Week of November 11, 2016


Like many people in this country, we’re a little stunned here this week. On Tuesday night, as it was becoming clear that Trump was going to win, I put my sleeping 2-year old to bed and became a little overwhelmed…

Oh, god. Deep breaths. 

One interesting thing has been to follow the reaction of the sports world. As we’ve covered here over the last few months, athletes are finally speaking out and taking a stand on social issues. Deadspin did a good job of rounding up many NBA players’ reactions to the election results. A lot of intelligent and well-reasoned thoughts in that link. Quite refreshing.

One aspect I took interest in, though, is the verrrrry different reactions of NBA coaches and NFL coaches. Warning, there will be some generalizations here. One the one hand, we have Bill Belichick sending a handwritten love letter to Donald Trump on the eve of the election:

“Congratulations on a tremendous campaign. You have to help with an unbelievable slanted and negative media and have come out beautifully. You have proven to be the ultimate competitor fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you for the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election, the results will give the opportunity to make America great again.

Best wishes for great results tomorrow,

Bill Belichick”

And Belichick is supposed to be one of the smartest NFL coaches. Trump was also supported by other NFL coaches, like Rex Ryan. Many of Ryan’s players were reportedly not happy with his ringing Trump endorsement. Many of the unhappy players were black. As one of Rex’s players says in that article:

“Rex is such an open-minded guy, a really good person,” said the player, who asked not to be identified, fearing repercussions from the Bills. “But the fact he could back someone as closed-minded as Trump genuinely shocked me.”

He’s right. For an NFL coach, Rex Ryan is seen as intelligent and open-minded, though that’s an incredibly low bar to clear. On the other hand, we have NBA coaches. Many NBA coaches in the last decade have shown themselves to be smart, thoughtful, progressive, and conscientious. Take Spurs coach Greg Popovich, reacting here to the news Trump had won the New Hampshire primary back in February:

This week, at least two coaches were very outspoken in their disappointment with the election results. First, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy came with the hot fire in his pre-game press conference Wednesday:


“We just elected an openly, brazen misogynist leader and we should keep our mouths shut and realize that we need to be learning maybe from the rest of the world, because we don’t got anything to teach anybody.

“It’s embarrassing. I have been ashamed of a lot of things that have happened in this country, but I can’t say I’ve ever been ashamed of our country until today. Until today. We all have to find our way to move forward, but that was — and I’m not even trying to make a political statement. To me, that’s beyond politics.

“You don’t get to come out and talk about people like that, and then lead our country and have millions of Americans embrace you. I’m having a hard time being with people. I’m going to walk into this arena tonight and realize that — especially in this state — most of these people voted for the guy. Like, (expletive), I don’t have any respect for that. I don’t.”

Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr followed Stan Van’s lead:

Why is it that the coaches of one sport seem like such incredibly well-rounded and decent people, and the coaches of another sport seem like such singular-focused assholes? I think part of it is simply the nature of the sport they’ve dedicated their lives to. Basketball has been described as jazz. And it’s true. It’s free flowing and creative, while football is barbaric and punishing.

But I think there’s something rather symbolic here, too. NBA coaches, for the most part, have lived their entire lives playing with and then coaching players from all different races, in small, tight-knit teams. Players and coaches look each other in the eye, day in and day out, and really get to know each other. They are forced to get to know people from very different walks of life. There’s nowhere to hide. Some cliques form, but for the most part you get to know your teammates. And when you do that you start to realize that we are not all that different. Sure, there are some differences – but for the most part we are just human beings trying to survive and thrive. The fear of “different” falls away.

In contrast, football teams are huge. College football teams have 100+ players. NFL teams have 53 on the active roster, and another couple dozen on the practice squad. Each NFL team has around twenty coaches. As in life, it is very easy on an NFL team to find a clique of like-minded individuals and hunker down with them – in the locker room and out. Players form smaller groups: the white guys from the south with the white guys from the south. The black guys from the west with the black guys from the west. And on and on. And the coaches don’t have time to get to know the players on any meaningful level.

This is true in life, too. When I see the electoral maps showing, county by county, how the country voted in this Presidential election, it is astonishing to me how the cities overwhelmingly vote Democrat, and everything outside the cities vote Republican.

I was in a bar the night before the election, awaiting my bus home. And I heard a Trump supporter loudly say some abhorrent things. For example, he defended Trump’s proposal to keep all Muslims from entering the U.S. because, and I quote, “Fourteen people got on a plane on September Eleventh, Two Thousand and One!” It was disgusting.

