Week of December 30, 2016


My god. I want to read everything in that magazine.

The Best Thing I Read All Year

I hate to jump the gun on our annual Best of edition, but this New York Times article on Warriors coach Steve Kerr is fantastic. I really think it might win the Pulitzer. We have covered Kerr here before, and mentioned his father’s assassination during his freshman year at Arizona. John Branch weaves a masterful story about how Kerr’s upbringing, heavily tied to the Middle East, culminating with his father’s assassination, has shaped the man he is now. Kerr opens up about his father’s death in a way I’d not seen, and Branch supplements with information from his mother and siblings.


For the first time I know of, Kerr opens up about his father’s death, including the harrowing story of the summer before his freshman year at Arizona, when he went to visit his father in Beirut, and nearly failed to get out.

“There was some question about whether flights would be going out because of everything that was happening,” Kerr said. “We were in the terminal, and all of a sudden there was a blast. It wasn’t in the terminal but on the runways. The whole place just froze. Everybody just froze. People started gathering, saying, ‘We’ve got to get the hell out of here.’ My mom grabbed me, and I remember running out of the terminal and through the parking lot. It was really scary. I remember thinking, ‘This is real.’”

Kerr’s dad eventually hired a driver to take him over the mountains and into the relative safety of Jordan. Months later, Kerr’s father was killed. Four years later, Arizona State students despicably taunted Kerr with chants of “P.L.O., P.L.O.,” “Your father’s history,” and “Why don’t you join the Marines and go back to Beirut?” Kerr was understandably devastated:

“When I heard it, I just dropped the ball and started shaking,” Kerr said at the time. “I sat down for a minute. I’ll admit they got to me. I had tears in my eyes. For one thing, it brought back memories of my dad. But, for another thing, it was just sad that people would do something like that.”

Kerr loved his father, and his parenting methods have colored Kerr’s coaching style:

“When I was 8, 9, 10 years old, I had a horrible temper,” Kerr said. “I couldn’t control it. Everything I did, if I missed a shot, if I made an out, I got so angry. It was embarrassing. It really was. Baseball was the worst. If I was pitching and I walked somebody, I would throw my glove on the ground. I was such a brat. He and my mom would be in the stands watching, and he never really said anything until we got home. He had the sense that I needed to learn on my own, and anything he would say would mean more after I calmed down.”

His father, Kerr said, was what every Little League parent should be. The talks would come later, casual and nonchalant, conversations instead of lectures.

“He was an observer,” he said. “And he let me learn and experience. I try to give our guys a lot of space and speak at the right time. Looking back on it, I think my dad was a huge influence on me, on my coaching.”

Kerr has been outspoken in recent months about politics and America’s place in the world. This rather surprises Kerr’s mother, who says, “I would say Steve’s intellectual interests really blossomed in the last 10 years. But I don’t think of Steve being like Malcolm.” But Branch notes the striking influence of Kerr’s father in his recent evolution:

In many ways, he has grown into an echo of his father.

“The truly civilized man is marked by empathy,” Malcolm Kerr wrote in a foreword to a collection of essays called “The Arab-Israeli Confrontation of June 1967: An Arab Perspective.” “By his recognition that the thought and understanding of men of other cultures may differ sharply from his own, that what seems natural to him may appear grotesque to others.”

In a rare and sometimes emotional interview this fall, Kerr spoke about the death of his father and his family’s deep roots in Lebanon and the Middle East. Some of the words sounded familiar.

“Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at it from a bigger perspective,” he said. “We live in this complex world of gray areas. Life is so much easier if it could be black and white, good and evil.”

Steve Kerr may not be as intellectually profound as his father was, but I hope there is a time Steve gives up basketball and follows in his father’s footsteps. Our country could use leaders like Steve right now. -TOB

Source: Tragedy Made Steve Kerr See the World Beyond the Court“, John Branch, New York Times (12/22/2016)

Lane Kiffin: Idiot Savant or Embodiment of the Peter Principle? 

Lane Kiffin seems to be a hell of an offensive coordinator. He co-coordinated those great USC offenses in the mid-2000s, and over the last three years Alabama’s offense has been a juggernaut. But if you look a little deeper, it all starts to crumble. Those USC offenses were absolutely loaded with talent, and even then it’s unclear if Kiffin or Sarkisian deserved the credit (or Norm Chow before them). More interestingly, is the perception he’s turned Alabama’s offense into a real threat. In his three seasons in Tuscaloosa, the Tide have averaged 15th in the country in offensive efficiency. That’s very good. But in the three years before that? Alabama averaged 6th in the country in offensive efficiency.

From the first moment I saw Kiffin’s press conference introducing him as the head coach at Tennessee, I thought something was off about the guy.

I could never quite put my finger on it. He seems both sincere and insincere at the same time, somehow. He looks horribly rehearsed and extremely nervous. He seems unsure of himself and what he’s just gotten himself into. Kiffin’s career since that day has been tumultuous. But after bailing on Tennessee after one year, failing miserably at USC, and kinda-sorta doing well at Alabama, Kiffin has been hired as the head coach at Florida Atlantic University.

Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel tags along with Kiffin as he searches for his new home in Boca Raton. And, finally, I think I have pinpointed Kiffin’s issue. Like Tom Brady, Lane Kiffin is an airhead. A complete and total dope. For example:

He pauses for a minute. He’s been trying to be boring, reimagined and remastered. He thinks out loud. “Should I tell my joke?”

He can’t help himself, a classic Kiffin trait, and proceeds: “I used to say there’s a constantly daily battle between who can take more of my money between Layla and Obama.”

He continues with a bit of fuzzy math: “I figured it out. I really don’t make any money. I pay around 52% in taxes. Layla gets 34.5% in the divorce, and [agent Jimmy Sexton] gets 3%. I make [about] 9% and I’m living in Tuscaloosa.”

What is it about Kiffin that makes people hire him? He seems so obviously stupid. I would never want to hire someone like that. I’ve always thought his private self must be very different than his public persona. I don’t think Nick Saban, probably the greatest college football coach of all-time, would hire Kiffin as offensive coordinator, and then retain him, unless he saw great value in doing so. So is Kiffin an idiot savant? Will he turn FAU into a nationally relevant program? Or is he the embodiment of the Peter Principle, with a healthy dose of nepotism thrown in, destined to fail miserably? I guess we’ll find out. -TOB

Source: Reimagined, Remastered, Unleashed: Is New Lane Kiffin Ready to Succeed as Head Coach?“, Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated (12/29/2016)

Jim Harbaugh: Weird, Funny

Jim Harbaugh is such a weird dude, but I enjoy it immensely. At a press conference this week in advance of the Orange Bowl today, Harbaugh was asked about oranges. It’s one of those dumb questions non-sports reporters like to ask in advance of big games these days. But Harbaugh turned it funny:

I love his goofy face turning serious. Never change, Jim. -TOB

Video of the Week

Ohhhhhh, Kemba.

Bonus Video of the Week

Breaking: white person digs Phish jam sesh.

Second (!!) Bonus Video of the Week

UCLA frosh Lonzo Ball’s little brother LaMelo is not lacking in confidence.

Like what you’ve read? Let us know by following this blog (on the right side, up near the top), or:

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Twitter: @123sportsdigest


I’ve been coming here every summer of my adult life, and every summer there she is oiling and lotioning, lotioning and oiling… smiling. I can’t take this no more!


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