion. Here’s a perfect example from the Sager piece:

“This is all very sad, because: Craig Sager is probably going to die. You’re not supposed to say or write things like that, because no one likes to be made to think about it. I hate that line of thought, because it’d be better for everyone if we could discuss cancer and illness and dying from a mature and candid perspective. It’s not something to dance around. It’s serious shit, and we should say what we mean.

“The way to talk about this stuff without being disingenuous is to remember why it makes you sad: to recall how much you’ve enjoyed Sager’s work over the years, to see the impact he’s had on those who know him by seeing the love he’s getting from family, friends, colleagues, and the general public, and to see if you can’t take some inspiration from Sager’s own stated motivation for seeing his treatment through…”

Make a habit out of reading Barry Petchesky’s work, and think good thoughts for Sager and his family. – PAL

Source: Craig Sager Remains The Best”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (8/31/16)

TOB: I echo Phil’s thoughts about both Sager and Petchesky. And by the way, all three of our stories this week featured Petchesky articles. Big week for you, Barry.

Video of the Week

Looks like PAL and TOB have a date on 10/13.

PAL Song of the Week – Ramsey Lewis Trio – The “In” Crowd

Check out this week’s pick, and all of the previous picks below. Guaranteed to get you lucky.

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If I owned the Twins, I wouldn’t even show up here. I’d just hire a bunch of scientists to do my homework. I mean, if you’re rich you don’t have to be smart. That’s the whole beauty of this country.

Joey, Little Big League

(Phil silently weeps)