But this week, when I thought about this difference between NBA coaches and NFL coaches and who they supported in this election, I realized that guy from the bar is just scared. He probably doesn’t know too many Muslims. And the ones he’s seen in the media are bad. They did 9/11! He also mentioned the attacks in Boston and San Bernardino.

If we keep ourselves in a bubble, and don’t get to know each other, it’s hard to understand that while people may have differences, we are all human beings, and we will remain fearful of the unknown. I am trying to be hopeful about the next four years. Perhaps Trump’ ugliness will shine a mirror in front of those who voted for him. Or maybe the gravity of the situation will cause him to rise above anything he’s ever been. Short of nuclear holocaust, the country will survive. And now, back to sports. -TOB

Edit: We don’t normally do this, but Friday, after publish, Greg Popovich finally had the opportunity to speak on the election. He’s just the best. Please listen.

PAL: Dammit, TOB. I’m still stuck in denial, and there you go making a well-constructed observation with a legit sports angle. The map above paints the picture pretty clearly at this moment. It’s hard to negotiate with myself that the red doesn’t mean people who voted for Trump believe everything he’s said and done while knowing that each one of those votes condones what he’s said and done. That’s a tough pill to get down. 

I’m sure there are NFL coaches who feel the same as Stan Van Gundy, and I’m sure there’s NBA coaches who feel the same as Rex Ryan. I hope so, at least. 

Finally, do you think it’s hit Trump that he actually has to do this now? The reality show (the campaign) is over, and I wonder how petrified he is right at this moment.

Small Victory: San Diego Calls Bullshit on Publicly Financed Stadium

We’ve written about publicly financed stadiums – and the absolute insanity of billionaires giving some teenage ultimatum of running away unless they get free money to build stadiums. It’s a petulant, economically flawed, dickhead move. Since I need a win this week, I applaud San Diego voters for not flinching. – PAL

Source: San Diego Voters Reject Funding of New Chargers Stadium”, Ken Belson, The New York Times (11/9/2016)

TOB: Bravo, San Diego!

Dear God: Arlington Votes to Give Petulant Rangers Owner 500M in Bonds to Build a New Stadium

The current stadium for the Texas Rangers is beautiful and built in 1994. The thing was opened less than 25 years ago! Out of date. Too old. At least that what over 60% of voters said. And while proponents of the new stadium will tell you that Hotel and Car rental taxes will cover the cost (you know, visitors), keep this in mind: A portion of the $ will come from sales tax extension that is currently paying off the Cowboys’ stadium.

This is the stadium that’s just not doing it for them anymore. Clearly, it needs to be replaced:

By the way, the co-owner and CEO of the Rangers has an estimated net work of $2.4B. Another co-owner is worth $1.9B. – PAL

Source: Arlington Voters Approve Hundreds Of Millions In Public Money For New Rangers Ballpark”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (11/9/2016)

TOB: Another point: If the hotel/car rental taxes fall short of projections, then the city has to come up with the money some other way. And this, too: yes, it’s a new tax, mainly on visitors. But if they imposed that tax on visitors, it could still go elsewhere! It’s still foregoing publicly available money.

An Open Letter to Professional Sports Owners…

So these two stories have led me to pen a special edition letter:

Dear Sports Owners,

You and your sports teams aren’t as important as you think. A city is not defined by having a sports team in it. That is not critical to the vibrancy of a place. Sure, it helps – no doubt – but it does not come remotely close to defining a community. This is coming from someone as passionate about sports as you can ever hope to be rooting for your team.

In fact, a city and its people are what make a sports team matter. The people give the team meaning much more than the team gives people meaning. Without them you just have a bunch of adults in funny costumes.

You only care about the business of sport. Fans do not care about the business of sport. Entities care about the business – networks, advertisers, and ownership of other professional sports teams. It is neither the wellspring of pride nor local economic boon you like to claim when you have your manicured, supple paws out panhandling.

If all of you ceased to exist tomorrow – sure, I’d be bummed – and, yet, “when the morning light comes streaming in, I’ll get up and do it again. Amen.”

So, if you want to keeping crying wolf, then I say this: Stop talking about it and be about it. Go to Las Vegas, Seattle, Vancouver, San Antonio. It has little to no material effect on anyone but you. You have neither pride nor shame.



Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Jackson Browne – “The Pretender”

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“Yeah, that’s it. I got a student alt rock band coming on next. Mitch, I own six speaker cities. I am worth three-and-a-half-million dollars that the government knows about. I got more electronics up there than a damn KISS concert. You think I’m gonna roll out this type of red carpet for a fucking marching band? Just make sure you can see the stage.”

-Bernard “Beanie” Campbell

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